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  • NASW-IL Staff

Ask NASW-IL: How can I utilize the alternative to the ASWB exam to get my LCSW?

NASW-Illinois Chapter membership helps us to push for legislation that helps and supports the profession. As the largest membership association in Illinois advocating on behalf of social workers, consider adding your voice to our efforts and join/renew your NASW membership today.


An updated version of the social work license application utilizing the alternative to the ASWB clinical exam for clinical (LCSW) licensure in Illinois has now been released by the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation (IDFPR). This updated application incorporates an allowance provided by House Bill 2365, and provides a way for applicants who were unable to pass the ASWB clinical exam an alternative path to obtaining their LCSW.


More About HB 2365

Thanks to a coalition of advocates, the NASW-Illinois Chapter was able to support passage of House Bill 2365, a landmark legislation sponsored by Sen. Villa and Rep. LaPointe. The bill was a first of its kind in the nation, aimed at addressing inequities in the ASWB exam which negatively impacted social workers with disabilities, older social workers, and those from underrepresented backgrounds and marginalized communities. Passage of this bill marks a significant milestone in the quest to create a more equitable path for aspiring social workers, ensuring that opportunities are accessible to a diverse pool of talent across Illinois.


Is the Alternative to the ASWB Clinical Exam Right for Me?

Statistically speaking, the majority of applicants will receive their LCSW by utilizing their ASWB exam scores. However, for a host of reasons, some individuals may be unable to pass the ASWB clinical exam. For those individuals deciding whether to retake the exam or to utilize the alternative to the exam, some considerations should be taken into account. While other states are looking at passing alternatives to the ASWB clinical exam, applicants licensed in Illinois under this option may find that they cannot practice in other states that still require the exam. Some jobs may also require the exam for employment including some federal governmental positions and therapist jobs on border states that require multi-licensed professionals. Furthermore, the Social Work Licensure Compact will require the passage of a nationally accepted exam (currently the ASWB clinical exam) for participation.


It is important to note that applicants who are licensed utilizing the alternative path to the ASWB exam may practice as an LCSW in Illinois and retake the exam at a later date if future employment requires you to be licensed in other states. For all purposes in Illinois, whether you use your ASWB clinical exam score or the alternative to the ASWB clinical exam for licensure, you will be licensed as an LCSW with full practice authority of that license.


If—after weighing the above considerations—you decide that utilizing the alternative to the ASWB clinical exam is right for you, read on!


Preparing to Utilize the Alternative to the ASWB Clinical Exam


1. Find evidence that you have taken the ASWB clinical exam.

In order to utilize the alternative to the ASWB clinical exam for licensure, find out when you took the ASWB clinical exam last. In order to be eligible for the alternative to the ASWB clinical exam, you must have taken the ASWB clinical exam between January 1, 2019, through December 31, 2023, or after January 1, 2024.


If you have not taken the ASWB clinical exam between or after the dates listed above, you will need to take/retake the exam by applying for licensure through IDFPR to obtain pre-approval to take/retake the ASWB clinical exam.


2.       Check in with your current/past employers.

Contact your current/previous employers to let them know you will need them to sign off on your previous work experience using a new verification form. This previous work experience must be signed off by a clinical professional (e.g., LCSW, LMFT, LCPC, psychiatrist, psychologist, or advanced practice psychiatric nurse). This previous work experience must have occurred within the last 10 years of application after you received your MSW, and they cannot be the same hours you used for your 3,000 clinical supervised hours (which must still be obtained under the supervision of an LCSW only) to qualify to take the ASWB exam the first time.


3.       If applicable, begin obtaining 3,000 hours of professional work experience.

The alternative to the ASWB clinical exam requires that applicants obtain an additional 3,000 hours of professional work experience. This is NOT 3,000 additional clinical hours but rather work experience hours signed off by a clinical professional (see above). School social work hours will qualify for this requirement.


If you are just starting to obtain your additional hours now, we strongly recommend that you apply for your LSW now. Starting January 1, 2026, all of your additional 3,000 hours must be acquired while you were licensed as either an LSW or PEL (school social worker).


What work will qualify for the additional 3,000 hours?

While subject to change, we anticipate the hours will consist of social services to individuals, groups, or communities in any one or more of the fields of social casework, social group work, community organization for social welfare, social work research, social welfare administration, school social work, or social work education. This would also include supervised clinical social work hours, above your first 3,000, as well.


What if my supervisor changes or I change jobs/supervisors?

No matter how many supervisors you have, each will need to complete the Verification of Employment/Experience form (VE-SW Form). When you part ways with a supervisor, have them complete the VE-SW Form, making sure to inform them that they must provide the document with their original signature as photocopies are not accepted by the department. They must return the form to you in a sealed envelope to include with your application at time of applying to IDFPR. If you have more than one job/supervisor, have every supervisor complete the forms for each job totaling your required hours.


Applying for the LCSW

Once you have obtained the above requisites, you can apply for licensure. The application for licensure can be downloaded from the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation (IDFPR) website. IDFPR’s Division of Professional Regulation licenses and regulates over 1 million professionals and firms in Illinois, including social work professionals.


The NASW-Illinois Chapter has written a comprehensive list step-by-step instructions for completing all elements of the IDFPR application. To find these instructions, go to the Licensure Steps page on our website and click the text to take you to “Becoming an LCSW.” From there, click on “LCSW Application” for instructions on completing the IDFPR application. Please note that these forms are subject to change in the event that IDFPR updates their application.


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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