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Nearly every jurisdiction that issues social work licenses requires continuing education courses for renewal. These CE requirements vary from one jurisdiction to another, from the number of hours required to the types of courses that must be taken.
Compliance with continuing education requirements is the responsibility of the individual social worker. It is crucial that licensed social workers understand the CE requirements in their jurisdictions, and keep up-to-date on any rule changes.
ASWB can help social workers navigate their way through this process. The Association of Social Work Boards' Approved Continuing Education (ACE) program has been designed to identify and recognize high-quality continuing education providers that can deliver quality programs in many topics, through in-person or distance learning settings.
Find contact information on social work licensing boards in the United States and Canada, as well as social work licensing requirements in each jurisdiction.
It is up to individual social workers to understand your jurisdiction's requirements for social work licensing. If you don't know what these requirements are, you can find out by contacting your board directly.
To view contact information and general licensing requirements, select your jurisdiction in our Social Work Laws and Regulations database.See a list of all ACE-approved continuing education providers
Continuing Education Advice
for Social Workers
Maintaining your social work license requires more than just filing paperwork every two years. Almost every jurisdiction that issues social work licenses requires continuing education courses for renewal. Licensing boards recognize the importance of lifelong learning to the social work profession. Social workers at all levels of practice can benefit from continuing coursework in familiar subjects, or from an exploration of new topics.
Continuing education requirements vary from one jurisdiction to another; some boards require only a specific number of hours, while others mandate continuing education in social work ethics, substance abuse, or domestic violence. Each jurisdiction has final approval on any continuing education course from any source on any subject. It is your responsibility as a regulated social work professional to contact your board and verify that your continuing education plans meet their requirements.
Know where the buck stops. The bottom line is, continuing education is the responsibility of the individual social worker—not the CE provider, the licensing board, or the professional association. It is up to you to understand your jurisdiction's requirements for continuing education—how your jurisdiction tabulates CE time (“clock hours” versus “contact hours,” for example), which types of courses will not be accepted, etc. If you don't know what these requirements are, you can find out by contacting your board, or by linking to the board search section of this site.
Understand the powers of the licensing board. Your jurisdiction's licensing/certification board always has the final say as to whether the continuing education courses you took will be approved. The Association of Social Work Board's ACE (Approved Continuing Education) program identifies providers capable of delivering high-quality, appropriate continuing education, but it is ultimately the social worker's responsibility to see to it that actual CE gained fits within the board's definitions of acceptable continuing education. Familiarize yourself with your licensing board's continuing education rules. If you're considering a particular CE program and have a question about whether your board will accept it, contact the board for clarification before you take the course.
It isn't just about the course. When it comes to continuing education, details matter. Your licensing board will likely need the correct kinds of documentation verifying your attendance, and you should be able to rely on your CE provider's record-keeping. Continuing education providers should be able to do the following:
ACE-approved providers must meet these criteria.
Not all providers are equal. You spend money—sometimes, a lot of money—for continuing education. It is disappointing to find that you spent time and money on a program that didn't live up to its marketing claims. The reality is, just because a company advertises continuing education as useful to social workers doesn't mean that the program will be appropriate and acceptable to your licensing board, or to you.
Several national organizations, including ASWB, review continuing education providers for program quality. Providers who pass these screenings meet stringent requirements for program development and management. While such approval is no guarantee that a particular course will be accepted by your regulatory board, recognition by these groups is way to increase your chances of getting quality continuing education.
Find out as much as possible about the providers themselves. Look for the following:
ACE-approved providers must meet these criteria.
Keep records. Because complying with your board's CE requirements is the responsibility of the social worker, it's important to keep your own records of CE sessions attended.
Choose wisely. Remember, the continuing education systems used by boards were designed to ensure that social workers maintain the knowledge and skills necessary to practice safely throughout their careers. After you've made certain that the company providing the CE is qualified and well-organized, ask yourself whether the CE course you're considering is a good fit for you. While it's tempting to choose courses that play to your own practice strengths, you may also want to consider using CE requirements as a way to round out your social work knowledge.
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