How to Become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in Colorado

As of 2018, more than 10,000 social workers are employed in Colorado, and career opportunities here are rising. All social work sectors, including agency and community-based services for children, youth and families, schools and healthcare, are projected to grow. The category with the highest projection of employment growth is mental health and substance abuse, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Many employment opportunities in these sectors require licensure, so if you have an interest in becoming a social worker in one of these areas, pursuing licensure after graduation will enable you to advance your social work career.

Below is an overview of the guidelines for obtaining and maintaining social work licensure in Denver or other Colorado cities after completing University of Denver’s online Master of Social Work (MSW) program, MSW@Denver.

What Is an LCSW?

An LCSW is the most advanced social work license in Colorado, enabling you to practice independently at the clinical level. To prepare for licensure, you must earn an MSW from a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)-accredited school, complete documented supervised experience and pass the relevant exams, among other requirements.

As an LCSW, you will work to help clients overcome mental health concerns and cope with life-changing events resulting from or related to anxiety, grief, depression, violence, trauma and other life stressors.

Social Work Settings and Salary

Licensed social workers and clinicians are needed in a variety of settings in Colorado, including schools, hospitals, public and private agencies and private practice. Job salaries for licensed social workers (LSWs), LCSWs or provisional licensed social workers (SWPs) in Colorado depend on many factors such as education, experience, workplace and location.

For current information on social worker salaries in Colorado, visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Steps to Become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in Colorado

In order to obtain LCSW licensure in Colorado, you must:

  1. Hold a master’s degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited school.
  2. Hold a current and unrestricted license as an LSW or equivalent in another jurisdiction.
  3. Submit a completed application to the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA). The application must be accompanied by the following items:
    • Official transcript: Provide official MSW transcript from a CSWE-accredited school.
    • Documented post-degree supervised experience: You must use the Post-Degree Experience and Supervision Form to upload documentation of 3,360 hours of social work experience over a minimum of two years and a maximum of five years including 96 hours of supervision, 48 hours of which must be face-to-face individual supervision.
    • Healthcare Professions Profile Program (HPPP): You must complete a profile, which is an ongoing responsibility and required for healthcare professionals in Colorado.
    • Passing Results Report for Colorado’s Mental Health Professions Jurisprudence Examination: You must take and pass this open-book examination online and upload a copy of your signed and dated Passing Results Report. You can pay for and take the exam as many times as necessary, every 10 days.
    • Application fee
  4. Submit an exam pre-approval application to the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) to review and determine whether you are eligible to take the ASWB exam. This generally takes 24–48 hours. Once ASWB verifies an application, you must register for, schedule and pass the ASWB clinical social work exam. If you fail the ASWB examination, you must wait 90 days to re-register, repay and retest.
  5. Apply for a license through DORA. The license approval time varies. Generally, it takes up to two weeks for DORA to receive exam scores from ASWB and another six weeks or more for DORA to issue a license.

Note: Social work regulations can change. For the most up-to-date information on preparing for licensure in Colorado, you should contact the state’s social work licensing board to learn more about the requirements for obtaining a social work license. 

University of Denver’s online MSW program will prepare you to pursue licensure, including LCSW. Learn more about MSW@Denver.

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Other Social Work Licenses Available in Colorado

There are two other social work licensure options available in Colorado: licensed social worker (LSW) and provisional licensed social worker (SWP).

The guidelines below provide general information, so be sure to visit Colorado’s State Board of Social Work Examiners to read about additional requirements.

Licensed Social Worker (LSW)

This license is available for those obtaining first-time licensure after completing the MSW program. You must earn an MSW from a CSWE-accredited college or university and pass the ASWB intermediate, advanced generalist or clinical social work exam to be eligible to apply for this license. An LSW gives you the status of being a licensed professional and allows you to earn an LCSW once you meet requirements.

Provisional Licensed Social Worker (SWP)

This license is reserved for those who want to work under supervision in a residential child care facility. If you are interested in obtaining a provisional license, you must earn a master’s degree in your field of study and work solely for a residential child care facility under supervision as a marriage and family therapist, professional counselor, psychologist or social worker.

As a social worker, you may be eligible for a provisional license if your employer is a state-approved agency. Check with the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) to determine if an agency is approved by the state of Colorado.  

Note: Social work regulations can change. For the most up-to-date information on preparing for licensure in Colorado, you should contact the state’s social work licensing board to learn more about the requirements for obtaining a social work license. 

Social Work Post-Licensure

Colorado-issued social work licenses expire on August 31 of odd-numbered years or every two years from issue date. Renewal periods open approximately six weeks prior to the expiration date. To renew, reinstate or reactivate licenses, all social workers must complete and maintain an online Healthcare Professions Profile and satisfy the continuing professional competency requirement by one of the following methods:

  1. Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Program
    (Many social work schools offer continuing professional development opportunities. Learn more about the GSSW’s CPD workshops.)
  2. Deem Status
  3. Military Exemption 

As part of the CPD, licensees must complete 40 hours of professional development activities or categories approved by the State Board of Social Work Examiners with no more than 20 hours in any single category. 

Licensees who are not practicing social work in Colorado but want to keep their license must complete an Inactive Status External link  application which will simultaneously renew their license and place it on inactive status. An inactive license must be renewed every two years like an active license. Renewal, reinstatement and reactivation fees vary.

Visit Colorado’s DORA website for more information on Continuing Professional Development.

Social Work License Reciprocity

Colorado’s State Board of Social Work Examiners accepts the social work and clinical social work license applications from applicants who have become licensed in other states through the license-by-endorsement application process. The license level must be equivalent to apply by endorsement. Applicants are also required to complete the jurisprudence exam and HPPP profile. 

If an applicant did not take and pass the ASWB Intermediate, Clinical or Advanced Generalist exam for licensure, the applicant is required to apply by examination and not by endorsement in Colorado.

For more information on reciprocity in Colorado, visit the State Board of Social Work Examiners.

Resources for Becoming a Social Worker in Colorado

University of Denver’s Online MSW Grounded in Social Justice

At the University of Denver’s Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW), we take a holistic approach to social work education, addressing the impacts of oppression and injustice on individuals, families, communities and groups.

MSW@Denver, GSSW’s online MSW program, meets the educational requirements for social work licensure in Colorado. MSW@Denver will prepare you with the skills needed to take Colorado’s Mental Health Professions Jurisprudence Examination and ASWB’s clinical social work exam to become an LCSW through a customized education:

  • Learn from faculty who will push you to think critically about your worldview and development as a social work professional.
  • Explore coursework in our Mental Health and Trauma concentration, which focuses on clinical and community-based interventions, advanced theory and research related to mental health, substance use and trauma.
  • Complete field education where you will apply what you’ve learned in the classroom, working alongside an experienced social worker at an internship near your community.

MSW@Denver offers four start dates throughout the year, and applications are reviewed on a rolling basis. We offer two program tracks online, a traditional MSW and an advanced standing MSW for those who have earned a Bachelor of Social Work at any point in time.