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  • NASW-IL Staff

Ask NASW-IL: Can I apply for my LSW while I'm still enrolled in school?

Updated: Apr 8

NASW-Illinois Chapter membership helps us create resources like this article and our website that clarify many of the questions

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On a recent call with the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation (IDFPR), officials with the department mentioned that social work students could begin applying for their LSW (licensed social worker) license while still enrolled in school. This, along with passage of a bill in 2022 that removed the ASWB examination as a requirement for LSW licensure in Illinois, means that all social work students seeking their LSW in Illinois can begin applying for their license in the final semester of school before graduation.

Why should I apply now?

So WHY is the NASW-Illinois Chapter encouraging students to start applying for the LSW now while they are still completing their degrees? The answer to this is multifacted and may depend on your situation post-graduation.

While we were successful in advocating for passage of a bill last fall that would allow the department to switch to an entirely online process for licensure applications and renewals, the department still needs to implement this change. In the meanwhile, the historically long wait times at IDFPR for getting applications processed continues. Getting your LSW application into the queue now means your application will get processed faster than one submitted at a later date. Not only that, you are getting into the queue ahead of individuals graduating in other professions regulated by IDFPR, not just social workers but doctors, nurses, veterinarians and also occupational professions like CPAs and engineers.

For those lucky enough to have employment waiting for them after graduation, you may not be able to start seeing clients until after receiving your LSW (see our recent Ask NASW-IL article, "Can I see clients as a social work student or graduate but before I get my LSW/LCSW?"). Beginning the process of applying for your LSW now may be the difference between joining the workforce after graduation to waiting potentially several months later to get your LSW.

What do I need to do to get the LSW?

  1. Fulfill LSW licensure requirements. As a reminder, as of January 2022, the ASWB examination is no longer required for LSW licensure in Illinois. That said, IDFPR still requires all LSW applicants to be of "good moral character" and have obtained a degree from a CSWE –approved grduate or undergraduate program of social work (undergrads also need an additional 3 years of supervised professional experience). However, with confirmation from the department that you can submit your application before graduation...

  2. Complete the LSW application. If you are in your last semester of a social work program and are looking to obtain the LSW to practice in the state of Illinois, download the IDFPR Licensed Social Worker application and begin filling it out. We have step-by-step instructions on how to complete the application on our website as well as a list of the supporting documents you'll need to submit with your application, though not the Certification of Education form (ED) if you are submitting your application before graduation.

  3. Send your application and supplementary forms and fees to IDFPR. Make sure you have completed all required fields in the LSW application form and have all necessary supplementary documentation provided (except the Certification of Education form) to mail to IDFPR.

  4. Make a plan with your school for the ED form. If you have submitted your LSW application before graduation, start reaching out to your schools/departments now to find out how they can expedite processing of the ED form. This form is the final step in validating your application and is provided by your school to confirm that you have successfully graduated. One of the common delays we've heard about from past graduates is the delay in receiving their completed ED form from their school due to summer breaks after graduation. As with getting your application into the queue early, the quicker you can submit your ED form, the faster your application can be processed. Alternatively, you may also elect to have your official transcript sent in lieu of the ED form. After graduation, have a copy of your official transcript sent directly from your school to IDFPR. Keep in mind you must wait until after graduation to have this transcript sent as the final transcript must indicate that your degree was awarded.

  5. Mail in your ED form. Once your school has returned your completed ED form, you will need to submit it to IDFPR in the same way you submitted your original application materials. Be sure to include a letter stating that the ED form is being submitted in support of an earlier application that was sent to them. Any helpful information that will help the department to identify your original application (i.e., Your full name, the date it was mailed, any confirmation language you've received from the department) will be helpful to include in your letter. Remember, the department regulates licenses for over 1 million individuals and firms in the state, so anything you can provide to help them match your materials will only help in the expedition of your application approval.

Additional Resources


Have More Questions? All specific questions concerning licensure and individual licenses or a particular license application needs to be properly directed to IDFPR as they are ultimately the licensing board who approve of licenses for Illinois. The NASW-Illinois Chapter website also has a plethora of information relating to licensure, from supervision requirements, the licensing process, testing procedures, and more. Go to the NASW-IL Licensure page to read more.

Membership dollars help provide us the time and staff to research, review, and communicate rules and laws that affect the social work profession. Get clarification on the rules and regulations that affect your practice by JOINING or RENEWING your NASW membership today!

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