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- Main article: Qualifications for professional social work
Professional social workers are generally considered those who hold a professional degree in Social Work. Often these practitioners must also obtain a license or be professionally registered. In many areas of the Western world, social workers start with a Bachelor of Social Work (BA, BSc or BSW) degree. Some countries, such as the United States, also offer post-graduate degrees like the master's degree (MA, MSc or MSW) or the doctoral degree (Ph.D or DSW).
In the United Kingdom, often referred to as social services assistants or care workers, are persons who are not professionally registered and often do not hold any formal social work qualification. In England, to use the term 'social worker', one must register with the General Social Care Council (GSCC). This followed the Care Standards Act 2000 which has protected the title since April 2005 in England. Within the mental health sector in the UK, since November 2008, an additional qualification can be gained: that of an "Approved Mental Health Professional" (AMHP). This replaced the former qualification of "Approved Social Worker" (ASW), and was part of the reform created under the Mental Health Act 2007. This enables the practitioner to assess and make an application to hospital for admission under the Mental Health Act 1983. Whereas previously only qualified social workers could become an ASW, individuals from other qualified professions such as nursing or occupational therapy can also undertake the additional training necessary to be an AMHP. The world of social work looks bright with many promising students at degree level.
In a number of countries and jurisdictions, registration or licensure of people working as social workers is required and there are mandated qualifications. In other places, a professional association sets academic and experiential requirements for admission to membership. The success of these professional bodies' efforts are demonstrated in the fact that these same requirements are recognized by employers as necessary for employment.
There are a number of professional associations for social workers. The purpose of these associations is to provide advocacy, ethical guidance, and other forms of support for their members and social workers in general. Two of these are the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) and the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW). In the United States, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is the largest. The School Social Work Association of America (SSWAA) is made up of social workers employed by education agencies and local school districts throughout the U.S.
On a national level there are organizations regulating the profession, as well. Some of these are the British Association of Social Workers (United Kingdom), the Australian Association of Social Workers (Australia), the Professional Social Workers' Association (India), the Hellenic Association of Social Workers (Greece) and so forth.
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