Frequently Asked Questions

Continuing Education

Transferring Between States

  1.  Is social work licensure the same from one state to another? No, each state has its own regulatory board for licensing social workers. While some regulations may overlap from state to state, it is important to know exactly what your desired licensing board will require of you. Return to top
  2.  Can I obtain a license with a non-social work degree? There are very few exceptions to this rule. Generally, a regulatory board will not consider applicants who do not have a bachelor's or master's degree in social work. Some states will offer an associate's license for applicants without either degree, but it is not a common practice. If you seriously intend on beginning a career in social work, you should plan on having a related degree (BSW or MSW). Return to top
  3.  How long does it take to get licensed? It depends on the requirements of your desired state's regulatory board. After the application for licensure is sent to the board, it can take a month or more to find out if you can register to take an exam. After you register for the exam, you must wait at least seven days before testing. It can then take up to three weeks for the board to process and issue the results of the test. Licensure beyond an initial license often requires years of professional experience. Return to top
  4.  Are there any tests required to become a licensed social worker? There is a nationally administered licensure test you must pass before you can become a licensed social worker. The test is administered by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) and is the definitive standardized test for social work licensure. Return to top
  5.  What can I expect to encounter on the social work licensing exam? The exam includes 170 multiple-choice questions. Twenty of these questions do not count toward your score. Of the 150 scored questions, a passing score will be between 103 and 115 correct answers, depending on what level of test you are required to take. You will have four hours to complete the test. For specific details on the test and special allowances for testers with disabilities, visit the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) website. Return to top
  6.  What level of the social work licensing exam will I be required to take? The level of test you take depends largely on your experience level. The Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) website describes the different levels of tests as follows:
    • Bachelor's: A basic test for social workers with a BSW and no post-degree experience.
    • Master's: A generalist test for social workers with an MSW and no post-degree experience.
    • Advanced Generalist: A more advanced test for social workers with an MSW and at least two years of post-degree experience in non-clinical settings.
    • Clinical: A more advanced test for social workers with an MSW and at least two years of post-degree experience in direct clinical practice settings.
    Each different test level has its own unique question sample, so the difficulty will vary greatly from the bachelor's version to the clinical level. Return to top
  7.  Do I need a master's degree to become a licensed social worker? It is possible in some jurisdictions to become a social worker without having a degree in social work, but in the majority of scenarios, either a bachelor's or a master's degree in social work (BSW or MSW) is required for a social work license. A master's degree is required by many jurisdictions, especially to practice clinical social work. See our social work license map for details about your state's requirements. Return to top
  8.  What does "jurisdiction" mean in the context of social work licensure? Jurisdiction refers to the social work regulatory board in your state or city. Return to top
  9.  What does "reciprocity" mean in the context of social work licensure? Reciprocity is the ability to transfer licensure or certification from one state's regulatory board to another state's board in order to be licensed to work in that state. Return to top
  10.  Is there a system of reciprocity of social work licensure? Which states have reciprocity? There is currently no system of reciprocity between states' regulatory boards. In order to be licensed in a different state, you will have to re-apply for licensure with that state's regulatory board. Return to top
  11.  What type of continuing education do I need to remain a licensed social worker? Almost every jurisdiction requires some form of continuing education in order for you to maintain your social work license. This normally consists of a series of classes that are intended to keep you up to date on the most modern and accepted methods of social work. The requirements vary by jurisdiction, so the number of hours and classes you need to take will depend on where you are currently licensed. Check your jurisdiction's details to see what continuing education is required for you. Return to top
  12.  I have licenses in more than one jurisdiction. Will my continuing education hours qualify for the various social work license requirements? This depends on the jurisdictions in question. While some jurisdictions may have overlapping continuing education requirements that would allow you to apply CE hours to both, there is no definitive answer across the board. Check with your jurisdictions in question to see if you can apply CE hours to maintain your social work license in all of them. Return to top
  13.  Do social work licensure tests vary depending on what state I am in? The scoring scales used by jurisdictions may differ, but if you have passed the test in one jurisdiction, that will equate to passing the test anywhere. In other words, while some jurisdictions have different ways of describing passing requirements, the actual number of correct answers needed to pass is the same across jurisdictions. You can learn more about scoring the test here. Return to top
  14.  If I have to move to another state, will my social work license transfer? While it is possible your qualifications will be sufficient from state to state, you will not be a licensed social worker until you re-apply for your social work license with that particular regulatory board and are awarded a new license. Your test scores do transfer between states. To find specific information for your new jurisdiction, check Social Work License Map. Return to top
  15.  Can I be a licensed social worker in more than one state? Yes, you can. Again, different jurisdictions have different regulatory requirements for licensure, but as long as you meet the basic requirements of both, you only need to comply with both jurisdictions' requirements to maintain your licenses. Also, violations of one jurisdiction's laws concerning licensure may result in repercussions to other jurisdictions' licensure. Return to top
  16.  Can I obtain a social work license if I currently live outside of the United States? Contact the desired regulatory jurisdiction for more information. In general, most jurisdictions will require that you have a degree equivalent to a Bachelor of Social Work or a Masters of Social Work and have completed the necessary post-graduate supervision. You also must complete the necessary tests to become a licensed social worker. Foreign social work licenses are not considered for transfer to the United States or Canada. Return to top
  17.  Is it possible to take the required tests for social work licensure while I am outside the United States? The Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) offers paper-and-pencil or online exams in Alberta and British Columbia on specified dates. The tests are not administered anywhere else outside the U.S. or Canada. Find a testing center here. Return to top
  18.  How do I transfer a foreign license? You cannot transfer a foreign license. You must re-apply with the desired state's regulatory board. Return to top
  19.  Can foreign social work degrees be evaluated in the United States? How? There are methods for determining the validity of a foreign social work degree. The most common method is for the International Social Work Degree Equivalency Recognition Service (ISWDERS) provided by the Council on Social Work Education to review your degree. Return to top
  20.  How do I transfer test scores between states? If the state uses the exam level you took or are taking, you can have your scores sent to that state and not have to re-take the exam. Some states only accept scores up to a certain number of years old. At present, five years is the most stringent limit in place. To transfer scores, contact the jurisdiction you desire to be licensed in and review their transfer process. Return to top

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