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New sections on baccalaureate eligibility standards and distance education added; content updated for the other sections to reflect recent research and literature.

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date: 15 December 2017

Baccalaureate Social Workers

Abstract and Keywords

The history of social work education is replete with accounts of how the early charity organizations influenced its development. For example, Toynbee Hall in London inspired the founding of Hull House in Chicago as well as the London Charity Organization, the Women’s University Settlement, and the National Union of Women Workers. In addition, Octavia Hill established one of the first training programs in social work education that emphasized the principles for helping impoverished clients. The program was later expanded in 1890 into a one-year program of courses and supervised practice. Later, the program expanded to outlying areas and provinces and eventually evolved into two-year programs of study at the London School of Sociology

Defining today’s baccalaureate social workers as entry-level professionals is indeed a paradigm shift. Tracy Whitaker, Toby Weismiller, and Elizabeth Clark stated in their 2006 work, “Clearly, the social work profession is at a crossroad. If there are to be adequate numbers of social workers to respond to the needs of clients in the 21st century and beyond, the sufficiency of this frontline workforce, must not only be ensured, it must be prioritized.” In our ever-changing society, the social work profession must rethink the various levels of the profession and recognize, as well as promote, a professional career trajectory that embraces the baccalaureate social work professional. Administrators and faculty of each social work program are responsible for ensuring that students are competent, and that they possess skill sets that will elevate their marketable in a competitive workforce. Recruiting new social workers, replacing retiring social workers, and retaining social workers in the profession are all needed.

Keywords: generalist social worker, strengths perspective, problem-solving approach, baccalaureate social work, education

Historical Overview of Baccalaureate Social Work

Baer and Federico (1979) define baccalaureate social work (BSW) as the ability to: (a) enhance the problem-solving, coping, and developmental capacities of people; (b) promote the effective and humane operation of the systems that provide people with resources and services; and (c) link people with systems that provide them with the resources, services, and opportunities (p. 61). “Social work education programs share a common commitment to educate competent, ethical social workers” (Council on Social Work Education, 2001, p. 7). This competency is mandated by the CSWE and NASW and social work programs are vying to produce professionals even at the undergraduate level in a society that is constantly changing. Continuous learning as well as self learning is expected from a social work graduate (Advisory Committee on Social Work Training and Manpower Planning, 2002).

The development of standards for the accreditation of baccalaureate programs was formally initiated in June 1973 and implemented by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) in 1974. The council recommended a common set of objectives that were required of all programs; it was acknowledged that the selection of the overall program objectives must remain within the purview of each program. Differences in BSW curriculum are often driven by geographic location, the racial and ethnic makeup of its population, and whether the program is located in an urban or rural area (Baer & Frederico, 1979; Cressy-Wells & Federico, 1998). The global movement of people has a significant effect on social work practice (Gabel, 2012) and universities and colleges are now placing emphasis on this issue. The emphasis now is to prepare students for “intercultural sensitivity and global citizenship” (Braskamp, Braskamp & Merrill, 2010).

All BSW curricula have components in the strength based perspective, generalist model, and problem-solving method. The strengths perspective which focuses on the clients’ abilities, positive social networks, strengths, and resources instead of pathology, problems, and social and personal defects (Leashore, 1995) is based on the assumption that all people, regardless of their life circumstances, have the skills and abilities to play an active role in solving their difficulties. Conversely, the problem-solving approach is based on the belief that all people have the ability to solve difficult and complex problems, to interact productively with their environments, and to direct their own lives. Perlman, (1957) acknowledges that an individual’s ability to solve problems may be impeded or exacerbated by environmental influences (Weick, Rapp, Sullivan, & Kirsthardt, 1989).

Objectives of BSW Education

The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredits both undergraduate and graduate social work programs in the United States. There are 647 accredited baccalaureate social work programs (CSWE, 2014). Although curricula vary depending on geographic location and other factors, social work educators at the baccalaureate level prepare students to practice as generalist social work practitioners upon graduating from a CSWE accredited program. Balinsky (as cited in Morales, Sheafor, and Scott, 2012) stated: “The complexity of human problems necessitates a broadly oriented practitioner with a versatile repertoire of methods and skills capable of interacting in any one of a number of systems” (p. 43). Thus, the objective of baccalaureate-level social work programs is to graduate students who are competent and skilled in working with diverse populations and in diverse practice settings. BSW professionals also tend to accept the professional work norms more so than those who are agency trained (Dyer, 2001). The Center for Health Workforce Studies (2005) reports the demand for social workers will be particularly high given the 54 percent projected growth in the number of older adults by 2020. As individuals live longer, and our society ages, the need for baccalaureate social workers is critical. Older adults face increasing challenges, and BSW advocates who are strong frontline workers will provide needed services for older adults, caregivers, children, and grandchildren. Community and social service occupations include workers such as counselors, social workers, and religious workers. This occupational group is projected to add 582,300 new jobs between 2010 and 2020. This represents a 24.2 percent increase, making community and social service occupations the fourth fastest growing major occupational group (Monthly Labor Review, 2012). CSWE and NASW have established mandates directing the profession to actively work toward the incorporation of content addressing diversity, political and sexual orientation, discrimination against persons from diverse race, ethnicity, ability, status, age, and gender, at all levels of practice (Guy-Walls, 2007). This need is further spurred by globalization and has influenced the economic, environmental, and cultural spheres of life.

Social workers are educated as generalist social work practitioners. Generalist social work professionals master the core knowledge, values, and skills to empower consumers, navigate a variety of host settings, and evaluate service outcomes to improve the quality of client services by using the problem-solving process, critical thinking skills, and the strength-based perspective. They are committed to the mission of social work as put forth by the National Association of Social Work. The generalist social work curriculum combines liberal arts courses with professional social work foundation courses. Baccalaureate social workers have strong advocacy skills and are able to seek the appropriate services (or systems) that bring effective and efficient change for the client (National Association of Social Workers [NASW], 1999).

The Center for Health Workforce Studies (2006) reports that the demand for social workers will be particularly high given the 54 percent projected growth in the number of older adults by 2020. As individuals live longer, and our society ages, the need for baccalaureate social workers is critical. Older adults face increasing challenges, and BSW advocates who are strong frontline workers will provide needed services for older adults, caregivers, children, and grandchildren.

BSW Curriculum and Generalist Social Work Practice

BSW programs across the United States have developed curricula that combine liberal arts courses (e.g., social sciences, history, English, humanities, etc.) with social work foundation courses (e.g., policy, human behavior, practice, field, research, etc.).

Differing institutional goals make each accredited BSW program unique in its focus; however, students study a rigorous core curriculum as required by CSWE and they are expected to demonstrate “mastery” of the core competencies and associated practice behaviors Field education is the signature pedagogy of the BSW curriculum. It provides students with valuable experiential learning opportunities through supervised practice experiences in approved agency settings. Agency/field instructors must be experienced and hold a BSW or MSW degree in order to model the professionalism that students are expected to identify with in their field education experience. This “on-the-job” training exposes students to real situations and consumers of social work services and better prepares them for the workforce upon graduation. Field education or practicum hours at the baccalaureate level are a minimum of 400 hours compared to a minimum of 900 hours at the graduate level.

Baccalaureate Reaffirmation Eligibility Standards

Reaffirmation Eligibility Application

Baccalaureate programs address six Reaffirmation Eligibility Standards, and master’s programs address seven. Reaffirmation Eligibility Standards 1 through 5, and the required supporting documentation, are the same for the baccalaureate and master’s programs. Standards 6 and 7 apply only to master’s programs.

The Baccalaureate Reaffirmation Eligibility Application and Master’s Reaffirmation Eligibility Application forms list each eligibility standard, ask a series of questions, and/or require the submission of materials to determine compliance.

Information about when the Reaffirmation Eligibility Application is due and where it should be sent is on the Timetable for Reaffirmation.

2.2.2. Baccalaureate Reaffirmation Eligibility Standards

Eligibility Standard 1

The chief executive officer of the institution authorizes the COA’s review of the social work program.

Submit the Authorization of Program Review form completed and signed by the chief executive officer of the institution.

Programs have their president or chancellor complete and sign the Authorization of Program Review form, which documents that the institution has given the COA permission to come to the campus and conduct a site visit.

Eligibility Standard 2

The institution’s accreditation has been awarded by a regional accrediting agency recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. The institution is authorized to award the baccalaureate degree in social work.

Answer questions 4–6 on the Baccalaureate Reaffirmation Eligibility Application.

Eligibility Standard 3

The institution has a written affirmative action policy, plan, or program and procedures and a stated policy against discrimination based on race, color, religion, creed, gender, ethnic or national origin, disability, or age. The institution complies with requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Answer questions 7–8 on the Baccalaureate Reaffirmation Eligibility Application.

Submit the portions of your institution’s affirmative action plan that articulate its stated policy against discrimination based on race, color, religion, creed, gender, ethnic or national origin, disability, or age. Programs may submit a copy of relevant materials if the original is online or in a catalog. If online, please identify the URL.

Some private universities do not have affirmative action plans. In that instance programs need to obtain a letter from the provost that states that the university’s affirmation action procedure is to delegate affirmative action responsibility to the program. The program would then submit its own affirmative action plan.

Submit the institution’s ADA compliance plan or other proof of the institution’s compliance with the ADA.

This information may be found in different places, depending on the structure of the institution, including the offices of disabilities services and human resources; from the office of the affirmative action compliance officer; and the office of the president, provost, academic vice president, or university counsel. Programs may submit a hard copy of relevant pages if materials are online only or in a large catalog. If online, please identify the URL.

Eligibility Standard 4

The institution has appointed a social work program chief administrator who has a full-time appointment in the institution, and the person’s principal assignment is to the social work program. The program chief administrator has a master’s degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited program with a doctoral degree preferred or a baccalaureate degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited program and a doctoral degree, preferably in social work.

Answer questions 9–12 on the Baccalaureate Reaffirmation Eligibility Application.

Submit the program chief administrator’s curriculum vitae.

Eligibility Standard 5

The institution identifies and describes the social work program in its catalog or similar publication. Program purposes and requirements are specified. The same document specifies the educational level(s) of the program(s) for which CSWE accreditation has been received or is being sought.

Answer questions 13–21 on the Baccalaureate Reaffirmation Eligibility Application.

Submit the catalog (or similar publication documenting that the program is described in the catalog) to ensure that the program’s purposes and requirements are described, and that the institution specifies the educational level of the program for which CSWE accreditation has been received. If the catalog is on the Web page, a hardcopy of this information and the URL should be provided.

Eligibility Standard 6

The institutional transcript for students who complete the accredited social work program confirms that a major in social work was completed and a baccalaureate degree awarded.

Answer questions 22–23 on the Baccalaureate Reaffirmation Eligibility Application.

Attach a sample transcript of a student who has graduated from the program. The transcript must indicate that the major was social work and the name of the degree awarded. Remove identifying information.

Distance Education

Distance Education Offerings by Accredited Programs

The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) currently does not keep information about distance education offerings in the database of accredited programs. The list of programs offering online or distance education we have compiled is not intended to be exhaustive. Representatives from accredited programs can have their programs added to the list by sending an e-mail to aholster@cswe.org, along with providing information regarding to whom the program is offered and the methodology used. 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.

You will have to contact these programs to learn in which states they offer their online programs. Almost every state requires a social work degree from a CSWE-accredited institution to apply for a license and sit for the licensing exam. Practicing social work without a license is illegal, except in very narrow practice environments. See the online CSWE Directory of Accredited Programs for more information. The directory records can be sorted by program level and by state.

Many programs offer weekend and evening classes for nontraditional students. Interested students should talk to the directors of admission at the schools in their state or nearby states and see what they offer.

Employment and Profiles of Baccalaureate Social Workers

Baccalaureate Social Workers who graduate from CSWE-accredited social work programs are highly respected, and they are employed in all facets of the workforce in both public and private sectors. Graduates are often found in frontline positions that provide needed services to individuals, families, groups, communities, and organizations that influence and bring change to those persons and/or systems that hinders the well-being of others. The BSW degree provides specific, targeted education that focuses on the person-in-environment in multiple settings such as nursing homes, child welfare agencies, hospitals, hospices, substance abuse programs, criminal justice agencies, mental health community action organizations, and other social service agencies.

CSWE Annual Statistics Baccalaureate Social Work Programs (Tracy, 2006 [e-mail correspondence from CSWE]).

The Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) states, “The purpose of licensing and certification in social work is to assist the public through identification of standards for the safe professional practice of social work. Each jurisdiction defines by law what is required for each level of social work licensure” (Association of Social Work Boards [ASWB], 2002–2006, para. 1).

Table 1: BSW Accredited Programs

As of 2012

BSW Programs Accredited—483

BSW Programs in Candidacy—24

Table 2: BSW Degrees/Certificates by Gender and Ethnicity—2004

Total Graduates

9,889

(100%)

Male

1,112

(11.2%)

Female

8,747

(88.5%)

Unknown

30

(0.4%)

American Indian

112

(1.1%)

Asian American

198

(2.0%)

Blacks/African Americans

2,112

(21.4%)

Mexican

364

(3.7%)

Puerto Rican

227

(2.3%)

Other Latino

356

(3.6%)

Other

86

(0.8%)

Pacific Islander

28

(0.3%)

Multiple Ethnicity

36

(0.4%)

Foreign

52

(0.5%)

White

6,132

(62%)

Unknown

189

(1.9%)

Programs Accredited—446

Programs In Candidacy—17

This is from only programs that self-report to CSWE.

Sixteen states in the United States do not require licensing at the BSW level. Until legislation is passed in all states, it is difficult to determine an accurate number of BSW practitioners. Accordingt to BPD and CSWE no mechanism is currently in place to capture the data on the number of BSW graduates who enter MSW programs versus the number who remain in professional practice.

International Social Work

According to Healy (2008), there is a difference between global and international social work. Global social work involves the whole world whereas international can mean between or among two or more nations. In fact, international social work is international professional practice and the capacity for international action by the social work profession (Healy, 2001).

The Office of Social Work Accreditation (OSWA), part of the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation as the sole accrediting agency for social work education in the United States. The office’s International Social Work Degree Recognition and Evaluation Service (ISWDRES) recognizes academic credentials in social work that are comparable to accredited baccalaureate and master’s degrees in social work in the United States. Recognition is necessary to establish qualifications for employment, graduate school admission, membership in the National Association of Social Workers, state licensing, and/or certification.

Recognition is based on the general comparability of the program objectives (as stated in the program catalog or the program’s official memorandum) and level of the applicant’s social work education to social work education in the United States (CSWE Website, 2014).

IASSW

The International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW) is an international association of institutions of social work education, organizations supporting social work education and social work educators.

The new international definition of social work approved by IASSW Board in January 2014

“Social work is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change and development, social cohesion and the empowerment and liberation of people. Principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities are central to social work. Underpinned by theories of social work, social sciences, humanities, and indigenous knowledge, social work engages people and structures to address life challenges and enhance wellbeing” (IAASW Website, 2014). According to the International Association of Schools of Social Work, the social work profession’s core mandates include promoting social change, social development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people. However, there is no universally accepted idea of a valid set of knowledge, skills, or expertise for social workers but a common agreement that social work is committed to human rights and justice and to help those who are suffering due to social inequalities (Jones & Truell, 2012).

Challenges

Fragmentation of the profession is a major challenge for social work education. It is critical that all social work organizations convene and develop a plan that promotes social work education and the profession. BPD was started over twenty years ago by a group of BSW program directors with the aim of sharing their concerns over issues related to social work education. In over two decades the organization has grown to include more than 400 members across North America (BPD Website, 2007).

Streamlining the social work organizations would result in the public understanding the various levels of social workers and the competencies that are expected at each level of social work education.

Advance standing is another longtime debate that must be resolved for the profession to develop a much needed career trajectory path for social work education. Advance standing allows BSW students to study for an MSW without having to take the required social work foundation courses. In today’s ever-changing world, it is critical that MSW students have the required advance knowledge that will assist consumers as well as find viable practice solutions through research.

Proposals have been advanced requiring a two-year curriculum for MSW students without the BSW degrees. However, this curriculum change would allow MSW programs to teach an array of advanced social work courses during the two years of study. The challenge is that social work educators would have to agree that the BSW is the only degree that qualifies students to enter an MSW program without additional coursework. Requiring students, who have other baccalaureate degrees, to take bridge courses before entering MSW programs will depend upon the imagination and creativity of all social work educators and consumers.

The proliferation of BSW programs does not necessarily correlate with an increase in the number of graduates prepared to address issues related to oppression affecting people of color. Meanwhile, Gutierrez, Fredrickson, and Soifer (1999) conducted studies that explored social work faculty attitudes toward issues relating to racism, diversity, and oppression. The authors found that many faculties deemed issues relating to diversity more appropriate than issues relating to power and oppression. The trend suggests more research needs to be conducted to assess social work faculty’s perceptions on appropriate content knowledge on issues relating to discrimination and racism (Guy-Wells, 2007).

The National Association of Social Worker’s Code of Ethics states: “the primary mission of the social work profession is to enhance human well-being and to help meet the basic human needs of all people, with particular attention to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and/or living in poverty” (National Association of Social Workers [NASW], 1999, para 1).

Some future trends will include increase reliance on evidence-based practice as the profession will demand greater accountability from health care practitioners. The term evidence-based is attributed to Archie Cochran, who coined the term evidence-based medicine. Cochran believed that health care providers should provide treatment interventions that have been proven effective and validated by empirical investigations (Ryan, 2007).

References

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Further Reading

BPD Association of Baccalaureate Social Work Program Directors. http://www.bpdonline.org

CSWE Council on Social Work Education. http://www.cswe.org

ASWB Association of Social Work Boards. http://www.aswb.org

NASW National Association of Social Workers. http://www.naswdc.org

The New Social Worker http://www.socialonline.com