To practise social work in New Zealand you are required to register with the Social Workers Registration Board (SWRB). As the national regulator and Crown Entity established under the Social Workers Registration Act, we are the only organisation authorised to register social workers.

There are four pathways to registration:

  1. NZ social work qualification, recognised by the SWRB.
  2. Experience pathway: S13
  3. Australian social work qualification, accredited by the AASW.
  4. Overseas social work qualification.

Who needs to register

Who must be registered and who we advise to register

The title “social worker” is protected. That means only social workers who are registered by the SWRB can use the title “social worker”. Title protection was introduced in February 2021 at the same time as mandatory registration.

Who must be registered

You need to be registered if you:

  • call yourself a social worker,
  • are known as a social worker, or
  • are held out to be a social worker

Who would we advise to register:

If you have a social work qualification and work in social services, the SWRB would advise, and best practice is, that you would become registered.  You are in all likelihood using your social work skills and knowledge in the role, and you can be practising social work even if it is not in your job title.

For employers – if your employee has a social work qualification and works in social services, the SWRB’s advice, and best practice is, they would apply to become registered. By having registered social workers, it shows your organisation supports and stands behind a fully professional workforce which adheres to the SWRB’s Code of Conduct.  By supporting a registered social worker, regardless of whether the position is called social work, you know your staff is required to meet the standards set by the profession. That helps to build trust and shows the public you take your obligations to public safety seriously. 

What is social work practice?

Practising social work can include any one or more of the following:

  • working directly with clients, including whānau, hapū and community
  • being involved with casework decisions at any level
  • managing and/or supervising other social workers
  • if you apply your social work values, skills, ethics, and knowledge in your role
  • teaching social work practice or theory
  • developing policy that impacts upon social work practice

What happens if I’m a practising social worker but not registered?


  • As the regulator, the SWRB registers social workers and is responsible for setting standards  requiring social workers to be competent, fit to practise, and accountable for their practice. 
  • It’s really important that if you or someone you know or work with is practising as a social worker but is not yet registered, that you/they begin the process of applying. 
  • If you are not registered, you will no longer be able to call yourself a social worker, and employers will not be able to hold staff out as social workers until you/they become registered. 

Ministry of Social Development

  • The Ministry of Social Development is responsible for ensuring that anyone who should be registered as a social worker has obtained registration or has applied to the SWRB for it.
  • The Ministry encourages every social worker to be registered, and it will work with the SWRB to ensure this happens.   

Te Kāhui Kāhu  

  • Te Kāhui Kāhu takes the lead on responding to concerns about anyone who is not registered as a social worker.
  • Social workers who are not registered may have not demonstrated to the SWRB that they are fit to practice, and therefore may pose a risk to the public.
  • Anyone can get in touch with Te Kāhui Kāhu if they have concerns about a person or an organisation.

Step 1: Check your eligibility

Use the eligibility tool to see if you are eligible to apply for registration.

Step 2: Apply for registration

To apply for registration, you will need to create an account on MySWRB, choose your pathway option, and follow the prompts.

If you have graduated with a NZ social work qualification and plan to become a social worker, you don’t need to wait for your graduation ceremony, and can apply as soon as you have finished your course by providing either:

  • an official academic transcript or
  • a confirmation of completion letter/form from your tertiary institution which includes the date you will be graduating.

You will then need to upload a number of documents, (see below)

Documents to upload

  • Confirmation of qualification
    This can be either
    • your certificate which shows the name of your institute and the date of conferral or
    • your official academic transcript which shows you have completed your degree and are eligible to graduate
    • For new graduates: a letter from your institute confirming you have met the requirements to graduate
  • Ten year timeline
    • This is a summary/list of your work/study/extended leave/travel for the past 10 years
  • Photo (Optional, passport-sized and less than six months old)
  • A Professional Reference:

    Professional reference

  • Proof of identity
    Please provide 1 primary form of identification and 1 secondary form of identification from the following lists (one of which must be photo ID):
    • Primary IDs include:
      • Passport (NZ or overseas)
      • NZ firearms licence
      • NZ full birth certificate (issued on or after 1998)
      • NZ citizenship certificate
      • NZ refugee travel document
      • NZ emergency travel document
      • NZ certificate of identity
    • Secondary IDs include:
      • NZ driver licence
      • 18+ card
      • NZ full birth certificate (issued before 1998)
      • Community services card
      • Super Gold card
      • NZ student photo identification card
      • International driving permit
    • Selfie photo
      • A photo of you holding one of either a primary or secondary form of photo ID

Depending on your circumstances you may be asked to provide some other documents (see below) which is made clear in the online process.

Check your pathway options, ie Overseas Qualifications, Experience Pathway: S13 for any other documents you will need.

You will also be required to undergo New Zealand Police vetting which is done online during the registration application. Our Act and the Police require us to do this separately so you cannot use a police vetting result from another organisation.

Provisional to full registration

If you have been successful in your application to register, you will either be:

If you have been given provisional registration, your minimum requirements will include completing 2,000 hours of supervised social work practice in NZ. There are additional requirements if you are overseas-qualified.

Step 3: apply for Practising Certificate

Once registered you will need to apply for a Practising Certificate.

As a registered social worker, you are required to:

To obtain a Practising Certificate, log into MySWRB with your username and password, and click Apply for Practising Certificate.

Why you need to be registered and hold a Practising Certificate

Becoming registered means you have met all the criteria to become a social worker. It means you have been assessed as being competent, fit to practise, and will be held accountable for the way you practise. Once registered, you will remain on the register unless you ask to be removed or the SWRB Board decides to remove you.

The Practising Certificate is the document that shows you are legally able to practise as a social worker in New Zealand that year.

Each year, when you renew your Practising Certificate online, you are demonstrating your commitment to being a professional and declaring that you:

  • are competent
  • fit to practise
  • are being held accountable for the way you practise, i.e. you have undertaken Continuing Professional Development, including supervision
  • have informed the SWRB of any serious health issues or convictions.