Continuing Education for Social Workers

The field of social work is constantly advancing. Maintaining familiarity with a current and rapidly growing body of research, techniques, and theories can help social workers to retain their skills, acquire new knowledge, and help them to better serve their clients.

What are the Requirements for Licensure?

Continuing education is one way to maintain and grow your professional skills as a social worker. According to the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB), continuing education is also required for license renewal by states that issue social work licenses.

License Renewal Requirements

Continuing education requirements for social work licensure vary by state, so it’s important for social workers to understand the rules for their jurisdiction and to stay abreast of rule changes. For example, some states may not have renewal requirements while others require social workers to complete 30 or more hours of continuing education units (where one hour of coursework equals one unit) for license renewal. Some states also have specific requirements about the subject matter that must be covered for continuing education units.

The 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 or CEUs.

Types of Continuing Education for Social Work

Continuing education for social workers can take the form of professional development courses, lectures, seminars, workshops, webinars, 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.

Social workers who live in states that may not require continuing education for license renewal can still take advantage of professional development resources available online. The National Association for Social Workers (NASW) prioritizes continuing education and provides continuing education resources on its website to guide and support social workers.

Online Continuing Education Options

Social workers balancing the demands of full-time employment or family have the option of completing continuing education units online. Most online CEU programs allow unlimited review of the material or lectures as often as needed, and many also provide student forums and virtual study or discussion groups. It is important to note that online CEU programs must be accredited by regional or national boards in order to count toward professional development.

Online CEU programs are offered through a variety of websites and associations, each differing in credibility and quality, so it is important to research the options available. Below is a small selection of online social work CEU resources you can refer to.

CE4Less

This site is a great resource for social workers, psychologists, marriage and family therapists or addiction counselors. You can purchase individual CEU programs or opt for the unlimited option.

Vista Continuing Education

This site offers CEUs for clinical social workers, counselors and other health care professionals. Browse different courses in the catalog for information about accreditation.

Social Work Today

You can earn two CEUs by reading articles appearing in an online issue of Social Work Today. You can keep track of the courses you have taken through the website and print certificates at any time.

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) - Continuing Education

Access webinars, webcasts, podcasts and presentations for continuing education through the National Association of Social Workers’ website.

Benefits of Continuing Education Units

The benefits of completing continuing education units span from qualifying for license renewal to developing expertise in a specialty. It is important to be aware of the benefits of CEUs as well as the conditions for maintaining your license. Below is a list of tips you can refer to when selecting continuing education courses and applying to renew your license.

1. Earning CEUs and maintaining your social work license is your responsibility.

Make sure you maintain compliance in your jurisdiction by enrolling in courses offered by an accredited school of social work, a licensed health facility, a government agency or a professional social work or mental health association. It’s up to you to keep track of hours and certificates.

2. The licensing board always has the final say on what CEUs will be approved.

If you are unsure the course is compliant with state requirements, check with the licensing board before you take the course.

3. Make sure you provide the correct documentation and can verify attendance and certification.

Keep your own records; don’t rely on the provider.

4. Programs vary in quality.

Refer to the ASWB’s list of continuing education courses. Learn more about each course and provider by visiting the course provider’s website which is included in the ASWB continuing education course list. You can also use the ASWB search tool to find courses compliant with your state board’s requirements. You can tailor your search to include specific topic areas and distance learning options.

Not Looking for CEUs? Explore Social Work Master’s and Doctorate Programs

If continuing education is not for you, a master's or doctorate in social work may be a great fit for you. A master’s degree in social work or doctorate in social work can help those looking to advance their career in the field of social work.

While there are many master's in social work or MSW programs to choose from, it's important to consider whether you can relocate or not. If relocating to an on-campus program is not an option for you, an online MSW program may provide the flexibility you need to balance your career and educational aspirations. Students also have the option of enrolling in an accelerated program.