Frequently Asked Questions:
Social Work Licensure in NJ
HOW TO USE THESE FAQ's
NASW-NJ has developed answers to FAQs 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, written by the NJ Legislature) and the NJ Social Work Regulations (N.J.A.C 13:44G, written by the BSWE).
Each answer below includes a link to the PDF document with the section code. Please refer to the specific section for additional information.
NASW-NJ Licensing Hotline
NASW-NJ offers Members the opportunity to ask specific questions about licensing. This Licensing Hotline is a benefit of NASW Membership and is monitored throughout the week. If you are an NASW member and you cannot find an answer to your question in the FAQs, please contact us by filling out the Licensing Hotline Form.
PLEASE NOTE: The NASW-NJ Licensing Hotline is a benefit of NASW membership.
If you are not an NASW member, please consider joining.
There are many benefits including the Licensing Hotline.
Click here for NASW benefit information.
Click here to join NASW.
In the meantime, information you are seeking may be available in these FAQs or in the NJ Social Work Regulations. Click here for a link to that document, or you can email the Board of Social Work Examiners at http://tinyurl.com/EmailNJBSWE.
NOTE: We discourage people from calling the BSWE as their staff is extraordinarily busy and often unable to answer or return phone calls. Calling the BSWE can be a very frustrating experience which is why NASW-NJ offers these FAQs to the NJ Social Work community.
Important New Jersey Licensing Contacts
NJ Board of Social Work Examiners (BSWE)
PO Box 45033
Newark, NJ 07101
Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB)
Registration: 888-579-EXAM (3926)
Pearson VUE Testing Sites
Phone number will be on your letter from BSWE
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:
Students enrolled in a program accredited (or in candidacy) by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), as long as they are in a supervised course of study and are designated by the title "social work intern.”
Social workers in a non-profit organization who perform any social work service other than psycho-therapeutic counseling;
School Social Workers, certified by the 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.
See NJ Social Work Statutes (N.J.S.A. 45:15BB, subsection 5) for more information.
Once you graduate, you must have your NJ social work license number, issued by the BSWE on their Web site (http://tinyurl.com/NJLicenseVerify), 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 an LCSW or as an LSW under the supervision of an LCSW who meets the supervision requirements, unless the above exemptions apply.
If you work in a for-profit organization - even if you are working under a government contract - you must have a certification or license in order to practice social work.
If a social worker is providing Drug and Alcohol counseling, they must have an LSW or an LCSW, or have a credential from the Alcohol & Drug Counseling Committee (CADC/LCADC).
If a social worker is providing psychotherapy then they must have an LCSW, or have an LSW and be under the supervision of an LCSW who meets the supervision requirements.
How long is my license or certification valid?
The New Jersey Board of Social Work Examiners (BSWE) issues licenses and certifications for a two-year (biennial) period. The current period is 09/01/2016 – 08/31/2018
REVIEW: SUBCHAPTER 7, 13:44G-7.1
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?
We discourage people from calling the BSWE as their staff is extraordinarily busy and often unable to answer or return phone calls. When you need to contact the Board, we recommend that you do this by email (for brief inquiries) or by certified mail. Be sure to keep copies of anything you send them for reference purposes.
You can email the BSWE at http://tinyurl.com/EmailNJBSWE.
Their mailing 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. A Certification and Authorization Form for a Criminal History Background Check is included in your application documents. Complete it and send along with other documents when you file your application.
You will receive a letter from the BSWE explaining how to make an appointment for fingerprinting. Once you have been 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. The results will be forwarded directly to the BSWE.
Even 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 establish 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 previously fingerprinted for DCA, then you will need to pay a rescanning fee in lieu of the full fingerprinting fee.
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.
REVIEW: SUBCHAPTER 9, 13:44G-9.1
I recently changed my last name. How can I update my license?
You need to forward the following information to the BSWE by certified mail no later than 30 days following the change of name:
- Legal evidence of this change; and
- A copy of your original license or certificate with proof that you are the same person to whom the BSWE issued the license or certificate.
Upon receipt of the items, the BSWE shall issue you a new license or certificate.Upon receipt of the new license or certificate, you have to immediately send your original license or certificate to:
BSWE, 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 services" 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 Social Work Regulations includes definitions for terms used within the document including: social work services, clinical social work services, social work assessment, and others.
REVIEW: SUBCHAPTER 1, 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).
Can I obtain the application on-line for a certification/license?
You can download, print and complete the appropriate forms from the BSWE Web site. You will need to determine your license level based on your education in order to fill out the appropriate application (see below for descriptions).
- 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 (CSWE) or in candidacy for accreditation by the CSWE. 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 (CSWE) or in candidacy for accreditation by the CSWE. and have two years of full time clinical social work experience subsequent to earning the Master's Degree.
Is it true that only LCSWs can supervise student internships?
Student supervision is not limited to LCSWs. However, if you are doing clinical work as a student, your supervisor should 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 an exempt 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 above). You are not licensed after you pass your ASWB exam; you are not licensed immediately after graduation. You are only licensed once the BSWE has approved your license application and assigns a license number to you. You can find this number on the Verification section of the BSWE Web site.
- PLEASE NOTE: 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?
You can work in an exempted setting. However, if you want to earn hours toward your LCSW, you be doing work that is considered "clinical social work services" and be supervised by a qualified LCSW.
REVIEW N.J.A.C. 13:44G-1.2 - Definitions and 8.1 - Clinical Supervision.
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 that person is not doing clinical work. To do clinical work (psychotherapy or psychotherapeutic counseling) in a non-profit organization, you must have an LSW and be supervised by a qualified LCSW.
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.
REVIEW: N.J.S.A. 45:15BB-5 for more information.
If you are not working in an exempt setting, you need to be licensed as an LSW to provide services noted in the Scope of Practice for Licensed Social Workers.
REVIEW N.J.A.C. 13:44G-3.2
Do I need to have a Social Security Number (SSN) in order to take the ASWB Exam and/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 in order to apply for your license and before you begin working as a social worker in the state of New Jersey.
First you should write to the BSWE (address above) explaining your situation and ask for approval to take the ASWB Examination.
Once you have received your letter of approval from the BSWE, you must contact the ASWB at their Candidate Registration Center number (1-888-5SW-EXAM). When you call, explain that you received written approval to take the examination from the New Jersey BSWE. They should be able to register you for your exam. If they inquire further, explain that the New Jersey BSWE does not require individuals to have a SSN to take the examination.
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.You can access the application on the BSWE Web site.
You should write a brief cover letter to go with your application stating that your are currently licensed in another state. Include a copy of your active license and your current resume as well as documentation of having passed the ASWB exam. These documents will help the BSWE staff and the Board itself to process your application as quickly as possible.However, you cannot practice in NJ until the NJ BSWE has approved your license application and granted you a license number which you can find on the Verification section of the BSWE Web site.
Do I have to take the licensing exam again if I already took it for another state?
If you passed the ASWB exam for your license level, you have an active license in another state and you have been practicing within the past 5 years, you probably will not have to retake the exam. However, if you did not take and pass the ASWB exam, or if you have had an active practice in the past 5 years, the NJ BSWE will need demonstration of your current competency. One possibility is that they will ask you to retake the exam.
Which NJ license should I apply for?
NJ has three certification/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 the NJ license level equivalent to your current license from another state. You can get more information and access the appropriate application on the BSWE Web site.
In addition, you must have taken and passed the ASWB exam to be eligible for an LSW or LCSW in NJ.
- Masters (LSW Exam): A generalist test for social workers with an MSW and no post-degree experience.
- Clinical (LCSW Exam): A more advanced test for social workers with an MSW and at least two years of post-degree experience in direct clinical practice settings.
Complete the application and include ALL relevant information including: 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 did not require it?
Will my supervision from the state where I currently live count toward my LCSW?
The BSWE will evaluate your application including your supervisor’s qualifications and make that determination on a case-by-case basis. The Board will often approve a supervisor who is a licensed mental health professional qualified to supervise social workers in that state as long as she/he can document licensure and at least 3 years of practice as a licensed clinical professional prior to the beginning of supervision. The BSWE prefers supervision by an LCSW but does approve other mental health professionals if the other state allows them to supervise social workers.
When are the licensing exams given?
Exams are given by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) at Pearson VUE testing sites throughout the state. Information about how to schedule your exam will be available in the pre-approval letter your receive from the BSWE which allows you to take the exam.
When can I take the exam?
You may take the Masters Level (LSW) exam after you have registered for your last semester of coursework for your Master's program. You can take the Clinical Level (LCSW) exam while you are acquiring the 1920 hours of clinical work required to apply for your LCSW. However, the BSWE and ASWB recommend you take the Clinical exam after you’ve had 1-1½ years of clinical experience.
In order to sit for either exam, you must receive prior approval from the BSWE. Go onto the BSWE Web site to access information about the application process and to access Applications for the ASWB Masters or Clinical Level Examination Preapproval forms.
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 a professionally published study guide (including practice questions). ASWB offers a study guide and other organizations offer Test Prep as well.
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 ASWB: Day 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 limit on the number of times you can take the exam; however, 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 the ASWB Web site.
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. In addition, the BSWE and ASWB recommend you take the clinical exam after you’ve had 1-1½ years of clinical experience.
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, you may qualify under an exception. If you are an NASW Member, please complete the Licensing Hotline Form. If you are not a Member, please see the NJ Social Work Regulations (Subchapter 4.3 (a) 4ii) or email the BSWE for more information.
To apply for certification:
- Check your eligibility and download the "Certified Social Worker” application.
- Complete and submit your application to the 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 previously fingerprinted for DCA then you will need to pay a rescanning fee in lieu of the full fingerprinting fee.
- Application packets are reviewed by staff for completeness, then formally approved by the BSWE during their monthly meeting.
- After approval you will receive a letter requesting final payment for your certification fee. Once the BSWE has cashed your check, your certification will be printed in another government office and sent to you in 6-8 weeks. However, once your certification number is posted on the BSWE Verification Web site, you are officially certified and can practice as a CSW.
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.
How can I get my LSW in New Jersey?
NASW-NJ has developed an LSW Application Checklist that gives a step-by-step list of how to proceed. You can also go to the BSWE Web site to download and print an application.
Can I practice clinical social work as an LSW?
Yes, but ONLY under the supervision of an LCSW who has been an 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 begins.
This training cannot be taken concurrently with supervising an LSW. Furthermore, the Supervision in Field Instruction (SIFI) course, a prerequisite for supervising social work students in most schools, will not be accepted for this requirement.See Clinical Supervision Guidelines for more information.
Clinical social work services include, but are not limited to, clinical assessment, clinical consultation, psychotherapeutic counseling and client-centered advocacy.
An LSW may not, however, provide clinical supervision. These terms are more specifically defined in N.J.A.C. 13:44G-1.2.
Also, no LSW is permitted to perform custody/parenting time evaluations as described 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 used as hours required for the LCSW?"
Volunteer work is accepted as long as there is documentation that proves the work is fully compliant with the NJ Social Work Regulations and also supervised according to the Regulations. Supervision should be weekly and face-to-face as required in employment situations and all other requirements must be met.
Does a 50-minute face-to-face session count as 1-hour toward my 1,920 required hours?
Do I need to get my LSW before I apply for my LCSW?
In most situations, 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 state or 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 but they are not required by the BSWE. The BSWE does not want you to send them with your application, but they will help you make sure you have all necessary documentation prior to applying for your LCSW. NASW-NJ recommends that you keep these documents until you have your LCSW in-hand (or longer), just in case the BSWE has any questions.
How to use these forms:
You should complete 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.
Who can supervise me?
Beginning July 7, 2004, clinical supervision may only be provided by an LCSW with a minimum of three years experience as an 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. NOTE: The SIFI course is NOT accepted for this purpose.
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. Otherwise, it's possible that they have not taken the required course and your hours will not be accepted by the BSWE.
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?
No. Only LCSWs may engage in independent (private) practice. An LSW under LCSW supervision may provide clinical social work services in an agency or mental health setting where s/he is an employee, and all other requirements of the Regulations - Subchapter 8.1 are met.
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.
I have my LSW and I want to work toward my LCSW but I work in an agency where there is no one who meets the state requirements to provide Clinical Supervision. 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 Regulations.
In addition to ensuring that the supervisor has an LCSW with a minimum of three years of experience as an LCSW 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 if you choose to share documentation/case records with 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.
PLEASE NOTE: It is strongly suggested that you receive a copy of your Supervisor’s proof showing that s/he has taken at least 20 hours of continuing education credits of post-graduate course-work related to supervision before you start working with her/him.
How many continuing education hours (CEUs) am I required to complete for my license?
When you renew your license or certification online (summer, 2018), you will need to confirm that you have or will have completed the necessary continuing education requirements for your license or certification level. The information below is for a full 2-year licensing cycle (currently September 1, 2016 through August 31, 2018).
- 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.
How many continuing education hours (CEU) am I required to complete if I got my license in the middle (second year) of the licensing cycle?
If an applicant initially obtains a license or certificate during the second year of a biennial license period (dated September 1st or later), the applicant shall complete not fewer than one-half of the minimum required credits of continuing education. Three credits shall be in ethics-related courses, two credits shall be related to social/cultural competence. An LCSW shall complete a least 10 of the 20 required credits in programs which directly relate to clinical practice.
REVIEW: SUBCHAPTER 6, 13:44G-6.2 (b)