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Minnesota Social Work License Requirements

Of the 5.6 million individuals living in Minnesota, 15,000 are employed in the field of social work.1,2 With continued growth expected in the number of available social work jobs, Minnesota is a good place for people considering social work as a career choice. Social workers in the state are regulated by the Minnesota Board of Social Work, which establishes and enforces professional standards. Continue reading to learn more about Minnesota social work license requirements, salary and job outlook, and more.

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 will need to be accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) for you to be eligible for licensure in the state. Continue reading below to learn about the different educational levels possible for the field.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

The entry-level degree for the field of social work is a BSW. Licensed social workers are required to have a minimum of 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). There are 15 Minnesota-based BSW programs that are currently accredited by the CSWE. BSW degrees typically take around four years to complete and give students a broad understanding of the field of social work as well as information about social policy and human behavior. Most BSW students will also be required to take core courses in non-social work subjects like English and psychology. Students may also be given a hands-on introduction to the field through fieldwork. BSW students in Minnesota will be eligible to apply for the Licensed Social Worker (LSW) credential.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

There are currently eight master’s in social work (MSW) programs in Minnesota that are accredited by the CSWE. MSW programs typically take two years to complete unless you have a BSW, in which case you may be qualified for advanced standing. With advanced standing status, an MSW program can generally be completed in one year. MSW students will learn a more specialized approach to social work, with fieldwork being an integral part of the learning process. MSW students in Minnesota are eligible to 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 the state of 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 there are also multiple circumstances that 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 bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) from a school approved by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) or the Canadian Association of Schools of Social Work (CASW), you can get your LSW in the state of Minnesota. An LSW is able to engage in the practice of non-clinical social work. Once you have a qualifying BSW, the following steps can be taken 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 application fee for an LSW is $78.25 (as of February 2019).

2. Complete the criminal background check.

After you have sent your application to the Board, you will receive instructions by email for completing the required criminal background check. For this, you will be required to make an appointment to have your fingerprints taken. The cost of this background check is included in the fees that you paid with your initial application.

3. Take the ASWB Bachelor’s exam.

After the Board reviews your application, they will send you a notification by mail that you are eligible to register for the ASWB Bachelor’s exam, which is required for licensure. The fee as of February 2019 is $230. There are 170 multiple-choice items on the exam 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 will be notified of your exam results and will send written notification to inform you that you are eligible to receive your LSW license. To receive your license, you must pay a license fee, which will be prorated based on the amount of time until you will need to renew it.

5. Complete the required supervised practice.

After your LSW license has been received, you must receive at least 100 hours of direct supervision in your first 4,000 hours of practice (at least 4 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. These hours must be documented by your supervisor(s) 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 have obtained your MSW, the following steps will need to be completed 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 $45 (as of February 2019), and 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 will receive instructions by email for completing the criminal background check that is required for all social workers in the state. This message will give you information for scheduling an appointment to have your fingerprints taken.

3. Take the ASWB Master’s exam.

To receive an LGSW license, you must pass the ASWB Master’s exam. As of February 2019, this test costs $230 and consists of 170 multiple-choice questions. The Board will notify 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 will notify you that you are eligible for an LGSW license. To receive your license you will need to pay a prorated license fee, which will be 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 are able to accrue up to 8,000 hours of clinical social work practice under the supervision of an LICSW (or another Board-approved supervisor). All supervised hours must be documented 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 will need to 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. This can be done 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 to them. The fee for the LISW application (as of February 2019) is $45; if you do not already have a Minnesota social work license, you will need to 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 will have already completed a criminal background check and will not need to repeat it. If you have not previously submitted to a background check for the Board, you will receive instructions by email after your application has been reviewed. For the background check, you will need to make an appointment to have your fingerprints taken at a location near you.

4. Take the ASWB Advanced Generalist exam.

To become an LISW, you must pass the ASWB Advanced Generalist exam. You will be notified by mail when the Board has given you permission to register for the test. As of February 2019, the fee for the exam is $260. There are 170 multiple-choice questions on the test, but only 150 are scored.

5. Receive your LISW license from the Board.

After you have passed the Advanced Generalist exam, you will be eligible to 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 are able to 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 will need to 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. A list of these areas and the required hours for each can be found on the Board’s LICSW application page. These hours can be completed through your accredited graduate social work program, 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). Your completion of these hours must be documented on the 360 Clock Hours forms and submitted 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 8 hours of supervision for every 160 hours of practice). At least 1,800 hours must be spent 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 will be ready to submit an application for licensure. This can be done 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 February 2019, the LICSW application costs $45, and you will need to 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 Board for the purpose of obtaining another license, you will receive instructions by email for this after the Board has reviewed your application. This email will give you 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 has reviewed your application and found that you have submitted the required materials, they will notify you by mail that you are eligible to register for the ASWB Clinical exam. The fee as of February 2019 is $260, and the test contains 170 multiple-choice items. Your score will be sent to the Board within about two weeks of your test date.

6. Receive your LICSW license from the Board.

After all of the above steps have been completed, the Board will notify you that you are eligible to obtain your license. For your license to be issued, you must pay a prorated license fee (based on your first renewal date). 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 have a current social work license in another state, meet the educational prerequisites for a Minnesota social work license, and have passed the required ASWB exam. LSW and LGSW applicants do not have to provide documentation of any supervised hours but must obtain 100 hours of supervision once licensed in Minnesota. LISW and LICSW applicants do not have 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 $85 for all endorsement applicants.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

All social work licenses in Minnesota must be renewed every two years. A list of renewal forms and fees can be found 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 Work Jobs and Salary Information

There were 15,000 social workers employed in Minnesota in May 2017, with a reported average annual salary of $55,245.2 The subfield of healthcare social workers reported the highest average salary, at $58,530.2 All subfields of social work in Minnesota are expected to see an increase in the number of available jobs between 2016 and 2026. The total number of social work positions is projected to grow 11.3% during this period, with particularly high growth expected in mental health and substance abuse social work positions (15.4%).3

TypeNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers7,470$54,310
Healthcare Social Workers3,720$58,530
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers2,840$51,860
Social Workers, All Other970$56,280

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017.2

Social Work Associations in Minnesota

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What level of degree do I need to be a social worker in the state of Minnesota?

Answer: 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 will offer 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.

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

Answer: 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.

Question: 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?

Answer: 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 will not have 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 2017 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