CSWE Accreditation: What Is the Council on Social Work Education?


Updated July 11, 2023 · 3 Min Read

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Only one agency offers accreditation for social work education programs in the United States.

The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) is the only approved programmatic accrediting agency for social work programs in the U.S. It operates in all fifty states. As an independent, nonprofit accrediting agency, CSWE ensures high standards for social work education.

Social work programs need CSWE accreditation so that graduates qualify for licensure. This is true whether the program is a bachelor of social work (BSW) or master of social work (MSW). Almost all social services careers and social work jobs require CSWE-accredited degrees.

This guide explains CSWE and its central role in preparing social workers.

What Is the Council on Social Work Education?

The Council on Social Work Education launched in 1952. It is now the national accrediting agency for social work programs. It develops standards and evaluates programs to ensure high-quality social work education. CSWE accredits over 800 social work programs.

The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) recognizes CSWE as the only social work education accrediting agency in the U.S.

What Is CSWE Accreditation?

Accredited social work programs must meet high standards for educating future social workers. CSWE evaluates programs based on degree requirements, internship components, and faculty qualifications. Only programs that meet CSWE academic standards earn accreditation.

Most social work careers require a CSWE-accredited social work degree. For example, a clinical social worker needs an accredited degree to receive a license. CSWE accredits more than 500 BSW programs and nearly 300 MSW programs, with more than 60 programs in candidacy or pre-candidacy.

What Degree Programs Does the CSWE Accredit?

The Council on Social Work Education accredits BSW and MSW programs. In addition to in-person programs, CSWE also grants accreditation to online BSW and online MSW programs.

CSWE covers programs that prepare graduates for social work careers as clinical social workers, medical social workers, forensic social workers, and psychiatric social workers. However, CSWE does not accredit doctorate in social work programs that focus on research and academic career paths.

Accredited CSWE social work programs offer training in the following specializations.

  • Clinical social work
  • Community social work
  • Forensic social work
  • Mental health and substance abuse social work
  • Child and family social work
  • Social work administration

The CSWE Directory of Accredited Programs lists accredited BSW and MSW degrees. The directory also includes formerly accredited programs, conditionally accredited programs, and programs in the candidacy phase.

What Are the CSWE Core Competencies?

CSWE developed core competencies to evaluate social work programs for. This ensures that a program's curriculum prepares graduates for social work careers. Programs must meet these standards for educational materials and student learning outcomes to earn CSWE accreditation.

The core competencies include ethical and professional behavior, engaging with communities, and promoting human rights. CSWE also evaluates programs based on their assessment, intervention, and evaluation training methods. These core competencies align with social work ethics and goals.

CSWE Core Competencies

  • Demonstrate ethical and professional behavior
  • Engage diversity and difference in practice
  • Advance human rights and social, economic, and environmental justice
  • Engage in practice-informed research and research-informed practice
  • Engage in policy practice
  • Engage with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities
  • Assess individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities
  • Intervene with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities
  • Evaluate practice with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities

CSWE plays an important role in social work education. By setting standards and evaluating educational outcomes, CSWE ensures that social work programs provide high quality education and best serve the needs of social work students and professionals.

Portrait of Genevieve Carlton

Genevieve Carlton

Genevieve Carlton holds a Ph.D. in history from Northwestern University. After earning her doctorate in early modern European history, Carlton worked as an assistant professor of history at the University of Louisville, where she developed new courses on the history of science, Renaissance Italy, and the witch trials. Carlton has published five peer-reviewed articles in top presses and a monograph with the University of Chicago Press. She also earned tenure with a unanimous vote before relocating to Seattle. Learn more about Carlton's work at genevievecarlton.com.

Header Image Credit: Moyo Studio | Getty Images

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