About licensing and regulation

The purpose of licensing and certification in social work is to assist the public through identification of standards for the safe professional practice of social work. Each jurisdiction defines by law what is required for each category of social work licensure. Typically, there are four categories of practice that jurisdictions may legally regulate.

Bachelors: Baccalaureate social work degree upon graduation
Masters: Master’s degree in social work (MSW) with no post-degree experience
Advanced Generalist: MSW with two years post-master’s supervised experience
Clinical: MSW with two years post-master’s direct clinical social work experience


Social work regulatory boards generally require that social work degrees must be obtained from programs of social work that are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), Canadian Association for Social Work Education(CASWE), or other nationally recognized accrediting agencies. Degrees earned outside the U.S. and Canada must be determined to be equivalent. One widely used equivalency service is the CSWE International Social Work Degree Recognition and Evaluation Service.

Non-social work degrees are accepted in some instances for Bachelors licenses. Some jurisdictions regulate only one of these practice categories, while most regulate two or more categories of social work practice. A summary table containing the licensing requirements may be accessed through ASWB’s social work regulation database.