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North Dakota Social Work Licensing Requirements

North Dakota’s population is approximately 760,000 people and has grown at twice the national rate since 2010.1,2 The North Dakota Board of Social Work Examiners licenses social workers in the state and currently offers three different licenses. With the exception of supervised individuals working as assistants in specific care settings, you must hold a license to practice social work in North Dakota. Continue reading to learn more about how to become a social worker in North Dakota as well as employment statistics for social workers in the state.

How to Become a Social Worker in North Dakota

Educational Paths

The minimum degree required for a social work license in North Dakota is a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW), which prepares students for non-clinical social work positions. To practice clinical social work in the state, you must obtain at least a master’s degree in social work (MSW). To qualify for a North Dakota social work license, you must earn your BSW or MSW from a program that is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) or Canadian Association for Social Work Education (CASWE). Below is more information about BSW and MSW programs to help you decide which is the best fit for your career goals.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

Programs offering bachelor’s of social work (BSW) degrees usually take four years of full-time study to complete. A BSW from a CSWE- or CASWE-accredited program will qualify you to apply for the Licensed Social Worker (LSW) credential in North Dakota and practice generalist social work with individuals, groups, families, and communities. In a BSW program, you will take courses on psychology, social welfare, policy, and human behavior. You will also likely complete at least one supervised field placement. As of March 2019, three universities in North Dakota offered CSWE-accredited BSW programs.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

A master’s degree in social work (MSW) from a CSWE-accredited program will allow you to apply for the Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW) and Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) credentials in North Dakota. As of March 2019, there was one CSWE-accredited MSW program in North Dakota, but a qualifying degree from any state can be used for licensure. MSW programs usually take two years to complete and require a bachelor’s degree in any field. However, students entering with a BSW qualify for “advanced standing” in many MSW programs and are able to complete the degree in just one year. Students in MSW programs study advanced generalist theory; learn additional skills for practice with individuals, families, and communities; and may take elective coursework in specialty social work areas. They also complete field placements to earn hands-on social work experience. Because an MSW will allow you to perform most social work jobs in North Dakota, it is generally considered the terminal degree in the field.

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in North Dakota

The Board currently offers three social work licenses: Licensed Social Worker (LSW), Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW), and Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW). Each license requires a different level of education and training and allows for a different type of social work practice. Continue reading for more details about the differences between North Dakota’s social work licenses and how to apply for each one.

Licensed Social Worker (LSW)

The Licensed Social Worker (LSW) credential is the first level of social work licensure in North Dakota. LSWs in the state are able to provide general social work services but cannot practice clinical social work. To be eligible for an LSW license, you must have a BSW from a CSWE- or CASWE-accredited program. You can begin the application process up to one semester before your graduation date by following the steps below.

1. Submit an LSW application to the Board.

To begin the licensure process, you must submit an application to the Board. You can mail the application form to the Board or complete it through the online portal. You will also need to provide three recommendation letters from professional references. If you have already graduated with your BSW, ask your school to send a copy of your transcript to the Board. If you are in the final semester of your program, you must include a reference form from a faculty member at your program indicating you are on track to graduate. As of March 2019, the LSW application fee is $25.

2. Pass the ASWB Bachelor’s exam.

After the Board receives your application, they will send you a letter notifying you that they have given you permission to register for the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Bachelor’s exam. As of March 2019, the Bachelor’s exam fee is $230. There are 170 multiple-choice items on the test covering general bachelor’s-level social work practice. Although you will receive a score report at the testing center after your exam, you do not need to submit it to the Board; the ASWB will notify the Board of your results.

3. Complete a criminal history background check.

When the Board sends you the exam registration letter, they will also include materials and instructions for completing the required criminal background check. You will need to have your fingerprints taken on the fingerprint card provided by the Board and return it to them with the background check form and $40 fee (as of March 2019). Because it can take up to three weeks for the Board to receive the results of your background check, you should complete this step as soon as possible after receiving the materials; you do not need to wait until you have passed the ASWB exam before submitting your fingerprints to the Board.

4. Receive your LSW license.

Before you can receive your license, you must provide a final BSW transcript if you submitted your application while you were still enrolled in your program. All applicants must also pay a $75 license fee (as of March 2019). After the Board has received all required materials and fees, they will mail your LSW license to you. Once you have received your license, you can practice general social work in North Dakota.

Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW)

Individuals holding the Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW) credential can practice general social work and can also provide clinical services under supervision. To obtain an LCSW license, you must have an MSW from a CSWE- or CASWE-accredited program or a doctoral degree in social work. You can begin the licensure process as early as the final semester of your program. Continue reading the steps below for more details about earning an LCSW license

1. Submit an LCSW application to the Board.

To begin the process of obtaining an LCSW license, you will need to submit an application. This can be completed through the Board’s online portal or you can mail an application form to the Board. Both methods require a $25 application fee (as of March 2019). With your application, you must submit three professional reference forms and an official transcript. If you have not yet graduated, you can have a faculty member submit a reference form verifying your expected date of graduation, but you will need to provide a final transcript before you can receive your license.

2. Pass the ASWB Master’s exam.

The Board will send you a letter when they have reviewed your application and given you permission to take the ASWB Master’s exam, which is required for LCSW licensure. There are 170 multiple-choice questions about master’s-level social work practice on the exam. The ASWB will send your scores to the Board within two weeks of your exam date. As of March 2019, the Master’s exam fee is $230.

3. Complete a criminal history background check (if required).

When you receive permission from the Board to sit for the ASWB Master’s exam, you will also receive forms and instructions for the required criminal background check. If you already hold a North Dakota LSW license, you do not need to repeat this step for LCSW licensure. All other applicants must have their fingerprints taken on the card provided by the Board, then submit it with a completed background check form and $40 fee (as of March 2019). You do not have to wait until you have completed the ASWB exam before having your fingerprints taken. Because it can take the Board up to three weeks to receive the results of your background check, it is recommended that you complete this step as soon as possible after receiving the materials.

4. Receive your LCSW license.

After you have passed the ASWB Master’s exam and the Board has received the results of your background check, you will be eligible for your LCSW license. To receive your license from the Board, you must pay the $75 license fee (as of March 2019) if you do not already hold an LSW license and provide a final transcript if the Board does not have it. If you already hold a South Dakota LSW license, you do not need to pay a license fee. Once the Board has received all required materials, they will mail your license to you. After obtaining your license, you can independently practice general social work and begin earning supervised clinical hours for LICSW licensure.

Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW)

The Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) credential is the highest level of social work licensure in North Dakota. This license is required for any social worker who would like to practice clinical social work without supervision or practice privately (not as part of an organization or agency). Applicants for the LICSW license must have an MSW from a CSWE- or CASWE-accredited program or a doctoral degree in social work. Once you hold one of these degrees, follow the steps below to earn an LICSW license.

1. Gain the necessary supervised experience.

After graduating with your MSW or DSW degree, you must accrue 3,000 hours of supervised clinical social work experience to be eligible for LICSW licensure. Before beginning these hours, you must submit a supervision plan and gain approval from the Board. The first 1,500 supervised hours must be under a clinical social worker; the Board may allow you to earn the remainder of your hours under another type of mental health provider if you are unable to find a clinical social worker to supervise you. While you are completing your supervised experience, you must earn at least 150 hours of in-person supervision, no more than 50 of which can be from group supervision. All of your supervised hours must be completed in no more than four years. If you change supervisors at any point, you will need to submit a new supervision plan for Board approval. After you have completed 3,000 supervised clinical hours, you must ask your supervisor and employer to submit the Verification of MSW Supervision and Verification of MSW Employment forms to document your experience.

2. Submit an LICSW application to the Board.

Once you have accumulated the required supervised clinical hours, you will need to submit an LICSW application to the Board. You can do this through the Board’s online portal or by mailing an application form to the Board. During this step, you must have your school submit an official transcript (if the Board does not already have one from a previous LCSW application) and pay the $25 application fee (as of March 2019). Unlike the other levels of licensure, you do not need to provide any reference forms.

3. Pass the ASWB Clinical exam.

Once the Board receives your complete application and fee, you will be given permission to take the ASWB Clinical exam. As of March 2019, the Clinical exam fee is $260. The 170 multiple-choice items on the exam cover a range of topics related to clinical social work practice. The Board will receive your exam results from the ASWB within two weeks of your test date.

4. Complete a criminal history background check (if required).

LICSW candidates who do not already hold a North Dakota social work license must complete a criminal background check. You will receive the materials to complete this with the Board’s letter notifying you of your exam eligibility. You must have your fingerprints taken using the card provided and return it to the Board with the background check form and the $40 fee (as of March 2019). Because it can take up to three weeks for the Board to receive the results of your background check, it is recommended that you complete it as soon as possible after receiving the materials in the mail.

5. Receive your LICSW license.

After you have completed all of the steps above, you will be eligible to receive your LICSW license. If you are upgrading from a North Dakota LSW or LCSW license, you do not need to pay a license fee, but new licensees must pay $75 (as of March 2019) to receive their licenses. Once you have obtained your LICSW license from the Board, you can provide clinical services without supervision, practice privately, and supervise LICSW candidates.

Social Work License Reciprocity in North Dakota

The Board offers reciprocity for out-of-state social workers who were licensed under requirements equivalent to or more stringent than North Dakota’s. To apply, submit an application form or complete the application through the online portal. In addition to the materials all licensure applicants must provide (including fingerprints for a background check), reciprocity applicants must also submit a license verification form and a copy of the social work laws and rules for the state in which they are currently licensed. As of March 2019, the total application and license fees are $100.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

All North Dakota social work licenses expire on December 31 of odd-numbered years. To renew, licensees must mail renewal paperwork to the Board or submit it online by November 15 of the renewal year. As of March 2019, the renewal fee for all licenses is $75. Before each renewal deadline, applicants must complete 30 hours of continuing education (CE). Up to 10 CE hours can be from distance learning or self-study activities, but the remainder must be in-person. At least two of the total 20 hours must address the topic of social work ethics.

North Dakota Social Work Jobs and Salary Information

In 2017, 1,780 individuals were employed as social workers in North Dakota, earning an average annual salary of $54,678.3 The number of positions for North Dakota social workers is expected to rise 16.3% between 2016 and 2026, with double-digit growth projected in child, family, and school social work (20.0%); healthcare social work (16.7%); and mental health and substance abuse social work (16.1%).4

Type Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 650 $55,320
Healthcare Social Workers 370 $50,560
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 260 $54,200
Social Workers, All Other 500 $58,630

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017.3

Social Work Associations in North Dakota

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: I am currently practicing social work in a state that did not require the ASWB exam for licensing. Can I apply for licensure by reciprocity?

Answer: Unfortunately, no. Reciprocity is only available for applicants currently licensed in states with licensing requirements equivalent to or more difficult than North Dakota’s. You will need to submit a new application and take the appropriate ASWB exam.

Question: I live in a rural area. Can I complete my CE online?

Answer: You may complete up to 10 hours of your CE requirements online; however, the remainder must be completed through face-to-face training, academic courses or approved workshops.

Question: For the 3,000 hours of supervised experience required for LICSW licensure, can I count hours I earned years ago?

Answer: Possibly. Currently, supervised hours must be accrued under a supervision plan approved by the Board. However, the Board will accept previous hours of supervised experience earned without a supervision plan (including hours earned in other states) as long as they meet North Dakota’s requirements. These requirements include completing all 3,000 hours in no more than four years and working under a licensed clinical social worker for at least the first 1,500 hours.

References:
1. US Census Bureau Quick Facts, North Dakota: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/nd
2. US Census Bureau Quick Facts, United States: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2017 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, North Dakota: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nd.htm
4. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm