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Maryland Social Work Licensing Requirements

Although Maryland is one of the smallest states by geographic area in the nation, it is home to over six million people and includes part of the Washington, DC metropolitan area.1 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 Maryland Board of Social Work Examiners, as described 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, bachelor’s and master’s, to choose from that determine which of the subsequent four levels of licensing you will be able to pursue. You can also earn a doctoral degree in social work, although this is not required for licensure. 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, licensure of some kind is required to practice within the state of Maryland and to use the title “social worker.”

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

A bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) is an undergraduate degree that often requires internships or fieldwork. In order to become a Licensed Bachelor Social Worker (LBSW) in Maryland, you must hold a BSW from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). An accredited BSW program will prepare you for entry-level generalist positions, such as a mental health assistant, a counselor in a residential setting, or a program coordinator, in various settings.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

For a greater range of career options within the social work field and more advanced licensure options in Maryland, you will need to earn a master of social work (MSW). When obtained from a program accredited by the CSWE, this degree allows you to pursue licensure in Maryland as a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW), Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW), or Licensed Certified Social Worker-Clinical (LCSW-C). An MSW is ideal if your goal is to work in schools or 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 from a CSWE-accredited program is a 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. There are four levels of licensure offered, each with different requirements. Keep reading for more information about each type of social work license in Maryland. Links are provided for online applications, but you can contact the Board to request a paper application for any of the licenses.

Licensed Bachelor Social Worker (LBSW)

The LBSW license is available to aspiring social workers who have earned a Board-approved BSW. This license allows a social worker to provide basic, non-clinical social work services. Newly-licensed LBSWs must work under supervision for several years but can apply to work independently after they have gained a certain amount of supervised experience. Below are the steps to becoming an LBSW after you have earned a BSW.

1. Submit an LBSW application to the Board.

The first step to becoming an LBSW is to complete the licensure application through the Board’s website. In addition to the online forms, you must have your school send a copy of your BSW transcript to the Board. All applicants are also required to complete a criminal background check. As of January 2019, you must pay a $100 application fee and an additional $30 for the background check.

2. Pass the ASWB Bachelor’s exam.

Once your application has been approved by the Board, you can register to take the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Bachelor’s exam, which costs $230 as of January 2019. This is a 170-item multiple-choice test with content focused on bachelor’s-level social work practice. The ASWB will send your scores to the Board within about two weeks of your test date.

3. Receive your LBSW license from the Board.

Once you have taken and passed the ASWB Bachelor’s exam, the Board will issue your license after you pay a licensing fee of $75 (as of January 2019). At this point, you can begin practicing as a supervised LBSW. After at least three years (4,500 hours) of supervised work, you can submit an application to the Board requesting permission to practice independently.

Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)

In Maryland, an aspiring LMSW is required to earn an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program. Once issued, the LMSW license allows a social worker to provide social work services under supervision. Unlike an LBSW, an LMSW is able to provide clinical social work services under the supervision of an LCSW-C. After several years of work experience, an LMSW may apply to the Board for permission to independently provide non-clinical services. Below are the steps to becoming an LMSW in Maryland once you have earned an MSW.

1. Submit an LMSW application.

The first step is to complete the Board’s online LMSW application and request that your school send an official copy of your MSW transcript to the Board. You must also complete a criminal background check. As of January 2019, total fees for the application and the background check are $130.

2. Pass the ASWB masters exam.

After the Board reviews your application, they will grant you permission to register for the ASWB Master’s exam. This is a 170-item, multiple-choice test on the master’s-level practice of social work. As of January 2019, the registration fee for the Master’s exam is $230.

3. Receive your LMSW license from the Board.

Once you have passed the ASWB Master’s exam, the Board will issue your license. You must pay a license fee of $75 (as of January 2019) to receive it. Once you have your LMSW license, you can begin practicing under supervision. After three years (4,500 hours) of supervised practice, you can apply through the Board to receive privileges to practice non-clinical social work independently. If this request is granted, you will still need to receive supervision for any clinical social work that you perform.

Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW)

In Maryland, the LCSW is a master’s-level social work license that allows an individual to practice non-clinical social work independently and to provide clinical social work services under supervision. To become an LCSW in Maryland, you must first complete a certain amount of supervised work experience. If you choose to earn these hours in Maryland, you must hold an LMSW license. Once you have earned an LMSW license, follow the steps below to become an LCSW.

1. Accumulate the required supervised experience.

Before applying for LCSW licensure, you must complete 3,000 hours of social work experience as an LMSW under the supervision of an LCSW or LCSW-S. This supervisor must have been licensed for at least 18 months, have completed continuing education in supervision, and be registered with the Board. Before you begin your supervised experience, you and your supervisor must complete a supervision contract that you will submit with your application in Step 2, below. The 3,000 hours of supervised experience must be completed in no fewer than two years and at you must receive at least 100 hours of supervision.

2. Submit an LCSW application.

Once you have acquired the necessary experience, you can complete the online LCSW application. You will need to mail a resume and documentation of your supervised experience to the Board using the supervision contract, supervision verification, and summary sheet forms. You must have your program send a copy of your MSW transcript to the Board and you will also need to undergo a criminal background check. The application and background check fees are $130 as of January 2019.

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 (as of January 2019). This is a 170-item test on general social work practice.

4. Receive your LCSW license from the Board.

Once you have passed the ASWB exam and the Board has received all of the required documentation for your application, you are eligible to obtain your LCSW license. You must pay a fee of $75 to receive your license from the Board.

Licensed Certified Social Worker-Clinical (LCSW-C)

The LCSW-C is the highest level of social work licensure in Maryland, as it allows an individual to independently provide clinical social work services. Similar to the requirements for an LCSW, a social worker hoping to become an LCSW-C must complete a certain amount of supervised work as an LMSW before submitting an application. The steps below outline the process of obtaining an LCSW-C license once you already hold an LMSW license.

1. Accumulate the required experience.

As an LMSW seeking to be licensed as an LCSW-C, you must complete 3,000 of supervised clinical social work experience in no fewer than two years. At least 1,500 of these hours must consist of direct patient contact, and 144 must be supervision from an LCSW-C. Your supervisor must be registered with the Board and you will need to complete a supervision contract before beginning your hours.

2. Complete the required coursework.

All LCSW-C applicants must complete 12 credit hours of clinical coursework through a CSWE-accredited program before becoming licensed. If you did not fulfill this requirement during your MSW program, you will need to take additional courses before submitting a licensure application. Note that at least six of the credits must come from master’s-level coursework.

3. Submit an LCSW-C application to the Board.

After you complete the required supervised experience and clinical coursework, you can submit an online LCSW-C application to the Board. You will need to mail supplemental information to the Board, including a resume and the supervision contract, supervision verification, and summary sheet forms to document your supervised experience. You must request that your school send a copy of your MSW transcript to the Board and you will also need to provide fingerprints for a criminal background check. As of January 2019, the fees for an LCSW-C application are $130, which covers the cost of both the application and the background check.

4. Pass the ASWB Clinical exam.

Before becoming licensed as an LCSW-C, you will need to pass the ASWB Clinical exam, which costs $260 (as of January 2019). The Clinical exam consists of 170 multiple-choice questions about clinical social work practice; scores are automatically sent to the Board after you take the test.

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

After you have completed all of the steps above, you should be eligible to receive your LCSW-C license. Once the Board has notified you that your license has been issued, you will need to pay a $75 license fee to receive it and begin working as an independent LCSW-C.

Social Work Licensure by Endorsement in Maryland

Maryland does not offer licensure reciprocity. However, if you are licensed by another state, you may be able to obtain a Maryland social work license by endorsement. To be eligible, you must hold a social work license that is equivalent to one offered by the Maryland Board and have passed an exam to receive that license. If you have been practicing social work under a license for at least 1,000 hours per year for five of the past 10 years, you can apply for licensure by endorsement by providing the materials listed in the Board’s Endorsement for Greater than Five Years checklist. If you have not been practicing this long, you can apply for licensure by endorsement by completing the items on the Endorsement for Less than Five Years checklist but will need to provide more information about your past training and experience.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

All social workers in Maryland must renew their licenses every other year by October 31; the fee varies by type of license. During each renewal period, social workers must complete a certain amount of continuing education (CE). LMSWs, LCSWs, and LCSW-Cs are required to complete 40 CE hours, and LBSWs are required to complete 30 hours. At least half of the hours must come from “Category I” activities, which are formal CE opportunities. Up to one half can come from “Category II” activities, which are less structured. All social workers must complete at least three hours of CE on ethical, legal, and professional issues. Social workers who are Board-approved supervisors must complete at least three hours in the topic of supervision.

Maryland Social Work Jobs and Salary Information

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 12,300 social workers in Maryland.2 The majority of these social workers are employed in the subfields of child, family, and school social work (4,600) and healthcare social work (4,370).2 The employment outlook for social work in Maryland is promising, as growth is expected in all subfields. Between 2016 and 2026, the total number of social work positions in Maryland is expected to increase by 7.3%3. The subfield of mental health and substance abuse social work is projected to see the most growth, at 15.6% during this time period.3

Type Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 4,600 $54,630
Healthcare Social Workers 4,370 $58,150
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 2,320 $46,890
Social Workers, All Other 1,010 $66,500

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017.2

Social Work Associations in Maryland

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 Maryland Board of Social Work Examiners in order to practice or use the title social worker.

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

Answer: Earning a CSWE-accredited bachelor’s degree in social work will allow you to pursue licensure in Maryland as an LBSW. To become an LMSW, LCSW, or LCSW-C, you will need to earn a master’s degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited program.

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), which oversees all of the licensure exams.

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

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

References:
1. US Census Bureau Quick Facts, Maryland: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/md
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2017 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Maryland: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_md.htm
3. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm