Minnesota sets social work licensing standards high. Requirements include education, examination, and supervised practice. All social workers complete a supervised practice period, whether their work is clinical or nonclinical. There are four licenses: Licensed Social Worker (LSW), Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW), Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW), and Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW). All licenses require education at at least the bachelor’s level.
- Fordham's top-ranked Graduate School of Social Service Online Master of Social Work - Top-25 ranked online MSW offers both Traditional and Advanced standing programs. Both CSWE-accredited programs allow you to earn your degree full-time or part-time. Visit School's Website
- Grand Canyon University offers online Bachelor of and Master of Social Work degrees that prepare you to begin or position yourself for possible career advancement in social work.
- Capella University's CSWE accredited online Master of Social Work program helps prepare students to enter the general or clinical practice role. An Advanced Standing MSW option is available. Capella also offers an online Doctor of Social Work. Click Here to contact Capella University about their Master of Social Work program or Doctor of Social Work program.
- Regis College School of Health Sciences MSW program offers a 100% online* accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). It has been designed for those interested in growing in their current role, including licensure, as well as those interested in a new career in social work. Visit School's Website
- Our Lady of the Lake University offers its Online BSW and MSW: No GRE or GMAT is required for admission. Advanced Standing available. Visit School's Website
Social Work Education Requirements
Prospective social workers need to complete academic programs that meet the requirements of state statute. A degree at the bachelor’s level qualifies a person for Licensed Social Worker. Other programs must be at the graduate level. Master’s programs are to be accredited by the Council on Social Work Education or Canadian Association of Schools of Social Work (or other accrediting agency that may be designated by the Board). See: Master’s of Social Work Programs in Minnesota. Doctoral programs are to be housed in accredited universities. An international degree could be accepted if found equivalent by the CSWE (or other accrediting agency that may be designated by the Board). The CSWE has an equivalency evaluation unit.
A prospective LICSW will need coursework in specific clinical content areas, but they will not necessarily all be included in the master’s program. Coursework may be pursued through an accredited social work program or accredited higher education institution. Up to 90 continuing education hours (CEs) can be credited toward clinical coursework requirements. One semester credit of academic coursework can be credited as 15 CEs.
The LICSW will need 108 clock hours each of 1) current practice methods and 2) biopsychosocial assessment and differential diagnosis. He or she will need 72 clock hours of social work values and ethics, 36 clock hours of clinical treatment planning, and 18 each of 1) evaluation methods and 2) culturally specific intervention and assessment.
A prospective student who is seeking a program with a clinical focus may wish to consult the CSWE directory.
Minnesota has approved an Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) social work examination for each licensing level. The approved exam for the LSW is the bachelor exam. For the LGSW, it is the masters; for the LISW, the advanced generalist; for the LICSW, the clinical exam.
All examinations are computer-delivered. Candidates can self-schedule once they have been approved by the Minnesota Board and have registered with the ASWB. Minnesota allows applicants to take the licensing examination before completion of their degrees. This entails beginning the application process early. Applicants do need to allow processing time.
Minnesota statute places limitations on the number of retakes but may allow a candidate to make attempts beyond those that are typically allowed if an individual provides references and also satisfies the Board that he or she has taken steps to improve his or her testing performance.
The Board can accept scores if the examination was previously taken, but there is a time limit if the individual is not an endorsement applicant; under current statute, scores are invalidated at eight years (https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=148E.055).
Minnesota has alternate provisions for foreign-born ESL applicants who have not passed the licensing exam. They may apply for provisional licensing (https://mn.gov/boards/social-work/applicant/provisionallicense.jsp).
It will take at least two years post-graduation to complete supervision requirements. Supervision requirements are higher for clinical social work practice. Not all social work that consists of direct client care meets the definition of clinical. Supervisees will work under a supervision plan on file with the Board.
A Licensed Social Worker or Licensed Graduate Social Worker who engages in only nonclinical social work will have a supervision requirement during his or her first 4,000 hours of practice. Supervision is to occur at a rate of four hours for every 160 hours worked. The supervisee will need 100 hours of total supervision. Of these, at least 50 must be individual; up to 25 of the individual hours may be credited for supervision through electronic platforms that allow for eye contact.
A prospective clinical social worker will need 4,000 to 8,000 total hours with at least 1,800 consisting of direct clinical client contact. The social worker will receive four to eight hours of supervision for every 160 hours practiced. The total supervision requirement is 200 hours. At least 100 of the hours will need to be individual. Up to 50 of the individual hours may utilize eye-to-eye technologies.
In some cases, a person who has achieved licensure as an LISW will engage in clinical social work. Supervision requirements for an LISW who is providing clinical services are similar to those for a graduate social worker; 200 total hours are required.
It is not intended that the LISW be a permanent license for clinical practice under supervision. Generally, the requirement is to be met within the first 8,000 hours of LISW clinical practice. An extension may be granted in some circumstances.
Generally, supervision for clinical licensure is to be provided by an LICSW who meets Board experience and training requirements. Supervision for nonclinical licensure may be provided by social workers with any of several classifications.
Alternate supervision can be requested in some instances. The Board may, for example, approve 100% of the supervision to be provided by a supervisor with alternate credentials in cases where there are five or fewer social workers in the county who meet the general requirements.
Applicants for licensure by reciprocity must meet basic educational requirements. LICSW applicants are not required to demonstrate that they have had the clinical clock hours that examination candidates do.
Endorsement applicants are not required to document their supervision hours if they have 4,000 hours of qualifying experience.The Application Process
Applications can be accessed from the website of the Minnesota Board of Social Work (https://mn.gov/boards/social-work/licensees/forms.jsp). As of early 2018, the application is available in two forms, on paper and online.Applicants are asked to review statutes before applying. They will sign that they have read statutory information when they submit the application.
The prospective social worker will need to have a fingerprint-based background check. He or she may email the licensing agency for an authorization form.
As of 2018, the fee for application and fingerprinting is $77 if applying for license by examination, $117 if applying by endorsement. Examination fees are separate; they are paid directly to the ASWB.
Temporary licenses can be granted in some instances, to new graduates as well as people who are relocating temporarily or permanently. The Board cautions student applicants who seek licensure pending examination not to begin too early as a license can’t be granted until degree requirements have been met.
The Minnesota Board of Social Work is the regulatory body (https://mn.gov/boards/social-work/) The Board can be reached by phone at 612-617-2100 or by email at ‘social.work at state.mn.us’.
Requirements change periodically. State statute allows the Board to grant variances in some cases, but not with regard to substantive licensing requirements.