Become a Social Worker in New York

New York is a wonderfully diverse state, with big cities like New York City, Albany and Buffalo and smaller towns upstate. The state has the second-highest number of social workers in the nation for child, family and school social workers; health care social workers; and mental health and substance abuse social workers

If you want to become a social worker in New York, then here is a career guide that may help you along the way.

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Steps to Become a New York Social Worker

There are two types of social work licensure in New York: licensed master social worker (LMSW) and licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). Both licenses are master’s level and permit social workers to provide clinical services. However, LMSWs must provide these services under supervision. The common steps to become a social worker in New York below were retrieved from Article 154 of the Laws, Rules and Regulations on Social Work.

1. Complete a bachelor’s degree program. 

Before pursuing a master’s degree in social work, you must complete a bachelor’s degree to meet admission requirements for graduate programs. Your earned bachelor’s degree can be in most topics, although graduate social work admissions may have a preference for those focused in social work or a related subject. If you complete a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) program, you may be qualified for advanced standing MSW programs. 

2. Complete a master of social work (MSW) degree. 

Both licenses for social workers in New York require a minimum completed MSW degree that offers at least 900 internship hours in the curriculum. The MSW degree program must also be accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). For both licenses, MSW curriculum must offer coursework in social work values and ethics, diversity, social justice, at-risk populations, human behavior in the social environment and other focus areas. However, for LCSW license applications, New York also requires at least 12 credits focused on clinical social work.

3. Complete child abuse identification and reporting training.

New York state also requires LMSW and LCSW applicants to complete training related to the identification and reporting of child abuse from an approved training provider.

4. Apply for your social work license.

Once you meet the above requirements, you may then apply for a social work license in New York. New York authorizes social workers for Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) examination post-application. For LMSWs, you must pass the master’s level exam; for LCSWs, you must pass the clinical level exam.

5. For LCSWs, gain three years of supervised experience.

As a LMSW, you may work toward your LCSW license only after you are able to submit proof of 36 months of supervised social work practice in diagnosis, psychotherapy and assessment-based treatment planning.

Degree Pathways to Become a Social Worker in NY

There are only two types of social work licensure in New York, and both require a master’s degree in social work. An MSW program with clinical coursework is required to become an LCSW in New York. Learn more about MSW programs in New York.

  • Online Master’s in Social Work (MSW): There are several universities in New York that offer online MSW program options for future social workers.
  • Advanced Standing MSW Program: If you’ve completed a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) program and want to pursue licensure in New York as a social worker, an advanced standing MSW program may take less time than a traditional program to complete.
  • Online Clinical Social Work (LCSW) Program: For LCSW applicants in New York, a clinical MSW program may help meet coursework requirements.
  • Online MSW with No GRE: A few MSW programs offer admissions without requiring the successful completion of a GRE; however, they may have GPA and other requirements.
  • Doctorate of Social Work (DSW): A DSW degree is not required to obtain licensure in New York but may help LMSW and LCSWs pursue advanced social work roles such as professor of social work or become an administrator.

Social Work Licenses in New York

In New York, you can become a licensed master social worker (LMSW) or a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). If you have not met the examination requirement, limited permits to practice may be available. Below information was retrieved from Article 154 of the Laws, Rules and Regulations on Social Work, as of October 2020.

Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) License

With an LMSW, you may pursue career opportunities practicing as a social worker but under LCSW supervision. An LMSW may be ideal for social workers who want to work on case management on a macro level as opposed to working with individuals in therapeutic settings.

  • Education Requirements: MSW from a CSWE-accredited program
  • Experience Requirements: 900 Hours from the MSW degree
  • Exam: ASWB—Master’s Level
  • Fees: $294
  • License Endorsement: No endorsement available in NY but licensure may be granted if out-of-state applicants meet the same requirements
  • License Renewal: 36 hours of continuing education courses every three years; $224 fee

Learn more about the LMSW License

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) License

You can become a licensed clinical social worker only after earning your LMSW. As a LCSW, you can work unsupervised. If you like providing personal care to people, then you should become a social worker in New York by earning LCSW licensure. NY also offers an “R” designation for psychotherapy privilege for LCSWs that meet the requirements of psychotherapy experience.

  • Education Requirements: MSW with a clinical focus from a CSWE-accredited program
  • Experience Requirements: 900 hours from the MSW degree and three years of full-time postgraduate supervised clinical experience
  • Exam: ASWB—Clinical Level
  • Fees: $294
  • License Endorsement: Out-of-state LCSW applicants who have at least 10 years of practice experience may apply for endorsement as a LCSW in NY
  • License Renewal: 36 hours of continuing education courses every three years; $224 fee

Learn more about how to become an LCSW.

Social Work Salaries for New York
Social Work Careers Number of Social Workers in New York Mean Social Work Salary
Child, family and school Social Workers 29,880 $60,380
Health care social workers 15,720 $61,470
Mental health and substance abuse social workers 11,540 $63,520
Social workers, all other 4,910 $67,580
Social work teachers, postsecondary 2,750 $96,080

Learn more about different social work salaries.

New York Social Work Scholarships

If you want to learn how to become a social worker in New York but don’t think you can afford higher education, there is help. Along with applying for financial aid, you can look into social work scholarships in New York.

One of the opportunities you may want to apply for is the NYS Licensed Social Worker Loan Forgiveness Program, which encourages people to become a social worker in New York in critical human service sectors or multilingual communities. This scholarship will award you a maximum of $26,000 in loan forgiveness.

For the New York City Board of Education Bilingual Scholarship Program, you must be fluent in Russian, Spanish, Haitian Creole or Chinese; have a cumulative GPA of 3.0+; and be a U.S. citizen or have permanent residency status. The scholarship will cover the full cost of tuition, not including fees. If students receive a scholarship, they must work in the New York City Public School System for two to five years after graduating.

The James F. Reville Scholarship is another option. This scholarship awards two students $3,000 each annually if they are studying in a full-time college in a field that is related to developmental or intellectual disabilities.

Be sure to also check with your preferred university and state social work organizations below for additional financial assistance opportunities.

New York Social Work Organizations

When you become a social worker in New York, you can find other colleagues and valuable resources through social work organizations in New York.

You could join the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) New York State Chapter, which is the second-largest chapter of the NASW. There are ten divisions of the NASW NY, dividing up the state for local opportunities.

There’s also the New York State Society for Clinical Social Work, which protects the rights of social workers and creates and maintains high standards of practice and professional education.

Another organization for social workers is the National Association of Black Social Workers, which has an ABSW New York City chapter. The group established the Black Family Counseling Unit and has a functioning job bank as well as two day care centers that have been in operation for 30 years.


You may have some questions about how to become a social worker. Don’t worry—you’re not alone. Learning how to become a social worker in New York can be a confusing process, and you’ll need to do as much research as possible before deciding to pursue this career.

Does New York have social work reciprocity?

If you’re an LMSW, there is no social work license reciprocity in New York, which means you can’t automatically become an LMSW in New York just because you’re licensed in another state. However, if you meet all of New York’s requirements, which includes passing the ASWB master’s test, then you may be able to qualify for an application in New York.

On the other hand, if you are an LCSW, you can apply for endorsement. If you’ve had a license as a clinical worker in another state and completed at least 10 years of practice within the past 15 years, you may qualify to apply for New York state licensing. 

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

You’ll be required to complete social work continuing education (CE) credits in New York when you become a social worker in the state. You’ll need a total of 36 credits for every three years of your licensing registration period.

Acceptable course content includes social work ethics, social work practice, knowledge and skills, administrative supervision of licensed master social work and clinical supervision of licensed clinical social work practice, theories and concepts of human behavior in the social environment, clinical interventions, evidence-based models and principles of clinical social work practice, psychotherapy and clinical social work diagnosis.

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

To look up your social work license in New York, visit the Office of the Professions page on the website. All you have to do is select your job title and put your first and last name, and then conduct a search for social work license verification in New York. You can also search by license number within a profession if that’s easier.

Information on this page was last retrieved in September 2020.