Become a Social Worker in Ohio

To practice social work in the Buckeye State, you must obtain a license after earning any one of three social work degrees—a bachelor’s (BSW), master’s (MSW) or doctorate in social work—from a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited program. You will be joining more than 25,000 social workers in Ohio.In addition to earning a degree, you must follow state guidelines set forth by the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker and Marriage and Family Therapist Board (CSWMFT) to practice in the state. Continue reading to learn what steps and guidelines you must follow to become a social worker in Ohio.

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Steps to Become an Ohio Social Worker

Unlike other states that may require a minimum of a master’s in social work, Ohio permits social work professionals to practice with a BSW. Here’s an overview of common steps needed to obtain licensure and become a social worker in Ohio.

How to Become a Licensed Social Worker (LSW) in Ohio

The steps to become an LSW in Ohio were retrieved from the LSW License Instructions from the CSWMFT as of October 2020.

1. Complete a degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited program.

In order to pursue licensure as a licensed social worker (LSW) in Ohio, you must complete, at minimum, a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) that is accredited by the CSWE.

2. Complete the licensed social worker (LSW) application.

Complete the LSW application and submit the $80 application fee and a processing fee. You may need to provide your driver’s license and a copy of your degree (or letter of good standing along with anticipated degree and graduation date if you are a current student) with your application.

Part of your application is to request approval to take the licensure examination from the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB).

3. Pass the relevant ASWB exam. 

Depending on your degree level, you may have to pass the ASWB Bachelors or Masters exam. You may receive authorization from the state to take the ASWB after you submit your LSW application.

4. Familiarize yourself with the CSWMFT laws and rules.

View the CSWMFT Laws and Rules video to help you understand the Board’s rules and ethics requirements of a licensee.

5. Complete criminal background checks.

Complete the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification (BCI) and FBI background checks

6. Submit your official transcripts.

Have your school submit official transcripts, indicating the degree granted, directly to the Board. Request your transcript to be emailed to or mailed to the address below: 

Counselor Social Worker & Marriage and Family Therapist Board
77 S High St 24th Floor, Room 2468
Columbus, OH 43215

Degree Pathways to Become a Social Worker in OH

There are several licenses for social workers and assistants in Ohio. Three of these require enrollment or graduation from an accredited Master of Social Work (MSW) program. However, licenses are available for associate- and bachelor-level applicants. Learn more about MSW programs in Ohio.

  • Associate Degree in Social Work: To be qualified for the Social Work Assistant (SWA) license in Ohio, applicants must have earned a minimum associate-level degree in social services. An associate degree, where available, in social work may likely meet that requirement.
  • Bachelor of Social Work (BSW): Earning your BSW is a minimum education requirement for the LSW license in Ohio. This degree may prepare you to provide interventions without supervision as an LSW.
  • Online Master’s in Social Work (MSW): In Ohio, there are a few universities that offer an online MSW program. However, these programs are also offered throughout the country, accredited by the CSWE.
  • Advanced Standing MSW Program: If you already have earned your BSW and wish to pursue licensure as an LISW in Ohio, you may be able to enroll in an advanced standing program that builds on the social work foundation coursework from your bachelor’s degree.
  • Online Clinical Social Work (LCSW) Program: Although Ohio does not have a “clinical” title designation for social workers, an online clinical MSW program may help with completing and passing the clinical exam for the LISW license.
  • Online MSW with No GRE: Some universities offer admissions without requiring the GRE but may still have GPA and other requirements.
  • Doctorate of Social Work (DSW): Although not required for social work licensure in Ohio, a DSW program may help prepare you to pursue advanced career opportunities such as professor of social work, administrator, or director of social services.

Social Work Licenses in Ohio 

Apart from the previously mentioned BSW- and MSW-level licenses, there are also two other social work designations in Ohio: one for master’s level students pursuing internship/practicum hours and a designation for those who have received an associate degree in social service technology.

  • The social work trainee (SWT) license is for MSW students who are currently enrolled in an internship or field education course. This allows for the MSW student to act as a social worker during their internship.
  • If you have earned an associate level degree in social service technology, you may be eligible for the social work assistant (SWA) license. The SWA license may permit individuals, under appropriate supervision, to provide services such as intake assessments, referrals, screening and crisis intervention. 

For other applicants with a BSW or MSW, the following licenses are available from the Ohio CSWMFT Board as of October 2020:

Licensed Social Worker (LSW)

As an LSW in Ohio, you can counsel or perform psychosocial interventions without supervision and social psychotherapy with supervision.

  • Education Requirement: Minimum CSWE-accredited Bachelor of Social Work degree
  • Field Requirement: None
  • Exams: ASWB Bachelors or Masters Exam
  • Fees: $80 application fee and a processing fee
  • License Renewal: Renewal occurs every two years on date of issuance, with proof of three hours of ethics continuing education in addition to the 30-hour requirement and cost of $83.50.

Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW)

The LISW in Ohio license permits you to practice independently or through your own practice. 

  • Education Requirement: Minimum CSWE-accredited Master of Social Work degree
  • Field Requirement: 3,000 hours of supervised social work
  • Exams: ASWB Clinical or Advanced Generalist Exam
  • Fees: $100 application fee and processing fee
  • License Renewal: Renewal occurs every two years on date of issuance, with proof of three hours of ethics continuing education in addition to the 30-hour requirement and cost of $83.50.

Licensed Independent Social Worker with Supervision Designation (LISW-S)

This level of licensure allows you to practice all of the LISW duties and perform supervision services such as supervising fellow social workers

  • Education Requirement: Minimum CSWE-accredited Master of Social Work degree with one year post-LISW licensure experience and nine hours of supervision in continuing education units or master’s-level courses in supervision within the last three years
  • Field Requirement: None
  • Exams: None
  • Fees: N/A
  • License Renewal: Renewal occurs every two years on date of issuance, with proof of three hours of ethics and three hours of supervision training continuing education in addition to the 30-hour requirement and cost of $83.50.

Social Work Salaries for Ohio

Average social work salaries in Ohio will vary by location, role and work environment.

Social Work Salaries for Ohio
Social Work Careers Number of Social Workers in Ohio Mean Social Work Salary
Child, family and school Social Workers 11,560 $47,260
Health care social workers 7,230 $55,760
Mental health and substance abuse social workers 6,650 $46,950
Social workers, all other 2,870 $53,650
Social work teachers, postsecondary 680 $75,210

Information on the above social work salaries in Ohio was retrieved from Bureau of Labor Statistics – State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates Ohio as of August 2020.

Learn more about different social work salaries.

Ohio Social Work Scholarships

There are several social work scholarships in Ohio and as well as other forms of financial aid to help aspiring social work students cover school costs, such as tuition and supplies. Be sure to check with your preferred university for other financial aid options available. Some Ohio scholarships we have found for social workers include:

Ohio Social Work Organizations 

While there are some social work organizations in Ohio, universities may also offer opportunities for students to join associations or groups. 

  • NASW, Ohio Chapter – The world’s largest membership organization of social workers with more than 130,000 members has 4,700 in Ohio. This group focuses on client advocacy and addressing the needs of social work professionals.
  • Ohio School Social Work Association – Ohio is one of 11 states in the Midwest School Social Work Council. The Ohio chapter promotes programs and research in school systems to improve the quality of life for students. The organization further advocates social service work throughout the state.


Does Ohio have social work reciprocity?

No, the CSWMFT Board does not have any formal reciprocity agreements with other states. As an out-of-state social work applicant, you must submit your application as a new licensee. However, you can apply previous ASWB exam scores and supervised experience to Ohio social work license applications. 

What are the social work continuing education (CE) requirements in Ohio?  

As an LSW or LISW in Ohio, you must renew your license every two years. Before renewal, you must complete 30 CE hours, all of which may be achieved by home study. A minimum of three of the 30 hours must be in ethics every two-year licensing period. LISWs require three hours in supervision every two-year licensing period.

Learn more about continuing education in social work options.

What is the best way to look up my social work license in Ohio? 

The primary social work license verification in Ohio provided by the CSWMFT Board is the eLicense Look-Up. The information you enter must match the information in the system exactly.

Information on this page was last retrieved in August 2020.