Environmental Scan of Social Work Credentialing Needs

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Summary and Background

To achieve our goal of promoting the quality and effectiveness of social work practice in the United States, NASW implemented our credentialing program over 50 years ago.

Certification can be one of the most powerful initiatives of an organization or industry. It can be a key strategy for helping individuals better position themselves in a competitive marketplace, ensure customers have access to qualified service providers, and can create standards of performance for a particular role. The pursuit of a certification program by NASW fit the strategic direction set forth by the NASW’s Delegate Assembly and Board of Directors by promoting excellence in social work practice and by providing growth opportunities for social work leaders and young professionals.

NASW has offered credentials and specialty certifications for many years, however, these programs have failed to gain any traction with employers and the workforce. Data evidence suggests that this may be due to the lack of a rigorous verification of competencies and skills (lack of examination component) and lack of prestige associated with these credentials. For instance, in a recent survey, 31% of holders of the most< popular NASW certification, the Academy of Certified Social Workers (ACSW), indicated that they do not actively display their certification in their office or in professional communications, and only 21.8% indicated that they obtained their current or a prior job because they were ACSW holders.

Project Purpose and Description

The body governing the NASW credentialing program is the NASW Board appointed Credentialing Committee. The committee is setting out to perform an environmental scan to:

  • Identify existing social work credentials (Nationally and State recognized), their structure, and market penetration (number of credential holders).
  • Identify large national employers of Social Workers and find out if they incentivize their workforce to purse NASW’s or other credentialing opportunities.
  • Ascertain, at State level, if the State Social Work licensing boards adopted NASW’s or any credential in conjunction with vetting professionals for certain job functions.
  • Gather data on awareness amongst social work professionals of NASW credentials and on role that a NASW credential may have had in enhancing one’s career.
  • Determine interest of social workers in new areas not currently covered by any NASW credential (telehealth, Anti-racist or anti-oppressive practice, DEI, etc.)

Expected Research Activities

The Credentialing Committee is seeking an individual or group to lead the environmental scan and data collection efforts. The specific activities would include:
  • Engage with the credentialing committee to finalize the study methodology that addresses the study objectives and to define the instrument(s) to be deployed with the consultation and advice of the committee.
  • Work together with the committee in identifying the appropriate partners to contact in the pursuit of the study’s objectives.
  • Engage social work stakeholders and regularly update the committee on the study progress.
  • Identify the appropriate budget for the project.
  • Create interim and final reports as needed.
  • Review existing workforce data and studies and use it in the final report as appropriate.


  • Letters of intent should be sent as a single PDF file no more than 5 pages long and should include:
    • Contact information
    • Company description / including any prospective subcontractors
    • Names and short bios of the individuals that will work on the project
    • Summary of relevant experience related to the proposal
    • Any other relevant information
  • The committee plans to interview and evaluate interested parties on capacity, methodology, budget, and timetable.
  • Preference will be given to organizations that can leverage supplemental funding.
  • Applications as well as inquiries can be submitted to Raffaele Vitelli, NASW’s Vice President of Professional Education and Product Development, at rvitelli.nasw@socialworkers.org.

Credentialing Committee Members

  • Dawn Apgar, PhD, LSW, ACSW (Chair)
  • Jeane W. Anastas, PhD, LMSW, ACSW
  • Samantha A. Bechtel, LISW, ACHP-SW
  • Yolanda Renee Davis, LCSW, C-SWHC
  • Samantha Evans, CAE, MBA
  • Edith Fraser, PhD, ACSW
  • Donald Gallagher, ACSW, LCSW, MVF-CSW
  • Jill Siddiq, LISW-S, ACHP-SW
  • Valerie Sims-Rucker, C-SSWS
  • Shanika Wilson, DSW, LCAS, LCSW
  • Lisa Wolf

Learn more about the NASW Credentialing Committee

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Renewal of the ACSW occurs every year with the payment of NASW dues. Specialty credentials are renewed every two years. Email reminders are sent prior to the expiration date.

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NASW / CCMC Collaborative

NASW and the Commission for Case Manager Certification (CCMC) are collaborating to offer social workers the opportunity to earn the Commission’s Certified Case Manager® (CCM®) credential.

Learn more about the NASW / CCMC Collaborative

Credentialing Committee

The NASW Credentialing Committee (the Committee) provides strategic guidance and oversight of the NASW Credentialing Program, and its ongoing exploration and pursuit of new, value-added offerings.

Learn about the Credentialing Committee

Social Work Licensure Mobility

The Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) owns licensing exams that test a social worker's competence. To learn about ASWB's social work licensure mobility strategy, visit ASWB's website.

Interstate Licensure Compact

The Council of State Governments is overseeing the development of an interstate licensure compact for social workers.

Learn about the Interstate Licensure Compact