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North Dakota Social Work Licensing Requirements

With one of the lowest population densities across the United States, North Dakota is home to approximately 672,000 people.1 Along with many other geographical points of interest in the state, the name “Dakota” has a Native American origin. It is a Sioux word meaning “friend” or “ally.” Since 1983, the North Dakota Board of Social Work Examiners has been licensing social workers and currently three types of licensing are possible depending on your education and experience. To be eligible for North Dakota social work jobs and use the term “social worker” in your title, you must follow one of the paths below.

How to Become a Social Worker in North Dakota

Educational Paths

The minimum degree required for social work jobs in North Dakota is a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW). It is also possible to enter the profession and work in generalist social work jobs by obtaining a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. If you are specifically interested in clinical social worker jobs in North Dakota or private practice, you will need to obtain an MSW or a Doctorate of Social Work (DSW) degree.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

The BSW program takes four years to complete full-time. This degree enables you to apply as a licensed social worker (LSW) and practice generalist social work with individuals, groups, families, and communities across North Dakota. In this program, you will take courses on psychology, social welfare, policy and human behavior, and complete at least one supervised field placement. As of January 2016, three universities offered BSW programs accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) in North Dakota – Minot State University, University of Mary, and the University of North Dakota.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

Entrance into an MSW program usually requires a bachelor’s degree in any field and takes two years to complete. However, the University of North Dakota is currently the only school offering a CSWE-accredited MSW program in North Dakota and requires a BSW for entry. This program can be completed in one year on a full-time basis, or longer on a part-time basis. Courses include advanced generalist theory and skills for practice with individuals, families and communities. It is also possible to include an independent study project. This degree will enable you to apply as a licensed certified social worker (LCSW) and/or a licensed independent clinical social worker (LICSW). If you have a bachelor’s degree in a field other than social work, it may be possible to complete a two-year MSW degree from a CSWE-accredited school in a different state. DSW programs are not currently accredited by the CSWE.

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in North Dakota

Regardless of which type of licensure you wish to achieve, you will need to complete some post-secondary education in social work to be eligible to apply. The LSW requires a BSW and will qualify you for generalist practice. The LCSW requires an MSW and will qualify you for advanced generalist social work jobs in North Dakota. The LICSW requires significant proof of supervised clinical practice experience, and will enable you to practice clinical social work independently, either within an organization or in private practice.

Licensed Social Worker (LSW)

The LSW is the first level of social work licensure in North Dakota. You must have a BSW from a CSWE-accredited university to apply for this license. Once you have completed or are nearing completion of your studies, you must:

1. Submit an application to the Board.

The only form required to start the licensing process is the application for licensure form. This must be sent to the Board along with a non-refundable $25 application fee*. At any point during the licensure process, you must also submit a $75 licensing fee*, three references and an official final transcript. New graduates must submit three references – one from a licensed social worker, one from a field placement or social work supervisor, and one from a social work department faculty advisor. All other candidates must submit one reference from a work supervisor and two references from licensed social workers.

*As of January 2016

2. Take and pass the ASWB bachelors exam.

Once the Board receives your complete application, you will be given permission to take the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) bachelor’s level exam. As of January 2016, the ASWB bachelor’s exam fee was $230. It is possible to take the exam in either Bismarck or West Fargo, North Dakota. If you are not successful, you will need to wait 90 days before you may retake the test. You must pass the exam within 12 months or else you will need to resubmit your application to the Board.

3. Complete a criminal history background check.

When you receive permission to take the ASWB bachelor’s exam from the Board, you will also receive the necessary forms for the criminal history background check and the child abuse and neglect background inquiry. You should complete these forms along with the fingerprint cards enclosed as soon as possible to allow time for processing; you do not need to wait to pass the exam. Fingerprinting must be completed at a police or sheriff’s office or an authorized fingerprinting company. These checks are completed at your own expense. As of January 2016, the background checks cost $42.75; however, the price for fingerprinting may vary depending on where you choose to have your fingerprinting completed. Once your forms and prints are received, it can take up to three weeks for the results.

4. Receive your LSW license.

When the Board has received all the necessary documents, including the $75 licensing fee*, three references, and your official transcript, you will receive your new LSW license in the mail. You may now apply for LSW social work jobs in North Dakota.

*As of January 2016

Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW)

To obtain an LCSW license, you must have an MSW from a CSWE-accredited university. Once you have completed or are nearing completion of your degree, you must:

1. Submit an application to the Board.

To start the licensing process for the LCSW, submit the application for licensure form supplied by the Board. This must be sent along with a non-refundable $25 application fee*. You must also submit a $75 licensing fee*, three references, and an official final transcript; however, this may be done at any point during the licensure process. New graduates must submit a reference from a licensed social worker, a reference from a field placement or social work supervisor, and a reference from a social work department faculty advisor. All other applicants must submit a reference from a work supervisor and two references from licensed social workers.

2. Pass the ASWB masters exam.

Once the Board receives your application form and $25 fee*, you will be given expressed permission to take the ASWB master’s level exam. The ASWB master’s exam fee was $230, as of January 2016. You are able to sit for the exam in either Bismarck or West Fargo, North Dakota. If you do not pass the exam, you must wait 90 days before retaking the test as per the ASWB rules. If you do not pass the exam within 12 months, you will need to resubmit your application to the Board.

3. Complete a criminal history background check.

When you receive permission from the Board to sit for the ASWB master’s exam, you will also receive forms for the Criminal History Background Check and the Child Abuse and Neglect Background Inquiry. You must complete these forms, along with the enclosed fingerprinting cards, as part of your application package. Submit these forms as soon as possible to allow time for processing; you do not need to wait to pass the exam. The fingerprint cards must be completed at either a police or sheriff’s office or by an authorized fingerprinting company. As of January 2016, the cost of the background checks was $42.75. The price for completing the fingerprint cards will vary depending on where you have your fingerprinting completed. Once these documents are received, it can take up to three weeks for the results.

4. Receive your LCSW license.

When the Board has received all the necessary documents, including the $75 licensing fee*, three references, an official transcript and your background checks, you will receive your new LCSW license in the mail. You may now apply for LCSW social work jobs in North Dakota.

*As of January 2016

Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW)

Individuals wishing to apply for clinical social worker jobs in North Dakota, or wishing to conduct private practice, must apply for the LICSW license. Applicants must have an MSW or a DSW degree from a CSWE-accredited school and significant clinical social work experience. Once you have completed your MSW or DSW degree, you must:

1. Gain the necessary experience.

After graduating with an MSW or DSW degree, you must begin to accumulate clinical social work experience. To apply for the LICSW license, you must complete 3,000 hours of supervised clinical work within a two-to-four year period. A board-approved clinical supervisor must also provide at least 150 hours of face-to-face supervision during this time period.

2. Submit an application to the Board.

Once you have accumulated the necessary clinical experience, start the licensing process by submitting the Application for Licensure form. This must be sent to the Board along with a non-refundable $25 application fee*, the MSW Verification of Supervised Practice form and the MSW Verification of Employment form. If you were not previously registered as an LCSW, you must also submit a $75 licensing fee* and an official transcript at any point during the licensing process. Unlike other types of social work licensing in North Dakota, references are not required.

3. Pass the ASWB clinical exam.

Once the Board receives your complete application and fee, you will be given permission to take the ASWB clinical exam. As of January 2016, the ASWB clinical exam fee was $260. It is possible for you to take the exam in either Bismarck or West Fargo, North Dakota. If you are not successfully, you will need to wait 90 days before you may retake the test; however you must pass the exam within 12 months or you will need to resubmit another application to the Board.

4. Complete a criminal history background check.

When you receive permission to take the ASWB clinical exam, you will also receive the necessary forms for the criminal history background check and child abuse and neglect background inquiry. Complete these forms, along with the fingerprint cards enclosed, as soon as possible to allow time for processing; do not wait to pass the exam. Fingerprinting must be completed at a police or sheriff’s office or by an authorized fingerprinting company. These checks are done at your own expense. As of January 2016, the background checks cost $42.75; however, the price for fingerprinting may vary depending on where you go to have your fingerprinting completed. Once your forms and prints are received, it can take up to three weeks for the results.

5. Receive your LICSW license.

When the Board has received all the necessary documents, you will receive your new LICSW license in the mail. You may now apply for clinical social work jobs in North Dakota.

*As of January 2016

Social Work License Reciprocity in North Dakota

The Board does offer reciprocity for out-of-state social workers. You may apply for a license by reciprocity if you wish to reinstate a North Dakota social work license after being licensed in a different state or if your license is from another state with similar licensing requirements. If you have an out-of-date license from North Dakota and have not been licensed in another state, you will need to submit a new application and retake the appropriate ASWB exam.

The steps for reciprocity are similar to those detailed above except that you do not need to submit reference forms. Instead, you must submit a License Verification Form or an official letter of licensure from each state where you were previously licensed, and the licensure rules of at least one of these states. You will still be required to complete the background checks and fingerprinting, and submit both the $25 application fee* and the $75 licensing fee*.

*As of January 2016

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

All social work licenses in North Dakota expire on December 31 of odd-numbered years. To renew a license, licensees must return a completed renewal application postmarked by November 15 of the odd-numbered year with a payment of $75*. If the application is postmarked after November 15, a late fee of $75 is added to the initial $75 fee*. If the application is not received by December 31, the license expires and a new application must be submitted to the Board.

Applicants must complete 30 hours of continuing education (CE) during each two-year period to renew their licenses. At least 20 hours must be completed through face-to-face methods, and at least two hours must address the topic of social work ethics. If you apply for a license between January 1 and June 30 of the renewal year, you only need to provide evidence of 15 hours of CE. If you apply for a license between July 1 and December 31 of the renewal year, no CE hours are required until the following renewal period. The Board does not issue provisional, retired, or inactive licenses.

*As of January 2016

North Dakota Social Work Jobs and Salary Information

Social worker jobs in North Dakota are growing steadily. In 2012, 1,380 individuals were employed as social workers.2 This number is expected to rise by 13.5% by 2022, with double-digit growth in healthcare social worker jobs (17.7%), child, family, and school social worker jobs (15.2%) and mental health and substance abuse social worker jobs (13.8%).3 “Other” types of social worker jobs in North Dakota will also increase by 7.1%.3 Currently, the average salary for North Dakota social work jobs is $47,638.3,2

Type Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 680 $47,560
Healthcare Social Workers 330 $45,450
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 220 $44,730
Social Workers, All Other 150 $52,810

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2014.2

Social Work Associations in North Dakota

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: I am currently practicing social work in a state that did not require the ASWB exam for licensing. Can I apply for reciprocity?

Answer: Unfortunately, no. Reciprocity is only available for applicants currently licensed in states with similar or more difficult licensing requirements. You will need to submit a new application and take the appropriate ASWB exam.

Question: I live in a rural area. Can I complete my CE online?

Answer: You may complete up to ten hours of your CE requirements online, however the remainder must be completed through face-to-face training, academic courses or approved workshops.

Question: Why do I need to make two separate payments to the Board during the licensing process?

Answer: The initial $25 fee is required to begin your licensing application process. You may then pay the $75 licensure fee at any point throughout the process. You will then be required to pay the $75 licensing fee every two years when you renew your license.

References:
1. United States Census 2010, Population Density: https://www.census.gov/2010census/data/apportionment-dens-text.php
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, North Dakota: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nd.htm
3. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
4. North Dakota Legislative Branch: Board of Social Work Examiners: http://www.legis.nd.gov/information/acdata/html/Title75.5.html
5. North Dakota Board of Social Work Examiners: https://www.ndbswe.com/