Why Accreditation Matters for MSW Students

When students are debating which school to attend for their Master of Science in Social Work, many factors affect their decision — chief among them is often whether the institutions they are considering are accredited. After all, if a school’s programs are not CSWE accredited, graduates may not be eligible for a state license to practice social work.

The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) is the only accrediting body in America for social work education. With 2,500 members, it partners educational and professional institutions and social welfare agencies with private citizens, and it endeavors to ensure that students receive a high-quality education. CSWE accreditation is available for both bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in social work. As of October 2016, there were 249 accredited master’s social work programs.

What Are the Standards of CSWE accreditation?

The Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS) dictates the standards for CSWE accreditation for both bachelor’s and master’s social work programs. All accredited programs must meet EPAS standards so that students experience similar programming outcomes regardless of the school they decide to attend. However, the EPAS does allow schools the flexibility to create additional competencies within their programming.

Instead of evaluating programs using content or delivery types, EPAS standards measure student learning outcomes. This means that program assessment measures students’ mastery of program material. In their 2015 standards handbook, the EPAS outlines the competencies they look for in practice, including adherence to ethical and professional standards; understanding diversity and difference; furthering human rights and social, economic and environmental justice; the ability to carry out both research and practice-informed practices and assess and intervene as necessary.

What Does It Mean?

By enrolling in a program with CSWE accreditation, students can ensure that they will be able to obtain their state license to practice social work after graduation. They also know that their schools meet a set of regulated standards. While social workers can obtain licensure by other means (in some states, students can obtain their license after attending a non-accredited institution by, for example, obtaining extra experience in the field or ensuring that their program meets a list of state requirements), attending a school with CSWE accredited programs is an easier way for students to ensure they will have a license to practice social work upon graduation.

Knowing if a program has earned CSWE accreditation is essential to selecting a place of study. Prospective students should check with their state board to see what types of accreditation the state accepts before choosing their program to help eliminate confusion. Prospective students can check with the National Association of Social Workers to find their state affiliate.

Learn more about the UTRGV online MS in Social Work — Administration an Community Practice program.


Sources:

The New Social Worker: Is My Degree Accredited?

SocialWorkLicensure.org: The Importance of Social Work Program Accreditation

SocialWorkLicensure.org: The Importance of Social Work Program Accreditation

Council on Social Work Education: 2015 Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards

Council on Social Work Education: Education Policy and Accreditation Standards

Council on Social Work Education: Accreditation

Council on Social Work Education: About CSWE


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