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Earning Your Social Work License 101

February 17, 2020

Getting your social work license is an essential part of being a social worker, but that doesn’t mean it can’t feel overwhelming. Whether you’re still deciding on a master’s program or you are preparing to take your licensure exam, there is a lot to take into consideration.

The most important: Every state, province and jurisdiction has different social worker requirements. They mostly dictate how much education and experience you need before you can take a licensure exam, but some also have continuing education requirements to make sure social workers stay up to date on new trends in the field. You will need to look up the requirements of your jurisdiction's licensing board.

At Yeshiva University, we know there can be a lot of questions about how to pursue your chosen social work career. To give you a better sense of how the process works, we’re going to use our home state as an example.

New York offers two professional licenses: licensed master social worker (LMSW) and licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). To qualify as an LMSW, one must have earned a Master of Social Work, passed the masters licensure exam (more on that below) and completed mandated training about child abuse.

Becoming an LCSW has many of the same requirements: An individual must also have a Master of Social Work and receive New York’s training on child abuse. However, before they can take their clinical licensure exam, they must have completed clinical coursework during their graduate program and then spent another three years in a supervised clinical environment after graduation.1

Not every social worker needs to go through this process. In New York, someone who has only earned a bachelor’s in social work can provide services, but only if they are supervised by an LMSW or LCSW and do not advertise themselves as a licensed social worker.2

About the Exam

While every state and jurisdiction has different requirements, the licensure exam is administered by a single nonprofit, the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB). Every year it gives 50,000 tests.3 The tests are created by surveying thousands of practicing social workers, coming from a wide variety of fields.4

Again, it’s essential to look into your state or jurisdiction’s requirements because, first, you must apply to its licensing board to see if you can register for a specific exam. Once you have that approval, you can register for the test with the AWSB. (Note that any disability or English as Second Language accommodations must be approved before registration.)

There are five different exam areas. Each is designed to confirm you have the entry-level experience needed to work at this level of licensure:

  • Associate
  • Bachelors
  • Masters
  • Advanced generalist
  • Clinical

Some of these exams are only used in certain jurisdictions or in certain instances.5 For example, the state of Florida requires passing the advanced generalist exam to become a certified master social worker.6

Know You’re Ready

All of this might seem like a distant issue for those just deciding on what university to attend, but most states require social workers earn their degrees from a program that’s been accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), ensuring graduates are leaving with the skills and knowledge needed to be successful.

In our online Master of Social Work program, our students know they are being properly trained for what’s ahead, and its CSWE accreditation is just one part of that. Yeshiva University’s online coursework is taught by experienced faculty and designed to be as engaging and as interactive as an in-person class. In addition, the Heights virtual learning tool offers a wide representation of community and client simulations to prepare students to thrive in any state or jurisdiction they choose to work.

Schedule an appointment with a student advisor today and learn more about how our online MSW prepares you for a thriving career as a social worker.

1 Retrieved on February 4, 2020 from op.nysed.gov/prof/sw/lmsw.htm
2 Retrieved on February 4, 2020 from op.nysed.gov/prof/sw/swbroch.htm
3 Retrieved on February 4, 2020 from aswb.org/about/history
4 Retrieved on February 4, 2020 from aswb.org/exam-candidates/about-the-exams/exam-development/
5 Retrieved on February 4, 2020 from aswb.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Candidate-Handbook.pdf
6 Retrieved on February 5, 2020 from floridasmentalhealthprofessions.gov/licensing/certified-master-social-worker