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Professional Development

  Academic Advising      Student Records/BSW Degree Plan      Confidentiality     Services to Improve Academic Performance      Writing Skills      Social Work Practice & Licensure      Student Social Work Association      Phi Alpha National Honor Society      Web Site for Social Work Students     National Association of Social Workers      Council on Social Work Education      Professional Values and Ethics

The educational experience to become a social worker involves more than gaining varied clusters of knowledge or developing a series of skills through your coursework, human service activity, and field experience.  Becoming a social worker involves personal growth and professional socialization.  The social work curriculum and the educational program are designed to take students on that journey of personal and professional growth and development. 

To initiate the process of development, during your first meeting with the BSW Program Director to declare social work as your major and to open your student file in the social work department, you will be given a Code of Conduct to sign, which advances several of the program’s standards for academic integrity and overall ethical conduct.  This document also highlights a few of the BSW Program’s important policies.

In a professional program such as social work, academic performance is far broader than scholastic abilities such as GPA and individual course grades.  Academic performance includes a full range of professional behavior expectations consistent with the NASW Code of Ethics and value base.  BSW faculty has adopted two policies that elaborate the expectations for student behavior.  The Academic Performance Standards for Admission, Retention, and Graduation detail the BSW Program’s academic standards and provide illustrations of essential student behavior in each category.  The program’s Academic Performance Review policy outlines due process for reviewing a student’s academic performance when faculty has concerns about a student’s performance or when concerns are called to the attention of faculty. 

During your academic program, your coursework will help you to examine your beliefs and values, in order to determine consistency and compatibility with social work values and ethical obligations.  Your pre-admission human service activity , which is often referred to as your volunteer hours, and the senior field experience will help you to determine your capacity and abilities for a career in social work as you carry out a helping role with people who are different from you, have different values or beliefs or lifestyles, and may cope and make decisions that are inconsistent with your thinking and your belief system.  The opportunity to process these differences and examine the reasons for these differences is a significant part of your professional development.

Academic Advising and Career Counseling


You are required to meet with your advisor each semester to plan your academic program and prepare for pre-registration.  You initially meet with the BSW Program Director for your first advising appointment, and you will be given a copy of the BSW Student Handbook at that time.  After that initial meeting, if you have 45 credit hours or more you are assigned a faculty advisor, with whom you meet every semester.  If you have less than 45 hours, you are advised each semester at the Academic Resources Center (ARC) in the Culp Center until the semester that you will be completing 45 credit hours.  In either case, social work faculty members are available, usually by appointment, to discuss your career objectives and answer your questions about the profession of social work. 

The protocol for advising is that students sign up for appointments during the pre-registration period.  Due to the number of students who need to be advised for pre-registration during a relatively short period of time, we ask that you do not call for an appointment because it is too difficult to reach students by phone during working hours in order to set up appointments because students are often in class and unreachable.  Instead, check the advising lists in Hillrise House to find out the name of your advisor and then sign up for an appointment with that advisor on the sign-up sheet posted outside of the advisor’s door.

You are expected to come prepared for advising appointments by reviewing your Degree Plan, a copy of which is given to you by the BSW Program Director during the initial appointment, and by preparing a preliminary schedule to be reviewed by your advisor during advising appointments.  Faculty welcomes your questions during advising sessions.  Our goal is to help you proceed through the curriculum in a timely fashion and to examine your career objectives.  To keep you on target with course sequencing as you proceed through the curriculum, it is essential that you follow the advice you are given during advising sessions.  If you fail to register for the courses you were advised to take and later discover that failure to enroll in those courses disallows normal progression through the curriculum, the department assumes no responsibility for making later course sequencing exceptions in order to keep you on target in meeting the your desired graduation timeline.

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Student Records and the BSW Degree Plan


You will work with your faculty advisor to formulate a plan of study consistent with the policies of the BSW Program and the requirements of the University. During every registration period the Degree Plan in your student file will be updated by your advisor.  We also encourage you to keep your personal copy of the Degree Plan updated as you complete coursework each semester.  During your advising sessions, you may check your record of completed coursework with the official Degree Plan in your permanent academic file in the department to ensure accuracy. 

Your student file is available to you at any time upon request. Please allow your advisor or one of the Executive Aides to pull your file and to return it to the file cabinet when you are finished. To protect the confidential nature of student files, students are not allowed access to the file cabinet.

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Confidentiality of Student Information


The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a Federal law that requires the university to maintain the confidentiality of student education records.


Generally, schools must have written permission from the parent or eligible student in order to release any information from a student's education record.


An exception to the consent requirement is disclosure to school officials with legitimate educational interests.  A school official is defined as a person employed by the university in an administrative, supervisory, academic or research, or support staff position (including law enforcement unit personnel and health staff); a person or company with whom the university has contracted (such as an attorney, auditor, or collection agent); or a student serving on an official committee, such as a disciplinary or grievance committee, or assisting another school official in performing his or her tasks. 


Within the Department of Social Work these kinds of exceptions are viewed as a “circle of confidentiality,” whereby student information may be shared among faculty, with staff, with other university officials, or with field instructors on a need-to-know basis.

For a complete explanation of the ETSU policy on FERPA, see the ETSU Student Handbook in the back of the ETSU telephone directory.

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ETSU Services to Improve Academic Performance


There are several services available to students that will help to improve academic performance. Taking advantage of these services may make the difference between achieving academic success or struggling along unsuccessfully.  NEXUS is a student support program for freshmen who meet one of the following requirements: are first generation college students, are income eligible, have a documented learning or physical disability.  For students who need some extra help with their coursework, ETSU provides tutoring services.  The office of Disability Services provides a variety of services to students who have any kind of disability.  For a complete list of ETSU Academic Support Units, click here .

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Written Work and Writing Skills


The acquisition of strong writing skills is strongly emphasized in the social work program.  The fact that social workers spend a good deal of time exchanging thoughts and information through oral speech is only one aspect of job requirements.  Social workers probably spend an almost equal amount of time producing written work.  Entries must be made into case records that document the work that is taking place with the client, and written service plans that clearly articulate service objectives, tasks, and goals become a part of the written record.  Sometimes such records may be subpoenaed by the courts, so it is imperative that the record follows the standard conventions of American prose and demonstrates effective and accurate communication of thoughts, factual data, and conclusions.  Social workers frequently write letters that advocate for client’s rights, and letters that poorly communicate the information will ultimately harm rather than help the client’s cause.  Much of the cost of social services is reimbursed by third-party payers, and payment will not be made if the case for making payment is not well articulated.  Likewise, budget requests require sound writing skills in order to secure the funding that is necessary to provide the agency services.  Annual reports by agencies are often lengthy and complex, and continuation of funds and services is tied to well-articulated reports of agency activities, service effectiveness, and agency needs.  These are but a few of the reasons that the social work program strives to help students to improve their writing skills before graduation.


If you are having difficulty with your writing skills, you have several options. The Writing and Communication Center lab is a one-on-one ETSU tutorial service to help you with all stages of your writing projects.  You are encouraged to bring “hard copies” of your written work for review and “mark-up.” Forming a buddy system in class and trading papers for review and critique also can be helpful.  Anyone, even a friend or spouse, can read your paper and tell you if it makes sense or not and if it flows well or not.  Faculty urges you to explore every avenue for strengthening your writing skills.  The social work program requires many written papers, and poorly written papers will result in poor grades for your work, which leads to lower course grades that you might want.


The social work program uses the American Psychological Association’s (APA) style manual for written work.  You must become familiar with this resource and use it correctly when writing papers for their social work courses.  Purchasing a copy of this reference book would serve you well throughout your academic career, although the book is rather pricey.  However, a condensed version of the APA manual can be found online, and it would be in your best interest to print a copy of this resource for use in your all of your social work courses.

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Social Work Practice and Licensure


All 50 states license their social workers, but licensure laws vary from state to state.  Not all states license social workers at the baccalaureate level.  Tennessee, for example, is one of the states that currently does not license BSW-level practitioners through the Rules of The Tennessee State Board of Social Worker Certification and Licensure Law.  However, Senate Bill 2932/House Bill 3802, currently in process, revises the social worker statute to license baccalaureate social workers, change certification to licensure fir master social workers, initiate an advanced practice license, and modify scope of practice provisions .  A link to information on the Senate/House Bill can be found at the web site for the Tennessee Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers


Licensure is a legal regulation designed to protect the public by identifying safe professional practice through recognition of credentials, supervised clinical experience, and education, the latter of which translates into graduation from a program accredited or in candidacy for accreditation by the Council on Social Work Education.  The Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) administers the qualifying examinations for licensure used across the country.

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Student Social Work Association

The Undergraduate Student Social Work Association (SSWA) is devoted to creating a positive educational and social atmosphere for social work students.  The extracurricular activities enhance student’s professional development as social workers.  SSWA meets on a monthly basis, and announcements about scheduled meetings are made in social work classes.  Membership dues are $10 per academic year, and membership is open to all declared social work majors and minors.  An SSWA membership allows participation in all SSWA sponsored activities and committees and provides opportunities

  • to practice leadership skills by becoming an officer in the organization.

  • to increase awareness of social and ethical issues while engaging in a hands-on experience in solving problems in today’s society.

  • to serve on departmental committees as a student representative.

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Phi Alpha National Honor Society


Phi Alpha is a national social work honor society that has its headquarters in the ETSU Department of Social Work.  Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) and Master of Social Work (MSW) programs accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) or accepted into candidacy status are eligible for a Phi Alpha chapter, and ETSU’s BSW Program meets those qualifications.  The ETSU BSW Program has been continuously accredited since 1974, which is the date that undergraduate social work programs were first recognized as preparing entry –level social workers and consequently were initially accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.



Student eligibility for and induction into Phi Alpha


ETSU BSW students are eligible to become a member of Phi Alpha when they have

  • declared social work as their major,

  • achieved sophomore status,

  • completed a minimum of 9 semester hours of required social work courses with a GPA of 3.5 in the required courses, and

  • achieved an overall GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. 


Each year, the chapter president identifies the students eligible for membership in Phi Alpha, and induction occurs at an initiation ceremony during an induction banquet in March or April.  Students are notified when they have been chosen for induction.  Each student pays a lifetime membership fee of $20.  Students who are inducted into Phi Alpha receive a certificate and a medallion during the induction ceremonies, and the medallion is worn during commencement ceremonies in recognition of honor status.

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Web Site for Social Work Students


The New Social Worker is an excellent web site for social work students to visit and subscribe to for free, designed specifically to provide information important to students.  It includes articles of interest to students and social worker practitioners, lists social work jobs across the country, reviews books related to social work, and links to an online Journal of Social Work Values and Ethics that publishes articles on relevant ethical issues in the field, with additional links to back issues of the journal.  The New Social Worker web site has a wealth of information and resources for students, including links to new and used text books.  The site also provides a discussion forum through which students can engage others on a wide variety of topics.  Visit it today and enhance your professional development!!   

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  National Association of Social Workers


Each profession has a professional reference group that maintains professional standards, advances a code of ethical behavior, and promotes the interest of its group and members.  The National Association of Social Workers , which in 1955 consolidated under one umbrella a variety of specialized social work organizations, has since become the largest membership organization for professional social workers in the entire world.  Their web site links you with state chapter organizations, outlines NASW’s governance structure, allows you to search for a clinical social worker by city and state, details the social work imperatives for the next decade, provides links to their press releases on important topics, discusses its levels and processes of credentialing, elaborates social work legislative issues and NASW’s advocacy efforts, and advances the profession’s Code of Ethics .

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Council on Social Work Education


Founded in 1952, the Council on Social Work Education is the accrediting body for BSW and MSW programs.  Their web site provides detailed information on accreditation standards and processes, a search page to locate accredited BSW and MSW programs, projects in which they are involved, guidelines for submitting manuscripts to the Journal of Social Work Education, announcements of related conferences, and information on their publications.

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Professional Values and Ethics


Although acquisition of knowledge and skills is important to social work practice, values and ethics are the heartbeat of practice.  Practice models and interventive methods cannot be separated from the ethical foundation of our profession.  The NASW Code of Ethics , adopted in 1996 and revised in 1999, details the ethical behavior expectations for professional practice.  Applicable at the international level is the International Federation of Social Workers and International Association of Schools of Social Work Ethics in Social Work, Statement of Principles A newer online resource for social workers is the Journal of Social Work Values and Ethics .  A social work ethics textbook by Robison and Reeser, originally published by Allyn & Bacon, is now available online and can be downloaded in its entirety, by chapter, or by chapter sections.

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