Social Work Licensure in Minnesota

Applying for social work licensure in Minnesota starts with completing a social work degree from an accredited program. In the U.S., the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredits social work programs. Minnesota also accepts accreditation from the Canadian Association for Social Work Education (CASWE). Graduates apply online to the Minnesota Board of Social Work and must pass a criminal background check. The next step is postgraduate work under supervision. Supervised practice requirements vary according to the type of license. Applicants may then take the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) exam, the final step in the licensure process.

Minnesota requires clinical social workers to have a master's in social work (MSW) and be licensed. Those with a bachelor's in social work (BSW) can be licensed, but they may not work directly with clients as therapists. License holders who move out of state must reapply in their new state. However, because degree accreditation and the licensing exam are national, many licensure requirements will overlap.

Types of Social Work Degrees in Minnesota

Different levels of social work degrees prepare graduates for particular careers. An MSW is considered a terminal degree, meaning it qualifies one to work as a clinical social worker in a therapeutic setting and a doctorate is not required. An MSW is required or preferred for most jobs in social work, however, professionals can work in human services and be licensed as a social worker in Minnesota with a bachelor's degree. A doctoral degree prepares social workers to hold leadership positions or conduct research and teach at the university level.

Bachelor's Degree in Social Work

A BSW provides a foundation in human behavior. The degree prepares graduates to work in a variety of settings or advance to graduate study. With a BSW, professionals can work in case management or community outreach for human service and government agencies, nonprofits, courts, and healthcare providers. While social workers can be licensed in Minnesota with a BSW, they may not engage in clinical practice.

Master's in Social Work

With an MSW, one can become a clinical social worker or work in non-clinical settings. MSW degree holders become therapists and behavioral health providers, school social workers, medical and hospice social workers, and substance abuse counselors. Most jobs in social work require or prefer an MSW, and these jobs tend to be higher paying and more stable than those requiring a lesser degree.

Doctorate Degree in Social Work

A doctorate in social work (DSW or Ph.D.) is not necessary to work as a clinical social worker, although it qualifies one to become a researcher or professor at the university level. It is possible to earn a doctorate degree online. Doctorate degree holders command some of the highest salaries in the field.

How to Become a Licensed Social Worker in Minnesota

Minnesota offers four types of social work licensure: licensed social worker (LSW), licensed graduate social worker (LGSW), licensed independent social worker (LISW), and licensed independent social worker (LICSW). The LSW requires a bachelor's; the others require a graduate social work degree from an accredited program.

License applicants apply online to the Minnesota Board of Social Work. All must pass a criminal background check and complete supervised practice hours. Those with an MSW can begin clinical practice with an LGSW license. Those with experience can practice independently as an LISW (non-clinical practice) or LICSW (clinical practice). Each license requires applicants to pass a different one of the four national ASWB exams.

Licensed Social Worker

  1. Education: Minnesota requires a bachelor's degree in social work (BSW) from a program accredited by the CSWE or the CASWE. A BSW is the minimum requirement to be licensed as a social worker. It takes four years to complete full time.
  2. Supervised Practice: The state does not require supervised practice to apply for an LSW. However, license holders must complete 100 hours of direct supervision over 4,000 hours of practice (two years of full-time work) once they receive the license.
  3. Exam: LSW applicants must pass the ASWB bachelor's-level social work licensure exam. National ASWB exams are part of the licensure process in every state.

Licensed Graduate Social Worker

  1. Education: Minnesota requires a graduate degree in social work from a program accredited by the CSWE or the CASWE. A master's degree is the minimum requirement to be licensed as a clinical social worker. Students generally take two years to complete a master's degree full time and three or more years to finish a doctorate.
  2. Supervised Practice: The state does not require any supervised practice to apply for an LGSW. However, after licensure, Minnesota requires 100 hours of direct supervision over 4,000 hours of practice (two years of full-time work) for those engaged in non-clinical work and 200 hours over 4,000-8,000 hours of supervised work for those in clinical practice. An LGSW may then apply for an LISW or an LICSW license.
  3. Exam: LGSW applicants must pass the ASWB master's-level social work licensure exam. National ASWB exams are part of the licensure process in every state.

Licensed Independent Social Worker

  1. Education: Minnesota requires a graduate degree in social work from a program accredited by the CSWE or the CASWE. A master's degree is the minimum requirement for most jobs in social work. Students generally take two years to complete a master's degree full time and three or more years to finish a doctorate.
  2. Supervised Practice: To apply for an LISW, social workers must provide documentation of 100 hours of direct supervision over 4,000 supervised hours of non-clinical practice. This practice represents two years of full-time work experience and enables a non-clinical social worker with a graduate degree to practice independently.
  3. Exam: LISW applicants must pass the ASWB advanced generalist-level social work licensure exam. National ASWB exams are part of the licensure process in every state.

Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker

  1. Education: Minnesota requires a graduate degree in social work from a program accredited by the CSWE or the CASWE. A master's degree is the minimum requirement to be licensed as a clinical social worker. Also, LICSW applicants must document 360 clinical clock hours in particular clinical knowledge areas through an accredited graduate degree program, graduate coursework, or continuing education hours.
  2. Supervised Practice: Social workers must provide documentation of 200 hours of direct supervision over 4,000 supervised hours of clinical practice, including 1,800 hours of direct clinical contact with clients. This practice represents two years of full-time work experience and enables a clinical social worker with a graduate degree to provide clinical care independently.
  3. Exam: LICSW applicants must pass the ASWB clinical-level social work licensure exam. National ASWB exams are part of the licensure process in every state.

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

Becoming a licensed social worker doesn't take much longer than it takes to earn a bachelor's or graduate social work degree in Minnesota from an accredited program. Degree holders may start working as social workers and apply for their licenses upon graduation. Minnesota takes a month or two to process the online application before notifying applicants that they may take their ASWB exam.

After passing the exam, applicants receive their social work license. To practice social work independently, however, licensed social workers must work full-time for at least two years under supervision. Those in clinical practice also must submit 360 clinical clock hours, and if their graduate program did not include these hours, they must take additional courses or complete continuing education hours.

Out-of-State Licensing Reciprocity in Minnesota

No formal reciprocity agreements exist for social work licensure between Minnesota and other states. Current license holders from other states may apply online for social work licensure in Minnesota by endorsement for $85 (plus $32 for a criminal background check). Applicants must demonstrate they have met all the same requirements of first-time applicants -- a social work degree (plus clock hours for the LICSW), completion of supervised hours (for the LISW and LICSW), and a passing score on an ASWB exam -- but they will not need to redo any of this work in Minnesota. For supervised hours, applicants for endorsement need only show that they have worked for 4,000 hours in another jurisdiction. They do not need to document any hours of direct supervision.

License Renewal

Social workers must renew their license online or by paper with the Minnesota Board of Social Work every two years. Renewal applicants must show they have completed 40 hours of continuing education. These hours may be satisfied through academic courses or workplace training. Any required supervised hours must also be documented and submitted. The renewal fee is $81 for LSW, $144 for LGSW, $216 for LISW, and $238.50 for LICSW. Minnesota also asks applicants to answer questions related to the state's ethical standards for social workers when they renew their licenses.

Accredited Social Work Programs in Minnesota

Minnesota social work licensure requires a social work degree from an accredited program. Online social work programs in Minnesota include hands-on field experience, so attending an in-state program provides experience and local connections. This experience can be a definite advantage when seeking your first social work job. Don't overlook cost when obtaining your online social work degree. In-state programs can be much less expensive for Minnesota residents than similar programs in other states. Learn more about accredited social work programs in Minnesota below.

What Can You Do With a Social Work Degree?

Social workers like to help others overcome challenges and lead healthier, more fulfilling lives. Social workers are employed by hospitals, schools, community agencies, and therapy practices. They work one-on-one with clients, families, groups, and communities. A bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement for most jobs in social work, and a master's degree is usually preferred and often required.

Any social worker wishing to provide mental health services directly to clients must have a master's degree. Degrees in social work provide graduates with the knowledge they need in human behavior, psychology, diversity, and intervention strategies to hold positions such as those listed below.

  • Child, Family, and School Social Worker: These clinical social workers help young people with the mental and social challenges they face at home or school. Minnesota requires a master's degree and licensure. Social workers providing clinical care to children diagnose psychological conditions, set goals, work with caregivers and teachers, and provide treatment.
  • Healthcare Social Worker: Patients facing serious, chronic, or terminal illnesses and their families and caregivers receive support from these social workers. They work in hospitals, clinics, hospice care facilities, rehabilitation centers, private practices, and community agencies to help people facing medical challenges. Minnesota requires a master's degree to provide direct clinical care.
  • Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker: These social workers are in high demand. Minnesota requires a master's degree and licensure for those working in a therapeutic setting with clients. Clinical social workers diagnose and treat mental health conditions, including addiction and substance abuse. They work with people of all ages in a variety of settings.
  • Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists: A bachelor's degree in social work can prepare one to work in the criminal justice system with inmates and parolees. These specialists create rehabilitation plans and monitor progress towards established goals, helping those who have been incarcerated to re-enter society.
  • Social and Human Services Assistants: Bachelor's degree holders are also qualified to work as case managers and social service assistants. They connect people with community, healthcare, school, and government resources. They do not provide direct clinical care.

Salary Expectations for Social Workers in Minnesota

Graduates of accredited social work schools in Minnesota can expect to find stable, well-paying jobs. While social workers who provide direct clinical care must have at least a master's degree, many positions are available to those with a bachelor's degree. Those working in healthcare or corrections can command the highest salaries, but mental health and substance abuse counselors are in high demand.

Average Salary for Social Workers in Minnesota

Child, Family, and School Social Workers $54,310
Healthcare Social Workers $58,530
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists $63,380
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers $51,860
Social and Human Service Assistants $36,300
Source: BLS

Professional Organizations for Social Workers in Minnesota

Professional organizations provide members with opportunities to network, which can lead to mentoring and job opportunities. Associations for social workers offer information about the latest legal, scientific, ethical, and societal developments in the field. These organizations hold conferences and offer workshops. Being part of a professional organization shows that you value other members of the profession as well as the profession's standards as a whole.

  • National Association of Social Workers: NASW promotes professionalism among its members through continuing education and the Social Work Journal. Both update members with best practices. Members can also turn to NASW for legal assistance. NASW advocates for the interests of social workers and sound public policy.
  • Minnesota Social Service Association: MSSA provides members with benefits such as tuition discounts, access to continuing education, an annual conference, and regular updates on the field's latest developments. Minnesota social workers who join can benefit from networking opportunities, job postings, and advocacy efforts at the state level. All members automatically become members of regional chapters.
  • Minnesota Society for Clinical Social Work: This organization focuses on the needs and interests of clinical social workers. Members can connect with clinical supervisors and take advantage of opportunities for continuing education and other workshops. MSCSW keeps members informed about legislative issues at the state level as well as relevant healthcare reforms.
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