Social Work Licensure in Massachusetts

Students interested in practicing social work in the state must apply for Massachusetts social work licensure. Any individuals in the state who offer case management, clinical, or nonclinical services in exchange for compensation must hold a license. Even assistant social workers must have social work licensure in Massachusetts.

To obtain social work licensure in Massachusetts, candidates must pass an exam, sumit references, meet education requirements, and in some cases, have documented experience. Individuals without a social work degree can still apply for Massachusetts social work licensure. The state requires licensed social workers to hold only a high school diploma or the equivalent. Candidates for licensure must also submit an application and pay an initial fee.

Social workers licensed in other states can also qualify for Massachusetts social work licensure. Out-of-state social workers who completed requirements equivalent to Massachusetts’ standards may qualify to skip the social worker test and to apply their out-of-state degree toward requirements for their Massachusetts license.

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Types of Social Work Degrees in Massachusetts

Massachusetts institutions offer several types of social work degrees, including bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most social work positions require a bachelor’s degree in social work. A bachelor’s-level social work degree qualifies graduates to become licensed social workers. However, in Massachusetts, high school graduates with field experience can also qualify for licensure.

A master’s degree in social work is considered the terminal degree in the field and prepares students for clinical positions. However, individuals interested in leadership roles, research, or teaching at the college level often pursue a doctoral degree in social work.

Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work

A bachelor’s degree in social work qualifies graduates for most entry-level administrative positions. Full-time students typically earn their bachelor’s in four years. Most BSW curricula include an internship or supervised field experience and coursework in social work ethics, types of populations, human behavior, and social welfare policies.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in social work, many graduates pursue further education to expand their career opportunities and increase earning potential. A bachelor’s in social work is ideal for students who plan to become licensed to perform nonclinical social work or case management services.

Master’s in Social Work

A master’s degree in social work typically requires three years of full-time studies and prepares learners for clinical social work positions. Master’s degree holders can apply for clinical or certified licensure. According to PayScale, clinical social workers earn higher average salaries than nonclinical social workers.

A master’s degree is ideal for students planning to pursue a specialization, such as child and family, mental health and addictions, or health and aging. A master’s degree in social work usually requires a supervised practicum or internship, along with coursework in social policy, advanced clinical practice, assessment and diagnosis, and human behavior.

Doctorate Degree in Social Work

A doctoral degree in social work involves advanced practice and coursework to prepare students for organizational leadership roles. Experienced social workers interested in research or teaching positions often pursue doctoral degrees. Individuals typically complete their doctorate in social work in four to six years. The degree usually requires an oral or written comprehensive exam, a research and teaching practicum, and a dissertation. Coursework typically covers subjects including teaching, policy, theory, and research methods.

Professionals with a doctoral degree often work as college educators, researchers, or clinical or certified social workers. Social workers with this advanced degree earn about $17,000 more per year than professionals without a doctorate, according to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW).

How to Become a Licensed Social Worker in Massachusetts

Massachusetts offers four social work licenses: licensed social worker (LSW), licensed graduate social worker (LGSW), licensed certified social worker (LCSW), and private independent practice certification (PIP).

Professionals with an LSW credential usually work in direct-service positions and must have at least a high school diploma. Professionals with this type of license can only perform nonclinical social work services.

After earning a graduate degree, candidates can apply for an LGSW license. Professionals with this type of Massachusetts social work licensure can apply for a PIP to become a licensed independent clinical social worker.

Licensed Social Worker

  1. Education: Applicants for the LBSW credential must hold either a bachelor’s degree in social work from a school with accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accreditation or at least a high school diploma with supervised field experience. The required amount of experience varies by education level.
  2. Examination: LSW candidates complete a bachelor’s-level exam administered by the ASWB. The multiple-choice test comprises 170 questions and costs $230. The exam has a four-hour time limit and measures competencies in four practice categories.
  3. References: Applicants for the LSW credential must submit two professional references and one supervisory reference. At least one reference must hold an LICSW or LCSW license. References fill out a form provided by the state Board of Registration of Social Workers.
  4. Documented Experience: Some applicants must have documented proof of supervised experience. The required amount of supervised experience depends on the candidate’s education level. Candidates with a bachelor’s degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited school do not need supervised experience. Most organizations and agencies, including the Massachusetts NASW chapter, supervise learners.

Licensed Graduate Social Worker

  1. Education: To demonstrate advanced knowledge in the field, applicants for this clinical license must hold a master’s or doctoral degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited school. Students typically complete their master’s degree in social work in two years, while a doctorate usually takes four to six years. Applicants with a graduate degree qualify for LICSW or LCSW licensure.
  2. Examination: Graduate social workers must complete either a master’s-level or clinical exam depending on their chosen licensure. The ASWB master’s exam costs $230, and the ASWB clinical exam costs $260. Candidates have four hours to complete each test. ASWB provides disability accommodations upon request.
  3. References: Depending on the type of licensure, candidates may need to submit references. Massachusetts requires at least one supervisory reference and two professional references. References must use an official form provided by the state or an agent.
  4. Documented Experience: Candidates for the LICSW credential must submit documented experience. Many social work organizations and agencies offer supervision. However, only individuals with state licensure can provide clinical or nonclinical supervision.

Licensed Certified Social Worker

  1. Education: To become an LCSW, candidates must have a master’s or doctorate from a CSWE-accredited school. A graduate degree demonstrates advanced knowledge and practice in the social work field. Full-time students typically complete a master’s program in two years. With a dissertation and practicum, doctoral programs usually last four to six years.
  2. Examination: Candidates must pass the ASWB master’s exam, a multiple-choice test with 170 questions. The exam costs $230 and has a four-hour time limit. ASWB offers disability accommodations when needed.
  3. References: References prove professionalism in the social work field. Applicants must submit a supervisory reference and two professional references. The supervisory reference must come from the student’s field placement during the second year of their social work program.
  4. Documented Experience: Unlike other licenses in Massachusetts, this credential requires no documented experience.

Private Independent Practice Certification

  1. Education: Candidates for an LICSW credential must have a master’s or doctorate in social work. Social workers in Massachusetts cannot perform clinical work without a master’s degree.
  2. Examination: This licensure requires candidates to pass the ASWB clinical exam, which costs $260. The advanced exam comprises 170 multiple-choice questions and has a four-hour time limit.
  3. References: LICSW candidates must provide references to demonstrate professionalism in the field. Candidates must submit one supervisory reference from an LICSW and two professional references from other licensed professionals, such as individuals licensed in clinical social work, psychiatry, clinical psychology, or psychiatric nursing.
  4. Documented Experience: Candidates must have at least two years and 3,500 hours of documented, post-LCSW clinical experience, including 50 face-to-face supervision hours per year. All hours must be supervised by an LICSW.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Licensed Social Worker in Massachusetts?

The amount of time required to become a social worker depends on the type of license and the candidate’s education level.

A bachelor’s degree in social work usually takes about four years to complete, and graduates may need to complete supervised experience before qualifying for social work licensure in Massachusetts. For example, LSW candidates with a bachelor’s degree in a field other than social work must complete two years (3,500 hours) of supervised experience.

Candidates for a clinical license must complete supervised experience after earning their master’s degree, which most full-time students earn in three years. Students may pursue an accelerated track to graduate more quickly.

Out of State Licensing Reciprocity in Massachusetts

Social workers who complete license requirements in other states can still obtain Massachusetts social work licensure. Out-of-state candidates must meet the same requirements as new applicants. Candidates for out-of-state reciprocity must meet education requirements, pass an ASWB exam, and submit professional and supervisory references. Depending on the license, candidates may need to provide documented experience.

The cost of obtaining social work licensure in Massachusetts is the same for new candidates and for applicants who are licensed in other states. Fees vary based on the type of license. However, candidates for reciprocity may apply previous test scores on an equivalent exam toward their application, saving the cost of taking the exam.

License Renewal

Social workers in Massachusetts must renew their state license each even-numbered year. The state sends reminders 90 days before the renewal deadline. Social workers who do not receive an application must contact the state licensing board.

Renewal requires an application and a fee. The cost of renewal ranges from $42 to $82 based on the license type. Social workers who do not meet the renewal deadline must pay a late penalty of $57.

To qualify for license renewal, social workers must complete a set number of continuing education credits. The number of required continuing education credits depends on the license type. LICSW holders must complete 30 credits, LCSW holders 20 credits, LSW holders 15 credits, and LSWA holders 10 credits.

Accredited Social Work Programs in Massachusetts

Students earning a social work degree in Massachusetts should attend an accredited program to ensure the program meets minimum academic standards. In Massachusetts, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges awards regional accreditation. Social work schools and programs may receive field-specific accreditation from CSWE.

Many employers only recognize degrees from accredited social work programs in Massachusetts. To qualify for clinical social work licensure in Massachusetts, learners must graduate from a CSWE-accredited social work program.

What Can You Do With a Social Work Degree?

After earning their social work degree, graduates can pursue a variety of career paths, including positions in hospitals, local and state government, and schools. Students often pursue specializations to prepare to treat a specific population, such as the elderly, children, or families. Learners usually choose a specialization during master’s studies; specializing often increases job opportunities and earning potential.

Social workers generally need good listening skills, patience, and empathy to build relationships and help clients navigate difficult situations. Most social work professionals work full time and sometimes spend evenings, weekends, and holidays visiting clients or attending meetings.

  • Social Worker: Social workers help clients manage and resolve everyday issues. Social workers may provide psychotherapy services, identify individuals and communities in need of help, recommend services, and respond to crisis situations. Some positions require only a bachelor’s degree. However, those interested in clinical positions must hold a master’s degree.
  • Clinical Social Worker: Clinical social workers provide therapy to individuals, groups, families, and couples. They meet with clients to develop strategies to change behavior or cope with difficult situations. They often collaborate with doctors, healthcare professionals, and clients to develop and adjust treatment plans. Clinical social workers typically specialize in one area and must hold a graduate degree.
  • School Social Worker: School social workers help students and their families deal with behavioral problems, such as repeated absences, aggressive behavior, or bullying. These social workers assesses psychological, social, and other influences affecting the student and work with teachers and parents to improve the student’s grades and social relationships.
  • Mental Health Therapist: Mental health therapists work with specific populations, such as college students, the elderly, or children. They treat conditions such as stress, anxiety, depression, and suicidal impulses. Mental health counselors may also work with families or groups. Aspiring mental health therapists must earn a master’s degree and complete an internship.
  • Community Health Worker: These professionals provide a link between the community and healthcare professionals. Community health workers collect data on specific populations, and they create and initiate plans to improve the health of individuals and communities. While some employers require a college degree, a high school diploma qualifies candidates for some community health worker positions.

Salary Expectations for Social Workers in Massachusetts

Specific salaries of professionals with a social work degree vary based on position and specialization. Clinical social workers, who need a graduate degree, typically earn more than nonclinical social workers. Community health workers, many of whom hold only a high school diploma, earn the lowest average salary among social workers in Massachusetts.

Location also influences salary. According to the BLS, social workers employed in hospitals earn an average salary of $58,490, while individual and family service employees earn an average of $40,800 annually.

The table below highlights five common careers for graduates of social work schools in Massachusetts.

Average Salary for Social Workers in Massachusetts

Clinical Social Worker$55,676
School Social Worker$58,983
Mental Health Therapist$48,479
Community Health Worker$42,500
Social Worker $49,637
Source: PayScale

Professional Organizations for Social Workers in Massachusetts

Social work students and professionals benefit from joining professional organizations. Members often have access to job listings, scholarship and fellowship opportunities, and networking events including annual conferences. Many professional organizations provide information about continuing education, certification, and professional development. Below are three prominent professional organizations for social workers in Massachusetts.

  • National Association of Social Workers – Massachusetts Chapter: Founded in 1955, the Massachusetts chapter of NASW serves more than 6,400 members. The organization’s staff members respond to inquiries regarding continuing education, licensing, and social work practice. Members have access to networking events, scholarship and fellowship opportunities, job listings, publications, and information about legislation and advocacy.
  • International Association for Social Work with Groups – Massachusetts Chapter: IASWG emphasizes social group work with a focus on social justice. The organization provides members with professional publications, access to local chapter events, and registration discounts for the association’s annual symposium. Founded in 2004, the Massachusetts chapter offers job listings and local meetings.
  • Massachusetts Association of Community Health Workers: This state association works to strengthen the community health worker profession. Members have access to leadership training, job listings, professional development forums, and certification information. Members network with other community health workers at regional chapter events and an annual conference.