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What is social work and what is the function(s) of a social worker?
Social work is a field of study and a profession that is aimed at assisting individuals, families, groups, and communities in enhancing their skills and their abilities to utilize available resources and those of the community to resolve problems and thereby establish and develop their individual and collective well-being. There are three different levels of social work – micro, mezzo and macro which deal with different target audiences namely individuals, groups and large communities.
Social workers perform a variety of duties ranging from helping individuals and families access social services, counseling those struggling with mental health issues or assisting communities by providing improved services. They can be specialists in diverse areas such as clinical social work, children and family social work, healthcare social work and school social work.
Due to the effect and reach of social work, a degree in social work is highly valued and has lucrative career prospects. Many social work jobs require a master’s degree from an accredited social work program and an online degree can open up a plethora of opportunities.
Getting an online Master’s degree in Social Work (MSW)
A Master’s in Social Work (MSW), whether earned online or through traditional full-time format, can provide a host of possibilities for students, the most important of which is that it can act as a stepping stone to becoming a Licensed Social Worker or LCW. LSWs are not only high in demand but also well paid.
MSW is a good option for social workers who want to do more in the field. While the bachelor’s degree can be good for professionals, it can end up limiting one’s career opportunities. Students who want career advancements will want to continue their education, and the MSW is the best pathway forward.
An accredited online program providing a Master’s degree in Social Work can be the perfect foundation for an exciting and fulfilling career as a social worker. A master’s degree from a CSWE (Council on Social Work Education) accredited online program satisfies the academic requirements for social work licensure in the US. Moreover, many organizations prefer to employ people with an accredited social work degree. Hence it is prudent for prospective MSW students to make sure that their chosen program holds CSWE accreditation.
An online MSW program includes topics such as social welfare planning, school social work, and social work theory. Several programs also have the provision of allowing students to pursue a specialization or a concentration in the disciplines such as
Clinical Social Work
Community and Social Systems
Children and Families
School Social Work
Most online MSW programs do not make it mandatory for a prospective student’s bachelor’s degree to be in a related field i.e. those who do not possess a Bachelor’s in Social Work (BSW) degree can choose to opt for an MSW program. Almost all online MSW programs do not require a GRE score but admission requires a minimum of 2.5 GPA during the last 60 credits of undergraduate work.
However, many online social work schools only accept students in restricted geographic areas, and many offer limited specialties. Therefore, it is advised that students do their due diligence before opting for a program.
Online schools offering MSW degrees
The top ten schools offering an online MSW degree are – Columbia University, University of Southern California, Boston University, University of Iowa, the University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign, Ohio State University, Michigan State University, University of Missouri, University of Kansas, Fordham University. In addition, there are scores of other schools that offer online MSW programs.
Course duration and program fees
An online master’s degree in social work takes two years of full-time study but students who hold a bachelor’s degree in social work can end up graduating in years. During their program, students need to fulfill requirements for both coursework and field education.
Online MSW programs are pocket-friendly with costs range from $3000 in schools such as Western New Mexico University to $45,000 in Ivy League schools such as Columbia University.
Career prospects and jobs post-degree completion
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says that social workers earn a median salary of more than $49,000 per year with healthcare workers earning as much as $57,000. In addition to being rewarding, social workers’ career path offers strong growth potential, with the BLS estimating the addition of more than 81,000 new social work jobs in the next ten years. Graduates having an online MSW degree from an accredited program meet the educational qualifications for most social work careers. They can work in a variety of environments, including but not limited to schools, hospitals, and community organizations. They can be employed as social service managers, marriage and family therapists, mental health counselors, etc.
Places of employment for social workers:
Area Agencies on Aging
Child and Family Services
Child Welfare Organizations
Community Action Programs
Community Mental Health Centers
Domestic Violence Centers
Foster Care Agencies
Health Care Centers
Health Maintenance Organizations
Neighborhood Coalition programs
Public Service Agencies
Private Social Service Agencies
Social Worker Licensure
As mentioned earlier, a Master’s degree in Social Work equips one to become social work licensure. Many social work jobs need a state license and candidates require an accredited master’s degree in social work as well as professional experience to earn a license.
Enumerated below are the several types of social work licensure as mandated by The Association of Social Work Boards –
1. Licensed Social Worker or LSW
2. Licensed Master Social Worker or LMSW
3. Licensed Clinical Social Worker or LCSW
4. Licensed Graduate Social Worker or LGSW
5. Academy of Certified Social Workers or the ACSW
Each social work licensure has corresponding requirements that vary by state and would-be social workers should research the licensure process in the state where they plan to practice.