How to Become a Social Worker in Virginia

Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia, rank among the top ten highest-paying metropolitan areas for child, family, and school social workers, according to May 2022 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data. In addition, the Virginia Boards of Counseling, Psychology, and Social Work contributed to the development of a multistate social work compact. These factors point to Virginia as being a positive environment for social workers.

Explore this page for more about how to become a social worker in Virginia.

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Steps to Becoming a Social Worker in Virginia

Each state maintains its own rules and regulations for social work, and Virginia requires all practicing social workers to become licensed. The Virginia Board of Social Work licenses and regulates social workers under three types of licensure: licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), licensed master’s social worker (LMSW), and licensed baccalaureate social worker (LBSW).

Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker

LBSW candidates need a bachelor’s in social work from a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)-accredited program.

Next, follow these steps to becoming an LBSW:

Licensed Master Social Worker

An LMSW credential requires a master of social work (MSW) degree from a CSWE-accredited program and completion of the following steps:

  • Apply for licensure with the board and submit the $115 application fee.
  • Include official transcripts and a current report from the NPDB.
  • Receive an email from the board authorizing your test.
  • Register for the ASWB’s master’s-level examination and pay the $230 exam fee.
  • Pass the exam and receive your license.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

LCSW applicants need an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program that includes clinical coursework in:

  • Human behavior and the social environment
  • Social justice and policy
  • Psychopathology
  • Diversity issues
  • Research
  • Clinical practice with individuals, families, and groups

The program must also include a 600-hour clinical practicum focusing on diagnostic, prevention, and treatment services.

Then, complete the following process for how to become an LCSW in Virginia:

  • Establish a board-approved supervisor and location for completing your 3,000 hours of post-MSW supervision.
  • Apply for supervision approval from the board, and include your supervisory contract, official transcripts, verification of education and practicum, and a certificate of your supervisor’s training.
  • Complete your supervised experience in 2-4 consecutive years.
  • Apply for licensure to the board and pay the $165 application fee.
  • Include your verification of clinical supervision and current report from the NPDB.
  • Receive an approval-to-test email from the board.
  • Register for the ASWB clinical exam and pay the $260 fee.
  • Pass the exam and receive your license.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Social Worker in Virginia?

The time needed to become a social worker in Virginia depends on the licensure level you pursue. Generally, a BSW takes about four years to earn for an LBSW license, and an MSW for an LMSW takes two years. BSW-holders pursuing an MSW may be offered advanced standing admission, which can reduce the timeline of an LMSW to about one year.

LCSWs need 1-2 years to earn their MSW and another 2-4 years to complete their post-master’s supervised experience. Other factors influence the timeframe for becoming a social worker, including full- or part-time enrollment, accelerated study, and time needed to study for ASWB exams.

How Much Will a Social Work Degree Cost in Virginia?

Students enrolled in Virginia BSW programs can expect to pay $2,750 per semester in-state and $15,500 out-of-state or $395 per credit in-state and $1,400 out-of-state. An MSW ranges from $500 per credit in-state to $1,550 out-of-state.

Virginia online MSW tuition rates vary from $795 per credit regardless of residency to $600 per credit in-state and $750 out-of-state. Online study can save students money on commuting expenses and, potentially, housing and meal costs.

Additional costs to social work students can include fees, such as for applications, technology, labs, and course materials, along with dormitory and meal plan costs if they live on campus and parking or transit costs if they live off campus.

How Much Do Social Workers Make in Virginia?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, social workers in Virginia earned the following wages as of May 2021:

Social Worker Jobs & Salaries in Virginia
OccupationMedian Hourly Wage (VA)Average Annual Wage (VA)
Child, Family, and School Social Workers$27.93$58,100
Healthcare Social Workers$27.60$57,420
Mental Health and Substance Misuse Social Workers$26.04$54,160
Social Workers, All Others$34.65$72,070

Source: BLS, 2023

How much social workers make in Virginia depends on several factors, including their specialization area, educational attainment, workplace type, and whether they work in a metropolitan or non-metro area.

For example, social workers employed in large cities tend to earn more than those in rural areas. BLS national data for May 2021 indicates that local governments pay social workers higher wages than do ambulatory healthcare service organizations, state governments, and individual and family services.

The table above illustrates the average salaries for Virginia social workers in different specialties. Compared to national average wages, child, family, and school social workers earn more, as do mental health and substance misuse social workers and all other types of social workers.

Virginia’s cost-of-living index may also influence salaries. In 2022, the state ranked 31st for the lowest cost of living at 102.8.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Social Worker in Virginia

How long does it take to become a social worker in Virginia?

LBSWs can earn their degrees and licenses in about four years. LMSWs add another two years to the process — or one year if they hold a BSW and receive advanced standing admission to an MSW program. LCSWs need an additional 2-4 years to complete their post-master’s supervised experience.

What degree do I need to become a social worker in Virginia?

Social worker requirements in Virginia allow bachelor’s and master’s degree-holders to become social workers on different levels. BSW graduates can apply for an LBSW license. MSW-trained social workers can obtain their LMSW credentials or, with additional supervised experience post-graduation, they can apply for their LCSW licenses.

How much does it cost to apply for a Virginia social work license?

The LBSW application fee is $100 and the LMSW fee is $115. LBSWs and LMSWs also pay a $230 fee for the ASWB bachelor’s- or master’s-level examination. LCSWs pay a $165 application fee and $260 for the clinical-level ASWB exam.

Is it worth it to become a social worker in Virginia?

According to the BLS, social workers in Virginia earn higher salaries than the national average in all but one specialization category: healthcare social work. Virginia child, family, and school social workers in the Washington, D.C. area cities of Arlington and Alexandria earn the sixth highest paying wages among U.S. metropolitan areas.