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New York Social Work Licensing Requirements

New York is the fourth most populous state in the country and has 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.1,2,3,4 For anyone interested in a career in the field of social work, New York is a promising place to start.

To become a social worker in New York, you must follow the specific educational paths and meet the standards set by the state. In New York social workers are governed by the New York State Education Department Office of the Professions Social Work Unit. The process and requirements for becoming a social worker in New York are outlined below.

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’s degree in social work (BSW) may begin working in entry-level positions as a social worker; no licensing is required. However, there are restrictions on the scope of practice for BSW-level social workers, and many employers prefer candidates who hold a master’s degree and licensure. With a master’s of social work degree (MSW), you can apply for licensing as a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW). With an MSW and three years of post-graduate, 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 will only be able to provide some services under the supervision of an LCSW or LMSW. With a BSW you can look for work in many social work settings and provide services such as community organizing, lobbying, patient advocacy, or social services. You can also use a BSW to pursue a career in public policy or non-profit organizations. A bachelor’s level education from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) will prepare you to work in these fields with coursework focused on foundational topics like human behavior, social policies, psychology, and diversity, as well as hands-on experience working in the field with supervision.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

Although you can get right to work in New York in a social work career with a BSW, an MSW will open the door to more career opportunities as well as well as the chance to become a licensed social worker. You may choose to pursue an MSW having completed a bachelor’s degree in another subject, but if you have a BSW you may be eligible for “advanced standing.” This means that 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. In New York, once you have earned an MSW, you can apply for licensing as an LMSW or begin the required supervised experience that will allow you to apply for licensing as an LCSW. CSWE-accredited MSW programs include advanced academic coursework in social work topics as well as supervised field experience.

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in New York

You do not have to be licensed to work as a social worker in New York. However, employment opportunities for unlicensed social workers are limited to entry-level and non-clinical work. It is important that you have an understanding of the kind of position you want before deciding on a path to becoming a social worker. As an LMSW, you will have far more opportunities than you would as an unlicensed social worker, but only by achieving licensure as an LCSW will you be able to work unsupervised in a clinical setting.

Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)

To become an LMSW in New York, you must first earn an MSW from a program accredited by the CSWE. The program must include 900 hours of field education as well as coursework in six different areas of social work. After you have completed 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 will need to 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 believe that you meet the criteria for this exemption, complete the Certification of Exemption form and submit it with your LMSW application (see Step 2).

2. Submit an application for an LMSW license.

After you have completed 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 have your school 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 ASWB Master’s examination.

After your application is reviewed, you will be granted permission to register for the ASWB Master’s examination, which costs $230. This is a four-hour exam consisting of 170 multiple-choice items.

4. Receive your LMSW license.

Within approximately two weeks of your successful completion of the ASWB Master’s examination, your score will be sent to the Board. After this, your license will be issued and you can begin practicing without supervision.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

The educational requirements for becoming a licensed clinical social worker in New York include all the requirements for becoming an LMSW as well as completion of 12 credit hours of clinical coursework during your MSW program. You will generally need to be licensed as an LMSW before becoming an LCSW. To earn an LCSW license, you will need to complete the following steps:

1. Complete three years of post-graduate supervised clinical experience.

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

After your supervised experience plan has been approved by the Board, 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. At least 2,000 hours must be spent 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. Additional materials to be submitted include 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 your license is issued, you can also submit the Application for Limited Permit and an additional $70 fee.

4. Complete the ASWB Master’s exam.

After you have submitted the LCSW application materials, you will be granted permission to register for the ASWB Clinical exam, which carries a fee of $260. This is a four-hour exam consisting of 170 multiple-choice questions, and your scores will automatically be sent to the Board about two weeks after you have taken the exam.

5. Receive your LCSW license.

After the Board receives your passing ASWB Clinical exam scores, they will issue your license. This will allow you to begin practicing as an LCSW in the state of 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. There is reciprocity 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 will need to 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 December 2018, application and licensing fees for LCSW licensure by endorsement are $294.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

Both clinical and master social work licenses must be renewed 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 is $179 as of December 2018. New licensees are exempt from the continuing education requirement for the first three years of licensure.

New York Social Worker Jobs and Salary Information

Jobs in the field of social work are increasing in number across the country and in New York.6 There are more than 56,000 social workers employed in New York, with the largest number, 25,330, working as child, family, and school social workers.7 New York ranks second in the US 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.”2,3,4,5

New York is expected to see growth in all areas of social work careers, but healthcare social work and mental health and substance abuse social work are projected to see the highest number of new jobs added, both with an expected increase of 27.3% between 2016 and 2026.6 With all categories of social work considered, there will be approximately 1,258 new jobs for social workers in New York each year between 2016 and 2026.6

Type Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 25,330 $56,650
Healthcare Social Workers 12,620 $60,680
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 10,580 $60,460
Social Workers, All Other 7,940 $64,530

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017.7

Social Work Associations in New York

Frequently Asked Questions

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

Answer: No. You can start working as an entry-level social worker after earning a bachelor’s degree in social work or master’s degree in social work and without being licensed as an LCSW or LMSW; however, the scope of what you can and cannot do may be limited. Many jobs in social work do require licensing, and only those with LCSW standing can practice clinical work without supervision.

Question: When can I take the ASWB test for licensing?

Answer: You must have your MSW program completed before you can register for and take the ASWB Master’s examination for licensing as a master social worker or the Clinical examination for licensing as a clinical social worker.

Question: Is there a fee to take the ASWB examinations?

Answer: Yes, the fee to take the ASWB Master’s examination is $230 and the fee for the Clinical examination is $260.

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

Answer: Yes. In New York, you typically must be licensed and registered to practice as a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) to obtain qualifying supervised experience for licensure as an LCSW.

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

Answer: The state says that the three years of supervised experience must take place in a setting in which clinical social work and psychotherapy have been authorized. This could take place in a private practice, a hospital or clinic, a public school, or a residential home. The supervised experience must include training in diagnosis, psychotherapy and assessment-based treatment planning.

References:
1. US Census Bureau State Population Totals and Components of Change, 2010-2017: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/ny
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2017, Child, Family, and School Social Workers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211021.htm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2017, Healthcare Social Workers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211022.htm
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2017, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211029.htm
6. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
7. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2017 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, New York: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ny.htm