Colorado Social Work Licensure Requirements

Learn About Requirements for SWP, LSW and LCSW Licenses in Colorado


Social work licenses in Colorado are regulated by the Colorado State Board of Social Work Examiners. It issues three types of social work licenses:

Provisional Social Worker (SWP) – As an SWP you can perform social work services only under supervision in residential childcare facilities.

Licensed Social Worker (LSW) – LSWs can provide social work services under the supervision of LCSWs. In Colorado social work is defined as the professional application of social work methods and theory. This can include:

  • Using social work to engage in prevention, diagnosis, and assessment of individuals, families, and groups
  • Addressing societal problems through social work
  • Using social work to engage with substance abuse and domestic violence
  • Case management and client mediation
  • Community development and organization
  • Psychotherapy and counseling
  • Program education and evaluation

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) – This is Colorado’s only class of social work professional who can work without supervision. As an LCSW you can engage in private, independent clinical social work practice.

Social Work Degrees in Colorado

To become licensed in Colorado at any level you must have at least a Master’s degree in Social Work (MSW) from a school that’s accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). You’ll need an undergraduate degree to qualify for entry into an MSW program. You can choose to excel and go beyond the minimum educational requirements by earning a doctoral degree in Social Work. Social work programs are offered online and on-campus; choose which type of program is best for your own schedule.

Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work (BSW)

Holding a bachelor’s degree in any field is typically a minimum requirement for getting into an MSW program. Earning a BSW is a natural fit for anyone who wants to go into the field of social work. Colorado is currently home to four BSW programs that are accredited by the CSWE, and that accreditation comes with a guarantee that each program has a field education experience totaling not less than 400 hours.

Master’s Degree in Social Work (MSW)

The Colorado State Board of Social Work Examiners has made the MSW the minimum education requirement for becoming licensed as a social worker at any level in the state. Furthermore the program must be approved by the CSWE, and Colorado is home to four such programs. Before you graduate you’ll have the opportunity to complete at least 900 hours in a field education program in your local community where you can witness real-life applications of social work principles.

Doctoral Degree in Social Work

At the doctoral level there are two common types of social work education: PhD programs and Doctor of Social Work (DSW) programs. Both represent the highest level of education in this field, and signify you’ve made a commitment to perfection in the practice of social work. Doctoral-level degrees prepare you for senior positions with some of Colorado’s top social work organizations. If you don’t have an MSW you can also qualify for licensure with a doctoral degree in Social Work.

Becoming Licensed as a Social Worker in Colorado

You can work your way through Colorado’s progression of social work licensure levels starting with the SWP, or you can earn the requisite qualifications and jump in at any point you’re eligible.

All applications and renewals are made online through the Colorado’s Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) portal.

Provisional Social Worker (SWP) Application Process – To qualify for the SWP license you need:

  • An MSW from a CSWE-accredited school; use this form
  • An offer of employment from a residential childcare facility; you and your employer need to fill out a Verification of Practice Form and submit it online with your SWP application
  • Once the Colorado State Board approves your application you can print your credential from the Division of Professions and Occupations website

Licensed Social Worker (LSW) Application Process – To qualify for the LSW credential you’ll need to pass an exam offered by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB), in addition to having an MSW.

    1. Step One – Create an online account with DORA and upload this form showing conferral of an MSW, and pass the online Jurisprudence Examination
    2. Step Two – Once the Colorado State Board has determined your application is complete, it will notify the ASWB that you’re eligible to test
    3. Step Three – At this point you can register to take an ASWB exam; you must pass one of the following ASWB exams to be eligible for the LSW credential: Masters, Advanced Generalist, or Clinical
    4. Step Four – Once the Colorado State Board gets your exam results and issues your license, you can print it from the Division of Professions and Occupations website

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) Application Process – To qualify for the LCSW credential you’ll need an MSW, to complete a period of supervised experience, and to pass the ASWB Clinical exam:

    1. Step One – Create an online account with DORA and upload this form showing conferral of an MSW, show proof of passage of the online Jurisprudence Examination, and include this form that shows you’ve accrued 3,360 hours of experience over at least 24 months, including 96 hours of post-degree supervision
    2. Step Two – Once the Colorado State Board has determined your application is complete, it will notify the ASWB that you’re eligible to test
    3. Step Three – At this point you can register to take the ASWB Clinical exam
    4. Step Four – Once the Colorado State Board gets your exam results and issues your license, you can print it from the Division of Professions and Occupations website
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Renewing Your Colorado Social Worker License

The LSW and LCSW credentials expire on August 31st of odd-numbered years. Renewals are mailed out six weeks prior. You can renew online through your DORA account.

For LSWs and LCSWs, along with your online renewal application, you’ll need to submit proof of participating in Colorado’s Continuing Professional Development (CPD) program. A complete CPD portfolio includes:

If you’re an SWP you need to fill out a new Verification of Practice Form every time you have a change in employment or supervision.

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

With a bachelor’s degree taking four years to complete and an MSW program lasting two years on top of that, in Colorado you can theoretically earn an SWP or LSW credential in as soon as six years. The supervised experience you need to become an LCSW takes an additional 24 months, putting the LCSW within range in a total of eight years.


The LSW and LCSW licenses are available by endorsement if you hold an equivalent license in another state earned by completing standards that are similar to Colorado’s. You can make your application through DORA, and it must include:

  • Verification of licensure in another state
  • Verification of passing the Colorado Mental Health Professions online Jurisprudence Examination
  • Attestation that you’ve completed an exam that either covers general areas of knowledge in social work or competence to practice independent social work; if you’ve taken no such exam you can attest that you’ve practiced social work independently for five of the past 10 years

How Much do Social Workers Earn in Colorado?

The following average annual salaries are for different social worker career tracks, reported for Colorado by the US Department of Labor in 2020:

  • Social and Community Service Manager – $86,510
  • Healthcare Social Worker – $55,980
  • Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker – $47,500
  • Child, Family, and School Social Worker – $53,240
  • Social Work Teachers, Post-secondary – $73,100
  • Social Worker, All Other – $55,690

Colorado Social Work Organizations, Chapters and Resources

Colorado is home to several organization where you can find additional resources about employment, licensing, regulation and continuing education:

Colorado Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) – This organization offers local Colorado resources regarding insurance, ethics, practice tools, legislative alerts and legal material, and approved continuing education.

Colorado School Social Work Association (CSSWA) – With the goal of enhancing the well-being of students, communities, and families throughout the state’s education system, the CSSWA promotes the school social work profession through excellence among practitioners.

Colorado Society for Clinical Social Work (CSCSW) – CSCSW was founded to advance the clinical social work profession in Colorado by setting practice standards, illuminating opportunities for education, advocating for the protection of LCSWs and their clients, and raising the LCSW awareness profile.

Career Opportunities in Colorado

Some of Colorado’s biggest employers of social workers include:

Colorado Department of Education – The state-level agency that provides support and resources to Colorado’s 178 school districts that reach nearly a million students. This includes 1,888 schools and over 53,000 teachers.

Colorado Department of Human Services – Social workers throughout the state regularly encounter programs that are affiliated with this agency. It partners with local organizations and sponsors its own initiatives that relate to everything from substance abuse and domestic violence to child learning, elderly services, and behavioral health initiatives.

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Colorado Health Network (CHN) – Established in 1983, CHN serves over 5,000 people with HIV. It’s goal is to provide support and resources for those with HIV/AIDS and their families. Services include assistance with navigating health insurance, case management, aging support, and awareness raising.

Denver Public Schools (DPS) – Made up of 207 schools and enrolling nearly 100,000 students, DPS employs 4,780 classroom teachers and 10,177 full-time employees. Thanks to the dedicated efforts of school social workers, the dropout rate of DPS schools is 4.1%.

Larimer County Human Services – Based in Fort Collins, this agency offers valuable programs and services to the residents of Larimer County, including aging and disability services, resources for public assistance, and services for children, youth, and families.

Cedar Springs Hospital – Located in Colorado Springs, this healthcare organization provides mental health treatment services to youths, teens, adults, the elderly, and everyone in between. These include inpatient programs, half-day programs, residential, and intensive outpatient.

Aurora Public Schools (APS) – Comprised of 65 schools including 27 elementary schools and six high schools, APS traces its roots back to 1885. APS is proud of its school social workers and dropout rate of just 2.6%, a number it’s striving to push even lower.

Denver Health – This agency operates one of Colorado’s finest hospitals, the Denver Health Medical Center, in addition to dozens of other healthcare facilities in the greater Denver area. Services provided include correctional care, behavioral and mental health services, and addiction services.