Skip to main content

Which Social Work Credentials Can You Earn With an M.S.W.?

December 27, 2023

Social work’s goal is simple: to improve the well-being of people and their communities. Social workers aim for this goal through different types of social work. Some seek large-scale changes that cause seismic socioeconomic shifts. Others provide outreach and help to vulnerable individuals. All are vital.

The social work field holds promise for those interested in a career in helping others. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 7 percent job growth rate in social work between 2022 and 2032. While this growth rate represents potential opportunity, earning social work credentials can help an individual take advantage of this opportunity to its fullest. A credential in a particular area of social work can yield unique professional benefits, including advanced skill sets to work more effectively with specific populations. 

For those interested in pursuing a high-level social work career, earning an advanced degree, such as a Master of Social Work (M.S.W.), and obtaining related credentials may provide a boost toward achieving this goal.

Why Social Work Credentials Matter 

The work performed by social workers is as complex as it is rewarding. Because of this, an advanced degree in social work and state licensure are required to pursue many social work careers. These prerequisites prepare you to enter the field and make a difference right away.

Earning a social work credential in addition to these prerequisites further professionalizes a social worker’s career. Earning a credential in a specific area of social work demonstrates a deeper commitment to the field and verifies a professional’s knowledge and skill set. 

Credentials can also potentially advance an individual’s social work career. They validate knowledge and skills and can sometimes serve as shorthand for the level of competency employers may be looking for to fill high-level or leadership-based social work positions. While credentials don’t guarantee a position, they can potentially help you stand out from other prospective candidates.

Types of Social Work Credentials 

A wide range of social work credentials are available to help your career flourish. These credentials typically focus on social work specializations, and some credentials may focus on a particular aspect of a specialization. 

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) offers a wide range of social work credentials. While some credentials set a Bachelor of Social Worker (B.S.W.) degree as the minimum education requirement, the vast majority require an M.S.W. for credential consideration. 

Below are some NASW credentials that require an M.S.W. 


The Clinical Social Worker in Gerontology (CSW-G) and The Advanced Social Worker in Gerontology (ASW-G) credentials can prepare social workers to work with older adult populations. While the requirements and certifications differ, the credentials deepen knowledge of the aging process and its associated challenges, as well as policies and legislation that affect older adults.

Youth and Family Services

The Certified Advanced Children, Youth & Family Social Worker (C-ACYFSW) credential helps social workers work effectively with clients under 18 and other members of their family or household. This credential can build knowledge and expertise in supporting children, adolescents and their families through advocacy, program development, policy, education, research and more. 


The Certified Clinical Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Social Worker (C-CATODSW) credential can help social workers gain expertise in supporting individuals impacted by or at risk of substance use. The credential also deepens knowledge of categorical epidemiology, pharmacology, treatment and education/prevention.


The Certified School Social Work Specialist (C-SSWS) credential can enable social workers to enhance their ability to execute key tasks impacting students and their families in an educational setting. These include conflict mediation, crisis intervention, consultation and advocacy.

Health Care

The Certified Social Worker in Health Care (C-SWHC) credential can help social workers develop further expertise in connecting patients and their families to services designed to improve or maintain health. The credential can also sharpen their ability to improve existing health programs and recommend health policies.


NASW offers two credentials involving military-based social work that require an M.S.W. 

  • The Military Service Members, Veterans and Their Families – Advanced Social Worker (MVF-ASW) credential focuses on developing a social worker’s ability to connect military members and their families with the services needed to improve their quality of life. 
  • The Military Service Members, Veterans and Their Families – Clinical Social Worker (MVF-CSW) credential emphasizes clinical and mental health services. 

The Benefits of Social Work Credentials 

Because social work credentials can potentially attract the attention of some employers, gaining credentials can boost your career prospects in a field poised for future growth. The expertise cultivated by the credential can also create a level of professional recognition that can lead to career advancement. These enhanced competencies can further enable you to be looked upon as an authority in the field. This can not only lead to leadership positions in social work, but also can provide additional gravitas to any policy or strategy you propose.

These professional advantages are important, and a more personal benefit underscores them. Because they can prepare you for leadership, social work credentials can make it easier for you to make a big impact in your field of social work. This can deliver a unique sense of satisfaction that can last throughout your entire career.

Listing Credentials on a Social Work Resume 

Once you have credentials, they’ll become a key component of your social work resume. Just putting them on the resume, however, isn’t enough. Make sure that you frame them in a detailed, relevant manner, so they completely capture the attention of a prospective employer. A few strategies can help you optimize the effectiveness of this presentation.

1. Study the Job Description

Craft your resume to match the job description as much as possible. If you hold multiple credentials, pay attention to which ones are relevant to the description. If a job description mentions a credential you have, be sure to put it in a prominent space on the resume, so it stands out.

2. Provide Details

Just listing your social work credential isn’t enough. Include the credential’s name, the agency issuing the credential and when the credential was received. If you’re including your license on the resume in addition to the credential, be sure to include your license number and its expiration date.

3. Build Out Designated Resume Sections

If you’re putting multiple credentials on your resume, give each credential its own subsection, instead of lumping them into one larger section. Doing so will allow each credential to stand out on its own merit. Be sure to place these sections in order of relevance based on the job description.

4. Proofread

A resume with typos and grammatical errors will likely be ignored, regardless of how stellar your credentials may be. Review your resume thoroughly to ensure pristine quality before submitting it to any prospective employer.

Build a Clearer Career Path 

Social work credentials can do more than help you gain peer recognition and advance your career. They can also help position you to be at the forefront of sweeping policy and strategic development. This can allow you to carry out social work’s primary goal of improving others’ lives on a large scale.

Virginia Commonwealth University’s Master of Social Work (M.S.W.) Program online format can help you build the foundation you need to successfully pursue a social work credential. Our program is designed to further cultivate the knowledge and skills you need to succeed in the noble goal of helping others, and our online environment makes it possible for you to gain this acumen around your schedule. Learn how we can help you get ready for success.


Reviewed by Kathleen M. Korndoerfer, M.A., LPC.*

*Kathleen Korndoerfer, M.A., is a licensed professional counselor with over 10 years experience in the fields of mental health and social work. Kathleen currently practices in Colorado and specializes in the treatment of PTSD & trauma-related disorders and child and adolescent counseling.

Kathleen Korndoerfer, Licensed Professional Counselor, Montrose, CO, 81401