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From children, families, and the elderly, to homeless persons and individuals suffering from mental illness and addiction, social workers assist clients by identifying needs, providing counseling, and connecting their clients to resources and service programs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), West Virginia employs 12,060 social workers, counselors, health educators, and other related specialists. However, the state still needs more skilled professionals in the social worker space. Mental illness, domestic violence, child poverty, and drug abuse pose serious challenges in the U.S., particularly in rural communities where approximately 38% of West Virginians live. The BLS projects a 16% growth of social work jobs nationally and 23% for social workers who handle substance abuse and behavioral disorders through 2026.

West Virginia employs 12,060 social workers, counselors, health educators, and other related specialists. BLS

Social work programs in West Virginia provide students with several specializations, flexible distance education pathways, and accelerated tracks to state licensure. As with other fields of study, curricular details vary based on degree level and institution. To become a clinical social worker, which enables you to provide direct services like individual and group therapy, you must earn a master of social work, pass the necessary exams, and complete the application process. However, earning a social work degree opens up a variety of other occupations in criminal justice, forensic science, environmental advocacy, international aid, and community development.

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How to Become a Social Worker in West Virginia

The majority of careers in this field require at least a bachelor of social work (BSW) and eventually a master of social work (MSW). Professionals hoping to teach at the postsecondary level or occupy advanced research and management positions need a doctorate. West Virginia requires that social work programs hold accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) before they confer degrees that count towards licensure.

The West Virginia Board of Social Work grants four levels of licensure.

The West Virginia Board of Social Work grants four levels of licensure. Level A enables professionals to practice general, non-clinical social work under supervision. To obtain this license, professionals must earn a BSW and pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) bachelor’s exam. The MSW represents a terminal degree in West Virginia, and enables social workers to apply for the level B, C, and D licenses if they pass the corresponding ASWB exams and possess the required work experience. While social workers can provide basic clinical and psychotherapeutic services with the level B license and assess some mental illness and behavioral challenges with the level C, they cannot call themselves a fully-equipped and independent clinical social worker until they hold the level D license. Social workers in West Virginia must renew their licenses every two years by completing at least 40 hours of approved continuing education and submitting the renewal form along with a $65 fee.

Types of Social Work Degrees in West Virginia

To work as an entry-level social worker, you must earn a BSW accredited by the CSWE. To occupy a clinical position, you need an CSWE-accredited MSW. Some social workers also pursue a doctoral degree to gain research and field knowledge that helps them earn the final level of licensure offered by the West Virginia Board of Social Work.

Associate degrees generally take two years; a bachelor’s takes another two years; a master’s requires yet another two years; and a doctorate can take three to six years after that. Many professionals take time between degrees to cultivate work experience and build professional relationships.

Associate Degree

This degree provides students with a foundation for social work practice through introductory courses in psychology, sociology, and communications. Though many associate students use the degree as a springboard to a four-year program, others pursue employment in supporting roles as community outreach advocates, case management aides, and social work assistants.

Bachelor’s Degree

A BSW program trains students in professional social work practice through class-based activities and fieldwork. Course topics include behavioral science, social welfare policy, healthcare, and counseling theories. In West Virginia, professionals must obtain a BSW to earn the level A LSW (Licensed Social Worker).

Master’s Degree

The MSW serves as the main requirement to becoming a clinical social worker in West Virginia. The degree emphasizes research through coursework focused on strategic planning for nonprofit organizations, assessment and diagnosis, and couple and family therapy. Students may also specialize in areas like substance abuse, mental health, and care of the aged.

Doctoral Degree

A doctoral degree in social work (DSW) or a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in social work enable students to occupy advanced clinical and research roles. However, the DSW typically focuses on clinical practice and the Ph.D. focuses on research and theory.

Finding a Social Work Program in West Virginia

When researching social work schools in West Virginia, cost should play a key factor in determining where you apply. Student loan debt represents a major burden for U.S. college graduates, so students should determine both their financial aid options and the per-credit cost of their program. Location also matters. Students need to determine whether they want to live on campus or off, measuring their living expenses and tuition against their earning potential after graduation.

Most bachelor’s programs take four years to complete, and students need another two-to-three years to earn an MSW. Some schools offer students who hold a bachelor of social work advanced standing in a MSW program because they already possess prerequisite knowledge and skills — enabling them to earn a graduate degree in one year. MSW programs also provide students with specialization options. Popular areas include child and family, behavioral health, human service management, and aging practice.

Can You Earn a Social Work Degree Online in West Virginia?

You may earn an online social work degree in West Virginia provided that the school maintains support from the CSWE. Without this accreditation, you cannot obtain state licensure. Your college or university should also hold accreditation from the U.S. Department of Education, the Council on Higher Education Accreditation, and the Higher Learning Commission.

Distance education represents an accessible path to career entry and advancement, particularly for learners who must juggle work and family responsibilities. Online students can expect low costs, including affordable tuition, scholarships, and grants. Additionally, online social work programs in West Virginia sometimes offer accelerated courses that enable distance learners to earn their degree in less time. While most bachelor’s and master’s programs in social work include practicum requirements, students can usually complete practicums in their local community or with a current employer. The university may, however, require students to fulfill this requirement through campus residencies.

Before committing to an online program, ensure that you understand the nuances of the curriculum. Also, determine whether the school facilitates an entirely remote learning experience or a hybrid experience.

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

To maintain their accredited status, colleges and universities must adhere to academic standards. For example, an associate program must require at least 60 credits, a bachelor’s 120, a master’s 30, and a doctorate degree between 90 and 120 credits. How schools enable students to take classes also affects length. Some colleges and universities facilitate cohort learning, which requires a student to complete a sequence of courses in concert with a group of their peers. This method encourages discussion and collaboration between students and faculty but may take longer than an individually paced degree plan.

It takes the average professional about eight years to earn their master of social work and fulfill the requirements to become a fully licensed clinical social worker.

After earning a social work degree in West Virginia, students need to undergo the licensure process. The state’s Board of Social Work does not require post-degree work experience for the first two levels of license. However, to learn the level C and D licenses, you must possess at least two years of full-time supervised work experience and complete a clinical field placement. It takes the average professional about eight years to earn their master of social work and fulfill the requirements to become a fully licensed clinical social worker.

How Much Does a Social Work Program Cost in West Virginia?

The price of earning a social work degree in West Virginia depends on what college or university the student attends and how much financial aid they accrue. According to 2017-2018 statistics published by College Board, annual tuition for a public university costs $9,970 to $25,620, depending on whether the student lives in-state or out-of-state. The average private university charges $34,740 for each academic year. These numbers vary based on degree level, with general increases the more advanced the program.

Prospective social workers should also factor in exam, licensure, and possible continuing-education costs. SAT and ACT exams cost $60 and $62.50, respectively. Graduate program entry usually requires the GRE, which costs $195. The ASWB exams needed to apply for state licensure cost $230 to $260. The West Virginia Board of Social Work charges a $100 application fee for each license level. Finally, social workers in West Virginia must renew their license, regardless of level, every two years — which necessitates at least 40 hours of approved, contact-based continuing education. Additionally, the WV Board of Social Work charges a $65 renewal fee.

Types of Social Work Licenses in West Virginia

To legally work as a social worker in any state, you must earn the proper license. West Virginia confers four levels of licensure through its Board of Social Work. Unlike other states, prospective social workers in West Virginia cannot apply for licensure online, but must contact the board directly or submit an application by fax or postal mail.

The level A licensed social worker (LSW) enables you to work as a non-clinical social worker and requires a BSW. To earn the next three levels of licensure, professionals must earn an MSW. Social work degrees in West Virginia must hold accreditation from the CSWE. Social workers can provide some clinical services and psychotherapeutic treatments under supervision after earning the level B licensed graduate social worker (LGSW). They can diagnose, treat, and help prevent certain psychological dysfunctions and behavioral disorders upon obtaining the level C licensed certified social worker (LCSS). However, they can only perform every social worker function with the level D licensed independent clinical social worker (LICSW). The West Virginia Board of Social Work also confers provisional licenses and temporary permits.

Beyond state licenses, social workers may also pursue professional certification. These voluntary credentials represent a way to further verify knowledge and skills in specialty areas such as addictions, case management, youth and family, and gerontology. Certificates also demonstrate commitment to the social work field in the eyes of clients, colleagues, and employers. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) facilitates the six certificates detailed below. You may also find certification programs through organizations like the Association of Child Life Professionals and the American Academy of Health Care Providers in the Addictive Disorders.


The LCSW generally requires a MSW. Candidates must also complete post-graduation work experience (which usually takes two to three years), take any required additional coursework, and pass exams. Clinical social workers possess psychotherapy knowledge and an in-depth understanding of the social, cultural, and economic factors that contribute to mental illness and behavioral disorders.


Advanced Practice Specialty Credentials


Using a “person-in-environment” perspective, C-SWCM professionals help cultivate self-care that extends beyond the medical model of disease and symptom. To earn this certificate, candidates must hold a BSW, obtain the LSW or LBSW, and clock at least three years of relevant paid work experience. The exam costs $165 for NASW members and $210 for non-members.


Career and Salary Outlook for Social Work Degree Graduates

An online social work degree in West Virginia prepares you for careers that promote healthy living and provide individual and programmatic assistance to underserved communities. Licensed social workers can occupy roles in schools, hospitals, government agencies, and human rights organizations. Because these professionals serve diverse groups of people, social workers need empathy and cultural awareness.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

These professionals not only counsel at-risk persons and those suffering with mental health challenges, but also provide practical services that improve overall quality of life. Licensed clinical social workers must earn at least a master of social work.

Substance Abuse Social Worker

These specialists provide counseling and treatment to help their clients recover from addiction. Substance abuse social workers also connect clients to job placement programs and support groups. Common requirements for this position include an undergraduate degree and a related internship.

School Counselor

These social workers support students of all ages by identifying academic challenges and providing career guidance. They may also conduct community education initiatives that address bullying and college preparation. School counselors need to earn a relevant master’s degree and state licensure.

Community Health Educator

These professionals organize educational programs and implement strategies that promote wellness. Though community health educators can find work with an associate degree, most earn at least a bachelor’s. Certain employers may require the Certified Health Education Specialist credential.

Social Services Manager

These professionals ensure that community programs and organizations run efficiently. They also train staff, manage outreach activities, and assess program effectiveness. As an advanced career, social services management often requires a master’s degree and substantial work experience.
Median Salaries and Employment For Social Work Specialties in West Virginia
Types of Social WorkersEmploymentAnnual Mean Wage
Child, Family, and School Social Workers960$37,460
Healthcare Social Workers690$49,690
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers130$31,660
Social Workers, All Other250$71,380
Source: BLS

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Scholarships for Social Work Majors in West Virginia

Though online social work programs in West Virginia often provide in-state or even discounted tuition for distance learners, costs still add up. Fortunately, ample scholarships and grants exist specifically for state residents, social work students, and sometimes both. In addition to the four awards below, students should seek out opportunities in their local community and through professional organizations.

West Virginia Health Sciences Service Program

Amount: $15,000

Who Can Apply: Candidates must be in their final year of a graduate social work program in West Virginia that leads to a career as a LICSW. In exchange for financial support, recipients must work in a designated state care site or community organization for two years on a full-time basis or four years part-time.

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Social Work Public IV-E Scholarship

Amount: $1,000 per semester

Who Can Apply: The award serves BSW and MSW students at Concord University. In addition to satisfying a minimum GPA (2.5 for undergraduate students and 3.0 for graduate students), recipients must agree to employment with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.

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Consuelo W. Gosnell Memorial MSW Scholarship

Amount: Up to $4,000

Who Can Apply: Facilitated by the NASW Foundation, this award caters to graduate students with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants must demonstrate a commitment to working with nonprofit and local grassroots organizations.

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A Place for Mom Scholarship

Amount: $1,000

Who Can Apply: The award caters to U.S. citizens enrolled in an accredited college program in the social sciences with the goal of working in the senior care field. Application materials include a two-to-three minute video on “The Value of Seniors in Our Lives and Benefits to Society.”

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Resources for Social Work Students in West Virginia

  • West Virginia Board of Social Work The board outlines and enforces laws and ethical guidelines that drive how professionals in the field conduct their business. The WV Board of Social Work also provides in-depth information and tools concerning initial certification, advancement, renewal, and continuing education requirements.
  • National Association of Social Workers – West Virginia Chapter With over 120,000 members, the NASW serves as the largest professional organization in the field. The West Virginia chapter provides members with job postings, links to advocacy and community engagement opportunities, and an online library. Members collaborate through an online forum and on-site meetings facilitated by local branches.
  • West Virginia Department of Health & Human Resources The DHHR provides state residents with information and access to important services, including temporary assistance for the unemployed and Medicaid coverage. Comprised of six bureaus, the department also facilitates programs for family planning, tobacco prevention, and breast and cervical cancer screening. Social workers can find professional development and career opportunities through DHHR.
  • West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence The WVCADV is a nonprofit comprised of a state government office and 14 licensed domestic violence programs. The coalition provides direct services, community education, and policy advocacy. Social workers can access specialized training in topics like the dynamics of domestic violence, anti-oppression, working with families, and child welfare. They may also coordinate customized training sessions.
  • Council on Social Work Education In addition to conferring accreditation, the CSWE offers members up-to-date research and statistics and an online compendium of journals and other educational resources. Members also benefit from local meetings, national conferences, and a career center that includes a job database.