From the Executive Director
NY Expected to Mandate Continuing Education in 2015
The Last State to Do So
Robert Schachter, DSW, LMSW, Executive Director, NASW-NYC
Forty nine states require their licensed social workers to engage in continuing education. It makes sense: professionals need to stay current in what is happening in their field, and this applies to social work in this country.
Except in New York. Until now, New York has not had this expectation of its licensed social workers. We expect this to change. As the State legislature drew to a close in late June, both the State Senate and State Assembly passed a bill mandating continuing education in New York. It is currently awaiting Governor Cuomo’s signature. Similar bills were passed for other mental health professions, including mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists.
Assuming the Governor signs the bill and makes it law, social workers will need to begin to accumulate continuing education hours beginning January1, 2015. It will be the responsibility of the State Education Department to develop regulations and prepare for implementation of the law prior to 2015.
The bill contains the following features:
- In order to re-register for the license, which takes place every three years, social workers will have to show that they accumulated 36 hours of continuing education.
• If the renewal date comes up before three years following January 1, 2015, the number of required credits
will be prorated for that period.
• For example, if one’s renewal date was January 2016, 12 hours of continuing education would be needed to renew.
- The requirement will not apply to new licensees.
- Newly licensed social workers are exempt from the requirement to obtain continuing education.
• Only after they renew their license does the requirement go into effect. To renew the license for the second time
(six years after obtaining the license) , documentation will be required that the 36 hours were obtained.
- Social workers who are not engaged in practice will be exempt from the requirement.
• The State Education Department will need to determine what the definition of practice is.
• Does practice include or exclude administration, policy, planning, research or teaching, or does it mean that
a license holder is simply not working in social work?
- What is considered continuing education will need further clarification by SED but basically refers to formal courses of learning that contribute to professional; practice.
• We expect workshops and webinars such as the ones offered by NASW will be acceptable.
• There are now many opportunities to access workshops on the internet that could be accepted.
• Many professionals have been able to obtain credit from doing readings and filling out a questionnaire,
and this might be acceptable for credit, as well.
- Organizations that offer continuing education programs will need to be approved by SED, and SED will need to spell out what is involved in this.
- Social workers will need to maintain documentation that they obtained the continuing education hours from approved providers.
- Continuing education hours accumulated in one licensing registration period will not be able to be carried over into the subsequent period.
• This suggests that anyone who takes a continuing education workshop or class prior to the law going into effect on
January 1, 2015 will not be able to have these hours applied when renewal comes up subsequent to that date.
The Chapter’s Board of Directors has supported continuing education requirements for licensed social workers, and it has been concerned that New York has been the only state in which continuing education was not a requirement.
Nevertheless, the Board was aware that there are likely to be challenges for social workers who have little income to spend beyond essentials, given low salaries and debt from school loans. To compensate for this, the Board is interested in assuring that there are low cost options for obtaining continuing education hours.
NASW-NYC will keep members apprised on the status of the bill, whether it is signed into law by the Governor, and beyond that, provide updates about the work of SED to implement the law.
In the meantime, accumulating continuing education hours at this time will not likely be helpful for license renewals that come up after the law goes into effect in 2015 (see the last bullet, above).
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