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Top 10 School Social Worker Certifications

This article provides an overview of the best school social worker certifications available and how to choose the right one for your career.

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Brenna Goyette
Certified Professional Resume Writer, Career Expert

Published 18 min read

Certifications are important for school social workers in the job market because they demonstrate a level of professional competence and expertise. Certifications provide evidence that the social worker has obtained additional training, knowledge, and skills beyond what is required to earn a degree. This can help to differentiate them from other applicants and make them stand out in the job market. Additionally, certifications can open up more doors to career advancement and higher-paying positions. Employers often consider certifications when making hiring decisions, so having one or more can be invaluable for those looking for work as a school social worker.

The purpose of this article is to review some of the top certifications for School Social Workers and explain how they can enhance a school social worker's career.

What are School Social Worker Certifications?

School social worker certification is a professional credential that is earned by completing a specialized program of study in the field of school social work. This certification is required for many positions in public schools, and can help a school social worker stand out from the competition when applying for jobs.

School social worker certification requires that applicants have at least a master's degree in social work, as well as experience in working with children and families. A certified school social worker must also demonstrate proficiency in their knowledge of current evidence-based practices, ethical behavior, and legal regulations related to the practice of school social work. The certification process also includes an examination to assess the applicant’s understanding of the role and responsibilities of a school social worker.

Certified school social workers are expected to be knowledgeable about the needs of students from diverse backgrounds, including those with special needs or disabilities. They must be able to provide direct services such as individual counseling, group counseling, crisis intervention, family therapy, and case management services. School social workers are also expected to collaborate with other professionals such as teachers and administrators to ensure that all students receive an appropriate education.

Having a valid school social worker certification can help individuals stand out among other applicants when seeking employment in the field. It can also give them an advantage when advancing their career within their current organization or transitioning into another setting. Additionally, having this credential may allow them to access additional grants or funding opportunities that are only available to certified practitioners. Ultimately, obtaining this certification demonstrates one’s dedication to professional growth and development in the field of school social work.

Pro Tip: When considering school social worker certification, it is important to research the requirements of your state or region. Different states may have different requirements and regulations regarding certification, so make sure to do your due diligence before beginning the process.

Related: What does a School Social Worker do?

Top 10 School Social Worker Certifications

Here’s our list of the best certifications available to School Social Workers today.

1. Certified School Social Work Specialist (C-SSWS)

A Certified School Social Work Specialist (C-SSWS) is a professional certification for social workers who specialize in working with children and adolescents in school settings. The certification is awarded by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and requires applicants to have at least three years of experience as a school social worker and hold a master’s degree in social work from an accredited institution.

To become a C-SSWS, applicants must complete an application that includes verification of their education and experience, submit official transcripts, and pass the NASW School Social Work Certification Exam. The exam consists of 150 multiple choice questions covering topics such as mental health assessment, intervention strategies, legal/ethical issues, and collaboration/consultation skills. Applicants must also have completed at least 45 hours of continuing education related to school social work within the past five years.

The cost for obtaining the C-SSWS certification varies depending on the applicant’s state but typically ranges from $300-$600. This cost includes the application fee, exam fee, and any applicable continuing education fees. It typically takes up to four weeks to receive confirmation that all requirements have been met and the certification has been granted.

2. Certified Advanced School Social Worker (C-ASW)

Certified Advanced School Social Worker (C-ASW) is a certification offered by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). It is designed to recognize the advanced knowledge and skills of school social workers, who are uniquely positioned to help students succeed in school.

To become a C-ASW, an individual must have at least five years of experience as a school social worker and must hold a master’s degree in social work from an accredited college or university. They must also complete at least 30 hours of continuing education in areas related to school social work practice.

The process for obtaining the C-ASW certification involves submitting an application to NASW along with documentation verifying the required qualifications. The application fee is $125, plus an additional $50 fee for each additional year of experience beyond five years. Once the application is approved, applicants will be required to take and pass a written exam administered by NASW. The exam fee is $225.

Upon successful completion of the exam, applicants will receive their C-ASW certification, which is valid for three years. To maintain their certification, they must complete at least 45 hours of continuing education every three years and pay an annual renewal fee of $75.

3. National Association of Social Workers (NASW) – School Social Work Certification

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) School Social Work Certification is a specialized credential that recognizes the unique knowledge and skills required to work with students in K-12 educational settings. The certification is designed to ensure that school social workers have the necessary qualifications to provide effective services to students, families, and school personnel.

To obtain this certification, individuals must first become licensed as a social worker in their state of residence and then meet additional requirements specific to school social work. These requirements include completing an approved course of study related to school social work, having at least two years of supervised experience in a school setting, and passing the NASW School Social Work Exam.

The process of obtaining the NASW School Social Work Certification can take up to five years depending on individual circumstances. This includes obtaining a license as a social worker, completing an approved course of study related to school social work, gaining two years of supervised experience in a school setting, and passing the NASW School Social Work Exam.

The cost for obtaining the NASW School Social Work Certification varies depending on individual circumstances such as the cost of licensing fees and any courses taken related to school social work. Generally speaking, individuals should expect to pay anywhere from $200-$2,000 or more for all associated costs.

4. Academy of Certified Social Workers (ACSW) – School Social Work Certification

The Academy of Certified Social Workers (ACSW) is a professional organization that provides certification for school social workers. This certification is designed to recognize the knowledge and skills necessary to practice as a school social worker in the United States.

In order to obtain ACSW certification, applicants must meet certain requirements including: a master’s degree in social work from an accredited university; two years of supervised experience in school social work; and successful completion of the School Social Work Certification Examination. The examination consists of multiple-choice questions covering topics such as child development, family dynamics, mental health, special education law, and ethical standards.

The process typically takes between four and six months to complete. Applicants must first submit an application packet along with supporting documents such as transcripts and proof of supervised experience. Once accepted into the program, applicants must register for the exam and pay a fee of $250. After passing the exam, applicants will receive their certificate from ACSW within six weeks.

The cost of obtaining ACSW certification varies depending on individual circumstances but typically ranges between $500-$1000 USD. This includes costs associated with submitting the application packet, registering for the exam, and paying any additional fees required by state or local licensing boards.

5. American Board for Certification in School Social Work (ABCSSW) – School Social Worker Certification

The American Board for Certification in School Social Work (ABCSSW) is a non-profit organization that provides professional certification for school social workers. It is the only national certification for school social work and is recognized by the Council on Social Work Education, the National Association of Social Workers, and other professional organizations.

To become certified through ABCSSW, an individual must have a master’s degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited program, have completed at least two years of post-master’s supervised experience as a school social worker, and pass the ABCSSW exam. The exam consists of 170 multiple-choice questions and covers topics such as child development, family systems, mental health assessment and intervention, ethical decision making, legal issues in schools, and cultural competence.

The process typically takes about 6 months to complete from start to finish. To get started, individuals must first apply to take the exam by submitting an application form along with supporting documents such as transcripts and proof of licensure or certification. Once approved to take the exam, individuals can register for a test date and pay the $300 fee. After taking the exam and passing it with a score of at least 70%, individuals will receive their official certificate from ABCSSW within 4–6 weeks.

In addition to the initial $300 fee for taking the exam, there is an annual renewal fee of $50 due each year after certification has been granted. This fee helps cover administrative costs associated with maintaining records and issuing certificates.

6. Council on Accreditation of Services for Families and Children (COA) – School Social Worker Certification

The Council on Accreditation of Services for Families and Children (COA) is a non-profit organization that provides accreditation to organizations that provide services to children, youth, and families. COA School Social Worker Certification is designed to recognize social workers who have achieved a level of excellence in providing school-based services. The certification requires applicants to demonstrate their knowledge and experience in the field of school social work.

In order to become certified, applicants must meet the following criteria: hold a master's degree in social work from an accredited college or university; have two years of post-master's supervised experience in school social work; pass the National Association of Social Workers' (NASW) examination for school social workers; and complete a minimum of 25 hours of continuing education related to school social work within the last five years.

The application process typically takes three months from start to finish. Applicants must submit an application form, documentation verifying their qualifications, and payment of the applicable fees. The fee for COA School Social Worker Certification is $175 USD. Once all materials are received, they will be reviewed by COA staff and then forwarded to an independent panel of experts for final approval.

Once approved, applicants will receive their certificate in approximately four weeks after notification of approval. The certification is valid for five years before renewal is required.

7. National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) – School Social Worker Certification

The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) School Social Worker Certification is a credential that recognizes the professional competency of school social workers. It is designed to ensure that school social workers have met the standards set forth by NBCC and demonstrate a high level of knowledge, skills, and abilities in their practice. The certification is valid for five years and requires renewal every five years.

To obtain the NBCC School Social Worker Certification, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Possess a master's degree in social work from an accredited college or university
  • Have at least two years of full-time experience as a school social worker
  • Pass an examination administered by NBCC
  • Submit documentation of continuing education activities
  • Agree to abide by the NBCC Code of Ethics.

The cost of obtaining the NBCC School Social Worker Certification varies depending on the type of application submitted. For initial applications, there is an application fee of $195 and an examination fee of $275. Renewal applications require an application fee of $95 and no examination fee.

8. National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM) – School Social Worker Certification

The National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM) School Social Worker Certification is a professional certification program designed to provide social workers with the knowledge and skills necessary to work effectively in school settings. The program is based on the belief that social workers need to be knowledgeable about the unique needs of students, families, and staff in educational settings. The certification includes four courses that cover topics such as child development, family dynamics, mental health assessment, and crisis intervention. Each course takes approximately 10 hours to complete and can be completed at your own pace.

To receive the NICABM School Social Worker Certification, you must complete all four courses within one year from the date of enrollment. Upon completion of all four courses, you will be awarded a certificate from NICABM. The cost for this certification program is $595 USD.

9. International Association of Trauma Professionals (IATP) – School Social Worker Certification

The International Association of Trauma Professionals (IATP) School Social Worker Certification is a professional credential for social workers who specialize in trauma-informed care for students. The certification recognizes the expertise of school social workers in providing trauma-informed services to students and families. It also provides a framework for continuing education and professional development in the field.

The certification process typically takes approximately six months to complete, depending on the individual's experience and qualifications. To become certified, applicants must submit an application to IATP, provide proof of licensure as a school social worker, provide evidence of at least two years of experience working with children and adolescents affected by trauma, and pass an online exam.

The cost of the IATP School Social Worker Certification varies based on the applicant's qualifications and experience. Generally, it costs $175 for members of IATP or $225 for non-members. Additionally, there is a $50 fee for taking the online exam.

10. American Psychological Association (APA)-School Psychologist Certificate

The American Psychological Association (APA) School Psychologist Certificate is a professional certification program designed to recognize individuals who have achieved a high level of expertise in the field of school psychology. The certificate is awarded by the APA upon successful completion of all requirements, which include passing an exam, completing coursework and supervised practice experiences, and demonstrating knowledge and skills related to school psychology.

The certificate typically takes three years to complete. To get the certificate, applicants must first complete a master’s degree in school psychology from an accredited institution. After that, they must pass the National School Psychology Examination (NSPE) administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). Applicants must also complete at least 1,200 hours of supervised practice experience as well as 45 semester hours of graduate-level coursework in school psychology or its equivalent. Finally, applicants must submit evidence demonstrating their knowledge and skills related to school psychology.

The cost for obtaining the APA School Psychologist Certificate varies depending on the program chosen by applicants. The cost may include application fees, tuition fees for coursework completed, examination fees, and other associated costs such as travel expenses or materials needed for supervised practice experiences.

Do You Really Need a School Social Worker Certificate?

The answer to this question depends on the individual. For some, a school social worker certificate may be necessary in order to practice in certain states or districts. It is important to research the regulations of each state or district before deciding if a school social worker certificate is necessary.

In addition, a school social worker certificate can demonstrate that one has the specialized skills and knowledge needed for working with children in the school setting. It can also provide evidence that one has been trained in areas such as child development, special education, mental health, and cultural diversity. This can help ensure that those who are certified have a comprehensive understanding of how to best support students and families within the school environment.

Furthermore, holding a school social worker certificate may make it easier for someone to find employment in the field. Employers often prefer job applicants who have taken additional courses and obtained certifications related to their desired profession. Additionally, having a certification can lead to higher salaries and more job opportunities than those without one.

Ultimately, whether or not someone needs a school social worker certificate will depend on their individual circumstance and career goals. Those who want to pursue this type of work should carefully consider their options before making a decision about obtaining certification.

Related: School Social Worker Resume Examples

FAQs About School Social Worker Certifications

1. How do I become a certified school social worker?

Answer: To become a certified school social worker, you must have a master’s degree in social work from an accredited college or university, complete supervised field experience in a school setting, and pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) exam.

2. What is the difference between a school social worker and a regular social worker?

Answer: School social workers are uniquely qualified to provide mental health services to students in schools. They understand how educational systems operate and are trained to support student development and learning through direct services, consultation, and collaboration with other professionals. Regular social workers may work with different populations such as adults or families.

3. Are there any continuing education requirements for school social workers?

Answer: Yes, most states require continuing education for school social workers to maintain their certification status. The requirements vary from state to state but typically include attending professional trainings and conferences, completing online courses, or taking part in research projects or internships related to the field of school social work.

4. What type of job opportunities are available for certified school social workers?

Answer: Certified school social workers can find employment in public and private schools as well as universities and other educational institutions. Job duties may include providing individual counseling sessions, group therapy sessions, family interventions, crisis intervention services, case management services, program evaluation activities and more.

5. What is the salary range for certified school social workers?

Answer: Salaries for certified school social workers vary depending on location and employer but typically range from $40-60K per year on average with some earning significantly more depending on experience level and job duties performed.