Social work is a broad discipline. North Dakota issues social work licenses at three levels: Licensed Social Worker (LSW), Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW), and Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW).
Professionals must hold licensure unless they fall under exemption categories delineated in state code. North Dakota allows certain facilities (e.g. hospitals and nursing facilities) to utilize social work designees who are not licensed but who work under consultation or direction of licensees.
Foundations for Practice: Social Work Education and Examination
Prospective licensees must earn degrees that are specifically geared toward the social work discipline. State law further mandates that programs be accredited by an organization approved by the Board. An interpretative statement clarifies that this includes programs that are going through initial accreditation review, hold candidacy status, or hold conditional status.
U.S. programs are to be accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. Canadian programs can be accepted if accredited by the Canadian Association for Social Work Education.
The foundation for practice at the Licensed Social Worker level is a baccalaureate degree. The LSW is by far the most common social work license in North Dakota. The foundation for practice at both the Licensed Certified Social Worker and Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker levels is a master’s in Social Work (Master’s of Social Work programs in North Dakota) or doctoral degree in Social Work.
Initial licensure is by examination. North Dakota utilizes examinations administered by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB). LSW candidates take the Bachelor’s level exam. LCSW candidates take the Master’s level exam.
Students are allowed to test during their final term but will not actually receive their license until after educational requirements have been met. Examination permission is granted after application. Once approved, the candidate will contact the ASWB and pay required fees. Examinations are computer-delivered. They can be scheduled at the candidate’s convenience.
Additional Requirements for Independent Clinical Social Work Licensure
The LICSW license authorizes private practice. Requirements are stringent. There are slightly fewer LICSWs than LCSWs in North Dakota, according to data displayed on the Board homepage in 2018. The prospective LICSW will need to accrue 3,000 hours of post-master supervised practice. At least the first 1,500 hours are to be under LICSW supervision; some hours may be under the supervision of other qualified mental health practitioners. Supervisors must be approved. Alternative supervision is designed for social workers who face geographical barriers or other hardships — for example, those who live in very remote locations.
Experience is to be accrued during a single four-year period. It may, however, not take the full four years. Over the course of the supervisory period, the individual will have at least 150 hours of supervision; at least 100 will be individual.
Prospective LICSWs work under supervision plans. They are directed to submit plans for review at least two weeks in advance of a Board meeting. The Board requires a copy of the supervisor’s license. Change of position or employer will require submission of a new plan.
The Board may consider hours accrued in other states (https://www.ndbswe.com/lic/mswsupervisionplan.asp).
The prospective LICSW will need to take the ASWB Clinical examination at some point before licensure. The candidate may take it before completing supervision requirements. However, the Board cautions not to attempt it too early. The Board can only accept examination results that were obtained in the year prior to the time the applicant met all requirements. Thus, a prospective LICSW who passes the examination too early in the process would be required to repeat it.
The Application Process
Application materials are available from the Board. Prospective licensees can access them from the requirements page for the specific license they seek: LSW (https://www.ndbswe.com/lic/lsw/applyreqs.asp), LCSW (https://www.ndbswe.com/lic/lcsw/reqs.asp), or LICSW (https://www.ndbswe.com/lic/licsw/initialapp.asp). Currently, applications are available in online and paper format; this is as of 2018.
The applicant will provide an official transcript to document the qualifying degree.
The Board will require three references. Specific requirements will vary depending on the applicant’s experience level. Generally speaking, an applicant without work experience will be expected to provide a reference from a field placement supervisor while an applicant with work experience will be expected to provide a reference from a work supervisor. The Board will look for at least one reference from a social worker (at least two from appropriately credentialed social workers if the individual has work experience). Waivers may be granted in some instances. Applicants can download the reference forms for their level from the applications page.
Those seeking clinical licensure will have a multi-step application process. They will verify employment and supervision at the time they seek full licensure.
The prospective social worker will be responsible for a $25 application fee and $75 license fee. The upgrade fee is $25.
Application status can be monitored online (https://www.ndbswe.com/article.asp?id=96).
Applicants are required to undergo background checks. Currently, this step takes place after application. The individual can expect to receive a fingerprinting packet. Those applying for initial licensure will receive the packet along with their examination approval. The Board notes that it can take several weeks for results to be received.
Currently, licenses are up for renewal in odd-numbered years.
Out-of-State Social Workers
Social workers seeking reciprocity will be expected to provide a copy of state regulations to show that the licensing standards were at least substantially equivalent at the time they were first licensed. State administrative code does, however, allow for waiver of this requirement in “unusual circumstances”. The license must be in good standing. Temporary licenses do not qualify.
North Dakota social workers are under the regulatory control of the North Dakota Board of Social Work Examiners (https://www.ndbswe.com). There are occasional changes in standards and procedures. The Board can be reached at 701-222-0255.