When choosing an online program for social work, it is important for individuals to consider their availability, interests, and future career goals. Online programs may be more difficult to find depending on the level of degree desired.
How to Select an Online Accredited Social Work School
Students considering online social work schools that are accredited must make their decision based on several key factors. Social workers provide human services to communities and help those who are disadvantaged or living with disabilities. Online schools for social work, which are often administered through public and private universities, offer programs at both the master's and bachelor's degree levels, though online bachelor's degrees are much more difficult to find. Students must then weigh the practice requirements with time constraints.
Practice Requirements and Degree Type
In order to find a position as a social worker, students must normally complete at least a bachelor's degree in social work. While some employers accept degrees in psychology or counseling, all social workers must meet state licensing requirements in order to practice. Requirements vary from state to state, but usually include meeting certain criteria for education and experience, as well as passing a licensing examination. In some circumstances, employers prefer to hire those who have completed a master's degree in social work.
Student Time Constraints
Some online programs are designed for flexibility, so that students may continue to work full time while still completing classes. These programs are normally asynchronous, meaning that while students may be required to communicate with the rest of the class via forums or message boards, they do not need to attend class at any particular time. Some programs do not require students to turn in assignments on given dates either, only having a final due date for all class materials. Online programs may require students to log-on at a particular time in order to watch video lectures or communicate with teachers and other students.
Online Program Options for Social Work
Bachelor of Social Work
A bachelor's degree in social work may be difficult to find in an online format, and those that can be found may have strict admission requirements. Graduates of the program are prepared for entry-level employment or continuing education opportunities. The curriculum often includes courses in:
- Human cultural issues
- Human development
- Family issues
Master of Social Work
Master's degrees in social work are commonly available online, but require a supervised field experience. Courses prepare students to work with individuals and families through self-analysis, interventions, counseling and assessment interviewing. Graduates are prepared to work in clinical and mental health settings and are qualified for management positions. Required and elective course topics can include:
- Social welfare and history
- Human behavior
- Psychopathology in clinical practice
- Macro social work theory
- Issues in aging
Schools with Online Programs in Social Work
Wayne State University offers a hybrid program. Students must complete at least 120 credits to acquire the Bachelor's of Social Work degree. These consist of 60 credits of specialized and general education coursework in the first two years and prior related coursework for admission to the professional component. The remaining credits in the last two years can generally be completed online and include 51 credits of required social work courses and 9 credit hours of general education elective courses. Topics include research methods, social work practices, and welfare policy. Field work is required.
An online Master's of Social Work degree is available at University of North Dakota, but one campus visit of about a week is required. Field experiences in the student's community are also required. The program prepares students to become advanced generalist social workers through both online courses and as well as the on-campus lab. They also get more in-depth about topics such as management, program development, and statistical evaluation. Consisting of 36 credits, much of the coursework is done through live web classes in the evening. UND offers in-state tuition regardless of location for online students.
While online degrees in social work are available, bachelor's degree programs are more difficult to come by than master's degree programs. Programs prepare students to work in a number clinical and mental health environments and specific interests can be pursued through electives.