Social Work Licensure in Colorado

Candidates for a social work license in Colorado must meet education, professional experience, and testing requirements. Unlike some other states, Colorado does not license bachelor's-level social workers. BSW holders can work as nonclinical social workers without a license. Co lorado does, however, license master's-level social workers. Individuals with a master's in social work can apply for the licensed social worker (LSW) credential or the licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) credential. Candidates for either license must pass Colorado's mental health jurisprudence exam, complete an online healthcare professional profile, and pass the appropriate Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) exam. LCSW candidates must also have at least 3,360 documented hours of supervised professional experience.

Those with a master's-level social work license from another state can apply for a Colorado license through the endorsement application process without retaking exams or pursuing further education. The requirements for the out-of-state license must be equivalent to those in Colorado, and candidates following the endorsement application process must pass Colorado's jurisprudence exam to receive a state social work license.

Types of Social Work Degrees in Colorado

Colorado students can pursue social work degrees at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. Each degree requires a different amount of time to earn and qualifies holders for different types of careers. Professionals need at least a bachelor's in social work to qualify for entry-level, nonclinical social work positions in Colorado. Full-time students typically earn their BSW in about four years.

Most learners complete an online social work degree at the master's level in two years. A master's degree is the terminal degree in the field and qualifies graduates for all types of clinical and nonclinical social work positions. A Ph.D. in social work typically requires three to five years and leads to positions in education, research, and administration.

Bachelor's Degree in Social Work

A bachelor's degree in social work prepares graduates to work as professional social workers in Colorado. Full-time students typically spend four years earning a BSW, which provides foundational knowledge in the field and practical skills necessary for professional social workers. Bachelor's-level social workers in Colorado do not need a license.

Practicing clinical social workers in the state must have a master's degree, but a BSW qualifies holders for positions as any other type of social worker in Colorado. Many BSW holders work as case managers, community outreach workers, or child and family social workers. Bachelor's degree holders with professional experience often qualify for more specialized positions. A bachelor's in social work is ideal for students who do not plan to practice clinical social work and who want to enter the workforce quickly.

Master's in Social Work

A master's degree in social work is the terminal degree in the field, qualifying graduates for positions as licensed clinical or nonclinical social workers anywhere in the United States. In MSW programs, students learn foundational skills needed to practice social work and gain advanced practice skills and knowledge. MSW students typically specialize in an area such as school, healthcare, or substance abuse social work. An MSW is ideal for aspiring clinical social workers and for those who want to pursue roles in an advanced practice area.

Doctorate Degree in Social Work

Individuals earning a doctoral degree in social work study a specific area of the social work field at a high level. Ph.D. programs explore advanced topics in social work, and researching and writing a dissertation is a large component of doctoral programs. Experienced social workers often pursue a Ph.D. after years of working in the field. Social work Ph.D. holders typically work in education, pursue research roles, or take on supervisory positions in organizations that provide social services. Earning a Ph.D. expands the number and type of positions for which professionals qualify and increases earning potential.

How to Become a Licensed Social Worker in Colorado

Aspiring social workers in Colorado can earn either the LSW credential or the LCSW credential. The LSW qualifies holders to practice nonclinical social work, whereas the LCSW is for clinical social workers. Candidates for either license must hold at least a master's degree in social work, pass Colorado's mental health jurisprudence exam, and complete an online healthcare professional profile. LSW candidates must pass the ASWB master's exam, and LCSW candidates must pass the ASWB clinical or advanced generalist exam. Candidates for the LCSW credential must have at least 3,360 hours of supervised professional experience.

Licensed Social Worker

  1. Earn a Master's in Social Work: Candidates for licensure must earn at least a master's of social work from a CSWE-accredited college or university.
  2. Pass the Mental Health Jurisprudence Examination: Colorado's Mental Health Jurisprudence Exam assesses knowledge of part one and part two of the State of Colorado Mental Health Statutes. The online, open-book exam costs $20, and test-takers must complete the exam within 60 days.
  3. Complete an Online Healthcare Professional Profile: All healthcare professionals in Colorado must complete an online healthcare professional profile through the Colorado Department of Regulatory Affairs. The profile is part of a system that helps Colorado consumers research licensed healthcare professionals in the state.
  4. Pass the ASWB Masters Examination: Candidates must receive a passing score on the ASWB master's examination. Pearson Professional centers administer the exam, which costs $230 plus a $25 application fee.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

  1. Earn a Master's in Social Work: Candidates for the LCSW credential must have at least a master's of social work from a CSWE-accredited college or university.
  2. Complete the Required Hours of Work Experience: Candidates must have at least 3,360 documented hours of professional social work experience completed over at least two years. At least 96 hours must be supervised, 48 of which must be directly supervised.
  3. Pass the Mental Health Jurisprudence Examination: Colorado's Mental Health Jurisprudence Exam assesses knowledge of part one and part two of the State of Colorado Mental Health Statutes. The online, open-book exam costs $20, and test-takers must complete the exam within 60 days.
  4. Complete and Online Healthcare Professional Profile: All healthcare professionals in Colorado must complete an online healthcare professional profile through the Colorado Department of Regulatory Affairs. The profile is part of a system that helps Colorado consumers research licensed healthcare professionals in the state.
  5. Pass the ASWB Clinical or Advanced Generalist Examination: Candidates must pass the ASWB advanced generalist or clinical examination, which costs $260 plus a $25 application fee and is available through Pearson Professional centers.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Licensed Social Worker in Colorado?

The Colorado social work licensure process varies depending on the type of license. BSW holders qualify for nonclinical social work positions in Colorado, but the state does not license bachelor's-level social workers. Social work licensure in Colorado requires at least a master's degree in social work.

To obtain the LSW or LCSW credential, candidates must hold a master's in social work from a CSWE-accredited program. Full-time students typically earn an MSW in two years, although BSW holders can sometimes complete the degree in one year.

Out of State Licensing Reciprocity in Colorado

Professionals with an out-of-state social work license can follow a streamlined process to become licensed in Colorado. The Colorado Board of Social Work Examiners (BSWE) accepts social work license applications from candidates licensed in states with equivalent licensing requirements. Social workers seeking licensing reciprocity apply through the endorsement application process.

Out-of-state social workers can apply for the Colorado social work license equivalent to their current license. The application costs $70, and applicants must complete Colorado's jurisprudence exam, which costs $18. All candidates for social work licensure in the state must complete an online healthcare professions profile.

License Renewal

Licensed social workers in Colorado must renew their license every two years. All social work licenses in the state expire on August 31 of each odd-numbered year. LSWs and LCSWs must complete at least 40 BSWE-approved continuing education hours between renewals. For each renewal period, no more than 20 continuing education hours can be in the same category. License renewals cost $67 and open about six weeks before before the license expiration date. Social workers in Colorado can renew their license online through the BSWE.

Accredited Social Work Programs in Colorado

Students should attend an accredited social work program in Colorado to ensure they will qualify for licensure. Social work schools in Colorado offer degrees at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. BSW holders qualify for entry-level social work positions, which do not require licensure.

BSW holders often earn a master's in social work in one additional year, while working and gaining professional experience in the field. After obtaining a license, graduates of master's programs in Colorado can practice any type of social work, including clinical social work, which garners the highest annual salaries for social workers.

What Can You Do With a Social Work Degree?

Graduates with a social work degree in Colorado pursue a variety of career paths in clinical and nonclinical social work. Career options include positions in school, healthcare, child and family, and general social work. Some graduates pursue careers in education or research, rather than providing direct services.

Most social workers enjoy helping people find solutions to their problems, and most positions in the field require empathy, patience, and attention to detail. Graduates of BSW programs often complete MSW programs in only one additional year. After earning a master's in social work, graduates qualify for positions as clinical and nonclinical licensed social workers throughout the country.

  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker: LCSWs need at least a master's in social work. These professionals typically earn higher salaries than other types of social workers. LCSWs diagnose and treat mental illnesses and emotional problems. They often work with individuals dealing with substance abuse issues. LCSWs provide services including counseling and therapy, and they help clients access resources.
  • School Social Worker: School social workers provide direct services to children in educational environments, including public and private schools. They need at least a BSW, but some positions require an MSW. They provide counseling and help students deal with issues that can impact academic success, such as bullying, homelessness, and suicide.
  • Child and Family Social Worker: These social workers need at least a bachelor's in social work. They often work as case managers in state agencies, such as human services departments. They identify and help at-risk children who are dealing with socioeconomic problems such as poverty, abuse, and chaotic family situations. They sometimes coordinate foster care and adoptions.
  • Hospice Social Worker: Social workers in hospices provide services to patients facing end-of-life decisions. They offer counseling and therapy to help clients make decisions about treatment plans, insurance forms, and funerals. These professionals sometimes lead community education workshops, intervene during crises, and facilitate support groups. Hospice social workers engage in clinical practice and need at least an MSW.
  • Social Worker (MSW): Social workers who hold an MSW can practice both clinical or nonclinical social work and can earn a social work license in any state. Depending on their concentration area, these professionals work in a variety specialties, including substance abuse and mental health social work.

Salary Expectations for Social Workers in Colorado

Social workers in Colorado typically earn $45,000 to $55,000 annually. Individual salaries depend on the type of social worker, education level, and geographic location. Licensed clinical social workers, who must hold a master's degree, typically earn the highest salaries. Child and family social workers, who need only a bachelor's, earn the lowest average salaries in Colorado.

Average Salary for Social Workers in Colorado

Licensed Clinical Social Worker $53,970
School Social Worker $48,365
Child and Family Social Worker $45,851
Hospice Social Worker $55,028
Social Worker (MSW) $47,167
Source: BLS

Professional Organizations for Social Workers in Colorado

Professional organizations help members stay engaged in the profession. Social work students and professionals benefit from access to networking opportunities, career centers, and information about applying for state licensure. Some professional organizations award scholarships and grants to social work students. Most professional organizations for social workers offer discounted rates for students or individuals early in their careers.

  • National Association of Social Workers - Colorado Chapter: The Colorado chapter of NASW represents the professional interests of social workers in the state. Members have access to continuing education opportunities, licensure information, and a career center. Members also benefit from the organization's legislative advocacy.
  • Colorado Society for Clinical Social Work: CSCSW represents Colorado clinical social workers and their clients. The organization advocates for clinical social workers, promotes public understanding of the field, and offers professional education opportunities to members. Other membership benefits include networking opportunities, referrals, and access to an email listserv, news, and job openings.
  • Colorado School Social Work Association: CSSWA promotes the work of school social workers in Colorado and advocates for the profession. The association provides professional development, and networking opportunities for school social workers. CSSWA also offers training and access to relevant news. The association's career center includes a database of school social worker jobs in the state.
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