Social Work Continuing Education

The field of social work is constantly advancing, and social work professionals must maintain familiarity with a current and rapidly growing body of research, techniques and theories. Continuing education is necessary for maintaining your skills as a social worker and the foundation of professional development. In addition to enhancing a social worker's professional skills, continuing education is required for license renewal by states that issue social work licenses.

Since continuing education requirements for licensure vary by jurisdiction, it’s important for social workers to understand the rules for their jurisdiction and to stay abreast of rule changes. The Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) provides a database of licensing information for all states, provinces and territories in the United States and Canada. The database includes the number of hours of continuing education required for license renewal and defines the different ways you may obtain continuing education units (CEUs).

Some states, such as New York, have no requirement for continuing education. Other states, including California and Texas, require 30 or more hours of continuing education units (where one hour of coursework equals one unit) to be completed for license renewal. Some states limit the number of self-study hours that can be applied to the continuing education requirement. In other cases, a state will have very specific requirements about the subject matter that must be covered for continuing education units. For example, California stipulates that social work licensees must complete a course in the assessment and treatment of HIV/AIDS during their first renewal period.

Continuing education for social workers can take the form of academic studies, lectures, seminars, workshops, conferences and self-study courses that are provided by an accredited school of social work, a licensed health facility, a government agency or a professional social work or mental health association. Accrediting for both social work degrees and for continuing education is regulated by the Council on Social Work Education.

Social workers who live in states that don't require continuing education for license renewal should still put a high priority on professional development. The National Association for Social Workers (NASW) views continuing education as essential for ensuring that social work clients receive quality services. NASW provides an online Professional Education and Training Center to guide social workers in their continuing education choices.

Social workers can also visit the websites of NASW chapters to find out about annual conferences and local continuing education programs.

Social Work Today, a national monthly newsmagazine committed to the social work profession, offers a continuing education program. Two continuing education units can be earned by reading an issue of the magazine and successfully completing an exam that's included in the magazine or available online.

Sponsored Online Social Work Programs
Sponsored Online Social Work Programs
School Program Description
University of Denver
  • Research-driven faculty dedicated to making an impact on social problems
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Fordham University
  • Four areas of focus: Individuals and Families, Organizations and Community, Evaluation, and Policy Practice and Advocacy
Simmons University
  • Four Clinical Specializations: Child and Family, Trauma and Interpersonal Violence, Mental Health and Addictions, and Health and Aging
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Case Western Reserve University
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University of Southern California (USC)
  • Offered by USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck Shool of Social Work, a top-ranked graduate School by U.S. News and World Report
  • Features virtual and in-person field education in or near student's own communities
Baylor University
  • Ethically integrates faith and social work practice
  • Specialize in clinical practice or community practice

Sponsored Online Social Work Programs

Continuing Education Online

Another way the field of social work continues to advance is through its integration of technology, not only in the service of clients, but in the professional development of social workers as well. The emergence of more refined and immersive distance learning opportunities is making it possible for social workers to obtain their continuing education units online. This may be an important alternative for social workers who cannot easily travel for national conferences or whose local communities do not offer many continuing education opportunities. Many venues generally do not require membership with a national organization.

For online CEU programs to count for professional development, they should be accredited by regional or national boards, and most websites that offer online continuing education have a section that lists their different accreditations. Many of these websites also allow users to check the CEU requirements in their state and field of practice. Online CEU courses are offered through a variety of venues, each differing in credibility and quality, so when making the decision to pursue continuing education online, it is important to research the options available. and are  websites that offer continuing education courses and is ASWB accredited, as is Continuing Education and are both accredited by certain regional boards.

Further Reading