Become a Social Worker in California

There may be additional methods of certification that have not been covered here. Please contact your state social work licensing department for more information.

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Disclaimer: Due to the rapidly changing nature of social work regulations, for the most up-to-date information on becoming a social worker in California, contact the California Board of Behavioral Sciences.

California law recognizes two classes of social workers: Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and Associate Clinical Social Worker (ACSW). The requirements are as follows:

Sponsored Online Social Work Programs

Sponsored Online Social Work Programs
School Program Description
University of Denver
  • Research-driven faculty dedicated to making an impact on social problems
  • Prepares you to apply social work skills across practice settings
Fordham University
  • Four areas of focus: Individuals and Families, Organizations and Community, Evaluation, and Policy Practice and Advocacy
Simmons University
  • Four Clinical Specializations: Child and Family, Trauma and Interpersonal Violence, Mental Health and Addictions, and Health and Aging
  • Three program tracks: Traditional, Accelerated, and Extended
Case Western Reserve University
  • From Case Western Reserve University’s top-10 ranked School of social work
  • Traditional and Advanced Standing tracks available
University of Southern California (USC)
  • Offered by USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, a top-ranked graduate School by U.S. News and World Report
  • Features virtual and in-person field education in or near student’s own communities
Baylor University
  • Ethically integrates faith and social work practice
  • Specialize in clinical practice or community practice

Sponsored Online Social Work Programs

California LCSW

California LCSW Education Requirement: All applicants must possess a Master’s degree in Social Work from an accredited school of social work. Applicants with out-of-state education, experience or licensure must complete an 18-hour course on California Law and Professional Ethics (California graduates have already met this requirement).

California LCSW Exam: Applicants are required to pass two new exams that replace existing exams as follows: California Law and Ethics Examination which consists of 75 multiple choice questions (replaces the Standard Written Exam); Association of Social Work Board’s (ASWB) National Clinical Exam (replaces the Clinical Vignette Exam) must be taking after having achieved field requirements (see below) and passing the California Law and Ethics exam

Field Requirement: 3,200 hours of supervised work experience (minimum 2,000 hours focused on clinical psychosocial diagnosis, assessment and treatment, and counseling; minimum 750 hours focused on face-to-face psychotherapy is required as part of the 2,000 hours; maximum 1,200 hours focused on client-centered advocacy, consultation, evaluation and research); 104 weeks of supervision (any week of at least one hour of individual supervision or two hours of group supervision counts as a supervised week; at least 52 of the 104 weeks must include a minimum one-hour meeting with a supervisor); 52 hours must be individual supervision and 13 of those must be with a current LCSW; no more than five hours of supervision may be credited during any single week

Fee: $75 registration fee, $230 ASWB examination fee, $100 California Law and Ethics examination fee, $100 initial license (prorated); $32 DOJ fingerprint processing fee; $17 FBI fingerprint processing fee

Additional Information: All hours of experience must be gained within the most recent six years from the time you apply for LCSW examination eligibility. Fingerprints are required.

Endorsement: None

License Renewal: You must renew your registration with BBS every year in order for your supervised experience to count towards examination eligibility requirements. Supervised experience will not count if registration expires or lapses.

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California ACSW (Associate Clinical Social Worker)

California ACSW Education Requirement: Master of Social Work (MSW)

California ACSW Exam: None

Field Requirement: None

Fee: $75 application fee, $49 fingerprinting fee ($32.00 DOJ fingerprinting fee; $17.00 FBI fingerprinting fee)

Additional Information: Upon graduation from an MSW program, individuals may apply to become an ACSW through the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, at which point they may begin to fulfill the Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) field requirements.

Endorsement: None

License Renewal: Renewal is required every year. Registration renewal fee is $75.

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In order to become a licensed social work practitioner in California, you will need to complete prerequisite coursework, examination requirements, and, in some cases, supervised work requirements. Also, certain levels of social work in California can only be reached after earning a Master of Social Work. We are committed to keeping updated information on California social work licensure policies available to you.

California Social Work Salary

California Social Work Salary
California Social Work Career Average Social Worker Salary
Child, Family and School Social Workers $55,830
Healthcare Social Workers $72,770
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers $55,730
All Other Social Workers $66,300
Salary Increase from BSW to MSW +$9,000

Disclaimer: Social Worker Salary information is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Information about social worker salaries in California is subject to change. Please confirm salary information with your state before applying for licensure or renewal. Last updated: 08/22/2018.

California Social Work Scholarships

To find the most up-to-date and pertinent grant information, visit: Government Grants website.

Amount: Up to $10,000

Description: The MHLAP was created by the Mental Health Service Act, passed by California voters in November 2004. The Act provided funding to develop a loan forgiveness program in order to retain qualified mental health professionals working within the Public Mental Health System (PMHS). Awardees may receive up to $10,000 to repay educational loans over a one-year period.

Disclaimer: Information about the Mental Health Loan Assumption Program (MHLAP) in California is subject to change. Please confirm information with your state before applying for grant. Last updated: 08/22/2018.

Allied Healthcare Scholarship

Type:
 Scholarship

Amount: Up to $8,000 for one year of school

Description: If awarded, recipients agree to a twelve (12) month service obligation practicing full time, direct patient care at a qualified facility in California. Qualified facilities include those designated by The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources Administration (HRSA) or California’s Shortage Designation Program, a liaison to the federal Shortage Designation Branch (SDB) of Health Resources and Services Administration as Medically Underserved Area (MUA), Medically Underserved Population (MUP), Health Professional Shortage Area- Primary Care (HPSA-PC), or a Primary Care Shortage Area.

Additional scholarship information is available on the national page of social work scholarships.

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Disclaimer: Information about the Allied Healthcare Scholarship in California is subject to change. Please confirm information with your state before applying for scholarship. Last updated: 08/22/2018.

Sponsored Online Social Work Programs

Sponsored Online Social Work Programs
School Program Description
University of Denver
  • Research-driven faculty dedicated to making an impact on social problems
  • Prepares you to apply social work skills across practice settings
Fordham University
  • Four areas of focus: Individuals and Families, Organizations and Community, Evaluation, and Policy Practice and Advocacy
Simmons University
  • Four Clinical Specializations: Child and Family, Trauma and Interpersonal Violence, Mental Health and Addictions, and Health and Aging
  • Three program tracks: Traditional, Accelerated, and Extended
Case Western Reserve University
  • From Case Western Reserve University’s top-10 ranked School of social work
  • Traditional and Advanced Standing tracks available
University of Southern California (USC)
  • Offered by USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, a top-ranked graduate School by U.S. News and World Report
  • Features virtual and in-person field education in or near student’s own communities
Baylor University
  • Ethically integrates faith and social work practice
  • Specialize in clinical practice or community practice

Sponsored Online Social Work Programs

Licensure information including requirements, renewals, and fees were retrieved as of August 2018. Information may have changed since, check with the state’s board of licensing for more information.