Registering as ASW with BBS

Desired Outcome:

Registering as an ASW (Associate Social Worker) with the BBS (Board of Behavioral Sciences) in California.  Note: The following applies for me, as I graduated from USC (University of Southern California) with a MSW (Master of Social Work) degree.  I also live and wish to work in California.

Why completing this registration is important?

Getting a job

I’ve found, in general, that being attractive to employers requires an ASW registration.  It means you can perform clinical work, under the supervision of a fully state-licensed mental healthcare worker.  The other reality, from perspective of an employer, is that an ASW can bill their services to insurance.

Continuous Learning

Between the ASW and the LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) are a series of courses that must be completed before sitting the final exam (ASWB, I think it’s called).  One course, which gets much attention, is Law and Ethics.  Even after the LCSW, it’s not over, as there are opportunities to do more learning and earn CEUs (Continuing Education Units).  The point is that the ASW continues where the MSW left off.

ASW leads to LCSW

There are different paths, and I’m on the path towards LCSW.  While my preference is Macro-focus, I recognize that having a LCSW is a solid foundation in understanding what is really happening on the frontlines.  Macro is much needed, but can also assume one really understands what’s happening before policy/programs can be created and integrated.

Private Practice autonomy

The LCSW can open doors to opening one’s own private practice.  My understanding is that most psychotherapists in the US are Social Workers.  Having a LCSW offers a lot of freedom and choice in one’s niche.  Of course, while being an ASW, you cannot have your own private practice — within the realm of ASW.  It’s OK for an ASW to work in a private practice headed by an LCSW.

Steps in the process:

Application (paper-based)

The Main Page for FAQ and forms for application for ASW.  I thought the form was very simple, short and clear.  Maybe what made it simple for me was that I didn’t have issues with last name, had graduated from a CA school, and live in CA.  The key is to fill out the form really accurately, and be consistent across all forms.  While I know the BBS are considering some automation of the process, they are currently wanting the paper form because of the “ink” signature.  Cost of Application: $150 (either check or money order).  Cost to mail: $7.65 to mail it with tracking and return signature.


The ASW registration requires transcripts from your school showing courses taken, grades, etc.  Because I still have access to the myUSC portal to USC, it was really easy to request the transcript.  The BBS have the option of the school sending electronically to an email address – that’s cheaper and faster.  While I could see my courses/grades online, the transcript still has to come directly from the school to (in this case) the BBS.  Cost: $12 for a PDF transcript.

Fingerprints (LiveScan)

Because we’re (theoretically) coming out of COVID-19, as of today – August 4, 2021 – I had some challenges finding a location that has LiveScan and can schedule.  My goal was to get the LiveScan appointment soon than later.  I could have sent the application first, waited for LiveScan, and then sent the results later.  But, my goal was to get everything done all at once.  Good thing is that Morro Bay Police Department had an opening today, so I got everything done today and mailed everything today to BBS.  LiveScan is the preference because the fingerprints are immediately sent to, in my case, Sacramento for background check processes.  I was told that, because I’ve done LiveScan before, that the turnaround maybe faster.  The agent said that it could take from 1 day to about a week to complete.  Note: Keep in mind the costs can vary by location and agency.  Cost: $84 ($49 plus $35).

Law and Ethics course and exam

When the ASW is registered and processed, then the first course is Law and Ethics.  This will be covered more in a different post, but here’s some general info:

  • If you graduate from a California school, and are registering with BBS in California, then (according to CSWE) the MSW program included the coursework for Law and Ethics, and you don’t have to do the course.  You can fast-track and just do the exam.
  • Must be taken within a year of registration
  • Must be taken (for each year you re-register) – not necessarily passed
  • But…  if you fail it, then you have to do some 12 hour course before taking it again.
  • After several years (in the 6th year, I think) you must pass it in order to get a new registration number – which carries over all your hours.
  • Bottom line: Pass it first time in first year.
  • I had purchased a course from the NASW on the topic.  I’ll be going through that in detail within different page/blogposts.
  • There are various programs (e.g. TDC) that are exam prep courses for ideally passing first time.  I’ve seen this cost around $265 for the course.


As of 20210804, now I wait.  The paperwork has been mailed; the fingerprints have been submitted, the transcripts have been emailed by now, and I’m just now short of a couple hundred dollars…

20211002 Update:  It took 30 days for the check to clear.  Day one is when check cleared (9/7/21).  Because of short staffing (COVID related) it can take up to 60 days to process.  That means it may be early November, 2021.  I’ve linked my email address with my BBS record, so I can review progress within CA Breeze.




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