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Hawaii Social Work Licensing Requirements

The island state of Hawaii has a population of 1.4 million.1 The 3,340 social workers in the state earned an average salary of $66,100 in 2017 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.2 The organization in Hawaii that is responsible for overseeing the practice of social work and issuing licenses is the Professional & Vocational Licensing unit of Hawaii’s Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. On this page, you will find information about the practice of social work in Hawaii, including educational requirements, steps to applying for licensure, and job and salary data.

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How to Become a Social Worker in Hawaii

Educational Paths

To practice social work in Hawaii, you must hold one of the licenses offered by the Department. To be eligible for licensure, you must earn a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW). Higher levels of licensure in the state, including those that permit independent and clinical practice, require a master’s degree in social work (MSW). To qualify for licensure, both BSWs and MSWs must be earned through programs that are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) or that are determined by the Department to be equivalent. Continue reading to learn more about the differences between these two degrees.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

A bachelor of social work (BSW) is the minimum requirement for social work licensure in Hawaii, and the degree must be earned from a program that is CSWE-accredited or provides equivalent training. As of February 2019, there were three schools in Hawaii offering CSWE-accredited BSW programs. Accredited programs will offer a curriculum that focuses on core social work concepts, including human behavior, social welfare, and research methods. BSW programs typically take four years to complete, and graduates will be prepared to apply for the Licensed Bachelor Social Worker (LBSW) credential in Hawaii or to apply to graduate social work programs.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

A master’s in social work (MSW) is required to practice social work independently or to practice clinical social work in Hawaii. As of February 2019, there are two CSWE-accredited MSW programs in Hawaii. MSW programs typically take two years to complete. However, students who enter with a BSW may be eligible for “advanced standing,” allowing them to complete an MSW program in as little as one year. MSW programs prepare students for advanced social work, teaching them about diverse populations, multicultural settings, and social and economic justice. CSWE-accredited programs will also include a fieldwork component that allows students to obtain first-hand social work experience while they are enrolled. Graduates of MSW programs are able to apply for the Licensed Social Worker (LSW) and Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) licenses in Hawaii.

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in Hawaii

Hawaii offers three levels of licensure: Licensed Bachelor Social Worker (LBSW), Licensed Social Worker (LSW), and Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). You must meet different requirements to earn each of these licenses and each one allows for a different level of practice. Continue reading to learn more about the differences between these licenses and the steps to applying for licensure.

Licensed Bachelor Social Worker (LBSW)

The Licensed Bachelor Social Worker (LBSW) license is the entry-level license in Hawaii. Individuals who hold this credential must work under supervision but are able to provide a variety of general social work services, including case management, client education and advocacy, and mediation. To become an LBSW in Hawaii, you must have a BSW from a CSWE-accredited program (or one providing equivalent training). The sections below describe the steps you will need to take to earn an LBSW license once you hold a qualifying BSW.

1. Submit the LBSW application to the Department.

The first step to becoming an LBSW is to complete the LBSW application and submit it to the Department. During this step, you must also ask your school to mail an official copy of your BSW transcript to the Department. As of February 2019, the LBSW application fee is $60.

2. Pass the ASWB Bachelor’s exam.

Once the Department reviews and approves your application, they will give you permission to take the ASWB Bachelor’s exam, which is required to become an LBSW in Hawaii. The Bachelor’s exam contains 170 multiple-choice questions about general social work practice; scores are sent to the Department within two weeks of your test date. As of February 2019, the fee to register for the Bachelor’s exam is $230.

3. Receive your LBSW license from the Department.

Once you have passed the ASWB exam and fulfilled all licensure requirements, the Department will notify you that you are eligible to receive your LBSW license. You will be required to pay additional fees at this point, which as of February 2019 range from $103 to $221 based on your date of licensure.

Licensed Social Worker (LSW)

In Hawaii, individuals holding the Licensed Social Worker (LSW) credential can practice advanced non-clinical social work, including services such as psychosocial assessment and research. Unlike LBSWs, LSWs are not required to work under supervision within their scope of practice once licensed. To become an LSW in Hawaii, you must first have an MSW from a CSWE-accredited school (or one that meets equivalent standards) or a doctoral degree in social work from a regionally-accredited school. Once you hold a qualifying degree, complete the steps below to obtain an LSW license.

1. Submit the LSW application to the Department.

The first step in the LSW licensure process is to complete the the LSW application and return it to the Department with the $60 application fee (as of February 2019). When you submit your application, you should also request that your school send a copy of your final transcript to the Department.

2. Pass the ASWB licensure exam.

The Department will notify you by mail when they have reviewed your application and granted permission for you to take the ASWB licensure exam. For LSW licensure, you can take the Master’s, Advanced Generalist, or Clinical exam. If you are planning to pursue LCSW licensure in the future, it is recommended you take the Clinical exam during this step to avoid having to take a second test for that application. Though the content of each exam varies, all three tests contain 170 multiple-choice questions about the practice of social work. As of February 2019, the Master’s exam costs $230 and the Advanced Generalist and Clinical exams each cost $260.

3. Receive your LSW license.

After you have successfully completed the ASWB exam, the Board will grant your license and will notify you of the fees you will need to pay before receiving it. As of February 2019, LSW licensure fees range from $166 to $314 and are based on the amount of time remaining in the licensure cycle.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

The Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) license is the highest level of social work licensure in Hawaii. LCSWs can provide both clinical and non-clinical social work services without supervision. Because this license allows for the highest level of independent practice, LCSW candidates must complete a certain amount of supervised experience before they can apply for licensure. To be eligible for an LCSW license, you must hold an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program (or one meeting equivalent standards) or a doctoral degree in social work from a regionally-accredited school. After that, complete the steps below to become an LCSW in Hawaii.

1. Accumulate the required experience.

LCSW candidates must acquire a minimum of 3,000 hours of post-master’s clinical social work experience under supervision within a time period of two to five years. At least 2,000 hours must be earned through the direct provision of clinical services (such as diagnosis and psychotherapy). You will need to receive 100 hours of supervision from an LCSW who has at least 4,500 hours of post-degree clinical experience. You are not required to hold a social work license while completing these hours, but must identify yourself to clients as a “clinical social work intern.”

2. Submit an LCSW application to the Department.

After you have met the supervised experience requirement, you can submit an LCSW application to the Department along with the $60 application fee (as of February 2019). You must have your supervisor(s) submit the Verification of Supervised Clinical Social Work Experience form and request that your school mail your transcript to the Department. If you have already passed the ASWB Clinical exam for an LSW license, you will need to pay additional licensure fees when you submit your application; as of February 2019, these fees range from $238 to $418.

3. Pass the ASWB Clinical Exam.

If you have not already passed the ASWB Clinical exam for another social work license, you must complete it for LCSW licensure. The Department will notify you by mail when they have given you permission to register for the 170-item test. As of February 2019, the fee for the Clinical exam is $260 and scores are automatically transferred to the department within two weeks of your test date.

4. Receive your LCSW license from the Department.

After the Board has approved your application and received notification of your passing Clinical exam scores, they will issue your LCSW license. If you have not already paid the additional licensure fees, you will be asked to pay between $238 and $418 as of February 2019 to receive your license. After your license is granted, you can independently practice all types of social work in Hawaii.

Social Work License Reciprocity in Hawaii

The Department may enter into reciprocity agreements with states whose licensing requirements are equivalent to Hawaii’s. However, if you are licensed in another state that does not have reciprocity with Hawaii, you can still apply for social work licensure if you meet the requirements for the type of license you are seeking. If you have already taken the required ASWB exam, you will not need to repeat it but must provide documentation of your exam score. If you hold a license in another state, you can apply for a Hawaii social work license by completing the application form for the license you are seeking and providing any additional documentation requested by the Department. As of February 2019, the base application fee for all levels of licensure is $60; additional license fees are required and vary based on the type of license and time remaining in the renewal cycle.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

Social work licenses in Hawaii must be renewed every three years before June 30. All licensees must complete 45 hours of continuing education (CE) during each renewal period, with at least three CE hours in ethics. You are not required to complete any continuing education during your first renewal cycle.

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Hawaii Social Work Jobs and Salary Information

As of May 2017, 3,340 social workers were employed in Hawaii, earning an average annual salary of $66,100.2 The majority of social workers in the state (1,760) worked in the subfield of child, family, and school social work.2 Hawaii social workers in the “all other” category earned the highest average salary ($74,290).2 Projections indicate that 540 new social work positions are expected to be created in Hawaii between 2016 and 2026, for an overall increase of 13.2% in employment in this field.3 The highest growth rate is expected in the subfield of healthcare social work, with a projected increase of 21.2% during that time period.3

Type Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 1,760 $55,940
Healthcare Social Workers 910 $61,880
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 400 $72,290
Social Workers, All Other 270 $74,290

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017.2

Social Work Associations in Hawaii

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Do I need experience to become licensed as a social worker in Hawaii?

Answer: You do not need experience if you are preparing to become an LBSW or an LSW. However, to become an LCSW, you need 3,000 hours of supervised clinical social work experience.

Question: How often do I need to renew my social work license in Hawaii?

Answer: All Hawaii social work licenses must be renewed every three years. During each renewal period, you must fulfill continuing education requirements to maintain your license.

1. US Census Bureau Quick Facts, Hawaii: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/hi
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2017 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Hawaii: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_hi.htm
3. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http:/www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm