Cross State Licensing: A Journey in Patience
I moved from NYC to San Diego in 2016. I had one extra year over the clinical hour requirement, so went into the licensing process with out a fear in my mind. I was organized and ready to get my CA LCSW! I can’t express eloquently; how wrong I was. To put it mildly, the process was frustrating, slow, and disheartening. I googled for days, leading to months of trying to find out if I was the only one experiencing this total mess, and I came up dry. I wished that I had someone to talk to, for both guidance and support. Thus, part of my motivation for writing this piece is to be a guiding light to those struggling soon-to-be LCSW’s. Please keep in mind, this is just my experience, and I can’t guarantee yours will be the exact same. I’m hopeful that sharing these steps will help accelerate the process! Also, I want to note this is somewhat specific to the NYàCA LCSW process.
Unlike NY state, you can’t send in your materials one step at a time. This might sound silly, but my hours, application, and other miscellaneous paperwork was lost numerous times. The CA Board of Behavioral Science (BBS) requires you to submit everything together. You MUST pay in full with your application in order for them to create a file for you. Furthermore, your clinical hours have to be sent from your supervisor, or they will not process them. Thank goodness for the kind and patient supervisors who resent my hours 3-4 times due to loss, incorrect filing, and issues with the hours themselves.
Clinical hours have very different regulations in CA vs NY. This was the most difficult aspect of the process once my application finally was accepted. In CA they require your supervisor to be two-plus years post LCSW. Two of my supervisors would not qualify for all, or part of the hours under them. I was somewhat lucky, since I had about 500 hours over what CA required. Fortunately for me, I had enough hours, in spite of the ones they disqualified, to still move forward. However, I hit another massive issue I was paid on a 1040 for about two years of my hours. CA requires you to be paid on W2 or to have hours as a volunteer. This the step that really impacted me. It created about a 150-hour deficit, thus making me ineligible for my CA LCSW. My options were to get a job as an Associate Social Worker (ASW) to complete the final 150 hours, or go back an get my LCSW through NY State… more on this later.
There will be course work required no matter if you are fully licensed, or coming in to be licensed. I took four online classes to meet the requirements. While this wasn’t the end of the world, it was tedious and expensive. I tried to submit paperwork proving I had covered most of the topics they were saying I was missing, and I even had my graduate program submit a letter with the full course outlines. Alas, the BBS held strong and I ended up completing all of them. If you are just starting graduate school, or still have time to take extra classes, I would look at the requirements on the BBS website to see if you can try and take as many as CA courses as possible to help avoid this step.
Find a contact at the BBS. Find a contact the BBS. Find a contact at the BBS!!
Despite my process being aggravating and slow, it is crucial to have a point person that I could check in with about my status. Game Changer!
Fun fact: I called my person so often that they started to recognize my number, and would pick up saying “Hello Edie, we speak again”. The challenge of this was that they only worked two half days a week and this person was in charge of ALL out-of-state applications. Pro-Tip: It is helpful to have both their phone AND email to make it easier to connect and document your communication.
If after all of this, you end up short on hours due to the difference in regulations, don’t panic. I was in the same predicament. Unfortunately for me, I panicked, I cried (a lot), I thought about giving up and changing careers, and I was LIVID. In the end, after month 6, and hundreds of dollars, I decided to go through NY state to get my license. It cost more money, and more time but ultimately it made the most sense for me.
Due to the fact that I had gone through a lot of initial on boarding process in NY, prior to moving, my experience was pretty seamless with them. I passed (woo!!) and had the NY board send my score to the BBS. I thought I had made the finish line, but the process back in CA still wasn’t as easy as I hoped for. Since I had started my application as an unlicensed out of state candidate, there was a lot of back and forth between the boards. Eventually, it was sorted out and thanks to my frequent emails to my point person and the saved documentation of my efforts, it was streamlined. See step four again, and again. Once my score was accepted and processed, I was cleared to take my law and ethics exam- which is the final step before getting that coveted CA LCSW number. Since I had previously completed the extra course work when I originally applied, I did not have to wait for clearance on that end. After I passed my law and ethics exam, it took about three weeks to get my license.
All and all, it was close to NINE months for me to get through the process from first attempt to license in hand.
If possible, I would recommend completing all your clinical hours in CA, or that you come in with another state’s LCSW. You will still be required to take a few courses, and the law and ethics exam, but it will save you months of anxiety, aggravation, and back and forth fighting for your clinical hours.
If you are planning on doing your clinical hours out of state, make sure you following all the rules explained in Step two.
If you completed all or most of your hours out of state and they are not accepted, be prepared to have to do a separate application to get your ASW number. I chose not to go that route; my reasoning was that I figured out I should just take the NY exam.
If you are unable to take your home states exam, you could go the ASW route.
I hope this helps anyone that is thinking of moving to CA. BEST of luck and I can’t wait to have more wonderful LCSWs out here!