All American qualified mental health social workers have a masters degree; often they have also completed specialized training in a therapeutic method (e.g. psychotherapy, family therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy). For the renewal of the licence to practice, they are required to continue their education by taking courses lasting around 1 month on a yearly basis.

There are proportionally (not only numerically) more social work lecturers and researchers in the United States than in the United Kingdom, and more qualified social workers enrolled on PhD programmes. This characteristic relates closely to the status of academic achievements within the profession in the United States and its attempt to become more based on research than is the case in the United Kingdom.

In comparison, their British counterparts would have been trained on a range of courses from a 2-year diploma award, to a 3-year undergraduate course, and a minority to an MA. While continuing education is encouraged since 1990 when the Post-qualifying and Advanced Awards in social work was established, workers are not obliged to do so. Moreover, their employers are under no obligation to give them time off work, or to contribute financially towards the cost of further training.

Under the Conservative government in the United Kingdom (1979-1997) there was a concerted effort to move social work training away from the university sector into a model of in-service training through the National Vocational Qualifications system. The current Labour government does not seem keen either way. The move of social work education from the university sector would signal its demotion from an autonomous profession to an inferior occupational group, especially at a time in which nursing and occupational therapists are increasing the educational input within the university sector.

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