New Jersey Social Work Licensing Requirements

By SocialWorkGuide.org

With a population of over 8 million, New Jersey is a great place for social workers to seek employment. As of 2018, over 10,000 social workers were employed in the state. Earning a median annual salary of $79,130, New Jersey mental health and substance abuse social workers enjoy the nation's highest average salaries in the U.S. for their specialty. The state's child, family, and healthcare social workers report the second-highest salaries in the country for their profession, earning a mean annual wage of $67,700.

The State Board of Social Work Examiners (SBSWE) regulates social work certification and licensure in New Jersey. The board offers three levels of credentialing. Read on to learn more about each credential and how prospective New Jersey social workers can earn them.

In This Article

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How to Become a Social Worker in New Jersey

Educational Paths

New Jersey social workers can become certified social workers (CSWs), licensed social workers (LSWs), or licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs). Each license or certification comes with specific educational requirements. By understanding the educational requirements, candidates are better equipped to determine which credential best aligns with their career goals.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

New Jersey requires all candidates for licensure or certification to hold at least a bachelor's degree in social work (BSW). A BSW qualifies holders to become CSWs or pursue a master's degree in social work. Baccalaureate programs must be accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) to lead to certification in New Jersey.

BSW programs introduce students to fundamental concepts in social work, including human behavior, theories of social work practice, and research. Other common bachelor's-level courses include biological and health sciences, English, social work history and policy, and sociology. Most BSW programs include a field practicum component that allows students to gain hands-on social work experience.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

The second degree that can lead to licensure in New Jersey is a master's in social work (MSW). Like individuals seeking New Jersey licensure with a BSW, master's candidates must attend a CSWE-accredited institution. While many MSW programs admit students with bachelor's degrees in areas other than social work, most programs offer advanced standing status for BSW-holders. These students are usually able to finish the master's program in one year. Other candidates typically complete their master's in two years.

All LSWs and LCSWs in New Jersey must hold an MSW. LSWs and LCSWs undergo more advanced training, and generally find more job opportunities and earn higher salaries than CSWs. An MSW also allows social workers to take on supervisory positions and teach at some colleges and universities.

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in New Jersey

Prospective social workers should become familiar with each of the three credentials available from the New Jersey Social Work Board. In New Jersey, professionals must be licensed or certified as CSWs, LSWs, or LCSWs in order to lawfully practice social work. Keep reading below to learn more about the differences and requirements for each social work credential in New Jersey.

Certified Social Worker (CSW)

Candidates who hold a BSW from a CSWE-accredited program are qualified to become CSWs in New Jersey. CSWs are permitted to provide nonclinical social work services and supervise undergraduate social work students. Below are the steps in the CSW certification process.

  • 1. Complete the CSW application and criminal background check.

    Prospective CSWs must complete an application form and submit it to the board with a $75 application fee and a sealed BSW transcript. Applicants may also request that their school sends a transcript copy directly to the board.

    The application form includes an authorization form for a criminal background check. If your prints are not already on file with the board or New Jersey's Division of Consumer Affairs, you will receive instructions for completing the background check after the board has processed your application.

  • 2. Receive your CSW certificate.

    The board issues CSW certificates after approving completed applications. After receiving the board's approval, professionals may begin providing nonclinical social work services in New Jersey.

  • 3. Licensed Social Worker (LSW)

    Individuals who hold an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program may become licensed social workers (LSWs) in New Jersey. The LSW license requires more education than a CSW credential, and LSWs generally enjoy higher salaries than CSWs. LSW licenses allow individuals to provide nonclinical social work services without supervision and to practice clinical social work under an LCSW's supervision. Below are the steps to earning a New Jersey LSW license.

  • 4. Submit an examination pre-approval form to the board.

    The first step towards LSW licensure is to request board approval to take the required exam. Candidates may submit this request during the final semester of their MSW program or wait until after graduation. Applicants must complete the examination pre-approval form and submit it to the board with their MSW transcripts and a $75 fee. Applicants may also request that their school mails transcripts directly to the board. The application fee also covers the cost of licensure.

  • 5. Take and pass the ASWB Master's exam.

    After receiving board approval, candidates can register to take the ASWB Master's exam. As of March 2020, the fee for this test is $230. The ASWB Master's exam comprises 170 multiple-choice questions, 150 of which are scored. Test results are automatically transferred to the New Jersey Board.

  • 6. Complete the LSW application and criminal background check.

    Next, applicants must complete the LSW application form and submit it to the board at any point after receiving approval to take the ASWB Master's exam and completing an MSW. Candidates must indicate on the application whether they have successfully completed the exam or provide the date they are scheduled to take it. They must also include an official MSW transcript or have their school send one to the board.

    The LSW application materials include a form authorizing a criminal background check. If the board or the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs has not previously requested your fingerprints for a background check, they will send you further instructions after they have processed your application.

  • 7. Receive LSW license from the board.

    Candidates who successfully complete the ASWB Master's exam, submit the application, and pass the background check are eligible to receive an LSW license. The board notifies applicants when licensure has been issued and they can begin providing social work services.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

LCSWs must hold a master's or doctoral degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited program and complete a certain amount of supervised clinical social work experience before obtaining licensure. New Jersey LCSWs may provide unsupervised clinical social work services in addition to general services. Below is more information about earning an LCSW license.

  • 1. Obtain the required supervised experience.

    To become licensed, all LCSW candidates must complete two years or 3,000 hours of clinical social work under an LCSW's supervision. In New Jersey, prospective LCSWs must hold an LSW license while completing the supervised work requirement. An eligible supervisor must have been licensed for at least three years and have completed 20 hours of postgraduate training in supervision. Candidates must receive at least one hour of supervision per week for the duration of the clinical experience.

    Of the 3,000 required hours of supervised clinical social work experience, 1,920 hours must be spent providing direct client services. Of those face-to-face client hours, 960 must be earned providing psychotherapeutic counseling services. Candidates must complete this requirement in no fewer than two, but no more than four, years.

  • 2. Submit an examination pre-approval form to the board.

    Applicants must request the board's approval to take the LCSW licensing exam by submitting an examination pre-approval form. They may request approval while working on the supervised experience requirement. As of March 2020, the exam costs $75. This fee also covers the LCSW application, which candidates complete at a later date.

  • 3. Take and pass the ASWB Clinical exam.

    Applicants who receive board approval can register for the ASWB Clinical exam. This 170-item, multiple choice test covers clinical social work topics. As of March 2020, the fee for this test is $260.

  • 4. Complete the LCSW application and background check.

    After registering for the licensure exam, applicants may submit an LCSW application to the board. A portion of this application must be completed by the candidate's supervisor to verify that they have completed the required work experience. Applicants may also need to submit a transcript of your MSW, even if the board has received one for a previous application.

    While the board conducts a background check on all LCSW candidates, if your fingerprints are already on file from your LSW application you should not need to submit a new set. Out-of-state applicants receive background check instructions from the board after their applications have been processed.

  • 5. Receive LCSW license from the board.

    Individuals who have completed the required supervised experience, passed the ASWB Clinical exam, and submitted a complete application to the board are eligible to receive a LCSW license. The board notifies candidates when their licenses have been issued.

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Social Work License by Endorsement in New Jersey

The New Jersey Board does not maintain official reciprocity agreements with other states. However, candidates who hold an out-of-state social work license and meet the board's education and training requirements to become a CSW, LSW, or LCSW may apply for New Jersey licensure by endorsement. Candidates seeking a certificate or license by endorsement should complete an application form, provide verification of current licensure, transfer any ASWB exam scores to the New Jersey Board, and pay a $75 fee.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

All New Jersey social workers must renew their licenses every two years. While each license and certification maintains different continuing education requirements, all social workers must complete five hours of continuing education in ethics and three hours related to competence in social and cultural issues. Below are the specific continuing education requirements for each social work credential:

CSWs must complete 20 hours of continuing education during each renewal period. Those who earn more than 20 credits can apply up to four to the next renewal period.

LSWs must complete 30 hours of continuing education during each renewal period. Those who earn more than 30 credits can apply up to six to the next renewal period.

LCSWs must complete 40 hours of continuing education during each renewal period. At least 20 credits must be related to clinical social work practice. Those who earn more than 40 credits can apply up to eight to the next renewal period.

New Jersey Social Worker Jobs and Salary Information

According to data from the BLS, New Jersey social workers' $70,000 average annual salary is notably higher than the national average social work salary of $53,060. There were just over 10,000 social workers in New Jersey in 2019, with the highest number working in the child, family, and school social work field.

Between 2016 and 2026, the number of social work positions in New Jersey is projected to increase. Healthcare social work is projected to increase by 15.9% in the coming decade, resulting in over 700 new jobs.

Type Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 5,060 $67,700
Healthcare Social Workers 3,120 $64,570
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 1,710 $79,130
Social Workers, All Other 500 $68,630

Source: BLS

Social Work Associations in New Jersey

The National Association of Social Workers, New Jersey Chapter

The NASW advocates for social workers, addressing issues like workplace safety, compensation, and education debt relief. Members enjoy unique continuing education opportunities.

New Jersey Clinical Social Work Society

This organization offers a professional community for LCSWs, featuring networking opportunities and continuing education programs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I begin practicing independently once I become an LCSW?

Yes. Once you complete the process outlined above to become an LCSW in New Jersey, you are eligible to practice without supervision.

Can I count experience I gained years ago for the 3,000 hours of work experience required for LCSW licensure?

The supervised experience required for LCSW licensure must have been completed within five years prior to the date you submit your application to the board.

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

A supervising LCSW must have been licensed for at least three years and completed at least 20 hours of postgraduate training in supervision.

What kind of degree do I need to practice social work in New Jersey?

New Jersey social workers must hold either a BSW or an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program.