Notable Online Social Work Degrees

| TBS Staff

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An online social work degree can take you deep into people's lives, and position you to be the beacon of hope they often need.

Many people face struggles and are in desperate need of help. Will you extend a helping hand?

Social work degrees equip you to be a life-changing force and meet a variety of obstacles and challenges head-on. It is essential to your social work career longevity that you learn how local and federal policies work (making the job at hand manageable), and that you develop systems for understanding and coping with the trials you will face. Social work demands grit and compassion, alongside appropriate training, but the rewards are priceless.

Notable Online Social Work Degree Programs

Types of Social Work Degrees

Associate Degree in Social Work Degrees

Associate degrees in Social Work and Human Services are helpful for getting into social service agencies while saving money and preparing for a bachelor degree. Associate degrees are often for those desiring formal education to aid their work in current positions.

If you plan to pursue a BSW (Bachelor of Social Work), find an AA (Associate of Arts) in social work or human services. If you want training for a position requiring an associate but do not foresee pursuing a BSW, consider an AAS (Associate of Applied Science). If you ever decide to further your education, BSW programs welcome AAS graduates.

Most online BSW programs require pre-professional courses to be completed before admittance into the BSW programs. This heightens the appeal of associate in social work or human services. You can get your BSW completely online by first completing an online AA or AAS. An AA is likely your better choice.

Note: by itself, associate degrees will not qualify you to do work as a social worker.

Bachelor's Degree in Social Work Degrees

A Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) can accelerate your MSW (Master of Social Work) degree completion by 50%. MSW students come from many undergraduate backgrounds, but those with BSWs can complete the MSW with as little as 30 credit-hours. BSWs may also be called BASWs or BSSWs; there is little difference between the degree requirements.

In addition to accelerating your MSW, BSW programs better prepare you for the decisions you will need to make in graduate school; you will have a better vision of the profession's landscape.

Online bachelor's in social work are hard to find, and most require pre-professional courses to be completed before admittance into the BSW programs. This heightens the appeal of associate in social work or human services. You can get your BSW completely online by first completing an online AA or AAS.

Only BSW and MSW graduates are legally allowed to work under the title of “Social Worker.” Online social work degree programs cover: group and family dynamics, social policy, social and abnormal psychology, topics in healthcare, case management skills and resources, community building, organizational management, and emphasis-specific courses. With such breadth of training, the BSW can open many doors for you in many meaningful careers.

Note: Most Accelerated MSW programs require BSWs granted from CSWE-accredited (Council on Social Work Education) programs.

Master's Degree in Social Work Degrees

An online Master's in Social Work continues to trend toward becoming the standard degree for social work. In many cases a MSW meets minimum job requirements, and it better equips you to handle all aspects of the job. A master's of social work is required for work in schools, healthcare settings, and clinical social work.

MSW online students face a major decision regarding their specializations, including whether they prefer micro or macro level positions. Micro level social workers work more hands-on in one-on-one services, whereas macro level social workers focus more on administrative, managerial, and community organizational work.

Different kinds of social work:

  • Direct-services social workers guide individuals by assessing their situations and developing plans to meet their needs. To do this, become a CSW (Clinical Social Worker) or an LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker). CSWs and LCSWs work with healthcare professionals to diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional disorders as well as physical disabilities. CSWs must have a Master of Social Work degree and must receive licensing according to the state in which they practice.
  • Social workers in administration and community organizing focus on macro level issues in policy and organizational development. Social workers who excel in administration find themselves as lobbyists, managers in organizations, or executive directors of non-profit organizations.

The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) mandates that all accredited programs include clinical practice. Online MSW programs have various ways of assisting students in finding placement to meet this requirement.

The State Board of Education requirements and state licensing requirements for social workers differ from state to state. Be sure to research your state's Board of Education and social work licensing requirements.

Doctoral Degree in Social Work Degrees

Doctoral social work degrees are either DSWs (Doctor of Social Work) or Ph.D.s in Social Work. As a professional doctorate, the DSW focuses on clinical practice theories and skills and equips recipients to build and lead social services programs. The online Ph.D. in Social Work prepares students for those tasks as well as focusing on research and critically weighing in on public policy issues. Both the DSW and the Ph.D. in Social Work can lead to college or university teaching careers.

Job Outlook for Social Work Careers

Pay Range, 2012: $19k—$46k $26.7k—$71k $36k—$99k
Median Pay, 2012: $28,800 $44, 200 $60,000
U.S. Jobs in 2012: 372,700 607,300 132,900
Projected U.S. Jobs, 2022: 454,694 722,687 160,809
Job growth forecast 2012-22: 22% 19% 21%

Job Opportunities for Social Work Grads


  • Case Manager Aides
  • Outreach Workers
  • Life Skills Instructors
  • Social Worker Assistants
  • Gerontology Aides
  • Mental Health Technicians


  • Case Managers
  • Group Home Workers
  • Community Organizers
  • Substance Abuse Counselors
  • Mental Health Assistants
  • Child & Family Counselors


  • Community Service Manager
  • Clinical Social Workers
  • Child Welfare Social Workers
  • Public Health Social Workers
  • Rehabilitation Directors
  • School Social Workers

Image Credit: Nicola Katie | Getty Images

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