Online Masters Degree in Social Work

Social workers help provide much-needed services and access to support programs for people in need. Employment opportunities in social work careers are expected to rise, and the right education can help you find rewarding work in this growing field.

Earning master's degrees in social work

A large percentage of candidates for graduate programs have already earned bachelor's degrees in social work, although students of psychology, sociology and other related fields can succeed in these programs as well. Here's a short list of courses you might take in a master's program:

  1. Advanced psychosocial assessment
  2. Data management, analysis and interpretation
  3. Diversity and social justice
  4. Human behavior and the social environment
  5. Theories of social change and community practice

Students may also seek practical experience in settings such as schools, health clinics, mental health facilities, community centers and residential programs.

Job outlook for social workers

The Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates that job opportunities for social workers should increase significantly between 2010 and 2020. The BLS offers data on some top social work careers, including 2010 median annual salary estimates and 2010-2010 employment growth projections:

  1. Child, family and school social workers: $40,680; 19.7 percent
  2. Health care social workers: $47,230; 33.5 percent
  3. Mental health and substance abuse social workers: $39,230; 31.3 percent
  4. Other social workers: $53,900; 16.2 percent

Overall, the BLS expects more than 161,000 new jobs to open up in social work between 2010 and 2020, and candidates with master's degrees in the field can seek these emerging positions.

Beyond your master's degrees in social work

Even though a master's degree is usually sufficient to enter the workforce as a social worker, some students continue their education on to the doctoral level. Graduates with Ph.D. degrees in social work typically find work in research, upper-level policy and university education. Some employers also may prefer applicants with doctorates in social work, if the issues faced by their institutions are especially challenging or complex.

Social work master's degrees are available from full-time university programs, and online or part-time options are also rising in popularity. Some colleges even offer weekend programs, professional certification paths and hybrid degrees that combine web-based and on-campus studies as well as clinical practice.

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