Become a Social Worker in Virginia

Social workers can be considered the backbone of society. They help children in need, connect with seniors, care for the homeless, and ensure families and individuals are happy and healthy. They consult and comfort, working hard to guarantee that people are mentally, physically and emotionally well. They put the community’s needs first.

If you’re wondering how to become a social worker in Virginia, there are a number of steps you need to take, including applying to schools, taking courses, completing supervised clinical training and passing a licensing exam so you’re qualified to work in the state. This guide has information you need to begin your journey to become a social worker in Virginia.

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 Virginia Social Worker

There are multiple steps you need to become a social worker and earn your social worker license in Virginia. How to become a social worker in Virginia involves the following steps:

1. Complete necessary education.

To become a social worker in Virginia, you need at least a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree from a CSWE-accredited program. Earning your BSW puts you on track to become a licensed baccalaureate social worker (LBSW), while earning your Master of Social Work (MSW) prepares you to become a licensed master social worker (LMSW) or licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) in Virginia. LCSW licensure requires your program to include a 600-hour clinical practicum.

2. Gain required experience.

Supervised experience is required to become an LCSW in Virginia; you need 600 hours of MSW clinical practicum experience and 3,000 hours of mostly-MSW supervised experience. At least 1,380 of these hours need to be spent directly with clients, in addition to a minimum of 100 hours in face-to-face supervision.

3. Take and pass the ASWB exam.

Depending on the type of license you’re applying for, you’ll need to pass the ASWB clinical-level examination (to become an LCSW), master’s-level examination (to become an LMSW) or bachelor’s-level examination (to become an LBSW). Fees vary depending on the type of exam taken, but each exam includes 170 multiple choice questions. Only 150 questions are graded; 20 questions are used to measure future test questions. You’ll have four hours to complete the exam.

4. Submit your application.

Send your completed application to the Virginia Department of Health Professions’ Board of Social Work (the Board). You can submit your application online.

5. Keep up with continued education and renewal requirements.

Once you’re a licensed social worker in Virginia, you must keep up with continued education and renewal requirements as outlined by the Board.

Learn more on how to become a social worker.

Social Work Degree Programs in Virginia

You have many options for social work degree programs, which you’ll need to enroll in to become a social worker in Virginia. These programs are held online and offline, so you can choose which option works best for you. A social work program will prepare you with the knowledge and skills to work with patients after you graduate.

Depending on your current level of educational experience, you may need to explore social work bachelor’s degree programs or social work master’s degree programs.

Master of Social Work (MSW) Program

An MSW program prepares you to practice with various populations as a social worker. The curriculum incorporates classroom-style learning and hands-on practicum experience. There are four CSWE-accredited MSW programs in Virginia, offered by George Mason University, Norfolk State University, Radford University and Virginia Commonwealth University. Admissions requirements vary; some may ask for GRE scores, for example, while others may not.

Online MSW Programs in Virginia

If you prefer a more flexible learning environment, an online MSW program in Virginia could be best for you. Online programs enable you to study from anywhere and on your own time—you can choose the place and pace that works for you. Many online programs are offered in a part-time format so you can continue working while you study, or so you can take your time with the course material. When enrolled in an online MSW program, you can often complete at least some of your clinical experience at a location near you. 

If you have a bachelor’s degree from a CSWE-accredited program, you may be able to enroll in an advanced standing MSW degree program. Advanced standing programs can usually be completed more quickly. 

Those interested in becoming a LCSW in Virginia will need to graduate from a CSWE-accredited program, preferably a LCSW degree program. There are three online MSW programs in Virginia, offered by George Mason University, Radford University and Virginia Commonwealth University. There are more details about these CSWE-accredited programs below.

Social Work Licenses in Virginia

To obtain your social work license in Virginia, you have three options: licensed baccalaureate social worker (LBSW), licensed master social worker (LMSW) or licensed clinical social worker (LCSW).

The license you choose to apply for depends on the courses you take and how many hours of supervised clinical training you receive. How to become a LCSW in Virginia lists the most requirements. You’ll also need to take and pass specific exams. Your license allows you to practice in certain settings and verify that you’ve met certain standards.

Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW) in Virginia

  • Education Requirements: Bachelor’s degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited program
  • Field Requirements: None As of March 5, 2020 the Board removed field experience requirements for LBSW candidates
  • Exam: Pass the ASWB bachelor’s-level examination
  • License Renewal: Required every two years

Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) in Virginia

  • Education Requirements: Master’s degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited program
  • Field Requirements: None
  • Exam: ASWB master’s-level examination
  • License Renewal: Required every two years

Learn more about a LMSW License.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in Virginia

  • Education Requirements: Master’s degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited program
  • Field Requirements: Minimum 600 hours of supervised clinical practicum and 3,000 hours of post-MSW supervised clinical experience (at least 1,380 hours need to involve face-to-face client experience and 100 hours need to involve face-to-face supervision)
  • Exam: ASWB clinical-level examination
  • License Renewal: Required every two years

Learn more about how to become a LCSW.

Social Work Salaries in Virginia

The median salary for social workers was $51,760 in 2020, the BLS reports. The top 10% of social workers nationwide made more than $85,820, while the lowest-paid 10% earned less than $33,020. A social worker’s salary depends on many factors, such as years of experience and geographic area.

The table below breaks down average social worker salaries in Virginia as of May 2020.

Virginia Social Work CareerNumber of Social Workers in VirginiaAverage Mean Social Worker Salary
Child, Family and School Social Workers
9,270
$58,100
Healthcare Social Workers
3,460
$57,420
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers
4,000
$54,160
Social Workers, All Other
630
$72,070

Information on the above social work salaries in Virginia table was obtained in May 2022 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics – State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates Virginia.

Virginia Social Work Scholarships

Online and on-campus social work programs in Virginia can be expensive. Here is a Virginia social work scholarship to consider:

You can apply for financial aid with your school and research additional social work scholarships to help you afford full tuition.

Virginia Social Work Organizations

There are a few social work organizations in Virginia you may want to explore. These organizations can connect you with job, networking, mentoring and professional development opportunities. Here are some local social work organizations:

FAQs

Getting a social work license, whether it’s an LSW or an LCSW, can be a daunting process since there are so many requirements. Below are some FAQs to help you navigate how to become a social worker in Virginia.

Does Virginia have social work reciprocity?

Virginia doesn’t have reciprocity with any other state. This means that you can’t transfer your license from another state and start practicing right away. However, Virginia provides application by endorsement for applicants who hold a social work license in good standing in another jurisdiction, as long as you’ve passed the required ASWB exam. 

Check with the Virginia Department of Health Professions to determine the process for gaining employment as a social worker in Virginia if you’re coming from another state.

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

Virginia social workers need to complete continuing education requirements to keep their license. Depending on the type of social worker, there are different CE requirements:

  • LCSWs: Need to complete a minimum of 30 CE credits per year, with at least six relating to ethics and standards
  • LMSWs: Need to complete a minimum of 15 CE credits per year, with at least three relating to ethics and standards
  • LBSWs: Have the same CE requirements as LMSWs, detailed above
  • Registered and associate social workers: There are no CE requirements for registered and associate social workers in Virginia

Learn more about continuing education for social workers.

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

Let’s say you earned your social work license in Virginia but don’t have a copy of it. If that’s the case, then you can easily use social work license verification in Virginia. 

To look up your social work license in Virginia, use the Health Professional Data Services’ License Lookup tool. All you have to do is put in your license number and hit search. You can also search by last name and the last four digits of your Social Security number, or by name, state, zip code, occupation and license status.

Last updated in May 2022.