Can I Get a Master of Social Work Degree Online?

The field of social work can be one of the most rewarding ones in which to work, and social workers who want more challenging assignments often pursue their master’s degree in the discipline to increase their competency levels. An undergraduate degree in social work from a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited program is the first step to becoming a case worker or a generalist in the profession. Many of these workers go the extra mile to empower people with the tools that they need to improve their own lives. However, a good number of the people who are served by social workers have more complicated, underlying issues. Social workers who want to serve these groups in clinical capacities have to be licensed and have advanced degrees in social work. Today, social workers can pursue their academic goals online without having to drastically rearrange their personal and professional schedules. Here are some of the courses and other degree requirements that they can expect when getting their Master of Social Work (MSW) degrees.

Typical Courses in Online MSW Programs

Most online MSW programs do not require students to meet at predetermined times for virtual class room sessions, but they allow students to download multimedia lectures and exercises at their convenience. Some core course topics that MSW students can expect to take are human behavior, social policy and advocacy as well as human rights and social justice. Specializations and elective topics often include crisis intervention, geriatric social work for the aging and social work with children. Online MSW programs undertaken with reputable schools often provide the same academic rigor as traditionally offered programs.

Clinical Practice and Field Work

All CSWE accredited MSW programs including those offered via the internet require a certain amount of supervised field work which is often called clinical practice. This is such an important component of online MSW programs that it is often up to a year long in length. During these sessions, online MSW students work in social work environments in or around their local communities. The assignment is usually chosen as a way to put theory into practice for a distinct social work specialty. For example, a student may work under a clinical, licensed social worker in an assisted living facility to demonstrate their mastery of geriatric social work concepts.

Review Materials for Licensing Exam

Online MSW program developers for most schools understand that the majority of MSW graduates want to pursue their social work licenses right after degree completion. Subsequently, schools offer license exam preparation materials and practice tests to help students to prepare for the important milestone. Each state has different licensing requirements. Online MSW programs that are offered through schools with physical locations often have customized test preparation activities that match the requirements for the states in which the schools are located.

The Bill: Paying for an Online MSW Program

Going back to school for a master’s degree is an expensive proposition, but there are grants and scholarships to help offset some of the costs. The Dr. Alma Adams scholarship awards $5,000 to students who have served underprivileged groups and who have especially sought to curb the ill effects of drugs, tobacco and alcohol abuse in the communities that they served. The Consuelo Gosnell Memorial scholarship provides multiple students with $4000 each who are enrolled in MSW programs and who have served the Native American or Hispanic communities. Also, the government recognizes that the cost of quality social work education is usually not in balance with the salaries that these workers receive so loan forgiveness for these graduates is common through the College Cost Reduction Act and the Higher Education Act.

Social work often requires interaction with some of society’s most vulnerable people which is why it is a highly regulated career field. Social workers who gain a master’s degree in their discipline are able to demonstrate to their communities that they are proficient in the advanced concepts, theories and best practices of social work that are necessary to meet the challenges presented in today’s clinical and public school environments.

Related Resource: Top 10 Best Online Social Work Degree Programs