How To Get Your National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Credentials

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By Juliann Scholl

Reviewed by Melissa Russiano, LCSW, LISW

Published on August 31, 2021

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Graduates of social work programs can earn credentials to help build on their expertise and expand their job prospects. Professionals engaged in a variety of social work careers are certified by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) — the largest professional organization for the field.

Social workers in clinical and nonclinical settings may need more than a state license. Workers may be required to earn NASW credentials in specialties like hospice and palliative care, school social work, and healthcare.

What Is a Social Work Credential?

A social work credential qualifies a professional for a specialization, such as youth and family social work or gerontology social work. NASW offers credentialing to applicants who meet all the requirements. Certifications do not replace state licensure, but they can help fulfill additional requirements for a specialty.

NASW certifications vary in terms of their education and work criteria. For instance, some social worker credentials require a master's degree and a certain number of supervised work hours.

Candidates should make sure they meet all requirements before submitting their application for a credential. These requirements can include an application fee, a current resume, exam scores, work experience, and continuing education hours.

Why Should I Get Social Work Credentials?

A certification enables a social worker to demonstrate their skills, knowledge, and proficiency in their chosen specialty. A social work credential showcases a professional's commitment to their career path and to the children, adults, and/or groups they serve. Holding certification in a social work specialization like gerontology, substance abuse, or healthcare can improve a worker's job prospects and earning potential. Certain social work credentials qualify professionals for leadership, advocacy, and policy positions.

What Are National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Credentials?

NASW was founded in 1955. The association promotes professional development, sets standards for social work practice, and offers certifications.

Social work professionals need an NASW membership to obtain some credentials. Membership can also give professionals access to networking opportunities. However, simply belonging to NASW does not replace the need for certification to work in specific social work specialties.

The cost of an NASW membership varies by membership type. Regular annual membership dues range from $158-$236, depending on the applicant's degree. Undergraduate and master's students can become members for $60 annually, and doctoral students can join for $179.

Types of NASW Credentials


Professional Social Work Credentials | Advanced Practice Specialty Credentials — Master of Social Work (MSW) | Advanced Practice Specialty Credentials — Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)


Professional Social Work Credentials


Academy of Certified Social Workers (ACSW)

  • Application Fee: $140
  • Education Requirements: Master's in social work and 20 credits of continuing education
  • Field Requirements: Two years of postgraduate social work employment under a credentialed supervisor

The ACSW credential is among the most accepted and respected credentials for social work professionals. This credential qualifies holders to provide most social work services.


Diplomate in Clinical Social Work (DCSW)

  • Application Fee: $450
  • Education Requirements: Master's in social work with 20 credits of clinical social work coursework
  • Field Requirements: Documented 4,500 hours and three years of clinical social work within the past 10 years and 30 contact hours of continuing education within the past two years

The DCSW credential qualifies people to work with couples, families, and individuals. This credential also demonstrates knowledge of the theory and methods used to address and diagnose addiction, disability, and mental and emotional disorders.


Advanced Practice Specialty Credentials — Master of Social Work (MSW)


Advanced Certified Hospice and Palliative Social Worker (ACHP-SW)

Professionals can obtain this credential if they work with patients and families who face a chronic illness or need end-of-life care. The ACHP-SW credential demonstrates knowledge of intervention methods and the biopsychosocial components of mental health.


Clinical Social Worker in Gerontology (CSW-G)

Social workers who work in a gerontological specialty might pursue this credential. The CSW-G credential is a good fit for professionals who want to help older adults achieve more independence and better health. This credential demonstrates knowledge of government regulations, policies, and the aging process.


Advanced Social Worker in Gerontology (ASW-G)

The ASW-G credential helps verify that certified professionals can assess older adults' functional capacity and needs. Social workers also need this credential for case management, long-term care, advocacy, and advanced care planning.


Certified Advanced Children, Youth, and Family Social Worker (C-ACYFSW)

This credential prepares social workers to assist families, children, and youths, helping them attain services and support. Social workers might seek this certification if they want to help enhance families' emotional and physical health. The C-ACYFSW credential can also qualify professionals to work in administration, program evaluation, policy development, and advocacy.


Certified Social Worker in Health Care (C-SWHC)

Social workers assisting patients and families in healthcare settings might obtain the C-SWHC credential. This certification demonstrates knowledge of the biopsychosocial components of health and how healthcare providers can expand and modify their services.


Certified Clinical Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs Social Worker (C-CATODSW)

This certification qualifies professionals to support individuals and families struggling with addiction. The C-CATODSW credential indicates that a social worker can conduct assessments, allocate resources, and conduct interventions.


Certified Advanced Social Work Case Manager (C-ASWCM)

This credential demonstrates proficiency in case management and knowledge of the biopsychosocial aspects of medical care. Professionals often pursue this certification to increase their job prospects, especially if they're interested in improving the systems that provide social work services.


Certified School Social Work Specialist (C-SSWS)

Social workers working with students and their families in school settings benefit from this certification. The C-SSWS credential signifies that professionals know how to conduct crisis intervention, oversee group and individual work, manage cases, provide advocacy, and resolve conflicts.


Qualified Clinical Social Worker (QCSW)

This credential reflects knowledge and skills associated with clinical social work. The QCSW credential also can demonstrate proficiency in clinical practice.


Advanced Practice Specialty Credentials — Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)


Certified Hospice and Palliative Social Worker (CHP-SW)

  • Application Fee: $140 for NASW members, $350 for non-members
  • Education Requirements: Bachelor's in social work and at least 20 continuing education units
  • Field Requirements: Three years of supervised work after graduation and a state license

Professionals working in palliative and hospice care might pursue this certification. The CHP-SW credential indicates that a professional is qualified to address the biopsychosocial needs of patients and their families in these settings.


Social Worker in Gerontology (SW-G)

  • Application Fee: $140 for NASW members, $350 for non-members
  • Education Requirements: Bachelor's in social work and at least 20 continuing education units
  • Field Requirements: Three years or 4,500 hours of supervised experience, active state license

Social work professionals can obtain this certification to demonstrate proficiency in working with older adults. The SW-G credential can qualify social workers with four-year degrees to conduct needs and functionality assessments, work in case management, and plan long-term and advanced care.


Certified Children, Youth, and Family Social Worker (C-CYFSW)

  • Application Fee: $140 for NASW members, $350 for non-members
  • Education Requirements: Bachelor's in social work and at least 20 continuing education units
  • Field Requirements: One year of experience; 1,500 hours of postgraduate, supervised work; and an active BSW state license

This credential benefits social workers who work with youths under 18 years of age and their families. For social workers without master's degrees, the C-CYFSW credential can demonstrate proficiency in policy, advocacy, education, evaluation, research, administration, and program development.


Certified Social Work Case Manager (C-SWCM)

  • Application Fee: $165 for NASW members, $210 for non-members
  • Education Requirements: Bachelor's in social work
  • Field Requirements: Three years and 4,500 hours of supervised work experience and an active BSW-level state license

This certification is for social workers with four-year degrees. The C-SWCM credential demonstrates that a professional has the experience, knowledge, and training needed to help clients and families meet their needs.


Frequently Asked Questions About National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Credentials

What does NASW stand for?

NASW stands for the National Association of Social Workers — an organization that advances the development of social work professionals, sets practice standards for the field, and advocates for sensible policies.

How is NASW funded?

NASW receives some of its funding from members who pay dues annually. Additional funding comes from the NASW Foundation, which receives donations from private donors, government grants, and other foundations.

What is the difference between ASW and ACSW?

ASW may refer to an associate of social work degree. This two-year degree is awarded by many colleges and can provide a way to enter the social work field. Alternatively, ACSW stands for the Academy of Certified Social Workers credential. This represents a master's-level designation provided by NASW.

How many members are in NASW?

NASW operates 55 chapters throughout the United States. The association serves over 120,000 members, making it the largest social work professional association.

What is NASW's Code of Ethics?

NASW's Code of Ethics guides social workers' professional conduct and decision-making. The code contains standards, principles, and values that apply to all social workers. All people who hold an NASW certification must comply with this code.


Reviewed by:

Melissa Russiano is a licensed clinical social worker in private practice that has organically developed into a specialty helping working professionals. Russiano has a proven track record helping professionals avoid burnout in a unique way that holds clinicians accountable through laughter, tears, blunt (yet very supportive) feedback, and quirky analogies that are grounded in solid theoretical research. Russiano practices solely in a virtual setting in the states of California, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. In addition, Russiano is a professor at Simmons University online, imparting her experiences and knowledge in the field to graduate social work students.


Feature Image: Catherine Falls Commercial / Moment / Getty Images

As social work continues to grow, degree-holders can apply their skills in either a traditional social work career or one of eight related emerging roles. Learn about scholarships and financial aid available for social work students. What does a licensed clinical social worker actually do? Learn what the field of social work entails in this candid interview with a private-practice LCSW.

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