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, 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 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.
Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW): http://www.op.nysed.gov/prof/sw/lmsw.htm
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): http://www.op.nysed.gov/prof/sw/lcsw.htm
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*:
- completing at least 36 months of lawful, supervised, post-graduate experience in diagnosis, psychotherapy and assessment-based treatment planning as an LMSW
- 2,000 client contact hours
- 100 hours of in-person individual or group clinical supervision
- receiving your MSW degree
- completing at least 12 semester hours of clinical coursework acceptable to the Department (list of CSSW courses that meet these LCSW course requirements)
- passing the ASWB Clinical exam
*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 the exam vendor, Pearson VUE, and send you a letter with instructions on how to register. You may not take the exam for licensure in New York without approval by NYSED. Once you receive approval, you can register and pay the fee to take the exam. See further instructions on applying below.
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.
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@example.com. They will request the transcript on your behalf and send it along with Form 2 to New York State. Note that the state will not accept Form 2 from students directly.
For general requests for transcripts, you can submit the request online via your SSOL account.
Limited Permit: http://www.op.nysed.gov/prof/sw/lmsw.htm#lim
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.
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 webpage.
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 PDF: CSSW Licensure Grid PDF
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 their home state to obtain the most up to date information.
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 Pearson VUE Center available 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.
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).
ASWB Group Review Practice 50 Questions – Masters Exam (accessible via UNI login)
Pass the LMSW Exam: A Practice Test for the ASWB Master’s Level Social Work Licensing Examination by Jeremy Schwartz (accessible in CLIO online via UNI login)
Social Work ASWB Masters Exam Guide: A Comprehensive Study Guide for Success by Dawn Apgar with practice test at the end (accessible in CLIO online via UNI login)
Social Work ASWB Masters Practice Test: 170 Questions to Identify Knowledge Gaps by Dawn Apgar (accessible in CLIO online via UNI login)
For questions regarding coursework required for clinical licensure, contact the Office of Advising at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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@example.com.