Getting Your Clinical Level Social Work License (LCSW) in California

Getting Your Clinical Level Social Work License (LCSW) in California

The State of Social Work in California

California is home to a large and diverse population, making the field of Social Work in the state particularly vital and in demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2021, there were approximately 70,510 social workers employed in the state of California. This number is expected to continue to grow in the coming years as the demand for social work services increases due to factors such as the state’s high poverty rate, high cost of living, and large aging population.

Social Workers in California are employed in a wide range of settings such as schools, hospitals, government agencies, and non-profits. They work with diverse populations and specialize in a variety of areas such as mental health, child welfare, substance abuse, medical social work, and veterans’ services. Social Workers in California play a vital role in helping individuals, families, and communities to overcome challenges and improve their overall well-being.

In 2021, a total of 20,657 Social Workers took the Clinical Level ASWB exam and it’s estimated that close to 2,000 of those Social Workers were from the state of California, though this exact breakdown is not released by the ASWB.

Prerequisites for Clinical-Level Licensure (LCSW) in California

Clinical-Level Licensure candidates need:

  1. An MSW degree from a CSWE-accredited institution
  2. To complete 3,000 hours of supervised experience, 104 hours of direct supervision, and 750 hours of face-to-face supervision
  3. To pass the Clinical Level ASWB exam
  4. To complete the LCSW application for the State of California
  5. To complete fingerprinting and a background check

Additional information about licensing requirements and rules for licensure can be found on the ASWB website. The fee in California for the LCSW license is $450.

Steps to Get Your Clinical License (LCSW) in California

1. Complete Your Masters Degree in Social Work

Your Masters Degree in Social Work must be from a CSWE-accredited institution. See a list of accredited institutions here.

A Masters degree in Social Work is required because it provides the necessary education and training including coursework in areas such as human behavior and the social environment, social welfare policy and services, and research methods.

Additionally, many programs often include a supervised field placement, where students can apply their knowledge and skills in a real-world setting and gain hands-on experience. This combination of classroom education and practical experience is necessary to prepare individuals for the complex and challenging work of being a licensed Social Worker.

2. Complete 3,000 Hours of Supervised Experience, 104 Hours of Direct Supervision, and 750 Hours of Face-to-Face Supervision

In California, 3,000 hours of supervised experience is required for obtaining Clinical level licensure in the field of Social Work. This requirement is in place to ensure that individuals who are seeking licensure have the necessary level of practical experience to work effectively and competently as professional Social Workers.

Supervised experience provides an opportunity for individuals to apply the knowledge and skills learned in their Masters degree program in a real-world setting. Additionally, it allows individuals to gain experience working with a diverse range of clients and develop the ability to use professional judgment in complex and challenging situations.

The supervisor’s role is to provide guidance and support, to help the individual to develop their professional judgment and to ensure that the work done is ethical and in line with professional standards. The 3,000 hours requirement is set to ensure that individuals have adequate supervised experience to meet the competencies required of a licensed Social worker in California.

In California, 104 hours of direct supervision and 750 hours of face-to-face supervision are also required to be eligible for your LCSW license. Learn more about California supervision requirements here: California Supervision Requirements

3. Register for and Pass the Clinical Level ASWB Exam

Before you take your exam, make sure to review our Pre-Test Checklist and ensure that you are ready to take your Clinical Level exam!

Register for your exam here with the ASWB

4. Complete the Application for Your California LCSW License

Learn more about how to apply for your California LCSW license here.

To apply for your California LCSW license, you will use the state’s online licensing system.  This system allows the user to apply for the license and upload any required documentation.

5. Complete Your Background Check + Fingerprinting

Upon submission of your LCSW application, you will be sent information from the California Board of Behavioral Sciences on fingerprint submission. The fingerprinting is done electronically and in locations throughout the state.

Sources: ASWB, California Board of Behavioral Sciences


► Learn more about the Agents of Change course here:

About the Instructor, Meagan Mitchell: Meagan is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and has been providing individualized and group test prep for the ASWB for over five years. From all of this experience helping others pass their exams, she created the Agents of Change course to help you prepare for and pass the ASWB exam!

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Disclaimer: This content has been made available for informational and educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical or clinical advice, diagnosis, or treatment