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New Mexico Social Work Licensing Requirements

New Mexico is a southwestern state steeped in rich culture. With a population just over 2 million, it offers many opportunities for social workers to practice in both city and rural environments. It is important to understand the various paths to education and social work practice licensure. Regulated by the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department, the State Board of Social Work Examiners (the “Board”) offers different levels for you to achieve a successful career in social work.

How to Become a Social Worker in New Mexico

Educational Paths

Every state has varying requirements for the practice of social work. In New Mexico, there are two educational paths to becoming a licensed social worker. In the state of New Mexico, you must be licensed to practice social work or call yourself a “social worker.” Below you will find a description of these two educational paths available to you.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

The bachelor’s degree in social work, or BSW, is most often the entry point for becoming a social worker and the minimum degree required in New Mexico for licensure. BSW programs are generally four-year degree programs that provide beginning knowledge and coursework in human behavior, social policy, and research. Specific coursework in assessments, intervention, case management, advocacy and community organization is typical. BSWs will also have supervised practicum programs where they practice their knowledge and skills in a supportive environment to give them real-world experiences during their training. As of December 2015, New Mexico has three BSW programs accredited by the CSWE.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

In the field of social work a master’s degree in social work, or MSW, is considered the terminal degree for the field. As an MSW in New Mexico, you may be licensed as licensed master social worker. MSW programs are typically two-year programs unless you have a BSW and meet the requirements for advanced standing, then you may qualify for a one year MSW program. An MSW may specialize in either direct or indirect services. MSW programs focus on the application of social work theory and knowledge to restore or enhance functioning of individuals, couples, families and communities. MSWs receive comprehensive training in assessment, evaluation, treatment planning and implementation, counseling, supervision, program administration and policy development. MSW programs require fieldwork giving the MSW an opportunity to integrate learning and practice. The CSWE has accredited three master’s in social work programs in New Mexico as of December 2015.

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in New Mexico

Based upon your education, training, and desired career path, New Mexico offers three levels of licensure. Professional social work applications are reviewed by the New Mexico Board of Social Work Examiners and licenses are issued by the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department. The Board offers four licenses to social workers: licensed bachelor of social work (LBSW), licensed master social worker (LMSW), licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) and licensed independent social worker (LISW). Each license has specific requirements the social worker must meet. Below are the requirements for social work licenses in New Mexico.

Licensed Bachelor of Social Work (LBSW)

This is the beginning entry point for social workers in New Mexico. This licensure requires successful completion of a bachelor of social work (BSW) from a CSWE accredited program. The LBSW affords the social worker the opportunity to begin working as a professional social worker under the supervision of a master’s level social worker.

1. Submit your application.

The first step in becoming an LBSW in New Mexico will be to complete a application for licensure and submit all required documents, along with the fee ($75 as of December 2015). The application will need to be notarized. Included in your application packet should be the following:

  • Official transcripts sent directly from the university or college where you obtained your BSW
  • Two personal character references
  • 2×2 photograph taken within the preceding six months

2. Take and pass the Jurisprudence Exam.

This exam is included in your application packet and requires a passing score of 70%. The exam is based on the rules and laws regarding licensure in the State of New Mexico. Applicants are referred to the social work rules and laws for guidance in answering the questions.

3. Take and pass the ASWB bachelors exam.

Schedule your ASWB bachelor’s level exam once you receive your provisional license (which is good for up to 12 months) from the Board.You may register for your exam online. ASWB fees are $230 as of December 2015. The ASWB bachelor’s level exam is a 170-question, multiple choice test. Candidates who are unable to pass the exam the first time are able to retake the exam after 90 days and will be required to submit the fee.

4. Pass the required coursework.

If you have taken the New Mexico Cultures course and it is listed on your official transcript you do not need to take any further steps. Additionally if you have already taken and passed the New Mexico Cultures Exam, you may simply provide proof to the Board. If you still need to take the course you may take the three credit course in New Mexico Cultures or a Board approved course or seminar.

5. Receive your LBSW license from the Board.

Once you have successfully completed each of the above steps, you will receive your LBSW license and be qualified to practice social work in the state of New Mexico.

Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)

This LMSW will have general preparation as a social worker and in addition will have specialization in either direct clinical work or indirect services in the field. At this level the LMSW may provide diagnostic, preventive and treatment services. The LMSW must work under the supervision of an LCSW/LISW to obtain the next level of licensing. First, a prospective LMSW needs an MSW from a CSWE accredited program. Once the educational requirement has been met, the following steps will be completed:

1. Submit your application to the Board.

The first step in becoming an LMSW will be to complete an application for licensure along with the fee ($100 as of December 2015). Included in your application should be official transcripts sent directly from the university or college where you obtained your MSW, two personal character references, a 2×2 photograph taken within the preceding six months. Remember that your application will need to be notarized.

2. Take and pass the Jurisprudence Exam.

This exam is included in your application packet and requires a passing score of 70%. The exam is based on the rules and laws regarding licensure in the State of New Mexico. Applicants can review the the social work rules and laws for guidance in answering the questions.

3. Pass the required coursework.

If you have taken the New Mexico Cultures course and it is listed on your official transcript you do not need to take any further steps. Additionally if you have already taken and passed the New Mexico Cultures Exam, you may simply provide proof to the Board. If you still need to take the course you may take the three-credit course in New Mexico Cultures or a Board approved course or seminar.

4. Take and pass the ASWB masters exam.

Schedule the master’s level ASWB exam once you receive your provisional license (which is good for up to 12 months) from the Board. ASWB fees are $230 as of December 2015.

5. Receive your LMSW license from the Board.

Once all of the above steps have been completed, you will receive your license from the Board.

Licensed Clinical Independent Social Worker (LCSW) / Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW)

The LCSW and the LISW are both designated as independent levels of practice and having specialized knowledge either in the area of direct clinical practice or in indirect areas such as research and administration. All candidates must first possess an LMSW, so they must have received a minimum of an MSW from a CSWE accredited program in order to become an LCSW or LISW. The LCSW candidate may request designation as a clinical social worker, school social worker, or medical social worker. The LISW candidate may request a specialty as a social work researcher, social work community organizer or social work administrator. The Board may choose to designate a specialty on a case-by-case basis. Both licenses require 3,600 hours of supervised practice during a two- to five-year period.

1. Accumulate the required experience.

LICSW/LISW candidates must have 3,600 hours of supervised experience in no less than two years since receiving their LMSW. The New Mexico Board mandates that candidates accumulate and document 90 hours of supervision during the 3,600 required practice hours.

2. Complete your application.

Once you have acquired the necessary experience, the next step is to complete your application for licensure along with the fee ($125 as of December 2015). The application requires submission of two personal character references, official transcripts, and an original 2×2 photograph of the applicant taken within the preceding six months. Provide documentation on the Verification of Supervision form, of the supervision requirement met of a minimum of one hour of supervision for every 40 hours worked and a minimum of 90 hours of supervision total. Once your application has been approved, the Board will send you a provisional license, allowing you to practice while preparing for your ASWB exam.

3. Take and pass the ASWB advanced generalist or clinical exam.

Schedule your ASWB exam once you receive your provisional license (which is good for up to 12 months) from the Board. ASWB fees are $260 as of December 2015. Prospective LISWs will take the ASWB advanced generalist exam and prospective LCSWs will take the clinical level exam.

4. Receive your LISW/LCSW from the Board.

Once the required experience has been accumulated and all other requirements have been met, the Board will send you your license and you can begin practicing social work independently.

Social Work License Reciprocity in New Mexico

New Mexico offers reciprocity for bachelor, masters, and independent social worker levels. This is also termed “licensure by credentials” in New Mexico. Social workers wishing to apply for reciprocity need to be currently licensed for a minimum of five years in good standing and must have passed the ASWB exam for the level of licensure sought. In addition, they must have obtained their respective BSW or MSW from a CSWE accredited program. Applicants for reciprocity will need to provide verification of having completed a three-credit-hour course on New Mexico cultures and have passed the jurisprudence exam with a grade of 70% or better. For additional details on reciprocity see the frequently asked questions section of the New Mexico Board of Social Work Examiners website.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

All permanent licenses at all levels (LBSW, LMSW, and LCSW/LISW) renew on July 1st each year. The fees for renewal (as of December 2015) are $100 for LBSWs, $150 for LMSWs, and $200 for LCSWs/LISWs. Thirty hours of continuing education is required every two years. Six of the 30 hours must be in the subject area of cultural awareness. Proof of participation in or presentation of continuing education activity must be submitted with the license renewal request if the licensee is audited. All continuing education hours must be earned during the current two-year renewal period of July 1 through June 30.

All continuing education (CE) must be approved by the New Mexico Board of Social Work Examiners. The Board accepts all CE approved by the following organizations: NASW, ASWB, NBCC, NM Counseling and Therapy Board, and the New Mexico Psychology Board (December 2015).

New Mexico Social Work Jobs and Salary Information

The State of New Mexico employs 4,210 social workers who earn an average salary of $44,867.50.1 New Mexico social work jobs are expected to increase by 14.25% between 2012 and 2022, with the largest growth potential in healthcare social worker jobs.1 In Albuquerque, New Mexico’s largest city, most of the social workers are employed in child, family and school social work (640).2 According to Projections Central, New Mexico is expecting an increase in all four areas of social work practice through 2022. The most notable job growth projected for healthcare social workers (21.5% increase) and child, family and school social workers (21.2% increase).3

Type Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 1,670 $41,970
Healthcare Social Workers 1,110 $48,270
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 750 $39,920
Social Workers, All Other 680 $49,310

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2014.

Social Work Associations in New Mexico

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: How long is a provisional license valid?

Answer: A provisional license is valid for one year from the date of issue.

Question: How do I document the supervision and post graduate social work experience hours?

Answer: The supervisor(s) must fill out the appropriate form and submit directly to the Board. This information is listed on pages 5 and 6 of the application for licensure. A separate form should be submitted by each supervisor.

Question: Can I take the ASWB clinical exam before I complete my 3,600 hours of supervision?

Answer: No. The application including the verifications of supervision must be completed before you can get approval to take the exam.

References:
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, New Mexico: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nm.htm#21-0000
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2015 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Albuquerque, New Mexico: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_10740.htm
3. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm