California Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) Guide - 2024

AKA: California LCSW License

Social Worker License

by Social Worker License Staff

Updated: September 11th, 2023

California LCSW Licensure Process

In California, it is not necessary to have a license to find employment as a social worker if you have a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) or Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. However, you will need a license to pursue a clinical career.

Education Requirements

A Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) must have an MSW to be eligible to register in the state of California.

Find and filter all social work degree programs offered in California.

Experience Requirements

Before becoming an LCSW, you must first have experience as an associate clinical social worker (ASW). To qualify as an ASW, an MSW is needed from a CSWE-accredited program. An 18-hour course about California law and expectations surrounding professional ethics is needed for those who obtained their degrees out of state. Once a student meets the requirements, they can complete the ASW application. The application fee is $150.

The supplemental documentation that needs to be sent with the application is a photograph, check, or money order to cover the fees, fingerprints, paperwork verifying your education, and proof you completed the California law and professional ethics course. You will have six years to finish any additional coursework and supervised experience to apply for an LCSW license. The Board provided a handy ASW weekly tracking log to keep you organized and aware of what needs to be completed.

ASWs have 104 weeks to accumulate a minimum of 3,200 hours of supervised experience. An LCSW Breakdown of Required Experience can be found on the Board’s website. You must spend 2,000 hours in clinical psychological diagnosis, assessment, treatment, and counseling. For at least 750 of those 2,000 hours, you need to perform face-to-face individual or group psychotherapy.

You will also be required to spend a minimum of 52 weeks in individual supervision. Thirteen of those weeks must be supervised by an LCSW. Supplementing some of the remaining hours with group supervision and client-centered advocacy can help you meet your goal. A supervisory plan containing your supervisor’s information needs to be submitted to the Board.

Examination Requirements

The California Laws and Ethics examination is the first exam you need to pass before applying for an LCSW license. Use the PSI Exams Online website to register and take the test. There is also an ASWB Exam Handbook to explain the process.

The ASWB clinical examination can only be taken after the Board approves your licensure application. The Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) charges a fee of $260 for the test, which consists of 170 multiple-choice questions. If you fail the exam, you will get another chance to retake it after 90 days.

Application Process

After you’ve gathered the experience needed as an ASW and completed the necessary coursework, you can submit an In-State Application for Licensure to the Board. Your supervisor must account for and verify your supervised experience by filling out an In-State Experience Verification form. Candidates applying from out of state must include a 2×2 photo and fingerprints and fill out the Out of State Application for Licensure.

You can submit an Application for Initial License Issuance after passing the ASWB examination. Include the fee of $200 in the form of a check or money order made out to the “Behavioral Sciences Fund.”

Background Check

Reviewing the applicant’s criminal history is a step in the application process. Having a conviction does not automatically disqualify your application. You aren’t required to disclose information about your criminal history. The Board will obtain your records from the California Department of Justice and evaluate the history to determine whether the crime is related to your profession or if you require rehabilitation.

The Board may ask you to provide further information to assist your case, but your disclosure is voluntary. Choosing not to give any additional information is not a determining factor in the matter, and the Board will use the information they have to make a final decision. You can find out more about California’s background check for LCSW licensure on their website.