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New Mexico Social Work Licensing Requirements

With a population just over two million, the beautiful southwestern state of New Mexico offers many opportunities for social workers to practice in both urban and rural environments.1 If you are considering a social work career in the state, it is important to understand the licensure options offered by New Mexico’s Board of Social Work Examiners and the educational paths required for different social work careers. On this page, you will find detailed information about the process of becoming a social worker in New Mexico as well as salary and job data.

How to Become a Social Worker in New Mexico

Educational Paths

In the state of New Mexico, you must be licensed to practice social work or use the title “social worker.” To become licensed, you must earn at least a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW). However, earning a master’s degree in social work (MSW) will likely lead to increased job options and higher salaries. Below you will find a description of these two educational paths available to aspiring New Mexico social workers.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

The bachelor’s degree in social work, or BSW, is a common entry point for a social work career and the minimum degree required in New Mexico for licensure. BSW programs are four-year degree programs that provide foundational knowledge and coursework in human behavior, social policy, and research. Specific coursework in assessments, intervention, case management, advocacy and community organization is typical. BSWs may also have supervised practicum placements in which they gain hands-on social work experience. In New Mexico, you must attend a BSW program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) to become licensed as a Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW). As of February 2019, there are four CSWE-accredited BSW programs in New Mexico.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

A master’s degree in social work, or MSW, is considered the terminal degree for the field. Holding an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program is required for the Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) and Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) licenses in New Mexico. As of February 2019, there are three CSWE-accredited MSW programs in the state. MSW programs are typically two-year programs, though students entering with BSWs may qualify for “advanced standing” and be able to complete the degree in one year. MSW programs focus on the application of social work theory and knowledge to restore or enhance the functioning of individuals, couples, families, and communities. Students receive comprehensive training in assessment, evaluation, treatment planning and implementation, counseling, supervision, program administration, and policy development. MSW programs also include a fieldwork component, giving students the opportunity to integrate learning and practice.

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in New Mexico

The New Mexico Board offers three levels of licensure: Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW), Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW), and Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). The license you should pursue depends on the degree you earn and your desired career path. Keep reading for more information about these licenses and how to apply for licensure through the Board.

Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW)

To earn a Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW) license in New Mexico, you must hold a BSW from a CSWE-accredited program. The most basic level of social work licensure in New Mexico, the LBSW allows a social worker to practice general, non-clinical social work, providing services such as case management and client advocacy. The steps below describe the process of applying for the LBSW license once you have a BSW.

1. Submit an LBSW application.

Once you have decided to apply to become an LBSW, the first step is to complete the Board’s LBSW application and submit all required documents along with the application fee ($75 as of February 2019). The application includes a 30-item jurisprudence exam, on which you must correctly answer at least 70% of the questions. When you have gathered all of the required materials, have the application notarized and send it to the Board. You will also need to have the school where you earned your BSW submit a transcript to the Board.

2. Receive your provisional license and pass the ASWB Bachelor’s exam.

After the Board reviews your application, they will issue you a one-year provisional license if they have determined that you meet all requirements except the licensure exam and the cultural course (see Step 3). After this, you will be eligible to register for the ASWB Bachelor’s exam. The fee for the test is $230 as of February 2019. There are 170 multiple-choice questions on the test and scores will be transferred to the Board shortly after your test date.

3. Complete the cultural coursework (if required).

All social workers in the state are required to complete a Board-approved course in New Mexico culture before becoming licensed. If you earned your BSW from a program in New Mexico, you will have completed coursework that fulfills this requirement. If you graduated from a program in another state, you must complete a Board-approved course focused on New Mexico culture and submit proof of completion to the Board.

4. Receive your LBSW license from the Board.

After the Board has documentation that you have passed the ASWB Bachelor’s exam and completed the cultural coursework requirement, they will issue your LBSW license and you can practice non-clinical social work in New Mexico.

Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)

Individuals holding the Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) credential in New Mexico are able to provide more advanced non-clinical social work services than LBSWs, such as community organization and administration. They are also able to practice clinical social work under the supervision of an LCSW. To become an LMSW, you must hold an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program, then complete the steps listed below.

1. Submit an LMSW application to the Board.

The first step to becoming an LMSW is to complete an LMSW application packet and submit it to the Board with the application fee ($100 as of February 2019). A jurisprudence exam, on which you must score 70% or higher, is included as part of the application. You must have the application notarized before sending it in. During this step, you must also request that your MSW transcripts be mailed directly to the Board.

2. Receive your provisional license and pass the ASWB Master’s exam.

If the Board reviews your application and determines you meet all criteria for licensure except the licensure exam and the cultural coursework requirement (see Step 3 below), they will issue you a provisional license. This license is valid for up to one year and allows you to practice until you complete the remaining requirements and receive your full license. When the Board issues your provisional license, they will also give you permission to register for the ASWB Master’s exam, which costs $230 as of February 2019. There are 170 multiple-choice questions on the test, 150 of which are scored.

3. Pass the cultural coursework (if required).

To become licensed as a social worker in New Mexico, you must complete a Board-approved course focused on New Mexico culture and submit proof of completion to the Board. If you earned a social work degree from a school in New Mexico, you will have already completed this requirement as part of your program. If you earned your degree in another state, you will need to independently take a course that meets this requirement. Afterward, submit proof of completion to the Board.

4. Receive your LMSW license from the Board.

After you have completed all the requirements described in the steps above, the Board will issue your LMSW license and you can practice in New Mexico.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

The highest level of licensure offered by the Board is the Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). Social workers holding this license can independently provide clinical services and can practice privately (outside of agencies or organizations). This license requires an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program as well as an active LMSW license, which will allow you to gain the supervised experience necessary for licensure. Once you have an active LMSW license, follow the steps below to become an LCSW.

1. Accumulate the required experience.

LCSW candidates must complete 3,600 hours of supervised experience under their LMSW licenses in a period of no fewer than two and no more than five years. You must work under a Board-approved supervisor while you are earning these hours and receive at least 90 total hours of supervision. Supervisors should generally be LCSWs. However, you can also be supervised by someone with a Licensed Independent Social Worker license (LISW; no longer issued by the Board but still held by some social workers in the state) and the Board may make exceptions for other qualified professionals such as psychologists or psychiatrists.

2. Submit an LCSW application.

Once you have acquired the necessary experience, the next step is to complete the LCSW application and submit it to the Board with the required fee ($125 as of February 2019). For this application, your supervisor(s) will need to complete forms verifying that you have completed the supervised experience requirement. The application also includes a jurisprudence exam, on which you must score 70% or higher. Once you have gathered all the required materials, have the application notarized and mail it to the Board.

3. Receive your provisional license and pass the ASWB Advanced Generalist or Clinical exam.

After the Board reviews your application and determines that you meet all licensure requirements except the required exam, they will grant you a one-year provisional license. At this point, you can register for the ASWB licensing exam. You can choose whether you would like to take the Advanced Generalist exam or the Clinical exam; both are accepted for LCSW licensure. Both exams cost $260 and contain 170 items.

4. Receive your LCSW from the Board.

After you have completed all the steps above and the Board has received your passing exam score, you will receive your LCSW license. This will allow you to independently practice the full range of social work in New Mexico.

Social Work License Reciprocity in New Mexico

New Mexico offers licensure by reciprocity for social workers licensed in other states, allowing them to earn an equivalent New Mexico social work license without having to repeat requirements such as the national exam or supervised experience. To become licensed using this method, you must have held your current license for at least five years and you must meet the New Mexico Board’s requirements for licensure. To apply, complete the application form for the level of licensure you are seeking and submit it with the Verification of Licensure form. You must also request that the ASWB send your past exam scores to the Board. All reciprocity applicants will need to complete the jurisprudence exam and provide proof of having taken a New Mexico culture course before receiving a license.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

All New Mexico social work licenses must be renewed by July 1st every two years. The renewal fees (as of February 2019) are $100 for LBSWs, $150 for LMSWs, and $200 for LCSWs. 30 hours of continuing education (CE) are required during each renewal period, six of which must be in cultural awareness.

New Mexico Social Work Jobs and Salary Information

There were 4,530 social workers employed in New Mexico in May 2017, earning an average salary of $48,160.2 This average salary is above New Mexico’s median household income of $46,718, indicating that social work can be a relatively well-paying career in the state.1 The number of social work jobs in New Mexico is also expected to increase between 2016 and 2026, further suggesting a good outlook for the field. The total number of social work positions in the state is expected to grow 12.6% during that time period, with the highest increase (17.2%) expected in the subfield of healthcare social work.3

Type Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 2,140 $41,650
Healthcare Social Workers 1,200 $55,640
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 690 $38,620
Social Workers, All Other 500 $56,730

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017.2

Social Work Associations in New Mexico

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What degree do I need to become a social worker in New Mexico?

Answer: To become a social worker in New Mexico, you must have at least a bachelor of social work (BSW) degree from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. For the higher levels of licensure, you need a master’s of social work (MSW) from a CSWE-accredited program.

Question: How much supervised experience do I need to become an LCSW?

Answer: All social workers hoping to become licensed as LCSWs must complete 3,600 hours of supervised work as an LMSW before applying for licensure. During this time, you must be supervised by an LCSW, LISW, or another professional who has been approved by the Board.

Question: What is the cultural coursework requirement for social work licensure?

Answer: Individuals applying for social work licensure in New Mexico must complete a Board-approved course in New Mexico culture to better understand the diverse populations they may be serving. If you earn your social work degree from a program in New Mexico, this will be included in your coursework. Otherwise, you will need to independently complete an online or in-person course before receiving your license.

References:
1. US Census Bureau Quick Facts, New Mexico: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/nm
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2017 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, New Mexico: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nm.htm
3. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm