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Frequently Asked Questions:

Social Work Licensure in NJ

How to Use this Section:
NASW-NJ has developed answers to FAQ regarding Social Work licensure and certification. These answers have been reviewed and approved by the office of the Board of Social Work Examiners (BSWE). The answers to these FAQ are organized according to topic. Answers to these questions can be found in the NJ Social Work Statutes (N.J.S.A. 45:15BB) and the NJ Social Work Regulations (N.J.A.C 13:44G, written by the BSWE). Each answer includes a link to the PDF document with the section code. Please refer to the specific section for additional information.

NASW-NJ offers two ways for members to ask specific questions on licensure. The Licensing Hotline (phone and email) are monitored weekly. The Licensing Hotline is a benefit of NASW Membership.
If you are an NASW member and you cannot find an answer to your question in the FAQ, please contact us at:


Licensing Hotline Form

If you are not an NASW member, information you are seeking may be available in the NJ Social Work Regulations. Click HERE for a link to that document, or you can contact the Board of Social Work Examiners at http://tinyurl.com/EmailNJBSWE.


Important New Jersey Licensing Contacts
 
NJ Board of Social Work Examiners (BSWE)
PO Box 45033
Newark, NJ 07101
 
Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB)
Questions: 800-225-6880
Registration: 888-579-EXAM (3926)
  
ACT Testing Sites
Phone number will be on your letter from ASWB
 

General Information 

What is Social Work Licensure and Certification? 
In May of 1991, the State of NJ passed legislation requiring social workers to be certified or licensed in order to protect the public. The law is administered by the Board of Social Work Examiners (BSWE), whose members are appointed by the Governor. The BSWE is under the Division of Consumer Affairs, whose primary responsibility is to protect the public from fraud, deceit and misrepresentation in the sale of goods and services. 

The Statutes and Regulations outline the law and practice of social work in NJ. All licensed and certified social workers should be familiar with these documents. Licensure and certification also serve to preserve social work as a unique profession.

 

Who must be licensed or certified to practice Social Work in New Jersey?

You must be licensed or certified as a social worker if you are practicing social work or being called a social worker EXCEPT in exempted situations which include the following: 

  • Civil service employees of the state, county, or local government.

See NJ Social Work Statutes (N.J.S.A. 45:15BB, subsection 5) for more information.

 

PLEASE NOTE:

  • Once you graduate, you must have your NJ Social Work License number, issued by the BSWE on their Web site (http://www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/sw/Pages/default.aspx), to work as a social worker unless you work in an exempt setting (see above). 

  • Anyone who wants to perform Clinical Social Work, in any setting, must have a license in order to practice as a LCSW or as a LSW under the supervision of an LCSW who meets the supervision requirements, unless the above exemptions apply.

  • You must have a certification/license in order to practice if you work in a for-profit organization - even if you are working under a government contract.

  • If the social worker is going to be performing Drug and Alcohol counseling they must either have a LSW/LCSW or a credential from the Alcohol & Drug Counseling Committee. If the social worker is performing psychotherapy then they must have an LSW under the supervision of an LCSW who meets the supervision requirements or a LCSW.

What are my responsibilities as a licensee? 

You must follow the Statutes and Regulations of the Social Work Licensing Act. Included in the Regulations are ethical practices, specific content requirements for client records, information about confidentiality and a description of violations and penalties.

What is the best way for me to contact BSWE?

When you need to contact the Board, we recommend that you do this by email (for brief inquiries) or by certified mail. Send documents with "Return Receipt Requested," and keep copies of anything you send them for reference purposes. You can email the BSWE at http://tinyurl.com/EmailNJBSWE. Their address is: BSWE, P.O. Box 45033, Newark, NJ 07101. 

Is a background check/fingerprinting required for my certification/license?

Yes, fingerprinting is now a requirement for your Social Work license.   

The background check process includes the following steps:
A Certification and Authorization Form for a Criminal History Background Check is in each certification/license application form. It must be completed and returned with your application. Upon receipt of the completed form and licensure/certification application, you will receive additional information and instructions about completing the background check. Once you get this information, you will schedule an appointment to be fingerprinted. Your fingerprints are electronically forwarded to the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) and SBI (State Bureau of Investigation) to conduct the criminal history background check.

PLEASE NOTE:

  1. If you have been fingerprinted for any other government agency such as the New Jersey Department of Human Services, or a law enforcement agency, you will have to be fingerprinted again. Prior fingerprinting does not provide a waiver unless it was for the Division of Consumer Affairs (DCA) for licensing purposes. If you need to be fingerprinted, you will have to pay the fingerprinting fee. If you were fingerprinted for DCA then you will need to pay a rescanning fee in lieu of the full fingerprinting fee.

  2. School Social Workers (those credentialed by the NJ Department of Education- DOE) must be fingerprinted, as the DOE does not share fingerprint information with the DCA.

I have recently moved; do I have to update the Board with my new address?

Yes, each licensee and certificate holder shall notify the Board, in writing, within 30 days of any change in the address on file with the Board and shall specify whether the address is a residence or employment address.  

NOTE: the US Postal Service does not forward renewal applications to your new address.

 
I recently changed my last name; how can I update my license?
You need to forward the following information to the Board by certified mail, return receipt requested, no later than 30 days following the change of name:
  1. Legal evidence of this change; and
  2. A copy of your original license or certificate with proof that you are the same person to whom the Board issued the license or certificate.
Upon receipt of the items, the Board shall issue you a new license or certificate.
 
Upon receipt of the new license or certificate, you have to immediately remit the original license or certificate to the Board, PO Box 45033, Newark, NJ 07101

 
 
 
What does "social work services” mean?
"Social work services” means concrete, non-clinical services, which may be performed only by a Board approved licensee or certificate holder. 

What does "clinical social work" mean?
"Clinical social work means the professional application of social work methods and values in the assessment and psycho-therapeutic counseling of individuals, families, or groups."

The NJ Administrative Code section of the Statutes and Regulations includes definitions for terms used within the document including: clinical social work services, social work assessment, and others.
REVIEW: SUBCHAPTER 1, 13:44G-1.1 and 13:44G-1.2



 
Can I obtain a social work license if I have a degree in a field other than social work?
Generally, you must hold a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree in social work from a program accredited or in candidacy for accreditation by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
 
If you received a bachelor’s degree in a related field prior to April 6, 1995 please contact the Licensing Hotline at 732-296-8070 x51 or Licensing@NASWNJ.org
Can I obtain the application on-line for a certification/license?
Yes, you may now download, print and complete the appropriate forms from the BSWE website.
  • Certified Social Worker (CSW)
  •  Licensed Social Worker (LSW)  
o        Application for ASWB "Masters” Level Examination Preapproval (required before you sit for the exam)
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
o        Application for ASWB "Clinical” Level Examination Preapproval (required before you sit for the exam)
 
PLEASE NOTE: Determine your equivalent license level from your education to fill out the appropriate application.
  • CSW - If you have received a baccalaureate degree in social work from an educational program accredited, or in candidacy for accreditation, by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE); or you have an official transcript indicating that you acquired a baccalaureate degree prior to April 6, 1995, from an accredited institution of higher education in one of the following fields: guidance and counseling, human services, marriage and family counseling, psychology, sociology, vocational/disability rehabilitation.
  • LSW - If you have a Master’s Degree in Social work from an educational program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (C.S.W.E) or in candidacy for accreditation by the C.S.W.E. and DO NOT have two years of full time clinical social work experience subsequent to earning the Master's Degree.
  • LCSW - If you have a Master’s Degree in Social work from an educational program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (C.S.W.E) or in candidacy for accreditation by the C.S.W.E. and have two years of full time clinical social work experience subsequent to earning the Master's Degree.
Are there exceptions to having to take the licensing exam?
If you are working in an exempt setting and not providing clinical services, you do not need a Social Work license. If you do not need a license, you do not need to take the exam. Also, if you have a license from another state and have taken the ASWB exam you may not need to take the ASWB exam again.
 
Is it true that only LCSW's can supervise student internships?
Supervision is not limited to LCSW’s. However, if you are doing clinical work as a student your supervisor has to be an LCSW.
 
Can my MSW internship hours be counted toward my LCSW?
No. You cannot start counting the required 1,920 hours of face-to-face client contact until you have earned a master's degree in social work and have an LSW or proof that you are engaged in social work practice in a setting for which licensure is not required.
 
I just graduated with my MSW and have been offered a job at my internship. Can I work as a social worker if I intend to get my LSW?
Not unless you will be working in an exempt setting (see FAQ’s above). You are not licensed after you pass your ASWB exam; you are only licensed once you have the paper license from the BSWE in hand. There is no grace period and no provisional license status in the state of New Jersey. Therefore, under most circumstances, you must have your LSW to work as a Social Worker in NJ.
 
What can I do with my MSW degree if I have no license/certification?
Unless you are working in an exempt setting (N.J.S.A. 45:15BB-5), you need to be licensed as an LSW to provide services noted in the social worker’s Scope of Practice (N.J.A.C. 13:44G-3.2).
 
Examples of exempt settings include:
A person certified as a school social worker by the State Department of Education, but only when performing services on behalf of a local school district to students for whom the school district is responsible to provide services.
 
An employee of the State or a political subdivision thereof which is subject to the provisions of Title 11A, Civil Service, of the New Jersey Statutes, but only in the course of this employment.
 
A social worker in a non-profit organization, if not doing clinical work.
 
A rabbi, priest, minister, Christian Science practitioner or clergyman of any religious denomination or sect, when engaging in activities, which are within the scope of the performance of the person's regular or specialized ministerial duties and for which no separate charge is made.
 
Do I need to have a Social Security Number in order to take the ASWB Exam or to get my license?
If you do not have an SSN but wish to take an ASWB Examination you can be authorized to do so by the BSWE. However, you do need to have a SSN before you begin working as a social worker in the state of New Jersey.
 
First you must write the BSWE explaining your situation and ask for approval to take the ASWB Examination.
 
Once you have received a letter of approval to take the exam from the BSWE, you must contact the ASWB at their Candidate Registration Center number (1-888-5SW-EXAM). When you call you simply need to tell the Center that you have received written approval to take the examination from the New Jersey BSWE. At this point they should be able to register you for your exam. If for some reason they do inquire further, explain to them that the New Jersey BSWE does not require individuals to have a SSN to take the examination.
 
When you do receive your SSN, it is also your responsibility to inform the BSWE before you begin working.  
  
  
 
Does NJ accept out of state licenses?
There is no reciprocity between NJ and other states. If your state’s requirement meet or exceed those of NJ and you have already taken and passed the ASWB master’s or clinical exam, then you may apply for your NJ license. Write to the BSWE for application paperwork.
 
Do I have to take the licensing exam again if I already took it for another state?
No, if your state's requirements meet or exceed those of NJ and you have already passed the ASWB Master's or Clinical exam in your state, you may apply for your NJ license.
 
NJ has three certification and licensing levels:
  • Certified Social Worker (CSW) - Bachelor of Social Work;
  • Licensed Social Worker (LSW) - Master of Social Work;
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)  - Master of Social Work and additional clinical social work training.
Please determine your equivalent license level from your state to request the appropriate application. LSW and LCSW licensing levels require an exam in NJ. You must have taken the ASWB exam, or a similar exam, to be eligible for LSW or LCSW in NJ.
ASWB Exams:
  • Masters:  A generalist test for social workers with an MSW and no post-degree experience. (LSW Exam)
  • Clinical:  A more advanced test for social workers with an MSW and at least two years of post-degree experience in direct clinical practice settings. (LCSW Exam)
Complete the application and include ALL relevant information for consideration, for example: supervisor's signature confirming clinical hours, license from another state, exam scores from another state, and school transcripts.

Do I have to take the licensing exam if I did not pass or if my state’s requirements do not meet or exceed those of New Jersey?
Yes. You will need follow the steps outlined in the Checklist for Streamlined LSW Application Process
 
Will my supervision from the state where I currently live count toward my LCSW?
The Board will evaluate your application including your supervisor’s qualifications and make that determination on a case-by-case basis. If your supervisor is an LCSW with at least 3 years of experience as an LCSW, and if you are meeting weekly, face-to-face with your supervisor, there is a good chance that your hours will be accepted by the NJ Board.
 
 
 
When are the licensing exams given?
Exams are given by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB)
 
 
Can I take the exam before I receive my MSW?
Yes, you may take the exam after you have registered for your last semester of coursework of your Master's program. In order to sit for the exam, you must receive prior approval from the BSWE. Contact the BSWE in writing to request Application for "ASWB Masters Level Examination Preapproval" form and the "Application for Licensure as a Licensed Social Worker”.
  
How can I prepare for the exams?
The NASW-NJ Chapter offers exam preparation courses for both the Master's (LSW) and Clinical (LCSW) exams.
  The course includes 6 ½ hours of instruction time, as well as an information and professionally published study guide (including practice questions). 
 
If I fail the exam, may I take it again?
Yes, the ASWB requires that you wait 90 days before taking the exam again. According to ASWBDay 1 of the 90-day wait begins the day after your test date, and is a straight counting of days (in other words, not 90 business days, weekdays only, etc.).
 
BSWE has set no limitation on the number of times you can take the exam; however, please note you must pay each time you take the exam.

How long will the exam take?
You have four hours to complete the exam, which is administered electronically. The test itself consists of 170 multiple-choice questions, 20 of which are "pre-test” items and will not be scored. For more information, visit www.ASWB.org. 

How soon after taking the Master's level exam (LSW) can I take the Clinical exam (LCSW)?
90 days; however, we suggest that you wait until you have your LSW in-hand before requesting the LCSW application so that there is no confusion in paperwork at the BSWE office.
 
  
How can I get my certification as a social worker in New Jersey?
Generally, you must have graduated with a BSW (bachelor of social work) from a CSWE accredited program or one in candidacy for accreditation, in order to be eligible for a CSW.
 
If you received a bachelor’s degree in a related field prior to April 6, 1995 please contact the Licensing Hotline at 732-296-8070 x51 or Licensing@NASWNJ.org

To apply for certification:
  • Check your eligibility and fill out the "Certified Social Worker” application HERE
  • Complete and submit application to BSWE. You will receive information about fingerprinting in the mail after your application has been reviewed. Prior fingerprinting does not provide a waiver unless it was for the Division of Consumer Affairs (DCA) for licensing purposes. If you need to be fingerprinted, you will have to pay the fingerprinting fee. If you were fingerprinted for DCA then you will need to pay a rescanning fee in lieu of the full fingerprinting fee.
  • Ordinarily completed application packets are formally approved by the BSWE during their monthly meeting.
  • After approval you will receive a letter requesting payment of your certification fee.  Once BSWE has cashed your check, your certification will be printed in another government office and sent to you in 2-3 months.
Can I provide clinical services once I have my CSW?
No, you cannot provide clinical social work services as a CSW.
 
The practice of a CSW includes, but is not limited to, social work services. Social work services include, but are not limited to, social work assessment, social work consultation, social work counseling, social work planning, social work community organization, social work policy, social work administration, social work research, and social work client-centered advocacy.
 
These terms are more specifically defined in N.J.A.C. 13:44G-1.2.
 
 
  
Can I practice clinical social work as a LSW?
Yes but ONLY under the supervision of a LCSW who has been LCSW for at least 3 years and who has taken at least 20 continuing education credits of post-graduate coursework related to supervision before supervision starts.
 
Clinical social work services include, but are not limited to, clinical assessment, clinical consultation, psychotherapeutic counseling and client-centered advocacy.
 
A LSW may not, however, provide clinical supervision. These terms are more specifically defined in N.J.A.C. 13:44G-1.2.
 
No LSW is permitted to perform custody/parenting time evaluations as set forth in Subchapter 13
  
Are LSWs eligible to take the Clinical Supervision course?
LSW's can take the course and may find it useful if they are supervising (other LSWs, BSWs, etc). The Board requires that you take the course only once after receiving your MSW so this credential will "last". But if you are NOT supervising now, it might make more sense to wait and take the course closer to when you will supervise since an LSW is AT LEAST 3 years away from supervising LSWs for their LCSWs.
 
 

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) – Requires MSW

 Can clinically focused volunteer work as a social worker, (LSW with supervision), be applied to the hours necessary to apply for the LCSW?"
Volunteer work is approved as long as there is documentation that proves the work is totally compliant with all the regulations and properly supervised. Progress notes should be kept and reflects the number of supervision hours accumulated.
 
Does a 50-minute face-to-face session count as 1-hour toward my 1,920 required hours?
Yes
 
 
Do I need to get my LSW before I apply for my LCSW? 
Yes, you need to pass the master's level exam and hold an LSW to be eligible to apply for the LCSW UNLESS you can document that you work in an exempt setting or have equivalent credentials from another jurisdiction.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Is there a specific form I can use to keep track of my hours toward my LCSW?
Yes. Forms are available in this section (see below). These forms are approved by the BSWE. They are not required by BSWE, but will help you make sure you have all necessary documentation prior to applying for your LCSW.
 
How to use these forms: You should use 1 Cover Page for EACH LCSW who is providing you with supervision during the 1,920 face-to-face client contact hours. 
  • The Cover Page asks for documentation of LCSW Supervisor's credentials and their signature.
  • You can then decide whether to use Excel Spreadsheet or the Word Document to track your hours.
    o        The Excel Spreadsheet will allow you to keep the file electronically and will calculate the hours for you
    o        The Word Document will allow you to print out the forms and track the hours by hand.
  • The Documentation Summary page (use either the Excel or Word Document) "collects" totals from the logs and makes it easier to keep track of the total number of hours.
 

 
Who can supervise me?
Beginning July 7, 2004, clinical supervision may only be provided by a LCSW with a minimum of three years of licensure as a LCSW and who has completed at least 20 hours of continuing education credits of post-graduate course-work related to supervision. The Supervisor has to complete this course before the supervision starts.
 
PLEASE NOTE: It is strongly suggested that you receive a copy of your Supervisor’s proof of the at least 20 hours of continuing education credits of post-graduate course-work related to supervision before you start working with him/her.
 
In addition to ensuring that the supervisor has an LCSW with a minimum of three years of licensure and has completed at least 20 hours of continuing education credits of post-graduate work related to supervision, the following must occur:
  • The social worker apprises the supervisor of the diagnosis and treatment of each client;
  • The social worker's cases are discussed;
  • The supervisor provides the social worker with oversight and guidance in diagnosing and treating clients;
  • The supervisor regularly reviews and evaluates the professional work of the social worker; and
  • The supervisor provides at least one hour of face-to-face individual or group clinical supervision per week.
How often do I have to meet with my supervisor?
Supervisors must provide at least one-hour of face-to-face individual or group clinical supervision per week. A group can include not more than 4 social workers.

Can I see private clients while under supervision for my LCSW?
Only LCSWs may engage in independent (private) practice. An LSW under LCSW supervision may provide clinical social work services in an agency or setting where he/she is an employee and where the relationship between the supervisor and the social worker shall not violate the conflicts of interest provisions of N.J.A.C. 13:44G-I0.4(b).
REVIEW: SUBCHAPTER 8: Clinical Supervision 

Is the clinical supervisor course the same as the Seminar in Field Instruction (SIFI) course?
No, they are two distinctly different courses. The clinical supervision course is designed to train supervisors to supervise LSWs. The SIFI course is designed to train supervisors to supervise students. Each course only needs to be taken once but neither can substitute for the other.
  
Help, I work in an agency where there is no one who meets the state requirements to provide Supervision. I have my LSW and I want to work toward my LCSW. Can I pay for outside Supervision (fee for service)?
Yes, you can pay for outside supervision; however there are additional steps that need to be taken in order to comply with the law.
 
In addition to ensuring that the supervisor has an LCSW with a minimum of three years of licensure and has completed at least 20 hours of continuing education credits of post-graduate work related to supervision, you must do the following:
 
  • Receive written consent of the employer for off-premises supervision;
  • Disclose that you are practicing under supervision, and identify the supervisor for the client;
  • Obtain the client's written consent to disclose documentation to the supervisor;
  • In addition, the supervisor must provide written progress reports concerning the social worker to the social worker and the employer on at least a quarterly basis.
A list of information that needs to be contained in the progress report can be found in SUBCHAPTER 8.1(f) 1 i-ix: Clinical Supervision 
 
PLEASE NOTE: It is strongly suggested that you receive a copy of your Supervisor’s proof of the at least 20 hours of continuing education credits of post-graduate course-work related to supervision before you start working with him/her.
 
 
 
How many continuing education hours (CEU) am I required to complete for my license?

Social workers applying for a license or certification renewal will need to confirm that they completed the necessary continuing education requirements for their license or certification level. The information below is for a full 2-year licensing cycle (currently September 1, 2014 through August 31, 2016).
  • Certified Social Worker (CSW): CSWs must complete a minimum of 20 hours of continuing education (5 hours of which must be in ethics and 3 hours in the area of social and cultural competence). CSWs who have completed more than the 20 hours during the biennial period may carry over a maximum of 4 surplus hours into the next cycle.
  • Licensed Social Worker (LSW): LSWs must complete a minimum of 30 hours of continuing education (5 hours of which must be in ethics and 3 hours in the area of social and cultural competence). LSWs who have completed more than the 30 hours during the biennial period may carry over a maximum of 6 surplus hours into the next cycle. 
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW): LCSWs must complete a minimum of 40 hours of continuing education (5 hours of which must be in ethics and 3 hours in the area of social and cultural competence). At least 20 must be courses or programs related directly to clinical practice. LCSWs who have completed more than the 40 hours during the biennial period may carry over a maximum of 8 surplus hours into the next cycle (2 hours of which can be related to clinical practice).
How many continuing education hours (CEU) am I required to complete if I got my license in the second year of the licensing cycle?
If an applicant initially obtains a license or certificate within the second year of a biennial license period, the applicant shall complete not fewer than one-half of the minimum required credits of continuing education.

 

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