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Top 10 Social Service Worker Certifications

This article will provide an overview of the top certifications available for social service workers, as well as their benefits and requirements.

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Brenna Goyette
Certified Professional Resume Writer, Career Expert

Published 16 min read

Certifications for social service workers demonstrate a level of competency to employers and can help ensure that the worker is prepared to handle the responsibilities of their job. In addition, certifications may make a social service worker more attractive to potential employers, as they show that the individual is committed to their profession and has taken steps to stay up-to-date on best practices in the field. Certifications can also be used as evidence of expertise or specialization in a certain area, which can open up new opportunities for advancement and higher salaries.

This article reviews some of the top certifications for Social Service Workers and explains how they can enhance a social service worker's career.

What are Social Service Worker Certifications?

Social service worker certification is a professional designation that identifies individuals who have achieved a specific level of knowledge, skills and abilities in the field of social services. It is an important credential for those who wish to work in this area and can help them gain employment, advance their career goals or demonstrate their commitment to the profession.

The certification process typically involves completing an approved program of study and passing an exam that tests the individual’s understanding of the core competencies associated with social service work. The program of study may include courses such as human behaviour, mental health, crisis intervention, social policy, case management and other related topics. Upon completion of the program and passing the exam, individuals are awarded a certificate indicating their level of proficiency in social services.

Having this certification can be beneficial in many ways. It demonstrates to potential employers that you have achieved a certain level of knowledge and expertise in the field which makes you more desirable than someone without it. Additionally, having this certification may give you access to higher paying jobs or more prestigious positions within organizations. It also shows dedication to your chosen profession as well as a commitment to lifelong learning which is always valued by employers. Lastly, certifications are often required for certain types of positions within organizations so having one could make you eligible for job opportunities that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to pursue without it.

Pro Tip: If you are considering a career as a social service worker, be sure to research the certification requirements in your state. Most states require social service workers to have at least a bachelor's degree in social work or a related field and to pass an exam before they can become certified. Additionally, many states require continuing education credits in order to maintain certification.

Related: What does a Social Service Worker do?

Top 10 Social Service Worker Certifications

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

1. Certified Social Work Case Manager (C-SWCM)

Certified Social Work Case Manager (C-SWCM) is a credential that is awarded to social workers who have demonstrated a mastery of the skills and knowledge necessary for effective case management. The C-SWCM credential is administered by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW).

To become certified, applicants must meet certain requirements, such as having a master’s degree in social work from an accredited program and at least two years of supervised experience in case management. Applicants must also pass an exam that covers topics such as assessment and diagnosis, treatment planning, service coordination, and advocacy.

The process of becoming certified typically takes about six months to complete. To begin the process, applicants must submit an application to NASW along with the required fees. Once the application has been approved, applicants will receive instructions on how to register for the exam. After passing the exam, applicants will be issued their C-SWCM credential.

The cost of becoming certified varies depending on whether you are a member or nonmember of NASW. For members, it costs $350 for the initial application fee plus $225 for the exam fee; for nonmembers, it costs $450 for the initial application fee plus $325 for the exam fee.

2. Certified Clinical Social Worker (CCSW)

Certified Clinical Social Worker (CCSW) is a professional credential that is awarded to social workers who have met the qualifications established by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). The CCSW credential is designed to recognize those social workers who have demonstrated advanced clinical knowledge and practice in the field of clinical social work.

To obtain the CCSW, a social worker must have a master’s degree in social work from an accredited university, must have at least two years of supervised post-master’s experience in clinical social work, and must pass an examination administered by the NASW. This examination assesses knowledge and skills related to clinical practice, including assessment, diagnosis, treatment planning, intervention strategies, evaluation of outcomes, and ethical considerations.

The cost of obtaining the CCSW varies depending on where you live and what type of program you are enrolled in. Generally speaking, it will cost around $1,000-$2,000 for tuition fees plus additional costs such as books and materials. It typically takes between one to two years to complete all requirements for the CCSW.

3. Certified School Social Work Specialist (CSSWS)

Certified School Social Work Specialist (CSSWS) is a professional certification offered by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). The CSSWS credential is designed to recognize school social workers who demonstrate advanced knowledge, skills, and experience in the field. It is intended to serve as a mark of excellence for school social workers and provide an additional measure of assurance to employers that the holder has met high standards of practice.

To become certified, applicants must meet certain educational and work experience requirements. They must have a master’s degree in social work from an accredited program, have at least two years of post-degree supervised experience working with children or adolescents in a school setting, and pass a written examination.

The application fee for the certification is $200 for NASW members and $250 for non-members. The exam fee is $175 for members and $225 for non-members. Once approved, the certification must be renewed every four years by completing continuing education credits and paying a renewal fee of $50.

4. Certified Advanced Social Work Case Manager (CASWCM)

Certified Advanced Social Work Case Manager (CASWCM) is an advanced certification for social workers who specialize in case management. It is a voluntary certification that requires a minimum of two years of experience as a case manager and successful completion of the CASWCM examination. The exam is offered by the International Association of Social Work Case Managers (IASWC).

The CASWCM certification is designed to recognize professionals who have demonstrated knowledge and experience in case management and demonstrate their commitment to professional standards and ethical practice. To become certified, applicants must meet eligibility requirements, including having at least two years of full-time or equivalent part-time experience as a case manager, completing 45 hours of continuing education related to case management, and passing the CASWCM exam.

It typically takes six months to one year to complete the process from application to certification. The cost for the CASWCM exam is $250 USD plus applicable taxes.

5. National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Certification

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Certification is a voluntary credentialing program that recognizes social workers who have met the standards for professional excellence. It is designed to promote the highest quality of professional practice and to ensure public protection.

In order to become certified, applicants must meet certain eligibility requirements, including having a master's degree in social work from an accredited institution and at least two years of post-master's supervised experience. Applicants must also pass a comprehensive examination administered by the NASW.

The certification process typically takes between six to nine months, depending on the applicant's individual circumstances. The first step is to submit an application along with all required documentation and fees. Once the application has been approved, applicants will be scheduled for an exam date. After passing the exam, applicants will receive their certification within 8-12 weeks.

The cost of becoming certified varies depending on whether or not you are an NASW member. For non-members, it costs $225 for the initial application fee plus $200 for each additional year of post-master's supervised experience up to five years; after that, it costs $100 per year ($500 total). For members, it costs $175 for the initial application fee plus $150 for each additional year of post-master's supervised experience up to five years; after that, it costs $75 per year ($425 total).

6. Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

A Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) is a mental health professional who has obtained a master's degree in social work and has been licensed by the state in which they practice. LCSWs provide counseling and psychotherapy services to individuals, couples, families, and groups. They specialize in helping people cope with stressors such as depression, anxiety, grief, trauma, substance abuse, relationship problems, and more.

To become an LCSW, one must first obtain a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree from an accredited university or college. This typically takes two to three years of full-time study. Once the MSW is completed, applicants must then pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) clinical level exam in order to become licensed.

The cost for obtaining an LCSW license varies depending on the state in which you are applying. Generally speaking, it can range from $200-$600 for application fees and $200-$400 for the ASWB exam fee.

Once all requirements have been met and the license has been granted by the state board of social work examiners, LCSWs may begin practicing as independent clinicians or seek employment at hospitals, clinics, schools, government agencies or private practices.

7. Certified Psychiatric Rehabilitation Practitioner (CPRP)

Certified Psychiatric Rehabilitation Practitioner (CPRP) is a professional designation that recognizes the specialized knowledge and skills of individuals who work in the field of psychiatric rehabilitation. The CPRP credential is awarded by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) International, an independent accrediting body that ensures quality standards are met in the delivery of services to persons with disabilities.

It typically takes between one and two years to become certified as a CPRP. The process involves completing a training program and passing an examination administered by CARF. Training programs may be offered through universities, community colleges, or other organizations dedicated to providing mental health services.

The cost for becoming certified varies depending on the type of program chosen and any associated fees such as application fees or examination fees. Generally speaking, costs can range from several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.

In order to maintain their certification, CPRPs must complete continuing education requirements every three years. This includes attending workshops and seminars related to psychiatric rehabilitation and submitting documentation of attendance for review by CARF International.

8. Certified Gerontological Social Worker (CGSW)

Certified Gerontological Social Worker (CGSW) is a professional certification that recognizes social workers who have specialized knowledge and experience in working with older adults. It is awarded by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and requires a certain level of education, experience, and ongoing continuing education.

To become certified as a CGSW, applicants must have at least two years of full-time post-masters social work practice with older adults or elders within the last five years. Applicants must also have completed at least 30 hours of approved continuing education related to gerontology within the last three years.

The cost for the CGSW application fee is $175 for NASW members, or $225 for non-members. The fee includes an initial review and one retake if necessary. After submitting an application, it typically takes up to six weeks for NASW to process an application and issue a certification letter.

9. Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Social Worker (CHPCSW)

A Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Social Worker (CHPCSW) is a professional who has been trained to provide specialized social work services to individuals and families facing life-limiting illnesses. CHPCSWs have advanced knowledge in the areas of grief, loss, and bereavement; end-of-life decision making; communication skills; and understanding of the medical system. They are able to provide emotional support, practical assistance, and advocacy for those dealing with serious illness.

In order to become a CHPCSW, you must have an MSW degree from an accredited school of social work and at least two years of post-MSW experience in hospice or palliative care settings. Candidates must also pass the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Hospice & Palliative Care Specialty Certification Exam. The exam is offered twice a year (April and October) and costs $450 for NASW members and $550 for nonmembers.

The certification process typically takes about six months to complete once all requirements have been met. After passing the exam, applicants will receive their official certificate within 4–6 weeks. The certification is valid for five years before needing to be renewed by taking the recertification exam or completing continuing education credits.

The cost of becoming certified as a CHPCSW varies depending on whether or not you are an NASW member. For nonmembers, it can cost up to $1,100 including application fees ($50), exam fees ($550), and CEUs ($500). For NASW members, it can cost up to $800 including application fees ($50) and exam fees ($450).

10. National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) Certification

The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) is a nonprofit organization that provides certification and credentialing services to professional counselors. The NBCC offers the National Certified Counselor (NCC) credential, which is one of the most widely recognized credentials in the counseling profession. The NCC credential demonstrates that a counselor has met rigorous standards of knowledge, skill, and experience in order to provide quality services to clients.

The process of obtaining the NCC credential involves completing an application form and submitting it along with supporting documents such as transcripts, letters of recommendation, and proof of clinical hours. Once these materials are submitted, they are reviewed by NBCC staff who then determine eligibility for certification. If eligible, applicants must pass a written examination administered by the NBCC. Upon successful completion of the exam, applicants will be awarded their NCC credential.

The entire process can take anywhere from six months to two years depending on when all required materials are received and when the exam is taken. The cost for applying for the NCC credential varies depending on whether you are a first-time applicant or if you have previously held an NCC credential; however, it typically ranges from $200 - $500 USD.

Do You Really Need a Social Service Worker Certificate?

The answer to this question depends on your individual career goals. If you are interested in working as a social service worker, then obtaining a certificate is likely necessary. Social service workers provide valuable services to individuals and communities, often working with vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly, and people with disabilities.

A certificate in social work can help you gain the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in this field. It can also offer an advantage when applying for jobs or promotions. Many employers look for candidates who have completed a certificate program in social work. This shows that you have taken the initiative to further your education and gain the necessary qualifications for the job.

In addition to providing formal education, a certificate program can also give you access to professional networks and resources that will help you succeed in the field. You may gain valuable experience through internships or practicum courses offered through a certificate program, which can be beneficial when seeking employment after graduation.

Ultimately, whether or not you need a social service worker certificate depends on what type of role you are interested in pursuing within this field. If your goal is to become a social service worker, it’s likely worth considering enrolling in an accredited certificate program so that you have the best chance of success.

Related: Social Service Worker Resume Examples

FAQs About Social Service Worker Certifications

1. What are the requirements to obtain a social service worker certification?

Answer: To obtain a social service worker certification, you must have a high school diploma or equivalent and complete an accredited social service worker program. Depending on the province, additional courses in human services may also be required.

2. How long does it take to get certified as a social service worker?

Answer: The length of time to become certified as a social service worker varies based on the province and the program you enroll in, however it typically takes anywhere from nine months to two years.

3. What type of job can I get with my social service worker certification?

Answer: With your certification, you will be qualified for entry-level positions such as case manager, child and youth worker, family support worker, residential counsellor and more.

4. Are there any additional certifications that I can pursue after obtaining my social service worker certification?

Answer: Yes, depending on your career goals you may want to pursue additional certifications such as becoming a Registered Social Service Worker (RSSW) or Certified Social Worker (CSW). These certifications require additional education and experience but can lead to higher salaries and job opportunities.

5. Does my social service worker certification expire?

Answer: Generally speaking, no – once you receive your certification it is valid for life unless certain conditions apply such as if you move provinces or become inactive in the field for an extended period of time.