NASW Credentialing Center FAQ

Being a credentialed social worker makes all the difference. Social workers who want recognition for their professional achievements and who want to open new career paths come to NASW for their credentials.

Credentials & Specialty Credentials

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.

Yes. NASW offers a variety of credentials and specialty credentials for both BSW and MSW level social workers. For more information visit Apply for NASW Social Work Credentials.

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.

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.

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.

Yes. All credential and specialty credential holders have a BSW or an MSW. No other degrees are accepted.

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.

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.

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.

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.

If all of the required documents are received, processing of an application takes fifteen (15) business days. If additional information is needed, the processing could take up to thirty (30) days.

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.

Each credential/certification has its own criteria. To learn more, go to Apply for NASW Social Work Credentials.

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.

Alternate supervision by other professionals can be recognized. Specific professionals differ depending on the credential or specialty certification (see the application for additional information).

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.)

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.

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.

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.

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.

Continuing Education (CE)

All holders of credentials and specialty certifications agree to adhere to the NASW Standards for Continuing Professional Education. Depending on the credential, continuing education hours may be required when submitting an initial application. Twenty (20) hours of continuing education are also required for the renewal of all specialty certifications.

Yes, as long as the content of the continuing education program is directly related to the practice area of the specialty certification.

CE’s submitted for specialty certifications must meet the core knowledge and skill areas for the respective certifications. In other words, continuing education programs must be related to the population and subject matter of the respective certifications. Please refer to the application for further information on a specific certification. Approved ethics programs are also required for the ACSW application and can be found at Continuing Education.

Types of activities that qualify for continuing education credit:

  • Courses provided by colleges and universities.
  • NASW National or Chapter provided or approved trainings, workshops, and conferences.
  • Courses provided by groups and organizations certified to grant social work continuing education.
  • Workplace in-service trainings or workshops.
  • Home study programs that are approved by state social work licensing boards or educational entities.
  • 50% (10 hours) may be obtained through accredited Web-based courses, distance learning, scholarly publications (e.g. books and journal articles), instruction (courses and workshops taught or presented), and computer-assisted instruction.
  • A maximum allowance of 3 CE in ethics. (See below for ACSW requirements). All other CEs must be related to the population and subject matter of the respective certifications.

Ethics includes one, some, or all of the following components:

  • NASW Code of Ethics
  • Statutes, state laws and regulations for social work practice
  • Confidentiality
  • Boundary issues
  • Ethical dilemmas inherent in social work practice
  • Ethics consultation
  • Ethical misconduct
  • Professional malpractice and liability
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

The sole objective of the program must be to convey the aforementioned definition and/or components. If the ethics content is part of a larger conference, it must fulfill at least three (3) hours (evident in either the program agenda or on the certificate of completion).

Visit the NASW CE Portal. The programs are listed by conferences, workshops, and distance learning and you can search by state and specific topics.

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State Licensing

A state social work license is issued to regulate the practice of social work and to protect the public. It is issued by and useful only in the jurisdiction where the holder plans to practice.

Licensing requirements vary from jurisdiction. Check with your state board and the Association of Social Work Boards:

Social Work Practice Mobility

The Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) owns and maintains the social work licensing examinations that are used to test a social worker’s competence to practice ethically and safely. To learn more about ASWB's social work licensure mobility strategy, visit