Social Work Degrees

Social Work Degree prepares students for beginning and advanced practice in clinical social work and organization and community practice. According to Occupational Outlook Handbook of the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of Social Workers is expected to increase faster than the average for all professions through 2010 due to rapid increase in elderly population & baby boomer generation.

Social Work Career Overview & Job Prospects

If you’ve got a broken washing machine, you call a repair man. If you’ve got a life problem, may it be with family, health, or otherwise, you call a social worker. If you are kind, compassionate, and patient, and have always been able to help people with their life problems, you should consider a career in social work.

Job Overview

Social workers are the unsung heroes in our society. Their job is tough, but very necessary. They consult with people who are coping with big problems, like domestic conflicts, life-threatening illness, lack of housing, and substance abuse. Social workers advocate for children who lack a competent parent or guardian. They also advocate on the behalf of programs they feel with help their patient population. (BLS)

Job Outlook

  • Earn between $32,000-52,000 a year (BLS)
  • A 16% increase in jobs is expected by 2018 (BLS)
  • Most social workers are employed by schools, health care facilities, or other government agencies (BLS)

Social workers specialize in a few areas, depending on the type of population they work with. Child, family, and school social workers work to improve the situation of children and families. They assess the child and family’s needs, and locate appropriate services to meet them. Medical and public health social workers help people deal with unanticipated changes in health and chronic and terminal illnesses. Mental health and substance abuse social workers help those with serious addiction by finding them appropriate therapy and outreach, and teaching them skills for coping and everyday living. Other arenas of social work may contain less direct patient outreach, like administrating social programs and doing research on the social effects of public policy. (BLS)

Online Degree Options in Social Work

Online Certificate Program in Social Work

A certificate in social work will do very little as a stand-alone education. Most social workers have master’s degrees in social work, or at the very least have bachelor’s degrees. However, people who have bachelor’s degrees in other areas and career experience in related fields can benefit from earning a certificate in social work. They may be able to leverage this short term education, in conjunction with other professional experience, into a social work career. A certificate is also a good way for students to earn credits that will allow them to apply to a master’s degree program if they have a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated area.

Online Associate Degree Program in Social Work

An associate’s degree in social work is a two-year degree, which is either a prelude to a bachelor’s degree or a ticket to an entry-level position within the realm of social work. Students will get an introduction to what a social work career is like and the skills they will need to work in the field.

An associate degree in social work may help students get their foot in the door of a nonprofit organization that they are interested in. Students should look for jobs with organizations that address issues they feel passionate about as these jobs will help them eventually get the kind of career they want. However, most full-fledged social work positions require at least a bachelor’s degree in social work, and the best often require a master’s degree in social work.


Online Bachelor’s Degree Program in Social Work

This degree teaches you how to put theories of human services into practice with individuals, groups, communities, and organizations. You will learn intervention techniques and good management practices, and develop skills in organization, planning, leadership, assessment, and evaluation. You will also learn problem-solving techniques and how to work actively as a part of a cohesive team. Coursework includes psychology, counseling, and social work. You will take classes such as:

  • Introduction to Human Services
  • Communication Skills
  • Models of Effective Helping
  • Case Management
  • Human Lifespan Development
  • Critical Thinking
  • Theory, Practice and Application for Management
  • Professional Ethics and Legal Issues
  • Financial Analysis
  • Organizational Psychology
  • Advocacy and Mediation
  • Cultural Diversity
  • Building Community
  • Marketing

A bachelor’s degree in social work prepares graduates for entry-level positions in counseling, lower management, human services, and some social worker positions. This degree prepares you for the world of work through a combination of academic courses and real-life skills training. It also prepares you to continue into a master’s program in social work, which can open up many more career opportunities and higher-income earning potential.

The length of time needed to graduate depends on several factors. Students with transferable course credit can earn their degrees faster, as can those who are able to dedicate themselves full-time to a degree, instead of part time. Students coming in with no transfer credits who can apply themselves full time should be able to earn a degree in four years.

Online programs vary widely in cost, in part because some students begin with an associate’s degree or previous coursework, which counts towards their bachelor’s degree. Costs are also affected by whether you qualify for financial aid, scholarships, grants, loans, and reimbursement programs through your employer or the government. On average, most online schools charge between $300 and $500 per credit for tuition.

Online Master’s Degree Program in Social Work (MSW)

An online master’s degree in social work (MSW) gives you the knowledge and training you need to pass your licensure and certification exams and thus to practice as a social worker. Furthering the studies provided by a bachelor’s program, the master’s program teachers students more about social change, community resources, cultural awareness, public policy, and case management. You will also be required to complete an internship in a real-world field placement, in accordance with guidelines laid out by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Courses in this degree program can include such topics as:

  • Human Development and Behavior
  • Scope of Human Services
  • Ethnic and Cultural Awareness
  • Direct Practice with Families
  • Research Methods
  • Social Change and Public Policy
  • History of Social Welfare
  • Utilization of Community Resources
  • Philosophy of Social Work
  • Social Welfare Policy and Services
  • Diagnostic Assessment
  • Social Policy and Social Justice

While a bachelor’s degree only enables students to work in the lower levels of service work, a master’s degree is the requisite needed for most full-fledged careers in social work today. Often, a program will allow students to choose a specialization within the field, which prepares them for work in that niche.

Specialties can include Alcohol and Substance Abuse, Gerontology, Child and Family Studies, and Social Services Administration. In addition, a MSW, or Master’s in Social Work, prepares students for many positions in the realm of social work, such as community service, clinical social work, social services administration, and case management.

Some programs can be completed in as little as 18 months, while others take up to 24 months. The time taken to complete varies depending on if you enroll part or full time, and depending on the school’s course and internship requirements.

How Much Does it Cost?

The cost varies greatly for students depending on the program, enrollment, previous coursework, and other factors. Part-time cost per credit hour usually ranges from $300 to $500 depending on the school. An example of one online university’s published costs is $423 per credit for part-time students, and for full-time students, $11,925 for one year’s tuition.

You should look for accredited programs – those that have received the equivalent of a “stamp of approval” from a nationally recognized accrediting agency, guaranteeing that the education offered at that institution has passed inspection and is reputable.

Also, you should ask faculty and graduates of the program about the assistance offered in helping students find an internship in their field during the course of their degree. It is a good sign when many graduates say that their field placement was valuable and time well spent.

It is also important to find out about payment options and graduation requirements, which vary from school to school. The type of coursework and the cost of tuition are likely to be big factors in your choice of a program in social work. Finally, you should ask what social work experience the faculty had had in the real world prior to becoming teachers.

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