An online degree in social work can help students take the first step towards a rewarding career that assists community members from all walks of life. Enrolling in a degree program that meets the students’ needs in regards to cost, resources, class size, and other factors is vital to academic success, which is why we have found the top online social work degree programs in the country based on these criteria. Explore the top online social work degrees for 2016-2017 below.
|rank||school-name||Score||Tuition & Fees||Financial Aid %||#ONLINE PROGRAMS||Student-teacher Ratio||Grad Rate|
|1||University of Alaska Fairbanks||99.80||43%||6||14:1||33%||
The University of Alaska Fairbanks understands that people want to help their own community, so they created a distance education program for students who want to earn a bachelor’s degree in social work. This unique program prepares students to become generalist social work practitioners. It also allows students living in Alaska to work in their current community while pursuing the degree online, which means students gain more real world experience than they would in other social work bachelor’s programs. Despite being online, distance students still have access to the same resources available to on-campus learners.
UAF’s bachelor’s social work program offers different delivery options for students in various situations. For example, distance students will use audio conferences, while rural Alaska students who are working or already have social work experience can use a mix of the cohort model and audio conferences. This program has a proven track record of success, and students who earn their degree this way have found that it helps them grow with their communities.
The third delivery option for earning a bachelor’s degree in social work is on-campus. No matter which of the three options students pick, they will be required to complete a 400-hour practicum during their senior year. Those interested in UAF’s social work degree must first apply through the university’s application process. After being accepted, students can then declare their major as social work. As the last step, students will meet with an advisor to review courses and expectations. UAF’s Department of Social Work is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.
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|2||The University of Alabama||99.20||53%||4||21:1||67%||
With over 50 years of experience teaching social work to students, the University of Alabama has established itself as one of the top schools in the nation for social work, including online social work graduate programs. Students who choose to pursue a master’s degree in social work will have a few options to pick from. The main program, the master’s of social work, is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and can be completed almost entirely online. Students who choose this program will be able to complete all of their courses online, but will be required to meet for face-to-face skills and laboratory sessions. Orientation is also required, so students who have full-time jobs will have to plan ahead to schedule these in. The program can be completed with 42-60 credit hours, and students can complete their degree in as little as two years. There is also a flat tuition fee per credit hour, keeping this school affordable for students living both in and outside of Alabama.
The master’s in social work has two options: JD or MPH, both of which can be further specialized with a concentration in either children, adolescents and their families, or adults and their families. The MSW/JD program is a dual degree program that leads to both a master’s in social work and a JD. This dual program requires acceptance into both the social work and JD program, and requires a total of 114-132 credit hours, depending on the student’s standing. The other option, the MSW/MPH program, combines social work with a master’s in public health. Both of these options lead to more specialized careers, and that can qualify graduates for higher salaries and better job security.
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|3||Northern Arizona University||98.23||66%||3||18:1||49%||
Built on a tradition of putting the student first, Northern Arizona University is one of the oldest public schools in Arizona. With over 158 degree programs offered, the school has plenty of options for students who want to study either on-campus or online. The same goes for students who want to earn a degree in social work, as NAU offers both online and on-campus options – both of which are accredited and provide the same quality education.
The online bachelor’s in social work is offered entirely online. This 120-credit program, prepares students to become a social worker in any community, including those outside Arizona. To do this, students are required to take courses that cover topics such as human behavior and the social environment, crisis intervention, social and economic justice, and information technology literacy. Tuition rates for online students are the same as those on-campus. This means that some discounts and scholarships apply to students that don't live in Arizona, such as the Western Undergraduate Exchange program (WUE). After earning their degree in social work, graduates who want to begin a career in social work in Arizona will be required to get an Arizona license. The bachelor’s degree in social work is also available at NAU’s main Flagstaff campus.
NAU also offers a master’s degree in social work which is also available entirely online. This program is also accredited, and it builds off the knowledge gained while studying at the undergraduate level. Undergraduate students interested in pursuing an MSW are able to opt out of up to 12 credit hours if they continue their education and earn a master’s degree in social work. This means a lower total cost for the student while also eliminating nearly one full semester of education of study.
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Washburn University believes some disciplines require a strong student-teacher relationship. A bachelor’s degree in social work is one such example. On-campus students will notice that class sizes are smaller, allowing for more focused instruction.
Students who want to earn a bachelor’s degree in social work online should note that the program is not entirely online. All classes are web-assisted, meaning some course materials such as the syllabus and handouts are available online. However, some courses are only offered in a seated, face-to-face format while others are offered online. This may be an issue for students who don’t live in or near Topeka, Kansas, so it’s something that should be considered before applying.
While many students would prefer to study online, studying on-campus also has its own benefits. Washburn connects students with local organizations to help students gain real life experience while also providing the community with social work services. This is valuable hands-on experience that can help lead to more job opportunities upon graduation. Students who do choose to study social work on-campus should know there are some courses that are available only online.
Washburn also offers a master’s in social work degree which can be completed online or on-campus. While Washburn’s BSW is a generalist program, its MSW is a clinical program. Curriculum focuses on critical thinking skills and skills that are specific to the demands of clinical practice. After completing all MSW requirements, graduates will have the skills and knowledge necessary to provide direct clinical social work services to individuals and groups.
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|5||Washington State University||97.69||51%||3||15:1||67%||
The School of Social Work at Washington State University is committed to making an impact on communities, embracing diversity and providing students with the well-rounded education they need to be social warriors, both in their careers and in their personal lives. The Bachelor of Arts in Social Welfare provides the firm educational foundation in social work that can turn students into leaders in the field, preparing them for entry-level work in general practice.
Accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, the BASW degree option at Washington State University aims to create informed, effective leaders. Throughout the program, students will build the understanding and critical thinking skills that allow them to compare and contrast policies, research and interventions in social work. Those who choose to move into higher levels of social work can also use the bachelor’s degree as a stepping stone to graduate studies.
The BASW program combines classroom learning with community service and 480 hours of supervised field experience. This field experience includes structured learning activities led by professionals and is subject to regular student evaluations. Students are required to develop their own learning contract with their field instructor and faculty members.
Students typically apply for admission to the School of Social Work during their spring semester and receive a decision before fall term begins. At that point, students should have met the majority of general education requirements and be ready to dive into upper-level courses in social work. Common courses in the program include Community Service Learning, Social Welfare History/Policy, Cultural Diversity and Social Justice, Social Welfare Practice and the Practicum.
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|6||The University of Texas of the Permian Basin||97.10||86%||1||18:1||37%||
Those seeking an undergraduate degree in social work can find it at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, where students can declare their major as early as their freshman year by choosing the Pre-Social Work path. Fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, the Bachelor of Social Work program prepares students to provide competent, thoughtful services to diverse, multicultural communities in Texas. Those who graduate from the program will be eligible to obtain licensure in social work through the state of Texas.
Since the Bachelor of Social Work is designed to prepare students to move right into the workforce upon graduation, the courses offered are targeted. Part of that emphasis on preparation includes 480 hours of supervised field experience in a social services setting, where students gain real world experience under the watchful eye of seasoned social workers.
Those who choose to enter the Pre-Social Work program will complete certain social work courses during their first two years, as well as the general education courses required of all students. To be accepted into the Pre-Social Work program, students must display maturity, self-awareness, acceptance and appreciation for diversity, good judgment, a willingness to consider new ideas, and the ability to uphold the values expected of those in the social work profession. Students will remain in the Pre-Social Work stage until they’ve met all requirements for the social work major. This includes a minimum 2.5 overall GPA for all UTPB classes, social work classes, and all courses that count towards the degree; a C grade or better in two core social work classes (SOWK 2361 and either SOWK 2320 or SOWK 3340); a C or better in all general education courses; completion of most general education courses; and completion of at least 45 credit hours. UTPB doesn’t offer credit for life and/or work experience.
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|7||Missouri State University-Springfield||95.92||51%||2||20:1||55%||
At Missouri State University – Springfield, students can dive into their social work education with the Bachelor of Social Work, offered to those who are ready to make a difference. This social work degree is for generalists, which the school defines as “the use of social work intervention programs to solve societal and interpersonal problems.” Students will combine their coursework with field experience to learn more about advocacy, community practice, case management, evaluation of social work policy and in-person work with couples, families and small groups.
After the general education requirements are completed, the degree program consists of 48 hours of social work courses (including a 12-hour practicum); 20 to 21 hours of required courses in other areas, including the social, behavioral and biological sciences, as well as humanities; and six hours of electives that focus strongly on social work. In order to stay in the program, students must maintain a 2.5 overall GPA and must earn at least a “C” grade in any social work course. Students must also consistently display the maturity, behaviors and values expected by the National Association of Social Work.
Students are also expected to complete one semester of field work. This field education, supervised by seasoned social workers, will consist of 450 hours of work experience in the chosen agency, which averages out to about 30 hours per week for 15 weeks. Students are encouraged to step out of their comfort zone and look for field opportunities in an agency that is different from volunteer experiences they might have participated in previously. The field coordinator works closely with social work students to help ensure a good agency fit.
The BSW program at Missouri State are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.
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The School of Health and Human Behavior at Viterbo University offers both the Bachelor of Arts and the Bachelor of Science degrees in Social Work to students who qualify for the rigorous four-year program. Accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, the program curriculum includes thirteen challenging professional courses as well as 450 hours of supervised field experience. Graduates of the program will be prepared to pursue licensure as a generalist social worker; in fact, 100 percent of Viterbo University students passed the National Association of Social Work Board licensure exam in 2014, evidence of the high quality of preparation offered to students in the program.
Guided by the Franciscan values of human dignity, social justice, strength in diversity and respect for the disenfranchised, the Bachelor in Social Work program is an opportunity for students to express their belief in the rights of all persons through their educational path. Students will learn to work with a variety of individuals, including children, couples, families, those with mental health issues, the elderly, those with addictions, and perpetrators or victims of crime. In pursuit of this goal, students in the program learn proper interview techniques, spend time shadowing social workers in action and observe the intake process at the Salvation Army.
Though students should begin their pursuit of a social work degree as early as their freshman year, they won’t officially apply to the degree until their junior year. Students will need to complete 120 credits to graduate; 40 of those must be upper-division credits. It’s important to remember that some courses are on rotation so are not offered every semester; a student should always stay in close contact with their academic advisor to ensure they are taking the proper courses at the appropriate time. Though the program is intense, students are still encouraged to enroll in elective courses related to their field or personal interests.
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|9||Western New Mexico University||95.81||26%||2||16:1||16%||
The Bachelor of Social Work at Western New Mexico University is available in both on campus and online format. Students in the program can rest easy about the rigors of the academics, as the social work courses are taught by seasoned social workers who bring experience to liven up the academics. Students can also make the most of the small class sizes at WNMU, as this provides them with more opportunities for one-on-one connections with professors and peers. All students and faculty are united under the core social work values, including service, social justice, dignity, individual worth, integrity, competence and important human relationships, all in a caring and nurturing environment.
Those who want to enter the Bachelor of Social Work program must already be admitted to WNMU and have a minimum 2.5 GPA. A minimum grade of “C” is required for all foundational courses. Accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, the BSW offers the traditional courses required to prepare students for entry-level work in a generalist area; all students are also required to go into the field once per week to work with the community and gain valuable experience. Those who study online have this same requirement, though the practicum can be arranged for their local area, thus negating the need to ever visit the university.
It’s important to keep in mind that courses rotate on a regular basis; therefore, it takes careful consideration by the student, as well as their academic advisor, to ensure students complete their courses in the proper order and on time. Core courses consist of 49 credit hours, while numerous electives allow some specialization for those with an eye toward working for a particular social work agency. Since the social work degree is already quite robust and choosing a minor would extend time to graduation, students are encouraged not to choose a minor and instead to use their electives to explore new aspects of social work and related fields that interest them.
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|10||Utah State University||95.13||51%||1||22:1||50%||
Utah State University offers two undergraduate degrees in social work for aspiring students: The Bachelor of Science or the Bachelor of Arts. What’s the difference? Those who pursue the BS must complete all requirements for the major; those who pursue the BA must also gain proficiency in one or more foreign languages. Otherwise, the Bachelor in Social Work program is the same for all students. Accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, the programs provide students with the experience and education they need to pursue licensure as a social worker.
Unlike many other social work programs, Utah State University allows students to declare their major and apply to the social work program during their freshman year. Transfer students must have a minimum 2.5 GPA overall as well as a minimum 2.75 GPA in any social work classes on their transcript. It’s also important to note that courses taken more than ten years prior do not qualify for transfer as a substitute for a required class. Life experience, work experience or volunteer service are also not eligible to be used for credit.
Students can apply for Advanced Standing, which requires a high ranking based on personal statement, grade point average, faculty recommendations and scores on the Advanced Placement tests for social work. This allows them to opt out of some basic social work courses and frees up more space for their choice of either more electives or the dual major of social work and sociology. Advanced Standing also prepares students to engage in the field practicum.
A field practicum is also required for all students in the BSW program. This field experience takes place in an appropriate social work agency, with the student under close supervision by seasoned social workers. Coordination of the field practicum and other required components should be discussed with the field supervisors as well as the academic advisor.
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Students seeking an undergraduate degree in social work can opt for Salisbury University, where they can enter the BSW program for generalist social work careers. The Bachelor of Arts in Social Work prepares students to handle entry-level work at local, state and global assignments; students are also prepared to move into the graduate programs if they so desire. Classroom study is hands-on and innovative and serves as a strong companion to the required field work.
Students apply to the BSW program during the first semester of their junior year, while they are fully engaged in the prerequisite courses for the major. Requirements include completing at least 60 credits, an overall GPA of 2.5 and a GPA of 2.7 in any social work courses. Prerequisite courses must be completed or in process at the time of application. Those who want to free up more time for upper-level courses can choose to pursue the prerequisite courses during their freshman and sophomore years. The personal statement is also a very important component of the application to the program, and will consist of assessing a student’s social work knowledge and their respect for diversity.
The senior year curriculum includes in-depth research as well as field experience. Students work in an agency assignment, under close supervision, and learn to work with clients with a variety of issues. Students will perform a minimum of 16 hours of service per week. Although they have some flexibility in choosing their agency, most assignments are presented to the student by field education leadership.
Students who want to take their social work education even further can engage in the dual degree option. This unique opportunity is in collaboration with University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and allows students to earn both the bachelor’s degree in social work and the bachelor’s degree in sociology. Students in this program should stay in very close contact with their academic advisor to help ensure they stay on the right track for completing both degrees.
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|12||Prairie View A & M University||94.66||35%||2||18:1||36%||
The second oldest public institution of higher education in the state of Texas, Prairie View A&M University offers a bachelor’s program in social work that is suitable to prepare students for generalist work as well as graduate study. Students in the Baccalaureate Social Work program will develop the core skills and values necessary for working in both rural and urban settings with individuals, families, small groups, organizations and communities in Texas and beyond.
The Bachelor of Arts in Social Work program begins with the general education courses expected of every student during the freshman year. Students begin taking more social work courses during their second year and during their junior year as they begin a deep dive into the social work major. Those who intend to major in social work must earn at least a “C” in each social work class, and a minimum of 2.5 GPA in social work courses is required throughout the program. In addition, students must fill their electives with at least one course each in social and behavioral sciences, creative arts, and language, philosophy and culture. Two courses in professional development are also required. A total of 120 degree credits are required for graduation.
The field practicum, a requirement for graduation, consists of 400 hours of supervised practice. Under the watchful eyes of seasoned social workers, students will work with clients or client systems in an appropriate agency. The practicum is typically completed during a summer session.
The bachelor’s in social work, fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, began in 1980. The school sponsors three student organizations specifically for those in social work: Phi Alpha International Honor Society, Alpha Delta Mu Social Work Honor Society, and the Social Work Action Club. Experienced faculty, professional orientation and a rigorous curriculum serve to prepare students well for their eventual social work career.
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|13||California State University-East Bay||94.58||52%||1||27:1||41%||
The social work program at California State University–East Bay upholds a mission to graduate culturally responsive social workers who are prepared for positions in the areas of children, youth, and families and community mental health. Advocacy and social change in response to social injustices caused by inequalities of class and identity form the core of the Master of Social Work program. Students at CSUEB can opt for the graduate program only; there is no bachelor’s program available.
Students in the program can choose to concentrate on children, youth and families or community mental health. Each track prepares students to work closely with clients in a wide variety of situations, but those in the children, youth and families track might qualify for a two-year Title IV-E stipend, dependent upon meeting the program’s guidelines. Applications for either concentration are in-depth, which is why many students find CSUEB’s informational sessions for MSW helpful.
Regardless of the concentration, students will attend class for two days per week during their first year, alternating with two days of field work per week. During their second year, students follow a more rigorous field work schedule, with classes for two days during the week and field work for three. Though most courses must be taken in person, some are offered in a hybrid format, thus creating more time in the student’s already busy schedule.
Students must complete 60 semester units, divided among core courses, 32 units, concentration courses, 20 units, an elective, four units, and a graduate research paper, four units. Students must maintain a 3.0 GPA in all courses to graduate. Students are also encouraged to become involved with a variety of organizations on campus, such as the Social Work Graduate Association.
The MSW program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and closely follows the values of the National Association of Social Workers.
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|14||University of Utah||94.55||41%||1||17:1||59%||
Students at the University of Utah can choose to earn their bachelor’s degree in social work at a brick-and-mortar institution or through online means. The Bachelor of Social Work at the University of Utah is one of only 16 online social work undergraduate programs accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. As such, students can rest assured that the core values, rigorous study and practicum requirements are just as pertinent as what they would receive if they chose to attend traditional classes at the U.
The program has a limited admissions policy, which means there are only a small number of applicants chosen each year. Students must declare a pre-major in the field and seek assistance from an academic advisor on the next steps, which include an official application and background check. Students must hold a 2.35 overall GPA, complete nearly all general education requirements and have completed certain prerequisite courses in psychology, social work, sociology and political science. Letters of recommendation, a personal statement and a work resume related to social work are also necessary.
Once accepted to the College of Social Work, students can expect a rigorous curriculum. Students will complete 45 credits, including the practicum, in order to graduate. They must complete the courses in the proper order to ensure building the necessary background as they move through the program. The capstone of the educational pursuit is the 450-hour supervised practicum, during which students are assigned one of 150 different internship options at the local, national and even international level.
In addition to working closely with a field supervisor during the practicum, students will also rely heavily on academic advisors during all four years of the social work program. The Mandatory Advising Program covers everything from scholarships to requirements for licensure and the proper order of classes. Upon graduation, academic advisors can also help students land a job.
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|15||Brigham Young University-Idaho||94.43||36%||1||25:1||52%||
Graduates of the Brigham Young University–Idaho bachelor’s program in social work are prepared to become generalists in the profession, allowing them to work in a wide range of agencies and settings. They are also prepared to move into the master’s degree program in social work if their career path requires a higher degree. The Baccalaureate Social Work program at BYU-Idaho is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.
Students who want to enter the Bachelor of Social Work program must have completed at least 34 of the 40 required foundation credits, have completed certain courses integral to the framework of the social work program (such as courses in psychology and sociology) and be in the second semester of their sophomore year. Course sequencing is very important; the social work program is filled with required courses, with little room for shifting the requirements. To build the strongest foundation and adhere to the accreditation rules, students must take courses in the proper order. Meeting with an advisor on a regular basis is advised to ensure students remain on track.
Social work majors are required to complete 500 hours of supervised field work, divided into two 250-hour internships. Students can explore the options during the Internship Fair, and then apply to the placements they are most interested in pursuing. Students will gain valuable experience that allows them to put their education to use by working with clients in a variety of settings, all under the watchful eye of seasoned social workers.
Students can take advantage of other programs at Brigham Young University–Idaho that allow them to make the most of their time there. The Social Work Society promotes the needs of social work students and assists them in obtaining their professional goals. Enrichment courses are also possible in a variety of areas that relate to social work and can enhance a student’s knowledge and experience.
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|16||Indiana Wesleyan University||94.36||50%||2||16:1||70%||
Offered through the College of Adult and Professional Studies, the Bachelor of Social Work program at Indiana Wesleyan University prepares students for entry-level positions as a generalist social worker, at the same time it provides a stepping stone to advanced standing in the master’s program. Offered through online learning, the BSW is designed to meet the unique needs of adult learners, with program classes starting roughly every two to three weeks throughout the year. The program reflects the values of IWU’s Christian mission, as well as the strength accreditation brings: The program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.
Students must first be admitted to IWU as a pre-social work major. This includes completing at least 45 transferable credit hours; a maximum of 40 hours can be earned through the assessed learning process. (Please note: The social work program doesn’t grant course credit in the major for life experience.) When students take the required Introduction to Social Work course, they are introduced to the application for the major. The second social work course serves as a place to complete the application and interview with the director of the program.
Once accepted, students in the Bachelor of Social Work program can expect a rigorous course load. Courses are taken one at a time, in sequential order, to ensure building a strong foundation for the career or graduate pursuit. Once all major coursework is completed, students focus on their field placement in an appropriate agency, where they can put their education to work with a variety of clients, all under the watchful eye of a supervisor. To graduate, students must complete 400 hours of supervised field work as well as 120 semester hours within the major, 30 hours of general education, and maintain a 2.5 overall GPA as well as a 2.7 GPA in all social work courses.
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|17||Colorado State University-Fort Collins||94.11||48%||1||16:1||63%||
Students seeking an education in social work at Colorado State University–Fort Collins can find their path with the Bachelor of Social Work. Accredited by the Council for Social Work Education and closely adhering to the Code of Ethics from the National Association of Social Workers, this undergraduate program helps students develop a social work foundation useful across a variety of settings, practice areas and population groups.
Students who have earned 60 credit hours or more must apply for progression in the major, which shows they intend to move into the social work major and complete all pertinent work within the last two years of their undergraduate experience. In addition to showing exemplary conduct and adhering to the values expected of those in the social service realm, students must also maintain a 2.0 minimum GPA in all coursework and a 2.5 GPA in all social work courses. Of the 120 credits required for graduation, at least 42 of those must be upper-division courses in social work.
Upon acceptance into the Bachelor of Social Work program, students will begin their junior year with focus on social work courses, as well as a six credit hour practicum. During the senior year, students will attend a 10-credit-hour field experience, where they will hone their skills in a social work agency. Students will also learn from a community mentor who receives services from one of the various agencies in Northern Colorado. Every student should stay in close contact with their advisor along the way to ensure they take courses in the appropriate order and meet all field requirements for graduation.
In addition to field experience, there are numerous opportunities for students to broaden their horizons in the world of social work, such as through the Social Work in Action organization. Run by students, the organization hosts service projects and social events. Sophomores who have met certain requirements can also choose to join the Phi Alpha Honor Society.
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The School of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Mercy College offers the Bachelor of Social Work, a program designed to prepare students for either work as a generalist in the field or for entry into the Master of Social Work program. Though this is a career-oriented program, upon completion, graduates will be eligible to complete their Master of Social Work in one year as an advanced standing student. The BSW program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.
Students who want to enter the Bachelor of Social Work program at Mercy College are encouraged to meet with the director of the social work program to determine if they are the right fit for the major. Freshmen and sophomores can declare pre-social work as their major and maintain a 2.7 GPA overall while they work toward the rigorous social work curriculum that begins during their first junior semester.
Students are expected to obtain 120 credits for graduation. Of those 120 credits, 60 are in general education, 42 are in social work and 18 are in open electives. Students should consult with their advisor on the proper sequence of social work courses; the program moves fast while building a strong foundation of social work knowledge, so course progression matters a great deal. Once in the major, students must maintain a 2.8 GPA in all social work classes and earn a B- or better in the field practicum to continue in the major.
During the senior year, students must complete 550 hours of field work, or 275 hours per semester—note that extra hours earned during the fall semester do not carry over to the spring semester. Students are assessed on nine competencies throughout the field work. They will meet often with their field liaison to ensure the work is going well and the student is making proper progress in the nine competencies required for graduation.
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|19||Union Institute & University||93.87||15%||3||8:1||27%||
Perfect for those who want to move into generalist social work upon graduation, the major in social work at Union Institute and University prepares students with a real-world approach and on-the-job training through field work. Students in the program gain an in-depth understanding of generalist methods, clinical processes and interventions commonly used in both public and private sector organizations and agencies.
Accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, the Social Work program requires 120 hours of study, accepts up to 90 semester hours in transfer credit and offers both part-time and full-time options, the better to meet the needs of busy working professionals and adults with family obligations. Those 120 hours of study are made up of general education requirements, electives and at least 48 credits of upper-division courses in social work. Courses focus on policy, research methods, generalist practice, multicultural and ethical issues in social work, human behavior and the like. Potential electives include those in special topics and advanced special topics in social work.
Those interested in the program must begin as a pre-social work major while completing the prerequisites for the program. Those who complete Introduction to Social Work and Social Welfare Policy and Issues, as well as demonstrate satisfactory academic progress, will be invited to join the social work major. Please note that with such a targeted program, students often do not have room in their schedule to include a minor course of study.
Offered entirely online, the classroom portion of the program allows students to begin classes every eight weeks. Once the online work is completed, students must also complete a field experience segment of 400 hours of supervised work in a social work agency. Distance learners can take that practicum in their local area, assuming Union Institute and University is authorized to operate in that state. While completing the 400 hours, the student is also enrolled in the Field Integrative Seminar.
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Brescia University offers many opportunities for students to pursue their educational goals in social work. From the Bachelor of Social Work to the bachelor’s degree completion to the Master of Social Work, students can choose from a strong variety of programs. The Bachelor of Social Work is offered at Brescia University in Owensboro, Kentucky; the bachelor’s in social work completion program and the Master of Social Work are both offered through distance learning. All programs are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.
Those who choose the Bachelor of Social Work program can expect to graduate with the ability to become a generalist social worker, as well as the potential stepping stone to the master’s program. Students who choose this program will complete their first few years of general education studies, including prerequisite courses for the social work major. The application process includes maintaining a GPA of 2.5 or higher, offering letters of recommendation and a personal statement, creating an autobiographical video, and completing the application packet. The program includes not only coursework in the traditional classroom, but field experience of 450 hours to be completed at the appropriate organization or agency.
Those who choose the Bachelor of Social Work Degree Completion requires students to have at least 45 credit hours completed before enrollment. Courses are offered with the adult student in mind, allowing for five different start dates and completion of the degree within two years. Students will then complete 36 hours of major courses, including the field practicum, and six hours of electives.
Those who complete the bachelor’s program will be well-positioned to enter the master’s program in social work, whether at Brescia University or another school. Those who choose to pursue the Master of Social Work at BU can take advantage of the one-year advanced standing program as long as they have completed the bachelor’s degree in social work in the past five years. The MSW is available fully online.
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|21||Wayne State University||93.71||80%||1||15:1||28%||
The Bachelor of Social Work program at Wayne State University prepares students for entry-level work at social service agencies and organizations. Two-thirds of the curriculum is professional courses; the other third is in electives and co-requisite courses. From the second semester of the junior year through graduation, students will participate in a field practicum that prepares them for the rigors of the working world; this field practicum runs concurrently with their coursework. The program at Wayne State University is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.
The program in social work is very flexible, allowing for part-time or full-time study, as well as night, weekend, and online options. Courses focus on four overriding themes: values and ethics, oppression and discrimination, social justice and populations at risk. Students must uphold the core values of social work at all times. Any breach of the Code of Ethics established by the National Association of Social Workers can result in expulsion from the program.
Those who choose the online program, known as BSW WOW!: Where Online Works, must have completed at least 60 college-level credits and have a GPA of 2.5 or greater. Completion of either program—online or in person—requires a total of 120 credit hours and satisfactory work in the practicum. Advisors in the social work department are available to assist students in reaching their educational goals, including ensuring that students take courses in the correct order to build a strong foundation of knowledge. Support services are also available, such as those for writing, research and counseling.
Students who choose to go further with their social work education can apply to the Master of Social Work program, where they can choose between concentrations in interpersonal practice or innovation in community, policy and leadership. A highly selective doctoral program in social work is also available, as are dual-title and joint degrees.
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The Bachelor of Social Work at Thomas University provides students with multiple ways to make their educational experience successful. From small class sizes of one faculty for every fifteen students to the ability to take courses online or face-to-face, students can rest assured that this program—fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education—provides them with the most flexible options possible for those with work, family and community obligations.
Thomas University students must complete 48 hours of general education work before applying for entry into the social work program. In most cases, students apply for the social work program during the spring semester of their sophomore year. Applicants must submit a personal statement, two letters of recommendation, transcripts and the application itself. Students must maintain a 2.5 overall GPA for consideration. After admittance into the program, the student will complete another 60 semester hours in upper-division courses targeted toward social work, including those in social welfare policy, human behavior in the social environment, social work methods, field practice and research.
The remaining 12 hours of the required 120 is taken up by the field internship, which totals 400 hours during the senior year. This field education takes place in an appropriate agency or organization in South Georgia or North Florida. Options include agencies in the private and public sector, state government, for-profit and non-profit agencies. Agency professionals, in the role of field instructors, work closely with students to ensure they can put their education to good use in a real-world setting.
Students who choose Thomas University have the unique option of taking courses through the University Center at Tallahassee Community College. Courses can be taken at the community college, or those who have already earned their associate of arts from Tallahassee Community College can apply those credits toward the lower-division courses for the bachelor’s degree in social work.
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|23||Metropolitan State University of Denver||93.24||18%||2||19:1||25%||
Located in the heart of Denver, Metropolitan State University of Denver is one of the most affordable state schools in the state. Resident undergraduate fees are low considering the small average class sizes and impressive student to faculty ratio. To make things more affordable, students can take online courses while studying toward their degree, saving them money if they already live in the area and don’t want to commute.
While students can complete a large portion of their degree online, the bachelor’s in social work requires that students do some of their studying in-person. MSU Denver believes that experience is critical for this position, so they require 480 hours of field experience during a two-semester period. During this time, students will be paired with a professional social worker, and they’ll work in one of many local agencies. Not only is this valuable experience, but the work that students do during this period makes an impact on the community and on people’s lives. On top of this in-person experience, MSU Denver also places an emphasis on the academic side of social work. Students and faculty regularly attend conferences and publish their academic work. For students looking for a unique experience with well-respected faculty, MSU Denver is worth considering.
Students that want to continue their social work education can also study toward a master’s of social work. This program is flexible for the student’s needs and is available in both part time and full time options. The master’s program can also be completed through traditional on campus learning, online learning or through a hybrid of the two. Students that earn their bachelor’s in social work at MSU Denver can naturally step into the master’s program, and some courses can even overlap, minimizing the required credits. With a shortage of social workers in Colorado, earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree is almost a guarantee for a future position in the state.
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|24||Spring Arbor University||92.99||99%||1||12:1||52%||
Spring Arbor University, located in Spring Arbor, Michigan, is a small Christian university that places an emphasis on creating leaders who serve the community. Since opening, they’ve grown into one of the most well-respected liberal arts schools in the state. The combination of their liberal arts and Christian values serves as the foundation for their bachelor’s in social work, a program that is flexible for students’ needs.
While studying toward a bachelor’s in social work, students have three different options of study: they can study on campus, online or through a hybrid of the two. The online bachelor’s in social work has become a popular option because of its affordability and flexible format. What separates this program from others is that it doesn’t require any form of on campus learning, as some online programs at other institutions do. However, not all learning will be online. Students studying toward their bachelor’s will be required to have a fieldwork internship. This internship gives students the real-world experience they need to become successful social workers. Not all students go on to become social workers though, and plenty of graduates go on to work in a related field. Regardless of future plans, students studying through the online format can rest assured that they’re earning a high-quality degree. Half of the student body at Spring Arbor studies entirely online, so they have plenty of experience teaching students successfully through this format.
For students that prefer to study face-to-face, the on campus or hybrid format is going to be the best option. All three formats are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, and many students that earn a degree from Spring Arbor go on to study toward a master’s degree. It is worth noting that Spring Arbor does not offer a master’s degree in social work, so students will have to find a different school after graduation.
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|25||University of North Alabama||92.57||51%||1||17:1||32%||
Students that want an in-depth, on campus degree in social work may like the program structure at the University of North Alabama. Located near the Tennessee border in Florence, Alabama, UNA offers in-state tuition to students that live within a 50 mile radius of the school. This means that students in some parts of Mississippi and Tennessee are eligible for in-state tuition, helping them keep their college education affordable.
UNA offers a traditional bachelor’s in social work program. Students can expect to graduate with their bachelor’s degree in the standard four years, and they can do so either entirely on campus or through a hybrid of online and on campus courses. It is worth noting that UNA does not offer an entirely online bachelor’s degree in social work. This is because they believe that some of the information and experience necessary to become a successful social worker requires in-person learning. Part of this learning includes an internship at the local, state or federal level where students will get hands-on experience with social work. Along with their internships, students can supplement their education with community service in the field of social work. This is valuable experience, and students can easily gain more real-world experience than graduates from other universities.
Upon graduation, UNA social work students have two options: continue their education or begin their career. Graduates of the program are automatically eligible to apply for advanced standing for graduate school, something that reduces the time and cost of earning a master’s degree. If they prefer to begin their career, students are qualified to apply to become a licensed social worker upon graduation. The university works to connect graduates with one of the various career opportunities that students can start after earning a bachelor’s in social work. Whichever route students choose, they should have plenty of experience to help them succeed in the short run as well as the long run.
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Presentation College has its roots in Catholic education, where an emphasis is placed on community service and students are educated to become local leaders. This is done by encouraging students to become active in the Aberdeen community, the town in South Dakota that houses Presentation’s main campus. Despite being a college town, there are plenty of opportunities for students to be involved, especially if they’re pursuing a degree in social work.
To earn a bachelor’s degree in social work from Presentation, students need to apply to the program. To be eligible, students need to have taken multiple prerequisite classes and earned a “C” or above in each of them. A background check is also required to ensure that candidates for the program match the values of the school and program. After getting accepted, students will have to maintain a 2.5 GPA or higher.
While studying toward their degree, students will be able to take classes in-person and online, as well as through video conferencing. But many of the courses in the social work program are on campus courses, so students will be required to study on the Aberdeen campus for at least part of their curriculum. This is because Presentation believes that some social work courses require in-person education. Students earning their bachelor’s in social work can bolster their education with a minor, something that can help lead to different career options in the future. Popular minor options at Presentation include psychology, criminal justice and religious studies. After graduating and earning their degree, some students choose to study toward their master’s degree in social work while others being their professional career. Presentation prepares all social work students for both options. They teach with a general practitioner in mind, meaning their curriculum is varied across the field, giving students an all-around knowledge of social work.
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|27||North Dakota State University-Main Campus||91.48||37%||1||19:1||53%||
At North Dakota State University, students who with a goal of working with children, adolescents adults and families in a social services capacity can earn a dual-degree in human development and family science and social work. This program, which leads to a Bachelor of Science from North Dakota State University and a Bachelor of Social Work from Minot State University (MiSU), prepares students for a number of helping professions as well as licensure as social workers in North Dakota. Although students earn degrees from both schools, they’ll be able to complete all coursework on the NDSU campus -- all MiSU social work courses will be offered on the NDSU campus by MiSU faculty or via interactive video.
In addition to required courses, social work students must also complete 465 hours of direct practice at a public or private human service agency. This field work requirement is supervised and will provide invaluable hands-on experience. Students with life or work experience should keep in mind that NDSU does not offer academic credit such experiences. Students are, however, encouraged to participate in extracurricular activities such as the Student Social Work Organization.
To graduate, students must complete a minimum of 127 credits. Curriculum is interdisciplinary, spanning several fields such as liberal arts, human development, family science, economics and political science. Specific course offerings will vary, but examples of major courses include family science, life span development, methods of family life education and abnormal psychology.
To apply, students will need to complete and submit an application for both NDSU and MiSU. After completing specific requirements, students must then apply to MiSU’s social work program. This social work program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.
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|28||Bemidji State University||90.87||43%||1||22:1||44%||
Community service is one of the core values at Bemidji State University as they strive to make their local community a better place for everyone. Their location in Bemidji, Minnesota, is tucked in with nature and rests on the shore of Lake Bemidji. Outdoor lifestyle is a big part of the campus culture, and to avoid the cold of Minnesota winters, all their facilities are connected through underground passageways.
While the campus is an important draw for many students, there are others that choose to study through the distance education program at Bemidji. While it isn’t available entirely online, the bachelor’s in social work is part of the distance education program since it requires minimal visits to Bemidji’s campus. This program, like its on campus counterpart, is fully accredited and is highly respected. To make sure that their online program matches the quality of their on campus option, Bemidji implements what they call the Social Work Integrated Model (SWIM). Through this model, students will travel to campus once Saturday a month to learn new skills and get in-person education. Aside from this required monthly campus visit, all courses in the social work program can be completed entirely online.
One reason BSU’s social work program is so well respected is because of the range of the required studies. Along with social work, students will be required to take courses in psychology, biology and sociology, giving them a stronger foundation. BSU’s social work curriculum is also diverse, developing skills for students to work in small towns, large cities and everywhere in between. Bemidji also prepares students for graduate school or for a professional career as a social worker, so students have options after earning their degree. The online social work degree only requires 69 credits, so students can also supplement their education in other ways that they see fit.
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Designed with adult learners in mind, Brandman University has structured their degree programs to be flexible, allowing for students from all walks of life to earn an education in a way that works for them. Programs offered at Brandman are either on campus, online or through a hybrid of the two. Students looking to earn a bachelor’s degree in social work will have the option of either a hybrid option or studying entirely online.
Brandman’s bachelor’s in social work is designed to prepare students for a career immediately after graduation. They structured their curriculum with specific fields in mind to give graduates a high chance of beginning their career soon after graduation. These are traditional fields for social workers (such as family social work or substance abuse treatment), but also areas that are experiencing booming growth. If a student is interested in one of these specific areas, they can dive deeper into the field through their field practice hours. To earn a bachelor’s degree, students are required to spend 400 supervised field hours, meaning they’ll be doing real work in person—the only part of this program that cannot be completed online. Another way to gain experience and knowledge in a specific area is through one of the elective courses. Students are required to choose at least two elective courses to help them focus their degree.
Students that want to earn a bachelor’s degree through Brandman will be required to have previous college experiencing, including a minimum of 12 credits. This is because the program is designed for adult learners who want to continue or complete their education. Courses are offered year round, so students that study full-time can complete their degree in just a few years. This is not required though, and plenty of students study at their own pace.
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As defined by the International Association of Schools of Social Work, social work has four major mandates: to promote social development, social change and social cohesion and to empower people. Whether through academic study or professional practice, the field draws upon the integrated social, cultural, economic and personal factors that impact human behavior and development. In turn, social workers are concerned for the well-being of others, providing direct practice advocacy, intervention and case management services in a variety of settings.
Social work is a growingly in-demand career field, one projected to display 19 percent growth nationally between 2012 and 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That should be good news to prospective students considering pursuing employment in the field. Workers in this diverse occupation are found in numerous industries, ranging from government organizations to nonprofit agencies, human services to health care. This guide serves as an introduction to the online social work degree, with an examination of education options as well as a Q&A with an experienced social worker.
The path to a career in social work includes multiple educational achievements at the undergraduate and graduate levels. The two most common degrees are the Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) and the Master of Social Work (MSW). BSW curriculum develops the core competencies of students, preparing them for generalist practice, while the MSW enhances those competencies through advanced study of particular areas of concentration.
Caitlyn Wallace has been volunteering or working in the social service field in one form or another since 2001. She graduated with an MSW from the UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare in 2009, with a specialization in Community Mental Health. She has worked with children, adolescents, adults and seniors in inpatient and outpatient settings, as well as working as an advocate, community organizer and case manager. She is a clinical social work intern working in a community mental health center and is committed to providing mental health and wellbeing services to under-served populations.
Broadly, programs in social work combine conceptual, theory-based study with hands-on, application-based instruction in subjects such as intervention, counseling and therapy, policy, case management, advocacy and education. Coupled with experience-focused internships and practicums, online BSW and MSW programs provide students with a comprehensive understanding of social work practice, preparing them to pursue an assortment of professional opportunities. Entering this field requires more than just a degree, and the following guide offers insights into specific academic opportunities and specializations, with advice for selecting online programs.
Social work education programs are available in multiple distance-based formats, including the following:
Online. Social work degree is completed 100 percent online. Blended. Program includes hybrid mix of online courses with in-person classes or learning sessions. Online Degree Completion. Students who either have an associate degree or meet credit requirements can finish their BSW through online courses.
For social work and other subjects, web-based courses are delivered via both real-time synchronous and asynchronous formats, taking advantage of a variety of learning technologies and resources, such as interactive video, chat boards and other forms of instructional media.
Social work education at undergraduate and graduate levels (master’s and doctoral) is responsible for paving the way for future leaders within the professional community. To maintain continuity, the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) – the main accrediting body for baccalaureate and master’s social work programs – has created an educational policy and accreditation standards. This policy provides the guiding context in which universities design their social work degree programs, specifically in three major areas: curriculum, field experience and student development. In turn, these items are important for the prospective student to review and understand. The program overview below analyzes the curriculum, field experience and student development components for each degree level. Program specifics such as the credits required and time to completion vary from university to university.
Generally, online BSW programs require between 120 and 128 semester credit hours, with full-time students usually graduating in four years. BSW programs are designed to prepare graduates for entry-level positions as generalist practitioners in human service positions. Studies introduce an array of topics including ethics, diversity, human behavior, at-risk populations, social environments, psychology and more. These courses shape the fundamental skills of the profession: assessment, case management, social work practice, social welfare policy and research methods. To learn more about what courses and specializations are important for different career paths, visit our guide to careers in social work.
Divided between general education and classes for the major, the BSW emphasizes both academics and real-world experience. Students admitted to the major typically complete core coursework during the first two years of the program and transition to social work courses in the final two years, culminating in a supervised internship with a social services agency. The number of required field work hours varies, but usually falls between 400 and 500. For the field education component, students work with a faculty advisor or site placement coordinator to arrange placement in an agency or organization. Students may interact with a variety of individuals, groups and families dealing with a range of personal, behavioral and social issues.
The MSW allows students to focus on their concentration, providing the opportunity to not only enhance their theoretical knowledge of the field, but become an advanced practitioner through hands-on clinical experience. Online MSW students can develop skills in myriad areas: policy development, intervention, counseling, advocacy, primary prevention and more. Visit our full guide to online MSW programs to get detailed information about this advanced degree option, including how to identify the best schools, admissions and graduation requirements, and top careers after college.
Students interested in education post-MSW have two paths to select from: the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and the Doctor of Social Work (DSW). These degrees represent the highest level education available to social workers and students. On the one hand, the social work PhD is an academic, research-focused degree for individuals seeking to become researchers or faculty members at higher education institutions. On the other, the DSW is a professional degree aimed at those interested in developing their knowledge and skills to become advanced clinical practitioners. Learn more about these advanced options and see which online doctorate in social work makes the most sense for you.
With such a diversity of educational options, figuring out the appropriate fit for the online student can be challenging. There are several factors that impact the choice of undergraduate and graduate programs alike.
The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) is the primary accrediting body for academic programs, whether on-campus or online. As of February 2015, the CSWE has accredited 504 BSW and 235 MSW programs in the United States, including blended and distance learning options.
Social work faculty members are one of the primary drivers of the quality and success of both undergraduate and graduate programs. Prospective students should consider the faculty mix of the department, each instructor’s professional and educational background, experience, licenses and specialized certifications.
At all levels, hands-on experience is vital to an education in social work. Prospective students should investigate the field placement process, specifically site selection and whether opportunities are available in their own local communities. Applicants can also research the number of hours required to complete that portion of the degree.
The overall distance learning experience is among the key criteria for choosing an online degree program in social work. Students at all levels should be comfortable with alternative learning formats and understand how content is delivered (asynchronous or synchronous mode) and where (over the Internet or on campus).
For the clinical social worker, licensing and certifications are required in order to maintain the professional standards and ethics of the practice. Licensure is determined at the state level, as each state sets its own educational guidelines and policies. However – typically speaking – clinical licensure has the following basic requirements:
Completion and graduation from a CSWE accredited MSW program Finishing at least two years or 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience (post-graduation) Successfully passing credential examination from the Association of Social Work Boards
There are several kinds of social work licenses, each one requiring different levels of experience, education and training. After earning a license, social workers may choose to acquire additional certifications from organizations such as the National Association of Social Workers. Below is a list of common social work licenses:
Individuals with a bachelor’s degree in social work can apply for an LBSW license. Designed for entry-level social workers, this certification requires the applicant to meet educational and supervised clinical experience standards.
The LMSW is for individuals who have completed a master’s or doctoral degree in the field. The requirements typically include post-graduate work experience hours and the successful completion of a standard examination.
This is the primary designation for clinical practitioners. Work experience, an MSW degree and examinations are all part of the requirements for this certification.
Here are some of the major certification and membership organizations for social work:
The ASWB focuses on social work regulation. It comprises the regulatory boards of all U.S. states except California, as well as the District of Columbia, Canada and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Four examinations are available: Bachelor’s, Master’s, Advanced Generalist and Clinical.
The NASW organization, with 132,000 members, offers various career development opportunities. Credentials are divided into two groups: professional social work (e.g., diplomate in clinical social work) and advanced practice specialties, for example, qualified clinical social worker or certified school social work specialist.
Social workers can select from ABE credentials in these areas: clinical supervision, children and their families, psychoanalysis and advanced generalist, also known as Board Certified Diplomate (BCD).
For more information on how to obtain your certification, read our guide to social work licensing and certification.
Suzette Doescher, LCSW-S, of Richardson, TX, has more than 15 years of experience in the field. Suzette came to this career later in life as a non-traditional student – completing her degree and becoming a social worker at the age of 50.
What is your current role?
I currently work in an independent practice that focuses on the adult population. I specialize in trauma, PTSD and Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). I am currently in the process of writing a paper on DID as an archetype to earn certification as an Archetypal Pattern Analyst, a type of depth psychology
Where did you get your degree?
Since graduating high school in the 1960s, I always dreamed of going to Tulane University. And, 30 years later, I had not one, but two degrees from the university.
Why did you choose a career in social work?
I cannot say I consciously chose my career. In fact, my life’s experiences put me into a position where the choice was made from me. I’m sure you have heard that most people enter the therapy professions because they have their own issues they are still dealing with. I am no exception to that rule. At the ripe old age of 50, I became a social worker. I wanted to go to graduate school but was terrified of the GRE. I didn’t believe I could pass it after being out of school for 30 years. Someone mentioned to me the school of social work at Tulane University did not require the GRE. Hence, you now have the story of how I chose my career.
What’s the best part of the social work profession?
The best thing about my profession is the diversity. There is always some area of social work that can be pursued, matched to what that individual wants to do. For me, being a social worker is not a job, not a career, but a vocation – it’s a calling. Many of the cases I handle are difficult. People frequently ask me how I can listen to such horrible life circumstances all day. Honestly, I don’t know if I could have done it when I was younger. I was not ready.
What advice do you have for prospective social work students?
My supervisees ask me that question quite often. My answer now is different than what I would have said when I was younger. If you want to help people, the first person you have to help is yourself. What I have learned in my experience is that it is important to take care of yourself if you are going to dedicate your life to caring for others. I routinely tell my clients that I’m not going to work harder at their recovery than they are: I’m going to teach you how to make yourself better, not try to make you feel better, so you can rely on that when you leave this office. But, I’ve also have had clients leave the office and never come back. So, students should know they can’t save the world – they can only save those who want to save themselves.
Given the projected growth of the field, many students are now seeking online programs in social work. The good news is that many schools are answering this call with innovative degrees that can be completed fully online. Whether pursuing a bachelor’s degree or a doctorate, prospective students need programs that provide proper accreditation, excellent faculty credentials, field placement opportunities, and flexible course scheduling. The search tool below uses all of these criteria to provide each student with a tailored list of online programs in social work to meet their needs.