Getting Your LSW License in Illinois
Updated: Jun 15
IMPORTANT NOTE: Please note the information listed in this article is subject to change. Check with the NASW-Illinois Chapter News page or the licensing board (IDFPR) for any changes as they are announced.
Following the changes of Public Act 102-0326, starting January 1, 2022, a licensing examination is no longer required for licensure as an Illinois Licensed Social Worker (LSW). New LSW applicants are no longer required to complete ASWB’s Masters exam prior to licensure, and IDFPR will begin to issue LSW licenses to individuals who have applied to IDFPR and have documented meeting all other requirements for LSW licensure.
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed Senate Bill 1632 (SB 1632) into law as Public Act 102-0326 last summer. Illinois State Senator Karina Villa and State Representative Lindsey LaPointe successfully carried this NASW-Illinois Chapter initiative to get SB1632 through the house and senate last spring, removing an unnecessary burden to access and saving licensure for BSWs in Illinois. To continue seeing bills like this pass which work to make the social work profession a more equitable place, please consider adding strength to our legislative voice by becoming a member today. Find out more about joining NASW here or click here to join.
To find out if the new law will affect you, read through the list of different circumstances below:
I graduated years ago am just now interested in licensure: Regardless of whether you graduated 10 years ago or last year, MSWs and BSWs who have completed their supervision requirement are eligible to apply for the LSW license.
I am working toward my LCSW: The waiver does not affect any requirement—including the requirement that you pass the LCSW exam—for acquisition of the LCSW license. If you have an MSW, you may apply for the LSW without taking the ASWB exam as you work towards collecting the required supervision hours needed for the LCSW; however, licensure is not a requirement in Illinois while working toward your LCSW.
I am graduating with a BSW: You still cannot get licensed right away. All other requirements for BSWs in Illinois must be fulfilled first, including working for three years under direct supervision of a licensed clinical professional. The only thing changing is that you no longer have to pass the ASWB exam upon completion of your supervision hours to obtain your LSW.
I’ve already signed up to take the ASWB masters exam for the LSW: We strongly recommend you contact ASWB immediately and request a special circumstance refund. Currently, the ASWB’s Candidate Handbook states that examination fees will not be refunded, but we recommend trying to request it.
If ASWB does not agree to a refund and you currently have an MSW, we recommend you still sit for the exam since you have already paid for it. While Illinois no longer requires the ASWB masters exam to obtain the LSW license, your exam score is still transferable if you later decide to work in another state.
If ASWB does not agree to a refund and you currently have a BSW and have completed your three years of supervised work, we recommend you contact ASWB to see if they will allow you to take the bachelors exam instead so that you can transfer that exam score if you decide to work in another state. Since BSWs cannot transfer their exam score for the masters exam, there is no value in sitting for the exam other than possibly for practice.
I’ve already passed the ASWB exam: The change does not affect existing LSWs who passed the ASWB exam.
I’ve applied for pre-approval to take the ASWB exam but haven't yet paid for or passed the exam: Regardless of whether you took the ASWB exam, assuming that you have submitted all necessary documents to IDFPR within the past 3 years, there is nothing further that you need to do to secure your LSW license but wait for it to be processed by IDFPR. Starting January 1, 2022, IDFPR will begin manually reviewing existing pre-approved applicants and automatically approve qualified MSWs for licensure. If it has been more than 3 years since you were approved to sit for the exam or submitted your application, you will need to resubmit your application to the department. If you are not sure of when you submitted your application, we strongly recommend reaching out to IDFPR to check on the status of your application.
I have an MSW but am not yet licensed: Assuming you qualify, you will be allowed to apply for and immediately acquire your LSW license without taking the ASWB exam. IDFPR has created a new (and shorter!) application form; however, we have been informed that you may still use the previous application to apply for the LSW license.
My application for the LSW license has expired: If your application is more than three years old, you will need to reapply to IDFPR. We strongly recommend you verify your application status with IDFPR prior to resubmitting.
I’m a macro social worker with an MSW: Macro social workers are often not required to be licensed for most jobs in which they are employed; however, we strongly recommend macro social workers consider licensure. Licensure allows you to legally call yourself a social worker—a title you have earned and are qualified to carry—and allows you additional work opportunities. You may now apply for the LSW license without taking the ASWB exam so long as all other requirements are met.
I’m a school social worker with a PEL: School social workers are not required to be licensed as an LSW or LCSW since you have instead acquired the PEL. As an MSW, you would be eligible for the LSW without taking the ASWB exam, but it is not required for your profession. Additionally, if you hold a PEL and get an LSW, you may use CEUs for both your PEL and your LSW licenses. Please verify before attending a course that the provider is an approved continuing education sponsor in Illinois. The NASW-Illinois Chapter is authorized to provide continuing education for both the PEL and LSW licenses in Illinois.
If you are looking to apply for the LSW license, read on for frequently asked questions.
ABOUT THE LSW LICENSE
Will there be a difference on our license identifying those who passed the ASWB exam versus those who didn't? No, your LSW license will be the same regardless of whether you acquired your license before or after January 1, 2022, just as there is no distinction on licenses for social workers who were grandfathered in prior to licensure in Illinois versus those who had to take the ASWB exam after licensure was approved.
Is there licensure for BSWs? BSWs and MSWs are both eligible for the LSW license. Only MSWs are eligible for the LCSW. BSWs also have an additional requirement that they must work for three years under direct supervision before they can apply for the LSW.
LSW LICENSE APPLICATION ELIBILITY
When can I apply? If you already have acquired your MSW or BSW plus 3 years of supervised work, you can apply now using the LSW application provided on the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation (IDFPR) website. If you are still in school, see the next question.
I’m in my last semester of my MSW and want to apply early—can I? While IDFPR will accept your application early, they will not process your license until your school verifies your education via completion of the ED supporting document (Certificate of Education) within the LSW application. We recommend students download the application now and begin completing it so they are ready to submit right before they graduate. Submitting too early will not speed up your processing and likely will create issues as your application is not complete until IDFPR has received your ED supporting document.
Am I able to apply prior to actually working in the field? Assuming you have already acquired your MSW, you may apply immediately. If you have a BSW only, you must work three years under direct supervision before applying.
LSW LICENSE REQUIREMENTS
In order apply for the LSW license, you will need the following:
A completed IDFPR Application for Licensure for the LSW license
$50.00 IDFPR application fee
Supporting documents as provided in the IDFPR application including:
CCA / Health Care Workers Charged with or Convicted of Criminal Acts
ED / Certification of Education: to be completed by your school official
VE-SW / Verification of Employment/Experience: required ONLY if your highest social work degree is a BSW.
CT / Certification by Licensing Agency/Board: required ONLY if you are licensed in social work in another state and are looking to transfer it to Illinois.
Any other required documents as required when completing the IDFPR application
Do you need supervision hours for the LSW? If you have an MSW, you do not need to obtain supervised hours/years of supervised work and can apply upon graduation. If you have a BSW, you must complete 3 years of supervised work before applying for the LSW. There are no hour requirements for the BSW, just years. Note: If you are applying for the LCSW, you must obtain supervised hours—for more, visit the NASW-Illinois Chapter webpage on Supervision: https://www.naswil.org/supervision.
Does BSW internship supervision count toward the supervision years required for the LSW license? No, the supervision requirement is applicable to supervision hours obtained post-graduation only.
Do LSWs need to complete additional supervision hours to become an LCSW? There have been no changes to requirements for obtaining the LCSW. For LCSW requirements, visit the NASW-Illinois Chapter webpage on Licensure Steps: https://www.naswil.org/licensure-steps
Is there a new application since the law passed? Yes, the department created a new application as of January 11, 2022, that you can use. The department did state they will still accept applications using the older form as well. The new application can be found at: https://idfpr.illinois.gov/content/dam/soi/en/web/idfpr/renewals/apply/forms/sw.pdf.
Is there an application fee? Yes, there is a $50.00 application fee for licensure. An early version of the new application omitted the fee. If you submitted your application without a fee, contact IDFPR to arrange payment.
What’s the difference between the old and new applications? The only noticeable change is that the references to taking the ASWB exam for LSWs has been removed. The new application is shorter, but the department has stated they will still continue to accept the previous application.
Can I apply for the LSW and the LCSW on the same application? No, you will need to submit two applications. Note: If you obtain your LCSW, you no longer need an LSW. Assuming you qualify for both at the same time, we recommend you attempt to pass the LCSW exam before applying for the LSW.
The LSW application requests all previous exam attempts and scores. Since the ASWB exam is no longer needed, do I still need to include them? While the NASW-Illinois Chapter has inquired with the department on why this section is still on the LSW application for Illinois, until it is removed from the application, we recommend that you complete this section. Applicants should list to the best of their knowledge their previous exam attempts. If they know the month but not the date of the attempt, list the month. If they know the year of the attempt but not the month, they should list the year. If they do not have good records of this information, they could list something along these lines: “Unsure—multiple attempts/one attempt at LSW exam.”
For in-depth instructions on completing the new IDFPR application for licensure, scroll down to the bottom of this article for “Step-by-Step Instructions for Completing the IDFPR Application for Licensure for LSW License.”
AFTER SUBMITTING YOUR APPLICATION
What’s the average processing time for applications? Processing time is a moving target that varies based on seasonal volumes, staffing levels, and other considerations. Barring any deficiencies, IDFPR says they are issuing licenses in 4 to 6 weeks. However, please note that this can vary significantly based on previously stated factors. Due to the backlog in pre-approved LSW applications the department received late last year and was waiting until January 1, 2022, to process, there may be longer processing times right now.
How can I find out the status of an application that I submitted recently? The best system in place for this is to contact IDFPR to inquire about the status of your application. You can also 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.
Once an LSW license is issued, are there any changes to LSW renewal requirements? The law only changed the need to pass the ASWB exam for LSWs. All other requirements remain the same. For updated guidance, visit the NASW-Illinois Chapter webpage on CEU Requirements: https://www.naswil.org/continuing-education.
Is it beneficial to still take the ASWB exam in case I move or want to obtain an LSW in another state? The NASW-Illinois Chapter recommends waiting until you are required to take the exam for another state. Several states are looking at this new Illinois law to replicate it, and still several others already do not require the ASWB exam. If you decide you do want to move to a state that requires the ASWB exam, we recommend you apply for licensure and pre-approval through that state.
I live in another state and am moving to Illinois—does this apply to me? Yes—while you no longer need a passing score on the ASWB exam, you will still need to meet all other Illinois licensing requirements.
How will reciprocity work for people wanting to transfer their license to another state, specifically for those states that still require the ASWB exam? You will need to reach out to the licensing board of the state in which you wish to be licensed as each state has different licensure requirements. It is possible you will need to take the ASWB exam at the time you apply for licensure in another state.
Will I need to reapply for licensure for other states? Or is it valid for all states? There is no unified license for social work in the US—as such, you must apply for licensure and fulfill the requirements for whichever state in which you wish to be licensed. The Illinois LSW is only valid in Illinois unless permitted in other specific states or by federal laws.
Will other states that require exams accept an LSW with no exam? Every state is different regarding what they require for the LSW or equivalent license. You will need to reach out to that state’s licensing board to inquire if they will accept the license as is or if additional steps need to be taken.
Can you hold multiple licenses from separate states? Yes, you may hold licenses to practice social work in different states. We have numerous social workers that hold multiple licenses allowing them to see clients in multiple states.
I applied for the LCSW exam and was approved to take the exam. Now I want to get my LSW. Do I have to reapply? You should contact IDFPR to ask if they will transfer your application. It is our understanding that you will need to reapply as you are now applying for a separate license.
I applied for my LSW prior to January 1, 2022, and was instructed to call and make an appointment to take the exam. Since the exam is no longer required, do I still need to call to make the appointment? If you are applying for the LSW license, you no longer need the ASWB exam and, as such, you no longer need to make an appointment to take it. We encourage you to reach out to ASWB to request a refund of your exam fee.
I still want to take the exam so I can practice in a specific state that requires the ASWB exam. How do I get pre-approved now? We recommend you reach out to the state in which you plan to practice to apply for pre-approval. That state will then approve you to sit for the ASWB exam.
What if you requested a refund for the ASWB exam? Do you need to submit a new application to apply for the LSW? If you applied for the LSW license prior to January 1, 2022, you likely already paid an exam fee to ASWB and an application fee to IDFPR. While not guaranteed, you may request ASWB to refund your exam fee. Requesting an ASWB refund does not affect your application for the LSW license.
PREVIOUS LSW LICENSE APPLICANTS
If I previously applied for licensure but my application has since expired. when completing a new application, under Part 1, section C, which box should I mark to indicate appropriate information regarding my application? If you previously applied for licensure as an LSW but your application expired, check the option: “I have previously made application for this profession in Illinois. However, my previous application expired and I am now reapplying.”
Is there a timeframe in which you will be notified if more paperwork is needed after you submit your application? IDFPR tries to process applications as quickly as possible but due to the volume of applicants, it may take up to 6 weeks for your application to process. Once it is processed, additional documentation is required, they will notify you.
More Questions? The NASW-Illinois Chapter participated in an online webinar where Illinois State Senator Karina Villa, State Representative Lindsey LaPointe, and representatives from the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation (IDFPR). To view a recording of this webinar, go to:
Access Passcode: a9@i6d7a
STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTIONS FOR COMPLETING THE IDFPR APPLICATION FOR LICENSURE FOR LSW LICENSE
If you are a new LSW applicant or someone who applied for the LSW in Illinois over there years ago but never got your license and need to reapply, follow the steps below for completing the IDFPR Application for Licensure for the LSW license:
Download the IDFPR application: https://idfpr.illinois.gov/content/dam/soi/en/web/idfpr/renewals/apply/forms/sw.pdf
Part I, A | Check the box if you any of the options apply to you.
Part I, B | Profession Name: Licensed Social Worker / Profession Code: 150 / Licensure Method: Non-Examination / Fee: $50.00
Part I, C | Select the box that applies to you.
Part II | Complete your contact information. Please note if any of the supporting information you will be required to provide (like college transcripts) will be different than the name you provide in this section; you will also need to include in your application proof of your name change.
Part III | Complete sections 1–6 with your high school and college information. Skip section 7.
Part IV | List all previous licenses you have had including related licenses and the state where you acquired the license. If you have never previously had a social work license or related license, mark this section with “N/A.”
Part V | You must include all previous attempts and requested information in this section at this time. NASW-IL is currently advocating for this section to be removed for LSWs; however, until we receive guidance from the department, we recommend you still complete this section in full. If you have never taken the ASWB exam for the LSW, mark this section with “N/A.”
Part VI | Answer all questions regarding your personal history.
Part VII | Skip this section.
Part VIII | You must answer each question in this section.
Part IX | Sign and date the document.
Don't forget to write your name, social security number, and “Licensed Social Worker” on the right-hand border of your application where requested.
Supporting Documents: All supporting documents are included with the IDFPR application: https://idfpr.illinois.gov/content/dam/soi/en/web/idfpr/renewals/apply/forms/sw.pdf
If your name differs on any supporting document than what you provided in Part II of the application, you must include proof of name change (marriage license, divorce, court orders, etc.).
If you selected yes to any question in Part V of the application, include signed written statements, supporting documents, and/or certificates as requested.
CCA / Health Care Workers Charged with or Convicted of Criminal Acts
Complete sections 1, 2, and 4.
Check the box next to “Licensed Social Workers”
Answer questions 1–4. If you select yes to any of these questions, you will need to provide the requested documentation.
Sign, date, and include your e-mail address.
ED / Certification of Education
Complete sections 1–8 (#5 = Licensed Social Worker, Code 150)
Sign and date the form.
Give this form to your school to complete, sign, and return to you. Then include in your application.
VE-SW Form / Verification of Employment/Experience (Only complete this form if your highest social work degree is a BSW.)
Complete sections 1–10 (#5 = Licensed Social Worker, Code 150)
Have your supervisor complete the rest of the document, sign it, and return to you to include with your application.
CT Form / Certification by Licensing Agency/Board (Only complete this form if you have a license in social work in another state and wish to transfer it)
Once you have completed your application, gathered all supporting documents and the application fee, and mail everything to IDFPR to the address listed on their application.