New Jersey Social Work Licensing Requirements
With a population of over nine million, New Jersey is a great place for social workers to seek employment.1 As of 2017, over 10,000 social workers were employed in the state.2 Mental health and substance abuse social workers in New Jersey report the highest average salaries in the US for their specialty ($75,870), and the state’s child, family, and healthcare social workers report the second-highest salaries in the nation for this group ($66,610).3,4
Social work certification and licensure in New Jersey is regulated by the State Board of Social Work Examiners (SBSWE), which offers three levels of credentialing. On this page is more information about the function of each of these credentials as well as how to earn them.
How to Become a Social Worker in New Jersey
In the state of New Jersey, individuals can pursue credentialing as a a Certified Social Worker (CSW), Licensed Social Worker (LSW), or Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). 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 credential best aligns with your career goals.
Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)
A bachelor’s in social work (BSW) is the minimum required level of education for becoming licensed or certified in New Jersey. Holding a BSW can allow an individual to apply to become a CSW and is also the first step toward 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 certification in the state. BSW programs introduce students to the social work industry by exposing them to courses like human behavior, theories of social work practice, 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 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 licensure with a BSW, those who want to become licensed in New Jersey with an MSW 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 job opportunities and earn higher salaries than CSWs because of the higher amount of training involved. An MSW also allows a social worker to supervise other social workers and teach at some accredited universities.
Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in New Jersey
In addition to understanding the educational requirements, you must also become familiar with each of the three credentials issued by the New Jersey Social Work Board. In New Jersey, you must be licensed or certified in order to lawfully practice social work. Qualified individuals can apply to become Certified Social Workers (CSWs), Licensed Social Workers (LSWs), or Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSWs), provided they meet the specifications outlined by the Board. Each license or certification has specific requirements in addition to the degrees that potential licensees must hold. It should also be noted that if you hold only a BSW and not an MSW, you will only be able to become certified as a CSW. Keep reading below to learn more about the differences and requirements for each social work credential 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, as no post-degree experience is required. CSWs are able to provide non-clinical social work services and supervise undergraduate social work students. Below are the steps required to become certified as a CSW.
1. Complete the CSW application and criminal background check.
CSW candidates must first complete the application form and submit it to the Board with a $75 application fee (as of December 2018). You will need to either include a sealed transcript from your BSW with your application or request that your school send a copy to the Board. The application form also 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.
After the Board approves your complete application, they will issue your CSW certificate. Once you have been notified that this has been granted, you can begin providing non-clinical social work services in New Jersey.
Licensed Social Worker (LSW)
Individuals who hold an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program can apply to become Licensed Social Workers (LSWs) in New Jersey. Because this license involves more education than is required for a CSW, jobs for LSWs will generally offer higher salaries. LSW licenses allow individuals to provide non-clinical social work services without supervision and to practice clinical social work under the supervision of an LCSW. Below are the steps to earning an LSW license in New Jersey.
1. Submit an examination pre-approval form to the Board.
The first step towards LSW licensure is to request approval from the Board to take the required exam. You can submit this request during the final semester of your MSW program or wait until after you have graduated. When you are ready to register for the exam, complete the Examination Pre-Approval form and submit it to the Board. You must include a transcript from your MSW program (even if you have not yet completed your degree) or ask that your school mail one to the Board. As of December 2018, the fee for this application form is $75, which will also cover the fee for the licensure application (completed at a later stage).
2. Take and pass the ASWB Master’s exam.
After the Board has approved your examination request, you can register to take the ASWB Master’s exam. As of December 2018, the fee for this test is $230. The ASWB Master’s exam consists of 170 multiple-choice questions, 150 of which are scored. After you have taken the test, your results will automatically be transferred to the New Jersey Board.
3. Complete the LSW application and criminal background check.
Another required step in the licensure process is to complete the LSW application form and submit it to the Board. You can complete this application at any time after receiving approval to take the ASWB Master’s exam and completing your MSW. You will need to indicate on the application whether you have already successfully completed the exam or the date you have scheduled it. When you submit this application, you must include an official copy of your final MSW transcript or have your school send one to the Board.
Included in the LSW application is 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 instructions for completing this after they have processed your application.
4. Receive LSW license from the Board.
After successfully completing the ASWB Master’s exam, submitting the application, and passing the background check, you should be eligible to receive your LSW license. The Board will notify you when it has been issued and you can begin providing social work services.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
Licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs) must hold a master’s or doctoral degree in social work from a CWSE-accredited program. They are also required to complete a certain amount of supervised clinical social work experience before becoming licensed. An LCSW license allows an individual to provide unsupervised clinical social work services in addition to the general services all New Jersey social workers can provide. 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 (3,000 hours) of clinical social work under the supervision of an LCSW. If you are earning your supervised hours in New Jersey, you will need to hold an LSW license while completing this requirement. Your supervisor must have been licensed for at least three years and have completed 20 hours of post-graduate training in supervision. You must receive at least one hour of supervision per week for the duration of this clinical experience.
Of the 3,000 required hours of supervised clinical social work experience, 1,920 hours must be spent providing direct services to clients. 960 of those face-to-face client hours must be earned providing psychotherapeutic counseling services. Additionally, your hours must be completed in no fewer than two but no more than four years.
2. Submit an examination pre-approval form to the Board.
To take the exam required for LCSW licensure, you must first request approval from the Board. You can complete this step while you are still working on your supervised experience requirement. To gain approval for the licensure exam, submit the Examination Pre-Approval form to the Board. As of December 2018, you must include a fee of $75 with this form. This will also be used to cover the fee for the LCSW application, which you will complete at a later step.
3. Take and pass the ASWB Clinical exam.
After the Board has approved your examination request form, you can register for the ASWB Clinical exam. This is a 170-item, multiple-choice test covering clinical social work topics. As of December 2018, the fee for this test is $260.
4. Complete the LCSW application and background check.
After you have registered for the licensure exam, you can submit an LCSW application to the Board. Note that a portion of this application will need to be completed by your supervisor to verify that you have completed your required work experience. You may also need to submit a transcript of your MSW, even if the Board has received one for a previous application. The Board conducts a background check on all LCSW candidates, but if your fingerprints are already on file from your LSW application, you should not need to submit a new set (out-of-state applicants will receive background check instructions from the Board after their application has been processed).
5. Receive LCSW license from the Board.
After you have completed your required supervised experience, passed the ASWB Clinical exam, and submitted a complete application to the Board, you will be eligible to receive your LCSW license. The Board will notify you when your license has been issued.
Social Work License by Endorsement in New Jersey
The New Jersey Board has no official reciprocity agreements with other states. However, candidates who hold a social work license in another state may apply for a New Jersey social work credential by endorsement if they meet the Board’s education and training requirements to become a CSW, LSW, or LCSW. If you are interested in applying for a certificate or license by endorsement, complete the application form that corresponds with the credential you are seeking. In addition to the materials required of all applicants, you will need to provide verification of your current license and have any ASWB exam scores transferred to the New Jersey Board. The fee for all applications by endorsement is $75 as of December 2018.
Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information
All licensed social workers must renew their licenses every two years in New Jersey. Although each license or certificate has different continuing education requirements, social workers of all levels must complete five hours of continuing education in ethics and three hours related to competence in social and cultural issues. Below are the continuing education requirements specific to each social work credential:
- CSWs must complete 20 hours of continuing education during each renewal period. If more than 20 credits are earned, up to four can be applied to the next renewal period.
- LSWs must complete 30 hours of continuing education during each renewal period. If more than 30 credits are earned, up to six can be applied 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. If more than 40 credits are earned, up to eight can be applied to the next renewal period.
The The New Jersey Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) provides a listing of continuing education opportunities available across the state.
New Jersey Social Worker Jobs and Salary Information
According to 2017 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 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 $68,993, which is notably higher than the national average social work salary of $53,492.2,5 10,590 social workers were employed in New Jersey in 2017, with the highest number working in the field of child, family, and school social work.2 Between 2016 and 2026, the number of social work positions of all types in New Jersey is expected to increase by 13%, or about 151 new jobs each year.6 The most growth is expected in healthcare social work, where the number of jobs is expected to increase by 15.9% during the 10-year period.6
|Type||Number Employed||Average Annual Salary|
|Child, Family, and School Social Workers||5,470||$66,610|
|Healthcare Social Workers||3,050||$64,190|
|Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers||1,560||$75,870|
|Social Workers, All Other||510||$69,300|
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017.2
Social Work Associations in New Jersey
- The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), New Jersey Chapter: 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 3,000 hours of work experience required for LCSW licensure, can I count experience I gained years ago?
Answer: The supervised experience required for LCSW licensure must have been completed within the five years prior to the date you submit your application to the Board.
Question: What kinds of qualifications are required of the person supervising my experience?
Answer: An LSW who is providing clinical services must be supervised by an LCSW who has been licensed for at least three years and has completed at least 20 hours of post-graduate training in supervision.
Question: What kind of degree do I need to practice social work in New Jersey?
Answer: To practice social work in New Jersey, you need either a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) or a master’s degree in social work (MSW) from a CSWE-accredited program.
1. US Census Bureau State Population Totals and Components of Change, 2010-2017: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/nj
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2017 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, New Jersey: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nj.htm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2017 Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211023.htm
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2017 Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Child, Family, and School Social Workers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211021.htm
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2017 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, United States: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
6. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm