Below, you will learn all you need to know about becoming a social worker in New York State. Continue reading for more information about licensure, career opportunities, and social work programs in New York.
This guide emphasizes master’s in social work programs since an advanced social work degree is needed to compete for the best social work jobs in New York. Most advanced clinical social work jobs in the state, for example, require an MSW and either an LCSW or LMSW.
CONTENTS OF THIS GUIDE
- Social work in New York
- MSW programs
- How to become a social worker
- License requirements
- Social worker jobs and salary
- School Listings
- Expert advice
Social work in New York
New York is the fourth most populous state in the United States with a total population of over 20 million people and is composed of rural, suburban, and urban communities.
New York City, the most populated city in the country, is part of New York State. Home to 8.85 million residents, New York City has an abundance of diverse employment opportunities for social workers. To learn more about how to become a social worker in NYC, check out this New York City social work guide.
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Featured Online MSW Programs
|School Name||Program||More Info|
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|Utica University||Online MSW—Clinical Social Work Focus||website|
|Sacred Heart University||CSWE Accredited Online MSW||website|
|University of Denver||DU’s Online MSW—No GRE Required||website|
|Simmons University||Earn a Clinically Focused MSW Online||website|
The population of New York State is extremely diverse. According to the Census Bureau, this is how the population self-identifies:
- 55 percent is non-Hispanic White
- 20 percent is Hispanic/Latino
- 18 percent is Black/African American
- 9 percent is Asian
- 3 percent is multiracial
- 1 percent is Native American/Pacific Islander
Social workers can provide valuable assistance to the Empire State’s diverse populations both in upstate New York and around and within New York City.
New York City continues to be one of the most multicultural cities in the world. New York State is home to over 4 million immigrants who arrive all over the world to find opportunity. The largest immigrant communities in the state include people born in the Dominican Republic, China, Mexico, Jamaica, and India.
Social workers interested in working with immigrants will find an abundance of opportunity in New York State. Immigrants may need help assimilating into the culture or getting through language barriers. Theymay also need help tackling more specific problems like finding a job or accessing the healthcare system. Read more about working with immigrant populations as a social worker in this guide.
There is also ample opportunity to work with New Yorkers struggling with poverty, lack of affordable housing, untreated mental illness, and lack of access to quality employment.
In New York City alone over 17 percent of the population lived below the poverty line in 2020, and close to seven percent of working age New Yorkers under the age of 65 had a disability. Social workers are needed to serve both populations.
New York State offers abundant opportunities for social workers in every subspeciality. Many New Yorkers who struggle with mental health problems have a co-occuring disorder which means they also struggle with addiction to drugs or alcohol and require outpatient or inpatient treatment. Social workers are needed to serve this large patient population and to contribute to reforming the system for helping New Yorkers impacted by serious mental illness and housing issues.
Other social workers in New York will be interested in working with children in foster care or who have run away from abusive homes. Others may be interested in working for the government to help New Yorkers access public benefits, job training, housing, and other supports. There are also limitless opportunities to open a private therapeutic practice or an agency that serves those who are under or uninsured.
MSW programs in New York
As a diverse and highly populated state, New York is home of many different master’s in social work (MSW) programs that vary by specializations offered, modes of course delivery and scheduling options, dual-degree programs, and fieldwork opportunities.
Students can find MSW programs at both state and private universities. The Council on Social Work Education provides a convenient, searchable database of online and on-campus MSW programs. There are 23 accredited MSW programs in New York State with 12 offering full online options.
All MSW programs incorporate coursework and fieldwork, providing students with the experience they need to begin a career in clinical social work or work in other areas such as research or advocacy. MSW fieldwork experience is necessary to provide future social workers with the hands-on experience they need to become clinicians, advocates, and managers.
Students will want to find an MSW program from a school accredited by the Council on Social Work Education or CSWE. Attending an accredited program is required for social work licensure and ensures that a program’s coursework is up-to-date with current social work practices and concepts.
All CSWE-accredited MSW programs will include:
- Coursework that encompasses all general social work concepts and ideas including generalist practice, human behavior and the social environment, social policy, and research methods. MSW programs also offer electives and advanced coursework.
- MSW programs may include special classes, training, or certificate programs for students who want to focus on a particular speciality area such as healthcare or substance abuse treatment social work.
- MSW programs require fieldwork that is completed under the supervision of an LCSW in a variety of settings such as community mental health, child welfare, private therapeutic practice, schools, and community organizations. Online MSW program students can fulfill their fieldwork hours at a local agency not located in New York State provided the placement has been approved by the school and there is an LCSW available to provide supervision to clinical students.
Online MSW programs in New York
On-campus programs are often beneficial for students pursuing an MSW since fieldwork is easy to incorporate into an existing coursework schedule. Fieldwork may even be available at a clinic on campus. Furthermore, being on a New York City or State campus and working in the community can be an unparalleled learning experience in itself.
However, students can also find online MSW programs based in New York with access to professors who are at the top of their field and have worked in New York.
Some programs combine the best of both worlds by allowing students to take the bulk of their coursework online while requiring one or two residencies a year where students stay on campus or locally for several days to attend classes, meet colleagues and professors in person, and experience what the local community has to offer.
One program that offers such an option is Adelphi University’s online MSW program. Many may opt for online programs because of their unique benefits. For instance:
- Online MSW programs often offer more flexible scheduling than on campus programs. Flexible programs may be preferred by students who are juggling school, jobs, fieldwork, and family. Other online MSW programs may have rapid-pace scheduling and be suitable for particularly motivated students or those who already have a BSW.
- Online MSW programs from universities outside New York might be a good choice, especially if a student can get a better financial deal or if they recently moved to New York and wish to continue their education at their former university. Students just need to be sure that the university in question requires the same number of clinical practice hours as New York’s state licensure requirements.
Here are some other examples of online MSW programs based in New York:
- The University of Buffalo online MSW program offers advanced standing to those who already have a BSW. The program does not require a capstone project or thesis. Those who are within commutable distance from campus are encouraged to take some in-person classes. This school’s MSW program is highly customizable, trauma-informed, and takes a human rights approach.
- Fordham University’s online MSW program requires weekly synchronous sessions of 1.5 hours with the rest of the coursework offered through an online learning platform. Semesters are divided into two eight week sessions. Students with advanced standing can complete their coursework in as little as three semesters. There is also a general accelerated track for non-BSW holders that can take as little as 15 to 16 months to complete, however most part-time and full-time students take two or more years to finish their coursework. Online students have access to a range of advanced courses and specializations and benefit from the program’s human rights focus.
- The online MSW program at Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work is highly customizable. Online students may choose to take fully asynchronous classes or synchronous classes with one live class meeting per week. The MSW program offered three advanced practice specializations, seven course of study concentrations, and six certificate programs. Advanced standing students with a BSW can finish the program in as little as three semesters to earn 30 credits, while traditional students must complete 60 credits of coursework.
How to become a social worker in New York
After graduating from an accredited MSW program students may apply for licensure at the LMSW or LCSW level. Most MSW students will have enough fieldwork hours to take their licensing exams immediately after graduating. Licensing requirements vary from state to state. In New York, the State Education Department oversees the licensing of professional social workers.
Licensed master social worker (LMSW)
LMSW is the entry-level social work license in New York. It allows social workers to be employed at social work clinics and organizations. The LMSW is often used as a stepping stone to the LCSW by providing opportunities to gain the experience or practice hours necessary to become an LCSW. The following criteria are required for earning the LMSW in New York State: LMSW:
- Complete a required “identification and reporting of child abuse” course, which can be obtained from several approved providers throughout New York State. You may be exempted from this requirement if you won’t be providing services for children or disabled adults who live in residential facilities.
- Complete the application for LMSW licensure. This involves submitting a $294 licensing fee, as well as asking your school to submit documentation that you earned your MSW.
- Complete the Association of Social Work Board (ASWB) master’s examination. It is a four-hour exam consisting of 170 multiple-choice questions that costs $230. Once you pass the exam you are licensed!
There is a limited LMSW permit option for those who have not yet passed the exam. Applicants must submit an application and pay the $294 licensing fee, provide documentation of their MSW degree, and complete required child abuse training. Those with the limited license may only do clinical work under the supervision of an LCSW.
Licensed clinical social worker (LCSW)
The LCSW is the most common social work license in New York because it is required to open your own clinic or practice in a clinical setting. The following criteria must be met to get licensed at this level:
- Have at least 12 semester hours of clinical coursework and at least three years of post-MSW supervised experience in psychotherapy, diagnosis, and assessment-based treatment planning
- Complete training in the identification and reporting of child abuse, offered as a single course
- Provide documentation that you earned your MSW
- Submit your LCSW application and pay the $294 fee. You’ll also need to submit other required documentation
- Complete the ASWB advanced generalist exam, which costs $260 and consists of 170 questions over four hours. Once you pass the exam you are licensed!
There is also a limited LCSW permit option for those who have not yet passed the exam. Applicants must submit an application and pay the $294 licensing fee plus another $70 for the limited permit, provide documentation of their degree, and complete the required child abuse training. Those with the limited permit may only do clinical work under the supervision of an LCSW.
To become a reimbursable psychotherapist LCSWs must earn the “R” privilege by completing three years of supervised experience in psychotherapy, completing an application, and paying a fee. Social workers in New York State must renew their license every three years. This involves completing 36 hours of continuing education courses, and no more than 12 of those hours per every license renewal period can be self-study – in other words, 24 hours must be taken in a classroom or group setting. You will also need to pay a renewal fee of $179.
Social worker careers and social worker salaries in New York
In New York State, and especially New York City, salaries in general and for social workers are typically higher than national averages due to the high cost of living in New York.
National average earnings for social workers is $50,470 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while in New York State the average salary social workers tend to make varies by specialty.
The BLS breaks down social worker earnings and populations across several social work specialties including work with children and families, healthcare social work, and substance abuse treatment social work. Some of these specialties require state certification. This information is detailed in the following sections:
School social work in New York State
According to Glassdoor, school social workers in New York State make an average salary of $69,518. In comparison the national average salary for school social workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is $66,700.
School social workers have many different responsibilities including counseling students, creating school code of conduct and anti-bullying policies, and creating and monitoring IEPs for special education students. Social work opportunities in K-12 schools in New York State include working in public school systems, private schools, and special education programs (e.g., BOCES).
The New York State School Social Workers’ Association provides information about how to become a licensed school social worker. Aspiring school social workers must obtain a provisional, then a permanent, certification from the New York State Education Department. To be provisionally certified applicants must have a BSW and be in the process of earning their MSW. Permanent certification requires an MSW and LMSW. Fingerprinting, child safety workshops, and a specified number of field experience or work hours in a school setting are required for both levels of certification.
Social work with children and families in New York
New York State is second only to California in the number of school, child, and family social workers working in the state at 24,270 in 2021, according to BLS. The average New York State salary for school, child and family social workers in 2021 was $68,660 and the mean hourly wage was $33.01. In comparison, the national average salary for this group of occupations was $54,880 and the mean hourly wage was $26.39.
Social work students interested in working with children and families have many varied opportunities in New York State, and elsewhere, including providing therapeutic services at a community mental health clinic, working in public child welfare or for a private adoption or foster care agency or a home visiting program, or providing private therapeutic services to children and families.
Child-focused social workers may also contract with a school or school district to provide mental health services to students at their school on a part-time or per-diem basis. Many child and family focused social workers deliver evidence-based trauma interventions to high-risk families impacted by domestic violence, community violence, child maltreatment, poverty, and other traumatic experiences.
State certification is not required for working in a child welfare agency in New York State, though many positions require licensure. Public child welfare agencies provide several weeks of in-service training for new employees. Earning an academic certificate in child welfare practice, or an NASW child welfare certification, can help child welfare social workers advance in their careers more quickly. Similarly, there is no specific state certification process for working with children and families in a private or community based setting, but an LCSW is required for clinical practice.
Healthcare and medical social work in New York State
According to the BLS, New York State has the most healthcare social workers of any state at 21,910 employed in 2021. In 2021, healthcare social workers in New York State earned on average $61,680 with a mean hourly wage of $29.66. In comparison, the mean national salary was $62,310 with a mean hourly wage of $29.96.
Healthcare and medical social workers in New York State are employed in a number of settings including nursing homes, hospitals, neonatal intensive units, rehabilitation facilities, hospice and palliative care programs, public health centers, home healthcare agencies, and private medical practices. There are opportunities for social workers to support a wide range of healthcare consumers including those who are low-income and need social services, families with children who have serious conditions or diseases, and elders living in retirement communities or public housing or who belong to senior centers.
Mental health and substance use treatment social work in New York State
New York State is second only to California in the number of public mental health and substance abuse social workers employed by the state. Including those not directly employed by the state, there were 11,540 mental health and substance abuse social workers in New York State who made an average annual salary of $75,700 and a mean hourly wage of $36.39 in 2021. This compares to a mean national salary of $56,800 and a mean hourly wage of $27.79.
Mental health social workers provide therapy to patients struggling with mental health issues and other challenges in their lives. They may specialize in working with a particular age or demographic group, and some clinical social workers specialize in running therapeutic groups. Mental health social workers are employed in a range of settings from private practice, to public mental health agencies, and community agencies. Mental health social workers who provide clinical services in New York State must have an LCSW to engage in advanced practice and supervise other clinicians.
Substance use treatment social workers are employed in similar settings including private treatment facilities and government run treatment programs. They may also work in hospitals or provide private substance use treatment and recovery services. All mental health clinicians, including social workers, who provide substance and alcohol use disorder prevention, treatment, and recovery services in the state must be credentialed by the state Office of Addiction Services and Supports. Four credentials are available: Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor (CASAC), Credentialed Prevention Professional (CPP), Credentialed Prevention Specialist (CPS), and Gambling Specialty Designation for CASAC, CPP, and CPS.
All other subspecialties
The BLS classifies social workers who do not fit into the subspecialty designations of child, family, school, healthcare, or mental health/substance abuse social work as “all other.” New York State based “other” social workers made about $50,000 more on average, in 2021, than “other” social workers across the country. In 2021, New York State had 2,230 “other social” workers who made on average $73,710. This compares to the mean annual salary of other social workers in the country of $63,010.
Social work programs in New York
Find the latest social work career advice from people working directly in the field in New York. Learn more about all the different pathways and opportunities available in social work today.
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- What are the challenges or opportunities for becoming a social worker in New York?
- What does the future of social work look like in New York?
- What types of jobs are MSW graduates finding in New York?
- Do you have advice or guidance for MSW graduates pursuing a license in New York?