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Colorado Social Work Licensing Requirements

Colorado’s diversity is expressed in both its landscape and growing population. Its position as 14th highest for per capita income is supported by the fact that the state is passing its own projections of adding over 61,000 jobs in 2015.1,2 Almost all sectors, including health and human services, are experiencing phenomenal growth. If you’re interested in becoming a social worker, Colorado will provide plenty of employment opportunities for you.

In Colorado, the practice of social work is regulated by the State Board of Social Work Examiners (the “Board”), which reviews applications for licensing. As with each state, the process for becoming a licensed social work in Colorado is a unique process. Below you will find detailed information about becoming a social worker and obtaining a license for clinical-level social work within the state.

How to Become a Social Worker in Colorado

Educational Paths

There are two educational paths for becoming a social worker in Colorado. A bachelor’s degree in social work from a program accredited by the Council for Social Work Education (CSWE) will qualify you to work in many non-clinical settings without licensing, but a master’s degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited program is required if you wish to work as a licensed clinical worker.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

A four-year bachelor’s degree in social work is the first step to becoming a social worker in Colorado. You will need to attend a college or university accredited by the CSWE, after which you will be eligible for licensure. A bachelor’s program consists of coursework that provides general knowledge of social work laws, ethics, and practices and will also provide an opportunity for field experience your senior year. When you graduate with a BSW, you will qualify for jobs in direct-service settings, including case and program management, with limited non-clinical counseling privileges. This degree path will accelerate the master’s degree work by about a year if you choose to pursue licensing later on. There are currently four universities in Colorado which offer CSWE-accredited BSW programs.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

If you wish to become an advanced generalist or specialist, you will want to further pursue a master’s degree in social work through a CSWE-accredited program at one of three CSWE-accredited programs at universities in Colorado. You will still be able to enter an MSW program if your undergraduate work was in another field, but a BSW in social work will qualify you for advanced standing in most schools, cutting completion time from two years down to one. The course of study will include both basic and advanced generalist training, and expand from the basic concepts of social work into more specialized areas such as substance use and misuse, family law and children’s rights, and social policy. You will also be required to complete more field experience than at the bachelor’s level, and can choose a specific concentration, such as mental health, child welfare, substance abuse, etc.

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” with only a BSW, Colorado requires you to become licensed in order to work as a more advanced social worker. There are three licensing levels within the state: the Licensed Social Worker (LSW), the Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), and the Provisional Licensed Social Worker (SWP).

Licensed Social Worker (LSW)

The title of “licensed social worker” is reserved for those who have graduated from a CSWE-accredited program with an MSW, and/or still need to complete their postgraduate supervised experience hours required for clinical licensing. To obtain an LSW, you must complete the following steps:

1. Take and pass the Mental Health Professions Jurisprudence Exam.

This open-book exam tests the candidate’s knowledge of Part 1 and 2 of the State of Colorado Mental Health Statutes: the laws and regulations essential to safe practice. The exam, which costs $18* to take, is available online, and detailed instructions on how to register and complete the exam are located on in the Jurisprudence Examination online user guide. Results must be submitted at the time of application for a license.

2. Complete the LSW application packet.

The application is available online, and requires a $70 application fee*. The application packet details all required documentation.

3. Complete a Healthcare Professional Profile.

Within a few weeks of submitting your application, you will also need to complete an online Healthcare Professional Profile with the Board. Once your application has been approved, you will have permission to register for and sit for the ASWB exam.

4. Take and pass the ASWB masters exam.

In order to take the required exam, you must register on the ASWB site and pay both the $25 application fee*, and the $230 exam fee*. Once registered, you will schedule your test online, which will be conducted at a Pearson Professional center of your choice.

5. Check the Board’s website for your license status and to print your license.

Colorado requires its applicants to periodically check the status of the license on their website, and also print licenses directly from the site; they will not be mailed.

*As of November 2015

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

The most advanced licensing level in the state of Colorado is the LCSW, which enables you to practice at the clinical, independent level. Before you apply, you will need to have an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program, AND have completed all the required post-degree supervised experience hours. You will need to:

1. Accumulate the required experience.

You must have completed and documented 3,360 hours of social work experience over a minimum of 24 months. These need to include at least 96 supervised hours, 48 of which must be directly supervised and evenly distributed over the 24-month period.

2. Take and pass the Mental Health Professions Jurisprudence Exam.

This open-book exam is $18* and can be found online. Results must be submitted at the time of application for a license.

3. Complete the LCSW application packet.

The application is available online, and requires a $70 application fee.* The application packet details all required documentation.

4.Complete a Healthcare Professional Profile.

Within a few weeks of submitting your application, you will also need to complete an online Healthcare Professions Profile with the Colorado Board. Once your application has been approved, you will have permission to register for and sit for the LCSW exam.

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

In order to take the required exam, you must register on the ASWB website and pay both the $25 application fee* and the $260 exam fee.* Once registered, you will schedule your test online, which will be conducted at a Pearson Professional center of your choice.

6. Check the Board’s website for your license status and print your license.

Colorado requires its applicants to periodically check the status of their license on their website, and also print licenses directly from the site; they will not be mailed.

*As of November 2015

Social Worker – Provisional (SWP)

The state of Colorado allows a special licensing category for “…marriage and family therapists, professional counselors, psychologists and social workers who have education appropriate to their fields and who work under supervision in a residential child care facility.”3 A minimum of a master’s degree is required but it does not have to be specifically in social work. Unlike the other licensing levels, the Jurisprudence Exam is not required for SWPs.

1. Complete the SWP application packet.

The application is available on the BSWE’s website, and includes information on the required accompanying documentation. The same $70* application fee applies.

2. Complete a Healthcare Professional Profile.

Within a few weeks of submitting your application, you will also need to complete an online Healthcare Professional Profile with the Board of Social Work Examiners.

3. Check the Colorado Board’s website for your license status and print your license.

Since there is no exam required for the provisional license, you will proceed to wait for your license approval. Colorado requires its applicants to periodically check the status of their license on their website, and also print licenses directly from the site; they will not be mailed.

*As of November 2015

Social Work License Reciprocity in Colorado

The Colorado BSWE accepts license applications from individuals who have already become licensed in other states through the license by endorsement application process. They do stress that previous licensing must be equivalent to the state’s requirements for licensing by exam. Both LSW and LCSW licenses may be granted through endorsement, and the online application requires the same $70 fee (as of November 2015) as license by exam. You are also still required to complete the $18 Jurisprudence Exam (as of November 2015) to be submitted at the time of application, and complete a Healthcare Professional Profile on the Board’s site.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

Colorado requires licensed social workers to renew their licenses, which expire August 31st of even-numbered years. For both LSW and LCSW licenses, renewals require participation in the Continuing Professional Development Program, including 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. Applications for license renewal are on the BSWE’s site. Both the LSW and LCSW renewal applications require a $67 fee (as of November 2015), and the SWP renewal application costs $51, as of November 2015.

Colorado Social Work Jobs and Salary Information

Social workers in Colorado can expect to make an average of $48,258, and find jobs in many sectors.5 The long-term occupational projection for social workers in Colorado is a growth of 21.48%.4 With just under an estimated 10,000 social workers employed in the state, the highest category of growth is within the mental health and substance abuse field, at 11.6%, although all types of social work are projected to grow between now and 2022.5

TypeNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers5230$46,170
Healthcare Social Workers2,110$54,750
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers1,520$43,350
Social Workers, All Other1,130$48,760

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2014.5

Social Work Associations in Colorado

  • NASW Colorado — Provides membership benefits, advocacy, educational and career development resources as part of the larger National Association of Social Workers.
  • Colorado Society for Clinical Social Work – Advances the social work profession by offering educational opportunities, setting standards for practice, publically promoting the profession, and providing advocacy.
  • Colorado School Social Work Association — Following their acronym, they provide collaboration, support, sustainability, wellness, and affiliation for social workers within an educational setting.

Frequently Asked Questions

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

Answer: All information about requirements, applications, and forms can be found under “Find Applications and Forms” on Colorado’s State Board of Social Work Examiners’ home page on the Department of Regulatory Agency site.

Question: How do I check the status of my application?

Answer: You will need to select the link titled “Check Application Status” on the left sidebar of the BWSE’s home page.

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

Answer: If you are seeking to practice basic, entry-level social work, you do not need to be licensed. However, if you choose to pursue more advanced or clinical work, you must obtain both a master’s degree and fulfill the Board’s requirements for licensing within the state. Possessing an MSW in the state of Colorado will certainly afford social workers more job opportunities and typically higher pay.

References:
1. Bureau of Economic Analysis: https://www.bea.gov/regional/bearfacts/action.cfm?geoType=3&fips=08000&areatype=08000
2. The Denver Post, “Colorado adds 4,900 jobs in May”: http://www.denverpost.com/2015/06/19/colorado-adds-4900-jobs-in-may/
3. State Board of Social Work Examiners, Licenses and Forms: https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/dora/Social_Work_Applications
4. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2015 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates
Colorado: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_co.htm