Five Social Work License Myths: BUSTED

Get the facts on social work license regulations and requirements

Do you need a social work license? How do you get it? Is it worth it?

Licensing in social work has become a source of confusion and misinformation, especially given the evolving process and varying requirements. But fear not! Here we examine the truth behind five licensure beliefs.

Belief #1

All social workers must obtain a social work license


This is a common misconception. Licensing regulations vary from state to state, with some requiring licensure, some requiring certification, some requiring registration—and most being tricky to navigate. Check out UNE’s State Licensing Requirements to find requirements for the state you want to practice in and to see if you’ll need an MSW, LSW, LCSW, or LISW.

UNE’s MSW program is aligned with State of Maine social work licensing requirements. Because licensing requirements vary by state, we encourage you to research the requirements for the state in which you intend to practice.

Belief #2

Licensing protects the public


Professional licensing is a state’s best effort at protecting its citizens from professional misconduct and malpractice. Holding a license binds you to a certain code of ethics or conduct that has the public’s best interest in mind. And when you’re dealing with sensitive matters like public health, safety, and welfare, it’s important to follow the rules. That’s why every state, the District of Columbia, each U.S. territory, and all 10 Canadian provinces regulate practice.

Belief #3

Having a social work license gives you more credibility


It’s no surprise—people usually feel more comfortable in the hands of professionals with acronyms at the end of their names. Licensure credentials may not always signify better care, but in the field of social work, those letters allow you to advance professionally and command higher salaries. In some settings — particularly in healthcare — having a license establishes your credibility with colleagues, building trust and opening up more opportunities to collaborate. Being licensed also enables you to request reimbursement for your services from insurance companies and is often the only way to receive direct payment.

Belief #4

Social Work licensing laws protect practice and title


States that require licensing for social workers can do so by legally restricting the title of “social worker” or the practice of “social work” — or both. Such laws stipulate that only qualified personnel may practice social work or hold the title, further increasing the credibility of your license. Currently, 45 U.S. jurisdictions protect title and practice, while four protect title only and four protect practice only.

Belief #5

Acquiring a social work license is easy


We won’t lie to you. Beyond the knowledge, discipline, and determination required to get your social work license, the hoops you have to jump through to get licensed can be exacting. Your state’s chapter of the National Association of Social Workers makes the process easier, and when you get your dream social work job, you’ll be glad you went the extra mile to earn your license.

If you are interested in pursuing your Master’s in Social Work, or even if you’re simply interested in discussing the program, please reach out to an Enrollment Counselor at (207) 221-4143 or via email at

Or, fill out an online application now at We look forward to hearing from you!

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