Technical Standards in Social Work Education

What They Are and Why They Matter


  • Rachel Schwartz Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, School of Social Work
  • Laura Curran Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, School of Social Work



technical standards, social work education, gatekeeping, professional behavior, disability accommodations


Following larger developments within professional education, schools of social work have increasingly adopted technical standards as non-academic criteria for program admission and continuation. This paper examines the emergence of technical standards within schools of social work, articulates the distinction from and overlap with other forms of non-academic admissions and retention criteria, and considers their use in relation to the larger literature on gatekeeping in social work. Drawing on select legal cases, this review paper contemplates possible challenges associated with the implementation of technical standards, including issues related to disability law and due process. We argue that the development and implementation of technical standards in social work education raises complex questions related to inclusion and equity and poses unique challenges and opportunities for a relational and behavioral profession grounded in interpersonal skill development. Despite challenges, development of technical standards in schools of social work is worthwhile and can help manage the delicate and often difficult balance between serving as student-focused educators and professional gatekeepers.


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