School of Social Work

Social Work Licensure

Following the successful completion of a masters in social work degree, many of our graduates choose to pursue obtaining a license, thus becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). In California, this process is guided by the requirements outlined by the Board of Behavioral Sciences.

Advisement: Students enrolling in a California State University program who are planning to pursue licensure or certification, please see this important note from the Office of the Chancellor.

Licensing is appealing for many reasons including:

  • More job opportunities
  • Higher salaries
  • Promotional opportunities
  • Provides opportunity to participate in post-graduate training and education

An overview of the process includes:

  • Obtain an MSW from an accredited school
  • Register with the Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) to obtain an ASW number
  • Obtain 3,000 hours of supervised qualifying work experience
  • Complete pre-licensure requirements
  • Pass Law & Ethics exam
  • Pass ASWB clinical exam
  • You’re an LCSW!!

The Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) has a comprehensive website that outlines the licensure process. The information on our School of Social Work site is just a guide – always be sure to check carefully with the BBS Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) site for more detailed information and guidance. The BBS is the final authority on all things licensure.

 **Check out their Handbook for Future LCSWs (PDF) for overview information.

Once you have a firm understanding of the process, it is recommended that you apply for your ASW number – link to complete packet (PDF).

Here is a handy YouTube video about how to do this (please note that some things have changed, like the cost of the application fee, but this is still a good resource):

Obtaining an ASW Number:

  • Complete application on BBS website (caution, you do not want to register until you’re ready to start collecting hours because there is a 6 year rule to complete your hours once you start
  • Submit Transcripts – degree must be posted
  • Live Scan finger printing (no more than 60 days prior to application submission)
  • Conviction/Disciplinary Action Documentation
  • Application Fee - $150

Expand All | Collapse All

  • About the exams
    • California Law and Ethics Exam. It is designed to assess the applicant's knowledge of and ability to apply legal and ethical standards relating to clinical practice.
    • The National Clinical ASWB Exam. It is designed to assess an applicant’s knowledge of psychosocial principles and methods in treatment, as well as techniques & methods applicable to practice. Test is 150 item multiple choice over 4 hrs.
  • More about the Law & Ethics exam
    • CA Law & Ethics exam must be taken PRIOR to the first ASW renewal.
    • If you pass it then will continue to renew ASW annually until hours are complete
    • If you do not pass you will need to take a 12-hr CA Law & Ethics course in order to renew your ASW #.
    • Can take test every 90 days but at least annually until passed.
  • Accruing hours
    • 3,000 hours for LCSW
    • Minimum of 2 years (24 months) after registration, Max. 40 hrs/week
    • 104 weeks of supervision required, 52 weeks of it must be individual supervision the other 52 weeks can be group supervision
    • A min. of 1700 of supervision must be with LCSW
  • Important things to know about accruing hours
    • You cannot begin accruing hours until you have the ASW #
    • Hours can be paid work (W-2 employee, not 1099 independent contractor) and/or volunteer
    • If your ASW registration lapses or expires you will not be able to count those hours for the period in which your registration was invalid
  • Categories of hours
    • 2000 Hrs. Min - Clinical Psychosocial Diagnosis, Assessment and Treatment -includes individual or group
      • F2F Individual or Group Psychotherapy (min. 750 hours out of 2000 hrs)*
    • 1000 Hrs. - Client-centered advocacy, consultation, evaluation, research, direct supervisor time, trainings (approved by supervisor), count towards 3000

    LCSW Breakdown of Required Experience (PDF)

  • Supervisor Information & Qualifications
    • A licensed mental health professional who provides supervision to an Associate Clinical Social Worker (ASW) who is pursuing LCSW licensure must meet certain minimum qualifications.

      Requirements include:

      • Possess a current and active California license that is not under suspension or probation as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
      • Have been licensed in California or any other state for at least two (2) years out of the last five (5) years prior to the commencement of supervision.
      • Have practiced psychotherapy during at least two (2) years out of the last five (5) years prior to the commencement of supervision.
      • OR Provided direct supervision to ASWs who perform psychotherapy during at least two (2) years out of the last five (5) years prior to the commencement of supervision. Supervision of psychotherapy performed by a student shall be accepted if substantially equivalent to the supervision required for registrants. · Sign and comply with the Supervisor Responsibility Statement

      In addition, LCSWs must complete a minimum of 15 hours of supervision training prior to the commencement of supervision.

      All of the forms and some additional information can be found on the BBS site:

  • Before you begin supervision, be sure you have completed
    • Responsibility Statement Forms for Supervisors of an Associate Clinical Social Worker –supervisor signs this form at the commencement of supervision.
    • Supervisory Plan – to be completed prior to the commencement of supervision
  • After supervision begins, be sure to keep
    • Weekly Summary of Hours of Experience –Supervisor will sign off on this form on a weekly basis.
  • Before you submit your application to take the test
    • Associate Clinical Social Worker Experience Verification –There is a form in the application packet (PDF) that will be used to verify all the hours gained in a particular setting or under a particular supervisor
  • Six Year Rule
    • BBS can not accept hours of experience older than six (6) years from the time a person applies for the LCSW license. The law does not allow the board to make exceptions.
    • Registrations issued by the Board are valid for a 6-year period (five renewals). Registrants who have not completed all hours of supervised experience within the 6-year life span must apply for a subsequent registration number to continue the path toward licensure.
    • Many registrants apply for a second (or third, etc.) registration number to gain additional supervised work experience or for employment purposes.
    • Example: The board receives Janet’s LCSW application on 4/3/17.  The board will only be able to accept experience gained from 4/3/2011 to 4/3/2017.
  • Pre-Licensure Coursework
    • BBS requires you to complete certain additional coursework before applying for the second licensing exam, the national exam.
    • You can complete this coursework as part of your MSW degree or afterward while you are earning the required hours of supervised work experience
  • Courses
  • Common Application Errors
    • Not filling out forms completely or correctly
    • Not submitting the application and all of the required materials together in one envelope
    • Not mailing original copies to BBS and keeping copies for yourself
    • Must maintain ASW registration if you are going to continue to work

Be sure to follow closely all of the requirements outlined by the Board of Behavioral Sciences – they are the final authority on all things licensure! Good luck!

Board of Behavioral Sciences Logo

 student working on laptop

 students taking notes