Become a Social Worker in Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C., may be recognized as our nation’s capital, but it is also home to over 5,000 social workers earning an average salary of $68,880 a year. This career guide for how to become a social worker in Washington explains educational requirements, how to get licensed, social work organizations to join in Washington and more. Once you complete the steps to become a social worker, you can embark on a meaningful, fulfilling career helping others.

This career guide for how to become a social worker in Washington  D.C explains educational requirements, how to get licensed, Washington  D.C social work organizations to join and more. Once you complete the steps to become a Washington  D.C social worker, you can embark on a meaningful, fulfilling career helping others.

Information below was retrieved May 2022 and is only meant to be a high-level overview. Requirements may change, always check with the state licensing board for complete and up to date information.

Sponsored Online Social Work Programs

Howard University

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Master of Social Work (MSW)

The online Master of Social Work program from Howard University School of Social Work prepares students for advanced direct or macro practice in culturally diverse communities. Two concentrations available: Direct Practice and Community, Administration, and Policy Practice. No GRE. Complete in as few as 12 months.

University of Denver

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Master of Social Work (MSW)

The University of Denver’s Online MSW Program is delivered by its top-ranked school of social work and offers two programs. Students can earn their degree in as few as 12 months for the Online Advanced-Standing MSW or 27 months for the Online MSW.

Fordham University

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Master of Social Work (MSW)

Fordham’s skills-based, online MSW program integrates advanced relevant social work competencies, preparing students to serve individuals and communities while moving the profession forward. This program includes advanced standing and traditional MSW options.

Simmons University

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Master of Social Work (MSW)

Aspiring direct practitioners can earn their MSW online from Simmons University in as few as 12 months. GRE scores are not required, and the program offers full-time, part-time, accelerated, and advanced standing tracks.

University of Southern California

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Master of Social Work (MSW)

The MSW@USC is the online Master of Social Work from top-ranked USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. USC offers virtual and in-person field education, and students focus on adults, youth or social change.

Syracuse University

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Master of Social Work (MSW)

Syracuse University’s online Master of Social Work program does not require GRE scores to apply and is focused on preparing social workers who embrace technology as an important part of the future of the profession. Traditional and Advanced Standing tracks are available. 

Baylor University

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Master of Social Work (MSW)

Complete the Master of Social Work online program at Baylor University in as few as 12 months. Serve populations in Texas and around the world while ethically integrating faith and social work practice. No GRE required.

Case Western Reserve University

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Master of Social Work (MSW)

In as few as a year and a half, you can prepare for social work leadership by earning your Master of Social Work online from Case Western Reserve University’s school of social work.

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Common Steps to Become a Washington, D.C. Social Worker

Before becoming a social worker in Washington, D.C., you must earn at least a bachelor’s degree in social work and a social work license depending on what career path you choose. Education, field experience and licensure can help you achieve your social worker career goals. For how to become an LCSW in Washington and advance your career, follow these steps, summarized by the DC Board of Social Work as of October 2021.

Steps to Become a Licensed Social Work Associate (LSWA) or Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW) in Washington, D.C. 

The application process to become an LSWA or LGSW in D.C. is essentially the same. However, applicants looking to become an LSWA may apply with a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) while becoming an LGSW requires a minimum of a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. These degrees must be accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Becoming an LSWA allows you to practice general social work under the supervision of a licensed independent social worker (LISW) or a licensed independent clinical social worker (LICSW) while being an LGSW allows you to practice both clinical and non-clinical social work under supervision.

Submit your application

Documentation for your application includes: a complete signed application for the Washington license, two recent passport photos, your Social Security number, an Applicant Work Experience Form, three reference forms, and official transcripts from an accredited degree program in social work.. Some additional information may be required if you are looking to apply for licensure through endorsement.

Criminal background check

For those who are not applying through endorsement, a criminal background check is required by fingerprint scan. An additional payment is needed for the background check. Results are to be mailed to the following address: 

Attn: Fieldprint 
12000 Commerce Parkway Suite 100 
Mt. Laurel, NJ 08054

Pass the ASWB exam

For LSWA applicants, either the bachelor’s or master’s examination administered by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) is accepted for licensure application. To become an LGSW, a master’s examination is required. The exam registration fee is $230. 

Receive your LSWA/LGSW license

You will receive your license once you have completed all of the above steps.. 

Steps to Become a Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW) or a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) in Washington, D.C. 

Much like the application process for the LSWA and LGSW, the applications for these two licenses are essentially the same. Those looking to pursue either license must have completed an accredited MSW or Doctor of Social Work (DSW) degree program. Becoming an LISW allows you to practice non-clinical social work without supervision and clinical social work under supervision if working toward an LICSW license whereas being an LICSW allows you to practice both clinical and non-clinical social work with no supervision required after licensure.

Earn valid supervised social work experience

For LISW and LICSW applicants, a minimum of 3,000 clinical hours of supervised experience is required prior to licensure. 

Submit your application

Documentation to be included is the same as with the LSWA and LGSW; however, an additional supervision verification form is required to report hours of experience in social work. Some additional information may be required if you are looking to apply for licensure through endorsement.

Criminal background check

For those who are not applying through endorsement, a criminal background check is required by fingerprint scan. An additional payment is needed for the background check. Results are to be mailed to the following address:

Attn: Fieldprint
12000 Commerce Parkway Suite 100
Mt. Laurel, NJ 08054

Pass the ASWB exam

For LISW applicants, the advanced generalist examination is accepted for licensure application. To become an LICSW, a clinical examination is required. The exam registration fee is $260. 

Receive your LSWA/LGSW license

Once you have completed all of the above steps, you will receive your license. 

License Renewal

According to the DC Board of Social Work, all licenses expire July 31 on odd years. You are required to complete 40 hours of approved continuing education units in order to renew your license. Only 12 of the total 40 hours are allowed to be online.

Social Work Degree Programs in Washington, D.C. 

Washington, D.C. offers several social work degrees to choose from. An associate’s degree with a social work focus can help students complete coursework that prepares them for an entry-level administrative role in social work or can help them earn a BSW more quickly.

A bachelor’s degree in social work is the minimum educational requirement to pursue licensure in Washington. A BSW can also enable a student to enter an advanced standing MSW program, where they may be able to complete an MSW in about one year. A BSW also prepares students for entry-level social work positions. Here are some universities in Washington that are offering fully accredited BSW programs:

Master of Social Work (MSW) Programs in Washington, D.C. 

MSW programs in Washington teach students advanced social work theories and practical knowledge. These degree programs include coursework on topics such as human development, social work policy, intervention and social work practice for poverty, oppression and trauma. 

There are full-time, part-time and advanced-standing MSW programs available in D.C. The following are all fully CSWE-accredited MSW programs in Washington, D.C.:

Online MSW Programs in Washington, D.C.

There is one online MSW program in D.C. that is fully accredited by the CSWE. 

Online MSW programs offer the same curriculum and coursework that traditional on-campus programs do. Students are taught by the same professors who teach on campus, and they complete fieldwork as part of the program. 

Learn more about MSW Programs:

Social Work Salaries in Washington, D.C. 

The average salary earned by social workers in Washington depends on the role, environment and location. However, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that, generally, the higher the educational attainment, the higher the earning potential.

Washington Social Work CareersNumber of Social Workers in WashingtonAnnual Mean Social Work Salary
Child, family and school social workers
2,220
$70,340
Healthcare social workers
370
$87,000
Mental health and substance abuse social workers
520
$73,500
Social Workers, all other
350
$68,880

Information on the above social work salaries in Washington, D.C., was retrieved from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: District of Columbia in May 2022.

Learn more about different social work salaries.

Washington, D.C. Social Work Scholarships 

For those just starting on their path to social work, there are social work scholarships available to pursue a social work degree in D.C.. Be sure to check with your preferred university for other available financial aid options.

Washington, D.C. Social Worker Organizations

There are countless local and national associations and organizations with goals to promote, develop and protect the practice of social work and social workers. Better social work means better solutions for issues such as welfare, child welfare, elderly welfare, healthcare reform and other issues affecting the disadvantaged populations in Washington and beyond.

  • National Association of Social Workers (NASW), Metro DC Chapter: This chapter of the NASW works toward uniting social workers for professional development and advocating for local and national professional service delivery and practice issues. As a local chapter, the Metro DC Chapter seeks to address public policy issues in collaboration with the NASW.
  • Association of Black Social Workers (ABSW), DC Chapter: This organization was built by people of African ancestry committed to enhancing the quality of life and empowering Black social workers through advocacy, human services delivery and research. 
  • Greater Washington Society for Clinical Social Work: This membership-driven, non-profit, all-volunteer organization consists of over 850 licensed and pre-licensed clinical social workers who practice in a variety of settings in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Northern Virginia.

FAQ

Does Washington, D.C. offer social work license reciprocity?

Washington allows licensure by endorsement. Out-of-state applicants must have an equivalent social work license in another state, meet the educational prerequisites for the equivalent Washington social work license, provide their official ASWB exam scores and pay a $230 application fee on the District Board of Social Work.

What are the social work continuing education requirements in Washington, D.C.?

Social workers must renew their license every two years on July 31 with a renewal fee of $145. Additionally, licensees must earn 40 hours of continuing education including six hours in ethics and two hours on LGBTQ content. To renew, complete the online renewal form and pay the associated fee linked.

What is the best way to look up my social work license in Washington, D.C.? 

Search for your social work license at the District Of Columbia Department of Health search. The site’s options will allow you to search your name and find your license number, license status and details surrounding your professional information.

Last updated June 2022