Frequently Asked Questions

Social Work Licensure & Practice

These Questions and Answers are offered as a matter of general guidelines and do not carry the force of law. You should also review the actual statute and regulations. Application forms and instructions are available on this site; please see the links on the left. NOTE: The Department cannot determine whether or not applicants have the necessary qualifications for licensure over the phone or through e-mail. We will carefully review your qualifications only after we receive your application, fee, and all necessary documentation directly from the education program.


  1. What licenses are available in the social work profession?

    The Education Law establishes the requirements for licensure as a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) or Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and for the "R" psychotherapy privilege available to certain Licensed Clinical Social Workers. For more information on the requirements for licensure or the psychotherapy privilege, please see the links on the left of this page.

  2. What is the difference between the LMSW and the LCSW?

    The Education Law defines the practice as a Licensed Master Social Worker and as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. A licensee may only engage in those activities that are within the scope of practice and in which the licensee is competent. The major difference between the two is that the LMSW may only provide "clinical social work" services (diagnosis, psychotherapy, and assessment-based treatment planning) under supervision; the LCSW may provide those services without supervision.

  3. Who may practice licensed master social work or licensed clinical social work?

    The Education Law restricts the practice of licensed master social work and licensed clinical social work and the titles LMSW and LCSW to individuals who are licensed and registered to practice in New York. Individuals who are licensed in other professions or defined as exempt (see question #20) may provide services that are defined as the practice of LMSW or LCSW but may not use the titles LMSW or LCSW to imply licensure.

  4. Are there activities that can be performed by an unlicensed person?

    The Education Law defines certain activities that are within the scope of practice of the Licensed Master Social Worker, but may also be performed by an individual who is not licensed. The unlicensed person could not imply that he or she is licensed under Title 8 of the Education Law. If the services are provided by an LMSW or LCSW, the licensee can only engage in those activities in which he or she is competent.

    Services that are defined as not requiring licensure include but are not limited to:

    1. Serve as a community organizer, planner, or administrator for social service programs in any setting.
    2. Provide supervision and/or consultation to individuals, groups, institutions and agencies, other than the supervision of the practice of a profession established under Title VIII of the Education Law.
    3. Serve as a faculty member or instructor in an educational setting, although a faculty member may not practice a profession that requires licensure.
    4. Plan and/or conduct research projects and program evaluation studies.
    5. Maintain familiarity with both professional and self-help systems in the community in order to assist the client in those services when necessary.
    6. Assist individuals or groups with difficult day to day problems such as finding employment, locating sources of assistance, organizing community groups to work on a specific problem.
    7. Consult with other agencies on problems and cases served in common and coordinating services among agencies or providing case management.
    8. Conduct data gathering on social problems.
    9. Serve as an advocate for those clients or groups of clients whose needs are not being met by available programs or by a specific agency.
    10. Assess, evaluate and formulate a plan of action based on client need.
    11. Provide training to community groups, agencies, and other professionals.
    12. Provide administrative supervision but not supervise or direct professional practice of an LMSW, LCSW or other individual licensed under Title VIII of the Education Law.

  5. Do I have to be licensed as an LMSW in order to become an LCSW in New York?

    Yes, in order to complete the supervised experience in diagnosis and psychotherapy required for licensure as an LCSW you must be licensed and registered to practice as a LMSW, or hold a limited permit to practice under supervision, or be practicing in an exempt setting, as defined in the Education Law.

  6. Can a Licensed Master Social Worker operate a private practice?

    A Licensed Master Social Worker who is registered to practice may form any legal business entity, including a private practice. The LMSW may provide any services defined as within the scope of practice of Licensed Master Social Work, so long as the licensee is competent. However, Education Law Section 7701 restricts Licensed Master Social Workers from providing clinical services in settings other than "facility settings or other supervised settings." Accordingly, New York law does not allow an LMSW to establish a private practice or professional entity (e.g., professional corporation or professional limited liability partnership) for the purpose of providing "clinical social work services".

    An LMSW may establish a professional service corporation, professional limited liability corporation or professional limited liability partnership, subject to the requirements of the Education and the Business Corporation laws. You should consult with your attorney and accountant to determine if the creation of a professional entity is appropriate. In most cases, your attorney will file an application with the Department of State and the Education Department must consent to the title and purpose of a professional entity. You can access more information about establishing professional corporations on our web site: www.op.nysed.gov/pcorp.htm.

  7. If I am licensed in another jurisdiction can I practice licensed master social work or licensed clinical social work in New York under that license?

    In order to provide professional services in New York, you must be licensed and registered to practice in New York, unless exempt under the Education Law. Licensure in another jurisdiction does not authorize you to practice in New York whether services are provided in-person, by telephone, over the Internet, or any other format.

  8. I have many years of experience in social work, including credentials and licensure in other jurisdictions. Is there reciprocity or any way my qualifications can substitute for the requirements in New York?

    There is no reciprocity for a professional license as an LMSW or LCSW. An applicant must meet the requirements for graduate education, including specific course work and internship, examination, be of good moral character as determined by the Department, and, for the LCSW the requirements for supervised experience in diagnosis and psychotherapy, as established in the Education Law and Commissioner's Regulations.

  9. If I am a LMSW and providing clinical social work services under supervision, does the supervisor have to be on-site?

    The Education Law and Commissioner's Regulations require appropriate supervision, which in some instances may require direct or on-site supervision, in the opinion of the supervisor. Whether or not the supervisor is on-site, the supervisor shares with the LMSW responsibility for the professional services provided to each client. Therefore, the supervisor may need to be on-site to conduct joint client intakes and directly observe the LMSW practicing clinical social work.

  10. If my employer does not provide a qualified supervisor can I contract with a qualified supervisor outside the agency for private supervision?

    Arrangements where an individual hires or contracts with a licensee to provide supervision are problematic and, as a general rule, unacceptable. Supervision of your practice requires the supervisor to independently direct your practice; this is not possible when the supervisor is employed by you or acts as a paid contractor to supervise the person who can only practice under supervision. Additionally, you should not accept employment in any setting where you are not supervised by a qualified supervisor. The agency or employer is responsible for the services provided to each client, and clinical social work services may only be provided by an individual licensed and authorized to practice clinical social work. If the agency does not have a qualified supervisor on staff, it is their responsibility to hire a qualified supervisor who is responsible for the clinical practice of an LMSW or other person who is only authorized to practice under supervision. In such cases, we would suggest that there be a three-way agreement between you, the proposed supervisor, and your employer. The minimum information in such a letter of agreement would include:

    • Acknowledgement that the supervisor will be employed to provide services and to supervise the applicant to develop skills and abilities in the practice of the profession;
    • Acknowledgement that the supervisor will be provided with access to patient records and, if appropriate, to patients to conduct joint intake or treatment sessions;
    • Acknowledgement that the patient will be informed that the applicant is authorized to practice only under supervision and that patient-specific information is shared with a third-party supervisor;
    • Acknowledgement that the patient will be informed of the supervisor's name and contact information or an agency contact to whom questions about the applicant's practice may be addressed;
    • Assurance that supervision will be of the duration and frequency specified in regulations and continue until the applicant is licensed or ceases practice; and
    • Arrangements for the employer or agency to employ the supervisor including billing for services that does not constitute fee-splitting or other arrangement prohibited by Education Law and Regents Rules.

    If you make arrangements for third-party supervision on your own or consult with a third-party by sharing information about the agency's patients, including but not limited to patient records, diagnosis and treatment of the patient, you could be charged with unprofessional conduct under Part 29 of the Regents Rules.

  11. Am I required to inform my clients that I am being supervised?

    Before providing any professional services, you should review with the client the policies of your agency or employer regarding payment for services, third-party reimbursement (if appropriate), limits on confidentiality and the limits of privileged communication (e.g., intent to commit a harmful act), and how client information is shared within the agency or other setting. The client should know the qualifications of the supervisor and how to contact the supervisor with any questions or concerns about your practice and the services being provided.

  12. If I am licensed as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in another jurisdiction, how can I become an LCSW in New York?

    You must apply for licensure in New York and meet all requirements for clinical education, supervised post-MSW experience in diagnosis and psychotherapy acceptable to the Department, moral character, clinical social work examination, and New York-approved course work in the identification and reporting of suspected child abuse and maltreatment.

    Even if you are licensed in another jurisdiction you may not practice licensed clinical social work in New York until you are licensed in New York State.

    If it is determined that you do not meet the requirements for clinical education or supervised clinical experience in diagnosis and psychotherapy, you may not practice social work in New York. You must apply for licensure as an LMSW and meet all requirements for licensure, including education and examination. You can then practice as an LMSW under supervision acceptable to the Department, while meeting the requirements for licensure as an LCSW.

  13. How can I receive a limited permit to practice in New York?

    The Education Law authorizes the Department to issue a limited permit to practice under supervision acceptable to the Department to an individual who has met all requirements for licensure except the examination. The permit is issued for a specific employment setting, which may not be a practice owned or operated by the permit holder. An individual holding an LMSW permit must be under the supervision of an LMSW or LCSW; the LCSW permit holder must be under the supervision of an LCSW.

    If you will practice in more than one setting, you must file a permit application (Form 5) for each setting, although only one fee is required. The limited permit must be displayed in each setting and the permit holder may not practice in any location other than for which a permit has been issued. If you change employers, settings, or supervisors you must file a new Form 5.

    The permit is valid for one year and may not be renewed. Once you have exhausted the limited permit you may not receive another limited permit. An individual who has not met all requirements for licensure when the permit expires may only engage in those activities that do not require licensure in New York.

  14. What is acceptable clinical social work experience for licensure as an LCSW?

    The Education Law requires an applicant for licensure as an LCSW to complete three years of full-time (or the part-time equivalent in no more than six years) supervised, post-degree experience in diagnosis, psychotherapy, and assessment-based treatment plans, acceptable to the Department.

    Full-time experience is defined as no more than 20 client contact hours in psychotherapy each week; part time experience must not be less than 10 client contact hours in each setting per week. Part-time experience is pro-rated (e.g., 15/20 = 0.75) so that the applicant will require more than three years to complete the equivalent of 36 months of supervised experience. Experience of less than 10 client contact hours per week is not acceptable for licensure. A client contact hour is a session of at least 45 minutes using verbal methods in interpersonal relationships to assist a person or persons to modify attitudes and behavior which are intellectually, socially, or emotionally maladaptive.

  15. If I provide case management, school social work, discharge planning, counseling, and client advocacy can I qualify for licensure as an LCSW?

    No. These services constitute direct practice with clients but do not meet the experience requirements for the LCSW. Only experience in diagnosis, psychotherapy, and assessment-based planning are acceptable under the Education Law. Typically diagnosis, psychotherapy and assessment based treatment planning are performed in mental health settings and not in general hospitals, schools, and community-based organizations.

  16. What is acceptable supervision in the practice of clinical social work?

    The Education Law defines qualified supervisors as licensed clinical social workers, licensed psychologists and psychiatrists; no other professions are allowed to supervise. The supervisor must have been licensed before starting to supervise you. The supervising psychologist must be qualified in psychotherapy as determined by the State Board; the psychologist must submit Form 4Q to verify experience and training.

    The supervisor must provide one hour per week or two hours every other week of individual or group supervision in diagnosis, psychotherapy and assessment-based treatment planning. At least two hours per month must be individual supervision. The supervisor must be apprised of the diagnosis and treatment of each client, discuss the applicant's cases, provide the applicant with oversight and guidance in diagnosing and treating clients, and regularly review and evaluate the applicant's professional work.

    If the applicant is practicing less than full-time (e.g., 10 client contact hours per week), the applicant must still receive one hour of supervision every week or two hours of supervision every other week for the entire period.

  17. How can I verify my supervised experience in diagnosis and psychotherapy?

    All post-degree experience must be submitted on Department forms and include:

    • The beginning and ending dates of the supervised experience;
    • The average weekly client contact hours in diagnosis and psychotherapy;
    • The supervisor's qualifications to practice diagnosis and psychotherapy;
    • The duration and frequency of individual and group supervision; and
    • Notarized signature of the supervisor.

    The forms must bear original signatures and must be submitted by the supervisor, not the applicant, directly to the Department. If you are changing supervisors or leaving an agency, you may wish to have the experience documented and submitted at that time.

    If your supervisor is deceased or unavailable, you, a licensed colleague or the agency may provide the required information (beginning and ending dates; weekly client contact hours; supervisor's qualifications; and duration and frequency of supervision). A licensed colleague who is familiar with your supervised experience may attest that you met the requirements; the form must bear original signatures, be notarized and submitted to the Department by the licensed colleague.

  18. How can I become a school social worker in New York?

    An individual practicing licensed master social work in a public school or pre-school must be certified by the Office of Teaching (OT) in the Department. OT will issue a provisional school social worker certificate to an individual who has an acceptable MSW degree. The provisional certificate is valid for five years by which time the certificate holder must be licensed as an LMSW or LCSW to receive the permanent school social worker certificate. You can access more information about the school social worker certificate on-line at: www.highered.nysed.gov/tcert/contact.htm and can file an on-line application for the school certificate.

    An individual holding a permanent school social work certificate must maintain the LMSW or LCSW registration in order to practice school social work. An individual with a provisional or permanent school social work credential may only practice licensed master social work outside the school if licensed and registered as an LMSW or practice licensed clinical social work outside the school if licensed and registered as an LCSW.

  19. If I have a BSW degree, can I be licensed or practice in New York?

    The Education Law does not authorize the Department to license an individual with a bachelor's of social work (BSW) degree. However, an individual with a BSW degree from a program acceptable to the Department, such as a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), may practice licensed master social work under the supervision of an LMSW or LCSW. The Commissioner's Regulations do not require on-site supervision, but the supervision should be appropriate to the abilities of the BSW and the tasks delegated by the supervising LMSW or LCSW.

    The BSW may not practice clinical social work, including diagnosis and psychotherapy, even under the supervision of an LCSW. An LMSW or LCSW who delegates activities that are beyond the competence of the BSW may be charged with unprofessional conduct under Part 29 of the Regents Rules.

  20. How do I know if I am exempt or practicing in an exempt setting?

    The Education Law defines exempt persons as those who meet certain requirements. In such cases, an exempt person can engage in activities that would ordinarily require licensure. An exempt person may not use a professional title (e.g., LMSW or LCSW) restricted to a licensee nor may the person practice outside the exempt setting.

    An exempt person who wishes to qualify for licensure must meet all requirements for licensing, including education, supervision, examination, and moral character, acceptable to the Department.

    The exemptions provided in the Education Law allow activities including:

    • BSW or MSW students in a supervised internship under the supervision of an LMSW or LCSW;
    • Licensees in other professions licensed under Title 8 of the Education Law whose practice includes similar services;
    • Attorneys, rape crisis counselors and other credentialed individuals who function within the authority of those credentials;
    • Public and private employees providing clinical social work services on or before September 1, 2004, for as long as they provide those services in that job; and
    • Employees of agencies operated, regulated or financed by the New York State Office of Mental Health, Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, Office of Children and Family Services or local social service districts until June 1, 2010, so long as the person does not use the titles LMSW or LCSW.

    If you have questions about your employment setting, you should consult with your employer.

  21. I have never done well on multiple-choice tests and want to know if I can be licensed without having to pass an examination?

    No. The Education Law requires an applicant for the LMSW or the LCSW to pass an examination acceptable to the Department. It has been determined that an applicant can meet these requirements by passing the appropriate examination offered by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB). A candidate for the LMSW must pass the ASWB Masters (formerly "Intermediate") examination and a candidate for the LCSW must pass the ASWB Clinical examination. New York does not recognize the ASWB Advanced Generalist examination for licensure as an LMSW or LCSW.

    After you apply to the Department for licensure, your application will be reviewed to determine if you meet the requirements for education, moral character, and New York-approved course work in the identification and reporting of suspected child abuse and maltreatment. For the LCSW, supervised post-MSW experience in diagnosis and psychotherapy acceptable to the Department and clinical coursework is also required. When you have met the requirements for entry to the examination, the Department will notify you and ASWB. It is then your responsibility to contact ASWB to register for an examination appointment. The examination is offered six days a week throughout the United States but you must be approved by the Department to register with ASWB. You can access information about the content areas for the Masters and Clinical examinations on-line at: www.aswb.org External Link Icon.

  22. I have attempted and failed the ASWB examination; is it possible my score would qualify for licensure in another jurisdiction?

    No. When you attempt the examination, your score is based on the number of questions you answer correctly in order to meet the minimum passing score for that form of the examination. The raw score is then converted to an equated score. In order to pass you must have an equated score that is equal to or higher than the minimum passing score. Regardless of the equated score required in a jurisdiction a failing score cannot be calculated as a passing score.

  23. I am licensed as an LMSW and as an LCSW. I received a renewal notice for my LMSW but my LCSW is still valid, what should I do?

    If you were licensed as a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) on or after September 1, 2004 and were later licensed as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), you hold separate licenses with different registration dates. Since the practice of Licensed Clinical Social Work encompasses the practice of Licensed Master Social Work, you do not need to maintain your registration as an LMSW. When you receive the LMSW registration form, you can respond "NO" on Question 1, which asks if you would like to register the LMSW license to practice for the upcoming period. You should then answer all other questions, sign and date the form, and return it with no fee to the Department in the envelope provided. The registration of your LMSW license will then be put in "Inactive" status and the Office of the Professions online license verification will reflect that status. For more information about registration and practice, including how to change your address, see OP's Frequently Asked Questions.

  24. How can I qualify for the psychotherapy privilege?

    The Education and Insurance laws authorize the Department to issue the "R" privilege to an individual who is an LCSW in New York and who completes at least 36 months of supervised experience in psychotherapy acceptable to the Department, after the experience that qualified for licensure as an LCSW. You must have at least 400 client contact hours per year in psychotherapy under the supervision of a qualified supervisor. Your experience must be supervised for at least two hours per month of individual supervision or four hours per month of group supervision or peer supervision or case seminars in a psychotherapy institute acceptable to the Department.

    You must submit the application for the privilege and fee and your supervisor(s) must provide his or her qualifications to supervise the practice of psychotherapy and document your supervised experience including the duration and frequency of supervision, the beginning and ending dates of practice, and client contact hours. If you meet the requirement through peer supervision, you will be required to demonstrate competency through the completion of case narratives acceptable to the Department.

    The psychotherapy privilege is not available to an LMSW or an individual licensed in any other profession. There is no requirement to maintain registration of the privilege.

If you have questions not addressed above, you may contact the office of the State Board for Social Work, at (518)474-3817, ext. 450; or e-mail SWBD@mail.nysed.gov.

Last Updated: April 9, 2014