Licensure and Exam FAQ

Social Work Licensure

In Iowa, master’s level license is required to practice as a social worker to ensure that social workers have the necessary knowledge, skills, and ethics to provide effective and safe services to clients. This helps to protect the public and ensure that social workers are held to high professional standards. A license also provides a mechanism for addressing and disciplining any unethical or unprofessional behavior.

Social Work Requirements by State

Licensing Exam FAQ

Do I need to take the exam?

Yes. All master’s level social workers in Iowa must be licensed to practice social work.

Can I take the exam before I graduate?

Yes. The Program Administrator will send a Qualtrics link for you to respond if you want to apply to the Iowa Board in the spring before you graduate.  If you respond yes, she will send the letter confirming that you are expected to graduate in May directly to the Board. 

How do I apply to take the exam?

We will describe the process during advanced practicum seminar, fall or spring semester. To learn more about the steps and process, go to the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) web site. ASWB is the social work testing service for the United States. Download the ASWB Candidate Handbook here.


Apply for licensure in Iowa at the Iowa Board of Social Work website. Create an account at and apply.

Go to MyUI to request your transcript from the University of Iowa Registrar Office. Check send transcript “End of Current Semester Degree.” Provide the address for the Iowa Board of Social Work:

Bureau of Professional Licensure
Iowa Department of Public Health
Lucas State Office Building, 5th Floor
321 East 12th Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0075

NOTE: The Registrar will send your transcript to the Iowa Board about three weeks after you graduate. For more details, visit

You will be notified by the Iowa Board when your application for licensure is accepted. They will describe how to schedule your exam. For additional information about scheduling the exam, go to: and click on the “Exam Candidate” button. 

Where can I take the exam?

For a list of test sites, go to

How do I request an accommodation?

To arrange an accommodation, you must complete the ASWB request form In addition, consult with your State’s board to determine their application process and relevant deadlines.

What if I am moving to another state?

For type and name of exam required by state, visit You can generate a report comparing two or more states.
For rules and regulations by state, visit

What is the format of the exam?

  • The ASWB administers the exam through a networked personal computer. 
  • There are 170 multiple choice questions on the exam. 
  • There are only four choices for each exam question: a, b, c, or d.
  • There are no “all of the above” or “none of the above” choices.
  • When you are taking the exam, you can flag questions and come back to them. Once you hit “Submit,” you cannot go back.
  • Only 150 questions are scored. Twenty questions are new “pretest” questions that are not scored. The ASWB constantly adds new test questions to the exam to reflect best practices and to test whether the new items are any good.

What is on the exam?

For the content areas and the proportion of items by area, visit

When will I get my score?

You will receive a printed unofficial score report before you leave the testing center. Generally, a score of 93-106 out of 150 items is needed to pass the exam. If you do not pass, you can retake the exam in 90 days.

How long is the exam?

You will have four hours to complete the exam. Most people complete the exam in much less time.

How do I prepare for the exam?

UI social work students prepare for the exam using different strategies:

  • Study on your own. You can check out a study guide from the main office (may not apply to all UISSW centers). It includes practice exams. You can also use an online app, like Pocket Prep's ASWB MSW Practice Exam App. Pocket Prep is not affiliated with the ASWB. 
  • Participate in the UISSW free, online study group with Professor Stephen Cummings. The 2024 MSW Prep Seminar sessions will be the same format as previous years and is only for graduating MSW students.

    Module 1: Tuesday, January 2 through Friday, January 5, 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

    Module 2: Monday, January 8 through Thursday, January 11, 5:00 – 6:00 (same sequence and content as Module 1)

    Participation details will be announced.

  • Attend a two-day, NASW-sponsored workshop in Des Moines for a fee. This workshop is typically held in February or March.

Still have questions?

For more information, please contact the Program and Admissions Administrator:

Kate Kemp
Program and Admissions Administrator