How to Become a Social Worker in Oregon

Published in March 2020

You’ve identified the fact you want to pursue a career in social work. What’s next? Following is a guide to help you navigate the process of becoming a social worker in the state of Oregon.

How to become a social worker in Oregon flowchart

Step 1: Determine Your Career Goals

The first step is to decide what level of social work you want to gain employment. Are you content to be a case manager, performing needs assessments for individuals and/or families, and serving as a liaison between clients and the resources they need? If so, a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) will suffice.

If, however, you want to expand your options and find employment in a wider range of venues – including hospitals, schools, mental health clinics, private nonprofits, courts, prisons and veteran’s administration facilities – a master’s degree in social work (MSW) is required.

For those who want to open their own social work practice, working independently and without the need of supervision, you must earn an MSW and successfully pass a national licensure test and apply with the state to become a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW).

Step 2: Plot Your Path

Once you determine your career goals, plan accordingly. As part of that process, familiarize yourself with the regulations associated with social work practice.

Here are some guidelines to keep in mind:

  • You cannot be a social worker in Oregon without either a bachelor’s or master’s degree from an institution accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)
  • You may earn a bachelor’s degree in another field (i.e., sociology, psychology, etc.) and a master’s degree in social work to pursue a career in social work
  • In Oregon, you cannot legally call yourself a “social worker” – even if you hold a BSW or MSW – unless you apply with the state. Out-of-state licenses may not transfer.
  • You may find employment as a social worker with a master’s degree, but you cannot practice clinical social work unless you are registered with the state and are either a clinical social work associate (CSWA) or a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW)

Step 3: Educate Yourself

The BSW

Step three in the process is to pursue a degree in the field. You may enroll in a traditional four-year institution with a CSWE-accredited social work program, or earn an associate’s degree at a two-year institution and transfer to a four-year college or university with a CSWE-accredited program to complete your studies. Upon completion of your degree, you will hold a bachelor of social work (BSW).

The MSW

Once you’ve earned your BSW, you may stop there or pursue your education further by applying for admission to a master of social work (MSW) program. This is typically a two-year degree. Some schools, however, offer an advanced standing program that allows you to complete your master’s degree in nine to 14 months if you have completed a BSW degree from a CSWE-accredited program.

Advanced standing standards vary from school to school, but admission is typically determined by grades (most institutions require a minimum of a 3.0 GPA at the undergraduate level), references, and a favorable evaluation of a student’s internship experiences. At the undergraduate level, students must complete 400 hours of internship experiences to meet the minimum accreditation standard.

Step 4: Evaluate Your Options

Social work licensing in Oregon is overseen by the Oregon Board of Licensed Social Workers (BLSW), whose website offers the most up-to-date information about social work licensing in Oregon.

Non-Clinical Licenses

How to Become a Registered Baccalaureate Social Worker (RBSW) in Oregon

You may find that a BSW meets your career goals. In this case, you must apply with the state for a non-clinical license called the registered baccalaureate social worker (RBSW), allowing you to gain employment in generalist practice, the duties of which include:

  • Assessment
  • Planning
  • Intervention
  • Evaluation
  • Case management
  • Information and referral services
  • Counseling
  • Non-clinical supervision
  • Consultation
  • Advocacy
  • Community organization
  • Development and administration of policies, programs or activities

You must pass (with a score of 70 percent or higher) an Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) bachelors-level exam and pay state licensing fees to obtain your RBSW. The fee to apply in Oregon is $150.

How to Become a Licensed Master of Social Work (LMSW) in Oregon

If you want to pursue a social work career with more options, you must earn an MSW and apply for a licensed master of social work (LMSW). This allows you to perform many of the same duties as an RBSW but in a wider range of social work settings. It does not, however, allow you to do clinical assessment or set up your own independent social work practice.

You must pass (with a score of 70 percent or higher) an Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) masters-level exam and pay state licensing fees to obtain your LMSW. The fee to apply in Oregon is $200.

Clinical Licenses

How to Become a Clinical Social Work Associate (CSWA) in Oregon

The first step toward clinical licensure is to apply for a clinical social work associate (CSWA). You may do so after earning an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program and earning a passing score (70 percent or higher) on the national exam.

Upon completion, you may conduct clinical social work practice, but only under supervision. Among the places you may find employment as a CSWA are:

  • Hospitals
  • VA facilities
  • Mental health agencies
  • Private practice (under supervision)
  • Department of Human Resources agencies
  • Child welfare agencies
  • Courts
  • Prisons
  • Hospice organizations

In Oregon, the application fee for a CSWA is $260. You may also apply for a temporary CSWA if you are not planning to practice in Oregon and you simply need to take the clinical exam to qualify for the LCSW, or you need a CSWA designation to apply for a specific job. The fee for a temporary CSWA is also $260.

How to Become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in Oregon

The most advanced level of social work practice is the licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). With this designation, you are eligible to practice independently and gain employment in a wide range of settings.

With an LCSW, you may:

  • Open your own social work practice
  • Provide independent (unsupervised) clinical treatment in a wide range of settings

In Oregon, you qualify for the LCSW if:

  • You are currently or previously licensed in another state
  • You meet the following LCSW requirements:
    • MSW degree from a CSWE-accredited program
    • 3,500 hours of clinical practice experience (and 2,000 of those hours are with a direct client)
    • 100 hours of supervision (with at least 50 being on an individual basis)
    • Minimum of 24 months of supervised experience
    • Passed the ASWB clinical-level exam (with a score of 70 percent or higher)

In Oregon, the cost to apply for a LCSW is $460.