The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, State Board of Social Work Examiners (SBSWE) issues the following social work credentials: CSW, LSW and LCSW. Learn more about how to become a social worker in New Jersey. See licensure procedures, application processes for each level of licensure, education requirements, reciprocity, salary projections, career opportunities and more. New Jersey is in high demands for well skilled social workers. Begin your journey today!
Certified Social Worker (CSW) – This credential allows you to provide social work services like:
- Client-centric advocacy
- Counseling and consultation
- Community organization and planning
- Research and policy services
Licensed Social Worker (LSW) – This license allows you to perform the duties of a CSW, plus you can provide clinical social work services under the supervision of an LCSW.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) – This license allows you to perform the duties of an LSW, and provide clinical social work services without supervision, as well as supervise LSWs.
Steps Towards Licensure
To qualify for any social work credential from the New Jersey State Board of Social Work Examiners (SBSWE) you need:
- A degree in Social Work from a school that’s accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), or a doctoral degree in Social Work from an accredited institution of higher education; have your school send your official transcripts to the SBSWE
- To complete a criminal background check that’s included with your application
- To submit an application for your credential with a $75 fee to the SBSWE
To qualify for licensure as as LSW or LCSW you need to pass an exam from the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB).
Certified Social Worker (CSW)
- Earn a bachelor’s degree in Social Work.
- Fill out a CSW Application and return it to the SBSWE. Once it’s approved the SBSWE will issue your CSW credential after you pay a $70 certification fee.
Licensed Social Worker (LSW)
- Earn at least a master’s degree in Social Work.
- Fill out an application to take the ASWB Masters exam and submit this to the SBSWE; $75 fee. Once the SBSWE approves your application it will notify the ASWB that you’re cleared to test.
- Register with the ASWB for its Masters exam.
- Once you pass the ASWB Masters exam you can fill out an Application for LSW Licensure with the SBSWE. Once this is approved it will issue your license after you pay a $120 licensing fee.
- If you plan to gain supervised experience as an LSW to qualify for the LCSW license, make sure you establish your supervisor and place of supervision in advance by submitting a Supervised Clinical Experience form to the SBSWE.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
- Earn at least a master’s degree in Social Work that includes at least 12 CSWE-accredited semester credits covering methods of clinical social work practice.
- Complete the supervised experience requirement: at least 3,000 hours of direct social work supervision, including at least 1,920 hours of face-to-face client contact, completed in at least two years but not more than three years. This is done in-state as an LSW in a process that’s initiated by submitting a Supervised Clinical Experience form to the SBSWE.
- Fill out an application to take the ASWB Clinical exam and submit this to the SBSWE; $75 fee. Once the SBSWE approves your application it will notify the ASWB that you’re cleared to test.
- Register with the ASWB for its Clinical exam.
- Once you pass the ASWB Clinical exam you can fill out an Application for LCSW Licensure with the SBSWE. Once this is approved it will issue your license after you pay a $160 licensing fee.
Renewing Your Social Work Credential
All credentials expire every-other year on a biannual basis. To renew you’ll need to complete continuing education (CE) and pay a renewal fee:
- CSW – $70 fee, 20 CE credits
- LSW – $120 fee, 30 CE credits
- LCSW – $160 fee, 40 CE credits
How Long Does it Take to Become a Social Worker in New Jersey?
From the time you graduate from high school it can take anywhere between four and eight years to earn your social work credential. It takes around four years to earn a BSW degree and be eligible for the CSW. It takes about two years beyond that to complete an MSW program and be eligible for the LSW. Add two years of experience onto that, for a total of around eight years, and you can apply for an LCSW.
Social Work Degrees in New Jersey
You can qualify for a social work credential in New Jersey with a BSW or MSW from a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)-accredited program, or with a doctoral degree in Social Work. While the CSWE doesn’t accredit doctoral programs, there are 16 CSWE-accredited BSW and MSW programs in New Jersey, including at least one that is offered online.
Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work (BSW)
Earning a CSWE-accredited BSW degree is the only way to qualify for a CSW credential. Currently there are nine such programs in New Jersey. These typically take four years to complete and total around 120 semester credits. They also include a field education experience that’s at least 400 hours in length.
Master’s Degree in Social Work (MSW)
Right now there are seven CSWE-accredited MSW programs in New Jersey, the minimum educational requirement you’ll need to become an LSW or LCSW. Additionally, to qualify for the LCSW license you need at least 12 graduate-level semester credits from a CSWE-accredited program that cover methods of clinical social work practice. These should include the topics of diagnosis, assessment, models of psychotherapy, models of clinical practice, clinical supervision, clinical consultation, and/or intervention with special populations.
Doctoral Degree in Social Work
A doctoral degree in Social Work will meet the educational requirement for an LSW or LCSW, provided you still complete the requisite 12 graduate credits of clinical social work practice methods from a CSWE-accredited program. You’ll find degree programs at this level that are offered as more research-oriented PhD programs, and more as clinically-oriented Doctor of Social Work (DSW) programs.
You can qualify for licensure in New Jersey via reciprocity if you hold an equivalent social work license in another state whose requirements were similar to New Jersey’s. Follow the process outlined above for your desired credential. Have your education transcripts, official license verification, and any ASWB exam scores forwarded to the SBSWE. If you’re using supervised work experience to qualify for an LCSW license then have your out-of-state supervisor complete the Supervised Clinical Experience form.
Social Work Salaries in New Jersey
Perhaps more than all other states, New Jersey places a premium on social workers and how it compensates them. The US Department of Labor reports in 2020 that New Jersey offers the highest average salaries from all states in the nation for mental health and substance abuse social workers, and for child, family, and school social workers. It ranks second for its average wage for social and community service managers. Here’s how the average annual salary figures break down in the state, as reported in 2020 by Department of Labor:
- Social and Community Service Manager – $88,270
- Healthcare Social Worker – $64,150
- Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker – $83,050
- Child, Family, and School Social Worker – $68,830
- Social Work Teachers, Post-secondary – $77,420
- Social Worker, All Other – $71,420
Social Work Resources in New Jersey
You can find additional resources about careers, professional networking, and legislative developments with organizations like:
New Jersey Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers – Among the top-three largest state chapters of the NASW in the nation, this New Jersey branch represents almost 7,000 members from every community and all practices throughout the state.
New Jersey Association of School Social Workers – This organization has been promoting school social workers across the state since its founding in 1947. As part of educational teams, school social workers support and promote the academic, social, and emotional well-being of New Jersey students.
New Jersey Society for Clinical Social Work – This organization was promoting psychodynamic approaches to treatment as a tool for social workers before it was widely popular back in the early 1970s. Since its inception it has also been a key player in advancing the cause for independent licensure of clinical social workers in private practice.
Career Opportunities in New Jersey
New Jersey Department of Human Services – This state-level agency provides a wide range of services for all state residents, with entire departments devoted to providing disability programs, aging services, welfare services, family programs, disability services, and mental health services.
Trinitas Regional Medical Center – Based in Elizabeth, this hospital is home to a behavioral health and psychiatry center that offers treatment options to address everything from the stress of daily living to specialized mental health services for children, adolescents, adults, and families.
Newark School District – Dating back to 1676 as one of the oldest school systems in the state, NSD is also undeniably the largest. It serves over 36,000 students, over two-thirds of whom are in grades K-8, with another quarter in grades 9-12. Altogether the district includes 64 schools.
Bridgeway Crisis Intervention Services – Providing services to Hudson County and based in Jersey City, this agency has developed a gamut of strategies to assist in rehabilitative services treating addiction, including an integrated primary care program, a homeless outreach support team, a residential intensive support team, and more.
Saint Joseph’s Health – This healthcare system plays a major role in providing healthcare for residents in the Paterson, Wayne, and Cedar Grove areas. It includes four major medical centers and a rehabilitation center, and its clinical focuses include behavioral health, pediatrics, rehabilitation, primary care, and several other areas of focus.
Jersey City Public Schools – Comprised of more than 2,000 faculty serving over 30,000 students, this district has seen tremendous improvements over the past decade thanks in large parts to the enthusiasm of teachers and the support they and students get from dedicated school social workers. This district includes 27 grade and grammar schools, four middle schools, and nine high schools.