Those looking to earn graduate degrees in social work can find fully online master's degree programs and hybrid doctoral programs that allow some coursework to be completed online. A master's degree is required to apply to a doctoral program. Doctoral programs require on-campus residencies.
Master's Degree in Social Work
Social workers work with individuals and families coping with emotional and practical issues related to work, school, family and relationships, with the goal of mental and situational improvement. Additionally, social workers can advocate for better standards and services, conduct research and become active in policy improvement and implementation. Clinical social workers need a Master of Social Work (MSW), and employers may prefer candidates with an MSW for managerial and supervisory positions.
Program Information and Requirements
A Master of Social Work program can typically be completed in 2-3 years. Distance learners will need a computer and high-speed Internet to access course management systems and online presentations. Communication with instructors and classmates is conducted by e-mail. Since academic papers may be required for certain courses, students need word processing software.
At the master's level, students take more specific, advanced courses in sociology and psychology than in a bachelor's degree program. Courses focus on positive human social adjustment, policies, procedures and human social development.
Social Development from Birth to Adolescence
Students focus on human developmental patterns from birth through adolescence, using eco-systems and development frameworks. Students look at development in context of the individual, family and other groups.
Basics of Social Policy
This course gives a comprehensive overview of current policies and procedures governed by social legislation. It focuses on policy analysis as it affects disadvantaged persons, using precedent to promote advocacy in today's society and working toward social justice.
Basics of Assessment and Diagnostic Testing
Students analyze the mental health and adaptive capabilities of individuals, families and groups in the context of social environment. The course also features a brief history of the development of mental-emotional disorders and the impact society has on mental health.
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Doctorate in Social Work
Doctor of Philosophy programs focus on human social development, the state of current social services patient advocacy and policy change. A master's degree is a prerequisite.
Program Information and Requirements
A Ph.D. program in social work can usually be completed in about 2-3 years. Although no degree programs offer a Ph.D. completely online, hybrid programs combine online coursework with short on-campus residencies. For online coursework, students need a computer with high-speed internet access. Because some courses require academic papers, a word processing software program is necessary.
A doctoral program curriculum consists primarily of advanced seminars and extensive self-directed research with the goal of a completed dissertation. Courses explore in-depth the relationship with and the successful functioning of challenged individuals in society.
Quantitative Analysis and Reasoning
Students learn and practice quantitative research at the doctorate level with a focus on data analysis and using statistics. Students look at quality assurance, ethical and social outcomes of research, appropriate analytical tests and statistics.
Psychology and Culture
Students focus on the global impact of cross-culture in contemporary society and psychology. These courses give a broad overview of issues related to human development, such as the relationship between culture and social behaviors, general mental health and social disorders.
Human Development Over the Lifespan
This course gives students a comprehensive overview of human development and changes that occur in childhood, adolescence, adulthood and mature age. Students study basic physical, emotional and cognitive milestones that occur in each stage. The role of diversity throughout the life experience is a focal point.
A master's degree is typically the minimum educational requirement for clinical social workers, although other types of social work require only a bachelor's degree for entry-level positions. A doctoral degree generally qualifies the graduate to teach social work at the postsecondary level. Master's degree holders may be able to teach at community colleges.
Social workers may focus on an area such as adoption, child protective services, domestic violence or homelessness. According to a 2014 report by the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), about 41% of child, family, and school social workers worked in state and local government, and another 37% worked in healthcare and social assistance.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) expected 12% growth in employment for social workers from 2014-2024. The BLS reported a median annual salary of $45,900 for social workers and $42,170 for mental health and substance abuse social workers as of May 2015.
Besides working as social workers and researchers, individuals with a Ph.D. in social work are able to teach college and university social work courses. A May 2015 report by the BLS showed the median annual salary of postsecondary social work teachers to be $63,390.
Social work degrees are found fully online at the master's level and in hybrid format at the doctorate level. These programs lead to careers in social work, with the option of teaching postsecondary classes on the subject.