CALL FOR PAPERS: Special Issue Licensing & Credentialing


“The Dynamic Landscape of Licensing and Credentialing in Social Work”

Guest Editors
Goutham M. Menon, Ph.D., MA, MBA, Professor, Loyola University Chicago School of Social Work
Joan Blakey, Ph.D., MSW, Director & Associate Professor, University of Minnesota School of Social Work
Jayashree Nimmagadda, Ph.D., MSW, LICSW, Professor, Rhode Island College School of Social Work
Maria Torres, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Stony Brook University School of Social Welfare

Traditionally, the licensing and credentialing of social workers have been viewed as a mechanism to ensure practitioners are competent and adhere to ethical standards, which are critical components of professional social work practice. While assurances have been given that the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) exams are fair and equitable, the 2022 release of the ASWB Pass Rate Analysis Final Report revealed this was not the case. The report from ASWB indicated that there were “glaring disparities among racial groups, particularly for Black test takers. It also raised concerns about disparities in pass rates for other demographics, including social workers who are older adults” (NASW, 2022, para. 2). Further, both the first-level and clinical exams revealed glaring racial and age disparities among test takers. As a profession that values social justice and diversity, it is crucial that we further analyze the impacts of the continued use of the licensure exam on the growth and sustainability of social work as a profession (Torres et al., 2024). There is a need for a deeper analysis into exploring these issues and highlighting alternative pathways to ensure certain groups of test takers are not left behind, including the licensing process's impact on workforce development. A few states have moved to remove the first-level licensure exams, and others are exploring alternative options. However, state legislators are concerned about removing the exam as part of the licensure criteria and worry this will lead to a lack of licensed social workers in their jurisdiction.

With increasing recognition of the need for alternative pathways to licensure and the importance of aligning assessment tools with educational standards, Advances in Social Work invites submissions for a special issue focusing on the dynamic landscape of licensing and credentialing in social work. The issue will particularly emphasize the current landscape related to ASWB licensing exams and their impact on test takers, the workforce pipeline, the communities, the impact of state-level changes in licensure criteria, the development of alternative pathways for licensure that can scale, navigation between various national professional organizations (ASWB, CSWE, NASW), state licensing boards, and social work educators, and the development of reliable and valid test items mapping to the Council on Social Work Education's Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS).

We encourage manuscripts addressing any of the following areas:

  • Alternative pathways for social work licensure, including licensure by endorsement, portfolio-based assessments, structured CEUs, and other innovative approaches.
  • Develop and validate test items that align with CSWE's EPAS, including knowledge, skills, and competencies expected of social work graduates.
  • The disconnect between what is taught in the MSW programs today focused on CSWE’s EPAS and the ASWB’s 2017 Analysis of the Practice of Social Work.
  • Pathways to reciprocity and a social work compact that excludes the licensure exam requirement.
  • The intended and unintended consequences of removing the first-level licensing exam requirement for MSW graduates.
  • Strategies for enhancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in licensing and credentialing processes.
  • Lessons learned from other disciplines (e.g., nursing, psychology, law, etc.) on how they pivoted to ensure equity and fairness in their respective disciplines related to licensure exams and pass rates.
  • Studying the impact of technological advancements on licensing and credentialing in social work. This includes using the latest technologies, including AI-generated avatars, to engage candidates in social work practice ethics, theories, and methods, using cases to evaluate and assess their “fit to practice” readiness.
  • Item analysis, reliability, validity, and other statistical approaches to review publicly available ASWB licensing test items (like model exams) since the exam itself is proprietary.
  • Best practices and challenges in licensing and credentialing internationally trained social workers.
  • Ethics and increased or decreased ethical violations due to exploring alternative pathways.
  • The economic or societal costs of gatekeeping a profession via a licensure exam.
  • Any other topics/issues not listed but that would help reform social work licensure in the United States.

Types of Submission

  • Manuscripts submitted could be commentaries, brief reports, empirical research manuscripts, conceptual papers, theoretical and/or policy analyses, narratives, or knowledge translation studies/activities.

Submission Guidelines

  • Authors should follow the guidelines for writing articles for Advances in Social Work.
  • Manuscripts should be original and not under consideration by any other publication.
  • Submissions should adhere to the APA 7th edition style guide.
  • Manuscripts should be between 5,000 and 8,000 words, including references.
  • Submit your manuscript online through the Advances in Social Work submission portal.

Authors should submit a full manuscript by September 30, 2024. Submitted manuscripts will be anonymously peer-reviewed. This issue is scheduled to appear in August 2025.

Deadline for manuscripts: Sept 30, 2024

For more information, please contact Prof. Menon, Guest Editor:, Carol Hostetter, Editor,, or Valerie Decker, Managing Editor: