Understanding the requirements to get a social work degree — and the required licenses to practice social work — is important to being competitive in the social work job market. Unlike other kinds of professional degrees that vary little between states, social workers must pass specific requirements set forth by each state’s licensing board.
While social work licensing requirements are generally comparable, there is enough variation that we thought it would make sense to create a comprehensive guide for each state. In addition to social work state licensing board requirements, each state profile also includes information regarding master of social work (MSW) degree program options (both campus-base and online-based), and state-specific job outlook information, including a breakdown of social worker salaries.
Learn more about social work degrees and licensing requirements in your state
- AL Alabama
- NHNew Hampshire
- NJNew Jersey
- NMNew Mexico
- NYNew York
- NCNorth Carolina
- NDNorth Dakota
- RIRhode Island
- SCSouth Carolina
- SDSouth Dakota
- DC Washington, DC
- WVWest Virginia
State requirements for an MSW degree
All states have some kind of master in social work (MSW) degree program for its residents.
For the purpose of easy comparison, these degree programs are often broken down into groups on our state-specific guides:
- Campus-based MSW programs — These programs often follow the traditional academic outline, and are generally completed after two years of full-time study. Increasingly, social work master degree programs are creating other program options including nights and weekend coursework to accommodate working professionals.
- Online-based MSW programs — These master’s programs usually cover the same topics and follow the same curriculum as their campus-based counterparts. They are often a good fit for people with full time jobs, or students that are unable to attend campus-based programs because of other factors. One key consideration when comparing online social work programs with campus-based programs is to make sure that the program has an accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Within the social work field, completing a degree from a CSWE program is a licensing requirement in many states.
- Advanced standing programs — These MSW programs are geared toward students that already have a broad working knowledge of social work. Advanced standing social work degree programs allow students to complete MSW coursework in one year. Prerequisites include a bachelor’s degree in social work, or other closely-related credentials.
State licensing requirements
As mentioned earlier, all 50 states and the District of Columbia, have specific licensing requirements for social workers.
Most social work degree programs are designed to make its students eligible to meet state licensing standards (or at least have a firm understanding of what is required and how to fulfill the requirements). However, when moving, or if obtaining a degree in one state and then getting a job in another state is anticipated, it makes sense for social work students and social work professionals to become familiar with individual state licensing board requirements.
Here is a list of five things to consider when getting a licensed as a social worker:
- All states have specific licensing requirements that usually involve some combination of completing a CSWE degree program, exam, and hours of supervised work experience. All states have some kind of licensing requirements for social workers practicing clinical social work. For other kinds of social work, the requirements vary widely — some states require all social workers to hold some level of license, while other states are more lenient about practitioners of non-clinical social work.
- Many states use the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) exams to fulfill licensing requirements. The ASWB has exams for every level of social worker including associates, bachelors, masters, and licensed clinical social worker. Since these exams are used by so many states there are a number of good study guides and exam prep resources available.
- Fees are required to obtain a social work license in most states. The fees are often different depending on the kind of license.
- Social work licenses are subject to renewal. The license renewal timeframe and requirements can vary from state to state and can require continuing education hours.
- States might have specific requirements for social workers relocating from another state. Often these requirements might include additional exams or experience verification.
Social work job and salary outlook by state
One component of our state guides is the breakdown of social work job data and salary information. The idea behind this section is that it will allow for the quick comparison of the social work field between states. The data will also allow prospective social workers, or social work students to get a sense of
The different and sometimes unique challenges faced by residents of individual states are often reflected in the job responsibilities of social workers. In some ways, studying how and where social workers are performing their jobs gives an overall glimpse of what is happening at each state level.