The purpose of licensing in social work is to provide the public with assurance that there are standards and requirements for the safe practice of social work and to ensure that certain professional benchmarks are met and maintained. Some social workers see licensing and continuing education as an expensive burden, which is understandable. The process is lengthy requiring a long application, an expensive fee, copies of transcripts, and letters of referrals. Once your application is approved, you must take and pass a licensing exam, the registration to which is very simple, but pricey. It is also a long exam that requires proper preparation. One mistake that social workers make is to take the exam with little to no social work. This is not a good idea. The goal should be to properly prepare for the exam and take it once. There are many topics tested on the exam and it would be to your benefit to study those topics and to hone your multiple choice testing skills. That being said, once you are prepared and registered, taking the exam could not be simpler. You can take the exam any business day at many centers around the country, but you do have to register in advance.
Despite the above seemingly burdensome process, you have to look at the positive reasons to require social workers to be licensed. A social work license protects and serves the social worker. Having a license helps the public to identify social workers who are competent and qualified and to gives the public assurance that they can expect certain standards of care and ethics. It helps to validate the profession to the public. It can also set you apart from other non-licensed social workers and aid in finding a job. To be a social worker focused on therapy, you must have a clinical license. The other levels of social work licensure (Bachelors, Masters or Advanced Generalist) are optional licenses.
Each state has its own requirements for obtaining a license. The first step is to check out your state’s social work board to make sure that you are qualified. The next step is to contact them for an application and begin gathering the information that you need. You will then want to start preparing for the exam. All states require social workers to pass the ASWB exam, except the state of California which uses its own exam. The content outlines and key indicators for the exam can be found on the ASWB website. At the same time, you should look into registering for the exam as there is a period of time that has to pass before you can take the exam.
The social work license is not transferrable state to state as each state has its own requirements. The good news, however, is that even though you have to re-apply to your state board, your test scores are generally transferable. For more information, check with your state’s social work board.
For more information about the exam or study materials, check out www.socialworkguide.com.