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Massachusetts Social Work License Requirements

The New England state of Massachusetts is the 15th-largest state in the US and has a population of over 6.8 million.1 Despite having a smaller population than many of the states that top social work employment lists, Massachusetts has the third-largest number of healthcare social workers and the fourth-largest number of mental health and substance abuse social workers in the nation.2,3 If you are interested in becoming a social worker in Massachusetts, you will need to understand the regulations and licensure options that are overseen by the state’s Board of Registration of Social Workers. Below you will find detailed information on the requirements needed to become a licensed social worker in Massachusetts.

How to Become a Social Worker in Massachusetts

Educational Paths

Social work professions in every state have varying educational requirements for the licenses available. In Massachusetts, you can take several educational paths to become a licensed social worker. It should be noted that you must be licensed in order to practice social work or to call yourself a “social worker” in the state of Massachusetts. Below is a brief description of the three educational paths available to aspiring social workers in the state.

Associate of Social Work (ASW)

At a minimum, aspiring social workers in Massachusetts must have either an associate degree or at least 60 college credit hours in social work or another human services field from an accredited institution. Most associate degrees take about two years to complete. Individuals who hold an associate degree focusing on social work can typically apply for social service assistant, case management, community outreach, and preventative health service positions. Possessing an associate degree will make you eligible to become licensed as a Licensed Social Work Associate (LSWA) in Massachusetts.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

The next level of education available to future social work licensees is a bachelor’s in social work (BSW). A baccalaureate degree in social work that is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) will help ensure that you are eligible for licensure in Massachusetts. However, if you do not hold such a degree, the Board will accept supervised social work experience in lieu of this educational requirement. In Massachusetts, 11 schools have CSWE-accredited undergraduate programs in social work; two of these are located in the state’s largest city, Boston. Most BSW programs take about four years to complete and include coursework that provides an overview of social work, including clinical practice, community empowerment, social welfare policy, and program development. Individuals who hold a BSW can become licensed as LSWAs or Licensed Social Workers (LSWs).

Master of Social Work (MSW)

The degree necessary for the highest level of social work licensure in Massachusetts, and considered the terminal degree in the field, is a master’s degree from a CSWE-accredited school. If you obtained a BSW, you may be eligible for advanced standing in most MSW programs, decreasing the length of time to needed to complete the master’s program from two years to one year. MSW programs involve a deeper level of understanding of the social work field, policies, research, and intervention strategies. MSW students will be exposed to regular fieldwork that will enable them to gain real-world experience in different areas of social work. Generally, the higher the education level of the social worker, the higher the lifetime earning will be, making it financially advantageous to continue your education and obtain an MSW. MSWs in the state of Massachusetts are eligible to become Licensed Certified Social Workers (LCSWs) and Licensed Independent Clinical Social Workers (LICSWs).

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in Massachusetts

The Board offers four social work licenses: Licensed Social Worker Associate (LSWA), Licensed Social Worker (LSW), Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW), and Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW). Each license has specific requirements and a different scope of practice. All social work licensing applications in Massachusetts are processed by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB). Below are more details about each level of social work licensure in the state.

Licensed Social Worker Associate (LSWA)

The requirements to earn a Licensed Social Worker Associate (LSWA) credential are the least stringent of all the licenses administered by the Board, but this credential still allows a licensee to gain meaningful social work employment. Once licensed, LSWAs are able to provide some basic, non-clinical social work services under the supervision of an LSW, LCSW, or LICSW. To be eligible for an LSWA license, you must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Possess an associate degree or have completed 60 hours of college coursework in social work or another human service field at an accredited school
  • Hold a bachelor’s degree in any subject from an accredited school
  • Have completed at least 1,000 hours of Board-approved education in social work

Once you have met one of these requirements, you can follow the steps below to earn an LSWA license.

1. Submit an LSWA application to the Board.

To initiate the licensure process, complete the Board’s Social Worker Licensure Application and submit it to the ASWB. As part of this application, you will need to provide information for three professional references, at least one of whom must be an LCSW or LICSW. You must also request a sealed transcript of the highest degree you have received so that you can include it with your application. As of December 2018, the fee for the LSWA application is $173 (or $203 if you also choose to enroll in the ASWB Social Work Registry to bank your credentials).

2. Take the ASWB Associate exam.

After your LSWA application has been approved, the ASWB will give you permission to register for their Associate exam, which costs $230 (as of December 2018). The test consists of 170 multiple-choice questions and must be completed in four hours or less.

3. Receive your LSWA license.

Once you have successfully completed the Associate exam and all other requirements for licensure have been met, you will be eligible to receive your LSWA license. After this has been issued by the Board, you can begin working under the supervision of an LSW, LCSW, or LICSW in Massachusetts.

Licensed Social Worker (LSW)

Another option for social work licensure in Massachusetts is the Licensed Social Worker (LSW) credential. This license allows individuals to independently provide some basic social work services (e.g., consultation) and to provide more advanced non-clinical services under the supervision of an LCSW or LICSW. If you have a BSW from a CSWE-accredited school, you are eligible to become an LSW. However, if you do not hold this degree, you can instead establish eligibility by completing a certain amount of supervised social work experience. The amount of experience needed varies depending on your highest level of education, but you can learn more about the guidelines in the Board’s documentation of licensure requirements.

After you have met the educational and training requirements for LSWs, you can follow the steps below to earn your license.

1. Submit an LSW application to the Board.

Once you are ready, you can begin the licensure process by completing the Social Worker Licensure Application. For this application, you will need to request a sealed transcript from the school where you earned your highest degree. You must also provide information for three professional references (including at least one LCSW or LICSW) and documentation from a supervisor verifying your social work experience (if applicable). Once you have gathered these materials, submit the application to the ASWB. As of December 2018, the fee for the application is $173, but you can choose to pay an additional $30 if you would also like to have the ASWB Social Work Registry bank your credentials.

2. Take the ASWB Bachelor’s exam.

All LSW candidates must take the ASWB Bachelor’s exam before becoming licensed. The Bachelor’s exam is a 170-question, multiple-choice test that costs $230.00 as of December 2018. You will not be able to register for the exam until the ASWB reviews your LSW application and has determined that you are eligible to take the test.

3. Receive your LSW license from the Board.

After the ASWB has approved your application and you have passed the Bachelor’s exam, you will be able to receive your LSW license. After the Board has granted your license, you can begin practicing as an LSW in Massachusetts.

Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW)

In Massachusetts, an individual hoping to become a Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW) must have an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program or a Board-approved doctoral degree in social work. Once licensed, LCSWs in Massachusetts are able to independently provide non-clinical social work services and provide clinical social work services under the supervision of an LICSW. After satisfying the educational requirement, LCSW candidates can become licensed by completing each of the steps below.

1. Submit an LCSW application to the Board.

To become an LCSW, you must first complete the Social Worker Licensure Application and submit it to the ASWB. With this application, you will need to provide three professional references; at least one must be an LCSW or LICSW and one should be from the social worker who supervised your second-year field placement. You must also submit a sealed graduate transcript. As of December 2018, the application fee for an LCSW is $173. However, you can choose to pay an additional $30 to join the ASWB Social Work Registry, which may be helpful if you are planning to become licensed in another state in the future.

2. Take the ASWB Master’s exam.

LCSW candidates must take the ASWB Master’s exam to become licensed by the Board. You can take this test once the ASWB reviews your application and gives you permission to register for it. The Master’s exam is a four-hour, 170-question, multiple-choice test covering master’s-level social work practice. As of December 2018, the cost of the exam is $230.

3. Receive your LCSW license from the Board.

After completing the steps above and successfully passing the ASWB exam, you will receive your LCSW license. Once issued, this will allow you to practice social work in the state of Massachusetts under the scope of practice outlined for LCSWs.

Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW)

The highest social work credential available in Massachusetts is the Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW). This license allows its holders to provide the full range of social work services, both clinical and non-clinical, without supervision. Candidates must have an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program or a Board-approved doctoral degree in social work. Before becoming an LICSW, you must first become licensed as an LISW (or equivalent in another state) following the steps outlined above. Once you hold an LISW license, you can become an LICSW by following the steps below.

1. Gain the required experience.

An LICSW candidate must complete 3,500 hours (in no less than two years) of supervised clinical social work experience under their LISW license before applying for LICSW licensure. While you are earning these hours, you are required to receive at least 100 hours of supervision from an LICSW (or equivalent in the state where you are completing this experience).

2. Submit an LICSW application to the Board.

After you have completed the required amount of supervised experience, the next step is to submit the Social Worker Licensure Application to the ASWB. With this application, you must and submit a sealed graduate transcript and three professional references. All of your references must be LICSWs and one must be a supervisor who can verify that you have completed your supervised experience. As of December 2018, the application fee for an LICSW is $173. However, you can choose to pay an additional $30 fee and have your credentials banked with the ASWB Social Work Registry. This can assist with the portability of your license if you are planning to work in another state in the future.

2. Take and pass the ASWB Clinical exam.

LICSW candidates must take the ASWB Clinical exam to become licensed. To register, you must be granted permission after the ASWB reviews your application. The clinical test will take about four hours to complete and is a 170-question, multiple-choice exam. As of December 2018, the Clinical exam costs $260.

3. Receive your LICSW license from the Board.

After completing the steps above and successfully passing the ASWB Clinical exam, you will receive your license from the Board. Note that although you may meet the requirements for LICSW licensure as soon as you pass the exam, you cannot begin practicing independently until the Board notifies you that they have issued your license.

Social Work Licensure by Reciprocity in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Board offers licensure by reciprocity to applicants who are licensed and in good standing in any of the ASWB’s member jurisdictions. Reciprocity allows social workers from other jurisdictions to become licensed without retaking the exam and repeating the experience requirements. To be eligible, the license you currently hold must have equivalent licensure requirements and scope of practice as the Massachusetts social work license you are planning to apply for. To apply for licensure by reciprocity, complete the Social Worker Licensure Application. You will be required to provide professional references, your ASWB exam scores, verification of your current license, and a transcript of your degree. Application fees for licensure by reciprocity vary based on the license.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

All licensed social workers in Massachusetts are required to renew their licenses every two years. As a prerequisite for renewal, licensed social workers must complete a certain number of continuing education hours:

  • LSWAs must complete at least 10 hours of continuing education
  • LSWs must complete 15 hours of continuing education
  • LCSWs must complete 20 hours of continuing education
  • LICSWs must complete 30 hours of continuing education

During each renewal period, licensees must complete at least one course in domestic and sexual violence. Renewal fees vary based on the license; refer to the the Board’s fee schedule for the most updated information.

Massachusetts Social Worker Jobs and Salary Information

According to 2017 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 30,450 social workers employed in the State of Massachusetts, and they earn an average salary of $56,148 per year.4 The majority of these social workers are employed in the fields of child, family, and school social work (11,570) and healthcare social work (11,450).4 Social work jobs in Massachusetts are expected to increase by 11.5% between 2016 and 2026, with the most growth projected for mental health and substance abuse social work positions.5

Type Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 11,570 $48,470
Healthcare Social Workers 11,540 $57,440
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 6,720 $44,740
Social Workers, All Other 620 $73,940

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017.4

Social Work Associations in Massachusetts

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Can I begin practicing independently once I become registered as a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW)?

Answer: Yes, once you have been issued an LICSW license after following the process above, you may begin practicing without supervision.

Question: For the 3,500 hours of work experience required for an LICSW, can I count experience I gained years ago?

Answer: Yes, as long as the work experience was acquired after you received your LCSW.

Question: What kinds of qualifications are required of the person supervising my experience?

Answer: The Massachusetts Registration Board requires that supervisors must be LCSWs or LICSWs. Only LICSWs can supervise LICSW candidates’ experience.

Question: What kind of degree do I need to practice social work in Massachusetts?

Answer: To be eligible for clinical social work licenses in Massachusetts, you must hold at least an MSW from a CSWE-accredited school. However, there are licensure options in the state for individuals who hold an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree, and even a high school diploma (plus supervised experience).

References:
1. US Census Bureau State Population Totals and Components of Change, 2010-2017: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/ma
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2017, Healthcare Social Workers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211022.htm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2017, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211023.htm
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2017 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Massachusetts: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ma.htm
5. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm