Social Work License Reciprocity in North Carolina

Written by Jack Levinson

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When pursuing their licensure, social workers are advised to find accreditation in the state that they intend to live in. But what happens when social workers move from one state to another?

License reciprocity is the process by which credentialed social workers can put their professional experience towards accreditation in other states, allowing them to continue their careers seamlessly. While this process can involve some additional work, it spares licensed social workers from the arduous process of acquiring their licensure afresh.

North Carolina does not offer automatic license reciprocity to incoming licensed social workers. Rather, those moving to the state must be approved by the North Carolina Social Work Certification and Licensure Board (NCSWCLB).

Though this may seem daunting to social workers who are thinking of relocating, it’s a process one can plan for and pull off with ease.

Read on to learn more about social work license reciprocity in North Carolina, from guidelines for your application to the time frame you can anticipate the process to take.

How Mobility Can Help Social Workers Expand Their Careers

In this day and age, working professionals are significantly more mobile than those of previous generations. This flexibility has not always extended to people who hold occupational licenses. However, license reciprocity makes it easier for social workers to relocate, streamlining the credentialing process and allowing them to bypass retraining or requalification procedures. For those who do decide to move, the decision to relocate can be an asset in your career rather than a hindrance.

For one thing, those who are interested in social work on a macro level will find it illuminating and enriching to gain an understanding of the needs of new communities. From the client’s perspective, it means you will be able to provide a richer and broader base of experience to draw from.

Relocating can also be an opportunity to build new skills untapped by previous social work positions. This can make you a more well-rounded social worker and can be a smart long-term investment in your career, as it will open up more opportunities for you in the future.

It’s understandable if transferring your license is an intimidating process. But for those who plan to move, these benefits should sweeten the deal.

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Social Work License Reciprocity Guidelines in North Carolina

If you’re moving to North Carolina as a licensed social worker, you’ll have to apply to the NCSWCLB to grant you a reciprocal license. This is a multi-step process which you can find below:

1. Verification of current license

As soon as you begin seeking your reciprocal license, you must make sure your existing license is active and in good standing. It will be difficult to receive approval from the NCSWCLB if your current license is lapsed or restricted.

2. Complete your licensure application

You will need to complete an application for licensure by endorsement with the NCSWCLB. The specific application form and requirements are subject to variation from year to year, so it’s essential to review their guidelines to ensure you have the most up-to-date information possible.

3. Provide required documents

The NCSWCLB is likely to require the following documents with your completed licensure application:

Be sure to double-check the NCSWCLB’s required documents to confirm that they do not request any additional materials. Needed documents are subject to change from year to year.

4. Pay application fees

Unfortunately, applying for license reciprocity normally involves paying a service fee to the licensing board. In some cases this includes both application fees and processing fees.

5. Background check

Since social workers perform critical practices for vulnerable communities, they are subject to diligent background checks before being granted reciprocal licenses. This can include fingerprinting, reference confirmations, and more.

6. Waiting period and approval

Once you have submitted your application and additional documentation in full, your side of the work will be done. It’s worth submitting these materials well in advance of your move date, as processing times can vary dramatically. Upon being approved, you will receive your North Carolina social work credential and be ready to resume your practice in your new home.

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What is license reciprocity?

License reciprocity is the system by which states allow those holding occupational licenses to continue their practices without restarting their credentialing process. It can be known more informally as “license transferring.” Some states offer automatic license reciprocity, though North Carolina does not; rather, all who wish to transfer their licenses as they relocate to the state must apply to the licensing board.

How long does the license reciprocity process take in North Carolina?

Unfortunately, there is no set answer to the question of how long it takes to receive a reciprocal license in social work in North Carolina. Fortunately, preparing the application itself should not take long on your end, as most of the documentation required will be easy enough for you to assemble. However, you may have to wait for some time before receiving approval. Your wait time is subject to change depending on when you send it, what type of credential you hold, and a host of other factors that can’t be anticipated. This means it is in your best interest to apply early – i.e., several months early – before making your move, as without your license you will not be able to seek work opportunities in the state.

Is there a continuing education component of the license reciprocity application in North Carolina?

No, there are no continuing education requirements for those who wish to transfer their credentials in North Carolina. However, North Carolina social workers are expected to renew their licenses every two years, with a mandatory 40 hours of continuing education included in those guidelines. This means that not long after receiving your reciprocal license, you will need to complete continuing education in order to renew it.

What are substantial equivalency requirements?

North Carolina’s license reciprocity process requires that the applicant hold a certification that is “substantially equivalent” to the one they will receive upon moving to the state. This means licenses that require a comparable level of education and testing in order to qualify. Most likely, if you hold another state social work license at the same level (LMSW, LCSW, etc.), it will be deemed substantially equivalent. However, your other application materials will still be subject to the board’s review.