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Social Work Licensure

To practice social work in Minnesota, one must be licensed, except for:

  • Students enrolled in an accredited program in an internship setting
  • Employees of a city, county or state agencies
  • Federally recognized tribes and private, non-profit agencies with a minority focus

Licenses are granted for graduates of accredited programs who apply and pass a national examination developed by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) and administered by the State Board of Social Work. There are four levels of licensure governed by degree level and practice type:

License Level

Licensed Social Work (LSW)
Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW)
Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW)
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW)

Degree Level
BSW Degree level (basic exam)
MSW or DSW level
MSW or DSW level + (2 years of unsupervised practice)
MSW or DSW level + (2 years of supervised clinical practice

Preparation while still in school

If you want to become licensed, you can start the process 6 months before your graduation date.

  1. Apply for licensure. Contact the Board of Social Work and they will mail you an application packet. Complete the application and mail it back to the Board.
  2. The Licensure Application fee is $45.
  3. Prepare for the exam. The exam is given by ASWB, the Association of Social Work Boards. The ASWB is somewhat like the College Board (SAT/ACT) for social work. ASWB offers study guides for the exam and there are also prep courses conducted by several companies. The BSW curriculum well prepares you for the exam and the pass-rate without prep courses is 90%+ on the first try.
  4. Take and pass the exam. The exam is given at test centers, just like the SAT and ACT.
  5. The Exam Fee is $230 (add this to the License Application Fee for the total cost of getting your license).
  6. Send in your final transcript as proof of completion of your degree. The Board will then license you.

Contact the Minnesota Board of Social Work
2829 University Avenue Southeast Suite 340
Minneapolis MN 55414-3239
Phone: 612-617-2100 Toll Free: 888-234-1320 TTY 800-627-3529

Why You Should Be Licensed: Anthony A. Bibus III, Ph.D.
Augsburg Social Work Professor Emeritus

Although the primary purpose of licensing is to set minimum standards of competence and to provide legal recourse for people who use social work services that fall below standards (i.e. “public protection”), licensure also brings indirect benefits to social workers ourselves. these include:

  • recognition as a regulated profession
  • employment opportunities
  • vendor status and access to third-party payments
  • opportunities and encouragement to maintain competencies through continuing education
  • establishment of a code of conduct and ethical standards in law
  • the pride that comes from committing to professional standards and holding ourselves accountable to them

Anthony A. Bibus III, Ph.D., LISW, Professor, is co-author with Needha Boutte-Queen of

“Regulating Social Work: A Primer on Licensing Practice” (2011, Lyceum Books).