Ohio Licensed Social Worker (LSW) Guide - 2024

AKA: Ohio LSW License

Social Worker License

by Social Worker License Staff

Updated: February 16th, 2024

(614) 466-0912

Ohio Licensed Social Worker (LSW) Licensure Process

An LSW is the first level of licensure for social workers in Ohio. LSWs can provide non-clinical services, and their fieldwork is usually performed at:

  • Child welfare agencies
  • Mental health facilities
  • Hospitals
  • Juvenile courts

This license is for those who want to begin practicing under the watchful eye of an independent social worker or another Board-approved supervisor. It is also the springboard to the next level of licensure, a Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW).

Education Requirements

A bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate in social work from a Council of Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited program is necessary to apply for LSW licensure. Degrees in other fields were once eligible for licensure, but Ohio’s rules have changed.

Find all schools offering social work degree programs in Ohio.

The coursework includes:

  • Social work history
  • Policy
  • Human behavior
  • Social work practice theory
  • Research

You can begin the application process when you are one semester away from graduating from the program.

Background Check

Ohio social worker applicants have to complete an Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (BCI&I) check, and an FBI criminal records check. It’s recommended that you print the instructions and take them with you when you have your fingerprints taken at a WebCheck location. You should also start the process one month before you expect to be issued a license.

WebChecks can be found at your local department of motor vehicle facility, police station, and sheriff’s department. Check with your school, as they may also be able to complete your fingerprint scan.

When you enter the WebCheck location, be sure to hand them the instructions and let them know to select “Social Work Board” from the drop-down list on the electronic form. In the event “Social Work Board” does not appear, the individual taking the fingerprints has to type in the Board’s name and address as follows:


77 High Street

24th Floor, Room 2468

Columbus, Ohio 43215-6171

Also, make sure the individual knows that under “Reason for Fingerprinting” they must select one of the following:

  • ORC 4757.101
  • CSWMFT Board
  • Required for Licensure

Your fingerprints are electronically transmitted to the BCI&I, who also completes the FBI check. Your prints are compared against a criminal database to determine if any criminal records exist. The results from both checks are then electronically submitted to the CSWMFT Board.

If you don’t have a criminal history, your results will come back in 4-5 business days. Those with a criminal history have to wait 4-6 weeks for the Board to get their results.

When the fingerprints aren’t clearly captured by scanning, you will have to have them taken manually. That process is much longer and can take up to three months to complete, so if you’ve had problems with fingerprint scanning in the past, start the background check at least three months before you plan to be licensed.

The Board cannot legally process your application until it has the results from the BCI and FBI. The results are valid for one year, and you’ll have to redo the background check if the Board doesn’t receive them on time. You also cannot send your results to the Board as they are not allowed to accept them directly from you, only from the BCI&I.

Applying for Licensure as a Licensed Social Worker

Step one is to visit the Ohio eLicense Site and create a User ID and password. Next, fill out the LSW application and pay the $80 application and $3.50 processing fees online. The application also serves as your request to the Board for approval to take the required exam. Attach the following documents to your application:

  • Driver’s license
  • Copy of diploma with social work degree attained
  • Letter of good standing or unofficial transcript with the degree conferred (for those still in the program)

A letter of good standing is only required for those in the final semester of their program. It is needed to prove you will graduate by the expected date. The letter must come from the Social Work program office and be signed by the program director or another designated party. The letter should be formatted as a PDF file on school letterhead and contain the following information:

  • Your first and last name
  • Degree being earned
  • Specify Social Work as your major
  • Date of anticipated graduation or confirmation you are in your final semester
  • Confirmation you are in good academic standing

Once the Board receives and reviews all of your information, an email will be sent indicating you can register for the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) exam.

The Board has a video about the rules and ethical requirements expected of licensed social workers. After completing the background check send your transcripts to socialwork@cswb.ohio.gov. If you don’t send in the transcripts, you can have your school do it for you. Check with them to find out how long it usually takes for them to post your degree on your transcript, as you will not be granted a license until the Board sees that credential.

You’ll receive an email from the Board once your license is issued with a printable certificate attached. You can proudly display your newly acquired certification as you are now an LSW.

Examination Requirements

If you have a BSW, you will have to take the ASWB Bachelor’s exam. MSW graduates or those in the final semester of the program will have to register for the ASWB Master’s exam. The registration fee for both is $230.

Schedule your exam with a Person Vue Testing Center. You can apply for Exam Re-Approval if you don’t pass the test or if the exam approval has expired.