Like other professions, social workers can earn certifications that demonstrate skills, background, and expertise.
There are number of reasons why state agencies and licensing bodies offer professional social work certifications. One of the main reasons is that the certification process provides a level playing field of sorts and allows all participants to have the same background and information.
This is especially true because not all social work related positions require a specific college degree, but instead generally require some blend of human services degree and relevant job experience.
Another reason that social work certifications exist is that they allow state agencies and regulatory bodies to offer comprehensive (and verifiable) continuing education opportunities for people working at the front lines of social welfare.
The process of obtaining a social work certification will vary on a number of factors. One big variable is location. Since every state has its own set of social work guidelines, regulations, and licensing requirements, the specifics on certification also vary. And even within big states, there might be regional differences related to certification requirements.
Finally, like other professions, there are also different kinds of certification programs. Some might be mandated at the state and agency level, and considered in-service certifications, while others might be offered by academic institutions and designed more for career advancement.
Specific social work certifications
Often in social work, certifications are related to specific practice areas such as:
Case management certification programs
Social work case managers play an integral role in supporting, and advocating for, clients within and across a range of service settings including mental health and substance use agencies, child welfare and adoption agencies, or in hospice care, hospitals, or nursing homes. They work in social service agency settings, clients’ homes, or a mix of both, as well for nonprofit or for-profit agencies, organizations, and facilities.
Social work case managers view their clients’ needs holistically and seek to understand how clients’ ecological systems impact their opportunities and challenges. Having an effective case manager can be life changing for a client.
Child welfare certification programs
Working in child welfare can be quite demanding due to regular contact and work with traumatized children and families; but quality in-service training and child welfare certificate programs can help social workers be successful child welfare professionals.
Several states require direct practice child welfare workers to be certified, but all require minimum pre-service training. In addition to required training, aspiring and established child welfare professionals may opt to further develop their skills and knowledge by earning an academic certificate in child welfare practice.
School social worker certification programs
This guides is about the process of being certified at the state level as a school social worker and how to earn a school social work certification from NASW.
It also includes information about how to prepare for a career in school social work and describes university-based certificate programs in school social work. Finally, it provides information about continuing education for school social workers.
Forensic social worker certification programs
Forensic social work is a specialized area of social work practice. Those who work in this field interface with all types of legal systems including family court, probation, corrections, juvenile justice, and civil, criminal, drug, or mental health courts.
Forensic social workers assist families involved in the child welfare system, as advocates, or they may provide mediation for families affected by divorce and custody agreements.
Trauma certification programs
This guide will explore six trauma certification options.
These are trauma-informed clinical certification, trauma-informed social work certification, trauma-informed social work certificates, trauma-informed practice certification non-social work specific, trauma-informed practice certificates that are non-social work specific, and trauma-informed curriculum and specializations at the bachelor’s and master’s levels.