What is CSWE?
If you are searching for a degree program in social work, you may have seen the acronym CWSE on the school or program webpage and wondered what the letters stood for. They stand for the Council on Social Work Education, which is the only national accrediting group for social work educational programs in the United States, according to the organization website. However, this group does more than merely accredit schools and degree programs.
Accreditation is the main function of the organization. Although it is voluntary, schools that don’t seek or receive accreditation may be unable to offer students federal or state scholarship and grant money. To receive accreditation, schools must teach the ten core competencies identified by the organization as being key to effective social work practice. These are: practitioners identify and behave as social workers; they apply ethics to their practice; they employ critical thinking skills; they accept diversity and differences in clients; they work to advance human rights and justice; their practices are research-informed; they employ a knowledge of human behavior and its social context; they engage in policy practice; they respond to social context and they “engage, assess, intervene, and evaluate individuals, families, groups, organizations and communities.” Besides meeting these competencies, the programs must satisfy other criteria such as goal-setting and accomplishment. Undergraduate programs must include at least 400 hours of field experience and graduate programs must supply 900 hours of experience to be accredited. In addition to accrediting programs the council sets standards for the practice of social work and does advocacy on the state and national levels.
History of Social Work
To understand why the standards and the oversight are necessary, you should have an idea of how social work in the United States evolved. Before the industrial revolution, social work was a matter of family responsibility and, where that failed, of poorhouses and other institutions. At the beginning of industrialization, immigration increased and problems arose because of crowded, unsanitary urban communities, poverty, illiteracy and mental illness. Two organizations arose to deal with the problems in different ways. The Charity Organization Society employed paid investigators and volunteer “friendly visitors” to handle social problems on an individual basis. Because the practice of the paid investigators involved adopting standards of practice, programs like the New York School of Philanthropy offered education in what would later be called social work. At the same time, the Settlement House Movement dealt with social dilemmas by educating communities and working at a group level. Between the two movements, a system of social services began. Dealing fairly and competently with social issues involved understanding human behavior and legal issues. Schools arose to teach the practitioners and the need for standardization and certification became apparent.
Kinds of Social Work
Social workers are employed by private and governmental agencies and by industry. Schools use them and so does the military. Professionals in social work deal with family issues, work with children and with the elderly. Corporations use them to resolve issues with employees that can cause lost work days. Some social workers are teachers in post-secondary institutions. There are many different specialties within the field of social work. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the median salary for all social workers as $46,890.
Related Resource: Top 10 Affordable Master of Social Work Online (MSW) Degrees
Even though there are many types of social work practice, they all require a basic knowledge of the fundamentals of social work. This education is always evolving as research indicates new approaches to social issues and policies change. Because of this factor, the oversight of educational programs by the CWSE to ensure qualified, ethical and knowledgeable practitioners is imperative.