As reflected in the National Association of Social Worker’s Code of Ethics, social workers must strive to uphold the principle of competence beyond the MSW degree, by seeking additional learning opportunities that will strengthen and build upon their existing skill sets. Entering the social work profession as a licensed social worker is also making a commitment to lifelong learning – reflected in the continuing education (CE) requirements for licensed social workers required by “nearly every jurisdiction that issues social work licenses,” according to the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB). This means that licensed social workers must obtain a certain number of Continuing Education Units (CEUs) each year in order to successfully renew their social work license.

It is the responsibility of each individual social worker to comply with continuing education responsibilities. The first step in compliance is understanding continuing education requirements in your state/jurisdiction so that you are aware of your options and the necessary documentation and procedures. While continuing education requirements may vary from one jurisdiction to another, this guide provides a brief overview to orient social workers to the important responsibility of continuing their education beyond the MSW degree.

Find out CE Requirements for Your Jurisdiction

In order to find out the specific requirements for continuing education in your state/jurisdiction, you should check the website for the board of social work examiners that issued your license. The website will usually have a section on continuing education that details the requirements, including how many hours or units you must obtain per year, what options are available, how to document CEUs, and any other information you need to know. You can also look for a handbook for licensed social workers on the state board’s website. That handbook usually provides thorough information about CE requirements. In addition to the number of hours required, some jurisdictions have more specific requirements for continuing education in specific topics (ethics, substance abuse, cultural competence, etc) each year.

Know your Options

Continuing Education is usually carried out by attending a short course, workshop, training, or seminar, online or in-person, that has been approved to provide CEUs. Some educational offerings have been pre-approved as CEU providers by the ASWB’s Approved Continuing Education Program, which was “designed to identify and recognize high-quality CE providers that can deliver quality programs on many topics, through in-person or distance learning settings.” Other options are also available that are not part of the ASWB program, but are approved to provide CEU’s for a specific educational offering. The state board website should list upcoming CEU opportunities for social workers in your area. Fees may be charged for attendance or participation in these educational experiences.

Some states include additional approved learning situations, like academic coursework, presentations at professional conferences, attendance at professional association meetings, and formal study groups. Some of these options are free, helping to reduce the costs of continuing education. The state board has final approval on what counts as CE, so you should verify in advance that whatever options you select will be approved.


Social workers are responsible for furnishing proof of compliance with CEU requirements, by providing the appropriate documentation to the state board. Be sure to keep your own records of each CEU offering you attend. The state board should specify what types of information need to be recorded for each CEU obtained, and how to deliver that information to the board. The ASWB provides a Social Work Registry resource to assist social workers in maintaining these records and transmitting them to your state board.

Continuing Education is a great opportunity to advance your career by rounding out your social work knowledge, building your strengths, and staying up to date in the field. Be sure to follow guidance from your state social work board and the ASWB to appropriately document your continued educational pursuits!

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