Getting an Online Degree in Social Work: What Are My Options?

By Dr. Laura Watson

If you want to make a difference in the world and obtain a flexible degree that prepares you to work in a wide range of organizations, consider getting an online degree in social work. Social work involves helping people solve personal and family problems. Some issues that social workers deal with include foster care, substance abuse, mental health, public health, and adoption.

All social work employers require applicants to have at least a four-year offline or online degree in social work. Accredited Bachelor’s in Social Work (BSW) degree programs require you to get at least 400 hours of supervised field experience. A BSW qualifies you to work as a:

  • Case consultant
  • Child protective services worker
  • Court-appointed special advocate
  • Gerontology social worker
  • Criminal justice social worker
  • Child life specialist
  • Community organizer

Licensing requirements vary from one state to the next, but most states require you to have a total of 3,000 hours (two years) of supervised field experience to become a licensed social worker.

Once you get an online degree in social work at the bachelor’s level, you can go on to pursue your master’s in social work (MSW). You are not required to have a bachelor’s degree in order to pursue a master’s degree, however. Some MSW programs accept any applicants who have a bachelor’s degree, regardless of their major.

Full-time MSW programs take two years to complete, while part-time MSW programs take four years to complete. Getting an MSW degree will prepare you for specialized positions in social work, such as in administration and policy.

The doctor in social work (DSW) degree is the most advanced online degree in social work that you can pursue. DSW degree programs focus heavily on research and analysis. They prepare you to work as a social work professor, leader of a social work practice, policy advisor, or even a foray into a criminal justice career.

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