Social Work Licensure Compact

About

The Council of State Governments (CSG) is partnering with the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) to support the mobility of licensed social workers through the development of a new interstate compact. This additional licensing pathway will facilitate multistate practice among member states and reduce the barriers to license portability.

Current Status

The Social Work Licensure Compact has been enacted in at least seven states and has reached activation status, however multistate licenses are not yet being issued. The implementation process for the compact will take 12 to 24 months before multistate licenses are able to issued.

The following language must be enacted into law by a state to officially join the Social Work Licensure Compact.

No substantive changes should be made to the model language. Any substantive changes may jeopardize the enacting state’s participation in the Compact.

The Council of State Governments National Center for Interstate Compacts reviews state compact legislation to ensure consistency with the model language.

A copy of the legislation is available below:

Contributing Organizations and Stakeholders

In addition to the Association of Social Work Boards, the following organizations contributed to the development of the Social Work Compact:

  • Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners
  • Clinical Social Work Association
  • Council on Social Work Education
  • Idaho Board of Social Work Examiners
  • Iowa Board of Social Work
  • National Association of Social Workers – Alabama
  • National Association of Social Workers – Connecticut
  • National Association of Social Workers – Minnesota
  • National Association of Social Workers – Oklahoma
  • New Hampshire Office of Professional Licensing and Certification
  • North Carolina Social Work Certification and Licensure Board
  • Oregon Board of Licensed Social Workers
  • South Carolina Board of Social Work Examiners
  • Tennessee Department of Health
  • Texas Behavioral Health Executive Council
  • Vermont Social Work Advisory Board
  • Virginia Boards of Counseling, Psychology, and Social Work

Legislative summit

In July 2023, The Council of State Governments hosted a legislative summit for policymakers to learn about the Social Work Compact. Agenda items included a framework for social work regulation, section by section review of the compact, compact perspectives panel, advocacy strategies, and audience Q&A. Access a recording of the meeting and the Powerpoint slides below.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

An interstate compact is a contract among two or more states creating an agreement on a particular policy issue, adopting a certain standard or cooperating on regional or national matters. Compacts are powerful, durable and adaptive tools for ensuring cooperative action among states. In recent years, professions have been using interstate compacts to facilitate occupational licensing reciprocity among states.

The Social Work Licensure Compact allows social workers who have or are eligible for an active, unencumbered license in the compact member state where they reside to apply for a multistate license. After verifying eligibility, the social worker is granted a multistate license which authorizes practice in all other compact member states.

The Social Work Licensure Compact allows eligible social workers to practice in all states that join the compact. The goal is to eliminate barriers to practice and to client care along with ensuring public protection. The Social Work Licensure Compact will also enhance a state’s ability to protect public safety.

Other benefits include:

  • Enhancing the mobility of social workers
  • Improving access to professional social work services
  • Improving continuity of care when clients travel or relocate
  • Supporting relocating military spouses
  • Enhancing public safety
  • Creating a data system of information about licensees including license status, investigative information and adverse actions

A social worker who wishes to use the compact to practice in other states will apply for a multistate license. To be eligible, a social worker must be eligible for or hold a license in their primary state of residence (which must be a member of the compact) and meet other eligibility criteria. When eligibility is verified and all fees are paid, the social worker receives the multistate license and may begin legally working in any compact member state.

To apply for a multistate license, a social worker’s home state where they live must first join the compact. After the social worker’s home state has joined the compact, the social worker can apply for a multistate license through the state’s social work licensing board.

No. The multistate license allows social workers to practice in all compact member states. Social workers need only apply for one multistate license rather than continuing to apply to each individual state. However, if a state is not a member of the compact, the social worker will still need to apply for that individual state’s license.

To join the compact, a state must enact the model compact legislation and meet eligibility criteria.

As stated in section 3 of the compact, to be eligible to participate in the compact, a potential member state must meet all of the following criteria:

  • License and regulate the practice of social work at either the clinical, master’s, or bachelor’s category.
  • Required accredited social work education for licensure
  • Require applicants for clinical licensure to complete a period of supervised practice.
  • Require applicants for a Multistate License pass a Qualifying National Exam.
  • Require applicants for a Multistate License undergo a FBI criminal background check

Yes, all 50 states, Washington D.C. and all U.S. territories can become a member of the Social Work Licensure Compact as long as they meet the state requirements outlined in the compact.

A social worker regardless of category must:

  • Hold or be eligible for an active, unencumbered license in their home state; 
  • Pay any applicable fees;
  • Pass a background check conducted by the home state

Category Specific Requirements

Clinical Social Workers

Masters Social Workers

Bachelors Social Workers

  • Pass Qualifying National Exam
  • Accredited MSW degree or higher
  • 3,000 hours or 2-years post graduate supervised clinical practice
  • Pass Qualifying National Exam
  • Accredited MSW degree or higher
  • Pass Qualifying National Exam
  • Accredited BSW degree or higher

As stated in Section 2 of the compact, the Qualifying National Exam is a national social work licensure examination that is approved by the compact commission. Currently the only national social work licensing examination available to states is the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) exam.

The compact specifies that licensees who wish to use the compact must pass the Qualifying National Exam that corresponds to their category of licensure. This does not mean that states must require the exam in statute for all of their licensees, only those that wish to use the compact.

Section 4 also allows for the commission to create rules that would “grandparent” those who were licensed prior to their state’s adoption of the ASWB exam as well as a substantial equivalency provision that allows the commission to approve other competency-based assessments in the future should they arise.

A licensee providing social work services in a remote state under a multistate license will function within the scope of practice as individuals who are licensed in that state. It is the responsibility of the social worker to understand the laws and rules in the state where they are practicing. Social workers must abide by the scope of practice, laws, and rules of the remote state where the client is located at the time care is rendered.

No. Social workers using the compact are only responsible for completing continuing education requirements for their home state license.

As established in Section 10 of the compact, the commission is the governing body made up of the participating states who have joined the compact. This is a supra-state, sub-federal government entity that serves as an instrumentality of the collective member states. The commission is responsible for creating regulations that administer and govern the compact. The commission’s delegates will be representatives from each state’s licensing board. Up to four, national social work organizations will be ex officio members of the commission’s executive committee.

Through the Social Work Licensure Compact, consumers have greater access to social work services. The compact allows social workers to ensure continuity of care when clients relocate.

Additionally, states gain a supplementary layer of oversight of social workers who may enter their state to practice. The data system will allow member states to verify instantaneously that social workers based in other states have met defined standards and competencies and are in good standing with other states’ regulatory boards. The compact data system will help states better protect the public.

  • Tier 1
    • Read through the educational resources found at swcompact.org/educational-resources to stay well informed on the development history, benefits, model legislation and more of the Social Work Licensure Compact.
  • Tier 2:
    • Contact your state chapter or national office of your professional membership association, or your state licensing board to inquire about opportunities to get involved.
  • Tier 3
    • Contact your state legislators to advocate for the Social Work Licensure Compact and, if there is a compact bill being considered in your state, send in a letter of support using our Letter of Support template

Email: socialworkcompact@csg.org