How to Become a Social Worker in New Jersey

social worker with woman
social worker with woman

Many avenues are available to professionals in the field of social work, spanning diverse sectors such as healthcare, educational institutions, private practices and governmental agencies. The demand for skilled social workers in the state is high, reflecting the ever-evolving nature of social issues. In New Jersey, nearly one-third of social worker positions remained unfilled, with over 500 jobs vacant, according to a 2022 study. Additionally, the study revealed that at least 25% of behavioral health providers were not accepting new patients, leading to extended wait times of up to three months for intake and counseling sessions, and over five months to secure a clinical appointment.

Fortunately, numerous opportunities are available for those keen on pursuing a career in social work to help fill the gap, with several coveted positions featured among the top thirty in the U.S. News & World Report's Best Social Services Jobs list.

Those roles include:

  • Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselor
  • Mental Health Counselor
  • Clinical Social Worker
  • Marriage and Family Therapist
  • Child and Family Social Worker

Individuals interested in these professions may wonder how to become a social worker in New Jersey and what  a typical social worker's salary is in New Jersey. Delve into the necessary steps required to attain a master’s degree, a pivotal qualification for embarking on a successful career in social work within the state and explore the diverse career trajectories across various social work roles in New Jersey.

Educational and Licensure Requirements for New Jersey Social Workers

Navigating the path to becoming a social worker in New Jersey involves understanding distinct educational and licensure prerequisites tailored to individual career aspirations. While entry-level positions welcome candidates with a bachelor’s degree, aspiring social workers eyeing roles, particularly in clinical settings, often find that a Master’s in Social Work (MSW) is a crucial requirement for practice in New Jersey. Additionally, the employment outlook for social workers in New Jersey is positive. From 2020 through 2030, projected employment for social workers is on the rise in New Jersey, including for Child, Family and School Social Workers (8.9% growth), Healthcare Social Workers (9.6% growth), and Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers (14.3% growth). 

Licensed Social Worker (LSW) Eligibility Requirements

To become a Licensed Social Worker (LSW) in New Jersey, applicants must meet specific eligibility criteria outlined by the licensing board. The application process involves the submission of the following:

  • A completed application form providing details about the applicant's relevant skills and educational and experiential background.
  • A Certification and Authorization Form for a Criminal History Background Check. Once submitted, applicants will receive further instructions on completing the background check.
  • The application fee, as specified in N.J.A.C. 13:44G-14.1.
  • An official transcript confirming attaining a master's degree in social work from an accredited program or one in candidacy for accreditation by the Council on Social Work Education.
  • Proof of successful completion of the master's level examination administered by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWBs).

Applicants pursuing a master's degree in social work, enrolled in the last semester of an accredited educational program are also eligible to take the master's level examination.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) Educational Requirements

Becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in New Jersey also involves meeting specific criteria and ensuring a robust combination of education and practical experience. The following outlines the comprehensive requirements for LCSW licensure:

Educational Qualifications:

  • Complete an official transcript indicating the attainment of a master's degree in social work from an accredited program or one in candidacy for accreditation by the Council on Social Work Education or a doctorate in social work from an accredited institution of higher education.
  • Complete 12 semester hours of graduate-level coursework in clinical social work practice methods (excluding field placement) from an accredited program. These credits should cover diagnosis and assessment, psychotherapy models, clinical supervision, consultation or intervention with special populations.

Supervised Clinical Experience:

  • Acquire two years of full-time clinical social work experience, totaling 3,000 hours, under direct supervision following the standards outlined in N.J.A.C. 13:44G-8.1.
  • Ensure that at least 1,920 hours involve face-to-face client contact, half dedicated to psychotherapeutic counseling. The remaining 1,080 hours can include supervision or other social work services.

Examination and Certification:

  • Successfully complete the clinical examination administered by the ASWB.
  • Provide proof of being a licensed social worker when acquiring the specified clinical social work experience or evidence of engaging in social work practice in a setting where licensure is not required.
  • Applicants must diligently adhere to these requirements to qualify for LCSW licensure in New Jersey. If the examination has not been taken, applicants are advised to seek approval before proceeding.

Application Process:

  • Submit a completed application form detailing your educational and experiential background.
  • Provide a Certification and Authorization Form for a Criminal History Background Check, with additional instructions provided upon submission.
  • Pay the application fee as per N.J.A.C. 13:44G-14.1.

licensed clinical social worker and clients

Social Work Careers in New Jersey

Those who ask, “how do I become a social worker in New Jersey?” may also be curious about potential social work careers in their area. Social workers in New Jersey play a vital role across diverse settings, contributing to the well-being of individuals and communities daily. The state boasts a substantial number of social workers, particularly in three major categories:

1. Child, Family and School Social Workers

These dedicated professionals focus on enhancing the well-being of children, families and individuals within school environments, nonprofits or private practices. Working diligently to aid and protect children facing vulnerable situations, these social workers provide crucial support that extends beyond the classroom. Moreover, Licensed Clinical Social Workers within this category are equipped to deliver essential mental health care to children and families, addressing emotional and behavioral challenges. To become an LSW or LCSW in this field, individuals typically start their fieldwork in child welfare agencies, schools, or related settings.

Potential Child, Family and School Social Worker Careers:

  • Child Welfare Social Worker
  • Adoption Social Worker
  • Family Counselor
  • Children's Mental Health Counselor
  • Youth Services Social Worker
  • School-Based Mental Health Clinician

2. Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers

Addressing the critical intersection of mental health and substance abuse, social workers in this category provide indispensable support to individuals grappling with psychological distress, drug addiction or alcoholism. Their roles extend across various settings, including rehabilitation centers, hospitals, clinics and social service organizations. For those in private practice, particularly LCSWs, psychotherapy becomes a key offering, contributing significantly to the mental well-being of their clients. To progress toward becoming an LSW or LCSW, individuals often gain experience in roles like Mental Health Crisis Intervention Specialist or Substance Abuse Counselor.

Potential Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Work Careers:

  • Substance Abuse Counselor
  • Addiction Counselor
  • Mental Health Crisis Intervention Specialist
  • Military and Veterans Social Worker (Mental Health)
  • Recovery Support Specialist:

3. Healthcare Social Workers

Integral to the healthcare system, social workers in healthcare settings, including hospitals, rehabilitation centers and nursing homes, support patients and their families. Beyond traditional medical care, these professionals contribute to community health efforts, providing guidance to caregivers and collaborating with other healthcare professionals. The holistic care they facilitate ensures that patients receive medical attention and benefit from comprehensive support to navigate the complexities of healthcare systems. To become an LSW or LCSW in healthcare, aspiring social workers might pursue roles like Medical Social Worker or Pediatric Social Worker during their BSW or MSW to accumulate relevant experience.

Potential Healthcare Social Worker Careers:

  • Medical Social Worker
  • Hospice Social Worker
  • Pediatric Social Worker
  • Oncology Social Worker
  • Geriatric Social Worker

In New Jersey, the impact of social workers is felt across a broad spectrum of sectors, making a meaningful difference in the lives of individuals and communities. Whether advocating for vulnerable populations, providing mental health services or ensuring holistic healthcare support, social workers contribute significantly to the overall well-being of the state's diverse population.

Job Outlook and Social Worker Salary in New Jersey

Across the country, employment of social workers is projected to grow 7 percent from 2022 to 2032, which is faster than the average for all occupations. The estimated total occupational employment in social work is also high in New Jersey:

  • Child, Family and School Social Workers: 5,750 projected jobs
  • Healthcare Social Workers: 3,010 projected jobs
  • Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers: 1,530 projected jobs
  • Social Workers, All Other: 840 projected jobs

An MSW opens the door to high-paying careers in social work. The national median annual salary for social workers as of May 2022 was $55,350. Here are the median social worker salaries in New Jersey based on distinct roles:

Child, Family and School Social Workers

Healthcare Social Workers

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers

  • The median annual social worker salary in New Jersey for mental health and substance abuse social workers is $92,850.

Social Workers, All Other

  • The median annual social worker salary in New Jersey for all other social workers is $67,030.

online master of social work student

Become a Social Worker in New Jersey with an Online MSW from Keuka College

Start a rewarding journey to become a social worker in New Jersey through the Online Master of Social Work (MSW) program at Keuka College. If you aspire to make a positive impact on the lives of New Jersey residents, our program may be the perfect fit for you. Keuka College is a premier institution in the state of New York, offering a 100% online social work education. The program offers two distinct tracks tailored to meet the diverse needs of aspiring social work professionals.

Advanced Track MSW

Designed for those with a bachelor’s in social work (BSW), the advanced track elevates careers of social workers on their path to become clinical mental health practitioners capable of accepting insurance referrals. The coursework, conducted entirely online, provides flexibility and with field placement services for your field practicum requirement, the program can be completed in under two years.

Traditional Track MSW

The traditional track offers a comprehensive three-year program for individuals with a bachelor’s degree in a field other than social work. Like the advanced track, it features 100% online coursework and field placement services for your field practicum requirement, ensuring a well-rounded educational experience.

Both tracks are centered around key program themes, ensuring a clinically focused curriculum:

  • Professional and Ethical Development: Build a robust professional identity and capabilities for ethical, conscious and informed clinical social work practice.
  • Clinical Social Work Competencies: Expand and integrate theoretical knowledge and skills for effective social work assessment and intervention.
  • Integrating Theory and Evidence-Based Practice: Apply skills through experiential learning, discussions and assignments that support integrating theory, professional ethics and values.
  • Social Policy, Diversity and Human Rights: Explore the framework of social welfare policy in the United States, becoming an informed advocate for human rights.

The Keuka College Online MSW program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) and aligns with the educational requirements for the Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) exam in  New Jersey. With this degree, you can prepare for various impactful careers, including psychotherapy, substance abuse counseling and medical social work.

Take the first step toward a meaningful career by downloading the Online MSW program guide today.