Social Work Certificate, Diploma and Certification Programs

Social work certificates are typically pursued by students who hold a Master of Social Work (MSW) and a state license, or certification, as a social worker. Certificate programs offer experienced social workers the opportunity to continue their education, stay current in their field or diversify their skill set.

Essential Information

Social workers help people handle problems and issues in their lives, such as alcohol dependency, child abuse or mental illness. A master's degree is required for most clinical roles. Diploma programs in social work are generally not available, but many colleges and universities offer certificate programs in the field. Students can pursue a certificate in a wide variety of specializations.

Certificate in Social Work

Courses in a certificate program may consist of seminars, research, group exercises or workshops. The specific courses students take will depend upon the area of specialization. For example, a certificate program in trauma management will focus on research and treatment tactics for patients dealing with different forms of trauma. A gerontology certificate program might include courses such as:

  • Healthcare policy
  • Death and dying
  • Physical issues of aging
  • The elderly
  • Working with the elderly population

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

There were approximately 649,300 social workers employed in the United States in 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Between 2014 and 2024, employment in social work was expected to grow by 12%. However, the BLS also notes that growth will vary by specialty and will greatly depend on state and local budgets. According to the May 2015 figures from the BLS, the mean annual salary was $47,190 for mental health and substance abuse social workers, $54,020 for healthcare social workers, and $57,970 for other social workers.

Continuing Education

All states require social workers to obtain certification or licensure for most types of work. It's common for a state to require either two years or 3,000 hours of clinical experience under a licensed social worker as a primary prerequisite for certification. However, the steps to certification vary by state, making it important to check before pursuing a specific certificate or degree program.

Social work certification and degree programs consist of a certificate in social work and master's degrees. Licensure is required for employment.

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