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Colorado Social Work Licensing Requirements

By SocialWorkGuide.org Staff

Colorado contains more than 5.7 million people and boasts the nation's 16th-highest per capita income. Those who want to pursue a social work career in the state can become familiar with the Colorado State Board of Social Work Examiners, which regulates the state's social work field. Keep reading for information about social work licensure and careers in Colorado, including educational requirements and salary information.

In This Article

How to Become a Social Worker in Colorado

Educational Paths

In Colorado, you can explore two educational paths to become a social worker. A bachelor of social work (BSW) from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) qualifies you to work in some settings without a license. However, you need a master of social work (MSW) from a CSWE-accredited program if you wish to work as a licensed social worker (LSW).

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

A four-year BSW is the first step to becoming a social worker in Colorado. Although bachelor's-level social workers do not need to apply for licensure through the board, they must attend a CSWE-accredited BSW program. A BSW program consists of coursework that provides general knowledge of social work laws, ethics, and practices and often provides opportunities for field experience.

When you graduate with a BSW, you qualify for jobs in direct-service settings, including case and program management, with limited non-clinical counseling privileges. This degree path accelerates the master's degree work by about a year. Colorado contains four universities that offer CSWE-accredited BSW programs.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

If you wish to become an LSW in Colorado, you need an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program. Colorado features three CSWE-accredited programs. If you hold an undergraduate degree in another field, you can still enter an MSW program. However, a BSW qualifies you for advanced standing in most schools, reducing the average time to complete the degree from two years to one.

MSW coursework includes both basic and advanced generalist training and typically includes more field experience than what students experience at the bachelor's level. Some MSW programs allow you to choose a specific concentration, such as mental health, child welfare, or substance abuse.

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in Colorado

Although you may practice non-clinical, entry-level social work and use the title "social worker" in Colorado with only a BSW, the board requires you to become licensed to practice more advanced social work. Colorado offers three types of social work licenses: the LSW, the licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), and the Provisional Licensed Social Worker (SWP).

Licensed Social Worker (LSW)

In Colorado, the LSW credential allows you to provide clinical social work services under supervision while you prepare for LCSW licensure. To become an LSW, you need an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program. See below for the steps to obtain this license.

  • 1. Pass the Mental Health Jurisprudence Exam.

    Before submitting an application for licensure to the board, you must pass two exams. The first is Colorado's Mental Health Jurisprudence Examination. This open-book, untimed exam tests your knowledge of the laws and regulations related to mental health treatment in the state. The exam includes 45 multiple-choice questions and costs $20 as of April 2020. You need a scaled score of 500 to pass.

  • 2. Pass the ASWB advanced generalist or clinical exam.

    For LSW licensure, you must pass either the ASWB advanced generalist exam or clinical exam. Consider taking the clinical exam during this step, as the exam is required for LCSW licensure. Passing it at this stage helps you avoid taking a second test later. As of April 2020, these exams cost $260. You can register on ASWB's Colorado exam page.

  • 3. Complete the LSW application.

    After you have passed both required exams, you can submit an LSW application to the board through the Division of Professions and Occupations Online Services portal. For more information about the documentation you must provide for the application, see the board's LSW application checklist. As of April 2020, the LSW application costs $70.

  • 4. Receive your LSW license from the board.

    When the board reviews your application, you will receive notification if you must provide additional information. If the board deems your application complete, you will receive your LSW license. At this point, you can begin practicing clinical social work under an LCSW's supervision.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

Colorado's most advanced level of social work licensure is the LCSW, which enables you to independently practice clinical social work. Before you apply, you need an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program. If you complete your supervised post-degree experience in Colorado, you need an LSW license before beginning this process. Keep reading to review the steps for obtaining a Colorado LCSW license.

  • 1. Accumulate the required experience.

    The first step to LCSW licensure is completing 3,360 hours of supervised, post-degree clinical social work experience over a minimum of 24 months. You must spend at least half of these hours directly serving clients. An LCSW must supervise you during this time, providing at least 96 hours of supervision. After completing your supervised experience, ask your supervisor to complete the Post-Degree Experience and Supervision Form, which you must upload with your online application.

  • 2. Pass the Mental Health Jurisprudence Exam.

    All LCSW candidates must pass the Mental Health Jurisprudence Examination, which costs $20 as of April 2020. The open-book test assesses your knowledge of the laws and regulations related to mental health treatment in Colorado. The exam includes 45 multiple-choice questions. You need a scaled score of 500 or higher to pass. If you previously passed this exam for LSW licensure, contact the board to determine whether you must retake it.

  • 3. Take and pass the ASWB clinical exam.

    For LCSW licensure you must also pass the ASWB clinical exam, which costs $260 as of April 2020. To register, apply directly through the ASWB Colorado exam page.

  • 4. Complete the LCSW application.

    After you have acquired 3,360 hours of supervised experience and passed both exams, you can submit an LCSW application through the Division of Professions and Occupations Online Services. The board provides a helpful checklist with information and supplemental documentation for the application. As of April 2020, the LCSW application costs $70.

  • 5. Receive your LCSW license from the board.

    After you submit your LCSW application, the board reviews it to ensure you meet all licensure criteria. If the board deems your application complete, you will receive your LCSW license and you can begin independently providing the full range of social work services, including supervising LSWs.

Social Worker - Provisional (SWP)

Social workers in residential childcare facilities can pursue an SWP. You need at least an MSW to qualify for this license, and an LCSW must supervise your work. Unlike the other two Colorado social work licenses, the SWP license does not require any exams. The following steps describe how to apply for an SWP license.

  • 1. Complete the SWP application.

    Locate the SWP application through the Division of Professions and Occupations Online Services. You must also submit the Verification of Practice form documenting that you will be working in a residential childcare facility. The SWP application costs $70 as of April 2020.

  • 2. Receive your SWP license from the board.

    If the board determines that you meet the criteria to become an SWP, you will receive your license. This license is only valid while you work in a residential childcare facility. You must work under supervision.

Social Work License Reciprocity in Colorado

In Colorado, you may apply for social work licensure by endorsement if you are an LSW in another state. To qualify, you need a current license in good standing and you must meet the criteria for either an LSW or LCSW license in Colorado. To apply, submit an application through the Division of Professions and Occupations Online Services, pay the $70 fee (as of April 2020), and provide any required supplemental documentation, such as ASWB exam scores and verification of your current license. You must also pass the Mental Health Jurisprudence Examination before receiving your Colorado social work license.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

Colorado requires LSWs to renew their licenses every two years. For both LSW and LCSW licenses, renewals require participation in the Continuing Professional Development Program, which must include 40 hours of professional development in continuing education (CE) activities or categories approved by the board, with no more than 20 hours in any single category. All licenses are renewed online through the Division of Professions and Occupations Online Services.

Colorado Social Worker Jobs and Salary Information

Social work jobs in Colorado are projected to grow 20.2% between 2016 and 2026, according to Projections Central. The largest subfield of social work in the state is child, family, and school social work, with 7,040 employed in 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Type Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 7,040 $53,240
Healthcare Social Workers 3,060 $55,980
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 1,630 $47,500
Social Workers, All Other 1,440 $55,690

Source: BLS

Social Work Associations in Colorado

National Association of Social Workers

NASW's Colorado chapter provides membership benefits, advocacy, and educational and career development resources.

Colorado Society for Clinical Social Work

CSCSW advances the social work profession by offering educational opportunities, setting standards for practice, publicly promoting the profession, and providing advocacy.

Colorado School Social Work Association

CSSWA provides collaboration, support, sustainability, wellness, and affiliation for social workers in educational settings.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where do I get information about license applications, renewal, reinstatement, and requirements for Colorado social workers?

You can locate information about requirements, applications, and forms on Colorado's State Board of Social Work Examiners' home page.

How do I check my application status?

Log into your account at the Division of Professions and Occupations Online Services and view your application.

Do I need to be licensed to practice social work in Colorado?

You do not need to be licensed to practice nonclinical, entry-level social work in the state. However, to pursue more advanced or clinical work, you need a master's degree and license.