While not technically a social work degree, a graduate certificate can provide a brief but intimate look into social work specialties and focus areas. Graduate Certificates in Social Work are often pursued by college-educated professionals in various fields, not necessarily just social workers. For example, if a psychologist is hoping to focus their practice on serving lower-income families, they may choose to enroll in a Child Welfare Social Work Graduate Certificate.

Social workers with a more generalized degree may also choose to enroll in a social work graduate certificate to focus their education in a particular area or areas. A graduate certificate alone won’t fulfill the requirements needed to become licensed as a social worker, but it can help give social workers an edge in the job market.

Learn more about How to Become a Social Worker.

Can I Get a Graduate Certificate in Social Work Online?

The options are limitless when it comes to social work graduate certificate programs. Because of their busy schedules, online education is one option many practicing social workers take advantage of. Online social work graduate certificates often have the option of being self-paced, meaning that students have a broad timeframe to work with and can complete their coursework independently. Self-paced social work graduate certificate programs are usually advertised as such on program websites.

Depending on the specific requirements, a social work graduate certificate may require in-person clinical hours. You may want to consider applying to graduate certificate programs within your state. However, many online grad certificate programs will work with you to find placements in your local area.

Social Work Degrees at Every Level

Interested in a social work education? There's a degree for that! Check out the available campus-based and online social work degree options to get started.

BSW Degree

MSW Degree

Advanced-Standing MSW Degree

DSW & Ph.D. in Social Work Degrees

All Social Work Degrees

College student enrolled in a social work degree program at library with laptop

What Can I Expect in an Online Graduate Certificate in Social Work?

If you’ve never taken an online class, you may wonder, “How do online students take exams?” Online exams are typically administered using proctoring software, which monitors your online activity and uses your webcam to ensure you’re not using a cheat sheet during exam hours. Some programs offer their students to take their exams in their local public library with a university official present. Classes will typically happen over Zoom or with pre-recorded lectures followed by a questions and answers segment. Coursework will be typically delivered over the student portal or email.

The curriculum of your graduate certificate in social work will depend on the specific program you choose. For example, courses offered in the University of California’s graduate certificate in Advanced Clinical Social Work Practice include:

  • Social Work Practice with Children and Families in Early and Middle Childhood
  • Brief Therapy and Crisis Intervention
  • Advanced Practice with Complex Social Work Cases
  • Domestic & Intimate Partner Abuse
  • Social Work Practice in Integrated Care Settings

Graduate Certificate in Social Work Admission Requirements

Admission requirements for Graduate Certificates in Social Work vary depending on the school and the specific certificate program. However, standard requirements typically include:

  • Prior College Degree: Applicants are usually required to hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution and may also be required to have a master’s degree or be concurrently enrolled in a master’s program. While some programs may accept candidates from various academic backgrounds, others may prefer applicants with a degree in social work, such as a BSW degree or MSW degree, or a related field.
  • Minimum GPA: Most programs have a minimum GPA requirement for admission. This requirement typically ranges from 2.5 to 3.0 on a 4.0 scale but can vary by institution and program.
  • Transcripts: Applicants are usually required to submit official transcripts from all previous colleges and universities attended. These transcripts provide evidence of academic achievement and help admissions committees assess applicants’ readiness for graduate-level coursework.
  • Letters of Recommendation: Many programs require applicants to submit letters of recommendation from academic or professional references who can speak to the applicant’s abilities, character, and potential for success in the program.
  • Statement of Purpose or Personal Statement: Applicants may need to submit a statement of purpose or personal statement outlining their reasons for pursuing the certificate, career goals, relevant experiences, and how the certificate fits into their professional development plans.
  • Resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV): Some programs require applicants to submit a resume or CV detailing their work experience, volunteer activities, internships, and other relevant experiences in social work or related areas.

Prospective applicants must carefully review the admission requirements and application deadlines for the specific graduate certificate program they’re interested in, as requirements may vary from one institution to another. Additionally, reaching out to the admissions office or program coordinator for clarification and guidance can help ensure eligibility.

Graduate Certificate in Social Work Length

A graduate certificate usually takes around a year to complete. Still, students enrolled in an online social work graduate certificate program may need more or less time, especially if the program is self-paced. Because the program is so short to begin with, some programs don’t allow part-time students to apply. In any case, the length of time required will typically be mapped out on the program website.

Social Work Graduate Certificate Specialties

If an area of focus exists in social work, it’s usually represented by a social work graduate certificate program. Here are just a few examples of social work graduate certificates available to students:

Note that these graduate certificates can be earned as a bonus to your educational background, even if you plan on primarily focusing on a different social work field or a different field entirely.

Find out more about Social Work Careers.

Tara Moretti, LMHC
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