LSW & LCSW Licensure


PRE July 16, 2020 NASW-CO's Steps To Licensure Flow Sheet can be found here and narrative versions can be found here (LSW & LCSW) and here (in Community Mental Health Center settings).

Anticipated changes with the expected July 16, 2020 addition of a Clinical Social Worker Candidate Status (and ending of the Registered Psychotherapist status so that it won't be possible to APPLY as an RP after July 15); the exact timeline and details for CSW Candidate Status implementation is still to be determined by DORA and will be updated here once we know more. For many years per Statute and DORA Rules, unless working in a setting that is exempt or offers provisional licensure through DORA, MSW graduates who wanted to start counting clinical hours toward their LCSW had to be either LSWs (requiring an ASWB exam- it could have been the Master exam or the Clinical exam and for a time the Advanced Generalist exam) or Registered Psychotherapists - no clinical hours toward the LCSW could be earned outside of these routes. Clinical hours for the LCSW were then good for five years. All of this is still exactly the same through July 15 - no changes. We anticipate that on July 16 the only change to this process will be that an MSW graduate who wants to earn clinical hours toward their LCSW will no longer have the option of to NEWLY register with DORA as a Registered Psychotherapist to earn those hours but will instead have the option of completing a DORA application, HPPP and the Jurisprudence exam (just as they would have done as a Registered Psychotherapist) and then can become a Clinical Social Worker Candidate and earn their clinical hours... no ASWB exam needed to become a CSW Candidate. The CSW Candidate status will be good for four years by which time the Candidate will need to take the ASWB Clinical Exam to become an LCSW. There is also still the totally unchanged option of becoming an LSW, which still requires passage of an ASWB exam. And, we believe that those who had received their Registered Psychotherapist status before July 16 would be able to continue, as active RPs, to accrue clinical supervision hours for up to five years (or could switch to CSW Candidates). When we have more guidance on these details from DORA, we will update our website. 

Detailed information about requirements for earning a license, including supervision, may be found in the Mental Health Practice Act Statute and the DORA Social Work Rules (links in side bar) . The School Social Work License is through the Colorado Department of Education (not DORA). For more information see CDE info.

Social Work licensing falls under the Mental Health Licensing Section of the Division of Professions and Occupations within the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA). Colorado currently has two licenses for social workers: the LSW and the LCSW. These two licenses are for MSWs only as there is no licensure for BSW level social workers in Colorado.

The LSW for graduates of MSW programs who will practice under supervision is (generally) required for those working toward a LCSW*. NASW strongly recommends that while pursuing the LCSW, social workers first become licensed as LSWs, thereby staying within the social work profession with oversight by the CO Board of Social Work Examiners; enabling the possibility for licensure and telehealth in other states; and enabling billing in certain settings such as FQHCs. *There are exceptions to the LSW requirement. A master's level social worker may be eligible for a Provisional License offered by an employer who is a state approved agency or a master's level social worker may be eligible to work in an "Exempt" facility such as some Community Mental Health Centers; You must check with DORA to determine if your agency is classified as such. Or, while not recommended by NASWCO, another option while pursuing an LCSW is to list in the "unlicensed registered psychotherapist" database, with oversight by the CO Board of Registered Psychotherapists. NASW recommends that those who choose this route, upon receiving their LCSW, change their DORA Registration to the Board of Social Work Examiners to be overseen by that Board. 

Note that the LSW may also be acquired by MSWs under supervision in indirect/macro practice. Colorado does not currently have a license for the independent practice of indirect/macro social work (in previous years there was the LISW).

Be certain to understand Colorado's Continued Professional Development requirements for LSWs and LCSWs.  Additionally, there are HPPP/Skolnik Act requirements.  Be sure to adhere to both these requirements.

Colorado's MH Practice Act Statute, Section 12-245-217 allows those licensed in other states to practice for up to 20 days in Colorado without having to become licensed in CO (see side bar for Statute link and scroll to 12-245-217; must be in good standing with other licensure boards and practice within scope). 

Although NASW continues its longtime advocacy on this front, there is (generally) no automatic reciprocity for licensure with another state, but in Colorado (and many other states) there is a process called Licensure by Endorsement (some states' emergency orders, such as during COVID-19, may allow reciprocity so check NASW resource pages during such emergencies). DORA oversees Licensure by Endorsement to obtain a Colorado license if one is licensed in another state. Social workers must complete the License by Endorsement Application (see the link to DORA Licensing Services and scroll to Endorsement section) and show that they have met the equivalent requirements of a Colorado LSW or LCSW license. Social workers must show that they have the appropriate degree and have previously passed the appropriate ASWB exam. In addition, the Colorado Jurisprudence Exam will need to be taken and passed. Transcripts may be required as well. For more information, please see the links in the grey box on this web page.

For information about what to do if you forgot to renew your license see the License Renewal Information..

Licensees who are not currently practicing in the state but who want to keep a license may put it on "Inactive Status".  See details.

License Exam Prep Course

Links on Licensure:

NASW-CO's Steps To Licensure Flow Sheet can be found here. - Info on how to initiate application for licensure (start here)

ASWB Exam - info on the license exam

DORA Board of Social Work Examiners - homepage, update address, online services

DORA Licensing Forms - for original license by exam, original license by endorsement, or for provisional application

Check Application Status - for applications in progress

Mental Health Practice Act - CO licensing law

DORA Rules - of the Social Work Board

DORA Practice Policy(s) - of the Social Work Board

DORA HPPP/Skolnik Act Program

Jurisprudence Exam Help - help from the Chapter includes exam resources & links

DORA Cont Professional Development Portal 

DORA License Lookup - verify a license

DORA Complaint - file a complaint about a licensee

DORA Disciplinary Actions- current and past board actions