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Online Masters Programs for Medical Social Workers: Degree Info

Research online medical social work master's degree programs. Find out what you can learn in these programs and what you'll need in order to participate in online learning to determine if it's right for you.

Essential Information

A number of general online Master of Social Work programs are available that prepare graduates for jobs as medical social workers. Many online programs sometimes include a clinical concentration that better suits individuals pursuing careers in medical social work. Graduates should be able to provide advanced social services to both families and individuals.

In-person clinical experiences are a typical requirement for these online social work programs, to give students face-to-face practice working with clients. This may include both campus visits and fieldwork. In addition, participation in online courses may require students to have access to a webcam. Prior to enrollment in one of the these master's programs, students are required to have a bachelor's degree in social work. Some programs may take students with a bachelor's degree in other fields, but they often require those students to complete additional coursework.

Clinical social workers are generally required to hold a master's degree in social work as well as professional licensing. Licensing requirements vary by state, however, so check for state-specific requirements when choosing an educational program.

Master's Degree Program in Social Work

An online master's degree program in social work prepares graduates to assist individuals, families and groups struggling with a plethora of issues, including child abuse, terminal illness, long-term unemployment, homelessness, substance abuse and disability. Emphasis is often placed on communication and analytical skills, as well as social welfare policy, cultural diversity and economic justice.

Online social work master's degree programs commonly offer both a policy-based and clinical concentration. The policy-based concentration is geared towards prospective social workers interested in advocacy, administration and public policy. The clinical concentration is more appropriate for individuals interested in working as a medical social worker or in areas such as mental health or substance abuse. Medical social workers typically help various populations deal with AIDS, cancer or other terminal and chronic illnesses. They may also assist patients being discharged from the hospital and advise family caregivers.

Information and Requirements

Online Master of Social Work programs are typically around 36-60 credits in length, depending on the prospective student's previous educational experience. Individuals holding a bachelor's degree in social work can enter programs with advanced standing and enter directly into the advanced social work curriculum. Those with a bachelor's degree in a field other than social work must complete additional foundational coursework. Online social work master's degree programs may require brief on-campus visits and also commonly require students to complete local field placements.

Online master's degree programs in social work utilize online course management systems such as Blackboard, allowing students the opportunity to access course materials, syllabi, lecture materials and course calendars. Prospective students should have access to a computer with an updated operating system, such as Windows XP, an updated Web browser, a Web camera and Microsoft Office. Courses may require students to purchase specific software programs and have plug-ins such as Apple Quick Time, Real Video Player and Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Common Courses

A master's-level social work curriculum prepares graduates to transition social work theory into practice.

Social Policy

A social policy course explores both current and historical issues in social welfare policy. Areas of study might include social policy analysis, policy implementation, human needs and poverty.

Human Behavior

This course covers the social and psychological development of human behavior. Additional areas covered might include social interventions, the biosocial process and cultural diversity.

Community Practice

This course provides students with a strong foundation in the inner workings and needs of both communities and organizations. Topics covered include community building, social planning and community capacity building.


Career Information

Graduates of an online master's degree program in social work are prepared for employment in settings such as adoption agencies, social service agencies, elderly services, child protection agencies and addiction service centers. Employment settings specifically for medical social workers might include government agencies, family service agencies, nursing care facilities and hospitals.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a master's degree is typically required for clinical work, including work in health settings. A master's degree also prepares graduates for licensure. Licensure typically requires up to two years of supervised clinical experience, most of which would commonly be done in a public health setting for individuals interested in working as a medical social worker.

Employment for social workers in general was expected to increase by 12% (faster than the average for all occupations) from 2014-2024, according to the BLS (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reports median annual earnings for healthcare social workers at $52,380 as of May 2015. For individuals interested in positions in research or academia, a doctorate degree is commonly required.

With a combination of online course work and in-person clinical experiences, online Master of Social Work programs can be geared towards preparing students for careers as medical social workers. Some of the related topics covered in these programs include social policy, human behavior and community practices.


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