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Maryland Social Work Licensing Requirements

Mid-Atlantic Maryland, one of the smallest yet most densely-populated states, has a diverse and thriving economy where residents enjoy one of the highest median household incomes in the country. Maryland’s economy makes it a desirable location to pursue a career in many sectors, including social work. If you’re interested in becoming a social worker in Maryland, you’ll need to meet the required educational and licensing requirements set by the state’s Board of Social Work Examiners (BSWE), as outlined below.

How to Become a Social Worker in Maryland

Educational Paths

Depending on your career goals as a social worker, there are two levels of education to choose from that determine which of the subsequent four levels of licensing you will be able to pursue. You are also free to pursue a PhD or doctorate, although these are not required for licensing. Knowing your desired position, whether a generalist, advanced generalist, specialist, clinical social worker, researcher, or educator, will help you decide which educational path to follow. Whichever educational path you choose, licensing of some kind is required to practice within the state of Maryland, or to earn the title “social worker.”

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

The BSW could be considered one of the most advanced human services degrees available at the bachelor level, and one of the few to require internship or field work, which adds experience to your resume.1 In order to become a licensed bachelor social worker (LBSW), the minimum licensing you can obtain in Maryland, the educational requirement is a bachelor’s degree in social work from an institution accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). This degree program will prepare you for entry-level, generalist positions within various settings, perhaps as a mental health assistant, counselor in a residential setting, or a program coordinator.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

For a greater range of career options within the social work field, and to remain the most competitive within a highly-educated sector, the master of social work degree is the preferred level of education. When obtained from a college or university accredited by the CSWE, this degree allows you to qualify to become a licensed graduate social worker (LGSW) with no further experience. Once the LGSW license is obtained, social workers can acquire the experience needed to become either a licensed certified social worker or a licensed certified social worker-clinical An MSW degree is ideal if your goal is to work within schools, government health and human services, or open your own clinical practice.

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in Maryland

A BSW or MSW degree is the prerequisite for becoming a social worker in Maryland, but all social workers must also be licensed in order to practice any level of social work, and to legally refer to themselves by the title “social worker,” as regulated by the Maryland Board of Social Work Examiners. There are four levels of licensing offered, as listed below with their accompanying requirements. There are also two methods of applying for licensure. If you are applying for the first time, you must apply for licensing by examination.

Licensed Bachelor Social Worker (LBSW)

The minimum licensing level offered by Maryland, an LBSW license, requires a Bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) from a CSWE-accredited institution, but no field experience. Once you have obtained your BSW, you must complete the following steps to become an LBSW:

1. Complete the application.

Complete the LBSW & LGSW by examination form online. All application types, which require a $100 processing fee*, will be reviewed and accepted by the Board for approval to sit for the ASWB examination.

2. Take and pass the ASWB bachelors exam.

Once you have been approved by the Board, you can schedule to take the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) bachelors exam, which costs $230*.

3. Receive your LBSW license from the Board.

Once you have taken and passed the ASWB bachelors exam, you will receive your license from the Board for an initial fee of $75*, which is the same for all license types.

*As of November 2015.

Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW)

In order to become a licensed graduate social worker, you must have at least a master’s degree in social work (MSW) from a CSWE-accredited institution, but field work is not required. Once you have met the educational requirements for the license, you must:

1. Complete the application.

Complete the application entitled LBSW & LGSW by examination form online and pay the $100* processing fee. The application will be reviewed and accepted by the Board for approval to sit for the ASWB exam.

2. Take and pass the ASWB masters exam.

Once you have been approved by the Board to sit for the exam, you can schedule to take the ASWB masters exam, for a cost of $230*.

3. Receive your LGSW license from the Board.

Once you have passed the ASWB masters exam and paid the initial license fee of $75*, you will receive a license from the Board.

*As of November 2015

Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW)

Once you are an LGSW and have acquired some experience, you may wish to take the next steps to become a licensed certified social worker in the state of Maryland. You will need a valid LGSW license, with a minimum of a master’s degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited institution. Then, you must:

1. Accumulate the required supervised experience.

Accumulate at least two years and no less than 104 weeks/3,000 hours of LCSW-supervised clinical work in direct client service, including 100 hours of face-to-face supervision practicing social work under a contract.

2. Complete the application.

Once you have acquired the necessary experience, you can complete the LCSW & LCSW-C by examination form online and pay the processing fee of $100*. The Board will then review your application and documented experience, and decide if you are able to sit for the national exam.

3. Take and pass the ASWB advanced generalist exam.

After your application has been approved by the Board, you can register to take the ASWB advanced generalist exam, which costs $260*.

4. Receive your LCSW license from the Board.

Once you have passed the ASWB exam and paid the necessary fee of $75*, you will receive your license from the Board.

*As of November 2015

Licensed Certified Social Worker-Clinical (LCSW-C)

With an active LGSW license, candidates who have accumulated experience and are interested in clinical social work may wish to pursue the highest licensing level offered in the state of Maryland, the LCSW-C. To be eligible for an LCSW-C license, candidates must have a master’s degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited institution as well as an active LGSW license. To become an LCSW-C, candidates must:

1. Accumulate the required experience.

With an MSW, you can work to acquire two years, or at least 3,000 hours, of LCSW-C supervised clinical work, 1,500 of which must be from direct client contact, and 144 hours of face-to-face supervision practicing social work under a contract. You must also have “supervision in the assessment, formulation of a diagnostic impression, and treatment of mental disorders and other conditions and the provision of psychotherapy.”2

2. Complete the required coursework.

Besides having accumulated the experience needed to become an LCSW-C, you must also be able to document 12 academic credit hours of clinical coursework from a social work program accredited by the CSWE.

3. Complete the application.

After having accumulated the required experience, you can apply to become an LCSW-C using the LCSW & LCSW-C by examination form, and send the $100* application fee to the Board. The Board will then review your application and your documented experience, and then notify you that you can take the national exam.

4. Take and pass the ASWB clinical exam.

Once cleared by the Board, you can register for the ASWB clinical exam, which costs $260*.

5. Receive your LCSW-C license from the Board.

After the above steps have been completed, you will receive your license from the Board and be qualified to practice in Maryland as an LCSW-C.

Social Work License Reciprocity in Maryland

Maryland does not practice reciprocity with particular states. If you have been previously licensed by another state and have already passed an exam that is the equivalent of those administered by Maryland’s Board, you may apply for licensing by endorsement at all four levels. Within the certified and clinical levels, there are two separate applications for those seeking endorsement: those with less than five years of advanced generalist or clinical practice, and those with at least five out of the last 10 years with advanced experience.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

The state of Maryland requires licensed social workers to renew their licensing every two years on October 31st, providing proof of accumulated continuing education credits in programs and categories approved by the Board. Fees range from $100 and up, depending on your licensing level. For your first year as a licensed social worker, you are allowed to earn the 40 required continuing education credits (30 for LBSWs) from the date of your licensure until it expires. For continuing renewal, you must acquire the credits from November 1st to October 31st two years later. Even though you are not required to present certifications of completed credits, the Board conducts random audits, so it is advisable to keep them at least a year from their completion date.

Maryland Social Work Jobs and Salary Information

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Maryland ranks as one of the top, nationwide, for its total number of resident social workers. There are literally thousands of social workers in Maryland, the greatest number of which are employed in the field of child, family, and school social work, followed closely by health care. The employment outlook for social work is promising, as growth is expected in all fields. According to employment projections over the next ten years (2012-2022), social work is expected to increase by 19% overall, with the highest growth, 27%, within the healthcare field.3

TypeNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers4,810$48,250
Healthcare Social Workers3,430$55,540
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers2,250$45,830
Social Workers, All Other1,050$66,370

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2014.4

Social Work Associations in Maryland

  • National Association of Social Workers, Maryland Chapter – The Maryland chapter of the NASW provides advocacy for social workers, job listings, information about educational paths and continuing education, and other resources.
  • Greater Washington Society for Clinical Social Work – A non-profit, volunteer-based organization of licensed and pre-licensed clinical social workers from a variety of settings in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Northern Virginia, the GWSCSW provides education, advocacy and a community for the development of clinical social workers.
  • School Social Workers in Maryland – This organization, which operates in many states, promotes the profession and professional development of school-based social work, and is dedicated to improving the educational experience of children and their families.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Do you need a license to practice social work in the state of Maryland?

Answer: Yes. All levels and sectors of social work require licensing through the Board of Social Work Examiner in order to practice or use the title social worker.

Question: What are the educational requirements for each of the different licensing levels?

Answer: The four levels of licensing required to practical social work in the state of Maryland are detailed in the licensing section of the DHMH site. For more information, contact the Board of Social Work Examiners.

Question: Where do I get information about the social work examination?

Answer: The best place to get information about exams, test center locations, and allowable accommodations is directly from the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB), or Maryland’s Board of Social Work Examiners.

Question: Does Maryland have reciprocity with other states? If so, what states?

Answer: No, Maryland’s Board does not practice reciprocity with certain states. However, licensed social workers from other states are welcome to apply for licensing by endorsement if they have already passed the national social worker examination through the Association of Social Work Boards.

References:
1. Social Work Job Bank: http://www.socialworkjobbank.com/site/career-centerarticles/8-there-is-a-job-market-for-bsw-graduates.html
2. Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: https://health.maryland.gov/bswe/Pages/default.aspx
3. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Social Workers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm#tab-6
4. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Maryland: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_md.htm#29-0000