LBSW – Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker Guide

Social workers form an integral part of our communities, helping people from different backgrounds realize their full potential. While social workers may be required to hold a master’s degree for certain positions, in a number of states, you can obtain certain social work licenses with a bachelor’s degree alone. 

Licensed baccalaureate social workers (LBSWs) help carry out the policies and programs created by leaders in the field. Becoming an LBSW may allow you to gain valuable work experience and field exposure without having to make the hefty time and financial commitment required for graduate school. Read on to learn more about becoming an LBSW.  

States That Offer a LBSW License

Regulations governing social work practice differ by state—and not all states even recognize LBSW licenses. Check your state’s website to determine if you can practice as an LBSW there. As you prepare for your career, be sure to note application requirements as these too, can vary by states. 

States that currently offer an LBSW license, as of September 2020, include: 

Should I obtain a LBSW license?

A career in social work comes with unique challenges, but it may also be rewarding. Social workers can have a profound impact, using their skills and expertise to help clients navigate life’s challenges. An LBSW license affords early-career social workers the freedom to practice in a limited capacity. Unlike advanced professionals, LBSWs cannot provide clinical services and may be supervised upon entering the field. In Alabama, for instance, LBSWs must be supervised by a licensed master social worker (LMSW) or licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) for 24 months, at a minimum of four hours each month. 

Path to Becoming a Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW)

As an LBSW, you can gain a wealth of experience in social work and gather skills to launch your career. While requirements for LBSW licensure may differ by state, there is a general pathway to becoming a LBSW.  If you’re interested in attaining an LBSW license, the following steps may help you begin your journey as a social worker: 

  • Earn a bachelor’s degree. Earning a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) is one of the types of social work degrees you can earn and the first step in becoming a licensed baccalaureate social worker. Look for an accredited BSW program to ensure it meets state requirements. Upon completion of the program, ask your university to send your official transcript to the state office that oversees licensure. 
  • Submit an application. Next, fill out your state’s paper or online LBSW application. Note that license applications generally come with a small fee—and you may be required to complete a background check. 
  • Pass the ASWB exam. A key step in achieving your license is passing the national Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) exam. Some states prefer that you take the exam before applying for licensure, but most will notify you to register for the exam once your application has been approved. 
  • Pass a jurisprudence exam. Some states require that you pass a jurisprudence exam in addition to the ASWB exam. A jurisprudence exam tests your knowledge of your state’s social work laws and regulations. Topics might include scope of practice, license renewal requirements, or ethical conduct. 

If you’re interested in advancing your education beyond the bachelor’s-level, you can look into a master’s in social work degree program. There are a wide variety of accredited programs that fit the needs of aspiring social workers, including full-time and part-time options. You can even earn your master’s in social work online, which may allow you to balance work and family commitments with your studies. Upon completing a graduate-level program, you may be able to apply to become a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) or licensed master social worker (LMSW)

Factors to Consider When Obtaining a LBSW License

Obtaining an LBSW might seem a bit confusing since the requirements vary by state. The following information covers some main factors to consider as you seek licensure as an LBSW.

Educational Requirements

Before becoming an LBSW, you need to complete a BSW program at an accredited university. While undergraduate students may attend school full-time and on-campus, there are an increasing number of online programs that offer evening and weekend classes for nontraditional, part-time students. To learn more about available options, you can check out the Council on Social Work Education’s list of accredited online and distance education bachelor’s programs.  

Clinical Experience

BSW programs may contain a clinical component. This experience helps you build a foundation working directly with clients. CSWE BSW programs require a minimum of 400 hours of supervised field experience. 

Skills

Earning an LBSW license may be the springboard for a career in social work. Once you obtain a license and enter the field, you may find yourself managing cases, interviewing clients, monitoring their progress, coordinating services, and informing the community about available services and resources. Although LBSWs are not authorized to practice therapy or develop policies, they carry out many of the administrative functions that are critical to enact them.   

Career Opportunities for LBSWs

Becoming a social worker may open up an array of professional opportunities. Similar to health care professionals, social workers are needed in just about every area of the country. For that reason, a career in social work can involve a number of different settings and client populations. 

While LBSWs may find that some jobs in the field require a master’s degree, particularly in the clinical realm, there are still opportunities for those with an undergraduate education. These opportunities involve the development and improvement of programs, services, and social policies, often referred to as macro social work. 

LBSWs can find work in hospitals, government agencies, and nonprofits, helping clients and their families navigate challenges while also advocating on their behalf. Other roles LBSWs may occupy include habilitation specialists, mental health assistants, and activity directors in rehabilitation centers, schools, and shelters.             

Salary Expectations for LBSWs

In the United States, social work skills are highly sought after. Between 2019 and 2029, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipates a 13% growth in social work job opportunities—much faster than average growth rate for all occupations which is 4%. 

Earning potential for this growing group of professionals can differ vastly based on geographic area, employer, and specialty. Salaries also vary by education level, so LBSWs might earn less than those with a graduate social work degree. 

According to 2020 BLS data, the median annual wage for social workers is $51,760.  

Licensure Fee and Renewal

Like most social work licenses, the LBSW licensure comes with an initial fee. The application fee typically falls around $50, but depending on the state, it could be less or more. Renewal fees and requirements also vary by state, but the process usually involves continuing education credits. 

In New Mexico, for example, social workers must pay $100 and complete 30 continuing education hours to renew their LBSW license. These continuing education credits often involve cultural competency and suicide prevention trainings.  

FAQs

Curious about becoming a licensed baccalaureate social worker? Check out the following questions and answers for more information. 

What is an LBSW?

A licensed baccalaureate social worker (LBSW) is a social worker with a bachelor’s degree in social work and a state license to practice. LBSWs have a general scope of practice, as opposed to graduate-level social workers who are authorized to treat patients in a clinical setting. However, not all states offer the LBSW licensure, so check with your local government to determine whether it’s offered near you.  

How long does it take to obtain a LBSW?

An LBSW is a viable option for those who are entering the field of social work as it requires only an undergraduate degree. Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) programs usually last four years, but there are also accelerated online programs available for those aiming to graduate in less time. After completing your bachelor’s degree, you will need to apply for a license with your state’s social work board and pass the ASWB exam.  

What’s the difference between a LBSW vs LCSW?

LBSWs practice on a general level, helping community organizations and policymakers implement programs and services. Meanwhile, a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) license may offer social workers greater autonomy, authorizing them to provide therapy to individuals, groups, couples, and families. In order to become a LCSW, you must complete a graduate program in social work. 

Information on this page was last retrieved in April 2021.