This guide breaks down what functions social work serves specifically in the state of Virginia. We’ll also look at some of the masters of social work (MSW) programs in Virginia that you will need to become a licensed social worker.
If you’re a non-traditional student, we will highlight some of the online MSW programs in Virginia. After covering formal education, we’ll outline exactly what it takes to become a social worker in Virginia.
Because licensing requirements vary by state (and can be quite confusing), we’ll walk through the steps it takes to get a social work license in Virginia. Finally, we’ll cover salary ranges, job opportunities, and job outlook for social work in Virginia. Ready to explore the world of social work in Virginia? Let’s get started.
Social work in Virginia
As is the case in most other states, social workers are in high demand in Virginia. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are currently 17,860 social workers in Virginia. However, the demand for social workers will continue to grow as the population evolves.
- Population growth statistics show that the demographics in the population of Virginia are starting to shift. The overall population is aging and slowing down more. This may open a wealth of opportunities for social workers for the aging and elderly populations.
- Virginia is made up of large swaths of rural populations in between high-density urban areas. The overall population is expected to grow to almost 9.5 million by 2030. Experts believe that most of this growth will happen in urban locations while rural locations will see a decline in population.
- Criminal justice social workers are needed to help combat above-average crime rates. Within the urban populations, such as Richmond, the crime rate is above average.
- The overall focus on mental health means that there will be a growing demand for social workers that specialize in helping others in crisis. From ongoing global pandemics to economic uncertainty, there will be a growing need for social workers who understand how to help others who might be struggling with mental health.
- Virginia has the second-largest veteran population – only California tops Virginia. Demand for social workers who specialize in veterans’ affairs will continue to grow.
While these are the predominant factors in social work statistics in Virginia, a wide variety of opportunities that extend beyond these main specialties. From pediatric social work to substance abuse counselor, the need for social workers in Virginia will continue to grow and evolve with its changing demographics.
MSW programs in Virginia
Earning your master’s degree in Social Work (MSW) is the first step towards becoming a licensed social worker in any state. Virginia has a whole handful of schools that specialize in social work, where you can obtain your MSW. Here are just a few of the potential MSW programs based in Virginia:
- George Mason University – The MSW program at George Mason University was started in 2002. There are two, three, and four-year MSW paths that you can choose from. Each program starts with a generalist year. The following year(s) are specialization years, where you decide to home in on your focus within the broad category of social work. If you’ve already obtained a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) from a CSWE accredited program, you might be eligible for their Advanced Standing program. They also offer an online program.
- Norfolk State University – Norfolk State University offers both a master’s and doctoral program in social work. To increase your chances of getting accepted into the MSW program, you’ll need a BSW from an accredited university. You can still apply if you don’t have a BSW, but you’ll need to show that you’ve met some of the behavioral science and prerequisite requirements. This program typically takes two years but can be extended to a 6-semester period with approval from the school.
- Radford University – Radford University offers an MSW program focused on rural practice. However, this doesn’t mean that Radford graduates exclusively practice in rural areas. There are three different program paths that you can take: the standard 5-semester program, the advanced 4-semester program, and the part-time 3-year program based in Roanoke. Radford University’s programs are fully CSWE accredited and will count towards professional licensure in most states.
- Virginia Commonwealth University – VCU’s MSW program is ranked 11 in the nation by U.S. News and World Report. They offer programs for both an MSW and PhD in social work. If you don’t already have your BSW, you can also obtain that from VCU. You can choose from three different, in-person programs: one-year, two-year, or four-year. The one-year program is an advanced standing program and has a more rigorous acceptance process. The two-year program is their standard MSW program and the four-year program is for part-time students who wish to obtain their MSW. They also offer online programs.
Online MSW programs in Virginia
If you can’t pursue your MSW in-person, then you might consider one of these online MSW programs offered by Virginia-based schools:
- Virginia Commonwealth University – VCU offers a CSWE accredited MSW online program. They offer a full-time, four-semester program and a part-time, ten-semester program. All online students specialize in clinical social work.
- George Mason University – This online MSW program is CSWE accredited. With a focus on social justice, online students can specialize in Adults & Healthy Aging, or Children, Youth & Families. The online program offers flexibility for part-time students.
There are also online MSW programs from out-of-state universities that offer the CSWE accredited programs that you need to obtain your professional licensure in Virginia. Here are some of your options:
- University of Kentucky – UK’s online MSW program is CWSE accredited. The typical program is a 4-semester program, although they also offer an advanced standing 2-semester program.
- Florida State University – This college has one of the top-ranked CSWE accredited MSW programs in the country. Their online programs offer a traditional, 3-year path as well as an advanced standing 2-year path.
- University of Denver – The University of Denver’s online MSW program ranked #17 on U.S. News and World Report’s list of CWSE-accredited schools. With their advanced standing program, you can obtain your MSW online in as few as 18 months.
How to become a social worker in Virginia
There are several requirements you’ll need to meet to become a social worker based in Virginia. While we’ve covered formal education, here are all the requirements you’ll need to meet:
- Obtain your degree (either BSW or MSW) from a CSWE accredited program
- Get practical experience under a licensed professional’s supervision. If you’re focusing on clinical work, you’ll need at least 3,000 hours of approved supervision in the clinical field. LBSW applicants do not need supervised experience as of March 5th, 2020.
- Sit for your respective exam
- Pass your exam and apply for licensure
Social work license requirements in Virginia
While social work is fairly consistent across state lines, there are some specifics you’ll need to know if you plan on working within the state of Virginia. In Virginia, you can obtain three different types of licensure: a licensed baccalaureate social worker (LBSW), a licensed social worker (LSW), and a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW).
According to Virginia’s state licensing board, you’ll need to meet the following requirements to become a LBSW in Virginia:
- Obtain your BSW from a CSWE accredited program.
- Apply for and pass the LBSW exam
For an LSW you’ll need to meet the following requirements to become a LBSW in Virginia:
- Obtain your MSW from a CSWE accredited program.
- Apply for and pass the LMSW exam
To obtain your LSCW licensure in Virginia, here is what the Virginia state licensing board requires:
- Obtain your MSW degree with a clinical focus from a CSWE accredited program
- Apply for supervision approval
- Complete post-MSW supervised experience in an in-state clinical setting
- Apply for the LCSW licensure exam
- Pass the ASWB clinical level exam
Social worker salary in Virginia
By this point, you’re probably wondering what salary you can earn as a social worker in Virginia. Like most other states, this average depends on which area you specialize in. Here is the breakdown on salary data for social workers in Virginia, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data:
Average $54,444, Range: $52,800 – $71,600
- Child, Family, and School Social Worker – $52,800
- Healthcare Social Worker – $57,640
- Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker – $52,980
- Social Worker (All Other) – $71,600
Social work jobs in Virginia
Virginia employs a significant number of social workers across the state. Out of 17,860 total social workers, here is the breakdown by specialization according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- Child, Family, and School Social Worker – 9,270 employees
- Healthcare Social Worker – 3,410 employees
- Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker – 4,540 employees
- Social Workers (All Other) – 640 employees
The demand for social workers in Virginia is projected to continue to grow. The COVID-19 pandemic has put strain both economically and mentally on many Virginians. In 2016, the Governor of Virginia declared the opioid abuse crisis a public health emergency. Healthcare and Social Assistance is projected to be the largest growing industry through 2024. You don’t need to worry about your return on investment if you choose to spend your time and money on becoming a social worker. As is the case across the nation, Virginia will continue to need more social workers for the foreseeable future.
Take a look at the table below to find some examples of social work programs available in Virginia: