Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors Licensure Guide

The purpose of the State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors Guide is to provide transparency, inform applicants of expected timelines for receiving your license, and outline steps you can take to reduce mistakes and mitigate delays. To provide the greatest clarity on the licensing process from start to finish, we will break it down into three phases, providing estimated times for each stage of the process, and recommendations for how to reduce processing times.

Social Work license by Examination (SW):

​The primary way to receive a Social Work license in PA by examination is to hold a Bachelors in Social Work (BSW) degree from a Coucil on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited school, and passed the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Bachelor's Examination.  To receive the next level of social work license, one must hold a Masters in Social Work (MSW) degree from ​a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited school, and pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Master’s Examination.

A licensed social worker (SW):

  • Holds a minimum of a bachelor's or master’s degree in social work or social welfare (for BSW or LSW licenses);
  • Has a special knowledge of social resources, human personality and capabilities and therapeutic techniques; and
  • Uses that knowledge to help people to achieve adequate and productive personal, interpersonal and social adjustments in their individual lives, in their families or in their communities.

Initial Social Work Licensure Phases and Timeline

  1. Social Work applications are processed in the order they are received. An individual may be made eligible to take the ASWB Master’s Examination when they are in their final semester. When you are made eligible for the ASWB Master’s Examination, you will receive an e-mail approval letter from the Board on how to register with ASWB.

  2. An official state criminal history record check (CHRC) is required from your current state of residence. For applicants living, working, or completing training in Pennsylvania, your CHRC will be generated automatically as part of your application and the required fee will be included at checkout.

    • In addition to the background check from your current state of residence, you will need to submit official state CHRCs from every state where you have lived, worked, or completed training during the last 10 years. An FBI background check can be submitted in lieu of state checks where you previously lived, worked or trained. No record checks can be dated more than 90 days prior to the date you submit your application.

    • Any application that includes criminal history, disciplinary action in another state, etc., must be accompanied by a written explanation from you explaining the circumstances of the situation. Every page of requested documents must be submitted; partial copies are not acceptable. This includes copies of all legal or court documents, disciplinary action from another board.
  3. You are required to complete three hours of Board-approved continuing education on the topic of child abuse recognition and reporting. Learn more about Approved Child Abuse CE Providers. Confirmation of the course completion must be sent directly to the Board from the education provider. When registering for a course, please be sure to indicate that you are applying for Pennsylvania licensure to ensure your confirmation is sent to the Board.

  4. The Education Verification form should be completed by the school if you are in your final semester and want to take the ASWB Master’s Examination prior to the granting of the MSW degree. Official transcripts conferring your MSW degree will be required to be submitted directly from the school upon the conferral of the degree.

  5. Educational transcripts are required to be submitted directly from the school to the Board in order to be made eligible for the ASWB Master’s Examination if you are no longer in your final semester.

  6. License verifications are required from any states/jurisdictions where you hold or have ever held a health-related professional, license, registration, authorization, or permit to practice. Verifications are required regardless of the current status of the license.

  7. ASWB Masters examination eligibility is issued for a period of 6 months from the date of exam approval, and applicants may be required to update their documentation if an extension is required.

Process Overview

How to Apply for a Professional License in PA

Professional licensing protects the health and safety of the public from fraudulent and unethical practitioners. Fraudulent and unethical practitioners. We want the process of applying for a professional license in Pennsylvania to go as smoothly as possible..

What Happens After You Submit Your Application

Our goal is to make the professional licensing process as easy as possible while maintaining our standards to protect the public's health and safety.

  1. Sign in or create account at

  2. Select the board to apply and plain-language questions will appear to help you get started

  3. Application appears – review checklist, upload required documents, follow prompts

  4. Review all information and edit as needed

  5. Pay the required fee and your application is submitted

  6. Keep an eye on your email or get real-time updates at

Helpful Links and Next Steps:


State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors

Phone - 1 (833) DOS-BPOA
Fax - (717) 787-7769