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North Carolina

Social Work Certification and Licensure Board



Q.  What is the difference between LCSW and LCSWA?

A.   Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) is a North Carolina mandated license to practice clinical social work.  The credential is awarded to those people who have a MSW, have obtained 3000 hours of post graduate paid supervised employment in a clinical setting in no less than two years nor more than six years, have received a minimum of 100 hours of clinical supervision, and have passed the ASWB Clinical level exam.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker Associate (LCSWA), formerly referred to as the Provisional Licensed Clinical Social Worker (P-LCSW) is an associate license requiring practice under clinical supervision from a LCSW licensee.  This level allows social workers to practice clinical social work while gaining the necessary supervised experience to be independently licensed.  As with other credentials, the LCSWA is issued for two years.  You must take and pass the clinical level exam during this two-year period.  Upon passing the exam, the associate status can be held for up to six (6) years from the original issue date [or for comity applicants, the first date of approved clinical practice, whichever comes first] to accumulate the required supervised clinical experience.

Q.  Does North Carolina offer reciprocity/comity with other states?

A.  Each application for certification/licensure is reviewed by the Board on an individual basis.  The NCSWCLB offers licensure by "substantial equivalency" (comity) and is based on verification of substantially equivalent requirements with your other jurisdiction credential, including examination.  Eligibility for certification or licensure by comity is based on current equivalent certification/licensure/registration under another jurisdiction at the time of application to North Carolina.

Q.  What is the difference between LCSW and ACSW?

A.  The LCSW and ACSW are two different credentials awarded by two different organizations.  The LCSW is a license to practice clinical social work and is awarded by the North Carolina Social Work Certification and Licensure Board, which is a state regulatory board governed by state law.  The LCSW is required to practice clinical social work in the state of North Carolina.  An associate license (LCSWA) may be issued to individuals who do not yet meet the supervised practice requirements.  The Licensed Clinical Social Worker-Associate may provide clinical services ONLY under the supervision of an appropriate LCSW practitioner.

The ACSW credential is awarded by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), which is a private professional organization.  It is NOT a substitute for the LCSW license.

Q.  Do I have to be a member of NASW to be certified through the North Carolina Social Work Certification and Licensure Board?

A.  No.  The NASW is a professional association, while the NCSWCLB is the regulatory Board governing social work practice in North Carolina.

Q.  How can verification of my license/certification be obtained?

A.  Verification of certification or licensure can be done electronically by using the search engine provided on the Board’s website (License Lookup).  Written verification of certification/licensure is provided at a minimal cost of $4.00 per verification; and must be submitted in writing to the Board with the accompanying fee.  If verification is requested for another state or jurisdiction, you will need to include the verification fee with any applicable forms to be completed to the Board and include contact information for where the verification is to be sent.  We will send a letter stating your name, certification/licensure number, first issue date, renewal date, and whether or not your license has been disciplined by the Board.

Q.  How can I get a second copy of my certificate/license?

A.  Request in writing providing your legal name and include a check for $25.00.  Any name changes must be submitted with legal documentation.  A Name/Address Change form is available on the Board’s website as under the Certification & Licensure tab dropdown menu under the FORMS link. Please use this for submitting changes to name, address, contact information, etc.

Q.  How do I become incorporated?

A.  This Board’s role is to provide a Certificate of Registration (COR) that verifies licensure as a LCSW and compliance with the Professional Corporation Act or Professional Limited Liability Act.  Once the COR is obtained from the Board, it must be filed with the Office of the Secretary of State.  The LCSW license is necessary to be eligible to form a partnership/incorporation.  It is recommended that the Social Worker secure the services of an attorney to work with the Secretary of State to secure the guidelines for incorporation and/or forming a limited liability company.  An application for the Certificate of Registration can be downloaded from the Board’s website.  Once a Certificate of Registration is issued, it must be renewed annually with the Board by January 1st of each year.  Social Workers are also responsible for informing the Board of any changes associated with their professional entity including when the professional entity is dissolved.

Q.  How can my certification/licensure be put on inactive status?

A.  Any person certified/licensed and desiring to retire temporarily from the practice of social work shall send written notice thereof to the Board.  Upon receipt of such notice, his or her name shall be placed upon the nonpracticing list and he or she shall not be subject to payment of renewal fees during the non-practicing period.  In order to reactivate certification/licensure, application for renewal shall be made in ordinary course with a renewal fee for the current period and documentation of continuing education [90B-9 (d)]. Associate licensees (LCSWA) need to be mindful of the maximum alloted time frame (6 years) for obtaining the 3000 hours of supervised clinical experience as non-practicing status does not stop the time clock. An Associate license that has been placed on non-practicing status may not be reactivated after the expiration of the license unless the licensee has passed the qualifying exam and is able to fulfill the supervised practice requirements within the alloted six-year time frame (6 years from the original issued date or first approved practice hours, for those who received hours by substantial equivalency).

Q.  How do I re-activate my expired certificate or license?

A1.  A certificate or license previously placed on non-practicing status may only require a letter requesting re-activation if the certificate or license has not yet expired.

A2.  A certificate or license that was placed on non-practicing status and has expired will require a written request to re-activate the credential along with the submission of the Renewal Affidavit documenting continuing education activities within the previous two year period and payment of the required fee. LCSWA licensees are not eligible to renew unless they have passed the required clinical exam prior to the initial expiration of their LCSWA.

A3.  A certificate or license that has expired for a period of 60 days or more, and was not renewed and was not placed on non-practicing status (through written notification received by the Board), is suspended for failure to renew.  This is NOT a disciplinary suspension but does require additional information to re-activate.  Re-activating a certificate or license that has been suspended for failure to renew requires re-application and renewal including appropriate fees.  Qualifying individuals who did not complete the required exam will be deemed exam eligible only and will not be awarded a re-activate credential until the appropriate exam is passed.


Q.  Do I have to have to apply for one level before obtaining another level (i.e.: level A or level B before level C, or LCSW Associate before LCSW)?

A.  Not necessarily.  It depends on your degree and the kind of work you are doing.  Level A (CSW) is for social workers with a baccalaureate degree in social work.  Level B (CMSW) is for those people with a MSW who are not practicing Clinical Social Work.  Level C (LCSW) is for social workers with a MSW who are practicing Clinical Social Work.  An associate Level C credential (LCSWA) is issued to social workers with a MSW who are working toward the LCSW license and need to document their clinical employment and clinical supervision hours required for LCSW licensure.  CLINICAL SOCIAL WORK PRACTICE IN NORTH CAROLINA REQUIRES A LICENSE BY THIS BOARD.  Level H (CSWM) is for social workers whose duties consist of primarily administrative practice.

Q.  How long does the application process usually take?

A.  The review process may take a minimum of 21 days upon receipt of a completed renewal affidavit packet, including all required documents.

Q.  If all the forms (references, transcripts, exam scores, verifications) have to be sealed and come from other persons, associations, or schools, then how can I send my complete packet directly to you?

A.  Have all of the forms sent to you, and do not open the envelopes; rather, include the sealed envelopes in your application packet when you submit it to the Board for consideration.  Occasionally, a school will not send an official transcript to the student.  Under these circumstances, they may send the official transcript directly to the Board office and you should inform the Board by cover letter with your application, of any information that is sent separately. For score transfers of an ASWB examination taken through another jurisdiction, ASWB requires the official score report be sent directly to this Board. Please contact ASWB directly (1-800-225-6880) for more information on how to request a score transfer.

Q.  Who needs to fill out the Professional Reference forms?

A.  Please review the NCAC regulation regarding Professional References: For LCSWA applicants, ne reference must have served as your supervisor.  The other two must be familiar with your social work practice in a professional capacity, such as a colleague.  Relatives, subordinates, and clients are not acceptable references.  References should be from individuals familiar with your current or recent professional experience.

Q. Will the Board deny my application on the basis of criminal conviction history?

A. The Board asks questions about an applicant’s criminal, disciplinary and employment history to assist the Board in determining if the application should be granted, or if there is a valid basis for denying an application.  In addition to the questions on the applications, the Board may conduct a formal criminal or disciplinary history check.  Answering “yes” to any of these questions or having a conviction, disciplinary or adverse employment action is not automatically a basis for denial of licensure.

When an applicant has a criminal conviction, the Board will consider:

(1)       The level and seriousness of the crime;

(2)       The date of the crime;

(3)       The age of the person at the time of the crime;

(4)       The circumstances surrounding the commission of the crime, if known;

(5)       The nexus between the criminal conduct and the prospective duties of the applicant as a licensee;

(6)       The prison, jail, probation, parole, rehabilitation, and employment records of the applicant since the date the crime was committed;

(6a)      The completion of, or active participation in, rehabilitative drug or alcohol treatment;

(6b)     A Certificate of Relief granted pursuant to North Carolina Gen. Stat. § 15A-173.2;

(7)       The subsequent commission of a crime by the applicant; and

(8)       Any affidavits or other written documents, including character references.

The Board may consider any similar aggravating or mitigating circumstances with respect to the applicant’s disciplinary and employment history.  If Board staff is unable to approve an application, the applicant has the right to request to have that application heard by the members of the Board.  Any such request must be submitted in writing to the Board’s Executive Director. The Board will conduct that hearing pursuant to the North Carolina Administrative Procedure Act and the Board’s own hearing rules.  As a result of the evidence presented at that hearing and considering the considerations outlined above, the Board may refuse to grant a license if it finds any of the grounds for doing so under North Carolina Gen. Stat. § 90B-11.

If the applicant is aggrieved by the Board’s final decision, the applicant may seek review of the decision by filing a petition for judicial review in the Superior Court.  The procedures for seeking judicial review can be found in Article 4 of the Administrative Procedure Act, North Carolina Gen. Stat. § 150B-43 et seq.  There are specific timelines and procedures for these proceedings, and failure to follow them may lead to the Superior Court dismissing or denying a petition.  Therefore, close and prompt attention to the Administrative Procedure Act is required.


Q.  How do I sign up to take the exam?

A.  To be eligible to sit for the exam you must be approved by the Board as eligible.  The first step is to submit an application for certification/licensure.  Once the Board receives your completed application, it will be reviewed, and upon approval, we will then send you the information to begin the registration process for the exam

Q.  How do I get a study guide for the exam?

A.  Study guides are offered through ASWB (1-800-225-6880), or at

Q.  Are there any exam preparatory courses offered?

A.  Yes.  These courses may be offered by a number of providers including the N.C. Chapter of NASW.  You can get information about the NASW-NC prep courses at 1-800-280-6207, or at

[Candidates are advised that for exam security reasons, the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB), the examining body utilized by this Board, prohibits the use of exam items as part of any preparatory course; and does not endorse any such courses.]  The ASWB does however offer practice exams for a fee through their website at for individuals who want to familiarize themselves with the exam experience.

Q.  How often are exams given?

A.  The Board contracts for exam services through the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB).  The exams are currently offered 5 or 6 days per week in several locations throughout the State at PearsonVUE test centers.  To locate a test site of your choice, please visit the ASWB link to PearsonVUE at: .  Remember, to sit for the exam, you must be approved by the Board as eligible and authorized by the examining body, ASWB.

Q.  What types of questions are on the exam?

A. It is an exam focused on social work practice.  There are 5 categories of examination – Associate, Bachelors, Masters, Advanced Generalist, and Clinical – focused on education and practice experience.  Candidates are allowed four hours to complete the exam administered by computer consisting of approximately 170 multiple-choice questions designed to measure minimum competency.  More information about the exam itself, types of questions, length, etc. can be obtained through ASWB.


Q.  When licensed at the associate level, once I obtain all of my hours, do I still need to maintain supervision and report to the Board?

A.  Yes.  The law requires an Associate licensee to practice under appropriate supervision. Unsupervised clinical practice by an Associate licensee is a violation of the law. You must report your practice to the Board every six (6) months to comply with the NCSWCLB Governing Rules.  This is done by submitting the LCSWA Six-Month Review Form.  This six-month reporting process and supervision must continue as long as you are licensed at the associate level.  If you have not been practicing and/or have no hours of supervised clinical experience to report, you must still submit the Six-Month Review Form indicating “not currently practicing clinical social work.”

Q.  When do I need the LCSW Short-Form application?

A.  The LCSW Short-Form application is used when you have completed all employment and supervision hours and have passed the ASWB clinical level exam (i.e.: when you have completed everything and are ready to convert your associate license to LCSW licensure). The LCSW Short-Form also requires documentation of continuing education received during the associate licensure period.

Q.  If I have more than one employer or supervisor, do they each need to complete a LCSWA Six-Month Review form?

A.  Yes.  You may make copies of these forms for each to complete. A separate case summary is required for each place of employment; and though no longer submited to the Board, it must be signed and maintained on file with the clinical supervisor. The Six Month Review form is available to be downloaded from our website also ( under the LCSW Associate tab dropdown menu/LCSW Associate Forms.

Q.  Who may provide supervision to be accepted toward LCSW licensure?

A.  All supervision must be provided by a LCSW, with a graduate degree in Social Work, at least two years of post-LCSW clinical experience, and who is in good standing with this Board.  LCSW licensees who have disciplinary history must have written permission from this Board to provide supervision to LCSW Associate licensees.  Some social workers may have to make difficult, costly, and time-consuming efforts to obtain appropriate supervision, however it is our hope that appropriate supervision will have a long-term impact that justifies your efforts. Supervision must be provided face-to-face.  Electronic or other technology facilitated means of supervision is acceptable on a restricted basis and only under the guidelines outlined in the Rules at


Q.    How many continuing education credits are required?

A.  Social workers who are certified/licensed for two years are required to have completed 40 hours of continuing education credits, and those whose initial certification/license is issued for less than two years are required to have completed 30 hours of continuing education.  In both cases, at least four (4) hours must be clearly related to social work ethics.

LCSW Associate licensees wishing to renew their associate level license in order to satisfy the 3000 hours of supervised clinical practice, MUST have taken and passed the ASWB clinical exam in order to be eligible for renewal.  LCSW Associate licensees who fail to pass the clinical exam and are thereby ineligible for renewal of that license will forfeit all previously acquired supervision and practice hours; and will be required to re-apply for exam eligibility.  A new associate license will not be issued until the clinical exam is passed.

Also, LCSW Associate (LCSWA) licensees, including those requesting to renew their associate license and those moving from LCSWA status to LCSW status are held to the same continuing education requirements as set forth in the N.C. Administrative Code, T21: 63 .0401.  LCSWA renewal cycles less than two years are subject to pro-rated continuing education requirements.  Please check the Continuing Education section on the website or contact the Board office for specific questions.

Q.  Will the Board pre-approve my continuing education credits?

A.  NO. The Board does not pre-approve courses or providers for continuing education units (CEUs).  Please refer to the Continuing Education section of the Board’s website, the Certification/Licensure Renewal Information sheet and/or the NCGS and Administrative Rules, which explains the Board’s policy on continuing education. 

Distance education courses (online courses, home study courses, etc.) require ASWB provider approval, or must be approved by the North Carolina Chapter of NASW to be accepted by the Board toward meeting the Continuing Education requirements for renewal of a certificate/license.  No more than one-half (1/2) of your CE activity may be obtained through distance education.

Live, synchronous webinars in which participants can interact with the instructor in real time during the event, and where all participants benefit from the interaction (such as a live question and answer interactions) are considered equivalent to attended training rather than distance education.  The live/synchronous interaction must be verifiable through a continuing education audit.

The Board conducts CE audits annually.  Practitioners are responsible for maintaining copies of the certificates verifying attendance and completion of CE activities for at least 3 years in order to comply with an audit request for documentation.