New Jersey issues three levels of social work credential, each with a defined scope of practice. Credentials are Certified Social Worker (CSW), Licensed Social Worker (LSW), and Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). All come with specific educational requirements; these vary by license type. All require background checks. The LSW and LCSW have examination requirements. The LCSW, which authorizes clinical social work practice, has a supervised practice requirement.
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Practice requires a certification or license unless one is exempt under state statute. There are fewer exemptions for clinical social work services than there are for other social work services.
Practice at the Graduate Level: LSW and LCSW Requirements in New Jersey
Social work practice is broad and varied, and so is social work education. Foundational requirements for the Licensed Social Worker and the Licensed Clinical Social Worker are similar but not identical. Both require a master’s or doctoral degree; master’s degrees must be earned through programs that are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education or have candidacy status (See: Master’s of Social Work Programs in New Jersey).
Social workers who will be seeking clinical licensure must have 12 semester hours of graduate coursework in clinical social work practice, exclusive of their field experience. Clinical coursework will be drawn from the following content areas:
• Human behavior and the social environment
• Clinical practice or psychotherapy practice models (for example, cognitive therapies, crisis intervention approaches, the psychodynamic model)
• Social work diagnosis and assessment
• Intervention with special populations
• Consultation and clinical supervision
The requisite 12 graduate clinical practice semester hours must be earned through a program with CSWE accreditation or candidacy status.
A person will be eligible for licensure as an LSW very soon after graduation, provided he or she has been proactive in submitting materials and meeting requirements. It will be necessary to first hold this license even if the eventual goal is LCSW (unless the applicant can prove that qualifying hours took place in an exempt setting). The required examination at this level is the ASWB master’s examination. Students can take the exam as early as the final semester of their educational program.,/p>
A social worker who seeks clinical licensure will work under supervision for a period of two to three years. He or she will accrue no fewer than 1,920 face-to-face client hours.
The clinical supervisor will provide guidance and oversight of the LSW’s diagnosis and treatment. A New Jersey clinical supervisor will be an experienced LCSW who meets state standards for supervision training. The supervisee will have quarterly progress reports.
The ASWB clinical examination will be required before licensure at the LCSW level. The New Jersey Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers notes that New Jersey social workers may take it relatively soon after passing the master’s examination, but that it is recommended that they wait longer; the exam is designed for candidates who have the level of proficiency gained after a year and a half in the field.
The licensing agency can review hours accrued in other states, but their acceptance is not guaranteed.
Practice at the Bachelor’s Level: CSW Requirements in New Jersey
The foundation for the Certified Social Worker credential is a bachelor’s degree earned through a program that is CSWE-accredited or in candidacy.
Social workers who completed their education and began practice in the distant past have slightly different requirements. If the degree was finished and experience obtained before April 6, 1995, the individual may be licensed on the basis of non-CSWE social work programs or programs in fields such as the following: sociology, vocational/ disability-related rehabilitation, or human services.
Endorsement of Out-of-State Social Workers
Social workers who are licensed in other U.S. states, territories, or jurisdiction can be licensed by endorsement (that is, without further examination) if their jurisdiction’s licensing standards are substantially equivalent.
The Application and Examination Process
Application forms can be accessed from the website of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs (http://www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/sw/Pages/eligibilityrequirements.aspx). Applications require notarization. The applicant should be prepared to attach a small photo to his or her application. He or she will include a fee of $75 (if this was not paid prior to testing). An official transcript must be included or requested.
New Jersey requires fingerprint-based background checks. Applicants will sign authorization forms. They will receive information about the fingerprinting process. The licensing agency notes that there are 17 locations in New Jersey and that it is sometimes quicker to get an appointment at one that is not the closest.
Examination requires approval. There are separate forms to be used for approval than for licensing. There is a $75 application fee due to the New Jersey agency at the time approval is sought; however, it can be retained and applied toward license application. While the licensing agency will need to see an official transcript to approve examination, applicants cannot at this time expect that this transcript will be retained in a licensing file.
Once approved, the candidate will be able to register with the ASWB; examination fees run $230 at the masters level. Examinations are self-scheduled. New Jersey currently allows examination retakes, limited only by ASWB policies. There is a mandatory 90-day wait time after a failed attempt. Individual who have already passed the required examination may apply for licensure directly.
Licenses are issued for two years. Continuing education requirements vary by credential level. Social workers can renew online.
The New Jersey State Board of Social Work Examiners regulates New Jersey social workers (http://www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/sw/Pages/default.aspx).
The New Jersey Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers is a distinct organization and is not responsible for licensing. However, NASW-NJ has provided a summary of New Jersey licensing requirements (http://www.naswnj.org/?LicensingFAQs). Members of the organization can call a hotline to receive additional help with their licensing questions.