Social work is a broad term which applies to a wide array of different services and resources geared toward helping families, individuals and communities benefit from continued success through solid interpersonal relationships, self-sufficiency and care.
So many aspects of society fall under the large umbrella of social work. Things like civil rights, childcare, disability pay, Medicaid, Medicare, worker’s compensation and unemployment insurance. Humanitarian social work organizations and caseworkers are here for the betterment of those in society who may have difficulty reaching their goals.
Social caseworkers represent and assist many of those that can’t assist themselves, whether they be minors or those from some of the most marginalized communities in the country. Overall, social workers believe in working toward achieving social justice, boosting social welfare and helping people.
What is Social Work Like as a Career?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of social work is growing much faster than average, with 81,000 jobs added in 2018 to bring the total to 707,400. This growth is expected to continue, meaning you can count on securing employment in this field.
Like many occupations, social work is open to many with merely a bachelor’s degree in an applicable field. However, if you earn an MSW, your job options would considerably expand, including the possibility to land senior leadership roles in which you oversee caseworkers rather than being one.
Social workers are often called to many different locations for a variety of different reasons. They could mediate visits between divorced parents and their children, help someone struggling from mental illness, help treat medical issues and more.
Social work is a field that leans heavily on females in terms of its makeup. Out of all the social worker jobs, 83 percent are held by females and 86 percent of Master’s of Social Work graduates in 2015 were female.
Social workers are everywhere in the working world. You can find military social work if you’re enlisted in the army, work at a government agency to help families or assist at medical clinics to lessen the stigma of mental health. Different occupations include child welfare caseworker, clinical social worker, counselor, school social worker, social worker and even a therapist.
But how do you begin your career journey to land such jobs? Where should you go to get your MSW degree? Read on below to find out.
Earn a Master’s Degree in Social Work Online
You will first need to earn a bachelor’s degree before applying for an MSW program. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in social work or a related field, but that would of course help in the long run. Admission requirements for an MSW degree vary from school to school, but you will already need an undergraduate degree to apply for most programs.
Let’s look at some fully CSWE accredited programs to potentially earn your MSW. All of these programs are 100 percent online and extremely flexible.
Widener University enthusiastically supports prospective students interested in earning their MSW. It offers two different options for those applying for online classes: the ‘Regular’ admission which is completed in four years or the ‘Advanced Standing’ option for those who already hold a bachelor’s degree in social work, which is completed in as little as two years.
This is where already holding an undergraduate degree in social work pays off, as it can accelerate you toward a more successful career in half the time.
Widener provides 100 percent flexibility for its online students; this is not just hyperbole, either. Widener goes all out with its master’s degrees, giving MSW students some valuable experience with excellent course curriculum in trauma, family studies and field placement.
Widener’s only requirements for applying are an existing undergraduate degree and at least a 3.0 GPA.
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign takes the fantastic face-to-face education you’d earn in the twin cities of Urbana and Champaign and translates it into a fantastic online experience where anyone interested in earning a master’s of social work can thrive.
Its program, named the Leadership and Social Change (MSW Online Program), is an entirely online program that prepares those already well-versed in the intricacies of social work to brush up on their abilities in grant-writing, policy advocacy and human service management.
For those without a bachelor’s degree in social work, don’t fret. Although you’ll have to put some more work into it, around 30 or so more credit hours, you’ll graduate with the foundations of social work mastered, as well as having gone through valuable internship opportunities.
The ‘Advanced Standing’ program is a standard MSW degree curriculum. It is made up of 44 credit hours of classes like:
- Human Behavior and the Social Environment II: Mental Disorders
- Inequalities in a Diverse Society
- Managing Human Service Organizations
- International Social Work & Development
- Program Evaluation
- Social Work and the Law
- Social Welfare Planning
- Leadership and Social Change
- And, of course, a field practicum and seminar
The world-famous Columbia University, perhaps unsurprisingly, is a fantastic location to earn an MSW degree through its online courses.
This is a 60 credit-hour master’s degree program that gives a lot of flexibility and breathing room to prospective students. You can choose either online or in-person courses, and from seven different programs, including:
- Advanced standing
- Reduced residency
- Five-time international
These versatile programs offer some serious customization for you to get an online MSW degree. They combine a fantastic curriculum with valuable in-person learning and training, along with your own specialization preferences for the future social work field that you’re interested in, like:
- Family, Youth & Children’s Services
- Health, Mental Health & Disabilities
This gives Columbia University extra points, as it’s clear they put a lot of time and effort into honing the MSW online programs into something truly impressive. You’ll need three letters of reference, written essays and a solid GPA to be considered for Columbia University’s MSW online program.
The University of Southern California
USC is a world-renowned university on the west coast. Its MSW online programs vary, much like other universities, in terms of traditional and advanced standing. The traditional path, if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree in social work, is 60 units, while if you’re already educated in social work, your program comes in around 37 units. Both of these options are offered both full-time and part-time, allowing you to go at your own pace, 100 percent online.
First, you choose the academic department you want to involve yourself with. These are:
- Adult Mental Health and Wellness
- Children, Youth and Families
- Social Change and Innovation
You can then specialize your personal education track by choosing one of two specializations:
- Military Social Work
- School Social Work
And finally, they offer you some much-needed and valuable fieldwork that you will be taking part in daily once you score a solid career in social work. This fieldwork consists of over 1,000 hours of applicable work both through virtual practicum and working in-person with the community around you. Like with many of these programs, the customization involved with choosing your program’s path offers a breath of fresh air and gives you firm control of what you learn and when you learn it.
University of Central Florida
The University of Central Florida in Orlando, Florida offers a CSWE accredited Master’s of Social Work. UCF’s flexible online program offers multiple ways to complete the various MSW online programs. They offer part-time and full-time options for both the traditional and advanced standing degree paths.
The traditional path (the one to take if you don’t have an undergraduate degree in social work) will take around three years to complete, while the advanced standing really pays off with its 16-month timeframe. You are greatly rewarded for your previous knowledge and credentials here.
While you definitely reap benefits for having prior knowledge, the University of Central Florida’s program is heavily tailored to those who don’t have prior experience. This makes its MSW online programs more robust and comprehensive, making sure you get the best education for your tuition.
The degree program will have you working with diverse populations, taking part in valuable clinical practice with families as well as individuals.
As it’s an online curriculum, you’ll of course be saving money that on-campus students have to pay, and you’ll even gain access to amazing resources and library reference help that will have you wondering why you went to college in person at all.
The admission requirements are that you need to have maintained a GPA of 3.0 and have taken the GRE placement test prior to applying for the MSW degree.
All of these schools are committed to teaching those with a background in social work or even complete newcomers. Becoming a social worker can be a rewarding yet challenging experience. However, the benefits definitely outweigh the stressors, and you can take heart in knowing that you are making the world a better place for hundreds of people.