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Social Work Distance Learning Courses and Training Programs

Learn about online degree programs with social work courses. Get an overview of the program types, requirements and course descriptions available for this field.

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Essential Information

Distance learning programs and courses that prepare students for careers in social work usually culminate in a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) or Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. Graduates of social work programs may work in fields that include child and family counseling, clinical social work or substance abuse counseling. Blended format programs may require field or clinical experience.

Finding a Distance Learning Social Work Program

Many 2-year and 4-year schools offer online social work courses that may include both synchronous components, such as live webcasts or discussions, and asynchronous components, like recorded lectures, message boards and writing assignments.

While it is possible to complete all coursework online, some social work degree requirements, such as field or clinical experience, need to be completed in person. Students in a distance learning Bachelor of Social Work or Master of Social Work program coordinate with their advisors to find a local institution that is approved for their internship or field experience.

Universities and colleges offer both BSW and MSW degrees as online programs. A BSW is the common entry-level requirement to work in the field; an MSW is typically required for work in healthcare settings, school settings, clinical social work and advanced generalist social work practice.

Education programs in social work, including distance learning programs, are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. In addition to possessing a degree, students need to meet the licensing, certification or registration requirements of the state in which they work.


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BSW Program

A BSW program prepares students for entry-level employment. Competencies include applying social work principles effectively, understanding diversity, advancing human rights and engaging in policy practice. Degree programs commonly include general education courses, professional courses, field instruction and electives.

Common Courses

Some examples of courses in a distance learning Bachelor of Social Work program include:

  • Principles of social work
  • History of social welfare
  • Human behavior
  • Social welfare policy and services
  • Research methods

MSW Program

MSW programs are designed to prepare students for the advanced practice of professional social work. The core curriculum of a Master of Social Work program gives students the skills, values, knowledge and ethics necessary for all forms of generalist social work. MSW programs give students the option of focusing in specific areas, such as children and families, clinical social work and mental health.

Common Courses

Courses in distance learning programs for a Master of Social Work include:

  • Advanced social work practice
  • Assessment and diagnosis
  • Advanced social work research
  • Professional ethics for social work

A distance learning social work program typically has coursework that includes human behavior, social work principles and ethics. Graduates of these programs who meet their state's requirements for certification and licensure may find work in fields such as child and family counseling, clinical social work or substance abuse counseling.

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