It’s now easier than ever for social workers to network and research within a specific field or specialization of social work. Whether you are looking for new coping techniques, better ways to organize cases or the latest studies within your subfield, there’s most likely an entire publication, organization or industry blogger who is dedicated to aggregating exactly the kind of information you’re looking for.
There are hundreds of great social work resources on the Web. Of course, there are also thousands of not-so-great resources on the Web, too. To help you find exactly what you’re looking for, we’ve compiled a few of our favorite below:
There are a number of national and international social work organizations dedicated to enhancing professional growth, advancing social policies and creating a just society. Annual membership fees often apply, but most of the organizations listed below also offer membership discounts to inquiring social work students and professionals.
- National Association of Social Workers: Founded in 1955, the NASW offers social workers the chance to join an extensive pool of like-minded professionals. The association’s 123,000 members can access social work publications and forums online, participate in discounted training seminars and attend annual membership conferences. Membership also includes access to the industry’s best newsletters, blogs and informational webinars and free or discounted continuing education (CE) credits. Annual membership is $190 and open to anyone who has completed a BSW, MSW or DSW from a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited university or recognized social work program. BSW and MSW students receive a 75% discount on membership dues and gain access to the student resource center. Resources include information on grants, scholarships and exclusive internships through the NASW.
- Clinical Social Work Association: CSWA strives to keep clinical social workers well-informed through media coverage and newsletters, and provides members with social services and professional support. General membership costs $135 annually, and students enrolled in a CSWA accredited master’s or doctoral program in clinical social work can purchase membership for $35 per year. This organization is highly involved in legislative policies and advocates for best clinical practices. Members also benefit from discounted liability insurance and complimentary ethical and legal advice.
- American Clinical Social Work Association: ACSWA is an online resource connecting professionals with each other, as well as the latest news, trends and best practices in clinical social work. Basic membership is $50 annually, and discounted graduate student membership is $35 per year. Members can join online discussion boards, gain access to free clinical and legal social work publications, blogs and social media. Students also have the opportunity to receive clinical scholarships and become a liaison for ACSWA and their school, receiving a stipend and free membership.
- Society For Social Work and Research: This nonprofit provides support to social work professionals and students, and advocates for advanced research in the field. Full membership is $150 a year, and membership is $50 annually for students enrolled in full-time social work degree programs. Members receive a discounted rate for the annual SSWR conference that brings together professionals from across the country. Conference symposia discussions include trends in the field, workshops and over 500 presentations dedicated to research and education in social work. Members also receive newsletters, several discounts on publication subscriptions, access to job postings and the Doctoral Student Center available on the SSWR website.
- School Social Work Association of America: SSWAA promotes students’ social and emotional academic growth and is an excellent online resource for social workers, graduate students, professionals and parents. Membership costs $120 per year for individuals and $35 annually for students. All members receive $250,000 professional liability insurance from Forrest T. Jones & Company. Members also receive an extensive list of discounts on professional periodicals, access to technical tools and school social work newsletters, webinars and other helpful resources.
From public policy to adolescent psychology, those interested in pursuing a degree or career in social work will benefit from courses focused on people and how they interact with their world. Open courses, either through reputable universities or organizations like Coursera and EdX, provide prospective social work students an opportunity to participate in a number of social work courses, either through to completion or just for a few classes in order to sample the course before taking it at their university. Professionals may use open courseware as a way to stay abreast of new approaches to social work.
Below is a small sample of worthwhile courses professional and student social workers can pursue. They are free to access and, though they do not lead to college credit, they can be completed at a pace that allows each individual to fully absorb the information as they see fit.
- Substance Abuse and the Family ― UMass Boston: With a focus on how addiction affects a family, instead of just the individual, this course takes an in-depth look at different types of treatment and how to help families through addiction recovery.
- Social Attitudes and Public Opinion ― UMass Boston: This course explores the “theories of attitude organization and attitude change,” particularly with respect to how attitude is influenced by family, society, media and education; and, in turn, how attitude affects behavior.
- Introduction to Poverty Studies ― University of Notre Dame: Through the study of the definitions of poverty, and with sources that span several disciplines, students explore “what it means to be poor.” By the end of this course, students will have a better understanding of the hardships the poor face every day.
- Understanding Societies ― University of Notre Dame: This course is an overview of what sociology is and how it works. It is designed to give students a better understanding of “social relationships, human behavior, and the society we live in.”
- Introduction to Social Psychology ― University of Notre Dame: This course looks at how we form our personalities, how our personalities are influenced by others and how we, in turn, “shape the groups we belong to and the social structures around us.” Upon completing this course, students should be able to recognize these patterns in the communities around them.
- Entertainment Education for Behavior Change ― Johns Hopkins School of Public Health: Students learn how to identify and analyze behavioral problems in individuals or society and how to create entertaining educational programming that makes a demonstrable impact on student behavior.
- Housing and Human Services ― MIT: This course offers a look into the relationship between “low income and special needs” housing system providers (i.e. organizations that finance and manage housing) and people, like social workers, who work closely with groups that need special housing, such as the homeless, victims of domestic abuse, the mentally handicapped and the elderly.
There is much to be learned from the peer-to-peer community of social work, and blogs provide an excellent resource for professionals to share their knowledge and experiences. Blogs can deliver a wide spectrum of advice in specializations, valuable content and thoughts on policy changes. They also allow students and professionals to share insight on the profession with the rest of the world.
- Classroom to Capitol: Written by an instructor in the School of Social Welfare at the University of Kansas, this blog covers topics such as community organization, advanced social work policies and advocacy programs for social justice. The blogger provides an honest approach to policy advocacy, lobbying and community organizing. Readers gain an inside perspective on thoughts and experiences from someone teaching in the field. This blog has been ranked among the top 30 blogs for social workers by other bloggers, readers and professionals in the field, and it also has an active social media presence.
- Social Work Tech: Designed to help practitioners, students and professionals, Social Work Tech provides useful insights to the technology used to further an individual’s organizational skill set and professional development. With reviews and step-by-step instructions, even the least tech-savvy social worker can learn how to use the newest tools created for their trade, while those more comfortable using technology can stay abreast of advancements in the field. The blog is mostly overseen by Ignacio Pacheco, MSW, a case manager and clinical social worker.
- The Political Social Worker: Rachel L. West, MSW, LMSW, is a fierce advocate for equality who has worked with the LGBT community, is a domestic violence advocate, and has worked closely with law enforcement. She offers an inside perspective and news on policy change, social justice and community outreach. This site also offers resources for social work career counseling and coaching, consulting services for nonprofits and community outreach support.
- Social Work Helper: This self-described progressive blog provides resourceful information and insight on social issues, human rights and the challenges and rewards that come with the social worker profession. Readers will find news on important issues affecting social work worldwide, including topics in education, mental health, parenting and culture. Social Work Helper also has an active social media presence and provides an online platform for professionals to connect.
People to Follow On Twitter
The professional benefits of social media have increased tremendously in recent years. Along with expanding your knowledge in the field, social media can better connect you with other social workers and provide a space for discussion. Twitter is a great tool to find out what other professionals are paying attention to in the world of social work and to share your own thoughts.
- Kyrsten Sinema ― @kyrstensinema: Kyrsten Sinema is a social worker and a congresswoman for Arizona’s 9th district. She is also a serial tweeter on all things related to politics, social justice and civil rights. Sinema shares her unfiltered perspective on national and statewide headlines pertaining to the social work field for her nearly 15,000 twitter followers. Sinema is an openly bisexual individual and was the first openly bisexual person to be elected into congress. She aims to advocate for the LGBT community and provides a humorous yet insightful approach to social politics.
- Social Work Helper ― @swhelpercom: Along with information provided on the blogosphere, Social Work Helper takes the discussion to Twitter, providing a chat forum every Monday evening for followers around the globe to tweet on topics in the field. Twitter followers can join the conversation on social topics and connect with likeminded professionals.
- Dr. Jonathan Singer, LCSW ― @swhelpercom: Dr. Singer created Social Work Podcast in an effort to provide social workers with useful information on the go. His show is devoted to the discussion of all things related to social work and social work research. Singer is also an assistant professor of social work at Temple University. With his Twitter account, he aims to raise awareness and stimulate discussions on topics like family-based interventions, technology in education, and the warning signs of depression and suicidal thoughts in teens.
- Professor Mike Langlois, LICSW ― @MikeLICSW: Dr. Langlois is a Harvard professor, author, gamer, public speaker and psychotherapist. Through his Twitter account, he provides unique perspectives on mental health. For instance, Dr. Langlois discusses the mental health benefits of video games, including how gaming can decrease symptoms in veterans suffering from PTSD. He also hosts discussions on the other ways in which games have been shown to treat anxiety and depression.
Whether readers prefer online or in-print formats, dozens of social work publications are available for readers interested in the latest headlines and research findings in social work. Subscribers can also find magazines devoted to career advice, graduate studies, ethical issues, practice specialties and policy updates.
- Social Work Today Magazine: Social Work Today magazine provides coverage on current social work news and research. Sections cover an array of topics, including mental health, addiction, children and families, health care and education. Subscriptions can be found online and in print format. Yearly subscription for this bi-quarterly publication includes both print and digital editions for a flat rate of $14.99. Online subscribers can access SWT’s extensive education guide and access to nationwide social work conventions and seminars.
- NASW Social Work: The official journal of the National Association of Social Workers is an Oxford University Press publication. Inside the cover you’ll find information pertinent to advancing knowledge in social work and social welfare. Widely read by all professionals in the field, NASW Social Work covers civil rights, gender equality and child welfare. Annual NASW student member subscription is $43. The annual subscriber fee for non-members is $111. Non-renewable subscriptions can also be purchased for $33. Oxford Journal also publishes an editorial dedicated to Social Work Research, Health and Social Work, and Children and Schools.
- Social Service Review: Social Service Review is published by the University of Chicago Press and provides original research on social issues, welfare practice and policies. The research magazine has been in publication since 1927. Today, the Social Service Review analyzes a wide range of social topics at the individual, family and community level. Yearly subscription fees are $60 for print and electronic editions. Online-only subscriptions can be purchased for $54. Students and SSWR members can subscribe for under $40 per year.
- The New Social Worker Magazine: This quarterly publication is written for students and recent graduates in social work. The New Social Worker began as a print publication in 2007, and now offers free digital downloads online. Free e-subscriptions include online subscription, e-newsletters and special announcements on organization events, job postings or internship opportunities. Articles cover ethics, field placement, education and credentialing across social work.
Internships provide an in-depth and hands-on learning experience to current students who want to put theory into practice, and to hopeful professionals who want to gain work experience in their field. No matter which specialty a prospective social worker plans to pursue, all bachelor’s and master’s degree programs require students to participate in an internship or supervised practicum. The internship opportunities listed here barely skim the surface of what’s available for social work students. Student or career services at individual schools will be able to help you find or create internship opportunities that will achieve your goals.
- Seattle Children’s Hospital Social Work Intern: Graduate students pursuing a master’s degree in social work through a CSWE-accredited program are eligible to apply at Seattle’s Children’s Hospital. Internships are generally 8 months long and offer students the opportunity to work with youth at a nationally ranked hospital. Selected students work closely with the social work internship coordinator to observe and participate in case management and work closely with children, families and hospital staff.
- World Endeavors Internship: World Endeavors interns are placed with nonprofits, government agencies or international social agencies in South America, Ireland, England, Mexico or Asia. International internships offer a global perspective in the field, and students will gain first hand experience in the challenges facing social workers worldwide. Though there are program costs that students are responsible for, those going abroad for internships that will provide credit towards their degree may use federal financial aid to fund their trip; they may also be eligible for scholarships.
- University of Denver Health and Counseling Center Internship: MSW students in the mental health specialization at the University of Denver (similar programs offered at several universities) have the opportunity to apply for an unpaid internship at the university mental health center. Students provide mental health services to staff, students and members of the community for issues such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse. Interns provide community outreach services, crisis prevention support and clinical therapy treatment. Students typically work 20 to 22 hours a week, depending on program requirements.
- Geriatric Social Work Leadership Internship: Southern California’s Geriatric Social Work Education Consortium is the nation’s first regional multi-association consortium to create a comprehensive model for field and academic geriatric social work education. Students are placed in geriatric-focused health centers across the greater LA area to care for the aging. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, there is a growing need for geriatric trained social workers in the U.S. Less than 10% of those trained are currently available for new patients. Due to this high-demand, geriatric social work interns are often hired upon graduation at their field placement locations.
- National Council for Adoption: Social work students who are interested in helping children find good homes through adoption may apply for an unpaid intern position with NCFA. This organization is not an adoption agency; it is a group that advocates for “the right of a child to be loved.” Interns can choose to work in one of several departments within the group, including: social work, government relations and public policy, development and general administration.
- Youth Villages: Undergraduate and graduate social work students may gain experience working with troubled youths through one of Youth Villages’ three internship opportunities: paid summer internships, internships for class credit and therapeutic recreation internships. The internships for credit take place during fall or spring semester, and Youth Villages will work with you and your instructors to help create a practical experience that can be counted toward your degree completion.
Social Work Licensure
Though state requirements for licensure vary, it is widely agreed that earning a license to practice social work is a way to ensure that social workers are thoroughly qualified. In many states, social workers are required to complete continuing education courses. These courses keep licensed social workers abreast of new changes to practices and regulations.
Upon earning licensure, social workers are eligible to apply for credentialing in several fields, including gerontology, youth and family, addiction and education. Those who hold BSW degrees may be considered “certified social workers” rather than “licensed;” it all depends on the distinctions made by the state that issued their license. Below we review some of the most common titles and certificates held throughout the field.
- Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW): In order to provide professional services, clinical social workers must obtain a license from the state in which they work. State requirements vary, but generally applicants must hold a master’s degree in social work or higher, complete 3,200 hours of supervised clinic hours and pass a certifying exam. In most states, this license also allows practitioners to provide services under their own private practice. Social workers who operate their own practice can tailor their services to the groups in the community that need them most.
- Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW): Professionals who have obtained their master’s degree in social work may apply for a state licensure entitling them to work under the LMSW professional title. There are a number of resources available on the ASWB site for applicants interested in working towards this certification.
- School Social Worker License/Certification (SSW): Many states require social workers who are employed by public and private schools to obtain a school social work license or certificate. Applicants must hold a master’s degree in social work and have completed state-approved social work programs. Upon certification, school social workers can pursue careers as school counselors, mental health specialists, community resource managers or behavioral health specialists.
- Certified Clinical Alcohol,Tobacco, and Other Drugs Social Worker (C-CATODSW): The most challenging part of working with people who suffer from substance abuse is learning to identify and understand the social, behavioral and psychological issues at the root of addiction. The National Association of Social Workers offers a certification to ensure professionals in this specialization work within standard conducts to provide the best social service practices possible. Applicants must hold a master’s in social work, an LCSW certification and 180 hours of related work experience in order to qualify.
Social Policy Organizations
Social policy organizations include nonprofits and for-profit associations who advocate for social justice and human welfare. New and seasoned social workers can learn a lot from the achievements and struggles of these associations. Involvement in these organizations can expand a professional’s network and provide opportunities to actively participate in social impact initiatives.
- United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF): Unicef is a world renowned organization dedicated to the wellbeing of children around the world. The fund facilitates relationships between care providers and high needs communities. UNICEF aims is to promote social equality, prevent childhood disease and advance global educational access. It is part of the Global Movement For Children and actively supports children’s rights initiatives in over 190 countries.
- Social Policy Association (SPA): Founded in 1972, the UK-based SPA is a prominent international organization for teachers, students and professionals working in social policy. Membership is active worldwide, with most members working in policy research, education or development. SPA members are also social activists in their communities and they share their projects and experiences openly through the association. Membership dues are based on income. Benefits include access to the SPA’s annual conference, grants for ad hoc seminars, free subscription to The Journal of Social Policy and Social Policy and Society, as well as discounts to a number of additional policy journals.
- Behavioral Policy Association: BSPA is a nonprofit organization promoting behavioral health research in public and private sector policy making. Social work scholars, policy analysts, researchers and experts from around the field convene with conferences, networking events and online webinars to discuss advocacy developments and strategies for the future. Annual membership for this organization is $100 for individuals and $50 for students. Members benefit from a subscription to Behavioral Science & Policy, discounts to workshops and access to association publications and events.
- American Association of University Women: AAUW is an organization of students, recent graduates and professionals that advocates for social and educational equality for women. During a time when only one in four state legislators are women, the AAUW leads initiatives to educate women in politics, bridge the gender pay gap and empower women in education. Undergraduate student e-membership is free for students enrolled in accredited programs; annual graduate student membership is $19. As a gift from the organization, recent graduates receive their first year membership free. An abundance of resources are available to members online, as is a list of ways to join in the discussion and get involved.