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What is the Advanced Palliative & Hospice Social Work Certification?

Thanks to a grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, an evidence-based certification program for hospice and palliative social workers was developed, the Advanced Palliative Hospice Social Work Certification (APHSW-C).

Through the Hospice & Palliative Credentialing Center (HPCC), hospice and palliative care social workers may participate in the first-ever, evidence-based certification program; the Advanced Palliative Hospice Social Work Certification (APHSW-C).

While SWHPN is a strategic partner of the HPCC, we do not administer the certification or the exam. Any questions related to the exam or certification qualifications should be directed to the HPCC, which administers the program.

In addition to other benefits, SWHPN Membership ($200/year) includes $250 worth of APHSW-C resources:

  • $130 discount off both new certification and recertification

  • APHSW-C Study Guide ($35 value)

  • APHSW-C Core Curriculum Guide ($85 value)

About The Advanced Palliative Hospice Social Work Certification


This certification is similar to the specialty certifications of physicians and nurses in hospice and palliative care. Certification is awarded based upon years of experience, verification of licensure and ethical practice, and the passing of a robust exam. Those who complete the requirements for certification receive the designation Advanced Palliative and Hospice Social Worker Certified (APHSW-C).

About The APHSW-C Exam


Content of the APHSW-C exam was developed based upon a nationwide job analysis of hospice and palliative social workers. Exam items are developed by experienced content experts with the expert leadership of PSI, a testing company with over 70 years of experience. With the advice and assistance of PSI, the HPCC prepares the examinations.

Take a closer look at our Study Guide for details on each subject and a full list of what the Exam covers. SWPHN members can access the Study Guide for free within the membership portal. Non-members can purchase the guide for $35.

Assessment and Reevaluation

Planning and Intervention

Death, Grief and Bereavement



Topics Covered

The exam consists of 175 multiple choice items, of which 150 have equal weight for scoring. Test-takers are permitted three hours to complete the examination. Candidates achieving a passing score on this examination will be awarded the Advanced Palliative Hospice Social Worker-Certified (APSHW-C) credential.


Individuals eligible for certification include experienced hospice and palliative care social workers that practice in clinical and academic settings in the United States and Canada.

Topics covered by the exam are:

Having earned a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in Social Work

Completing a minimum of post-degree experience in hospice and/or palliative social work determined by the degree earned

Attesting to practice in accordance to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethics

Holding state licensure in good standing to practice, if required for employment

Successfully passing a certification exam

Committing to ongoing professional development


Why pursue the APHSW-C?

Social workers are essential to the practice of hospice and palliative care. The APHSW-C certification recognizes bachelor’s and master’s level social workers with experience, specialized skills and competency in hospice and palliative social work. The APHSW-C assures the public that certified practitioners have the knowledge and skills to provide safe, high-quality care at an advanced level. 


Holding the APHSW-C certification demonstrates to patients, their families and caregivers, employers, colleagues, and the public at large that a practitioner has met the highest standards of professional practice and has obtained objective validation of their expertise in providing advanced palliative and hospice social work services by:

Benefits of Certification


    • Enhanced professional recognition from employers, colleagues, peers and clients

    • Official recognition for knowledge and skills in specialist-level palliative and hospice care

    • Patients and public assurance that care is provided by an expert based upon objective evaluation of professional competence

    • Enhanced sense of personal accomplishment and satisfaction

    • Evidence of commitment to work to the top of one’s social work license

    • Ongoing professional growth through recertification every four years

    • Increased opportunities for hiring and promotion

    • Acknowledgment that the organization employs social workers who have met evidence-based, nationally developed criteria established by an objective certification body

    • Improvement of patient/family care provided by competent social workers

    • Recognition of quality care by organizations such as the Circle of Life and Joint Commission

    • Confidence that a social worker has obtained the needed knowledge and skills for advanced practice 

    • Identification of qualified individuals for employment and advancement

    • Increased professionalism of social work staff

    • Increased staff satisfaction and decreased staff turnover

    • Justification for the advancement of social workers

    • Potential to create a career ladder that includes recognition of advanced certification


What people are saying

I hadn’t heard about SWHPN until I took the AHPSW-C exam. I was excited to see a national program and become a part of it for community and resources.

Maxwell Cleary


Preparing for the APHSW-C Exam

SWHPN developed a Study Guide to help prepare for the exam. The guide is built on the available content outline and offers sample questions in addition to testing tips. We also offer a Core Curriculum that provides a great review of content. Using the study materials will assist you in preparing for the exam, yet in no way guarantees a successful passing of the exam.


SWHPN hosted a free information session about the certification program in 2023. View the recording > 

While several of our board members played a vital role in bringing this certification to life, SWHPN does not participate in the development of the exam. The APHSW-C program and exam are managed and administered through the HPCC.

Both the Study Guide and Core curriculum are complimentary for SWHPN Members and can be accessed via the "SWHPN Member Discounts" space in the SWHPN Membership Portal.

APHSW-C Eligibility Requirements


  • Applicants must hold either a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work (BSW) or a Master’s degree in Social Work (MSW) from an institution accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) or equivalent accreditation for degrees earned outside of the United States.

    • For BSWs: Applicants must have at least three years of post-degree supervised experience in hospice and palliative social work and have at least three years of post-degree experience in hospice and/or palliative social work within the previous five years. Supervision must be provided by a MSW or licensed professional experienced in hospice and/or palliative care.

    • For MSWs: Applicants must have at least two years of post-degree experience in hospice and/or palliative social work within the previous five years.


    One year of experience is defined as working 2,000 hours.

  • Applicants must attest to practicing in accordance with the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethics.

  • If the applicant’s state requires licensure to practice based upon the applicant’s educational level and type of practice, licensure in good standing is required.


How to Apply

You may complete the application and scheduling process online at the HPCC website. The exam application opens four times per year — March, June, September and December. 


After the application information and payment have been submitted, eligibility will be confirmed or denied, and you will be prompted to schedule an exam appointment at a test center or for live remote proctoring.

If you have any questions about your eligibility, please email HPCC directly at or call 412-787-1057. SWHPN is not involved in the application, taking of the exam or recertification of the credential.


Access Your Examination Fee Discount


Current SWHPN Members receive a $130 discount on the APHSW-C exam. You can access the current discount code (as well as free preparation resources) on the “SWHPN Member Discounts” space inside the SWHPN Membership Portal. If you have any questions about accessing your discount code, please send an email to

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