The following guide offers a detailed explanation of social work in the state of Washington. The guide includes a review of some of the state’s top MSW programs, social work licensing requirements, and the job outlook for social workers in Washington state.
CONTENTS OF THIS GUIDE
- Social Work in Washington
- MSW programs
- Online MSW programs
- How to become a social worker
- License requirements
- Social work jobs and salary
- Expert advice
- School listings
Social work in Washington
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) there are 14,720 social workers in Washington. What’s interesting about the social workers employed in Washington is that they’re not evenly distributed throughout the state’s urban and rural areas.
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Featured Online MSW Programs
|School Name||Program||More Info|
|University of Southern California (USC)||Accredited Online MSW from Top-Ranked USC||website|
|University of Montana||Master of Social Work Online||website|
|University of Denver||DU’s Online MSW—No GRE Required||website|
|Baylor University||Baylor's Online MSW—Now Accepting Applications||website|
|University of Kentucky||CSWE Accredited Online MSW Program||website|
|Simmons University||Earn a Clinically Focused MSW Online||website|
According to the Center for Health Workforce Studies, 8.5 percent of Washington state’s population lives in a rural area yet these citizens are being served by no LASW social workers and only 3.8 percent of LICSW licensed social workers. These findings indicate that rural areas are heavily understaffed which presents a great opportunity for any social worker who would prefer to live and work in the country.
MSW programs in Washington
Washington has some really good options for anyone who would like to study for an MSW degree in-state. Before we look at the programs, however, it’s important to point out that a student should only consider studying at a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)-accredited university.
A CSWE accreditation guarantees that an MSW program meets a certain set of standards for the social work field. Many employers will only consider hiring graduates of a CSWE program and some states will only issue social work licenses to CSWE graduates.
The UW Tacoma master of social work programs was ranked as the third-best social work master’s program in the United States. Given that 250 other social work programs were also taken into consideration, Tacoma coming in so high on the list is quite an honor.
The Tacoma program is CSWE-certified and offers a great education that prepares the student for their future role as a social worker. Topics of study include child and family services, social work in the criminal justice system as well as management training.
Although the part-time program typically takes three years to complete, there is also an eighteen-month fast-track program available to those who have an undergraduate degree in social work.
Eastern Washington University also offers an excellent CSWE-certified MSW program to Washington state students. The program is available at two different locations, Cheney and Spokane, so that students can choose a campus that’s convenient to them. The program includes education in mental health diagnoses, school social work, palliative care, and more.
One of the benefits of the Washington University MSW program is its affordability, as the program is meant to be inclusive for people of all socioeconomic backgrounds. Also, Washington graduates can make use of the university’s extensive network to easily find employment after graduation.
Online MSW programs in Washington
In addition to its campus-based MSW program, Eastern Washington University (EWU) also offers a hybrid MSW. With the hybrid program, students take some of their classes online while also attending certain lectures in the classroom. The classes are held at EWU’s Spokane campus, making this a good program for students living in Eastern Washington. However, since the campus lessons take place just three weekends per month it may also be possible for students from farther away to commute for the campus portion of the teaching.
Check out our online MSW degree page for more information.
How to become a social worker in Washington
The truth is that it is more difficult to become a social worker in Washington than in other states. Due to regulations, all Washington social workers must hold at least a master’s degree. Obtaining a permanent license also requires several thousand hours of supervised social work experience. This typically takes two to three years to complete.
The following are the steps necessary in order to become a social worker in Washington.
- Obtain a degree from a CSWE-accredited master’s program, it’s not possible to work in Washington without a graduate degree.
- Apply for an associate license after graduation. This is a temporary license available to new graduates and allows a social worker to gain supervised experience in the field.
- Get work experience. Before becoming fully certified a social worker will need 3,200 hours of experience working under a LICSW licensed social worker.
- Once a social worker has the required experience they can take the ASWB exam and then apply for the LASW license. More information on the application process is available in the next section.
- Upon receiving their LASW license a social worker can perform certain tasks unsupervised, while others will require supervision.
- After receiving their LASW license the social worker will need to get another 800 hours of experience. At that point they can apply for their LICSW license which will allow the social worker to work unsupervised in Washington state.
The LICSW license is the highest level of certification in Washington state and with that license, social workers can perform any job in the field.
The highest level of education available to social workers in Washington is a PhD Perspective social workers who would like to learn more about a PhD in social work can visit our doctorate degree page. In addition to providing information about what a PhD program entails, we also include a list of PhD social work programs currently available in the United States.
Social work license requirements in Washington
The best source of information about the social work licensing process in Washington is from the state’s is from the Department of Health website. As mentioned in the previous section, a social worker in Washington can only become state-certified if he or she has a master’s degree from a CSWE-accredited program.
Licensed Advanced Social Worker (LASW)
The LASW is a license that allows a Washington state social worker to perform basic, administrative level work. That can include community organization, managerial work as well as vocational counseling. A LASW license holder can perform social work but only under the supervision of a LICSW license holder.
The following are the requirements to be granted a LASW license.
- A master’s degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited program.
- The applicant must have 3,200 hours of experience. These hours must include at least 800 hours of client contact that’s been supervised by a LICSW license holder.
- The applicant must pass the ASWB exam. It is not recommended to take the exam until the social worker has at least two years of experience.
Once a social worker meets all of these requirements they can submit their application to the state of Washington in order to be granted a LASW license.
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW)
LICSW license holders can perform unsupervised social work in the state of Washington. That work can be done via a private practice or in a position with a community organization. LICSW social workers can perform health counseling, diagnose mental health problems, and administer therapies.
The following are the requirements to be granted a LICSW license.
- A master’s degree in social work from a CSWE accredited program.
- An applicant must complete at least 4,000 hours of supervised social work over the course of 3 years. This must include at least 1,000 hours of client contact work that’s been supervised by a LICSW license holder.
- The applicant must pass the ASWB exam.
Upon completing these requirements the social worker can send their application to the state of Washington for approval.
License renewal in Washington State
Washington state social workers must renew their licenses on an annual basis and at a date no later than the social worker’s date of birth. The renewal fee for either a LASW or a LICSW is $116. In addition, the social worker must…
- Complete 36 hours or more of training every two years
- Out of the 36 hours at least 6 must be in the area of ethics and legal topics
- Every six years the social worker must complete six or more hours of training in the recognition and management of suicidal behavior
Social worker jobs and social worker salary in Washington
According to BLS data there are currently 14,720 social workers employed in Washington state. The average salary for a social worker in Washington state is $58,267. Different types of social workers earn different salaries. The salary range for social workers in Washington is $55,030 at the low end up to $73,160 at the high end. The following data represents different types of social workers in Washington and their average salary.
- Child, family, and school social worker – There are 7,870 child, family, and school social workers in Washington, making an average annual salary of $55,030.
- Mental health and substance abuse social worker – This group numbers 2,260 in Washington and a mental health and substance abuse social worker makes an average salary of $56,260.
- Healthcare social worker – The largest group of social workers in Washington, healthcare social workers number 3,770 and make an average salary of $62,990 a year.
- Social worker all other – This last category of social workers in Washington can include jobs like research social worker, public policy social worker, or private practice social worker. The group numbers 820 and they make an average annual salary of $73,160.
1.What are some important factors for students deciding on an MSW program in Washington?
2.What does the future of social work look like in Washington?
3.What types of jobs are MSW graduates finding in Washington?
4.Do you have any advice for MSW graduates pursuing a license in Washington?
What are some important factors for students deciding on an MSW program in Washington?
It is important for students to know that there are different length programs available in Schools of Social Work in the state:
1. University of Washington Seattle : one year, two year, and three year MSW programs
2. University of Washington Tacoma: 18-month and 3-year MSW programs
3. Seattle University: one-year and two-year MSW programs
4. Eastern Washington University: two-year and three-year MSW programs
5. Walla Walla University: two-year MSW program
It is also very important to consider whether you would like to focus more on training for urban or rural social work practice. If you are interested in rural social work practice, you should consider Eastern Washington University or Walla Walla University. Seattle University and the two University of Washington programs are focused on urban social work practice.
Eastern and Western Washington are very distinct and different cultures within the state of Washington. Western Washington is much more urban, more progressive, and less diverse. Eastern Washington is much more rural, diverse, and far more conservative.
What does the future of social work look like in Washington?
There are far more opportunities than challenges for becoming a social worker in Washington. There are several strong programs from which one can choose and employment opportunities abound for social workers throughout the state!
This is an outstanding time to be looking for employment as a social worker in Washington.
What types of jobs are MSW graduates finding in Washington?
Many of our graduates work in behavioral health, community mental health, inpatient and outpatient health care, Division of Child and Family Services, and many elementary, junior, and high schools. There are also many innovative community-based organizations focused on advocacy for strong yet marginalized communities and constituencies. Western Washington in particular is home to many cutting edge programs centering social justice.
Do you have any advice for MSW graduates pursuing a license in Washington?
Included below are two very good sources of information regarding licensure in the state of Washington. The same advice applies to any student pursuing licensure in any state. Please understand that each state has slight variations (and sometimes substantial) variations in their requirements for licensure. It is critically important that you carefully consider the state you are most likely to settle in as a professional social worker, in order to make sure that you are meeting that state’s licensure requirements and/or that the state you live in now and the state you plan to settle in have a reciprocity agreement regarding social work licensure.
Washington’s licensing requirements
More specifics about Washington from the National Association of Social Workers
Social Work Programs in Washington