ASWB to update the social work licensing examinations, building off research and including an increasingly diverse range of voices
The Association of Social Work Boards has undertaken a series of initiatives that will inform the development of updated competence measures that are even more reflective of today’s practice of social work. Our work on these new assessments builds off more than a year of ASWB’s investment in qualitative and quantitative research on the social work profession and individual practitioners’ experiences with licensure. This work is an ongoing and long-term commitment by ASWB to enhance the social work licensing exams to ensure their continued fairness, reliability, and validity. The multiyear data-driven development process includes three phases: research, creation, and implementation of updates in 2026.
Our goal is and always has been to provide competence measurements that are fair, valid, and reliable indicators of whether a social worker has the knowledge, skills, and abilities they need for safe and ethical practice their first day on the job. We look forward to providing updated assessments that are uniform, objective, valid, and support public protection.
“Over the past year, ASWB has engaged with numerous stakeholders and social workers throughout the United States and Canada to share more about our exam development processes and to understand more about the test-taking experience,” said ASWB’s board president, Roxroy Reid, Ph.D., LSCW. “Through that engagement, and in line with our strategic framework, ASWB is evolving its practices and will release updated competence assessment measures for social workers to help regulators fulfill their public protection mandate.”
As a starting point, we are conducting multiple research projects to inform the next iteration of our competence measures, ensuring that they remain valid, reliable, and fair. Recently, we commissioned an effort to collect data through a qualitative research initiative, called community conversations. This effort is aimed at gathering insights from social workers about their experiences taking the exams and getting licensed. The results gathered through this work will be published later this year and will inform exam development and administration practices.
We are also collaborating with third-party psychometric experts to identify and evaluate potential alternative assessment models, and we are funding research related to professional regulation.
Throughout our efforts, we will continue to engage a wide range of voices to inform our planning and development efforts. Specifically, we will work with social workers and our vendors to:
- Add an option for secure online administration to make the exams as accessible as possible and meet the diverse needs of test-takers in 2024.
- Invest in a large-scale workforce survey, called the Social Work Census, to understand who social workers are and what they do. The census will collect input from a wide range of social workers, both licensed and unlicensed, and serve as the social work practice analysis that determines the knowledge, skills, and abilities that we need to measure. It will also make critical workforce data available to the social work profession to increase understanding and promote inclusion in the field.
- Build updated competence assessments and establish the passing standard — as is standard testing industry practice when an assessment is updated — using input from the largest, most diverse, and most inclusive group of social work subject matter experts ever assembled for this purpose.
This multipronged work will occur in phases, leading to the release of updated competence measures in 2026.
“We understand that the profession is just that — a profession — one that needs licensing to maintain its stature and protect those who need our services. We’re excited to begin the next chapter in our work to support social workers and ensure that each aspiring social worker can equally demonstrate their competence,” said ASWB CEO Stacey Hardy-Chandler, Ph.D., J.D., LSCW. “Our goal is and always has been to provide competence measurements that are fair, valid, and reliable indicators of whether a social worker has the knowledge, skills, and abilities they need for safe and ethical practice their first day on the job. We look forward to providing updated assessments that are uniform, objective, valid, and support public protection.”
For more information, please visit Exams for the Future of Social Work.