Becoming a Social Worker in Washington

Washington's licensed social workers have master's degrees; the highest levels of practice necessitate one. However, you can begin your social worker education in Washington State – and your career -- at the bachelor's level.

social work learning tree

If You Are a High School Student

Step 1:

In high school, focus on preparing for general university admission. Volunteer experience can be an asset.

Step 2:

Select a college. You do not have to have an accredited social work degree (BSW) to practice at the bachelor's level in Washington. However, there are some good reasons to consider earning one. If you do go on to master's level social work, and a higher level of practice, your BSW could mean a much shorter program. Also, many states recognize the BSW. And even if you stay in Washington, you will know your education has prepared you well for careers like casework.

You can defer your decision to a later point. Schools have varying schedules, but generally don't expect you to apply to the major until about your fourth semester.

Step 3:

Meet with an adviser to help you stay on track with your pre-social work requirements: academic and otherwise. In addition to completing prerequisite coursework, you may need to prepare essays and other materials. A criminal background check may be required as part of the admission process.

Step 4:

You may become a member of the National Association of Social Workers - Washington as early as your student years. Although you will not have a licensing agency to regulate you, NASW can provide you with excellent professional resources.

Step 5:

Consider your post-degree options. You may seek a job in an agency setting. You can continue seamlessly into a Master of Social Work program.

If You Have a College Degree

Step 1:

Research CSWE-accredited master's programs. You do not have to have a BSW to apply. In fact, schools value diversity in a lot of areas. They consider paid professional experience and volunteer human service experience. If you do not feel ready to apply, you can seek out volunteer work. Some 'volunteer' experiences, for example Washington Americorps, may offer a small living stipend as well as money for college.

The Simmons College School of Social Work ([email protected]) is the nation’s oldest school of social work and is offering an innovative Online Master of Social Work program. You can complete this CSWE-accredited Master's in Social Work program in as little as 15 months. There is no GRE required for acceptance to this program. Request information.

The USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work offers a CSWE-accredited online Master's in Social Work. The GRE is not required to apply to the [email protected] program. A Bachelor's degree is required. Learn more about this program.

Fordham University's top-ranked School of Social Work offers an online MSW program that prepares students for relevant, integrated practice with all populations. GRE scores not required. Request information today.

Capella University is now offering an online Master of Social Work that is in CSWE candidacy status. The MSW program helps prepare students to enter the general or clinical practice role (in most states). Capella also offers an online Doctor of Social Work. Click Here to contact Capella University about their Master of Social Work program or Doctor of Social Work program.

Step 2:

Get started on the application process. One or more essays may be required. In addition to describing how your own experiences have prepared you, you may need to analyze an issue. Step 3: Complete coursework. If you did not do your undergraduate degree in social work, you will have two parts to your program: foundations and concentration. You typically do an extended field placement during your last year and develop advanced skills in your area of interest.

You will need to take a brief class in HIV/AIDS if this is not included in your basic program.

Step 4:

Apply for the appropriate entry-level license: Licensed Social Work Associate Advanced (LSWAA) or Licensed Social Work Associate Independent Clinical (LSWAIC).

You will be in training for one of two higher licenses: Licensed Advanced Social Worker (LASW) or Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW). The University of Washington note that the LASW will qualify you for work in an agency setting whereas the LICSW license will be necessary if you foresee a career as an independent practitioner.

Step 5:

Complete your supervised practice. The LASW license requires 3,200 hours while the LICSW license requires 4,000.

Step 6:

When you have completed your practice requirement, you will take the national board examination. The exam is administered through the National Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB), but you will need state permission. If you are seeking licensure as an LASW, take the advanced generalist exam. If you are seeking licensure as an LICSW, take the clinical exam.

Find more detailed Washington Social Work Licensure information here.

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