New Jersey Social Work Licensing Requirements
New Jersey is a great place for social workers to earn a living wage. The state has a population of nearly 9 million people and employs over 13,000 social workers.1,2 Mental health and substance abuse social workers in New Jersey earn the highest wage in the US, at $59,900.2 Social workers employed in child, family, and school social work and those ranked as “other” social workers in the state rank among the top-paid in the nation as well.
A licensed social worker in New Jersey must follow specific standards, regulated by the New Jersey State Board of Social Work Examiners (NJSBSWE). The information below contains a detailed outline of how to become a licensed social worker in the state of New Jersey.
How to Become a Social Worker in New Jersey
In the state of New Jersey, social workers can become certified social workers (CSWs), licensed social workers (LSWs), or licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs). Each type of licensure or certification has specific requirements that begin with the level of education a potential licensee has obtained. Below are the two educational paths required to become licensed or certified in the state. Understanding the educational requirements will enable you to decide which path to licensure best suits your current lifestyle and aligns with your career goals.
Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)
A bachelor’s in social work (BSW) is a minimum requirement for becoming licensed or certified in New Jersey. Holding a BSW can allow an individual to apply to become a certified social worker (CSW) and is also the first step in obtaining a master’s in social work. Baccalaureate programs must be accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) in order to lead to licensure in the state. BSW programs introduce students to the social work industry by exposing them to courses like human behavior, social work practice theory, and research. Other courses typically taken while earning a BSW include biological and health sciences, English, social work history and policy, and sociology. Most BSW programs have a field practicum component that allows students to see what it’s like to actually work in the field.
Master of Social Work (MSW)
The second track that leads to licensure in New Jersey is to acquire a master’s in social work. Like the bachelor’s program, individuals who want to become licensed must attend a school accredited by the CSWE. While many MSW programs allow students who hold bachelor’s degrees in topics other than social work to be admitted, most MSW programs will offer advanced standing to students who hold a BSW. These students are usually able to finish the master’s program in one year as opposed to the two years it generally takes for completion. An MSW is a requirement to become an LSW or LCSW in New Jersey. LSWs and LCSWs will generally find more available job opportunities and earn more than a CSW because of their licensure status. An MSW also allows a social worker to be able to supervise other social workers and teach at some accredited universities.
Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in New Jersey
Besides understanding the educational restrictions, you must also understand the requirements for each of the three licenses administered by the New Jersey Social Work Board. In New Jersey, individuals must be licensed or certified in order to lawfully practice social work. Qualified social workers can become certified social workers (CSWs), licensed social workers (LSWs), or licensed clinical social workers (LCSW), provided they meet the specifications outlined by the Board. Each license or certification has specific requirements in addition to education that potential licensees must meet. It should also be noted that if you hold only a BSW and not an MSW, you will only be able to become a CSW. Keep reading below to understand the differences and requirements for each license in New Jersey.
Certified Social Worker (CSW)
With a minimum of a BSW from a CSWE-accredited program, you qualify to become a CSW in the state of New Jersey. No experience is required to become a CSW; however, CSWs must work under supervision.
The process below details what is required to become a CSW:
1. Complete the CSW application online.
Certificate candidates must complete the application online and pay the $75 application fee (as of October 2015).
2. Submit the required forms.
Applicants must provide several documents via mail to the New Jersey Examiners Board. Candidates must:
- Complete and return the authorization form for a criminal background check.
- Provide an official transcript showing educational history from a CSWE-accredited school.
3. Complete the required background checks.
Before becoming licensed, each applicant is required to pass a criminal background check.
4. Receive CSW license from the New Jersey Board.
Once you fulfill the above-stated requirements, you become a CSW in the state of New Jersey.
Licensed Social Worker (LSW)
Individuals who hold an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program can apply for a social worker license to the New Jersey Examiners Board. Because the requirements are more stringent than those of a CSW, most LSWs will have higher earnings when compared to someone who holds a CSW. It is not required that you become a CSW prior to becoming an LSW, but if you desire to become an LCSW, obtaining your LSW will be necessary.
In order to become an LSW, candidates must:
1. Complete the LSW application online.
The first step to becoming an LSW is to complete the application for licensure and pay the application fee of $100 (as of October 2015). The application will ask general information, plus information regarding the candidate’s social work experience.
2. Submit the required documents.
Candidates must provide an official transcript to the social work Board certifying that they received an MSW from a CSWE-accredited school, in addition to submitting a completed form authorizing the Board to conduct a criminal background check.
3. Take and pass the ASWB masters exam.
Candidates must take the master’s level ASWB exam* by registering on the ASWB website and paying the required fees. As of October 2015, the application fee was $25 and the testing fee was $230. After they are approved by ASWB for the exam, candidates must thenschedule their exam online or by phone.
The ASWB master’s level exam is a four-hour, 170-question test. Passing scores range from 93 and 106 exam questions answered correctly. If a candidate fails, he or she must wait 90 days to retake the exam; candidates will be responsible for the application and exam fee in order to retake it.
*Candidates can be currently enrolled in their final semester of an MSW program.
4. Receive LSW license from the Board.
After successfully completing the preceding steps, individuals will become LSWs in the state of New Jersey.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
Licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs) must have documented and supervised experience in addition to an advanced degree. It is important to note that in order to qualify to apply for a clinical social worker license, candidates must first hold an LSW. To obtain an LCSW, candidates must:
1. Obtain the required experience.
LCSW candidates must obtain 1,920 hours or two years of full-time social work experience as a licensed social worker. This experience must include face-to-face interaction with clients. Qualified experience must be supervised and acquired within two to three continuous years.
2. Complete the LCSW application online.
LCSW candidates must complete the LCSW application for licensure from the New Jersey Board’s website and pay the $100 application fee (as of October 2015). The application will ask for general information, plus information regarding the candidate’s social work experience.
3. Submit the required documents.
In addition to submitting a completed form authorizing the Board to conduct a criminal background check, candidates must provide an official transcript to the social work Board certifying that they received an MSW from a CSWE-accredited school. The transcript must show that the candidate has 12 graduate-level credit hours in clinical social methods, plus 12 credit hours in human behavior and the social environment, diagnosis and assessment in social work practice, models of psychotherapy or clinical practice, clinical supervision, and intervention with special populations.
Candidates will also have to submit a form certifying that their experience was acquired within two to three consecutive years under supervision.
4. Take and pass the ASWB clinical exam.
LCSW’s will have to take the clinical ASWB exam which consists of 170 questions. Candidates must obtain authorization prior to registering for the clinical exam. The clinical ASWB exam has an associated fee of $260, plus the $25 application fee.*
In order to pass the ASWB exam in New Jersey, candidates must correctly answer between 62% and 71% of the exam questions.
*All fees current as of October 2015.
5. Receive LCSW license from the Board.
Upon completion of these four steps required by the New Jersey Board, individuals will become LCSWs in the state of New Jersey.
Social Work License Reciprocity in New Jersey
According to the New Jersey Board, the state has no licensing reciprocity agreements with any other state. Candidates who hold a social work license from another state may apply for New Jersey licensure through endorsement. In New Jersey, applicants are eligible to become licensed via endorsement considering they have met all educational and experience requirements outlined by the New Jersey Board of Examiners for the desired license.
Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information
All licensed social workers must renew their licenses every two years in New Jersey. Each license or certificate needs a different amount of continuing education credits.
CSWs require 20 hours of continuing education credits; five must be directly related to ethics. If a CSW obtains more than 20 hours of continuing education, he or she is able to carry over four hours into the next renewal period.
LSWs require 30 hours of continuing education credits; five continuing education hours must be in ethics. LSWs are allowed to carry over six continuing education hours into the next renewal period.
LCSWs require 40 hours of continuing education credits; 20 hours must be in clinical practice and five hours must be in ethics. In the event that LCSWs surpass the required continuing education credits for the license renewal period, they can carry over no more than eight credit hours to the next renewal period.
The The National Association of Social Workers (NASW): New Jersey Chapter provides a listing of continuing education opportunities available across the state.
New Jersey Social Worker Jobs and Salary Information
Social work jobs in New Jersey pay some of the highest salaries in the US. New Jersey social workers earn an average annual salary of $61,647; that’s $13,000 more than the national average salary for the profession.2 The state employs 13,070 social workers; most of those individuals are employed in the child, family, and school sector.2 Between now and the year 2022 employment opportunities for social workers in New Jersey are expected to increase by 8.6% or about 420 jobs per year.3 The majority of those positions are projected to be available in healthcare and mental health and substance abuse.
|Type||Number Employed||Average Annual Salary|
|Child, Family, and School Social Workers||6,860||$60,780|
|Healthcare Social Workers||3,150||$58,220|
|Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers||2,260||$59,900|
|Social Workers, All Other||800||$67,690|
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2014.2
Social Work Associations in New Jersey
- The National Association of Social Workers (NASW): New Jersey Chapter – The New Jersey chapter of the NASW, the largest chapter in the world, advocates for the social work profession, provides continuing education opportunities and works on issues of workplace safety, compensation, and education debt relief.
- New Jersey Clinical Social Work Society (NJCSWS) – Provides a professional community for licensed clinical social workers, professional development and networking opportunities, and continuing education opportunities.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Can I begin practicing independently once I become registered as an Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)?
Answer: Yes, once you complete the process outlined above to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in New Jersey, you are eligible to practice without any supervision.
Question: For the 1,920 hours of work experience required, can I count experience I gained years ago?
Answer: Yes, as long the experience was acquired consecutively and within the past two to three years.
Question: What kinds of qualifications are required of the person supervising my experience?
Answer: An LSW candidate may be supervised by either an LCSW, a board-certified psychiatrist (licensed by the New Jersey Board), or a licensed psychologist (licensed by the New Jersey Board of Psychological Examiners). An LCSW candidate may be supervised by either an LCSW who has held a license for at least three years and has 20 continuing education credits related to clinical supervision approved by the NASW or ASWB. You may apply for special approval for a supervisor that does not meet the above qualifications directly to the New Jersey Board of Examiners.
Question: What kind of degree do I need to practice social work in New Jersey?
Answer: To practice social work in New Jersey social workers need either a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) or a master’s degree in social work (MSW) from an accredited CSWE school.
1. US Census Bureau Quick Facts, New Jersey: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/NJ
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, New Jersey: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nj.htm
3. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm