Social Work Education Responds to the Shortage of Persons with Both a Doctorate and a Professional Social Work Degree

By Zastrow, Charles; Bremner, Judith | Journal of Social Work Education, Spring-Summer 2004 | Go to article overview

Social Work Education Responds to the Shortage of Persons with Both a Doctorate and a Professional Social Work Degree


Zastrow, Charles, Bremner, Judith, Journal of Social Work Education


THERE IS A RECOGNIZED SHORTAGE of persons who have both a doctorate and a professional degree (BSW or MSW) from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). One of the sources of evidence for this assertion is the finding that 72% of the respondents in a survey conducted by the authors--deans and directors of CSWE-accredited baccalaureate and master's social work education programs--agreed there is an insufficient number of candidates with both a doctoral degree and a professional degree available for teaching vacancies in social work education programs.

The authors checked with the Group for the Advancement of Doctoral Education, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), and the CSWE to identify how many social work educators had both a master's and a doctorate in social work in 1980, 1990, and 2000. Interestingly, all three organizations stated they do not currently collect data on this topic and have not collected data on this topic in the past. Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics records how many individuals receive doctorates in social work for a given year, it does not indicate how many of these individuals also have a baccalaureate or master's degree in social work.

There is also evidence of a shortage of doctoral-prepared faculty available to teach in baccalaureate and master's social work programs--regardless of whether they also possess a professional social work degree. For example, a 1999 task force created by the National Association of Deans and Directors of Schools of Social Work stated that for a given year, the total number of individuals who obtain their doctorate and are available to teach in social work has remained relatively constant over the past several years while the demand for such faculty is significantly increasing due to the expansion of accredited baccalaureate and master's degree programs in social work. The task force (1999) went on to state that "While this may be a boon to new grads, it places significant pressure on programs trying to hire as 'recruiting wars' often result, most especially in competition ('bidding wars') for the very few applicants from underrepresented groups" (p. 2).

In an article for the NASW News a few years ago, O'Neill (2000) noted that the shortage of doctoral students and graduates in social work could have dire consequences for the social work profession. He reported that there may be an insufficient number of social work faculty members with doctorates to teach research skills and evidence-based practice to future baccalaureate and master's degree students. He further reported that the influence and prestige of social work might erode as other professions may gradually do more of the research that historically has been done by social work.

The increase in the number of social work education programs is shown by the following data. In 1970, there were 80 accredited master's programs, including programs in candidacy, and 208 baccalaureate programs. There were no accredited BSW programs in 1970 as accreditation of baccalaureate programs began in 1974 (Sheafor, 2001, p. 39). As of June 2003, there were 484 accredited social work education programs: 112 combined (both baccalaureate and master's), 47 master's only, and 325 baccalaureate only. There were also 36 programs in candidacy: 18 master's and 18 baccalaureate.

Staffing Mandates of the Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards

It should be noted that social work education programs are currently implementing the recently adopted Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS; Council on Social Work Education, 2001b). The EPAS mandates five standards regarding the staffing of social work education programs. This section will describe each of these mandates.

According to Standard 3.0.3, the chief administrator of a social work education program should have either a CSWE-accredited master's degree in social work with a doctoral degree preferred or a professional degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited program and a doctoral degree. …

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