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Minnesota Social Work License Requirements

Minnesota is the twelfth-largest state in area and the 21st largest in population. With competitive salaries and high employment in the sector of social work, 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 (the Board), which establishes and enforces professional standards, holding social workers accountable for achieving educational and experience requirements, as well as continuing education hours each renewal term.

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. Both BSW and MSW programs will need to be accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) 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). Minnesota offers 15 BSW programs that are currently accredited by the CSWE. BSW degrees typically take around four years to complete, and they 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 will likely be given a more personal introduction into the field through a fieldwork designation. BSW students in Minnesota will be eligible to become licensed social workers (LSW).

Master of Social Work (MSW)

In addition to its CSWE-accredited BSW programs, Minnesota offers eight master’s in social work programs in the state that are accredited by the CSWE. MSW programs will typically take students two years to complete unless they have a BSW, in which case they may be qualified for “advanced standing.” With advanced standing status, a two-year program can take students as little as one year to complete as opposed to two. 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 enter the field as a licensed graduate social worker (LGSW), an licensed independent social worker (LISW), or a licensed independent clinical social worker (LICSW).

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in Minnesota

There are four different types of social workers in the state of Minnesota: licensed social workers (LSWs), licensed graduate social workers (LGSWs), licensed independent social workers (LISWs), and licensed independent clinical social workers (LICSWs). Licensure for any of these levels requires a minimum of a BSW, but most require an MSW. Continue reading below to learn more about the various types of social workers in the state and the steps to become each one.

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. Once you have met the educational requirement, the following steps should be taken to become an LSW.

1. Submit the application.

The first step for becoming an LSW is to complete and submit the application and pay the associated fee. As of November 2015, the fee including a criminal background check was $60 for new applicants and $100 for those applying for licensure by endorsement. You can also apply for a license using the Board’s online service. Along with your application, you will need to submit to a criminal background check and request an official transcript to be sent directly from your college or university.

2. Take the ASWB bachelors exam.

Within 45 days, the Board will notify you that your application materials have been accepted and that you have been approved to proceed with taking the ASWB’s bachelor’s level exam. The fee as of November 2015 was $230. If you should fail the exam, you must wait 90 days to re-register to take the exam.

3. 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 have been approved for licensure. At that time, you will pay a prorated license fee, and the effective date of your license will be the date that fee is received. Note that a temporary license can also be obtained for a fee of $50 to applicants who meet the educational requirements and have passed the ASWB exam or to social workers licensed in another jurisdiction.

4. Complete the required supervised practice.

After your LSW license has been received, you must complete 100 hours of direct supervision per 4,000 hours of practice.

Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW)

An MSW from a CWSE- or CASW-approved program is required to apply to become an LGSW in Minnesota. Once you have obtained your MSW, the following steps will need to be completed before becoming an LGSW.

  1. Submit the application form or apply online and submit the fee of $60. Transcripts will need to accompany your application.
  2. Take the ASWB’s masters exam and pay the associated $230 fee.
  3. Receive your LGSW license from the Board.
  4. Complete the required supervised practice, which is 100 hours of supervision for every 4,000 hours of non-clinical practice and 200 hours of direct supervision for every 4,000 hours of clinical practice.

Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW)

To become an LISW in Minnesota, a minimum of an MSW from a CWSE- or CASW-approved program is required. With a master’s degree in social work, you can proceed to the following steps to get your LISW license.

  1. Complete and document the required supervised practice, which is 100 hours of supervision for every 4,000 hours of non-clinical practice. Each supervisor will need to complete and submit a supervision verification form.
  2. Submit the application form or apply online and submit the fee of $60. Transcripts will need to accompany your application.
  3. Take the ASWB’s advanced generalist exam and pay the associated $260 fee.
  4. Receive your LGSW license from the Board.

Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW)

A minimum of a master’s degree in social work (MSW) is required to become an LICSW in Minnesota. The program must be approved by the CSWE or the CASW. With an MSW, you can complete the following steps to get licensed as an LICSW.

1. Complete and document the required clinical clock hours.

Before becoming an LICSW, you must document 360 clock hours in the following clinical areas:

  • 108 hours in differential diagnosis and biopsychosocial assessment, including normative development and psychopathology across the life span
  • 36 hours in assessment-based clinical treatment planning with measurable goals
  • 108 hours in clinical intervention methods informed by research and current standards of practice
  • 18 hours in evaluation methodologies
  • 72 hours in social work values and ethics, including cultural context, diversity, and social policy
  • 18 hours in culturally specific clinical assessment and intervention

There are different ways you can satisfy these 360 clock hours. An accredited MSW or doctorate in social work (DSW) program, graduate coursework from an accredited institution of higher learning, and up to 90 continuing education (CE) hours, with no more than 20 hours of independent study, can satisfy the experience requirement.

2. Submit the application.

You can either complete the paper application form or apply online and submit the fee of $60. Transcripts will need to accompany your application.

3. Take the ASWB clinical exam.

Within 45 days, the Board will notify you that your application materials have been accepted and that you have been approved to proceed with taking the ASWB’s clinical exam. The fee as of November 2015 was $260.

4. Receive your LICSW license from the Board.

Finally, you will be notified by the Board of your acceptance or if additional documentation is needed to process your application. Note that a temporary license can also be obtained for a fee of $50 to applicants who meet the educational requirements and have passed the ASWB exam or to social workers licensed in another jurisdiction.

Social Work License Reciprocity in Minnesota

The Minnesota Board does allow applicants from other jurisdictions to apply for licensure in the state. To be eligible for licensure by reciprocity (or endorsement), candidates must have a current social work license in another state, have an accredited BSW or MSW depending on the license sought, have obtained a passing score on the ASWB exam, and pass a background check. In addition, LISW and LICSW candidates seeking licensure by endorsement are not required to demonstrate the required hours of supervision if they have engaged in authorized social work practice for a minimum of 4,000 hours in their previous jurisdiction. Fees, as of November 2015, were $100 for licensure by endorsement for all levels, including the background check fee.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

All social work licenses in Minnesota must be renewed every two years by the last day of your birth month. A list of renewal fees can be found on the Board’s website, and applications can be completed on paper or online. All licensees must document 40 continuing education (CE) hours on their renewal form, including two hours in ethics, for a 24-month renewal term. LICSWs must document 24 of the 40 hours in a clinical setting, and licensing supervisors must document six of 40 hours in supervision. Independent study can constitute 15 of the 40 CE hours for all licensees. Read more about acceptable CE activities on the Board’s website.

Minnesota Social Work Jobs and Salary Information

Minnesota employed 11,160 social workers in May 2014.1 In the subcategory of child, family, and school social workers, Minnesota is the third-highest paying state, at $59,620 per year.2 The category of “other” social workers are also well-paid in the state, with average salaries reported of $59,280.1 The subcategory of healthcare social workers is projected to see the highest growth by 2022, according to Projections Central, at 16.2% growth, followed closely by mental health and substance abuse social workers, expected to grow by 15.4% during the same time period.3 Overall, social work jobs in the state are expected to grow by 9.6% through 2022, which is slightly lower than average for all professions.3

TypeNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers6,110$59,620
Healthcare Social Workers2,530$52,840
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers2,060$49,010
Social Workers, All Other460$59,280

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2014.3

Social Work Associations in Minnesota

  • The National Association of Social Workers (NASW): MN Chapter – The Minnesota chapter of the NASW offers news, volunteer and job opportunities, and networking for its members, advocating for the profession across the state.
  • Minnesota Society for Clinical Social Work – The MSCSW works to advance clinical social work through professional development, endorsement of ethical standards, and legislative advocacy, providing for its members networking opportunities, a society newsletter, and professional education workshops.
  • Minnesota School Social Workers Association – The MSSWA was founded in 1968 with the goals of exchanging information about job descriptions and benefits, networking, sponsoring workshops and conferences, and expanding quality school social work licensure.
  • Minnesota Nursing Home Social Workers Association – the MNHSWA has ten chapters and over 400 members throughout the state, to whom they offer consultation, mutual support, and resource materials.

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 to be a licensed social worker. However, MSW will offer far more opportunities, as this degree is the stepping stone for becoming a licensed graduate social worker, a licensed independent social worker, and a 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 candidate’s birth month. During each renewal period, candidates must also complete continuing education (CE) courses.

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 does recognize license from other states, and, with verification of passing scores on the ASWB exam and documentation of practice hours, will allow licensure by endorsement candidates to skip some of the required supervised hours of practice.

References:
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Minnesota: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_mn.htm
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Social Workers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm
3. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm