How to Become a Social Worker in New York


New York City has one of the most demographically diverse populations in the entire world. If working with and supporting diverse communities piques your interest, this guide on how to become a social worker in New York will help you get started.

Learn how to get your social worker license in New York, including how long it takes, costs, and typical salaries for social workers in the state.

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Steps to Becoming a Social Worker in New York

New York offers two types of social work licenses: licensed master social workers (LMSWs) and licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs). The New York State Education Department’s Office of the Professions governs how to become a social worker in New York.

  • LMSWs can perform social work functions, but not diagnose mental health issues or provide counseling.
  • LCSWs can complete social work functions, including diagnosing and counseling clients.

Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)

To become a LMSW in New York, you must earn a bachelor’s degree and then a master of social work (MSW). If your undergraduate degree is a bachelor of social work (BSW), you may be eligible for advanced standing in your MSW program and graduate in about one year.

You must also demonstrate that you are “of good moral character,” according to the department. A criminal arrest or conviction or history of a substance use disorder does not necessarily disqualify you, but you must disclose any incidents.

When you have completed the required coursework in child abuse, you are eligible to apply to take the Association of Social Workers Board (ASWB) masters examination. Once you have passed the examination, you can receive your license.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

The requirements to become a LCSW are similar to the requirements to become a LMSW. The main difference is that you must have experience for this license. You often need an LMSW license in order to complete the experience requirement to become an LCSW. LCSWs can diagnose mental health issues and provide counseling as part of their service to clients.

Like the licensed master social worker requirements in New York, LCSW requirements include:

  • A degree from an accredited MSW program
  • Thirty-six months of post-MSW supervised social work experience. You can apply for a one-year license to practice under a licensed social worker if you have fewer than 36 months of experience from your education.
  • Passing the ASWB clinical examination
  • Completing a child abuse course from an approved provider

How Long Does it Take to Become a Social Worker in New York?

For a full-time student, it can take at least six years to become an LMSW and up to nine to become a LCSW.

For both LMSW and LCSW licenses, you will need a bachelor’s degree to enter an MSW program. If you have a BSW degree that you earned within the last five years, you may be eligible for advanced standing, which allows you to complete the program faster. Students with an undergraduate degree in another field typically earn an MSW in two years.

You can earn an LMSW license once you graduate with an MSW, pass the examination, and complete the required child abuse prevention coursework. Once you complete the 36 months of experience and pass the clinical examination, you can become a LCSW in New York.

How Much Will a Social Work Degree Cost in New York?

Earning a social work degree and meeting all the social worker requirements in New York can be expensive. Attending a public school, living at home or having roommates, and financial aid and scholarships can reduce the total cost.

Undergraduate tuition and fees cost a median $37,600/year at a private school and $9,400/year at a public school in 2020-21, according to National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Tuition for a graduate degree was $23,507/year at a private school and $11,666/year for a public school.

New York City’s high cost of living will mean higher incidental expenses, although most New Yorkers save on transportation by using the public transportation system.

In general, a BSW and MSW will likely cost approximately $65,000 at a public school in New York. If you attend a private school, you might spend three times that. If you live on campus, that can add even more to the total cost, though in some cases, dormitory housing may be cheaper than an apartment.

As an LCSW, you may be eligible for loan forgiveness if you work in an area with a shortage of mental health workers. While many of these are rural areas, you can find eligible locations even within New York City, if your dream is to work there. Loan forgiveness doesn’t reduce the initial cost of your education, but does help reduce the burden.

How Much Do Social Workers Make in New York?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), social workers in New York earned the following wages as of May 2022:

Social Worker Salaries in New York
OccupationAverage Hourly Wage (NY)Average Annual Wage (NY)
Child, Family, and School Social Workers$34$70,690
Healthcare Social Workers$29$60,440
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers$38$79,700
Social Workers, All Other$38$78,540

Source: BLS

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), social worker salaries in New York are higher than the $59,440 average annual salary for all social workers in the United States.

However, especially in New York City, the cost of living is considerably higher than the rest of the country, so a higher salary does not necessarily mean more spending power. According to Payscale, the cost of living in the city is 128% higher than the rest of the United States.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Social Worker in New York

What can you do as a social worker in New York?

As a social worker in New York, you can administer social programs or initiatives as an LMSW. This might include running an agency, leading a team of social workers, designing and evaluating the impact of various social work interventions, or advocating for different communities.

As an LCSW, you can work with individual clients and provide assessment, diagnosis, and counseling, along with leading or administering social programs.

Can you practice as a social worker in New York with a BSW?

Under the supervision of a licensed social worker, you can perform social work functions in New York with a bachelor’s of social work (BSW), but you may not call yourself a licensed social worker or practice without supervision. Even under supervision, you are not allowed to diagnose patients or provide therapy.

How much does it cost to apply for a New York social work license?

The initial LMSW or LCSW application fee is $294. If you apply online, you must pay by credit card. If you apply by mail, you can pay with a check or money order in U.S. currency only. It costs $224 to renew your license.

Is it worth it to become a social worker in New York?

Whether it is worth it to you, depends on your goals and interests. Social work is not as financially rewarding as many other careers that require a master’s degree, or even some that require only an associate degree. However, many are drawn to social work to make a difference in the lives of people and communities in need of support and assistance.