What’s an LBSW? Learn How to Become a Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker

Written by Rebecca Munday
Last Updated: July 2023

If you want to start your social work career before you get a master's degree in social work (MSW), consider becoming a licensed baccalaureate social worker (LBSW). With an LBSW license, you can pursue entry-level positions and practice macro social work. Find out what you can do with an LBSW license, how much you can make, and how to become one.

What Is a Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker?

A licensed baccalaureate social worker (LBSW) is a licensed social worker who earned a bachelor's degree in social work (BSW) and can practice at the macro level. This license is not available in all states, but you may find entry-level positions in social work as an unlicensed BSW graduate.

As an LBSW, you gain entry-level experience and support the work of licensed master social workers (LMSW) and licensed clinical social workers (LCSW). Your responsibilities could include managing case files, researching and advocating for resources to help clients, and following up with clients to ensure their situations improve.

LBSW Responsibilities

  • Identify populations in need of social services
  • Assess clients' situations to help make an intervention plan
  • Advocate for community services and policy changes
  • Manage crises and assess safety
  • Refer clients to community resources to improve their situations

Traits of an LBSW

  • Empathy
  • Advocacy
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Organization

Workplaces for an LBSW

  • Individual and family services
  • Elementary and secondary schools
  • Local governments
  • State governments
  • Correctional facilities

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How to Become an LBSW

Prepare to spend about four years to become an LBSW. Most of that time involves earning a BSW. Then, you take the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) bachelor's exam, apply for licensure, and pay the necessary fees.

  1. Complete a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) Degree: BSW programs explore human behavior and the social environment, social welfare policy, and research methods in social work. You complete at least 400 hours of fieldwork experience in generalist social work and learn how to manage large caseloads.
  2. Pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Bachelor's Exam: You need to pay $230 to take the bachelor's exam with the ASWB. The bachelor's exam covers assessment, interventions with clients and client systems, and human behavior and the social environment. The ASWB's exam guide provides information on what the bachelor's exam covers.
  3. Fill out License Application and Pay the Fees: After passing the bachelor's exam, check with your state's licensing board to ensure you can apply for licensure. Some states require additional coursework or a jurisprudence exam before you apply for the license. Once you complete your state's requirements, fill out an application and pay the fee.
  4. Consider Becoming a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW): If you become an LMSW, you can earn higher pay and gain more responsibility than an LBSW. These responsibilities may include supervising social workers, creating and implementing community programs, and completing supervised clinical experience to become an LCSW.

LBSW Salary and Career Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 9% job growth for all social workers between 2021 and 2031. You can make an average of over $21 per hour as a BSW graduate, according to Payscale data from July 2023. This hourly wage adds up to about $56,000 per year.

Location and work setting can influence your salary as a social worker. States, such as California, Connecticut, and New York, pay social workers at all license levels more than the national average. However, these states also have some of the country's highest living costs.

You may also earn more than average if you work for state or local governments, individual and family services, or ambulatory care services. Social workers who work in local government make about $31 per hour, according to BLS data from May 2022.

Frequently Asked Questions about Becoming an LBSW

What is required to become an LBSW?

The requirements to become an LBSW depend on your state. Typically, you need a BSW degree, a passing score on the ASWB bachelor's exam, a passing grade in the required courses for your state, a completed license application, and an application fee.

How long does it take to become an LBSW?

It takes about four years to become an LBSW. You spend four years of full-time study earning your bachelor's degree in social work (BSW). Then, you need to pass the ASWB bachelor's exam, apply for licensure, and pay the application fee.

What can you do with an LBSW license?

With an LBSW license, you can work as a victim advocate, case manager, community service worker, care coordinator, research assistant, or policy analyst. Your responsibilities as an LBSW could include advocating for policy change and community services, managing crises, assessing client needs, managing case files, and connecting clients to resources they need.

How much does an LBSW make?

BSW graduates, including LBSWs, make an average annual salary of $56,000 per year, according to Payscale data from July 2023. This annual salary comes out to about $21 per hour. Your work setting, skills, and location may influence how much you earn.