The most common accreditation questions. If you are a program representative and have a specific question about accreditation, please contact your accreditation specialist.

question icon Are programs outside the United States accredited by CSWE?

answer iconNo, the accrediting authority of CSWE extends only to the United States and its territories. If you attended a social work program overseas and wish to work in the United States, it is advisable to have your degree evaluated by CSWE’s International Social Work Degree Recognition and Evaluation Service.

question icon Are there any CSWE-accredited, distance-learning social work programs?

answer icon

Most accredited social work programs utilize distance education for some of their courses. Most offer part-time, extended-day, or evening courses at their main, satellite, or branch campuses, which may or may not use distance education.

CSWE has accredited a small number of social work programs that use distance-education technology (such as online courses, television, other types of instruction, or a hybrid approach of face-to-face and distance education) to complete a large section of their baccalaureate and master's degree requirements. 

You can view a list of accredited distance education programs that requested to be included on our web page. All accredited programs are subject to the same accreditation standards and review criteria by the Commission on Accreditation, regardless of the curriculum delivery methods used. Thus, if you find a program with distance education components that is not on this list, that program will still be accredited if it is listed in our Directory of Accredited Programs.

Each program design is different, and each may have specific admissions requirements for its distance-education programs. Please contact these schools directly.


question icon How do I decide which social work program is right for me?

answer iconWe encourage students to look for a program that meets both their professional and personal goals.

Ask practical questions:

  • Can I live here for the next 2 or 4 years?
  • Is it affordable?
  • Is the institution too big or too small?
  • Does the program offer the specialization or concentration I want?
  • Does the program appear to have a faculty and staff with whom I can work? Are there ample field placement opportunities in my area of interest?

The answers to such questions will affect your life more than the questionable long-term benefit of attending a well-known program. Furthermore, even if you hear that a particular program is well known or is highly rated, you may not necessarily find it to be a good fit for you. You can access CSWE’s online Member Program Directory to see a listing of accredited and in-candidacy master’s and baccalaureate social work programs.


question icon If I am upset with my program, how do I file a complaint?

answer iconThe issue for which a complaint is filed must be related to the requirements of CSWE’s Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards. In addition, before submitting the complaint to CSWE, individuals must follow the complaint procedures within their own institutions. Please refer to complaint procedures for filing a complaint.

question icon What does it mean when a program is in candidacy?

answer iconUnder the 2001 Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards, programs working toward accreditation are first in precandidacy and then candidacy. Precandidacy is "a time that a new program and its institutional administration engages in a period of preliminary planning, securing resources, and hiring faculty before submitting an application" (Handbook of Accreditation Standards and Procedures, 5th ed., 2003, p. 3). 

Candidacy is the "first step toward the initial accreditation process" (Handbook of Accreditation Standards and Procedures, 5th ed., 2003, p. 3). 

Once a program is granted initial accreditation, it "automatically covers those graduating classes of students who were admitted during or after the academic year, August to June, in which the program was granted candidacy.

Students admitted prior to the academic year in which the program was granted candidacy [such as precandidacy] will not have graduated from a Council-accredited social work education program" (Handbook of Accreditation Standards and Procedures, 5th ed., 2003, p. 6).

question icon Which are the best social work programs in the United States?

answer iconCSWE accredits social work education programs; it does not provide qualitative information about programs nor does it compare or "rank" them. Accreditation is meant to provide assurance that a program has met the profession’s minimum standards for professional social work education. You may find that a practice-oriented profession like social work is more likely to make hiring decisions based on an individual’s professional experience rather than on the school attended.

question icon Why does CSWE not accredit associate's or doctoral programs?

answer iconCSWE limits its accreditation function to programs that prepare students for professional social work practice, i.e., baccalaureate and master’s degree programs. In general, associate degree programs prepare students for paraprofessional-level positions in social service agencies. 

Doctoral degrees in social work are typically research-oriented and primarily prepare students for academic, research, or administrative positions. In most instances, persons seeking a doctorate in social work already have a master's degree in social work.