Become a Social Worker in Massachusetts

There are more than 25,000 social workers in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts at all different levels working with all types of populations and communities.

Those interested in how to become a social worker in Massachusetts can learn about licensing requirements, education requirements, programs offered in the state and salary and career outlook. 

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Steps to Become a Massachusetts Social Worker

While becoming a social worker across the United States varies, there are some common steps you need to take to be a social worker in Massachusetts. The Board of Registration of Social Workers in Massachusetts offers four levels of licensure as a social worker:

  • Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW)
  • Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW)
  • Licensed Social Worker (LSW)
  • Licensed Social Work Associate (LSWA)

Each of these licenses meets different requirements. Some general and common steps to become a social worker in Massachusetts include: 

1. Obtain an approved social work education. 

Depending on which license you choose to pursue, Massachusetts requires either an accredited associate degree in social work or related field or a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) or Master of Social Work (MSW) accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

2. Complete any required supervised social work hours.

Some of these licenses may require you to submit proof of completed social work hours under supervision of an approved professional. Depending on your education, you may need to complete more hours than other applicants.

3. Pass the appropriate ASWB exam. 

The type of Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) exam you pursue depends on your education and targeted social work license:

  • LSWA: Associate Level
  • LSW: Bachelors Level
  • LCSW: Masters Level
  • LICSW: Clinical Level

4. Collect three professional references. 

For any level of social work licensure you pursue in Massachusetts, three professional references are a minimum requirement. These must speak on your moral character and conduct as a future social worker.

5. Submit your social work license application to the Board of Registration of Social Workers. 

Once you have evidence and proof of satisfactorily meeting the above requirements, you may submit your application with a fee for social work licensure.

Learn more on how to become a social worker.

Degree Pathways to Become a Social Worker in MA

Massachusetts offers social work licenses for those who have pursued an associate, bachelor’s or master’s degree in social work. Learn more about MSW programs in Massachusetts.

  • Associate Degree in Social Work (ASW): One way to pursue licensure as an LSWA in Massachusetts is to earn an associate-level degree in social work.
  • Bachelor of Social Work (BSW): BSW degrees are accepted for licensure as an LSW in Massachusetts.
  • Online Master’s in Social Work (MSW): A couple of universities in Massachusetts offer online MSW programs accredited by the CSWE. There are multiple online programs across the country also open for Massachusetts applicants.
  • Advanced Standing MSW Program: An advanced standing program is for BSW degree holders. If you already hold a BSW and wish to pursue licensure as an LCSW or LICSW in Massachusetts, an advanced standing MSW program may help you earn your master’s in less time than traditional options.
  • Online Clinical Social Work (LCSW) Program: While a clinical MSW program is not explicitly required to become an LICSW, it may help prepare you for clinical experiences needed for the licensure and the clinical exam.
  • Online MSW with No GRE: There are universities that offer admissions without requiring the completion of a GRE but may still have GPA and other requirements.
  • Doctorate of Social Work (DSW): A DSW degree is also accepted for licensure as an LCSW or LICSW in Massachusetts and may help prepare social workers for more advanced roles.

Social Work Licenses in Massachusetts 

All Massachusetts social workers will take an Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) exam of a corresponding level of difficulty to be licensed. The ASWB handles licensure for the state of Massachusetts. All role descriptions were summarized from the National Association for Social Work – Massachusetts Chapter’s FAQs. Information on LSWA, LSW, LCSW, and LICSW licenses in Massachusetts below was retrieved from the Board of Registration of Social Workers – Licensure Requirements and Procedures.

Licensed Social Work Associate (LSWA) in Massachusetts

An LSWA may practice under supervision of a social worker who is an LICSW, LCSW or LSW with one hour per week of face-to-face supervision. LSWA may help with obtaining information from clients, assist in individual or group therapy and gather data for research. 

  • Education Requirements: Associate degree in social work or related field OR bachelor’s degree in any field OR minimum of 1,000 hours of education in social work theory and methods approved by the board.
  • Field Requirements: None
  • Exam: Associate Level ASWB Exam
  • Fees: $173
  • License Renewal: Biennially for $42

Licensed Social Worker (LSW) in Massachusetts

LSWs in Massachusetts may provide non-clinical services under supervision of an LICSW or LCSW with one hour per week of face-to-face supervision. LSWs may also provide case management services, administrative support, consultations on non-clinical issues and tasks an LSWA may perform. 

  • Education Requirements: Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) from a CSWE-accredited program OR bachelors’ in any field OR two or less years of college with hourly experiences.
  • Field Requirements: There are no field requirements for applicants who hold a BSW degree. However, for all others, supervised hourly requirements are as follows:
    • Bachelor degree holder in any field: two years or 3,500 hours post-degree experience
    • Two and a half years of college: five years or 8,750 hours
    • Two years of college: six years or 10,500 hours
    • One year of college: eight years or 14,000 hours
    • High school diploma/equivalent: 10 years or 17,500 hours
  • Exam: Bachelors Level ASWB Exam
  • Fees: $173
  • License Renewal: Biennially for $54

Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) in Massachusetts 

LICSW is the highest level of social work licensure for the state of Massachusetts. LICSWs may practice autonomously in any clinical or non-clinical setting and provide clinical, case management and non-clinical services as well as supervision for individuals or groups of social workers. LICSWs may also perform any duties of LSWAs, LSWs and LCSWs.

  • Education Requirements:  MSW or a doctoral degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited program and a current license as a licensed certified social worker or equivalent license. 
  • Field Requirements: Two years or 3,500 hours of clinical social work services post-LCSW
  • Exam: Clinical Level ASWB Exam
  • Fees: $173
  • License Renewal: Biennially for $82

Social Work Salaries for Massachusetts 

Social worker salaries can vary by state. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary of a social worker in 2019 was $50,470 per year, which breaks down to $24.26 per hour.

Social Work Salaries for Massachusetts
Social Worker Career Number of Social Workers in Massachusetts Annual Mean Wage
Child, family and school Social Workers 10,780 $50,770
Health care social workers 10,280 $61,650
Mental health and substance abuse social workers 6,870 $46,900
Social workers, all other 520 $74,390
Social work teachers, postsecondary 440 $73,330

Information on the above social work salaries in Massachusetts was retrieved from the Bureau of Labor Statistics – State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates Massachusetts as of September 2020. 

Massachusetts Social Work Scholarships

The state of Massachusetts, as well as city and local governments, may provide social work scholarships to those who wish to pursue or advance their career. 

  • Massachusetts Loan Repayment Program for Health Professionals: This loan forgiveness program offers $20,000 per year (up to $40,000) to primary care clinicians, including licensed clinical social workers, who practice in communities where significant shortages of health care providers and barriers to care have been identified.
  • Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts: These scholarships, awarded to residents of Western Massachusetts and Hartford County in Connecticut, are for students at the college level or postgraduate level. Amounts vary. 
  • MetroWest Health Foundation: These scholarships of up to $2,000 per academic year are offered to students who live or work in Massachusetts,Metro West area and are enrolled in a nursing, medical or clinical program.

Massachusetts Social Work Organizations 

There are a limited number of social work organizations in Massachusetts. Some of these groups may be affiliated with local schools of social work for alumni and may help with networking and continuing education. 

There are also several other related organizations in Massachusetts:


Does Massachusetts have social work reciprocity?

While there is some level of reciprocity in Massachusetts, it isn’t as easy as showing your license and being able to practice. The Massachusetts Board offers licensure by reciprocity to applicants who are licensed and in good standing in any of the ASWB’s member jurisdictions. This means those looking to move their practice to Massachusetts do not need to retake exams but they will have to provide documentation to be licensed. 

Full reciprocity is a system in which states acknowledge licenses from other states. When you begin practicing in a new state, you will need to provide the new state with much of the same information as the jurisdiction in which you are currently licensed. This can include transcripts, supervision documents, background information and more.

What are the social work continuing education (CE) requirements in Massachusetts?  

Massachusetts social workers of all levels of licensure are required to take continuing education (CE) before their license renewal period. The CE requirements for social workers in Massachusetts are as follows:

  • LICSW – 30 hours of continuing education every two years
  • LCSW – 20 hours of continuing education every two years
  • LSW – 15 hours of continuing education every two years
  • LSWA – 10 hours of continuing education every two years

The Massachusetts licensing board does accept distance learning for these CE hours. 

What is the best way to look up my social work license in Massachusetts? 

The easiest way to check a social work license in Massachusetts is to look it up through the Division of Professional Licensure portal.

Information on this page was last retrieved in September 2020.