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Progress on Professional Practice Doctoral Program Accreditation


Alexandria, VA – The Council on Social Work Education has announced the approval of Educational Policies and Accreditation Standards for professional practice doctoral programs in social work.

“I want to congratulate all the dedicated social work educators and CSWE staff members for the decade of work on developing the educational policy and accreditation standards for professional practice doctoral programs,” said CSWE President and CEO Darla Spence Coffey, PhD, MSW. “These standards are an important step to developing practice doctoral programs, and CSWE will continue to support the continuum of social work education at all levels.”

A practice doctorate focuses research on the application of knowledge and theory in fields of work. These standards for professional practice doctoral programs recognize a diverse approach for the accreditation of professional doctoral programs that encompasses the broad scope of social work practice at the doctoral level as well as the required components for a quality professional doctoral program. The doctor of philosophy or PhD degree requires students to contribute new knowledge to social work education. Though a master's degree of social work will remain the social work profession’s terminal degree, there will be two options for social workers to continue their education past the MSW. 

CSWE’s Department of Social Work Accreditation will soon create a timeline and operational infrastructure to develop pilot programs to offer practice doctorates as required by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Pilot programs will be launched and evaluated before a full accreditation process can be developed for social work programs seeking accreditation for their own professional practice doctoral programs. 

CSWE has prepared a timeline of the decade of work that led to these standards, along with a list of individuals, stakeholders, and other groups that greatly contributed to the process.