California Social Worker License Guide - 2022

Social Worker Licensing Guide for the state of California

Last Reviewed: October 3rd, 2022

It takes an especially compassionate person to venture into social work. California is the most populous state in the U.S. and has many opportunities for those seeking to secure a career as a social worker.

California does not require you to be licensed to practice social work. Still, you must have at least a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree from a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited program. A BSW ensures you’re ready for entry-level, basic generalist, and professional social work. You’ll also acquire the knowledge needed to get you started on your path to a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree.

California Social Work License Options



While in the BSW program, you’ll be supervised as you practice with families, groups, communities, and individuals. There will be a mix of classroom and field education. You’ll have the chance to apply what you’ve learned in the classroom while in the field. After completing the BSW program, you can begin practicing as a social worker, managing cases, working with child welfare agencies, and counseling residents.

If you choose to continue pursuing your MSW degree, you may qualify for advanced standing. That standing allows you to obtain an MSW within a year. The MSW is the highest level of education needed to hold any social work job if you plan to work in the field rather than as a researcher or university teacher. You can find employment as social work supervisors and in the medical and educational arenas.

But practicing as an independent social worker in California means you must have a license. Licensure identifies your level of education, experience, and expertise. There is only one social work license in California: the Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). Once obtained, you can have a private practice or find employment as a clinical administrator. A license is also needed if you wish to mentor and coach aspiring social workers.

When pursuing a career in social work, most students major in psychology, sociology, or another related field. These areas give students a strong foundation of insight into human sexuality, abuse, and substance abuse. However, you can have a bachelor’s degree from any field and earn an LCSW.

Once you receive your MSW, you can register as an Associate Clinical Social Worker (ASW) and perform clinical social work while supervised by a licensed mental health professional. You will have to be trained in specific areas before becoming an LCSW. The areas include child abuse assessment, spousal and partner abuse, and aging and long-term care.

As the largest employer of social workers in the U.S., California is a great state to explore the different careers paths in the field. The state also pays its social workers more than the national average, with most workers earning $68,000 per year.

As a clinical social worker, your job will encompass each area of social work that helps others improve the quality of their lives. They’ll help with financial, social, behavior, and health issues an individual or family may experience. They’re advocates for the disadvantaged and use their resources to connect clients to services that will benefit them.

Clinical social workers are the people we look to for assistance and guidance in our darkest moments. They work with other professionals such as doctors, teachers, and counselors to help them find the appropriate programs for their clients.

There is a code of ethics clinical social workers must follow. Showing respect for clients and not discriminating against anyone based on their age, race, gender, or social status is a condition they are expected to meet. They are often found defending the rights of those without power in society and helping to create legislation to support, enforce, and protect those rights. Discretion is another requirement as social workers are not permitted to discuss clients and their issues with others.

A client assessment is performed when a clinical social worker begins to work with a new individual or family. It includes interviews with the client, their family members, loved ones, and any doctors they are seeing. After the assessment, the next step is to sit with the client and develop goals and a plan to reach them.

For example, if the worker is helping someone overcome an addiction to drugs, they can interview family members to assess the severity of the problem. They will also speak with any medical professionals treating the client.

After the assessment, the worker will help the client make a treatment or care plan. They may refer the client to substance abuse programs and a therapist to help them work through their addiction. Family members can also be referred to a counselor to educate them about substance abuse and proper ways to help and deal with their loved ones.

The social worker will then continue to follow up with the client and reevaluate the situation to be sure they have everything they need to succeed. If the treatment plan is not working, the social worker may reassess the matter and implement another method.

Similarly, if someone is out of work, the social worker will help them set goals so they can secure employment. They may even develop a savings plan and set up appointments with different employment agencies. If there is a specific area the client wants to work in, their social worker can find programs to help them develop the skills needed for the position.

Community social workers handle policy creation and analysis, organizing, lobbying, social planning, and more when working with larger groups. They’ll develop programs to promote community health, raise awareness about health issues, and create plans with the community to improve their overall health.

Do you plan to have a long career in social work? Then the first step is getting a college degree, as many entry-level positions require one. The career is a fulfilling and meaningful one where you will see the difference you can make in someone else’s life. Your knowledge of and access to resources will enable others to deal with crises, illness, unemployment, and different situations impacting their daily well-being are priceless.

If you care deeply for the condition of your community and want to make things better for everyone, you’ve chosen the right profession. Now it’s all about narrowing down your specialty area. Choose from corrections social work, disability policy workers, military, psychiatric, victim advocate work, and much more.

So, if you’re an active listener who loves working with people from all walks of life, are organized, and have excellent time management skills, people in California need your assistance.