Become a Social Worker in Pennsylvania

The commonwealth of Pennsylvania was home to the third-highest concentration of child, family and school social workers in May 2021. As of August 2020, social work students with a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree are eligible to apply for a licensed bachelor social worker (LBSW) license. To become an LSW or LCSW in Pennsylvania, a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree is required. There are a number of accredited MSW programs in Pennsylvania to consider.

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

Sponsored Online Social Work Programs

Howard University


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


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


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


Master of Social Work (MSW)

Aspiring direct practitioners can earn their MSW online from Simmons University in as few as 9 months. GRE scores are not required, and the program offers full-time, part-time, accelerated, and advanced standing tracks.

Syracuse University


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.

Case Western Reserve University


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.


Common steps to Become a Pennsylvania Social Worker

In Pennsylvania, there are three social work licenses: licensed bachelor social worker (LBSW), licensed social worker (LSW) and licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). Below are common steps on how to become an LSW and LCSW in Pennsylvania, retrieved from State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors Title 49 Chapter 47 of the Pennsylvania Code:

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.

1. Complete an Accredited MSW or Doctorate in Social Work Program

To pursue either of the two social work licenses in Pennsylvania, applicants must have earned a master’s in social work or social welfare degree, accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), or doctoral degree in social work.

2. Apply for Authorization to Take the ASWB Examination

To take the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) examination, applicants must apply for authorization from the State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors. LSW applicants take the master’s exam and LCSW applicants apply for the clinical exam.

3. Apply for and Pass the ASW

Once authorized to apply for the ASWB exam, applicants can apply for the exam via ASWB. To continue with the application for social work licensure in Pennsylvania, applicants must pass the exam.

4. Finalize the Licensed Social Worker (LSW) Application

After LSW applicants complete and pass the ASWB master’s level exam, they may complete their application.

5. Complete 3,000 Supervised Hours of Post-Graduate Experience

Applicants seeking LCSW licensure must complete 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience as an LSW.

6. Finalize Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) Application

Once 3,000 hours of experience are completed, applicants can apply for full LCSW licensure.

Social Work Degree Programs in Pennsylvania

You have a few social work program options in Pennsylvania that will put you on the path to licensure. For LBSW applicants, a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) is required. A BSW in Pennsylvania enables you to apply for licensure as a LBSW. Core classwork may include human behavior, social policy, research methods and a practicum. 

For students ready for graduate studies, several schools throughout Pennsylvania offer a Master of Social Work (MSW). Doctoral degrees are available at a few of Pennsylvania’s colleges and universities, including the University of Pennsylvania’s Doctorate in Clinical Social Work and the University of Pittsburgh’s Ph.D. in Social Work. You may also apply for an LCSW in Pennsylvania if you possess a Doctorate of Social Work (DSW) degree. 

Depending on your program track option of full-time, part-time, or advanced standing, you can finish an MSW in as little as a year. Based on your undergraduate social work degree, you may need to take some prerequisite courses. 

Master of Social Work (MSW) Programs 

You must possess a minimum of a graduate degree to obtain an LSW or LCSW social work license in Pennsylvania. As a student, you should expect to develop core knowledge, skills, and values necessary for a social work professional. 

In addition to coursework that may include history and philosophy of social work and social welfare, human behavior and the social environment, and understanding social change, your curriculum may include field placement experiences. All of the following are CSWE-accredited MSW programs in Pennsylvania:

Online MSW Programs in Pennsylvania

If you prefer to take your MSW courses online, there are several options for you in Pennsylvania. This flexible educational path is ideal for students with a busy schedule who need to balance work, home life and school. The following online MSW programs offer classes online, traditional and advanced standing MSW programs to fit your needs.

Some of the MSW programs in Pennsylvania offer a clinical concentration. Online clinical MSW programs may help prepare you for LCSW licensure in Pennsylvania.

Social Work Licenses in Pennsylvania 

Pennsylvania offers three licensure options in social work: licensed bachelor social worker, licensed social worker and licensed clinical social worker. Each level permits social workers to engage in varying levels of work and responsibilities.  

Licensed Bachelor Social Worker (LBSW)

  • Education Requirements: Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) a CSWE-accredited college or university
  • Field Requirements: None
  • Exam: Bachelor’s level ASWB exam
  • License Renewal: Every two years.

Learn more on how to become a LBSW.

Licensed Social Worker (LSW)

  • Education Requirements: Master of Social Work or Social Welfare (MSW) or Doctor of Social Work (DSW) from a CSWE-accredited college or university
  • Field Requirements: None
  • Exam: Master’s level ASWB exam
  • License Renewal: Every two years. 

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) 

  • Education Requirements: Master of Social Work or Social Welfare (MSW) or Doctor of Social Work (DSW) from a CSWE-accredited college or university
  • Field Requirements: 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience
  • Exam: ASWB Advanced Generalist or Clinical exam
  • License Renewal: Every two years.

Learn more about how to become a LCSW.

Social Work Salaries for Pennsylvania 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Typical salaries for other social work careers in the state vary:

Pennsylvania Social Work CareersNumber of Social Workers in PennsylvaniaAverage Mean Social Work Salary
Child, family and school social workers
Healthcare social workers
Mental health and substance abuse social workers
Social work teachers, postsecondary

Information on the above social work salaries in Florida was retrieved from Bureau of Labor Statistics – State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates Pennsylvania as of May 2021.

Learn more about different social work salaries.

Pennsylvania Social Work Scholarships

You can find various social work scholarships, fellowships and grants at most colleges and universities. Refer to your institution’s financial aid department about your options.

Pennsylvania Social Work Organizations 

Several organizations in Pennsylvania offer resources for social work professionals. Whether for licensing or support from fellow social workers, you can find information on the following sites: 


Does Pennsylvania have social work reciprocity?

No, Pennsylvania has no formal social work reciprocity. However, instead of applying for a Pennsylvania social work license as a new applicant, you, as an out-of-state licensee, can obtain licensure if:

  • You hold a current license in a state with licensure requirements equivalent to or exceeding those in Pennsylvania.
  • You have been in practice for two of the five years preceding your application date.
  • You are in good standing in the other state.
  • You have not committed any act that could be grounds for refusal, suspension or revocation of a license.
  • You pay any fees for licensing in Pennsylvania.

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

The renewal period for a social work license in Pennsylvania is every two years. You must complete 30 hours of continuing education (CE) within those two years. Three of those hours must be related to ethical issues. If your CE hours exceed 30, they do not carry over to your next license renewal.

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

The best way to look up your social work license is through the Pennsylvania Licensing System or PALS.

Last updated May 2022.