Social work bachelor's programs combine sociology, psychology, political science and organizational dynamics into one subject area, training students to serve others in a wide variety of ways. While coursework may be completed entirely online, most programs also require students to get field experience prior to graduation. Applicants may be required to have relate college credits before enrolling.
Students wishing to enter a career in social work typically need at least a bachelor's degree in social work (BSW), though some clinical positions require a master's degree and state licensure as well.
Bachelor's Degree in Social Work
Online bachelor's degree programs in social work are available, though most programs require students to complete field experiences or other hands-on training activities. The field requirements may be completed at approved social service agencies located near students or at specific sites designated by the school.
Some schools that offer online programs in social work require students to have already completed some college courses or have earned a degree in another subject area first. Students that do not meet program-specific requirements may need to complete additional prerequisite courses, which may not be available online, before enrolling. Online BSW programs can be completed in 2-4 years, depending on the applicant's previous college experience, and they are available as both part-time and full-time programs.
Online BSW programs may utilize online chats, video lectures, discussion forums and video conferencing for their courses. Some programs may allow students to work at their own pace, while others may require students to be online at specific times and complete coursework by specific deadlines.
Some of the common courses in a BSW program include:
- Introduction to Social Work: This course provides students with an overview of the social work profession. Students can learn about the different areas of practice and specialization options.
- Human Behavior and Social Environments: Students study the biological, psychological and social development of humans. This course includes how an individual's environment, family and economic status can affect their behavior.
- Social Policy: Topics in the course often include welfare policies and human service delivery systems in the U.S. Students may also learn about the processes to create or change these policies.
- Research Methods: BSW programs often have several courses related to research and statistics. These courses often cover research techniques, such as research design, measurement, sampling, research collection and data analysis.
- Social Work Ethics: This course covers the ethical considerations for working as a social worker, including privacy issues, client rights and informed consent. Courses may cover the National Association of Social Workers' Code of Ethics for Social Workers.
- Social Work Practice: Students often take several courses related to the duties and methods of a social worker. Coursework may include practice interacting with specific types of clients or situations.
Additional courses cover topics in family behavior, social psychology, multicultural issues, abnormal psychology, managed care, child welfare and interventions.
Social work jobs are found in the private, non-profit or government sectors. Those who have obtained bachelor's degrees in social work can find employment in fields such as:
- Child and family welfare
- Public health
- Mental health
- Substance abuse
- Peer counseling
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 649,300 people were employed as social workers as of 2014. Job growth in this field is expected to reach 12% from 2014 to 2024. Depending upon the specific field of social work one chooses, median salaries vary. In 2015, healthcare social workers made a median salary of $52,380, while social workers in the mental health and substance abuse field made $42,170.
Because of the complex nature of social work, online bachelor's degree programs are highly interdisciplinary, combining social and cultural studies with classes in research methods and human biology. By the time they finish all of the coursework and a real-world practicum, students should have the communication and problem-solving skills necessary for careers in human services.