Become a Social Worker in Washington

Washington state has scores of opportunities for a career in the field of social work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 16,830 social workers and postsecondary social work educators in Washington in May 2021. The BLS also reports the national job outlook for social workers is projected to grow 12% between 2020 and 2030, which is faster than average compared to all positions.

With the growing need for social workers, Washington is rife with social work degree programs, with at least a dozen bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate-level programs. Students have part-time, full-time, advanced standing programs and online options to choose from.

To become a social worker in Washington requires education, experience and credentials.

This career guide for how to become a social worker in Washington explains educational requirements, how to get licensed, Washington social work organizations to join and more. Once you complete the steps to become a Washington 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 Social Worker

If you’re wondering how to become a social worker in Washington State, it starts with education, then experience, then licensure and career advancement.

1. Fulfill general education requirements. 

The first step is to acquire an associate degree or Bachelor of Social Work (BSW), or a bachelor’s degree in a related field like sociology or psychology. BSW programs include supervised field experience or an internship and prepare students for work in administrative roles like mental health assistant or caseworker.

2. Earn a master’s in social work. 

To advance your social work career in Washington, you’ll need a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. MSW programs enable students to become more specialized and experienced in social work. An MSW is a requirement to obtain one of the three available social work licenses in Washington. When you’re choosing a social work degree program, make sure it’s one that’s accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). To get licensed, only CSWE-accredited MSW programs are accepted.

3. Gain field experience. 

To become a Licensed Advanced Social Worker (LASW) or Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW), you’ll have to have a minimum amount of supervised, post-graduate social worker experience. An LASW requires a minimum of 3,200 hours, while to become an LICSW in Washington requires a minimum of 4,000 hours. To get this experience, you’ll need to get an Associate-Advanced and Independent Clinical Social Worker license.

4.  Get licensed. 

To get licensed, you’ll have to meet rigorous standards set forth by the Washington State Department of Health. Some social work roles will require social workers to be an LASW, and any independent clinical social work must be practiced by an LICSW under the law. The Associate-Advanced and Independent Clinical Social Worker license enables someone with an MSW to work under an LASW or LICSW.

5.  Look for social work jobs. 

Fulfilling the previous steps, social workers can then look for  jobs in Washington by using the National Association of Social Workers job search tool. Social work graduates can also connect with their college career center to get job leads.

Learn more on how to become a social worker.

Social Work Degree Programs in Washington

Washington state offers several social work degree programs to choose from. The state has seven CSWE-accredited BSW programs and four CSWE-accredited MSW programs for social workers. 

Some students complete prerequisite coursework in an associate degree program first to save time in a BSW program. A BSW program will include general college coursework in non-social work-related classes, as well as social work coursework.

During their pursuit of a degree from a CSWE-accredited program in Washington, students learn about advanced social work topics more in-depth. Some programs offer social work concentrations, and others are more generalist. For example, the Eastern Washington University MSW program is an advanced generalist program, while the Seattle University MSW program offers sub-specializations such as addictions, medical/health social work and trauma-informed practice. An MSW prepares graduates for licensure and offers more field experience than a BSW program.

There is also a PhD program in social welfare offered by the University of Washington School of Social Work. A social work doctorate enables a social worker to pursue social work research or obtain leadership roles in large-scale social work organizations.

Master of Social Work (MSW) programs

MSW programs in Washington are available in full-time and part-time structures. There are also advanced standing programs, which allow students to apply coursework from a BSW to complete the MSW program quicker. 

The following are CSWE-accredited MSW programs in Washington. Available social work concentrations include administration and policy practice, community-centered integrative practice, clinical social work, integrative health-mental health advanced practice and multigenerational practice with children, families and elders.

Online MSW programs Washington

As far as online MSW programs in Washington, Eastern Washington University currently offers the state’s only program. Instead of having an MSW clinical focus, the program has an advanced generalist concentration.

It’s a part-time, weekend, hybrid program that enables students to complete an MSW in three years and includes an advanced standing online MSW. The program is a combination of online and in-person instruction, with in-person courses presented three weekends per quarter at the Eastern Washington University Spokane campus. Students complete their social work practicum at an agency within their own community.

Social Work Licenses in Washington

There are three types of social work licenses in Washington: a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW), a Licensed Advanced Social Worker (LASW) and an Associate-Advanced and Independent Clinical Social Worker license. Each license qualifies you to become a social worker in Washington at different levels and work settings. The requirements for each license vary, so consider your career goals when completing your degree and field experience.

Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) in Washington

To practice unsupervised clinical social work in Washington, a social worker must have an LICSW.

Learn more about how to become an LICSW. 

Licensed Advanced Social Worker (LASW) in Washington

A Licensed Advanced Social Worker (LASW) is another type of social worker license in Washington.

  • Education requirements: CSWE-accredited MSW or doctorate social work degree and official transcripts
  • Field requirements: Minimum of 3,200 hours of post-MSW or post-doctorate supervised experience.
  • Exam: ASWB Advanced Generalist exam
  • License renewal: Every year

Associate-Advanced and Independent Clinical Social Worker in Washington

The Associate-Advanced and Independent Clinical Social Worker license enables social workers to do social work under the supervision of an LASW or LICSW and gain hours for field experience.

  • Education requirements: CSWE-accredited MSW or doctorate social work degree and official transcripts
  • Exam: None
  • License renewal: Every year

Social Work Salaries for Washington

Social worker salary in Washington is determined by the type of licensure, experience and education a social worker has and the role and work environment. The following are the May 2020 state occupational employment and wage estimates for social work careers in Washington.

Washington Social Work CareersNumber of Social Workers in WashingtonAverage Social Work Salary
Child, Family and School Social Workers
9,030
$60,230
Healthcare Social Workers
4,040
$71,800
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers
2,480
$59,500
Social Workers, All Other
720
$79,210
Social Work Teachers, Postsecondary
50
$57,570

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

Washington Social Work Scholarships

If you’re interested in attending social work school in Washington, there are social work scholarships in Washington that can help you pay for school.

Washington Social Work Organizations

There are several social work organizations in Washington to check out for networking opportunities, job leads, news and resources.

FAQs

Does Washington have social work reciprocity?

Washington state has a reciprocity program that takes into consideration substantial equivalency to other states’ clinical social worker licenses based on their scope of practice. If the department considers your license from another state substantially equivalent, you can apply for a temporary probationary license to work as an LASW or LICSW. Applicants will need to meet full Washington state licensure requirements to retain social worker licensure.

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

Social work CE requirements in Washington depend on the license. For LICSWs and LASWs, CE requirements are 36 hours, six of which must be in professional law and ethics, every two years. For Associate-Advanced and Independent Clinical Social Workers, 18 hours of CE is due annually.

LICSWs, LASWs and Associate-Advanced and Independent Clinical Social Workers must complete six hours of training in suicide assessment, treatment and management, with the training to be repeated once every six years.

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

You can search for social work license verification in Washington on the Washington State Department of Health provider credential search portal.

Begin Your Career as a Social Worker in Washington

Washington state has plenty of opportunities for social work students and current professional social workers alike. With numerous social work education programs and licensure reciprocity you can start and build a career as a social worker in Washington.

Last updated in May 2022