An overview of licensure in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. 

Written and submitted by Catherine Zimmerman, LICSW, ACHP-SW, CSW-G, NASW-WA, Blue Mountain Region Representative


Licensure is about public protection. It assists in defining standards for safe professional social work practice in all jurisdictions. It provides accountability for unprofessional conduct.

Licensure for all clinical social workers was achieved in all 50 states in 2004.  The laws were enacted over 60 years. No two states have the exact same regulatory standards. Titles, requirements for becoming licensed and definitions differ among states (Groshong 2009, Clinical Social Work Practice and Regulation).

The Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) provides the licensing exam. Degrees must be obtained from schools accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).  ASWB provides information about licensing across the US and a registry for social workers to maintain documentation about licensing that may be useful in moving across states and obtaining licensure.

It is the responsibility of every social worker to adhere to NASW’s Code of Ethics and to be familiar with and understand the laws and regulations governing social workers in every state in which he/she practices and to comply with social work standards and applicable laws.


In Oregon the licensure law was enacted in 1991. It has been updated since, with a major revision in 2009 becoming effective in 2011.

Oregon has a Board of Licensed Social Workers ( which provides information on how social workers may comply with the requirements of the state relative to licensing and title protection requirements.  NASW Oregon Chapter’s website provides a link to the Oregon Board at:


The Oregon statutes governing social workers may be found at:

ORS 675


Oregon Administrative Rules governing social workers may be found at:

OAR Chapter 877


Levels of Licensing:

LCSW – Licensed Clinical Social Worker

(CSWA) Clinical Social Work Associate (working toward clinical license)

LMSW – Licensed Master Social Worker

RBSW – Registered Bachelor Social Worker




Is Licensing Required?

Licensing is mandatory for clinical social workers. You must hold a LCSW license to practice clinical social work (or be working toward one i.e. CSWA).


Title Protection:  You cannot call yourself a social worker in Oregon unless licensed by the Board.  You may use your BSW or MSW credential regardless of licensure status.





In Washington basic social work licensure was enacted in 2001, with updates and additions of regulatory issues related to social work occurring since that time. A nice summary of Washington’s licensing laws may be found at NASW-WA Chapter’s website:


In Washington social workers are licensed through the Department of Health. The Department of Health licenses many health occupations and is not organized specifically around social work.


The Washington administrative code chapter 246-809 (WAC) governs social work practice: as well as RCW 18.225


Levels of Licensing:

LICSW – Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker

(LSWAIC – Associate) – Working toward Independent Clinical License

LASW – Licensed Advanced Social Worker

(LSWAA – Associate) – Working toward Advanced License


Most social workers seeking licensure in Washington state are seeking a license as an                Independent Clinical Social Worker.  There is an opportunity for a LASW to serve on the DOH’s    advisory committee:                                                                         e/Ment alHealthCounselor/CommitteeInformation


Is licensing required?

Social workers are not required to become licensed in the state. You must be licensed at the independent clinical level to practice as an independent private practitioner.


Title protection:

As of 2012, you cannot call yourself a social worker in Washington State without possessing at least a BSW from an accredited CSWE program. Certain grandfathering provisions apply.








Licensure for social workers in Idaho was initiated in 2002.


Idaho social workers are licensed through the Idaho State Board of Social Work Examiners (Bureau of Occupational Licenses)


NASW-Idaho Chapter provides information on who to contact at the Idaho State Board for questions:


The administrative rules pertaining to the governance of social workers in Idaho are found at:


Levels of Licensing:

LCSW –Licensed Clinical Social Worker

LMSW – Masters Social Worker

LSW – Licensed Social Worker (BSW)


Is licensing required?

All social workers practicing in the state are required to become licensed at the appropriate level. Without a license as a clinical social worker, social workers cannot practice psychotherapy or be in private practice.


Title Protection:

You cannot refer to yourself as a social worker in Idaho or various iterations of the title without                the appropriate education and license.


Comparisons of some of the requirements for “clinical” licensure in three states:

Eligibility Factors Oregon Washington       Idaho
Independent Clinical Social Worker Title: LCSW LICSW LCSW
To undertake supervision apply for: CSWA, submit supervision plan with approved supervisor, and fees LSWAIC, (voluntary) submit application, attestation form with supervisor signature, and fees ($51.00) LMSW, and submit application for supervision with approved registered supervisor, and fees.
Post MSW Practice Hrs


3,500 hrs 4,000 hrs 3000 hrs in not less than two years
Direct Client Contact Hrs 2000 hrs 1000 hrs/supervised 1750 direct client hours

1250 assessment, diagnosis or other clinical

Number of Years post Masters Two years full time practice in an agency setting Over three years Two years
Supervision Hours 100 (50 group) 130 (60 group) 100 hours (50 group)
Who can supervise? Approved LCSW supervisor, two years post license, with 6 supervision credits LICSW, or “equally qualified” for up to 60 hrs, two years post license with 15 supervision credits Approved supervisor with LCSW and registered with the state, 50 hours can be from a supervisor that meets qualifications but is not registered with the state


Continuing Education Hrs 40 hours each two year period after licensing at the clinical level, requirements for ethics continuing education 36 hours prior to clinical license application, 36 hours per two year period thereafter, requirements for specific content in HIV, suicide prevention, ethics 20 hours of continuing education after licensing per year, with at least one hour in ethics
National Exam (ASWB) Must be approved to take by Oregon Board, plus take OR exam (open book). Must be approved to take by DOH Complete application and fees required first.
Comparisons of “Non-Clinical” Licenses for social workers practicing in “non-clinical settings.”


License Title  LASW LASW LMSW
Type of license voluntary Voluntary required
Education and licensing prerequisites MSW or more from CSWE accredited school only MSW or more from CSWE accredited school + (voluntary) may seek Advanced Social Work Associate licensure prior to supervision for a cost of $35.00 with MSW from CSWE accredited school MSW or more from CSWE accredited school
Supervision requirement? No Yes No
Number of years post Masters None Two years None
Post Masters practice hours None 3200 hours None
Direct client contact hours None 800 None
Supervision hours None 90 None
Who can supervise? No supervision required LASW, or LICSW for 50 hours, equally qualified the remaining hours, distance up to 40 hours No supervision required, but this license, and a subsequent application for supervision is a prerequisite to work towards a clinical license
Continuing education 30 hours of continuing education with six hours in ethics every two years after licensure 36 hours of continuing education, six in law & ethics, 4 hours HIV/Aids prior to licensure, then meet required Suicide Prevention training (6 hrs),  and six hours of ethics for renewal 20 hours annually
Cost $200.00 initial $216.00 initial Looks like $170.00
Examination ASWB – Masters exam + Oregon exam, be approved to take exam by Board ASWB Masters exam, be approved to take exam by DOH ASWB Masters exam, after approval from Idaho Board


  1. Denise Barbre says

    Very Helpful!!! Thank you for gleaning this important information from the various sites. And then listed the sites so that I can know where to find details I might need in the future. I currently am seeking WA licensure because this is where I have received the majority of my education, work experience and supervision. But I am expecting to move to Oregon, to help care for my father, and work in that state. Your article gives me the knowledge I need to make that transition in the near future. I am also interested in working abroad. Would you have any information on what the International Credentials for Clinical Social Work look like. Thank you again for putting your researching skills to such practical use!!!

  2. Louise Stevensen says

    Oregon and Idaho’s licensure law is less confusing than Washington’s. I am trying to determine where to start with an MSW in Washington.

Speak Your Mind