Social Work Continuing Education

Written by Beth Hrusch
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The very nature of their work dictates that social workers have an obligation to continue their education long past the time that their degrees are earned. Social work is a field that encompasses a wide range of specialties, and this, in part, reflects the complex nature of working with the art and science of human psychology. Our knowledge of the human mind and the effects of outside influences on the psyche increases rapidly as new scientific discoveries are made. Thus, the social worker must have a good working knowledge of the latest information in order to serve clients to the best of his or her ability.

Continuing Education Updates Information

Imagine a doctor who had not attended a seminar or class in his field since earning his medical degree. Would he be qualified to practice medicine? Would the average person trust him with her life and health? The same principle applies to any professional field, and social work is no exception. Unless the social worker continually updates his knowledge, he will be unable to adequately serve his clients.

The solution is, of course, continuing education. Once a license is obtained through a state board, a social worker will find that this is merely the first step to becoming a knowledgeable and experienced social worker or counselor. The key to staying qualified, as well as improving one's scope of knowledge, involves taking courses offered both online and through local agencies. This is a continual process for the social worker, and will ensure that state requirements are met and also that the individual is competent to serve the general public. In fact, state requirements are updated every year to two years, meaning continuing social work education is actually necessary in order to keep one's license up-to-date.

Fields of Study

The field of social work involves many specialties, within which there are certain requirements that differ from state to state. In order to be licensed and qualified as a social worker specializing in addiction counseling, for example, each state will require social workers to complete a certain amount of hours of training in this field. These courses can be taken online for convenience; however, the instructor must be certified with the state. Continuing education classes, in conjunction with licensing updates, will ensure that the social worker not only meets minimum requirements but also stays current on the techniques of his or her trade.

The importance of continuing education in social work speaks to the impact that social workers have in their communities and, thus, in the world. In the United States, there are over a half million professional social workers. They have the often difficult task of helping others overcome a variety of social and health problems, such as mental illness, drug addiction, homelessness and abuse. Working directly with individuals suffering from these and other disadvantages enables the social worker to identify and help solve the root problems.

Thus, a social worker who is a lifelong learner will be able to apply the latest techniques and therapies to each case in the hope that they will set a troubled individual on the path to wellness. Examples of the fields of study that can be updated through continuing education are addiction, domestic violence, grief counseling and mental illness. Depending on a social worker's career specialty, he or she may want to concentrate on the fields that relate directly to that specialty.

The Benefits of Continuing Education

A medical social worker, for example, may find that additional units of study in the field of gerontology are helpful. A school social worker can take courses in school violence and how to deal with the social and emotional problems that keep kids from being able to learn. The course of study must be taught by an accredited instructor licensed by the state in which the social worker practices. Completing CEUs will enable the social worker to obtain license renewals, which are required every two years in most states.

Social work continuing education serves a purpose beyond allowing social workers to keep their licenses. When professionals in this field are up-to-date on the latest information regarding all of the aspects of mental and social health, everyone benefits. Largely, this is because social workers can find practical solutions to the problems that keep people from being productive members of society. They have resources that can connect those in need of help to the places and people who can provide it.

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