How to Become a Social Worker in Oregon

Last updated in November 2023.

You’ve decided to pursue a career in social work: what’s next? This guide will help you navigate the process of becoming a social worker in the state of Oregon.

How to become a social worker in Oregon flowchart

As you can see from this flowchart, there are four distinct social work credentials in Oregon with increasing training requirements and levels of independence: Registered Baccalaureate Social Worker (RBSW), Licensed Master of Social Work (LMSW), Clinical Social Work Associate (CSWA), and Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW).

The minimum requirements to become an registered baccalaureate social worker in Oregon are to complete an accredited bachelor of social work (BSW) program, pass a bachelors-level Association of Social Work Boards (AWSB) exam, and pay a licensing fee. The other three social work credentials require additional training and experience.

Becoming A Social Worker

  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).


  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, not just anyone can call themselves a social worker, even if they hold a BSW or MSW. Qualified individuals must 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). The Oregon Board of Licensed Social Workers defines clinical social work as the assessment, diagnosis or treatment of mental, emotional or behavioral disorders or conditions.

    Learn more about social work regulations in various jurisdictions outside of Oregon

  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.

  4. Evaluate Your Options

    Social work licensure 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. The board requires all applicants to participate in a nationwide, fingerprint-based criminal background check

    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. Oregon has fewer than 100 RBSWs.

    You must pass (with a score of 70% 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% 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% 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.

    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% or higher)

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

Social Work Programs at George Fox University

If you're interested in becoming a social worker in Oregon, George Fox can help you make it happen with one of our CSWE-accredited programs: