When selecting an online social services program, students have a number of factors that they may want to keep in mind while making their decision. We will discuss some of these factors below, like the level of the degree, whether or not the program is properly accredited, and how flexible the program is for students.
How to Select an Online Social Services School
Students wishing to begin or advance a career in social services can earn a degree in the field of social work online. Associate's and master's degrees are the most common online options, though very few offer fully online programs. Students should then weigh award level and accreditation factors with flexibility of the program.
The two most prevalent online options in social work are associate's and master's degrees. Several schools that offer associate's degree programs include transfer options to graduates who wish to earn a bachelor's degree in social work. Most schools with online programs also include practical experience within the program through on-site training or internship opportunities. Master's programs also include on-site practicums, which can be completed through internships, current employment or local community service.
An important factor in an academic social work program is the accreditation status. Accredited colleges that offer an associate's degree typically allow credit to be applied to a bachelor's or a master's program. Additionally, state regulations often require licensure or certification for social workers, which generally necessitate graduation from an accredited institution and program. Some states require social workers to complete continuing education courses through an accredited school to maintain licensure or certification.
Online education allows students the freedom to set their own schedule and work at their own pace. Some schools provide flexibility of experience requirements by allowing students to participate in social work at a variety of local agencies. Communication and assignment submission may be completed entirely online, and many schools assure online students of adequate availability to online instructors.
List of Online Social Services Programs
Online Associate of Science in Social Work
Most online 2-year associate's degrees in social work are offered in a hybrid format. Due to the common educational restrictions of social work, students are encouraged to enroll in an associate's program that includes transfer arrangements with 4-year colleges and universities. Some programs require practicums, though a few include only online coursework, anticipating that experience will be covered in an advanced degree program. Courses include:
- Introductory sociology
- Advocacy services
- Case management
Online Master's Degree in Social Work
While online master's degrees do allow some flexibility, students are typically required to complete the program within a given time period. Online coursework is provided in the form of streaming Internet video, online reading materials or digital media sent to the student's home. The length of an online master's program depends on a student's previous education and background. Graduates of a bachelor's program in social work may be able to skip some of the coursework requirements, and those who have worked in a social services field may be able to apply life experience as credit toward the degree. Topics include:
- Evaluation of human behavior
- Social work and the law
- Welfare services
- Field planning
Schools with Online Programs in Social Services
At the undergraduate level, students may be interested in pursuing an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Human Services from New York's Herkimer University. This program, which can be completed entirely online, prepares students for careers as probation officers, child care workers, and counselors, among others. Herkimer also has a special agreement with a number of four-year universities that allows students to easily transfer their credits and earn a bachelor's degree. A couple of these programs are also offered online. Central Texas College offers an online associate degree with a specialization in social work that is also transferable to a four-year university. This program, which takes four semesters to complete, includes courses like social welfare as a social institution, crisis intervention, and counseling theories.
For graduate students, Texas State University offers a Master's in Social Work, that can be completed on-campus, online, or in a hybrid format. However, the online format is only available to students pursuing their degree on a part-time basis. Students can either enroll in the foundation track or advanced standing track, depending on whether they already have a bachelor's degree in social work or not. The foundation track entails 62 credit hours, while the advanced standing track only requires 36.
The University of New England offers an entirely online Master's of Social Work that is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. This program also offers two tracks - traditional and advanced standing - depending on whether applicants already have an educational background in social work or not. From there, students can then choose from three concentrations: clinical practice, community practice, or integrated social work practice.
For students who want to pursue a career in social services, there are a number of educational options to choose from. The path you choose will largely depend on the type of career you want, how long you want to spend in school, and whether the program is offered partially or entirely online.