Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Choosing a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) Accredited School of Social Work

As you consider schools, it is most important that you make sure they are accredited or in candidacy by CSWE (in the United States) or CASSW-ACESS (in Canada). Schools that are accredited by CSWE or by CASSW-ACESS have gone through a rigorous process to ensure that they meet the minimum standards for social work education and that their graduates are prepared to practice social work at a professional level.

Some schools may state that they are “in candidacy” for CSWE or CASSW-ACESS accreditation. Candidacy is a precursor to full accreditation, and schools must have met certain requirements to be admitted into candidacy. Schools that are in candidacy by CSWE are working toward accreditation and have shown that they have the potential to achieve that status. Assuming that the school completes candidacy and receives full accreditation, students who attend the school while it is in candidacy will receive accreditation of their degrees once the school is accredited, if the degree is earned under the same curriculum that receives accreditation. If you are considering a school that is in candidacy, ask when the school expects to receive accreditation and whether the curriculum you will receive your degree under is the curriculum under which the school expects to receive accreditation.

For CSWE, the movement from candidacy status to accreditation status varies. Ten of the 15 programs listed as “in candidacy” in this Handbook’s June 1996 edition were accredited by the next edition in June 1997. The other five were still in candidacy as of June 1997. Of those five, only one remained in candidacy as of February 2002. Of the 20 programs listed in candidacy status in this Handbook’s 1999 edition, 14 had achieved accreditation, five continued in candidacy, and one was no longer in candidacy by the February 2002 edition. Of the 25 programs in candidacy as of the 2002 edition, 22 have achieved accreditation, while three continue in candidacy as of February 2005. Data are not available to provide similar information for movement from candidacy to accreditation for CASSW-ACESS.

If you are considering attending a program that is in candidacy status, it is important to learn as much as possible about when the program expects accreditation and to evaluate as much as possible its prospects for achieving it. Programs in candidacy status that participated in this edition’s “In Their Own Words” survey (Appendix B) were asked to report the date when accreditation is expected. The program’s failure to achieve accreditation could have serious implications for the marketability of your diploma. There was recently the case of a program that did not achieve accreditation as expected. Its graduates found themselves unable to sit for the state licensing exam and to qualify for many jobs that require it. Grants that fund many programs have as a requirement that staff in those programs be licensed.

Having an accredited degree is important for a number of reasons. Besides ensuring that your education meets minimum professional standards, you need an accredited degree in order to be eligible for most social work licenses. Check with your state or province licensing board to find out which accreditation(s) it accepts. An accredited degree will also enhance your employment opportunities, and some professional associations (such as the National Association of Social Workers) require it in order to join or receive full membership privileges.

For more information on CSWE accreditation, see http://www.cswe.org.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

FAQs About Social Work Graduate School

1. Where should I go to social work grad school?

Answer: The answer to this question is different from person to person. A lot depends on what your goals are (personally and professionally), what your learning style is, and other factors. If your goal is to be a professional social worker, one criteria that you SHOULD look for is accreditation by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) in the U.S., or by comparable accrediting bodies in other countries. A list of such schools can be found in CSWE's program directory at http://www.cswe.org.

2. Do I need to get my BSW (Bachelor of Social Work) first, before I go for my MSW?

Answer: No, you do not need a BSW to get an MSW. Your bachelor's degree can be in any major. If you do have a BSW from a CSWE-accredited school, however, you may qualify for advanced standing in some MSW programs.

3. The school I am looking at doesn't offer the MSW. Their social work degree is an MSS. Is that okay?

Answer: The most common accredited degree in social work is the Master of Social Work (MSW). However, some schools call their degrees by different names (Master of Arts, Master of Social Service Administration, Master of Social Sciences, for example). If the school is accredited by CSWE, the master's degree you are getting is equivalent to the master's degree at other CSWE-accredited schools, regardless of the actual name of the degree offered.

4. How long will it take me to get my MSW?

Answer: Most MSW programs are 2 years if you are a full-time student, but this varies. If you are in advanced standing, you may be able to obtain your MSW in as little as 1 year.

5. How important is the personal essay (also called the biographical statement) portion of my MSW application?

Answer: Very important. Each school will require that you write an essay, statement, or similar document as part of your application for admission. The statement/essay tells the admissions committee about your motivation for and commitment to a social work education and career, how well you write, and other important information about you that is not conveyed in other parts of the application. Follow the directions provided by each school, which will mean writing a different statement for each application.

6. What courses do I need to take to become a social worker?

Answer: If you are enrolled in a CSWE-accredited degree program, there are certain core courses that you will be required to take. They include: human behavior and the social environment, social welfare policy and services, social research, social work practice, and field practicum. Most schools of social work offer a variety of concentrations or specializations for MSW students, such as health, mental health, aging, children and youth, and so forth. Additional courses are taken in your area of concentration.

7. Will I have to write a thesis?

Answer: This varies from school to school. Some require a formal thesis; others do not. Ask each school what the requirements are in this regard.

8. How do I know if the MSW is the right degree for me?

Answer: Only you can decide this for yourself. You might try doing some volunteer work in your community, under the supervision of a social worker, to find out what the social worker in that setting does and how the work suits you. Talk to social workers to get a feel for the profession. Look at the classified ads in your local newspaper and see if the jobs that interest you typically require a social work degree. Be aware that the social work profession is quite broad. Read some books like DAYS IN THE LIVES OF SOCIAL WORKERS (Linda M. Grobman) and CAREERS IN SOCIAL WORK (Leon Ginsburg) to find out the variety of career paths that are available to social workers. Look at your own career goals, possibly with the help of a career counselor, to determine if a formal social work education will help you reach those goals.

9. Will I need to be licensed to practice social work, once I get my degree?

Answer: Social work licensing is governed by the state in which you live or practice. Each state sets its own licensing requirements. You can go to the Web site of ASWB (Association of Social Work Boards) at http://www.aswb.org to find a directory of licensing boards in the U.S. and other jurisdictions. This directory will give you contact information for each board, as well as general information about each state's requirements.

10. What are all the initials I see after social workers' names? BSW, MSW, LSW, ACSW, BCD? What does it all mean?

Answer: BSW (Bachelor of Social Work) and MSW (Master of Social Work) are social work degrees. LSW typically means Licensed Social Worker, but licenses vary from state to state, so depending on the state, you might see LSW, LCSW, LMSW, LBSW, and other such titles. ACSW stands for Academy of Certified Social Workers and is a national certification that is issued by the National Association of Social Workers. BCD is Board Certified Diplomate, which is also a nationally recognized credential.

11. What are the ethical obligations of social workers?

Answer: The social work profession takes ethics very seriously. The primary document relating to social work ethics is the National Association of Social Workers' Code of Ethics. It can be found online at http://www.socialworkers.org/pubs/code/default.htm. State licensing boards may also have their own codes of ethics. If you are a licensed social worker, please check with your state licensing board for its code of ethics (also called code of conduct or something similar).