Social Work Licensing and Certification Requirements

Licensing and certification is an important and necessary element of becoming a social worker. Licensing and certification is designed to protect the public interest by setting professional standards for the safe practice of social work. The rules, laws and regulations that govern social work are dictated on a state by state basis. There are four aspects of social work that are legally regulated by each jurisdiction:
  • Bachelors: Baccalaureate social work degree upon graduation;
  • Masters: Master's degree in social work (MSW) with no post-degree experience;
  • Advanced Generalist: Master's degree in social work with two years post-master's supervised experience; and
  • Clinical: Master's degree in social work with two years post-master's direct clinical social work experience.
General Licensing RequirementsSocial work regulatory boards across the United States typically require that aspiring social workers obtain a social work degree that is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), Canadian Association for Social Work Education (CASWE), or a similar accrediting agency recognized in the United States. When a degree in social work is earned outside the U.S. or Canada, it must be determined to be equivalent. One of the most recognized and reputable degree equivalency services is the CSWE International Social Work Degree Recognition and Equivalence Service.

Social workers seeking licensing, in some instances, can qualify for licensure with a non-social work degree at the Bachelors level. Some states only regulated one level of education, while most regulate two or more levels. To learn more about licensing requirements for social work in the United States you should reference the Social Work Laws & Regulations Comparison Guide.

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