Online Degree Programs for Social Work

Social workers help people improve their lives. They provide support clients who have a disability, severe illness or mental illness, or a social problem, such as unemployment, poverty, or substance abuse. Social workers may also help families dealing with domestic disputes or conduct research or advocacy for certain services. Entering the social work field can entail significant training, and a master’s degree typically required for many positions. Despite the high educational attainment required, social work can be a relatively low-paying field with many challenges, but it also can be very rewarding and fulfilling. Since social work typically requires licensure or certification to practice, we recommend that students apply to accredited online degree programs so that they meet eligibility requirements for credentialing exams.

Online Associate Degree Programs for Social Work

Professional social workers require bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degrees, though there are opportunities at the associate level to study the discipline and enter into entry-level positions. These online degree programs for social work, sometimes called human services degrees, train students to provide information, support, care, and advocacy in a social work agency. Students learn how to perform these tasks in courses such as organization and leadership in human services, strategies in crisis intervention, and community psychology. Upon graduating students might find work as a human service assistant, social service specialist, or community service specialist in settings ranging from courts and mental health facilities to foster homes and juvenile justice centers.

Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs for Social Work

Online bachelor degree programs prepare students for such direct-service work as caseworkers or mental health assistants. In the degree program students learn about social work theory, social welfare policy, and human behavior, and gain skills in such areas as assessment, interviewing, service planning, case management, crisis intervention, community organizing, advocacy, and research. They may also be required to undergo an internship or supervised fieldwork to put the program’s teachings to practical, real-world use. Since many social work positions require a master’s degree, a bachelor’s could also serve as a foundation toward an advanced degree. Students interested in earning a master’s degree may also want to consider online accelerated degree programs to earn both degrees in a shorter period of time.

Online Master’s Degree Programs for Social Work

As you can see, students interested in social work can find opportunities to study at the associate and bachelor’s degree level. However, for many clinical social work positions a master’s degree is typically required. Online masters degree programs develop students’ skills in conducting clinical assessments, managing a large number of clients, and taking on supervisory roles. Students may also specialize in a specific area of interest, such as aging, families and children, health, mental health, or social action and community development, depending on what the program offers. The best online degree programs require students to complete an internship or supervised fieldwork to gain hands-on experience.

Online Doctoral Degree Programs for Social Work

Social workers in the field can advance their education and careers by enrolling in a doctoral program in social work. Programs may be focused on either clinical practice or research. Depending on the track, students can receive training in advanced practice, policy analysis, or a specialized field. The degree typically leads to academic teaching and research, or supervisory positions in practice and policy developments.

Online Degree Programs in Social Work in the Work Place

Opportunities in social work depend greatly on your education level and focus of study. Graduates of associate degree programs, for instance, may find entry-level work as social and human service assistants, working for local or state governments, social service agencies, or rehabilitation services. It is a growing field, with employment of social and human service assistants expected to increase by 28% from 2010 to 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Wages will vary depending on your experience, employer, and location, though you can expect to earn anywhere from $19,180 to $45,710, according to the BLS

Earning an advanced degree in social work can open the door to more opportunity, since many social work positions require at least a bachelor’s degree to become licensed. Social workers work with children, families, or schools; in healthcare; or in mental health and substance abuse. They are employed by hospitals and clinics, nursing homes, community mental health clinics, private practices, state and local governments, schools, substance abuse clinics, and military bases and hospitals. According to the BLS, employment of social workers is expected to grow 25% from 2010 to 2020 due to increased demand for healthcare and social services. The greatest demand will be for healthcare social workers, notes the BLS. Salary will vary depending on your experience, employer, and location, as well as your education level, though social workers can expect to make anywhere from $26,710 to $70,390, according to the BLS. Social workers earned a median annual salary of $42,480 in May 2010.