Credentials & Specialty Credentials FAQ
What is the NASW Credentialing Center?
The NASW Credentialing Center is a department within the NASW National Office of Professional and Workforce Development responsible for the management of NASW credentials and specialty credentials, the NASW Continuing Education Approval Program, and the Verifications Program.
Does NASW offer credentials and specialty credentials for both BSW and MSW level social workers?
Yes. NASW offers a variety of credentials and specialty credentials for both BSW and MSW level social workers. For more information, see Apply for NASW Social Work Credentials.
How are NASW credentials and specialty credentials developed?
NASW credentials and specialty credentials are created based on member needs surveys. The criteria are then developed by social workers who are experts in their respective fields.
How long has NASW had credentials and specialty credentials?
NASW has been offering credentials to social workers for more than 55 years starting with the ACSW. NASW Specialty Credentials have been offered since 2000.
Does NASW membership automatically give you a credential or specialty credentials?
No, not every member qualifies for a NASW credential or specialty credential. A member must have the required experience, supervision, education, knowledge, and skill to qualify for a NASW credential or specialty credential.
Do I need a social work degree to qualify for an NASW credential or specialty credential?
Yes. All credential and specialty credential holders have a BSW or an MSW. No other degrees are accepted.
Are the NASW credentials and specialty credentials the same as a state license?
No, a state social work license is issued to regulate the practice of social work and protect the public. A state social work license is issued by and useful only in the jurisdiction where the holder plans to practice. An NASW credential/specialty credential signifies that the holder has met the highest standards developed in the social work profession nationally in addition to having experience and supervision working with certain populations. All holders of NASW credentials and specialty credential agree to adhere to the NASW Code of Ethics and NASW Standards for Continuing Professional Education as well as standards for social work practice.
If I have a state license do I need an NASW credential or specialty credential?
An NASW credential or specialty credential is a professional designation and does not take the place of a state license. NASW credentials and specialty credentials are used to enhance the state license. It signifies that the holder has additional training, experience, and supervision.
What are the benefits of having an NASW credential or specialty credential?
Holders of NASW credentials and specialty credentials become part of the most widely recognized social work organization in the world and have opportunities for broader exposure. In addition, holders are recognized as meeting established national standards of social work practice and adhere to the NASW Code of Ethics. Holders have social work knowledge, skills, proven work experience, demonstrated competence, and adhere to ethical practice.
How do I apply for an NASW credential or specialty credential?
You can download the application at Apply for NASW Social Work Credentials. When the application is complete and all supporting documentation is attached, it can be mailed to the address provided in the application, along with the payment.
How long does it take to obtain an NASW credential or specialty credential?
Please allow up to 12 weeks for application processing from the date NASW receives your application. If additional information is needed, you will be contacted at the email address listed in the application.
Is there a renewal process?
Yes. Renewal for the ACSW is every year. Renewal for all other Credentials and specialty credentials is every two years unless otherwise specified. Email reminders are sent 60 days prior to the expiration date of the credential/specialty credential.
Note: If you obtain one of NASW Case Management Certifications (C-SWCM, and C-ASWCM), and then proceed to take and pass the CCM exam, your renewal period will be every five years.
What are the criteria for NASW credentials and specialty certifications?
Each credential/certification has its own criteria. To learn more, go to Apply for NASW Social Work Credentials.
Do I need to be a current member of NASW to apply for the NASW credentials and specialty credential?
You must be a member in good standing at the time of application for the ACSW and the DCSW. You don’t have to be a member to apply for all other credentials and specialty credentials; however, NASW members enjoy considerable discounts on the application fees.
Can supervision by any mental health professional be used to qualify for NASW credentials and specialty credentials?
Alternate supervision by other professionals can be recognized. Specific professionals differ depending on the credential or specialty certification (see the application for additional information).
May I use supervision with a social worker outside of my employer? May I contract for supervision?
Yes, you may contract for supervision. The written contract should accompany your application and be acknowledged by your employer/organization supervisor or administrator. The contract should specify the frequency, duration, and format of the session (see the application for additional information.)
My supervisor is deceased or unable to be reached, how do I document my supervision?
Submit a letter specifically explaining why you are unable to contact your supervisor. Provide documentation from the organization’s human resource office attesting to this supervision or include a copy of your state social work board application. A colleague familiar with your work may then complete the supervisory form.
What if the employer I worked for no longer exists?
Submit a letter specifically explaining why you are unable to contact your supervisor, along with a copy of the supervisory form you submitted to your state social work board. A colleague familiar with your work may then complete the supervisory form.
What are the benefits of a Case Management Certification?
Social workers demonstrate their mastery of case management skills, leadership capacity, competence, knowledge and abilities through certification and meet ongoing learning and practice requirements through recertification. Clients, employers and social work professionals all benefit from certification.
- Case Management Certification Benefits Clients: Certification provides clients with validation that social workers have demonstrated work experience, leadership skills, knowledge and skills in the complex specialty of case management. Certification provides verification that you have a renewable commitment to excellence and expertise in your practice area and indicates advanced practitioners to the public.
- Case Management Certification Benefits Employers: The continuing education required to maintain certification contributes to the creation of an environment of professionalism and a culture of retention – a critical issue given the changing landscape in case management. Certification is also a vehicle for employers to differentiate themselves from competitors and demonstrate to consumers that they have attracted the most skilled and experienced social work professionals.
- Case Management Certification Benefits Social Workers: By obtaining an NASW Case Management Certification and becoming board certified through the CCMC, social workers validate their expert knowledge and skills and therefore position themselves for appropriate recognition and a critical sense of confidence and achievement.
What is the NASW/ Commission for Case Manager Certification (CCMC) Collaborative?
In an effort to meet the needs of the evolving social work professional landscape, NASW, in collaboration with the Commission for Case Manager Certification (CCMC), now offers eligible social workers the opportunity to become board certified as case managers. Once approved for NASW’s C-SWCM or C-ASWCM certification, you will also be eligible to sit for the Commission for Case Manager Certification’s CCM exam at no additional cost. Approved applicants will be contacted by the CCMC to schedule the CCM exam, which is administered three times per year. After you take the exam, you will be notified of your test results, and mailed a certificate and letter of certification if you've passed. The CCM certification is valid for 5 years.