Certified social workers are educated, trained professionals who serve others in a variety of areas. Social workers work in the medical field, child welfare, mental health, education, and other areas in order to help others effect positive change. For many social workers, obtaining a social work degree is only the first step in becoming a professional social worker. Many employers require social workers to obtain certification, signifying that they have met the rigorous standards required to practice as a social worker. Even if an employer does not require certification, becoming certified is a way that a social worker can demonstrate his or her commitment to their field of practice. The following information examines different types of certification and the steps necessary to obtain them.
Many states require social workers to become certified or licensed before they can work using the title "social worker." Employers may require social worker to be certified or licensed in their state prior to beginning employment. Exact requirements to obtain certification or licensure vary from state to state, and interested professionals should check with their state's Department of Licensing or similar agency for more specific information. In general, however, certification or licensing will require:
- completion of either a Bachelor’s of Social Work (BSW) or Master’s of Social Work (MSW) degree,
- completing a specified number of post-graduate hours of social work employment, and
- passing an exam.
In addition, states may require completion of continuing education credits to maintain certification. Certified social workers may be required to adhere to a Code of Ethics, and can face disciplinary action for ethics violations. There are usually fees required to obtain and renew certification or licensure.
Another form of certification is becoming a Certified Social Worker through the Academy of Certified Social Workers (ACSW) through the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). This certification can be completed in addition to state certifications or licenses, and is not a substitute for state certification. This certification, while not necessarily required by employers, indicates that a social worker has completed additional training and has additional experience that sets them apart as outstanding in their field. ACSW certification is renewed yearly. To obtain this certification, social workers must:
- be current NASW members,
- have a MSW degree from an accredited school,
- complete at least two years of post-graduate employment under supervision of a MSW holder,
- submit professional evaluations from their supervision and two social work colleagues,
- complete at least 20 hours of continuing education credits, and
- adhere to the NASW Code of Ethics.
Social workers demonstrate commitment to their profession and their clients by becoming certified social worker. Certification demonstrates to both employers and clients that the social worker has completed a high level of education and training.