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Minnesota Social Work License Requirements

By Staff Writer

Of the 5.6 million individuals living in Minnesota, 16,300 hold employment in social work. With continued growth expected in available social work jobs, Minnesota is a good place for those considering social work as a career. The Minnesota Board of Social Work handles regulatory matters for social workers in the state, establishing and enforcing professional standards. Continue reading to learn more about Minnesota social work license requirements, salary, and job outlook.

In This Article

How to Become a Social Worker in Minnesota

Educational Paths

While most Minnesota social work licenses require a master's degree in social work (MSW), a bachelor's degree in social work (BSW) is the minimum degree required to become an entry-level licensed social worker in the state. The BSW or MSW program you attend must hold accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) to qualify you for licensure in the state. Continue reading below to learn about the different educational levels available for the field.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

The entry-level degree for social work is a BSW. At minimum, licensed social workers must hold a bachelor's degree from a program approved by either the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) or the Canadian Association of Schools of Social Work (CASW). Seventeen Minnesota-based BSW programs currently hold accreditation by the CSWE.

A BSW degree typically takes around four years to complete and gives students a broad understanding of social work, including information about social policy and human behavior. Most BSW students must also complete core courses in non-social work subjects like English and psychology. Students may also receive a hands-on introduction to the career through fieldwork. BSW students in Minnesota may apply for the Licensed Social Worker (LSW) credential.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

Eight master's in social work (MSW) programs in Minnesota currently hold accreditation from CSWE. MSW programs typically take two years to complete unless you hold a BSW, in which case you may qualify for advanced standing. With advanced standing status, most students can complete an MSW program in one year.

MSW students learn a more specialized approach to social work, with fieldwork as an integral part of the learning process. MSW students in Minnesota may apply for the Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW), Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW), and Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) credentials.

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in Minnesota

There are four different types of social work licenses in Minnesota: Licensed Social Worker (LSW), Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW), Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW), and Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW).

Continue reading to learn more about the different types of social workers in the state and the steps to earn each license. Note that multiple circumstances may qualify you for a temporary license; for more information about these, visit the board's temporary license information page.

Licensed Social Worker (LSW)

With a BSW from a school approved by the CSWE or the CASW, you can get your LSW in Minnesota. An LSW may engage in the practice of non-clinical social work. Once you possess a qualifying BSW, you can take the following steps to earn your LSW license.

  • 1. Submit an LSW Application.

    The first step to becoming an LSW is to mail the board a completed copy of the Application for Licensure or complete it online through the online services portal. You must also request that your school send a copy of your BSW transcript directly to the board. The total application fee for an LSW is $93.25 (as of May 2020).

  • 2. Complete the Criminal Background Check.

    After you have sent your application to the board, you receive instructions by email for completing the required criminal background check. For this, you must make an appointment for fingerprinting. The cost of this background check is included in the fees you paid with your initial application.

  • 3. Take the ASWB Bachelor's Exam.

    After the board reviews your application, they notify you by mail of your eligibility to register for the ASWB bachelor's exam, which is required for licensure. The fee as of May 2020 is $230. The exam comprises 170 multiple-choice questions covering a variety of topics related to the bachelor's-level practice of social work.

  • 4. Receive your LSW License from the Board.

    Within two weeks of the exam, the board receives notification of your exam results and sends you written notification of your eligibility to receive your LSW license. To receive your license, you must pay a prorated license fee based on the amount of time until you need to renew.

  • 5. Complete the Required Supervised Practice.

    After you receive your LSW license, you must earn at least 100 hours of direct supervision in your first 4,000 hours of practice (at least four hours for every 160 hours of work). Your supervisor must be an LSW who has already completed this supervision requirement; an LGSW, LCSW, or LICSW; or another board-approved individual. Your supervisor(s) must document these hours using the board's verification of supervision form.

Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW)

An MSW from a CWSE- or CASW-accredited program is required to become an LGSW in Minnesota. This license allows a social worker to practice non-clinical social work independently and clinical work under supervision. Once you obtain your MSW, you must complete the following steps to become an LGSW.

  • 1. Submit an LGSW Application.

    To initiate the licensure process, mail a completed copy of the Application for Licensure or complete it online through the online services portal. You must have your program mail a copy of your MSW transcript to the board. The fee for an LGSW application is $60 (as of May 2020). You also need to pay an additional $33.25 for a background check if you do not already hold a Minnesota social work license at the time of your application.

  • 2. Complete the Criminal Background Check (If Required).

    If you do not already hold a social work license in Minnesota, you can obtain instructions by email for completing the criminal background check required for all social workers in the state. This message gives you information for scheduling an appointment for fingerprinting.

  • 3. Take the ASWB Master's Exam.

    To receive an LGSW license, you must pass the ASWB Master's exam. As of May 2020, this test costs $230 and consists of 170 multiple-choice questions. The board notifies you by mail when they have reviewed your application and granted approval for you to register for the exam.

  • 4. Receive your LGSW License from the Board.

    After you have completed all of the steps above, the board notifies you that you are eligible for an LGSW license. To receive your license you must pay a prorated license fee, determined based on the amount of time until your first renewal date.

  • 5. Complete the Required Supervised Practice.

    After you have received your LGSW license, you must complete a certain amount of supervised practice. If you are only providing non-clinical services to clients, you must receive 100 hours of supervision within your first 4,000 hours of practice from an LGSW who has completed this requirement, an LCSW, an LICSW, or another board-approved supervisor. You may accrue up to 8,000 hours of clinical social work practice under the supervision of an LICSW (or another board-approved supervisor). You must document all supervised hours using the board's verification of supervision forms.

Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW)

To become an LISW in Minnesota, a minimum of an MSW from a CWSE- or CASW-accredited program is required. An LISW license requires that you obtain supervised experience before licensure, but allows you to practice non-clinical social work without supervision immediately upon earning your license. Like an LGSW, an LISW still needs to be supervised for any clinical social work practice after licensure. After you have earned your MSW, you can complete the following steps to get your LISW license.

  • 1. Complete the Required Amount of Supervised Experience.

    All LISW applicants must complete 4,000 hours of post-degree supervised social work experience. During this time, you must work under an LGSW who has completed their supervised hours, an LISW, or an LICSW. You must obtain 100 hours of supervision with at least four hours of supervision for every 160 hours of work. Each of your supervisors must complete a verification of supervision form to document that you have completed these hours.

  • 2. Submit an LISW Application.

    After you have completed the required amount of supervised practice, you can submit an application to the board. You can do this through the online services portal or you can mail a copy of the Application for Licensure to the board. If the board does not already have a copy of your MSW transcript, have your school send one. The fee for the LISW application (May 2020) is $60; if you do not already hold a Minnesota social work license, you must pay an additional $33.25 for a background check.

  • 3. Complete the Criminal Background Check (If Required).

    If you already hold a Minnesota social work license, you have already completed a criminal background check and do not need to repeat the process. If you have not previously submitted to a background check for the board, you can receive instructions by email after the board reviews your application. For the background check, you must make an appointment for fingerprinting at a location near you.

  • 4. Take the ASWB Advanced Generalist Exam.

    To become an LISW, you must pass the ASWB Advanced Generalist exam. When the board has given you permission to register for the test, you receive notification by mail. As of May 2020, the fee for the exam is $260. The test comprises 170 multiple-choice questions, but only 150 are scored.

  • 5. Receive your LISW License from the Board.

    After you pass the Advanced Generalist exam, you can receive your LISW license for a prorated license fee (dependent on your first renewal date). With this license, you can practice non-clinical social work independently. You may practice clinical social work under the supervision of an LICSW (or another board-approved supervisor) for up to 8,000 hours.

Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW)

The highest level of social work licensure in Minnesota is the LICSW, which allows you to practice both clinical and non-clinical social work with no supervision required after licensure. A minimum of a CSWE- or CASW-accredited MSW is required to become an LICSW in Minnesota. Once you have earned this, you must complete the steps below to earn an LICSW license.

  • 1. Complete and Document the Required Clinical Clock Hours.

    Before becoming an LICSW, you must document 360 hours of training in six different clinical areas. You can find a list of these areas and the required hours for each on the board's LICSW application page. You can complete these hours through your accredited graduate social work program, through graduate training at another accredited school, or through completion of continuing education (CE) hours on these topics. (Up to 90 of the required hours can come from CE activities). You must document your completion of these hours on the 360 Clock Hours forms and submit this form with your application in Step 3.

  • 2. Complete the Required Supervised Clinical Experience.

    Before you can apply for LICSW licensure, you must also complete between 4,000 and 8,000 hours of supervised postgraduate practice in clinical social work. You must receive at least 200 hours of supervision from an LICSW or another board-approved supervisor during this time (at least eight hours of supervision for every 160 hours of practice). You must spend at least 1,800 hours in direct clinical contact with clients. Each supervisor you work under must document your hours using the board's verification of supervision form.

  • 3. Submit an LICSW Application.

    After completing the required clinical training and experience, you may submit an application for licensure. You can do this through the online services portal or by mailing a copy of the Application for Licensure to the board. Remember to include the required forms documenting your 360 hours of clinical training and supervised experience. If the board does not already have a copy of your transcript, ask your MSW program to send one. As of May 2020, the LICSW application costs $60, and you must pay an additional $33.25 for a background check if you have not previously submitted fingerprints to the board.

  • 4. Complete the Criminal Background Check (If Required).

    If you have not already completed a criminal background check for the purpose of obtaining another license, you can receive instructions by email after the board reviews your application. This email provides information for making an appointment to have your fingerprints taken and submitted for the background check.

  • 5. Take the ASWB Clinical Exam.

    After the board reviews your application and confirms that you have submitted the required materials, they notify you by mail of your eligibility to register for the ASWB Clinical exam. The fee as of May 2020 is $260, and the test comprises 170 multiple-choice items. The board receives your scores within about two weeks of your test date.

  • 6. Receive your LICSW License from the Board.

    After you complete all of the above steps, the board notifies you of your eligibility to obtain your license. You must pay a prorated license fee (based on your first renewal date) for issuance of your license. After receiving your license, you can practice both clinical and non-clinical social work without supervision.

Social Work Licensure by Endorsement in Minnesota

The board allows applicants licensed in other jurisdictions to apply for licensure by endorsement in Minnesota. To be eligible for licensure by endorsement, candidates must possess a current social work license in another state, meet the educational prerequisites for a Minnesota social work license, and demonstrate a passing score on the required ASWB exam.

LSW and LGSW applicants need not provide documentation of any supervised hours, but must obtain 100 hours of supervision once licensed in Minnesota. LISW and LICSW applicants do not need to provide documentation of the required 100 and 200 (respectively) pre-licensure supervision hours if they have completed at least 4,000 hours of supervised work experience. To apply for licensure by endorsement, follow the steps outlined on the board's application checklist. Application fees are $100 for all endorsement applicants.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

All social work licenses in Minnesota must be renewed every two years. You can find a list of renewal forms and fees on the board's website. All licensees must document 40 continuing education (CE) hours on their renewal form, including two hours in ethics, during each 24-month renewal term. LICSWs must complete 24 of the 40 CE hours in clinical topics, and supervisors must complete six of the 40 hours in supervision. Independent study can constitute 15 of the 40 CE hours for all licensees. Read more about acceptable activities on the board's CE page.

Minnesota Social Worker Jobs and Salary Information

The BLS reports 16,340 social workers employed in Minnesota as of May 2020, with a reported average annual salary of $59,478. The subfield of mental health and substance abuse social workers reported the highest average salary, at $60,090.2 The BLS projects an increase in employment for all subfields of social work in Minnesota from 2018-28. Overall projected job growth for social workers totals 13.6% during this period.

Type Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 8,430 $56,900
Healthcare Social Workers 4,390 $58,030
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 2,490 $60,090
Social Workers, All Other 1030 $62,890

Source: BLS (May 2020)

Social Work Associations in Minnesota

The National Association of Social Workers - Minnesota Chapter

NASM offers news, volunteer and job opportunities, and networking for its members, while advocating for the profession across the state.

Minnesota Society for Clinical Social Work

MSCSW works to advance clinical social work through professional development, endorsement of ethical standards, and legislative advocacy. The organization provides a variety of resources for its members.

Minnesota School Social Workers Association

MSSWA provides information about job descriptions and benefits, networking, workshops and conferences, and other resources related to school social work.

Minnesota Nursing Home Social Workers Association

MNHSWA offers consultation, mutual support, and resource materials for social workers employed in nursing homes.

Frequently Asked Questions

What level of degree do I need to be a social worker in Minnesota?

In Minnesota, you need a minimum of a BSW to work as a social worker. With a BSW, you can apply for a Licensed Social Worker license. However, an MSW offers far more opportunities, as this degree is the stepping stone for becoming licensed as a Licensed Graduate Social Worker, Licensed Independent Social Worker, or Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker in the state.

How often does my social work license have to be renewed?

In Minnesota, all licenses must be renewed every two years by the end of the licensee's birth month. During each renewal period, social workers must also complete 40 continuing education (CE) hours.

I am already a licensed social worker in another state. Can I become a social worker in Minnesota without having to complete all the steps?

Minnesota allows social workers licensed in other states to apply for licensure by endorsement if they meet the criteria for a Minnesota social work license. If you are approved for licensure by endorsement, you do not need to repeat all of the steps, such as the ASWB exams.


References:

  1. US Census Bureau Quick Facts, Minnesota: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/mn
  2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2019 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Minnesota: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_mn.htm
  3. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm