Become a Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW)
Written by Rebecca Munday
Last Updated: June 2023
If you have earned your master’s in social work and want to get your social work license in Minnesota, West Virginia, or Washington, D.C., you must apply to become a licensed graduate social worker (LGSW). LGSWs practice master’s-level generalist social work in various settings.
Find out more about what you can do with an LGSW and how to become one.
What Is a Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW)?
An LGSW is a post-master’s social work license who can practice generalist social work independently and clinical social work supervised by a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). Washington, D.C., West Virginia, and Minnesota offer this social work license.
An LGSW allows you to work in almost any setting with almost any population without supervision. However, you need supervision from an LCSW when working with those experiencing substance misuse or mental health conditions.
Generalist social work you can provide with an LGSW includes:
- Active military, veterans, and their families
- Children and their families
- People experiencing homelessness
- People with chronic health conditions
- Families who have lost or will soon lose a loved one
- Older adults
Key Responsibilities of an LGSW
LGSWs have many responsibilities in generalist social work, including:
- Managing case files and records
- Supervising other social workers
- Assessing their clients’ needs and connecting them to resources
- Advocating for resources in the community
- Following up with clients to make sure their needs are being met and their situation is improving
Where do LGSWs work?
Social workers who practice generalist social work at the post-master’s level are called LGSWs in Minnesota, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Once you get your LGSW, you can work in various professional settings. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the most common work settings for social workers include:
- Federal, state, and local governments
- Individual and family services
- Ambulatory health services
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Steps to Become a Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW)
It takes about six years to become an LGSW. You must earn your degrees, pass the licensing exam, and submit an application with required documents, application form, and application fee. The requirements to become an LGSW vary by state, so check with your state’s licensing board to make sure you meet all requirements.
- Complete a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) Degree: A bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) requires four years of full-time study or about 120 credits. You must complete a field placement in generalist social work and learn about social welfare policy, research methods, and human behavior in the social environment.
- Earn a Master of Social Work (MSW) Degree: Earning your master’s degree in social work (MSW) expands your knowledge in research, social welfare policy, generalist social work, and human behavior and the social environment. An MSW takes 30-60 credits, depending on whether you earned your bachelor’s degree in social work or a related field.
- Pass the Association of Social Work Board’s (ASWB) Master’s Exam: The ASWB master’s exam tests you on the assessment, treatment, and interventions of generalist social work practice. Expect to pay $230 to take the exam. You need a passing score to become an LGSW.
- Fill out the License Application and Pay the Fees: You will fill out an application that asks you for your personal identifying, demographic, and contact information. Pay the application fee to receive your license when you submit the application.
- Submit Required Documents: Prepare to submit your ID, official college transcripts, references, and license verification if you are a licensed social worker moving from another state.
- Pass a Background Check: You need to pass a criminal background check as part of your application process to become licensed. The criminal background check may require an additional fee.
- Consider Becoming a Clinical Social Worker: If you enjoy practicing clinical social work and want to practice independently, consider becoming a clinical social worker. States may have different names and requirements for the license that allows you to practice clinical social work independently.
How Much Do Licensed Graduate Social Workers Make?
LGSWs make an annual average salary of $53,000, according to Payscale data from June 2023, or about $27 an hour. Your industry, job title, and location impact earning potential.
Healthcare social workers in West Virginia and Minnesota earn an average of about $4,000-$12,000 more per year than the national average salary of healthcare social workers, according to BLS data from May 2022. Medical social workers make about $7,000 more per year than other LGSWs, according to Payscale data from June 2023. Washington, D.C. and Minnesota pay their social workers higher than average salaries across all industries.
Frequently Asked Questions about Becoming an LGSW
What is an LGSW?
A licensed graduate social worker (LGSW) is a master’s-level social work license for social workers in Washington, D.C., West Virginia, and Minnesota who want to practice generalist social work independently. LGSWs can also practice clinical social work under the supervision of a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) or their state’s equivalent.
How long does it take to become a licensed graduate social worker (LGSW)?
Prepare to spend 6-7 years in school to become an LGSW. You must complete a bachelor’s degree in social work or a related field and a master’s degree in social work.
How much does an LGSW make?
LGSWs make an average of $53,000 annually, according to Payscale data from June 2023. Job title, location, and industry can affect how much LGSWs earn.
What’s the difference between an LGSW versus an LCSW?
The main difference between a licensed graduate social worker (LGSW) and a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) is their scope of practice. An LCSW can practice generalist and clinical social work independently. However, an LGSW can only practice generalist social work independently. An LCSW must supervise the LGSW during clinical social work practice.