Social Worker Licensure

All social workers must be licensed in the state in which they work--and for good reason. Licensing is a form of regulation, ensuring that all social work is being done in a safe a responsible manner, and in accordance with a strict Code of Ethics. The rules, regulations, and laws concerning social work licensure vary from state to state. There are four categories of social work, each with their own legal requirements:

  • Bachelors: Requires only a bachelor's degree in social work.
  • Masters: Requires a master's degree in social work (MSW).
  • Advanced Generalist: Requires an MSW, with an additional two years of post-master's supervised experience.
  • Clinical: Requires an MSW, plus two years of direct clinical experience.

In all states, social workers must hold a social work degree from an accredited program. This accreditation should come from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), the Canadian Association for Social Work Education (CASWE), or an equally reputable accrediting agency recognized in the United States. Degrees earned abroad must be submitted to the state licensing board and determined to be equivalent. A degree's equivalency may be determined by the CSWE International Social Work Degree Recognition and Equivalence Service.

Not all states regulate every level of social work education. This means that some social workers in some states can become licensed with a bachelor's degree in a field other than social work. Again, requirements vary from state to state, and it's your responsibility to know the requirements for your state.

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