CSWE Accredited Doctorate in Social Work (DSW) Programs Overview

The social work field is perfect for someone compassionate and caring who wants to spend their professional career helping others. Like many other industries, there are a variety of educational degrees that qualify people for social work positions. At the apex of this academic chain is a doctorate in social work, better known as a DSW. There are various options available to earn a doctorate in social work.

You’ll need to search for accredited DSW options when selecting your school. These schools can ensure you’ll get the education you need to succeed in your career. 

CSWE Accredited Online DSW Overview

A doctorate in social work from an accredited DSW program is the highest degree you can obtain in social work. 

Since this is a doctorate-level program, you’ll have to complete a variety of academic and professional requirements before earning admission. First, you’ll have to have at least a master’s degree in a related field. This will mean having obtained a minimum GPA and completed fieldwork. You may also have to provide a resume of educational and professional experience, a personal statement, and letters of recommendation from employers or professors. 

Accreditation means a program has been reviewed by an outside authoritative body and meets specific standards. Generally speaking, accreditation implies prestige and expertise that may not be offered in non-accredited programs, as these programs must demonstrate they are rigorous and meet a minimum of academic standards.

Professional organizations in various fields conduct accreditations. In the case of a doctorate of social work, the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) is the accrediting agency. Established in 1952, CSWE is a national association that serves as a resource and provides accreditation to social work educational programs throughout the United States. 

What Is the Difference Between a DSW and a Ph.D. in Social Work? 

A DSW and Ph.D. in social work are doctorate-level degrees and the highest degree you can obtain if you want to work in the social work sector. However, they are separate degrees 

with different focuses.

The primary difference between the two is that a DSW focuses more on practical skills. Individuals may choose to pursue a DSW if they’re interested in taking the advanced knowledge they gain and applying it to clinical practice or working in social work management.

A Ph.D. in social work, like a Ph.D. in most fields, concentrates on theory, education, and research. Someone interested in academic research or teaching might be better suited to a Ph.D. than a DSW. 

CSWE Accredited Doctorate in Social Work Benefits

There are various benefits available to someone who earns a degree from an accredited DSW program. 

  • A DSW is the highest degree you can get, thus qualifying you for high-level positions.
  • DSWs earn more than their counterparts with master’s or bachelor’s degrees. 
  • Most DSW programs have specific classes and experience requirements that enable a person to take on leadership roles in social work. 
  • An accredited DSW program ensures you get rigorous academic and practical experience which will give you an advantage when applying for jobs. 

What is a CSWE Accredited DSW Program? 

CSWE accreditation means programs must meet certain criteria. This includes:

  • An approved program mission and mission statement.
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) requirements.
  • Specific social work and general curriculum.
  • Appropriate specialized practice requirements.
  • Supervised field experience and education.
  • Appropriate admission standards.
  • Appropriately credentialed faculty.
  • Approved administrative governance.
  • Specific resources for students and staff.
  • Provisions for self-assessment.

As you can see, accreditation is not easily obtained. The entire process is rigorous but provides prestige and attracts potential students. Furthermore, by meeting these standards, an educational institution is better positioned to provide a world-class education for its students, which not only serves students and the university but also employers and society as a whole.

Are All DSW Programs Accredited? 

Not all DSW programs are accredited. If you want to know if a program is an accredited DSW program, ask a school’s admissions department or check their website.

Most accredited schools advertise their standing, as it lends credibility and prestige to a program. You can also access a list of all accredited DSW programs in the accreditation directory of the CSWE. Here you’ll find all accredited programs as well as comprehensive overviews of schools previously accredited and in the process of earning accreditation. Schools with accreditation revoked are also listed. 

What Can You Do With a CSWE Accredited Doctorate in Social Work?

Individuals who pursue a doctorate of social work at accredited DSW programs are in luck: There are many potential job openings that this doctorate will allow you to fill. These include:

  • Therapist
  • Manager of social service organizations, including governmental or non-profit
  • Consultant to businesses on social and psychological interactions
  • Social welfare policy research

CSWE Accredited Doctorate in Social Work Salary and Job Outlook?

From a salary perspective, an individual with a doctorate in social work can earn a median of $69,000 a year. This is a relatively high salary since, according to available data, the 2021 median salary in America was approximately $50,000.

It’s difficult to determine the exact job outlook for someone who earns a DSW in social work, as there are many positions someone with this doctorate can fill. However, the social work field is estimated to grow 9% over the next decade, faster than the average job sector. This suggests the field of social work is growing and that someone who earns a DSW in social work may position themselves well for future career growth. 

How Much Does a CSWE Accredited Doctorate in Social Work Cost?

As you can imagine, there are many potential costs associated with an accredited DSW program. The range varies extensively, with the least expensive program costing around $23,000 and the most expensive roughly $80,000. 

If cost is a concern for you, or if you need flexibility as you work toward your DSW, you may want to consider an online school. Online schools often have classes at night or on the weekends, allowing you to continue to work while furthering your education. Some schools also offer asynchronous learning, so you can watch lectures and take notes at a time of your choosing. Furthermore, you can save money on tuition, room, board, and travel costs.

CSWE Accredited Doctorate in Social Work Scholarship Information 

A career in social work can be deeply rewarding, but education can be expensive. Individuals who earn their DSW will ultimately earn a solid income, but no one becomes rich in social work. Finding scholarships can help reduce your education costs and minimize your student loan debt.

Fortunately, many scholarship opportunities are available for individuals interested in earning their DSW. You should also speak with the financial aid offices at schools you’re interested in to learn what scholarship options they offer.

Standard Courses in CSWE Accredited Doctorate in Social Work

Every accredited DSW program offers different course options, and you may want to specialize in certain areas of social work. Depending on your specialization, you’ll take certain courses to support your mastery of the subject matter necessary for the desired position.

However, as part of accreditation, all schools must meet specific academic standards, so you’ll find many commonalities in all accredited DSW programs.

Some common courses you can take include:

  • Research standards and methods
  • Clinical theory
  • Statistics
  • Dissertation seminar — a dissertation will be required for you to earn your doctorate
  • Relationship theory
  • Teaching
  • Intervention
  • Social work dialogue

Some programs may allow you to specialize in specific areas of the social work field. Furthermore, your dissertation can likely be on a topic of your choosing, provided a professor is willing to provide you with the necessary guidance to succeed.

How Long Does It Take to Complete a CSWE Accredited Doctorate in Social Work?

The time it takes to complete a doctorate ultimately depends on you.If you enroll full-time in an accredited DSW program, it can take three years. This doesn’t include the time it takes to earn the prerequisite degrees. However, it may take longer if you’re working and unable to attend school full-time. Some accredited DSW programs offer flexibility and online options, allowing individuals to keep working while they earn their degrees. It’s a good idea to investigate potential CSWE-accredited DSW programs to be sure they fit your career goals and lifestyle. 

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