2023 Best Online Social Work Degrees Guide


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Online Schools Guide

This is a comprehensive Social Work Degrees Guide. Please follow along with us to learn more about the various degrees offered. The Academy of Certified Social Workers (ACSW) and Diplomate in Clinical Social Work (DCSW) credentials are only available to social workers who are members of the National Association of Social Workers.

Social workers must be licensed to take the certification program for a Clinical Social Work program. are limited to NASW members only, and the DCSW requires licensure. An ACSW credential is available for social workers in various practice areas. Some certifications include leadership, addictions, case management, and even Certified Clinical Alcohol, Tobacco & Other Drugs Social Worker (C-CATODSW).

Online Certificate In Social Work

According to the National Association of Social Workers, the Specialty Certification program was created in 2000 to address an array of different workplace trends as well as the needs of society in general. This growing need necessitated some social workers to obtain specialized certifications in various areas.

Certifications allow people working in the social work field to have more public recognition and enhanced professional status. Specialty Credentials through the National Association of Social Workers are open to any social workers who are licensed and qualified to take the courses and testing required for each certification.

What Are Some Good Certifications To Have As A Social Worker?

With the growing addiction problems throughout the country when it comes to alcohol as well as heroin, cocaine, crack, methamphetamine, and prescription medications such as OxyContin, a certification in addictions would be beneficial to many social workers in a variety of practice areas. Social workers who are interested in working with the elderly in various settings, including hospitals and long-term care facilities, can obtain certificates in Social Worker in Gerontology (SW-G) if they first have a bachelor’s degree in social work or Clinical Social Worker in Gerontology (CSW-G) and Advanced Social Worker in Gerontology if they have already obtained their master’s degree in social work.

For those in the military and wishing to work with military members, there are several certifications available, including Military Service Members, Veterans, and Their Families – Social Worker, Military Service Members, Veterans, and Their Families – Advanced Social Worker (MVF-ASW), and Military Service Members, Veterans, and Their Families – Clinical Social Worker (MVF-CSW). Several other certifications are available, such as Hospice and Palliative care, case management, and Certified Advanced Children, Youth, and Family Social Worker.

How Do You Get A Certificate In Social Work?

First, students must already have a degree in social work and, in some cases, experience in certain areas of practice. A social work certification will show current and future employers the different types of practice areas a social worker has gained knowledge, education, and even expertise in, such as youth and families, and defines what type of practice the professional has gained expertise in, such as gerontology, health care, youth and family, and education. Credentials are also referred to as certifications or even specialties and are issued by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). By earning a certification in a particular area, social workers can receive additional professional recognition beyond the licensure they receive from the state where they live and work.

The NASW Credentialing Center offers both Professional Social Work Credentials, which are only for members of the organization, and Advanced Practice Specialty Credentials, which are open to all social workers. This certification is even considered an additional license beyond the state level for the social worker.  For those with a master’s degree in social work or an equivalent, two professional certifications are available for those people only, including the Academy of Certified Social Workers (ACSW) and Diplomate in Clinical Social Work (DCSW).

Advanced Practice Specialty Credentials are open to both social workers with master’s degrees and some that are open to social workers who only hold a bachelor’s degree in social work. These include certifications in various areas, including education, clinical, gerontology, addictions, case management, health care, military, youth and family, and Hospice and palliative care.

Most certifications can be obtained by social workers with at least their bachelor’s degree through online programs, allowing students to work at their own pace. Some programs may take several months or even a year to complete. However, by taking the courses online, social workers can still hold full or part-time positions and even raise a family while finishing their certifications much faster.

Online Associates In Social Work

Students can also opt to enter into an associate in applied science degree (AAS) in social work if they so choose.

What Is An AA In Social Work?

An AA in social work is an Associate of Arts Degree in social work that will allow students to become social work assistants and work directly with clients who need assistance in many ways.

Students will learn the skills and knowledge it takes to assist people in many situations. Typically, it takes students about two years to complete this program, but it can be accelerated by taking the courses online instead of in person since students can work at their own pace.

At some colleges and universities, students can obtain various certifications and associate degrees in a social work program, such as chemical dependency counseling assistant. This will help them increase their job opportunities in a field that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is growing about 17 percent between 2019 and 2029, much faster than many other occupations.

What Are The Benefits Of Earning An Associate In Social Work Degree Online?

Students who earn an associate degree in social work through an online program not only gain the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in entry-level roles in the social work field, but they can do it at their own pace. The program usually takes around two years to complete, but by doing classes online, students may be able to finish sooner than that.

Earning their degree online also allows students to work full or part-time jobs while attending classes at whatever time of day or night they must do them. The program will also prepare students to continue their education to receive their bachelor’s degree in social work and even their master’s or doctorate in social work, which will significantly improve and expand their career opportunities.

An associate degree in social work that is taken online will allow students to have more flexible program formats and possibly accelerated formats so the students can graduate sooner and get out into the workforce or continue for higher degrees. Usually, online and in-person on-campus programs feature the same coursework and the same instructors; they are just different in how they are delivered to students. Students may still have to complete internships or clinical in person and various agencies to gain on-the-job experience and training.

What Jobs You Can Get With An Associate Degree In Social Work

An associate degree in social work will give students the essential skills and knowledge to pursue various entry-level jobs within the field of social work. Students can garner positions as social work assistants, community outreach workers, and even case management aides.

Students can also get a position overseeing daycare programs and determining client eligibility for a variety of social programs that are put in place to help children and families. Graduates can choose to continue their education, with many of their classes being credited towards a bachelor’s degree in social work program so they can become licensed social workers.

As Social and Human Services assistants, graduates can provide client services in various areas, such as rehabilitation, psychology, and social work. Graduates can work as home health aides or personal care aides who assist older adults suffering from chronic illnesses, disabilities, or cognitive impairments that make it necessary for them to have assistance with their daily tasks. As community outreach workers, graduates can use their skills to help coordinate social service programs and organize community events to help others. Some graduates can even write proposals for grants that help with social services funding.

Can You Be A Social Worker With An Associate Degree?

While an associate degree in social work will not allow graduates to take the licensing exam to become a licensed social worker, it does allow graduates to enter into entry-level roles in the social work field and to be able to advance their degrees, which will increase their job opportunities in the field of social work. Some states will allow graduates with an associate degree in social work to take a test to become certified or licensed social work assistants.

Graduates may need their college or university transcripts to be able to take the testing required to allow them to become social work assistants. Students in an associate degree in social work program will learn the basic concepts in various areas, including sociology, psychology, and human welfare. Students will also learn proper interviewing skills, how to work with clients that may be in distress, and how to conduct crisis intervention. Many college and university programs will require students to complete clinical in which they work directly with clients and licensed social workers to get the hands-on experience they will need when they begin working in the social work field.

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, social work assistants can earn around $38,000 per year in these positions.

Online Bachelors In Social Work

What Is A Bachelor Of Social Work?

A bachelor of social work (BSW) program provides students with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in social work. Students can enter a Bachelor of Arts in the social work program or a Bachelor of Science in the social work program. Both programs generally provide students with a comprehensive foundation to practice social work and take their state’s licensing tests to become licensed social workers. Students will learn how to properly serve individuals, families, groups, and communities that are typically underserved or even oppressed and are dealing with various issues.

To be admitted into a bachelor of social work program, students must provide their high school transcripts, recommendation letters, an application, and even a personal essay about why they want to work in social work. Some colleges and universities will require students to take the SAT or ACT test also.

Students will learn various knowledge and skills regarding human behavior, social work research methods, social work practices for working directly with families and individuals, group practice methods, and social welfare policy. Some programs may require students to complete a practicum, which means they will work within their local community to gain hands-on experience while working directly with clients.

Is Social Work A Promising Career?

Becoming a licensed social worker with a bachelor’s degree in social work will earn graduates a base salary of around $60,000 annually and allow them to make a difference in people’s lives. The social work field has a growing need for workers, and that growth is set to continue by about 17 percent over the next decade. Social workers are in demand due to the demographics in the United States that are changing rapidly.

For one thing, the American population is growing older, increasing job opportunities for social workers who specialize in gerontology or want to work within the healthcare system at hospitals or even long-term care facilities. Due to drug epidemics that are happening across the nation, there is also a growing need for social workers and the children and families area of the field. Graduates entering this social work area will work directly with abused and neglected children and their families.

Social workers may also work with immigrant families fleeing war-torn countries who do not have the resources and skills they need when they first come to the United States to secure gainful employment. Currently, the field of social work is dominated by women since about 85 percent of licensed social workers are female. There is a growing need for male social workers simply because some male clients prefer working with a male because they are more comfortable.

What Can You Do After BSW?

Graduates with a bachelor’s degree in social work will have various job opportunities, especially after they take the licensing exam in their state and become licensed social workers. Many graduates with a bachelor’s degree in social work complete a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. They can then take and pass the Association of Social Work Boards’ bachelor’s exam to become licensed in their state.

Graduates can work in various career paths, such as environmental health worker and administrator, community health worker, school social worker, or child and family social worker. Graduates can make a difference in various people’s lives, making social work a gratifying career. Also, graduates with a bachelor’s degree in social work can continue their education to receive their master’s degree in social work or even their doctorate in social work, propelling them to higher levels in the social work field.

This will mean an increase in income too. Social workers who have earned a bachelor’s degree in social work will earn a median income of about $60,000 per year and will be eligible to take a variety of certification and specialization programs to enhance their career prospects and increase their skills and knowledge better serve their clients. 

Online Masters In Social Work

Most people who enter the field of social work have a passion for social justice and want to help improve other people’s lives. They can identify with those in need and can accurately assess their situations to develop case plans and other strategies to assist them with any problems they are having and improve their overall quality of life.

What Do You Gain From A Master’s In Social Work?

Many people who enter the world of social work have experienced childhood traumas, domestic violence as adults, and many other similar situations to the ones that their clients are dealing with. For example, someone who has survived severe domestic violence may end up working in the social work field at a domestic violence shelter. As they earn their master’s degree, they can even counsel those women, men, and children who are now surviving domestic violence. Gaining a degree in social work at the master’s level will increase the graduate’s earning potential and job security and offer more career advancement opportunities and ways to help others than ever before.

Besides an increased opportunity to help others, earning a master’s of social work degree is an excellent idea since it is a growing field. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job growth for social workers is expected to increase by 9 percent through 2031, nearly double the average job growth rate of other professions, around seven percent. A master’s degree also offers not only greater career options but advanced education and training as well. There are many specialized certification programs that students who graduate with a master’s degree can complete to specialize in certain areas in the social work field they are most passionate about.

Is A Master’s In Social Work Hard?

Earning a master’s degree in social work can be very challenging mentally, physically, and emotionally. Still, for students passionate about social justice and career advancement within the social work field, a master’s degree is not only doable but very much worth it in the long run. A master’s degree can be expensive and very time-consuming. However, with the advent of online master’s degree programs, students may find it easier than ever before to obtain their degree.

Online students can work at their own pace and complete a master’s degree program in one year to 18 months, which is much less time than the two to four years it takes for traditional students. The fact that online students can work around their family schedule and the schedule of their full or part-time job if they have one makes it much more doable for them to stay on the course and earn their master’s degree. Keep in mind that social work is a helping profession and can be emotionally taxing, but it is well worth it.

How Do You Prepare For A Master’s In Social Work?

To prepare for a master’s degree in social work, students need to reach out to guidance counselors and financial advisors to ensure they have the funding it will take for their degree. Students will also want to enroll in an accredited program and may even want to consider an online or hybrid program in which they can attend in-person classes and complete their courses online around their work and family schedules.

By completing a Master of Social Work degree online, students can work at their own pace and shorten the time that it usually takes for the traditional two-year program down to 18 months or even one year. Students need to get organized to complete assignments on time and will more than likely have to do clinical or internships in the social work field, which may require driving time and a dependable vehicle.

What Field Of Social Work Pays The Most?

After earning a master’s degree in social work, graduates will have a variety of occupations they can choose from within the growing field of social work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average income for a social worker is between 50 and $60,000 per year, but that is for social workers who only hold a bachelor’s degree. Social workers with a master’s degree earn approximately $13,000 to $15,000 more per year, depending on the career path they choose.

Currently, social workers earning top pay in their chosen field move into positions in ambulatory healthcare services, the federal executive branch of government agencies or brokerages, work for insurance carriers, or work in general medical and surgical hospitals throughout the country. The pay range for those jobs is around $83,000 per year, with the top 90 percent garnering an income of more than $90,000 per year.

Online Doctorate In Social Work

Students who enter into a doctorate of social work program want to practice in a specific area of social work at the administrative or clinical social work levels.

What Is A DSW Degree?

A Doctorate of Social Work (DSW) is the highest degree in the practice of social work. With the increase in the number of colleges and universities offering a doctorate of social work degree entirely online, more students than ever before have an opportunity to advance in their careers within the social work field and even come up with new ideas and ways of doing things after they earn their degree to improve the field of social work as a whole.

An online program offers students the flexibility of working towards their doctorate while still holding a full-time or part-time position, raising a family, or both. Students can work at their own pace and complete the program in a shorter time than traditional students may be able to since they can work night or day on their coursework. Most students entering a doctorate of social work degree want to be more prepared for leadership roles and will be trained during the program to be managers and innovators in the social work field.

Does A DSW Require A Dissertation?

Doctorates of social work programs require a form of residency or a dissertation from students before graduating with their doctorate. It will help them form the skills they need to advance in their careers.

Doctorate programs require a certain amount of professional experience in social work. In the past, a dissertation was always required for students seeking a PhD or doctorate. However, a number of colleges and universities have started offering online programs that do not require a dissertation.

In place of a dissertation, though, many colleges and universities require students to complete a capstone project that will allow them to demonstrate their knowledge of the social work field and provide any new contributions they can make to the field of social work. These requirements will differ from university to university. Still, a doctorate of social work degree will more than likely require that each student has already graduated with a master’s degree in the field or a related field, such as nursing or public health.

What’s The Difference Between A DSW And a Ph.D. In Social Work?

After students graduate with a master of social work degree, they may want to further their education and earning potential by embarking on a doctorate of social work degree or doctor of philosophy in social work. Both types of degrees are considered doctoral degrees that can advance the graduate’s career in the field of social work, but there are some differences between the two.

The most significant difference between the two programs is in the focus of each program. A doctorate in the social work program will focus more on social work practice as well as applied research and leadership supervision skills. In contrast, a Ph.D. program’s emphasis will be more scholarly and theoretical when it comes to educational practices as well as research practices. Ph.D. programs seem to focus more on very rigorous research methods, while a doctorate of social work program may or may not include as many research-focused classes.

Each student must ascertain their professional and personal goals before deciding which degree program would be best for them. The best candidate for a doctor of social work degree may want to advance in the field of social work as a licensed social work worker when it comes to leadership and management. A doctorate program will provide students with the skills and knowledge they will need to excel in these types of roles in social work administration. Students embarking on a PhD in social work program may want to focus on influencing the future of social work through education and research.

Is It Worth Getting A Doctorate In Social Work?

While a doctorate of social work degree is a considerable investment of time and money, graduates may find it very well worth it, especially if they want to increase their career opportunities within the social work field. A doctorate in social work is highly respected and will increase the graduate’s potential in the giant market so they can rise to the top of their field. Earning this degree can increase the student’s chances of garnering high-level professional opportunities in social work policymaking, agency leadership, and administration. Some graduates may even choose to teach at the college or university level to train future social workers in this quickly growing field.


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