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18 Basic Points about Social Work Licensing in New York State
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18 Basic Points about Social Work Licensing in New York State

Prepared by NASW-NYC for NASW Members

The Office of the Professions, under the Board of Regents and the New York State Education Department (SED), oversees the licensure and practice of forty-eight professions. The State Board for Social Work advises SED on licensing requirements, licensing examinations and practice issues.

The following information is based on our best understanding of the Social Work Licensing Law in New York State. This law has undergone many interpretations and is not static. Laws are subject to change, and it is incumbent on every social worker to know the law and to practice legally.

This licensing law, including the statute and regulations, are easily accessed on the Office of the Professions’ State Education Department web site. All social workers are strongly urged to familiarize themselves with the law, practice requirements and application forms on the SED website and periodically check back for relevant changes. (NASW-NYC sends its members updates and changes to the law as they arise). All forms for applying for the LMSW and LCSW are located here:

Basic points to know:

1. Licensing is a legal matter and requires all social workers to be knowledgeable about the licensing law. In New York State, the licensing law went into effect September 1, 2004. New York was the 48th state to institute licensure for social workers.

2. The primary purpose of licensing is consumer protection. The licensing law states that social workers have, at a minimum, completed a course of study leading to an MSW and have successfully passed a licensing exam.

3. In order to legally practice social work in New York State, social workers must be licensed and registered or have a limited permit, or be practicing in an exempt setting (see #9 below). Licenses do not expire; registration renewal is every three years. Licensure status is public knowledge and can be accessed at  

4. There are two licenses in New York State: the Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) and the Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW).

5. For many social workers, the LMSW is the only license they will need. LMSWs can engage in a wide range of social work activities without supervision (a complete list can be found at In addition to these activities, LMSWs can also provide psychotherapy, assessment-based treatment planning and diagnosis (which constitutes “clinical” practice) as long as they are practicing in an authorized setting and receiving supervision from an LCSW, a licensed psychologist or a psychiatrist who is employed or hired by the agency.

6. LCSWs can provide psychotherapy, assessment-based treatment planning and diagnosis without supervision. The Licensed Clinical Social Worker Licensing Application Packet contains up-to-date info and application forms. (  

7. To qualify for the LMSW, a candidate must have received an MSW from an accredited school and pass the Master’s level exam. For information about the exam, including registration, go to the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) website at  

8. There are four components of LCSW qualifications:

a. Academic: completion 12 credits of clinical coursework.

b. Experience: provision of psychotherapy, assessment-based treatment planning, and differential diagnosis obtained in an agency setting that is authorized to provide those services, such as an OMH-licensed outpatient mental health clinic. (See #10 below for determining whether a setting will be acceptable.) A minimum of 2,000 client contacts over a continuous period of 3-6 years. The experience requirement could be fulfilled in 3 years with a minimum of 14 client contacts per week. Experience may be obtained in more than one setting. A client contact is defined as one 45-minute session with individuals, families or groups (1 group or family session = 1 client contact regardless of the number of participants), and shorter sessions may be combined.

c. Supervision: at least 100 hours of individual or group clinical supervision distributed appropriately over the period of the supervised experience. Supervision must be provided by a LCSW, a licensed psychologist, or a psychiatrist who is employed or hired by the agency. Among other things, the supervisor is responsible for diagnosing. Please refer to to get further important information about supervision. Supervisors are required to keep track of supervision using the psychotherapy log (the last page of Form 4B: and retain the log should the State Education Department request it.

d. Pass the LCSW exam.

9. LCSW-qualifying experience is obtained only after an LMSW or limited permit is granted or while working in an exempt setting (see #10 below). Internship hours do not count.

10. Beginning in the autumn, 2010, it is possible to determine in advance whether supervised experience in a particular setting will qualify for the LCSW. Complete and submit Form 6:  

11. Social workers working in programs that are operated, regulated, funded, or approved by the Office of Mental Health (OMH), the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (OMRDD), the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) – which includes all Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) programs, the Department of Health (DOH), the Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) and the State Office for the Aging (SOFA) are exempt from licensure until July 1, 2016. This means that an employee may legally provide LMSW or LCSW services without being licensed. These social workers may not call themselves licensed or use “LMSW” or “LCSW” after their names. If a social worker in an exempt setting is providing LCSW-qualifying services and is appropriately supervised, those hours may count towards the LCSW experience requirement. This exemption is scheduled to end on July 1, 2016, at which time these social workers must be licensed.

12. The licensing law allows any federal, state, county or municipal employee permanent exemption from licensing as long as he/she is providing the exact same clinical services at the same job as he/she was on September 1, 2004.

13. Social work interns may be supervised by LMSWs for work that falls under the LMSW scope of practice. The provision of psychotherapy, assessment-based treatment planning and diagnosis by an intern must be supervised by an LCSW.

14. A non-exempt setting may not hire an intern over the summer or a new grad for LMSW scope of practice work until a limited permit (see #16 below) or license is in hand.

15. In order to take the exam for either the LMSW or the LCSW, you must first be notified by the New York State Education Department (NYSED) that you are eligible. This means that NYSED has received and approved all of the necessary fees and application forms.

16. A Limited Permit allows the legal practice of licensed master social work without having passed the LMSW exam. A limited permit may be approved by NYSED if your application is complete. You must first be hired because you have to include where you will be working and who will be supervising you. It is site and supervisor specific and good for 1 year. It is not renewable. The limited permit costs $70.00.

17. According to the regulations passed in September 2010, BSWs and MSWs who are not licensed may practice non-clinical social work under supervision of a LMSW or LCSW.

18. If you were previously licensed in another state, you must be licensed and registered in New York State in order to legally practice. You must submit all the required fees and forms to NYSED. If you took an ASWB exam elsewhere, you may not have to take it again. To find out about licensing in other states, go to the NASW web site ( or and click Find A Chapter) and click on Licensing.



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