Social Work Licensing

Social Work Licensing

Social Work is a regulated profession whose laws, rules, and regulations are defined by each state. As written by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB), “Social work licensing protects the public by setting and enforcing standards for the practice of social work. To practice as a licensed social worker, candidates need to demonstrate that they have met the qualifications outlined by the state or province where they intend to practice.”

As a CSWE-accredited program, Columbia School of Social Work’s Master of Science in Social Work (MSW) program provides you with the requisite degree to be eligible for licensure as a master-level social worker upon graduation.

To Prepare for Licensure...You Must

  • Research the licensing requirements in any state or province where you think you might want to consider practicing social work. At a minimum, it’s recommended to review the licensing board’s webpage, application materials and process, and exam requirements. Some states may also require specific coursework content and/or field experience, so it is important to plan your course of study accordingly. Links to license statutes and regulations are available on ASWB’s Social Work Regulation webpage.
  • Maintain good records throughout your education at CSSW and beyond. It will ultimately be your responsibility to keep a log of your master’s coursework syllabi, field evaluations, post-graduate clinical experience, hours of supervision, and continuing education credits/certifications. While employed, keep your clinical supervisors’ full names, license numbers, dates of licensure, and up-to-date contact information at all times.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The content shared on this webpage may not reflect the latest regulations and requirements, as they are subject to change from year to year. It is the responsibility of the professional seeking licensure to ensure that they stay abreast of any licensure and regulatory requirements by reviewing the respective licensing board websites regularly.

New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut use the Masters and Clinical categories. You can learn more about state-specific licensure requirements on the following sites:

New YorkLMSW (Masters) | LCSW (Clinical)

New Jersey*: LSW (Masters) | LCSW (Clinical)

ConnecticutLMSW (Masters) | LCSW (Clinical)

*New Jersey allows you to take the Masters exam during your final semester of enrollment. However, New York and Connecticut will not allow you to do so until after graduating.

In New York, there are two types of licensure requiring different qualifications: Licensed Master Social Worker and Licensed Clinical Social Worker.

To practice licensed master social work or licensed clinical social work, an individual must be licensed, hold a limited permit, or be in an exempt setting.

Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)

The LMSW is an entry-level license for individuals entering the social work profession at the master’s level. Requirements include*:

  • Receiving your MSW degree
  • Completing coursework or training in the identification and reporting of child abuse (included in the program; no need to complete this separately)
  • Passing the ASWB Masters exam

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

The LCSW is the clinical license that allows the licensee to make a clinical social work diagnosis and provide psychotherapy and related services. There is no direct route to licensure as an LCSW. Requirements include*:

*Read the full details on the scope of practice and requirements for each license on the respective websites.

When to Apply

Graduating students may apply for licensure as a LMSW with the New York State Education Department (NYSED), Office of the Professions, any time before the official date of degree conferral by submitting the application for licensure and fee ($294) using the online application for “Licensed Master Social Worker.” (Note: the date of degree conferral may differ from the date of the graduation ceremony.)

When NYSED has approved both the application for licensure and MSW education, as verified by the University Registrar after the date of degree conferral, you will be eligible to take the Association of Social Work Board’s (ASWB) Masters exam.

NYSED will notify ASWB and send you a letter with instructions on how to register for the exam, which includes a $230 fee. Once you are provided a registration number, you can contact PSI to schedule the exam.

For tips on the application process, go to the LMSW Application Forms page or How to Apply for Licensure page.

Education Verification for LMSW Licensure

The University Registrar will send a list of all graduates (Form 20) directly to NYSED to certify that you have graduated from a licensure-qualifying MSW program. This replaces Form 2. Form 2 should only be submitted if you graduated before May 2019.

If you graduated before May 2019, complete page 1 of the Certification of Professional Education (Form 2) and submit it to the Office of Student Affairs via email at [email protected]. They will submit Form 2 to New York State. 

Note that the state will not accept Form 2 from students directly. You should also order an electronic transcript to be sent to New York State.

For general requests for transcripts, you can submit the request online via your SSOL account.

Limited Permit

A limited permit allows an individual who has met all requirements for licensure as an LMSW except the Masters Exam to practice as an LMSW, provided that the individual is under the general supervision of an LMSW or a LCSW.

This option applies only to those who have graduated and are employed (or received offers of employment).

To apply, you must submit and pay the fee for the Application for the Limited Permit (Form 5), which also needs to be filled out by the proposed supervisor, at the same time as or any time after submitting the Application for Licensure (Form 1 LMSW).

If you plan to get your license outside of New York, make sure to check the individual state boards to find out which exams are appropriate for the jurisdiction in which you are seeking licensure, and what supervised work experience and educational requirements are needed to qualify.

An overview of social work regulations and licensure requirements throughout the U.S. and in Canadian jurisdictions can be found on ASWB’s Social Work Regulation website.

To review the specific types and requirements for licensure for states outside of New York, visit the respective Social Work Board page or the Association of Social Work Boards’ (ASWB) social work regulation database, which provides links to other jurisdictions. Note that the license titles vary across states, and a few do not require a license at the entry-level for master-level social workers.

Professional Licensure and Certification Disclosure Requirements

Information regarding state-specific licensure and certification requirements related to Columbia’s Master of Science in Social Work is linked in the following: CSSW Licensure Grid.

Institutions providing distance education are required to provide certain general disclosures for educational programs, regardless of modality, that prepare students for professional licensure. The required information relates to whether or not the educational program meets the requirements for professional licensure in all other states. Where applicable, an institution must also indicate when such a determination cannot be made.

Professional licensure and certification requirements may vary state to state. Although Columbia University’s School of Social Work has attempted to provide accurate and timely information by state, this information is subject to change. Therefore, students should contact the appropriate licensing agency for the state(s) they want to be licensed in to obtain the most up to date information.

Licensing Exams

You can learn more about the exam by downloading the ASWB Exam Guidebook and watching a brief video with exam steps at

The Masters Exam covers knowledge, skills, and abilities in:

  • Human Development, Diversity, and Behavior in the Environment
  • Assessment and Intervention Planning
  • Interventions with Clients/Client Systems
  • Professional Relationships, Values, and Ethics

You can take the exam at any PSI test center regardless of the state in which you are seeking licensure. Note that not every state uses the Masters exam. Make sure to check with the respective state board to verify the exam requirements.

Visit the ASWB site to learn more about the Clinical exam.

CSSW Guides and Resources

Licensing Exam Preparation Resources

Listed below is an array of licensing exam preparation resources that you may find helpful. Please note that they may vary in cost (e.g., free, free with paid options, paid only). CSSW does not endorse any particular product or service.

Specific questions regarding requirements and application procedures should be directed to the respective state’s licensing boards. For New York, contact the Office of the Professions by phone at (518) 474-3817 x450 or via their Contact Us page.

A list of CSSW courses and their applicability to the NY LCSW course requirement can be accessed here.

For further questions regarding coursework required for clinical licensure: current students should contact the Office of Advising at [email protected], and alumni should contact [email protected]

For letters or documentation certifying your education, practicum hours and experience, and/or coursework or credits completed for licensure, employment, or other purpose, submit a request to Student Affairs using their Letter Request Form.

“For licensing and related forms that require completion or signature by a school official, email [email protected].

For transcripts, submit the request online via your SSOL account. If you attended prior to 2001, reach out to the Registrar’s Office as directed on their website.

For requests of descriptions of some of your CSSW courses or other general questions that are not answered by the State Licensing Boards and other sources mentioned, please reach out to [email protected].

To become a school social worker:

Research the requirements with the Department of Education in the state in which you want to work. These may include a specified amount of hours of social work training, coursework, and experience, as well as social work licensure, registration, or school social work-specific certification issued by the designated state office.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: As with licensing, application requirements, procedures, and fees are subject to change. Check the respective state office for the most up-to-date information.


In New York, to practice licensed master social work in a public school, you must be certified by the New York State Education Department (NYSED) Office of Teaching. There are two levels of certification: 

Provisional School Social Work Certificate

The provisional certificate is the initial certification for school social workers. It is valid for five years by which time you must be licensed as an LMSW or LCSW to receive the permanent school social worker certificate. Requirements include:

*These workshops can be taken with any of the providers listed on the respective links, including at Teachers CollegeThey are not offered at Columbia School of Social Work. Contact the providers directly to learn more about registration and fees. 

Permanent School Social Work Certificate

The permanent certificate is for provisional certificate holders who have completed two years of service as a paid, full-time school social worker. Requirements include:

*Read the full details on the certification requirements on the Office of Teaching Initiatives Certification Requirements page. Select “Administration and Public Personnel Services” as the Area of Interest, “Social Work” as the Subject Area, “School Social Worker” as the Title, and the respective Type of Certificate.

When to Apply

Graduating students may apply for the Provisional Certificate with the Office of Teaching Initiatives anytime before the official date of degree conferral by submitting the application and fee ($100) for Administration and Pupil Personnel Services – School Social Work using NYSED’s online application / TEACH system

Applications will be reviewed after all supporting documentation, including certification of completion of the required workshops, has been submitted.

Learn more about school social worker certification and application requirements on NYSED’s Office of Teaching Initiatives website. Additional step-by-step instructions are available on the NYC Department of Education’s website.

For questions regarding the NYSED Certification process, please email the Office of Teaching Initiatives directly at [email protected] or call (518) 474-3817.

Still Have Questions? Contact Us

Please email [email protected] for any questions related to social work licensing.