getting into the details about the accreditation of MSW online degree programs,
let’s first discuss the two primary types: regional (also known as
institutional) and programmatic. Regional accreditation deals with the
accreditation of an educational institution. Most schools are accredited by an
organization that has jurisdiction over a region consisting of several states.
Programmatic accreditation goes to a specific program, so it’s possible for a program to be accredited while the school is not (though this is quite rare). However, for students researching potential schools to apply to and earn an online MSW degree, programmatic accreditation is what they should focus on.
To find out of a school has regional accreditation, the best place to look is the U.S. Department of Education’s Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs. MSW students can search by school to learn if they are accredited and by what organization. Of course, students can also check the school’s website or contact the school directly but checking the U.S. Department of Education’s website is the most reliable way of confirming regional accreditation.
What about CSWE accreditation?
When it comes to the accreditation of social work programs, the Council Social Work Education, or CSWE, is the primary accrediting body. Founded in 1952 and recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, the CSWE accredits more than 800 bachelor’s and master’s level social work programs. Besides ensuring the quality of social work academic programs, the CSWE also promotes the social work profession through opportunities for career development, networking and leadership. CSWE’s website has an online directory of accreditation programs for anyone wishing to confirm a program’s accreditation status.
To become accredited, schools must go through an extensive and somewhat complicated process. Accreditation can take months to years to obtain. For a school seeking initial accreditation, the process begins by submitting a letter of institutional intent, a candidacy eligibility fee and a candidacy eligibility application. The letter of institutional intent is basically a document in which the school explains why it wants to have an accredited social work program and what that program will offer.
In the eligibility application, the school confirms that it meets the eligibility requirements, some of the more notable being:
school is regionally accredited by a body recognized by the Commission on
Higher Education Accreditation.
school is legally allowed to operate as a school in its state.
school has a written anti-discrimination policy.
properly qualified and capable school administrator is in place to handle the
operation of a social work program.
school has the resources to operate and maintain a social work program.
is a series of campus visits and application submissions that cover program
specifics, such as the curriculum and whether students will be effectively
trained to work in the social work profession. Only after passing each of these
steps can a school be awarded CSWE accreditation for their social work program.