How To Earn Continuing Education Units (CEUs) In Social Work

Updated September 26, 2022

How To Earn Continuing Education Units (CEUs) In Social Work is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Workers in many professions maintain a license or certification with continuing education units (CEUs). They earn CEUs by taking professional development courses. These courses help professionals stay current on industry best practices, hone their skills, and collaborate with peers.

Social workers renew their license by completing specialized social work continuing education. The amount of CEUs professionals need for renewal purposes varies by state. The following sections detail CEU basics and how social work CEUs can help workers advance their career. This guide also includes answers to common questions and links to outside resources.

What Is a CEU?

Professionals earn continuing education units by taking courses from an approved provider or their employer. The number of CEUs participants receive aligns with course length. Professionals should ask their work supervisor about earning CEUs during work hours.

Continuing education units may provide benefits in addition to licensure or certification renewal. Some employers reserve promotions and raises for workers who teach courses awarding CEUs.

What Is a CEU in Social Work?

Social work CEU requirements and available professional development courses vary by state. However, social workers benefit from learning from top professionals in their field. National organizations such as the American Mental Health Counselors Association and the National Association of Social Workers host courses throughout the year. Many states require social workers to earn at least 50% of CEUs through in-person professional development.

Social work education provides a dedicated time to study the latest research and share ideas. Social work CEU opportunities also allow workers to learn how to become more effective advocates for people in need. These sessions help social workers reflect on their job and apply new techniques when assisting clients.

Frequently Asked Questions About Social Work CEUs

Q. Do webinars count as live continuing education for social workers?

Some states, including New York and California, classify webinars as live continuing education. Check a state's licensure board website for the latest rules and regulations.

Q. How many CEUs do licensed social workers (LSWs) need?

The answer differs by state. California requires LSWs renewing for the first time to earn 18 CEUs within 24 months. More experienced professionals must attain 36 CEUs.

Q. What is the difference between CEU and CPDU?

Both terms relate to the courses social workers take to renew their license. CPDU stands for continuing professional development unit. This refers to contact hours. CEU indicates the number of credits the training awards. A typical CEU translates to 10 CPDUs.

Q. How long are CEUs good for?

CEUs remain valid until the licensure renewal deadline. CEUs in excess of the state requirement do not roll over to the following renewal cycle.

Social Work Continuing Education Credit Resources

Elite Healthcare

The organization helps LSWs understand their state's CEU requirements. Users select their state to research approved courses. Topics cover areas such as professional ethics in law, suicide risk and prevention, and attachment security. Many course descriptions feature reviews and labels detailing whether a state classifies the course as a requirement or an elective.

Free State Social Work

The organization provides social workers with affordable professional development courses. Workers can also register for an annual unlimited pass. First-time users can take advantage of a free course. Recent courses include adjustment to cancer, common mental disorders, and developing a trauma-informed child welfare system.

National Association of Social Workers CE Tracker

The tool helps professionals stay current on their state's licensure renewal requirements. Workers can create a professional development portfolio. They can also access a personalized dashboard detailing social work CEU deadlines and progress. Other resources include approved courses. NASW members receive a 40% discount on an annual subscription.

NetCE CEU By State

Social workers use the service to research licensure renewal requirements by state. A state's listing details the renewal process, links to outside resources, and the licensure board's contact information. Professional development course lists include each course's fee and the number of social work CEUs participants earn.


Founded in 1979, PESI connects counseling, social work, psychology, and therapy professionals with online and in-person professional development courses. Courses include anxiety treatment techniques, mindfulness, and trauma treatment. Not all courses lead to CEUs. PESI also sells educational products and works with employers to provide group training sessions.

The nationally recognized social work continuing education provider offers state-specific courses awarding social work CEUs. Workers select their state and choose courses that include grief and loss, social work practice with individuals with a substance abuse disorder, and interventions for common anxiety disorders. Most courses run asynchronously and last 1-2 hours.

Association of Social Work Boards: Approved Continuing Education

Workers can earn social work CEUs by exploring approved providers in all states besides New York. ACE also offers resources and a helpline for professional development providers. This support ensures courses feature an engaging educational experience.

Many employees earn social work CEUs through their employer. Benefits for workers include completing professional development during work hours, learning alongside coworkers, and taking courses aligned with their employer's mission. Some employers help their employees keep track of paperwork and submit renewal forms to the state's licensure board.
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Thomas Broderick

Thomas Broderick is a freelance writer and the owner of Broderick Writer LLC. He creates study guides, informational websites, and blog posts for clients in the education field. Thomas is also a published author of over 20 short stories and a member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America.

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