Rules for licensure

Social work regulation is grounded in clear requirements for licensure, certification, or registration—qualifications and standards that ensure entry-level competence and practice standards that ensure safe, ethical practice.

Competence standards

Social workers who want to get a license must demonstrate entry-level competence by

  • Earning a social work degree from an accredited program
  • Passing the appropriate licensing exam
  • Meeting state or provincial expectations for moral character

Practice standards

Social workers are expected to abide by the profession’s code of ethics and are required to abide by their board’s standards of conduct.

Laws and regulations database

ASWB maintains a database of licensing requirements, along with links to every state and province’s statutes and rules.

Explore the Laws and Regulations database


The statutes that govern social work licensing are passed by state and provincial legislatures. These laws empower social work regulatory boards to issue licenses and enforce practice standards.

Rules and regulations

Empowered by statutes, boards implement rules for the safe, ethical practice of social work. These rules help social workers understand appropriate practice and give boards guidelines for when enforcement is needed.

Model Social Work Practice Act

ASWB’s Model Social Work Practice Act outlines best practices for social work laws and regulations.