License Portability

One of the major barriers we experience as travel social workers is licensure.  Every state has its own requirements on what's required to represent yourself as a social worker.  But, in addition to that, every hospital's accreditation may have licensure or certification requirements written into their guidelines. 

I recently finished an assignment in a Level 1 Trauma Center Emergency Department.  This ED was in a huge teaching hospital where the social work case managers were not required to be licensed, UNLESS they were working Oncology, Transplant or in the ED.  Inpatient social work case managers were allowed to have their master's degree with no additional certification or license.  When I booked the job, I was offered a few positions in the hospital, but I was most interested in the ED.  I love the pace, I love the schedule, I love what can be accomplished.

My barrier, however, was that I needed my clinical license to be approved and there were two factors affecting this: 

  1. I hold licenses in other jurisdictions and one of those jurisdictions was known for its lack of timeliness - and after several phone calls week and and week out, we determined they were in a 3 month backlog of processing official certifications.
  2. The licensing board where I was seeking the new license only meets 8 times per year to review applications.
Now, I'm in the process of seeking a license in a new state for another travel job that I just booked and I have to have 4 licenses certified from across the country in order to be considered for this next license.  One of the certifications is coming from a neighbor state and they have yet to process the paperwork. 

I don't know about you, but this it's frustrating waiting for all of this to happen.  Social Workers have no compact agreement like nurses and now physical therapy.  The compacts gives a license holder in one state to travel and work across state lines as long as those states participate in the agreement.

The ASWB is working on a license portability initiative, but it seems to be geared towards military spouses.  As of now, I don't know that they're aware of us... and we're a growing segment of the population who needs quick license transfer.  I'm a huge proponent of the ASWB Registry, and one of the main benefits is that when you need a new license, they'll request and pay for the official certifications on your behalf.  When I asked them about how this would work, they indicated to me that if I knew I was going to be moving in 2-6 months, to go ahead and start the process now.  Two to six months from now, I could need a license for an entirely new place again!!

They haven't even considered that any of us might need a license within a month or less.  What I recommend, if you're game is this:  Tell them your story.  They have a place where you can let them know why portability is important and I think they need to hear about us!

If you have a minute, please share your story here!


  1. I am confused about licensure when reviewing travel social work postings. I'm an MSW in PA whose job title is "Clinical Social Worker". I work an inpatient med/surg unit and the ED with two years post-MSW experience. I am not licensed in any way, but plan to take the intial licensure exam soon. This is where it gets confusing to me. In PA, we have license #1, the LSW (pass an exam), and license #2, the LCSW, which requires license #1, 3000+ supervised therapy hours , and pass another exam. The PA LCSW allows one to practice as an independent therapist a la an LPC. I am not required to have a license to work in an inpatient medical hospital in PA. In nearby WV, only license #1 is required. Here's my confusion: Many of the travel jobs indicate that they are seeking Licensed Clinical Social Workers or LCSW. I do see that some postings are for inpatient psych hospitals, so it would make sense for a social worker to be a licensed therapist. But is this what most hospitals are really seeking, a licensed therapist? Or are they seeking a medical social worker with an MSW and a license (LSW)? I know (from your post) that every situation is different, but I will appreciate your insights. Like what kind of license did you start out with? Thank you!!!!

    1. So, I apologize, I wasn't getting notifications of replies. Licensure is confusing because every state's laws a friggin different!

      While you may not need an LCSW to work in PA, you will 100% need an LMSW to work anywhere in NY.

      Most agencies don't know the difference, so you have to call them on it.

    2. Hello, I'm not sure if it was this post or another, but you mentioned that you have worked in several states where you did not need a SW license. I have my LMSW in Louisiana and will have LCSW shortly. Given that becoming licensed in other states seems daunting and I would like to get started ASAP, would you mind noting which states do not require licensure? (I was told that Maryland does not require licensure if you will be working there for 6 months or less. It would be EXTREMELY helpful to know if this is the case in other states and which ones. And/or which states you DEFINITELY need licensure, you know? Thanks so much!

  2. This is a smart blog. I mean it. You have an excellent knowledge about this topic. Thanks for sharing such a great blogs to us. Social Worker Jobs in Manchester

  3. This blog is very helpful, I am currently in my MSW program. I am so ready to complete my studies to get started on my travels. These license vary from state to state. Please kep up the good work on your blogging.

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