Top Online Colleges for Social Work

Social workers strive for social and economic justice through clinical, administrative, and political means. The profession provides for a lot of variety, as social workers have the freedom to choose an area of interest, such as grief and bereavement, corrections, substance abuse, or any number of social issues. It is a great field for individuals who are concerned about cultural, social, and economic problems and feel compelled to devote their professional endeavors to making a difference in these areas.

Social Work Course Work Basics

Social work is a multidisciplinary field of study, exploring issues of justice, social policy, advocacy, and economics. Programs at top accredited online colleges will reflect this diversity of coursework, especially at the bachelor’s degree level, where students often receive a liberal arts foundation while taking core courses in the social sciences that build upon their knowledge of social issues.

Top online colleges for social work would also offer administrative and clinical classes that allow students to develop a breadth of social work skills, practices, and procedures. They also often allow students to choose an area of concentration. Exact opportunities would vary from one program to the next and are often influenced by current social issues in the program’s city or region. For example, a program in a city with an influential healthcare industry might offer a concentration in medical social work. In general, classes in a social work program might include:

  • Child Abuse and Neglect: This course covers causes and effects of child abuse and neglect and how social workers respond to these situations.
  • Professional Grant Writing for Social Work: Professional grant-writing skills, research, formatting, and submission process are covered in this class.
  • Managing Human Service Organizations: This course covers organization structure and best practices for running human service organizations.
  • Crisis Intervention: Students develop skills, techniques, and methods for administering aid and effective intervention in a crisis scenario.
  • Social Work Practice with Groups in Clinical Settings: This is a clinical class in which students learn about the dynamics of group counseling and the best methods and techniques for group social work.

In addition to course work, programs in the best online colleges for social work provide opportunities for field work, internships, or supervised training. At the bachelor’s degree level, this might mean a semester or summer internship position that relates to the student’s social work interests. At the master’s level, students might be required to complete a set number of field practicum hours. At the doctoral level, most students are already licensed, practicing social workers, so field work is less common. However, Ph.D. candidates are often required to complete independent research.

Careers for the Social Work Graduate

Social workers typically choose between a clinical track or a more administrative track. Clinical social workers need a master’s degree in social work and at least two years of supervised clinical experience to be eligible to take the Licensed Clinical Social Worker licensing exam and practice. They often work in a mental health capacity, treating and assessing individuals with mental health conditions or providing counseling and clinical services, and can be found in a variety of environments, such as schools, hospitals, Veterans’ Administration facilities, residential treatment centers, hospices, correctional institutions, or private practice.

Administrative social workers provide a range of social services, such as case management, counseling, advocacy, and referral services that help clients locate the organizations and services to meet their needs. For instance, an administrative social worker might be employed by child or adult protection agencies to lobby on behalf of their clients and ensure their environments are safe and healthy. Most social workers in these positions would also need a master’s degree in social work and hold professional credentials, which accredited online colleges for social work would help prepare them for. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, social workers earned a median annual wage of $42,480 in May 2010. However, salaries vary based on the employer, industry, geographic location, and individual experience and qualifications.

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