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New York Social Work Licensing Requirements

New York is the fourth most populous state in the country, but has the second-highest number of social workers in all categories including child, family, and school social workers, health care social workers, and mental health and substance abuse social workers.1,2,3,4 For anyone interested in a career in the field of social work, New York is a promising place to start.

To become a social worker in New York, you must follow the specific educational paths and meet the standards set by the state. In New York social workers are governed by the New York State Education Department Office of the Professions (NYSEDOP). The process and requirements for becoming a social worker in New York are outlined below.

How to Become a Social Worker in New York

Educational Paths

There are two formal levels of social worker in the state of New York that require licensure, which are delineated by level of education and licensing. Anyone with a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) may begin working in entry-level positions as a social worker; no licensing is required. With a master’s of social work degree (MSW), you can apply for licensing as a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW). With an MSW and three years of post-graduate, supervised experience, you can apply for licensing as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). Only an LCSW can practice clinical social work, or psychotherapy, with clients independently and without supervision.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

You can begin practicing as a social worker in New York with a bachelor’s degree, although you may be restricted to entry-level positions and will only be able to provide some services under the supervision of an LCSW or LMSW. With a BSW you can look for work in many social work settings and provide services such as community organizing, lobbying, patient advocacy, or social services. You can also use a BSW education to pursue a career in public policy, in non-profit organizations, or in law. A bachelor’s level education from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) will prepare you to work in these fields with coursework focused on foundational topics like human behavior, social policies, psychology, and diversity, as well as hands-on experience working in the field with supervision.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

Although you can get right to work in New York in a social work career with a BSW, an MSW will open the door to more career opportunities as well as well as the chance to become a licensed social worker. You may choose to pursue an MSW having completed a bachelor’s degree in another subject, but if you have a BSW first you may be eligible for “advanced standing.” This means that some of your BSW coursework may count toward credits in an MSW program and allows you to complete the advanced degree in just one year instead of the typical two year period. In New York, once you have earned an MSW, you can apply for licensing as an LMSW or go for the required supervised experience that will allow you to apply for licensing as an LCSW. CSWE-accredited MSW programs include advanced academic coursework in social work topics as well as supervised field experience.

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in New York

You do not have to be licensed to work as a social worker in New York. However, employment opportunities for unlicensed social workers are limited to entry-level and non-clinical work. It is important that you have an understanding of the kind of position you want before deciding on a path to becoming a social worker. As an LMSW, you will have far more opportunities than you would as an unlicensed social worker, but only by achieving licensure as an LCSW will you be able to work unsupervised in a clinical setting.

Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)

To become an LMSW in New York, you must first earn an MSW from a program accredited by the CSWE. The program must include 900 hours of field education as well as coursework in the following areas:

  • Diversity, social justice, and at-risk populations
  • Foundation and advanced social work practice
  • Human behavior in the social environment
  • Social welfare policy and service delivery
  • Social work practice evaluation and research
  • Social work values and ethics

You must also complete and pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) masters examination. To apply for licensure, you must submit graduate school transcripts, ASWB examination scores, and a $294 licensing fee*. You must also have completed training in how to identify and report child abuse.

*As of October 2015.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

The requirements for becoming a licensed clinical social worker in New York include all the requirements for being an LMSW in addition to the following:

  • 12 credit hours of clinical coursework during the MSW program
  • Three years of post-graduate supervised clinical experience in diagnosis, psychotherapy, and treatment
  • A passing score on the ASWB clinical examination

There are restrictions on what can count for the three years of post-graduate experience required to qualify for licensing as a clinical social worker. Generally, candidates from LCSWs must obtain their LMSW and register to practice as an LMSW before gaining supervised work experience toward higher licensure. Supervised experience must include training in diagnosis, psychotherapy and assessment-based treatment planning and take place in a clinical social work and psychotherapy authorized setting. This could be in a private practice, a hospital or clinic, a public school, or a residential home. Two types of experience were recently questioned and found to be unsuitable by the Committee on the Professions (COP):

  1. Experience in a private practice owned by the LMSW seeking clinical licensure
  2. Any setting in which the supervising LCSW was an employee of the LMSW seeking clinical licensure

The COP decided that these two situations are not acceptable for the required experience for becoming an LCSW. If, however, the experience began before February 2, 2009, and was concluded by February 2, 2015, it counts towards the three-year requirement. Any experience that falls under these two categories and outside of the time period does not count. Because of these restrictions, applicants for clinical social work licensing must submit an Attestation of Supervised Clinical Practice that describes the setting, the supervisor’s relationship to the applicant, and the time period during which the experience took place.

Social Work License Reciprocity in New York

There is no reciprocity for an LMSW in New York; however, if you hold a license from another state you may qualify for the master licensing if you meet all the requirements, which includes passing the ASWB masters exam. There is reciprocity for LCSWs in New York. If you have been certified as a clinical social worker in another state and have completed at least ten years of practice within the last 15 years, you qualify for licensing in New York.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

Both clinical and master social work licenses must be renewed in New York every three years (triennially). Both LMSWs and LCSWs must complete 36 hours of approved continuing education courses. No more than 12 of those hours per three-year period can be self-study. The regular renewal fee is $179 as of October 2015. New licensees are exempt from the continuing education requirement for the first three years of licensure.

New York Social Worker Jobs and Salary Information

Jobs in the field of social work are increasing in number across the country and in New York.5 There are more than 55,000 social workers employed in the state, with the largest number, 22,690, working as child, family, and school social workers.6 New York ranks second in all categories of social work with the second largest number of healthcare social workers, child, family, and school social workers, mental health and substance abuse social workers, and those categorized as “other.”2,3,4

New York is expected to see growth in all areas of social work careers, but healthcare social work will see the most new jobs added with an expected increase of 24.8% through 2022. 5 Mental health and substance abuse social work is the next fastest-growing field with projected growth of 12.2% between now and 2022.5 With all categories of social work considered, there will be approximately 1,870 new jobs for social workers in New York each year from now through 2022.5

Type Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 22,690 $55,830
Healthcare Social Workers 11,540 $58,950
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 10,770 $54,090
Social Workers, All Other 9,500 $59,930

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2014.6

Social Work Associations in New York

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Do I have to be licensed to practice social work in New York?

Answer: No. You can start working as a social worker after earning a bachelor’s degree in social work or master’s degree in social work and without being licensed as an LCSW or LMSW. Many jobs in social work do require licensing though, and only those with LCSW standing can practice clinical work without supervision.

Question: When can I take the ASWB test for licensing?

Answer: You must have your MSW program completed before you can register and take the ASWB masters examination for licensing as a master social worker or the Clinical examination for licensing as a clinical social worker.

Question: Is there a fee to take the ASWB examinations?

Answer: Yes, the fee to take the ASWB masters examination is $230 and the fee for the Clinical examination is $260. Because of the cost, it is in your best interest to study and pass the test the first time you take it.

Question: Do I need to be obtain my LMSW before I can begin working toward my LCSW?

Answer: Yes. In New York, you typically must be licensed and registered to practice as a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) to obtain qualifying supervised experience for licensure as an LCSW.

Question: What are some examples of acceptable experience for the three-year requirement for licensing as an LCSW?

Answer: The state says that the three years of supervised experience must take place in a setting in which clinical social work and psychotherapy have been authorized. This could be in a private practice, a hospital or clinic, a public school, or a residential home. The supervised experience must include training in diagnosis, psychotherapy and assessment-based treatment planning.

References:
1. US Census Bureau Quick Facts, New York: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045216/36,36111,00
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2014, Child, Family, and School Social Workers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211021.htm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2014, Healthcare Social Workers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211022.htm
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2014, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211023.htm
5. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
6. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, New York: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ny.htm