Social Work Career Development

Social workers develop their careers through continuing education courses.Social workers develop their careers through continuing education courses.

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Your education as a social worker doesn't end once you earn your degree. The practice of social work is a lifelong learning experience that involves a commitment to continuing education, seeking professional advancement opportunities, and networking with other mental health and social services professionals. Social workers who develop their careers maximize their contribution to the profession and to their clients.

Continuing Education

In many states, social workers need to participate in regular continuing education as a condition of maintaining licensure. Even if your state does not currently have this requirement, completing continuing education coursework can help you stay current with emerging research and changes to the profession, such as treatment modalities. It also helps you stay in touch with other professionals and gives you an opportunity to network. Continuing education may also be a way for you to choose an area of specialization, especially if you work in private practice or in an agency or organization that allows you to work in different fields of practice.


At some point in their careers, social workers might choose to specialize in specific fields of practice. Some of the common areas of specialization include child and family social work, social work with the aging, school social work or international social work. Social workers who wish to work in management or clinical supervision may also choose to specialize in these areas. To specialize, social workers often choose to complete a professional certificate in their selected fields of study. Many universities and schools of social work offer advanced or post-master's certificates in specific topics. You can also obtain credentials in specific fields of practice through professional organizations like the National Association of Social Workers.

Related Reading: Career Demographics for Social Workers

Professional Organizations

Becoming a member of a professional organization, such as the National Association of Social Workers or the Clinical Social Work Association, can help you with professional development and provide a number of additional benefits. These organizations offer credentials in a variety of fields of practice that can provide credibility and show the public and your clients that you have met certain professional standards. Professional organizations also usually offer malpractice insurance at discounted rates, access to professional journals and other publications, and a variety of continuing-education, seminar and networking opportunities.


Participating in professional research, teaching at the college or university level, or writing for social work journals are also beneficial ways that social workers can further develop their careers. Social work professors and instructors often need only a master's degree and a certain number of years of professional experience to teach college or university social work courses. Social workers can also submit original and relevant online content to the NASW through their website,, or conduct research on their areas of specialization through organizations such as the NASW or the Social Work Policy Institute.

It's Interesting

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