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  • NASW-IL Staff

Ask NASW-IL: Now that I have my LSW, how do I get my LCSW?

Updated: Jan 24, 2023

With the state of Illinois having an unprecedented number of new licensed social workers join the profession in 2022 due to the removal of the licensing examination as requirement for licensed social workers (LSWs), many are looking ahead to that next step in licensing—becoming a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). LCSWs are authorized to independently practice clinical social work in Illinois under the auspices of an employer or in private practice.

Step One: Fulfill the Requisites

To become an LCSW in Illinois, you must first fulfill/obtain the following LCSW licensure requirements:

  1. You must be of good moral character.

  2. You must obtain a degree from a CSWE–approved graduate program of social work OR a CSWE–approved doctoral program of social work.

Step Two: Earning Supervised Clinical Professional Experience

How Many Hours of Supervised Clinical Professional Experience Do I Need?

Once you have obtained a degree from a CSWE–approved graduate or doctoral program of social work, you can begin acquiring hours of supervised clinical professional experience:

  • If you obtained a degree from a CSWE–approved graduate program of social work, you must complete 3,000 hours of supervised clinical professional experience.

  • If you obtained a degree from a CSWE–approved doctoral program of social work, you must complete 2,000 hours of supervised clinical professional experience.

Of these hours, the required number of hours may be obtained in one of the following manners:

  • For full-time experience, a minimum of 30 hours per week but not more than 40 hours per week.

  • For part-time experience, a minimum of 15 hours per week but not more than 29 hours per week.

What Qualifies as “Clinical Professional Experience”?

Now you may be asking: what work actually qualifies as clinical professional experience? According to Section 3(5) of the Clinical Social Work and Social Work Practice Act, the supervised experience shall be experience directly related to clinical social work practice—that is, “the providing of mental health services for the evaluation, treatment, and prevention of mental and emotional disorders in individuals, families, and groups based on knowledge and theory of professionally accepted theoretical structures, including, but not limited to, psychosocial development, behavior, psychopathology, unconscious motivation, interpersonal relationships, and environmental stress.”

Are There Requirements of the Supervisor to Provide Adequate Supervision?

Rules for the Act (Section 1470.20 Professional Experience) further list requirements for the supervisor:

  • The supervisor shall have met with the applicant an average of at least 4 hours each month to discuss client cases and treatment procedures.

  • Only experience supervised by an LCSW will be acceptable to meet the professional experience requirement.

  • The experience shall have been evaluated by the supervisor as satisfactory.

  • An applicant may contract with an LCSW to provide supervision

  • Supervision may be provided within an agency of employment or outside the agency.

  • Supervision may be paid or unpaid.

  • Supervision may be on an individual or group basis. When group supervision is provided, the number of supervisees may not exceed five.

Where Do I Find a Supervisor?

Most agencies have a licensed clinical social worker on staff that will qualify as a supervisor. This person does NOT have to be your direct supervisor, but you do have to meet with them the minimum required hours per month.

The NASW-Illinois Chapter has also created the NASW-Illinois Chapter Supervisor Registry for social work graduates who are looking for a supervisor outside of their current employment. All registry participants have completed our four-hour course, “Fundamentals of Individual Clinical Social Work Supervision,” and must abide by the NASW Code of Ethics. Additionally, we strongly recommend supervisees to confirm their supervisor’s license status with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) prior to obtaining supervision.

To download the latest version of the NASW-Illinois Chapter Supervisor Registry, go to our Supervision page. A listing in our registry does not denote endorsement or recommendation by the NASW-Illinois Chapter; rather it only indicates that listed social workers meet criteria for inclusion in this registry. Fees or supervision requirements are set by the supervisor; the NASW-Illinois Chapter is not part of that arrangement. ​

Other Questions Relating to Clinical Supervision:

Do my supervision hours expire? While the hours of supervision themselves do not expire, the licensure application expires after three years (from the date it is received and entered into IDFPR's system). If a person waited two years after their application expired to reapply, they would be told that they needed to resubmit all supporting documents, including proof of experience. (Expired applications are generally destroyed after 6 months unless the applicant reapplies before then.) If you switch supervisors at any point during the process, we strongly encourage that you get your previous supervisor to sign off on all hours acquired before moving on to a new supervisor.

Can an LSW or an LSW pending LCSW licensure be considered as an independent contractor in Illinois? Until you receive your LCSW, you cannot work as an independent contractor as LSWs must work as employees and be clinical supervised according to Section 1470.97 Independent Practice of Clinical Social Work in the Clinical Social Work and Social Work Practice Act.

Do I need liability insurance if I'm not yet licensed? Holding your own Professional Liability Insurance is important as you enter the workplace after graduation. Keep in mind, the policy is there to defend allegations from those being served by social work care–clients. The policy should start and continue with while professional services are being delivered until you permanently leave the profession.

During supervised professional experience, some of the same risks that long-time social workers experience are present for those growing in the profession. For example, client interactions occur and, many times, expectations of a consumer are not met or they could misinterpret an interaction which can be the origin of a complaint or allegation. These situations or incidents can happen to all professionals no matter what their current designation is, and it is important to have a policy in place in case a legal defense is needed.

Lastly, your social work supervisor will likely hold their own policy and they are individually supported by their policy if they are named in and thus held accountable for your actions; however, their policy will not defend your allegations. The social work professional liability policy will support the services that you are eligible to deliver in your current chapter of your professional journey and will continue to grow with you as you obtain licensure and beyond.

Seeking a professional liability insurance provider? Check out NASW Assurance Services, visit:

Can supervision hours be completed remotely? Clinical supervision hours may be obtained virtually, although best practices recommend that supervision take place in “real time” either in person or virtually.

Step Three: Complete LCSW Application for Licensure

Once you have fulfilled the above requisites (degree and supervised clinical professional experience), 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.

Once you’ve downloaded the application, you’ll need to complete it in full. You can find a comprehensive list of how to complete the various sections within the application on the Licensure Steps page of our website. Please note these fields are subject to change in the event that IDFPR updates their application.

Step Four: Submit Completed Forms and Fees to IDFPR and Take the ASWB Clinical Exam

Once you have completed the IDFPR application for licensure with ALL supplementary documentation and have the applicable application fee (currently $50.00)*, mail everything to IDFPR (see mailing address in application). IDFPR should notify you within 4 to 6 weeks if your application is accepted for pre-approval to sit for the ASWB Clinical exam).

Once you’ve received notice from IDFPR, you will need to go to the ASWB website to register and pay (currently $260.00) for the Clinical exam.

When you pass the exam, your test results will automatically be sent to IDFPR who will complete processing your licensure application. Processing times may vary greatly with the department. If you want to find out the status of an application, the best way to check is to contact IDFPR about the status of your application. Additionally, you can go to the IDFPR website and use the License Look Up feature. After selecting “Social Worker” for License Type, type in your first and last name. If you are licensed, you should see your name with your license number.

*Announced in April 2022, Governor Pritzker granted a one-time fee waiver for the IDFPR application/renewal applications received between July 1, 2023, through June 30, 2024. However, if you are an applicant with the means to pay for the application fee (currently $50.00), the NASW-Illinois Chapter does not recommend waiting to apply for licensure until after July 1, 2023, to receive the fee waiver; applicants who apply now and do not use the waiver will still be able to waive the fee for 2023 renewal instead. Read more here. Please note the fee waiver applies only to the IDFPR application/renewal application fees, not the ASWB exam costs.

Test Preparation for the ASWB Examination

For those who are interested in a course to help them prepare for the ASWB examination, the NASW-Illinois Chapter Social Work Licensure Test Review Course (formerly LSW/LCSW Review Course) is the longest running review course in the state. Highly rated by our participants, this fast-paced, 8-hour course covers the format and structure of the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) clinical examination as well as the most current content areas as determined by the ASWB for licensure. Participants can expect this course to be an interactive, discussion-led review of testing topics, case studies, and additional reading materials that will help you identify areas you may need to review in your knowledge base before taking the ASWB exam rather than a complete overhaul of everything learned in school. Practice questions will be reviewed to illustrate test-taking strategies and reinforce content material. Access to the NASW-IL–proprietary manual is available to course registrants only.

For a list of upcoming review course dates, go to our Licensure Review Course page.

DISCLAIMER ABOUT THE ASWB EXAM & OUR LICENSURE REVIEW COURSE: In light of the recent ASWB disclosures regarding disparities caused by a biased test, the NASW-Illinois Chapter has transitioned our licensure review course to a zero budgeted profit event similar to our annual Advocacy Day by reducing fees nearly in half. Additionally, if you have taken our course and are unable to pass the ASWB exam, please reach out to the chapter to work with us on an individualized plan to help you pass. These new rates and updated policies will hopefully aid applicants in passing a clearly flawed exam. Preparation courses like the NASW-Illinois Chapter Social Work Licensure Test Review Course cannot replace the fact that the ASWB test is inherently biased and discriminatory. While we will continue to offer this course as the ASWB exam is still required for licensure, it is essential to note that your test results do not reflect your knowledge and future performance as a social worker, nor do we believe that the ASWB exam should be used for such purposes. In Spring 2023, the NASW-Illinois Chapter plans to also implement a scholarship program to further reduce barriers to access to our course.


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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