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Earning a social work degree prepares students to pursue careers in mental health counseling and child welfare. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that social work job growth will increase by 16% between 2016 and 2026, which accounts for nearly 700,000 social work positions. In Virginia, employment in the social work field was over 50,000 in 2017 with an average annual income of $50,070.

In Virginia, employment in the social work field was over 50,000 in 2017 with an average annual income of $50,070.BLS

Social work professionals may specialize in areas such as marriage and family therapy, rehabilitation counseling, and educational guidance. The employment rate varies for each, with marriage and family therapist holding the highest reported rate at 21.7%. The requirements for particular positions also differ, so students should choose a degree that prepares them to meet their long-term career goals. For example, in order to become a licensed clinical social worker, Virginia residents must have a master’s degree and field experience.

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There are 13 Virginia schools offer that offer bachelor’s degrees in social work, including Christopher Newport University, Eastern Mennonite University, and James Madison University. Virginia Commonwealth University, Norfolk State University, George Mason University, and Radford University offer master’s programs in social work, and Norfolk University and Virginia Commonwealth University offer social work doctorate programs. Common topics covered in these social work programs include behavior, cultural concepts, and ethics.

How to Become a Social Worker in Virginia

There are two types of social work licensures in Virginia. The first is a licensed social worker (LSW). Qualifying applicants must have a bachelor’s degree from a CSWE-accredited school as well as 3,000 hours of supervised work. Those with a master’s degree don’t have to complete the 3,000 hours of supervised work. Candidates must apply to the Virginia Board before these supervised work hours begin to have them apply toward licensure. These supervised work hours may take as long as four years to complete and must include one to four weekly visits with the supervisor. Candidates must also apply to the Virginia Social Work Board with evidence of finishing the supervision. While applicants with a master’s degree are not required to complete the supervised work hours, they must apply to the Virginia Board with transcripts and pass the ASWB exam. For this exam, students are given four hours to answer 170 multiple-choice questions, though only 150 count toward grading.

The second type of licensure is a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). Applicants must hold a master’s degree from a CSWE-accredited school and have at least 600 hours of practicum experience. Candidates must gain authorization from the Virginia Board prior to the required 3,000-hour supervision. One hundred hours of this supervision must be completed face-to-face. Candidates must then pass the ASWB clinical exam, which includes 170 questions.

Social workers must renew these licenses every two years by completing 30 hours of continuing education courses.

Types of Social Work Degrees in Virginia

Earning a higher social work degree can lead to more profitable careers. For instance, a clinical social worker must earn a master’s degree to work in Virginia, while social services assistants only need an associate degree. However, social and human service assistants earned an average of $32,240 in 2017 while healthcare social workers averaged $57,240. The 2017 employment rates for these positions indicate that healthcare workers held a 7.9% employment rating, whereas service assistants had a rate of 5.5%.

Associate Degree

An associate degree typically requires 60 credits. Although this degree does not allow graduates to work as social workers, it does prepare them for positions that provide field experience. For example, social services assistants and case manager assistants can lend helping hands to case managers, psychologists, nurses, and social workers.

Bachelor’s Degree

Most bachelor’s degrees in social work contain approximately 120 credits of coursework. In Virginia, this degree qualifies graduates to become licensed social workers, though they cannot obtain clinical roles. Potential careers include child and family social workers, as well as community health workers who provide assistance with issues like illness prevention.

Master’s Degree

A master’s degree in social work typically requires two years of full-time study and allows graduates to pursue clinical licensure in Virginia. Graduates are prepared to pursue careers as clinical mental health social workers, substance abuse counselors, hospice workers, school social workers, nursing home directors, and child welfare case workers.

Doctoral Degree

A doctorate in social work prepares graduates for positions as administrators and evaluators, and its research-heavy nature trains students to succeed in investigative careers. Graduates may also become social work professors or work as clinical social workers with field concentrations and the authority to supervise other workers.

Finding a Social Work Program in Virginia

Students should consider several factors when deciding on a social work program. Cost is an important factor; for instance, public universities often provide cheaper degrees than private colleges. Another factor related to cost is the amount of financial aid offered by each school. Choosing a school that is located near relevant professional organizations offers students with access to internships and exposure to professional connections.

There are program features that can also influence your choice of social work programs in Virginia. For example, George Mason University offers a graduate certificate in gerontology, which can help students interested in this aspects of social work customize their degree. Program details can also impact the time it takes to earn a degree. Online social work programs offer flexibility and can allow students to earn their degree in a shorter amount of time.

Can You Earn a Social Work Degree Online in Virginia?

While there are no fully online social work degrees in Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University offers a hybrid master’s program that emphasizes clinical social work practice. Students complete most coursework online, but must participate in in-person field experiences from an organization in Virginia or Washington, D.C., and attend two assemblies on campus per semester. Most students graduate in two years of full-time study or four years of part-time study.

While there are no fully online social work degrees in Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University offers a hybrid master’s program that emphasizes clinical social work practice.

Students may also enroll in out-of-state programs, as there is no specification against earning such a degree in the licensure process. Institutions like Arizona State University and the University of Arkansas offer online social work programs. Regardless of location, students must choose a school that is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) to become licensed in Virginia. Other accrediting bodies within Virginia include the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the Council on Occupational Education, and the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training.

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

Most associate programs require 60 credits and can be completed in two years. Bachelor’s degrees typically require 120 credits and can be completed in four years. Master’s degrees include between 30 and 60 credits and can usually be completed in two years. Undergraduate programs include general education requirements, while graduate degrees focus entirely on major coursework. Finally, doctorate programs can include anywhere between 90 and 120 credits of coursework and can take several years to complete.

Program format can also have an impact on how long it takes to earn a degree. Online degrees that offer asynchronous courses allow students complete coursework at their own pace, meaning dedicated students can graduate faster than they would in a normal on-campus program.

How Much Does a Social Work Program Cost in Virginia?

There are several factors that can impact the cost of a social work degree in Virginia. Tuition rates can vary based on whether a school is public or private or whether a program is offered as an undergraduate or graduate degree. At Christopher Newport University, in-state students pay $7,377 per semester in undergraduate tuition, and with other expenses, the estimated cost every semester averages to $13,287. James Madison University lists its estimated costs on an annual basis, with in-state undergraduate costs of $22,108 per year. There are no schools in Virginia that offer an associate degree in social work.

For graduate tuition, George Mason University charges in-state social science students $595 per credit, so a 60-credit master’s degree would cost $35,700 with in-state tuition. Virginia Commonwealth University offers a doctorate in social work with yearly tuition for in-state students at $11,310. Students interested in pursuing a graduate degree may also need to take the GRE exam during admissions, which costs $205. To obtain licensure, applicants must pass the ASWB exam, which costs between $230 and $260.

For the 2018 licensure renewal period, applicants need half of the normal continuing education hours, totalling 15 for LCSWs and 7.5 for LSWs. The renewal process includes a fee of $90 for LCSW and $65 for LSW and should be considered an ongoing professional cost.

Types of Social Work Licenses in Virginia

In Virginia, there are two main types of social work licenses: the LSW and LCSW. Those who earn the LSW may pursue all social work positions that do not include a clinical component. Those who want to pursue these clinical career options should earn the LCSW. To earn a LCSW, applicants must have a master’s degree, complete the required supervision, and pass the ASWB exam.

In Virginia, there are two main types of social work licenses: the LSW and LCSW.

These licenses are regulated by the government, meaning that all who earn it must meet state standards. On the other hand, certifications are offered by smaller groups, such as private organizations or employers. Earning a certification can help a professional verify that they have met certain criteria and are experts in their chosen fields.

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) delivers credentials and certifications. While the group’s credentials in leadership are only offered to members, anyone a social work degree may apply for the remaining options. Applicants with a bachelor’s degree may obtain credentials that can help them become certified social work case managers, social workers in gerontology, and certified hospice and palliative care social workers. Other credentials, like certified school work specialists, advanced social workers in gerontology, and certified social workers in health care, call for a master’s degree.

Other requirements to obtain NASW credentials vary by certification. To become a certified clinical alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs social worker, applicants must be licensed clinical social workers with two years of experience and 180 hours of continuing education. Certified hospice and palliative social workers need 20 continuing education hours and three years of experience.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

Those who earn the LCSW may work in medical organizations as counselors, therapists, and consultants rather than subordinate positions. This clinical work may occur in areas like child social work, school social work, and substance abuse social work. To earn this licensure in Virginia, applicants must have a master’s degree, complete 3,000 hours of supervised experience, and pass the ASWB exam.

Licensed Social Worker (LSW)

The LSW qualifies recipients to become qualified social workers who can work in all non-clinical settings. These professionals may take on administrative duties and assist in steps like case management and counseling. In Virginia, this licensure requires at least a bachelor’s degree, though those with a master’s degree do not need to complete hours of supervised work experience. All licensees must pass the ASWB exam.

Advanced Practice Specialty Credentials

Certified Social Work Case Manager (C-SWCM)

The NASW offers this credential to verify case management skills for related career options. Candidates must hold a bachelor’s degree from an CSWE-accredited school and provide evidence of three years and 4,5000 hours of non-volunteer work experience. Additionally, applicants must have successfully competed the ASWB exam or have a current social work license.

Certified Advanced Children, Youth, and Family Social Worker (C-ACYFSW)

Recipients of this credential have shown an aptitude for child and family social work positions that may involve home visits, policy concerns, and administrative duties. Applicants must have a master’s degree with 20 hours of continuing education on a related topic. Candidates must also show proof of two years (3,000 hours) of non-volunteer work in the field and should either hold a current license or have passed the ASWB exam.

Certified Clinical Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs Social Worker (C-CATODSW)

This credential indicates that recipients have professional skills in assisting others through addictions. These skills include experience and expertise in treatment, intervention, and assessment, and knowledge of relevant scientific fields such as physiology and etiology. Requirements for this credential include a master’s degree, 180 hours of continuing education, two years of non-volunteer work experience, and a current clinical state license.

Clinical Social Worker in Gerontology (CSW-G)

The NASW offers this credential for social workers who excel in working with aging citizens. Candidates should have experience in associated concepts, such as legislation and resources that impact the elderly. Applicants need a master’s degree and 30 hours of continuing education in a related concept, as well as two years of non-volunteer work in the field and a current clinical license to be considered.

Certified School Social Work Specialist (C-SSWS)

This credential indicates that the recipient has knowledge applicable to a school setting, such as case management, facilitation, intervention, consultation, and behavioral traits of students. To qualify, candidates must hold a master’s degree and have two years of non-volunteer work experience in the field, as well as state license or certification.

Advanced Certified Hospice and Palliative Social Worker (ACHP-SW)

Social workers interested in helping those with debilitating or terminal illnesses can look into this credential. Topics related to the credential reflect common physical and emotional concerns of the profession, including caregiving and the process of finding resources for patients. Candidates must have a master’s degree, 20 hours of related continuing education, two years of supervised work experience, and existing license.

Career and Salary Outlook for Social Work Degree Graduates

A degree in social work can lead to many different careers. Those who want to assist children may choose to pursue a position in child and family care, while those interested in helping people recover from past decisions could pursue a career in addictions counseling. Many of these careers share similar concepts, such as communication, case management, and problem solving. However, specialized knowledge is still needed to obtain some roles. For example, addictions counselor should understand the biological factors of addiction, while a healthcare social worker should know all aspects of grief psychology.

Marriage and Family Therapist

These therapists build healthy structures for struggling families, whether those struggles surface from stress, mental illness, or parenting issues. This occupation requires an MFT license beyond the state’s standard social work licensures. They must have a graduate degree, undergo supervised experience, and pass the marriage and family therapy examination.

Rehabilitation Counselor

Rehabilitation counselors help people with disabilities live as independently as possible. This occupation requires licensing beyond standard social work licensures: the LPC. Candidates must have educational experience in a number of areas, such as psychotherapy and human growth, must complete the required supervision experience, and must pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counselors Examination (NCMHCE).

Substance Abuse Counselor, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

These counselors help recovering addicts through understanding the physiology behind addiction and finding solutions for healing. To become licensed in this area, applicants must have a master’s degree, but those with only a bachelor’s may work as certified substance abuse counselors.

Child Welfare Social Worker

Child welfare social workers assist children in abusive or neglectful homes. This process involves communication with families, school systems, and adoption agencies. These professionals usually have a master’s degree.

Healthcare Social Worker

Social workers in this category provide comfort and care to ill patients and their families. This help takes the form of counseling, referrals, or guidance to other healthcare workers with the goal of creating a comfortable environment for the patient.

Median Salaries and Employment For Social Work Specialties in Virginia

EmploymentAnnual Mean Wage
Child, Family, and School Social Workers8,980$51,110
Healthcare Social Workers3,420$57,240
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers4,320$52,080
Social Workers, All Other620$66,440
Source: BLS

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Scholarships for Social Work Majors in Virginia

Students may receive financial aid to ease the burden of educational costs. While student loans are an option, grants and scholarships are ideal because they do not need to be paid back. Social work students in Virginia have access to a wide variety of scholarships, each with different amounts and qualifications. Below are some scholarships that are ideal for social work students in Virginia.

Social Work Scholarships

Dr. Alma S. Adams Scholarship for Outreach and Health Communications

Amount: $5,000

Who Can Apply: This scholarship is awarded to students in certain majors, such as social work, who have earned a minimum GPA of 2.0 in recent coursework. Candidates should have experience assisting groups who statistically are more inclined to use tobacco products.

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Judith Holm Memorial Student Award

Amount: $2,000

Who Can Apply: Social work majors qualify for this scholarship, but must submit a paper detailing their knowledge and experience in the field.

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Senior Wisdom Video Scholarship

Amount: $1,000

Who Can Apply: Applicants must intend to work in a field that assists the elderly, like gerontology, and should submit a short video on the aging population and society to qualify.

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Carl A. Scott Memorial Book Scholarships

Amount: $500

Who Can Apply: Social work upperclassmen who can provide evidence of working for fairness in legal and community endeavors may qualify. Applicants must have a minimum GPA of 3.0 and full-time enrollment status to be considered.

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Resources for Social Work Students in Virginia

  • Council on Social Work Education CSWE is the national representation and primary accrediting body in social work. The organization host conferences and provide publications, resources, and statistics that present teachers and students with knowledge of new developments in the field. Members receive the publications CSWE Full Circle and CSWE Public Policy Monthly Review.
  • Virginia Association of School Social Workers VASSW delivers the School Social Work State Conference annually and supplies resources that teachers and students can use to stay current with social work news across Virginia. This organization also provides dual membership with a regional branch. Members benefit from lower fees when joining the School Social Work Association of America.
  • Virginia Society for Clinical Social Work Members receive mentoring and lower-priced opportunities to fulfill continuing education requirements. Continuing education prospects offered include interacting with state boards for credit. The organization also delivers a newsletter and journal to inform social workers of recent news in the field.
  • Alexandria Council of Human Service Organizations ACHSO is a collaboration of over 60 groups in Virginia acting together. Members can network with one another and trade their knowledge of the field. The organization partakes in events including bike to work day and hosts community projects, such as the traffic control box wraps public art project, to build a sense of community.
  • Greater Washington Society for Clinical Social Work GWSCSW is an organization solely for clinical workers. The organization offers study groups and workshops to enhance social work knowledge, and have presented educational events on topics like ADHD, illness, and neurofeedback. They also organize social gatherings to build professional relationships, like a coffee and bagels social, and host a member dinner every year.