Social Work Degrees in Virginia

Written by Maura Deering | Edited by Rebecca Munday | Reviewed by Melissa Bronstein | Last Updated April 2024

An online social work degree in Virginia can qualify graduates for licensure at the bachelor’s and master’s levels. As a social worker, you can greatly impact people’s lives and help alleviate a shortage of mental health professionals. Find out how to become licensed, how much you can earn, and what the employment growth projections show for the future of social work.

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Becoming a Social Worker in Virginia

Virginia has five types of social work licensures: associate social worker (ASW), licensed baccalaureate social worker (LBSW), licensed master social worker (LMSW), supervisee in clinical social work, and licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). Social workers must renew these licenses every two years by completing 30 hours of continuing education courses.

Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker

Virginia’s LBSW credential requires a bachelor of social work (BSW) from a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)-accredited program. The online application requires an application fee and supporting documentation, including an official transcript, out-of-state licensure verification (if applicable), and a report from the Department of Health and Human Service National Practitioners Data Bank (NPDB). The NPDB lists any adverse actions against healthcare practitioners.

Applicants also need a passing score on the bachelor’s exam administered by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB). The Virginia Board of Social Work notifies applicants by email of their eligibility to register for the exam.

Licensed Master Social Worker

The Virginia Board of Social Work issues LMSW licenses to applicants holding a master of social work (MSW) from a CSWE-accredited program. LMSW credentials are generalist social work licenses but not prerequisites to LCSW licenses. Social workers need to become a supervisee in clinical social work before completing their supervised clinical experience for an LCSW license.

Candidates complete an online application, pay an application fee, and provide official transcripts, applicable out-of-state licensure or name change verifications, and an NPDB report. Once applicants receive the board’s approval email, they can register for the ASWB’s masters exam.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

To become an LCSW, applicants must hold a master’s degree from a CSWE-accredited school, which included at least 600 hours of practicum experience. Candidates must apply to the Virginia board, submit their official transcripts, and pay an application fee.

Then, the Virginia board will allow them to complete the required 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience. One hundred hours of this supervision must be completed face-to-face. Candidates must then pass the ASWB clinical exam, which includes 170 questions.

How Much Will It Cost to Get My Degree in Social Work?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), undergraduate tuition and fees totaled $9,700 at public universities and $38,800 at private, nonprofit schools for the 2021-22 academic year. Graduate tuition and fees for 2021-22 were $12,596 at public institutions and $29,931 at private, nonprofit colleges and universities.

Students should also budget for books and supplies, housing and food, and transportation expenses. Cost-easing measures include financial aid, scholarships and grants, work-study opportunities, and teaching and research assistantships.

Online study can also help learners save money, particularly on student housing, campus meal plans, and commuting costs. Distance learning programs may also apply in-state tuition, regardless of residency.

How Much Will I Make as a Social Worker in Virginia?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), social workers in Virginia earned the following wages as of May 2023:

Salaries for Social Workers in Virginia by Specialty
Occupation Mean Hourly WageMean Annual Salary
Child, family, and school social workers $29.65$68,680
Healthcare social workers $29.91$62,200
Mental health and substance use social workers$30.53$63,500
Social workers, all other$37.80$78,630
Source: BLS, 2023

Salaries can vary depending on the social work specialty area, type of employer, and urban or rural location. The only social work specialty that makes less than the national median salary in Virginia is healthcare social workers.

Virginia’s child, family, and school social workers earn over $17,000 more annually than the national mean of $51,030. Mental health and substance use social worker pay exceeds the national median by $3,400 annually. All other social workers make more in Virginia than the national median by $9,800 annually.

Social workers in urban areas, such as the Washington, D.C. suburbs, cities of Arlington, and Alexandria, tend to earn more.

The level of education and experience also affect salaries. Payscale data from February 2024 lists average BSW-holder salaries at $58,000 per year, MSW annual wages at $61,000 and LCSW pay at $66,000 per year.

Job Outlook with a Social Work Degree

As the table below shows, the projected job growth for Virginia social workers is slower than the national rate, except for healthcare social workers. However, Virginia continues to experience a shortage of mental health professionals, including social workers. Virginia’s social work board has taken steps to streamline the licensing process.

Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), an independent research organization, found that just 42% of mental health care needs were met in Virginia as of September 2023. According to KFF, drug overdose death rates per 100,000 population in Virginia increased from 9.7 in 2011 to 30.5 in 2021, 85% of which were opioid overdoses.

Job Outlook for Social Workers in the U.S. versus Job Outlook for Social Workers in Virginia
Occupation2020-2030 Growth Projections (U.S.)2020-2030 Growth Projections (VA)
Child, family, and school social workers 12.6%12.3%
Healthcare social workers 13.2%13.7%
Mental health and substance use social workers14.9%12.7%
Social workers, all other5.7%4.9%
Source: Projections Central

Frequently Asked Questions About Virginia Social Work

To become a social worker in Virginia, you need a BSW or an MSW and a passing score on the appropriate level ASWB exam. If you’re applying for an LCSW license, complete the required supervised clinical hours.

Page last reviewed on April 26, 2024