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CSPG 87 - School Social Worker, Educational Specialist Certificate PK-12

​Educational Specialist Code 1851
Revised: July 25, 2023

The School Social Worker provides schools with the knowledge and competence required to provide school social work services for all students in grades PK-12 with a focus on preventative and/or problem-solving tools.

Grade Level Scope of Certificate

A person employed in the position of School Social Worker holding a PK-12 School Social Worker Educational Specialist certificate is qualified to serve grades PK-12.

A School Social Worker Educational Specialist certificate is issued to an individual who has completed an approved school social worker certification preparation program, holds a master's degree in social work from an accredited Council of Social Work Education (CSWE) program or an equivalent foreign qualification recognized by the CSWE Office of Social Work Accreditation (OSWA) and who is licensed through the Pennsylvania Department of State, Bureau of Occupational Affairs, as a licensed social worker (LSW) or licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). A person employed in the position of School Social Worker must maintain their certificate and their license to be employed under this staffing assignment as a School Social Worker in a public school. Access PK-12 School Soc​ial Worker Education Specialist Program Preparation Guidelines (PDF).

Staffing Assignment

A person employed in a position as a School Social Worker is qualified to perform the following duties and functions:

  • Conduct formal and informal assessments of student functioning, developmental history, family and community structure, interpersonal relationships, adaptive behavior, and cultural factors that may influence learning.
  • Use student, family, school, and community assessment to develop appropriate interventions to improve student learning.
  • Develop intervention plans consistent with School Social Worker guidelines to meet student needs, strengths, social and cognitive functioning, and cultural experiences.
  • Assist in the planning of therapeutic, remedial, and behavioral modification activities provided by the educational agency.
  • Provide crisis and emergency assistance including support to students in need and participation in threat assessment and related initiatives. Assist in training school personnel to be able to identify the signs and impact of trauma in students and families and coordinate or support initiatives to develop institutional culture and climate.
  • Provide direct interventions to students, including individual and group therapy, counseling, and educational and informational programs.
  • Provide supportive case work to children and their families, including parent/caregiver education and self-advocacy.
  • Provide parent/caregiver counseling and training to help them acquire the necessary skills to support the implementation of their child's specialized educational program.
  • Assist students and their families in gaining access to formal and informal community resources.
  • Consult with stakeholders to facilitate understanding of factors in a student's home, educational agency, and community that affect their educational experience.
  • Consult and collaborate with educational agency personnel, parents, and community resources in areas that impact student learning (e.g., mental health, behavior management, school safety, diversity, crisis management, bullying prevention, child abuse, and neglect).
  • Assist staff in collaborating with community agencies and organizations.
  • Work with individuals, groups, and organizations to develop programs and systems that promote student welfare and achievement.
  • Promote collaboration among community health, mental health, and welfare service providers and facilitate greater access to these services for students.
  • Participate in interagency panels to assist with effective integration of services to students.

Special Considerations

Prior to August 1, 2026, individuals who are licensed as a LSW or LCSW in accordance with CSPG #201 or hold a PA Home and School Visitor certificate may apply for and receive a School Social Worker certificate if they satisfy the following requirements:

  • Are currently licensed through the Pennsylvania Department of State as a LSW or LCSW; and
  • Are currently employed or contracted by a local educational agency (LEA) in the commonwealth; and
  • Have completed at least one year of satisfactory service as a School Social Worker or other titled position providing social work-related services in a commonwealth LEA within the prior two years either via direct employment with a LEA or via verified contracted service with a LEA.

After August 1, 2026, all persons employed as a School Social Worker must either 1) hold a valid, active Pennsylvania School Social Worker Educational Specialist certificate or 2) have an emergency permit, be a LSW or LCSW and be enrolled in a PDE-approved school social worker program. To become certified after August 1, 2026, one will need to successfully complete a School Social Worker preparation program at a college/university and then submit an application for certification to PDE.


Except as provided elsewhere in this CSPG, a School Social Worker may not provide services that are specifically reserved for a certified school counselor (CSPG #76) or for a certified school psychologist (CSPG #81).


Pa. Public School Code: §1202, §1212, §1604

22 Pa. Code: Chapter 12: §12.41

Chapter 49: §49.11, §49.81, §49.102-3

Chapter 14: §14.123(a), §14.124(a)

Chapter 15: §15.5

Chapter 16: §16.22(d), §16.23

Chapter 63: §11

Specialist - School Social Worker (PDF)

Summary of Changes

Date of Revisions Major Changes
  • Expanded experience requirement to include contracted service under Special Considerations. 
  • Clarified that the opportunity to become certified via the Special Considerations expires August 1, 2026.
​Postponed the implementation date of PDE certification from August 1, 1023 to August 1,  2026
​Clarified the necessity of completing an approved school social worker preparation program.
New PK-12 School Social Worker Educational Specialist Certificate