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School Social Work Certification

young girl student at desk in classroom


School Social Work is a specialized area of practice within the broad field of the social work profession. School social workers bring unique knowledge and skills to the school system and the student support services team. They are instrumental in furthering the purpose of the schools - to provide a setting for teaching, learning, and for the attainment of competence and confidence. School social workers are hired by school districts to enhance the district's ability to meet its academic mission, especially where home, school and community collaboration is the key to achieving that mission. 

In order to be a certified school social worker in North Carolina, one has to complete a bachelor's or master's degree in social work from a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited program with additional specialized preparation in school social work. Within these school social work education programs, several standards are studied such as the foundations of school social work practice, assessment and evaluation, cultural diversity, consultative and collaborative relationships and understanding of the role of advocacy and facilitation. Also required are intervention strategies to support student development, discernment of statutes and case law and completion of a school social work internship comprising of a minimum of 400 contact hours in a school setting.

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School social workers are expected to apply their professional training in schools in order to support student success. Through specialized school social work programs that strengthen the home/school/community partnership and address barriers to student learning, school social workers serve as catalysts in promoting student wellbeing and successful completion of school.

The program at Western Carolina University offers the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction approved School Social Work course online each summer and has the option of the additional education course being offered either online or face-to-face at WCU.


The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NC DPI) determines eligibility for a license in School Social Work.   

WCU will recommend students to NC DPI for M-level licensure in school social work if they successfully complete WCU’s MSW degree program, including the School Social Work curriculum. As you apply for the license, be sure to route it to Western Carolina University. Complete instructions can be found at:

Please be aware that WCU does not offer a “licensure-only” program in School Social Work that results in a licensure recommendation from Western Carolina University.

If you are not a graduate of Western Carolina University’s MSW program but are currently employed as a School Social Worker in a public-school setting, you should have an undergraduate or graduate degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited program and hold a provisional license. WCU can help you clear the provisional license and recommend for initial license after completion of outlined coursework.

Your first step is to apply as a graduate distance education student at The program is School Social Work Certification – Online. You must be admitted to the university before you can register for classes.

Courses are three credit hours each; the cost of tuition per credit hour can be found at

Upon completion of coursework, you will apply through the NC DPI online portal to clear your provisional license. The NC DPI portal is linked from WCU’s Teacher Licensure website, Be sure to route your application to Western Carolina University and attach official electronic copies of your WCU transcript showing the completed coursework.

1. SOCW 528 - School Social Work: Policy and Practice - Offered Online, Summer


2. Select 1 of the following courses

SPED 684 - Social and Emotional Needs of Exceptional Learners - Offered Online, Spring
SPED 504 - Educational Programs for Students with Behavioral Disorders - Offered Online, Fall
SPED 620 - Education in a Diverse Society - Offered Online, Fall & Spring
EDCI 607 - Foundations of Teacher Leadership in a Diverse Society - Offered Online, Summer, Fall & Spring

For More Information Contact:

Dr. Judy Berglund - Assistant Professor, School Social Work Certificate Coordinator
Department of Social Work
436 Health and Human Sciences Building
Telephone 828.227.2497

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