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New York Social Work Licensing Requirements

By SocialWorkGuide.org Staff

New York is the nation's third most populous state and contains the second-highest number of social workers in all categories, including child, family, and school social workers; healthcare social workers; and mental health and substance abuse social workers.

To become a social worker in New York, you must follow the specific educational paths and meet state standards. The New York State Education Department Office of the Professions Social Work Unit governs the state's social workers. Read on to learn how to become a social worker in New York.

In This Article

How to Become a Social Worker in New York

Educational Paths

New York offers two levels of licensure for social workers. Anyone with a bachelor of social work (BSW) can pursue entry-level social work positions. However, BSW-level social workers face limits in their scope of practice, and many employers prefer candidates with a master's degree and licensure. With a master of social work (MSW), you can apply for licensing as a licensed master social worker (LMSW). With an MSW and three years of postgraduate, supervised experience, you can apply for licensing as a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). Only an LCSW can practice clinical social work, or psychotherapy, with clients independently and without supervision.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

You can begin practicing as a social worker in New York with a bachelor's degree, although you may be restricted to entry-level positions and can provide some services under the supervision of an LCSW or LMSW. With a BSW you can pursue opportunities in many social work settings and provide services in community organizing, lobbying, patient advocacy, or social services.

You can also use a BSW to pursue a career in public policy or nonprofit organizations. A BSW from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) prepares you to work in these fields with coursework focused on human behavior, social policies, psychology, and diversity. A BSW also provides hands-on experience working in the field with supervision.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

Although you only need a BSW to pursue a social work job in New York, an MSW opens the door to more career opportunities and the chance to become a licensed social worker. You may choose to pursue an MSW after completing a bachelor's degree in another subject. However, if you possess a BSW, you may be eligible for advanced standing. This means some of your BSW coursework may count toward credits in an MSW program, potentially allowing you to complete the advanced degree in just one year instead of the typical two years.

Once you earn an MSW, you can apply for licensing as an LMSW or begin the required supervised experience to apply for licensing as an LCSW. CSWE-accredited MSW programs include advanced academic coursework in social work topics and supervised field experience.

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in New York

You do not need a license to work as a social worker in New York. However, unlicensed social workers are limited to entry-level positions and nonclinical work. Consider the kind of position you want before choosing a path to become a social worker. LMSWs enjoy far more opportunities than unlicensed social workers. You can work unsupervised in clinical settings only by achieving licensure as an LCSW.

Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)

To become an LMSW in New York, you must first earn an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program. The program must include 900 hours of field education and coursework in six different social work areas. After you complete this degree, follow the steps below to become licensed as an LMSW:

  • 1. Complete the required child abuse course.

    Before applying for licensure, most candidates must complete a course in identifying and reporting child abuse. You can take this course from multiple approved providers throughout the state. The only exception to this requirement is for individuals who will not be providing any services for children or disabled adults living in residential facilities. If you meet this exemption criteria, submit the certification of exemption with your LMSW application.

  • 2. Submit an application for an LMSW license.

    After you complete the child abuse course (if required), you can complete an application for an LMSW license and submit it with a $294 license fee. In addition to the application form, you must ask your school to submit the certification of professional education form to document your degree. If you would like to practice under the supervision of an LMSW or LCSW until your license is issued, include the application for limited permit form with your main LMSW application and include an additional $70 license fee.

  • 3. Complete the Association of Social Work Board (ASWB) master's examination.

    After your application is reviewed, you will receive permission to register for the ASWB master's examination, which costs $230 as of April 2020. This four-hour exam contains 170 multiple-choice items.

  • 4. Receive your LMSW license.

    Within approximately two weeks of successfully completing the ASWB master's examination, your score will be sent to the board. After this, you will receive your license and you can begin practicing without supervision.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

The educational requirements for becoming an LCSW in New York include all the requirements for becoming an LMSW and the completion of 12 credits of clinical coursework during your MSW program. You generally must be licensed as an LMSW before becoming an LCSW. To earn an LCSW license, you must complete the following steps:

  • 1. Complete three years of postgraduate supervised clinical experience.

    Before submitting your LCSW application, you must complete three years of full-time, supervised, postgraduate clinical experience in social work. Before you begin to earn these hours, however, you must receive board permission to begin working under supervision. For this, submit the LMSW plan for supervised experience form. This form requires you to identify your supervisor, who must be an LCSW, a licensed psychologist, or a board-certified psychiatrist.

    After the board approves your supervised experience plan, you can begin earning your clinical experience. While you are completing the three years of supervised work, you must gain experience in diagnosis, assessment, and psychotherapy. You must spend at least 2,000 hours providing direct services to clients and you must receive at least 100 hours of supervision.

  • 2. Submit an LCSW license application.

    After you have completed the three years of supervised clinical experience, you can complete an LCSW license application. You must also submit the certification of professional education form, the certification of experience form, and a $294 fee. If you would like to practice under supervision as an LCSW until you receive your license, you can also submit the application for limited permit and an additional $70 fee.

  • 3. Complete the ASWB master's exam.

    After you submit the LCSW application materials, you will receive permission to register for the ASWB clinical exam, which costs $260. This four-hour exam contains 170 multiple-choice questions. Your scores will automatically be sent to the board about two weeks after you complete the exam.

  • 4. Receive your LCSW license.

    The board issues your license after receiving your passing ASWB clinical exam scores. This allows you to begin practicing as an LCSW in New York.

Social Work License by Endorsement in New York

There is no reciprocity for an LMSW in New York. However, if you hold a license from another state you may qualify for licensing if you meet all the requirements, which includes passing the ASWB master's exam.

Reciprocity exists for LCSWs in New York. If you have been certified as a clinical social worker in another state and have completed at least 10 years of practice within the last 15 years, you qualify to apply for licensure by endorsement in New York. For this, you must submit an application and include supplemental material to verify your education, past ASWB clinical exam scores, current license status, and active practice within the past 15 years. As of April 2020, application and licensing fees for LCSW licensure by endorsement are $294.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

Individuals must renew both clinical and master social work licenses in New York every three years (triennially). Both LMSWs and LCSWs must complete 36 hours of approved continuing education courses. No more than 12 of those hours per three-year period can be self-study. The regular renewal fee costs $179 as of April 2020. New licensees are exempt from the continuing education requirement for the first three years of licensure.

New York Social Worker Jobs and Salary Information

Social work jobs are increasing across New York and the country. New York contains more than 60,000 social workers, with the largest number, 24,730, working as child, family, and school social workers. New York ranks second in the nation for the highest levels of employment in all categories of social work, with the second-largest number of healthcare social workers; child, family, and school social workers; mental health and substance abuse social workers; and those categorized as "other."

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 11% growth in all social work careers between 2018 and 2028, which is much faster than average. See the chart below for some potential social work career paths and salary data.

Type Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 29,880 $58,050
Healthcare Social Workers 15,720 $62,280
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 11,540 $62,130
Social Workers, All Other 4,910 $67,120

Source: BLS

Social Work Associations in New York

  • National Association of Social Workers NASW's New York chapter is a statewide association that also runs local chapters. Members get access to professional development opportunities, job listings, and networking events.
  • New York State Society for Clinical Social Work This professional organization is dedicated to LCSWs practicing psychotherapy. The society helps members develop professional contacts, access educational opportunities, and advocate for clinical social work.
  • New York State School Social Workers' Association NYSSSWA provides members with professional resources, networking events, regional meetings for professional development, and representation at the New York State Education Department.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to be licensed to practice social work in New York?

No. You can start working as an entry-level social worker after earning a BSW or MSW and without being licensed as an LCSW or LMSW. However, the scope of your work may be limited. Many social work jobs require licensing, and only those with LCSW standing can practice clinical work without supervision.

When can I take the ASWB test for licensing?

You need an MSW before taking the ASWB master's examination for licensing as a master social worker or the clinical examination for licensing as a clinical social worker.

Is there a fee to take the ASWB examinations?

Yes. The ASWB master's examination costs $230 and the clinical examination costs $260.

Do I need to obtain my LMSW before I can begin working toward my LCSW?

Yes. In New York, you typically must be licensed and registered to practice as an LMSW to obtain qualifying supervised experience for licensure as an LCSW.

What are some examples of acceptable experience for the three-year requirement for licensing as an LCSW?

New York requires three years of supervised experience in a setting in which clinical social work and psychotherapy have been authorized. Individuals can complete this experience in a private practice, hospital or clinic, public school, or private residence. Supervised experience must include training in diagnosis, psychotherapy, and assessment-based treatment planning.