New York Social Work Licensure | LMSW & LCSW

Social Work Licensure Resources, New York

Table of Contents

New York’s State Board for Social Work is in charge of the following two social work credentials. New York’s Office of the Professions (OP), Division of Professional Licensing Services, Social Work Unit is responsible for issuing these licenses and processing applications:

Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) – This license allows you to engage in the practice of social work, however if you want to engage in clinical social work you must work under board-approved supervision in a facility or other supervised setting.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) – This license allows you engage in the practice of social, and additionally the practice clinical social work, which includes:

  • Diagnosing behavioral, addictive, emotional and mental disorders and disabilities
  • Implementing and developing treatment plans
  • Providing psycho-therapeutic treatment to families, individuals, couples, and groups
  • Psychotherapy “R” Privilege – This is a credential for insurance reimbursement purposes. By adding this to your LCSW credential you’re eligible to be reimbursed by insurance companies as a psychotherapist. An “R” will appear next to your LCSW license number.

Steps Towards Social Work Licensure in New York

To qualify for either license in New York you need a master’s degree in Social Work from a school that’s accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) or another qualifying school as determined by the State Board for Social Work.

You’ll also need to complete a two-hour course about identifying and reporting child abuse under New York state law.

You additionally must pass the appropriate exam sponsored by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB).

A limited 12-month permit may be issued for LMSWs and LCSWs pending passage of the ASWB exam.

Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)

Learn More About the (LMSW) Licensed Master Social Worker

Application process:

    1. Earn an MSW degree from a CSWE-accredited school. Use this form to verify you’ve completed your education and include it with your application.
    2. Complete a two-hour course about reporting child abuse.
    3. If you plan to provide clinical social work services you must do so under supervision. You must also gain supervised work experience if you want to advance to become an LCSW. Use this form to establish board approval for your supervision and include it with your application. Note that you can only gain supervised experience credit towards an LCSW by submitting this form before your supervised experience begins.
    4. If you want a limited permit to practice under supervision until you pass the ASWB exam then include this form with your application, along with a $70 application fee.
    5. Submit an online application for the LMSW credential along with a $294 application fee to the Office of Professions (OP).
    6. The OP will clear you to test with the ASWB. At this point you can register with the ASWB for its Masters exam. Once the OP receives notice that you’ve passed it will issue your LMSW.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

Learn More About the (LCSW) Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Application process:

    1. Earn an MSW degree from a CSWE-accredited school that includes 12 semester hours of clinical coursework. Use this form to verify you’ve completed your education and include it with your application.
    2. Complete a two-hour course about reporting child abuse.
    3. You’ll need to fulfill an experience requirement, which is the completion of 2,000 hours of post-graduate supervised social work experience over at least 36 months, to be eligible for the LCSW. To fulfill this both you and your supervisor must submit the following forms along with your application for licensure: your form, supervisor’s form. If you’re leveling up in-state from an LMSW credential make sure you’ve submitted this form before beginning your clinical supervision as an LMSW.
    4. If you want a limited permit to practice under supervision until you pass the ASWB exam then include this form with your application. You must practice under approved supervision with a limited permit, which can be established by submission of this form. There is a $70 application fee for the limited permit.
    5. Submit an online application for the LCSW credential along with a $294 application fee to the OP.
    6. The OP will clear you to test with the ASWB. At this point you can register with the ASWB for its Clinical exam. Once the OP receives notice that you’ve passed it will issue your LCSW.

Adding a Psychotherapy “R” Privilege to an LCSW:

Having this credential added on to your LCSW allows you or your employer to be reimbursed by insurance companies when you provide psychotherapy services. To be eligible you need to complete 36 months of full-time supervised psychotherapy experience after receiving your LCSW. To add an “R” to your license you need to:

    1. Submit an “R” Privilege Application to the OP before you start accruing your supervised experience, along with a $100 application fee.
    2. Make sure your supervisor is qualified to supervise you, which you can do with this form, and as you prepare to start earning your supervised experience have your supervisor submit a plan for this to the OP on this form.
    3. As you complete your supervised experience, keep track of it on this form and submit it to the OP once you’ve completed it.
    4. Once all documents have been submitted to and approved by the OP, it will add the Psychotherapy “R” Privilege to your LCSW.
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Renewals for LMSWs and LCSWs

You need to renew your license every three years. This includes completing 36 hours of continuing education. You can renew online with the same account you used to apply for initial licensure. Continuing education is not required for your first renewal.

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

You can become an LMSW in as soon as six years after graduating from high school: four years in a BSW program plus two years earning an MSW. To move up to the LCSW credential takes three additional years. Finally, earning an “R” designation on your LCSW takes another three years, for a total of 12 years beyond high school to become an LCSW-R.

Social Work Degrees in New York

There are 56 CSWE-accredited social work programs in New York State, in addition to doctoral programs. These are offered both online and on campus, with at least six CSWE-accredited programs being offered online that maximize convenience.

    Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work (BSW)

    New York is home to 33 CSWE-accredited BSW programs. These typically total 120 semester credits and take four years to complete. There is a lot of supplementary overlap between BSW and MSW programs. While many MSW programs may prefer applicants who hold a BSW, many accept applicants who hold a bachelor’s degree in any field.

    Master’s Degree in Social Work (MSW)

    The minimum requirement for becoming a licensed social worker in New York is an MSW, either from a CSWE-accredited program or one deemed a qualifying school by the State Board for Social Work. Currently there are 23 CSWE-accredited MSW programs in New York, and at least six of those are offered online. These typically take at least two years to complete and total at least 30 semester credits.

    Doctoral Degree in Social Work

    While not required for social work licensure in New York, holding a Doctor of Social Work (DSW) or PhD in Social work signify that you’ve reached the pinnacle of education in this field. DSW programs tend to focus more on clinical aspects of social work, while PhD programs can focus more on research and take slightly longer to complete. However you can find both clinical and research elements in either type of program.


If you’ve met the education and examination requirements for licensure in another state you can use these qualifications to apply for licensure as an LMSW or LCSW in New York by following the application procedure above. However, instead of registering to test with the ASWB, request the ASWB to transfer your exam scores to the OP.

Along with your application, include a form that verifies your out-of-state licensure: this form for LMSWs and this form for LCSWs. If your out-of-state license can be verified electronically, have your out-of-state Board of Social Work send verification directly to the OP at [email protected].

LCSW Experience Requirement – You can apply for licensure via endorsement if you’ve been an LCSW in another state for at least 10 years, and meet the education and examination requirements. To establish this you will need to fill out this form, and the locales where you practiced as an out-of-state LCSW will need to send this form to the OP.

How Much do Social Workers Earn in New York?

The following average annual salaries are listed for New York social work career trajectories, as reported by the US Department of Labor in 2020:

  • Social and Community Service Manager – $86,330
  • Healthcare Social Worker – $61,470
  • Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker – $63,520
  • Child, Family, and School Social Worker – $60,380
  • Social Work Teachers, Post-secondary – $96,080
  • Social Worker, All Other – $67,580

Social Work Resources in New York

You can find additional resources regarding career development, networking, and professional support with organizations like:

New York State Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) – The second-largest chapter of the NASW in the nation, this state chapter advocates for fair public policies, for high-quality professional standards that protect the public, and for advancement in social development.

New York State School Social Workers’ Association (NYSSSWA) – With roots stretching back to the early 1900s, this is the only professional organization dedicated solely to the viability and visibility of school social workers in the state. It works to advocate for this niche profession, provide regional problem solving support, and distribute helpful professional information.

New York State Society for Clinical Social Work (NYSSCSW) – Established in 1968, this organization was founded to address the growing demands for professional clinical social worker support. Today it works to maintain high standards within the profession, promote advanced training, raise public awareness about clinical social work, and serves as a hub for professional collaboration.

Caribbean American Social Workers Association (CASWA) – Comprised of an altruistic group of social activists, community workers, social workers, and social activists, this organization was founded in 2003. It’s as an advocacy group and a professional organization that’s dedicated to serving its members.

International Association for Social Work with Groups (IASWG) – By promoting excellence in group work practice, field instruction, and research and publication, this organization currently partners with 15 schools throughout the nation to benefit and enrich its members. It was founded in 1979 and has included thousands of members throughout its history.

New York City Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW-NYC) – Founded in 1955, the NYC chapter of the NASW is one of the largest chapters of its kind in the country. It represents social workers of all stripes, especially those in non-profits and public organizations from the metro area’s five boroughs. With over a thousand student members, NASW-NYC is particularly focused on helping with the transition from school to professional world.

Career Opportunities in New York

Some of the largest employers of social workers in the state include:

New York City Department of Education – The largest school system in the nation, this agency educates over one million students every year. This is made possible by a commitment to excellence from 75,000 teachers plus thousands of additional support staff who work throughout 1,866 schools. Among the challenges faced by school social workers in this district is raising the high school graduation rate up from 76 percent.

Mental Health Advocates of WNA – Headquartered in Buffalo with roots stretching back to 1962, this organization offers a wide range of programs related to workplace wellness, family and child support, emotional skills training, and information and referral.

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New York State Department of Health – As the state-level organization for providing health-related programs and services throughout New York, social workers with this agency are vital in making programs that address things like opioid addiction and health issues possible. This department also partners with local organizations across the state.

BryLin Behavioral Health System – Based in Buffalo, this organization provides inpatient and outpatient mental health care services, including electroconvulsive therapy and other treatments related to substance abuse, children, youths, and adults.

New York City Health – Social workers in NYC are familiar with this organization, as it’s one of the largest city departments of health in the nation. It addresses issues like substance abuse, mental health, domestic violence, wellness programs, and learning disorders.

Rochester Regional Health – This integrated non-profit health system runs five hospitals and medical centers as well as other primary care facilities. Some of its areas of specialization include cancer care, women’s health, behavioral health, primary care, and pediatrics.

Yonkers Public Schools – Since its inception in 1881, this district has grown to provide a fertile learning environment for 26,751 students at 39 schools throughout the city. A workforce of 1,815 teachers combined with 1,633 support staff ensure students get the best services possible at five high schools, 20 pre-k-through-8th-grade schools, and eight pre-k-through-6th-grade schools.

New York City Department of Homeless Services – Providing housing resources, homelessness prevention services, shelter information, and outreach services, this agency’s 2,000 employees work with not-for-profit partners with the goal of finding permanent homes for everyone and reducing homelessness throughout the city.