Social Work Licensure in New York

Working as a social worker in a cultural hub such as New York is a rewarding experience. The New York State Education Department Office of the Professions issues social work licenses throughout the Empire State. The licensed master social worker (LMSW) and the licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) are the state's two most common types of social work licenses. Professionals holding either license can provide a variety of social work services, including clinical services, but an LMSW must be supervised by an LCSW, or a New York-licensed psychologist or psychiatrist.

To become a licensed social worker in New York, you need at least a master's degree in social work from an accredited college or university. LCSW candidates must complete a minimum of three years and 2,000 client contact hours of supervised experience in assessment-based treatment, diagnosis, and psychotherapy. Licensure applicants must also pass the clinical or master's examination administered by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB). All applicants must complete coursework or training in the identification and reporting of child abuse. An LCSW from another state must have at least 10 years of experience within a period of 15 years.

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Types of Social Work Degrees in New York

Social work schools in New York offer degrees at the bachelor's, master's, and doctorate levels. Graduates with a bachelor's degree in social work can pursue careers in child, family, and school; healthcare; and mental health and substance abuse. A master's degree in social work opens career doors within a clinical specialty or a specific community. A doctoral degree in social work prepares graduates for careers in academic research or teaching.

Bachelor's Degree in Social Work

A bachelor's degree in social work provides a broad foundation for generalist social work practice. The U.S. Department of Labor projects a 12% growth rate through 2024 for the social work profession, which is almost double the national average growth rate for other jobs. Social workers enjoy a median annual wage of $37,690. A bachelor's degree in social work is required for licensure.

Master's in Social Work

A master's program in social work equips graduates with the skills and knowledge necessary for advanced practice and specialist roles. Social workers seeking careers in healthcare and specialty and clinical areas often need a master's degree. Administrative positions also often require a master's level education. MSW degree holders working in a hospital setting earn a median salary of $60,000 annually. MSW holders working in social service agencies earn an annual median salary of $54,000. Several schools also offer an online social work degree.

Doctoral Degree in Social Work

The master's in social work degree is considered the terminal professional degree, so earning a doctorate in social work will not lead to further licensure. However, a Ph.D. in social work is useful, and sometimes required, for academic careers. The curriculum focuses on advanced research methods, theory, policy, and teaching. The degree prepares graduates for advanced practice leadership. The average annual salary for a professor with a Ph.D. in social work is $86,073.

How to Become a Licensed Social Worker in New York

Most BSW graduates begin as a licensed bachelor social worker (LBSW). They must pass ASWB's bachelors exam to qualify as an LBSW. To become a licensed graduate social worker (LGSW) or LMSW, applicants must complete an MSW program and pass ASWB's masters exam. An LCSW must hold an MSW, pass the clinical ASWB exam, and complete two to three years of supervised clinical social work. New York does not require a specific license for LCSWs who wish to start a private practice. However, professional organizations recommend obtaining a board certified diplomate from the American Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work and getting an “R” privilege. The law requires New York insurance companies to reimburse LCSWs in private practice with an “R” privilege.

Licensed Bachelor Social Worker

  • Bachelor's Degree in Social Work: This four-year program qualifies graduates to provide direct individual, family, or school-related services immediately upon graduation. Accredited BSW programs include a minimum of 400 hours of supervised field experience, which is typically completed within the last two semesters.
  • Supervision: LBSWs can perform certain clinical functions under the supervision of a qualified and trained LMSW or LCSW. These may include pre-admission assessment for mental health facilities, psychosocial assessment, and program intervention planning and evaluation.
  • Field of Practice: An LBSW can choose from several career paths, including child protective services worker, gerontology social worker, and criminal justice social worker.

Licensed Graduate Social Worker

  • Master's Degree in Social Work: Applicants must earn an MSW degree from a college or university accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). The program must include at least 900 hours of field education and a minimum of 60 credits. Coursework typically consists of 42 credits, with the remaining 18 credits in field work.
  • ASWB Masters Examination: Licensure candidates can schedule their preferred time to take the exam through the test administrator's website, Pearson VUE. The masters examination consists of 170 multiple-choice questions. Only 150 are scored. Candidates have up to four hours to complete the exam, which is administered electronically.
  • Continuing Education: Licensed social workers must maintain 15 hours of continuing education each license year, beginning from when they first renew their license. At least one hour of continuing education must be in cultural competence, and at least two hours must be on veteran issues.

Licensed Certified Social Worker

  • ASWB Clinical Examination: The exam is split into 11 sections and includes questions on human development and behavior, diagnosis and assessment, and psychotherapy and clinical practice. The test is administered by the American College Testing Program (ACT) and must be taken at an ACT testing center.
  • Experience Requirement: After earning an MSW degree from a CSWE-accredited program, applicants must complete an additional three years of supervised clinical practice. Only an LCSW or a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist may supervise licensure candidates.
  • Child Abuse Training: New York requires licensure applicants to complete coursework in identifying and reporting child abuse cases. Classes or training must be conducted by a provider approved by the department. First-time licensure candidates must complete three hours of child abuse training courses. Those applying for license renewals must complete two hours of training.

Private Independent Practice Certification

  • Obtain "R" Privilege: New York does not require LCSWs who wish to enter private practice to secure additional licensure. However, to be reimbursed by insurance companies, LCSWs in private practice must hold an "R" privilege. To qualify, LCSWs must complete a minimum of 2,400 client hours within 36 months after they become licensed.
  • Continuing Contact: LCSWs in private practice must complete a minimum of 400 client contact hours every year to maintain their "R" privilege. This does not include the provision of concrete social work services such as case management, collateral contact, or record-keeping.
  • Experience Setting: While under supervision for the "R" privilege, LCSWs may only practice in a treatment environment that has been legally authorized by the state to provide psychotherapy and clinical social work services. An authorized experience setting may include a private practice owned by the LCSW, or a program or facility approved by the mental hygiene law to provide health services.

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

After completing an MSW degree, applicants can immediately begin the licensure process to become an LMSW. How long it takes to get licensed largely depends on how long students wait after graduating with an MSW to take the ASWB's masters examination. Social work licensure in New York requires candidates to complete coursework or training in identifying and reporting child abuse. To become an LCSW, applicants must complete an additional three years of post-graduate supervised experience in psychotherapy, diagnosis, and assessment-based treatment. They must also pass ASWB's clinical examination and complete the child abuse identification and reporting training.

Out-of-State Licensing Reciprocity in New York

New York does not have a reciprocity agreement in place for LMSWs who obtained their license out of state. Although ASWB test scores transfer between states, out-of-state license holders must re-apply for licensure as LMSWs. It costs $150 for an initial license. Licensure renewal is required every three years and costs $150 every time. New York has a reciprocity agreement in place for LCSWs from other states. LCSWs seeking licensure in New York must have at least 10 years of practice experience completed within 15 years from the date of licensure application in New York. Applicants pay an initial license fee of $115. License registration is done every three years and carries a fee of $150 for each renewal.

License Renewal

Licensed social workers in New York register, rather than renew, their license after obtaining initial licensure. New York social work licensure is a lifetime privilege unless suspended, revoked, or annulled by the state. Licensees must register their license every three years. Both LMCWs and LCSWs are required to complete 36 hours of continuing education courses every triennial registration period. Licensure registration applicants must take these courses from providers approved by the New York State Education Department. First-time license candidates are exempt from the continuing education requirement for the first three years of licensure. The triennial license registration fee is $179.

Accredited Social Work Programs in New York

Students seeking a social work degree in New York will find no shortage of school options. There are several colleges and universities in New York offering CSWE-accredited MSW programs. Columbia University's MSW program is ranked as the country's fifth best. Fordham University is one of several schools offering online social work programs in New York. Qualified students can also take advantage of the NYS Licensed Social Worker Loan Forgiveness Program that makes an MSW degree more affordable. New York boasts one of the country's highest employment rates for social workers.

What Can You Do With a Social Work Degree?

A degree in social work prepares students for many employment opportunities. Graduates of on-campus or online social work programs in New York work in several areas, including healthcare; state and local governments; and private, local, or international social service agencies. Qualified social workers can opt to work with different client populations as well, such as children, family, adolescents, or veterans. BSW degree holders can provide general social work services. Most states require an advanced degree in the field for licensure. Annual salaries for licensed social workers partly depend on whether they provide generalist or specialized social services.

  • Child and Family Social Worker: This type of social worker provides various case management services that support children and families with addiction treatment, debt counseling, job placement, and medical referrals. This professional can also assist with adoptions. BSW degree holders can typically embark on this career path right after graduation.
  • Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker: A social worker who specializes in this field assists clients with drug and mental health problems, and issues that stem from addiction and illness. Social workers must be licensed to be a mental health and substance abuse professional and hold an MSW degree.
  • Social and Human Service Assistant: Social and human service assistants work with social workers, counselors, and other human services professionals to provide individual and community support for different populations. A BSW degree can help professionals advance in this field.
  • School Social Worker: Most school social workers work with entire student communities as well as with several schools within a district. They deal with issues of truancy, child abuse, academic problems, and also act as liaisons with outside agencies for students and their families. A school social worker is often part of a group of multidisciplinary professionals that includes psychologists, school counselors, and educators. The role requires an MSW degree and state licensure.
  • Environmental Health Worker and Administrator: Social workers in this role function in both the policy and public education spheres to promote and provide environmental health and safety guidelines in communities. They can work as food and health inspectors, population health managers, and outreach educators. Most professionals hold state licensure and have a master's degree.

Salary Expectations for Social Workers in New York

With the exception of California, New York boasts higher salaries for social workers than any other state. The high demand for social work professionals is likely due to the rich cultural mix and dense population in both states. Salaries are influenced by the specific field and the level of education a professional has attained.

Average Salary for Social Workers in New York

Child and Family Social Worker $56,650
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker $60,460
Social and Human Service Assistant $36,320
School Social Worker $56,650
Environmental Health Worker and Administrator $64,530
Source: BLS

Professional Organizations for Social Workers in New York

Professional organizations provide excellent networking opportunities not only for recent graduates, but also for field veterans. They provide an avenue for sharing the latest developments in both the private and public sectors. Social workers support clients and their families on a daily basis. Joining a professional social work association allows individuals to support one another as colleagues and professionals.

  • New York State Society for Clinical Social Work: The NYSSCSW provides members with information on issues such as license registration, continuing education units, and mentorship opportunities. The association also keeps members current of the latest legislative news that affects social work practice in New York.
  • The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), New York Chapter: The association disseminates relevant information and sponsors and supports regional conferences. The NASW-NYC also organizes members for action especially on urgent advocacy concerns, such as securing additional federal funding for continuing education units and defining and protecting the scope of practice in school-based settings.
  • New York State School Social Workers' Association: NYSSSWA organizes regional and statewide conferences that provide members with professional networking opportunities. The organization represents members at the NYS Council of Education Associations and works closely with the School Social Work Association of America to ensure that member concerns are recognized and acted upon on the national level.