Requirements for social work student credentialing

Background: In 2008, the Washington legislature passed a new law to eliminate the Registered Counselor credential by 2010; as of 7/1/09 no one can apply for the old credential, which required only a high school education or equivalent and 4 hour HIV/AIDS training. For greater public protection, Substitute House Bill 2674 established more educational and supervisory requirements and eight categories of credentials that non-licensed persons could apply for if they provide counseling for a fee. This law does not affect licensed professionals. Information on the new categories is available through the WA Department of Health, Health Professionals Licensing.

Student Exemption: Under RCW 18.19.040 and WAC 246-810-011 (2), students under the supervision of an agency and university are exempt from the counselor credentialing requirements.  

WAC 246-810-011, the Exemption clause in the new law, lists several exempt activities and individuals, including students under supervision.  Others include licensed providers, peer counselors, religious counselors, and counseling by nonprofit and charitable organizations not primarily engaged in mental health provision.

Section (2) regarding student exemptions waives credentialing requirements for “the practice of counseling by an employee or trainee of any federal agency, or the practice of counseling by a student of a college or university , if the employee, trainee, or student is practicing solely under the supervision of and accountable to the agency, college, or university, through which he or she performs such functions as part of his or her position for no additional fee other than ordinary compensation.”

Agency Requirements — Most agencies which used to require students to become Registered Counselors have dropped any requirement for students to be credentialed, given the Exemption clause for students and the difficulty of qualifying for a credential under the new law.  However, the law does not preclude agencies from requiring their providers, including students, to apply for a credential, if eligible.

There are two of the eight new counselor credentials that students may qualify for under certain conditions, if required by an agency choosing to override the student exemption:

Certified Counselors — The requirements for Certified Counselor include a Bachelor's Degree in a counseling-related field, if the applicant can provide proof through transcripts that their education covered certain counseling-related coursework.  It is possible that students with BASWs and other counseling-related degrees (e.g., Psychology, Human Services) could qualify for this credential, although the intent of the law is its application to those in private practice, counseling for a fee, and NOT in school studying for an advanced degree, given the exemption clause.

If agencies require eligible students to apply for this credential, it will entail a 4 hour HIV/AIDS training prerequisite, application regarding relevant degree and coursework, prior credentialing verification, application fee of $110, documented supervision arrangement with a licensed professional, and an examination (cost $85). Further information and application forms can be found at the WA Department of Health, Health Professional Licensing.

Agency Affiliated Counselors — are defined in WAC 246.810.010(2) as "a person registered under Chapter 18.19.RCW and this chapter, who is engaged in counseling and employed by an agency registered  under WAC246.810.017 to provide a specific counseling service or services." Requirements for this credential include employment by or an offer of employment from an agency or facility identified in WAC 246-810-016 or recognized by the Secretary as an agency or facility that can employ agency affiliated counselors as identified in WAC 246-810-017. Credential Information.

There are no specific educational requirements defined in the law for this category, but an agency must verify that the applicant is employed or has an offer of employment.  It is possible that those students doing an Agency of Employment practicum may qualify for this credential, if required by the agency.  The law does not define 'employment' nor does it clarify whether students receiving stipends or work-study from an agency qualify as 'employed'.  This question was referred to the State’s Attorney General, who suggested that further rule-making would be needed to clarify these definitions in the Washington Administrative Code.

Students who are required by agencies to apply for this credential must submit an application with agency employment verification, attestation of prior HIV/AIDS training, prior credentialing verification, and a $50 fee.  For full details and an application, see the DOH website.

HIV/AIDS Training— Students qualifying for one of the credentials requiring HIV/AIDS training or in an agency which requires students to obtain HIV/AIDS training as a practicum prerequisite, should ask whether that training is provided within the agency. If not, students can view the DOH site website for a list of current trainings available in classroom, DVD, and audio/video formats.


Social Work Associate — Graduates of master’s programs in social work can apply to become Licensed Social Work Associates if they are pursuing licensure through obtaining the required supervision of their practice with a LICSW meeting the requirements for a state-approved supervisor. For more information about , go post-graduate supervision requirements and application details