Social work is a field that focuses on life improvement. A social worker is a professional aide who helps people cope with personal problems, serves as a mediator in conflicts, and identifies social services that will improve client situations. A social worker career can extend into various specialties, according to theU.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics(BLS):

  • Family and child social work.

    These types of social workers assist children and their families to improve how they function. Often, this involves identifying and implementing social services such as child care, foster homes, adoption arrangements, child protective services, or foster home placement.

  • School social work.

    School social workers are the mediators between schools and students and families. They help students academically succeed, assist with learning and physical disabilities, address behavioral problems, and counsel teachers on how to deal with students.

  • Healthcare social work.

    These types of social workers deal with medical and public health, providing support for those dealing with illnesses. This includes counseling patients, advising caregivers, arranging care services, and coordinating services for senior citizens.

  • Mental health and substance abuse social work.

    These social workers help with mental health or substance abuse issues through supportive services that improve clients’ daily lives. They might recommend services like group therapy, employee-assistance programs, social rehabilitation, and crisis intervention.

  • Social work administration.

    There are also social workers who deal with the administrative side of the field. This includes planning, researching, and policymaking, helping with program development, identifying social issues, analyzing policies, and generating support to fund programs.

What Can I Do With an Online Degree in Social Work?

Earning an online degree in social work can be the beginning of a lifelong career in helping others. Obtaining a bachelor’s degree in social work is often the first thing you must do to begin a social worker career. Social workers with a bachelor’s degree can qualify for entry-level positions. However, those who wish to do clinical work or obtain a position in school or health environments will most likely be required to hold an advanced degree, the BLS notes. Other social worker requirements may include licensing, certification, or registration in the state of your practice. In addition, social worker qualifications may include a certain amount of supervised clinical experience and must adherence to the social worker code of ethics, as given by the National Association of Social Workers.

Social worker salary potential varies considerably by specialty, industry, and position. In May 2008, the median yearly salary for child, family, and school social workers was $39,530, medical and public health social workers earned $46,650, and mental health and substance abuse social workers made $37,210, according to the BLS. In addition, the BLS noted that the median annual wages of all other types of social workers were $46,220 in May 2008. In addition, for those with a Master of Social Work degree, social worker jobs in Los Angeles, Seattle, and Philadelphia, tend to pay higher salaries. According to the online compensation site PayScale.com, salaries in Los Angeles average $54,361, salaries in Seattle average $47,487, and salaries in Philadelphia average $46,880.

Among states with the highest employment level, California had the highest average salary for child, family, and school social workers at $50,090, as well as for healthcare social workers at $58,980, according to the BLS. Among states with the highest employment level for mental health and substance abuse social workers, New York had the highest salary at $49,150. However, it’s important to keep in mind that even with a social worker degree, either undergraduate or graduate, a job within the field of social work is not guaranteed, as employment often depends on factors like current job climate, location, and applicant pool. Also, salaries within social work vary considerably by employer, region, and level of experience.

What Is It Like To Get An Online Degree in Social Work?

There are many social worker programs online where classes are delivered through the Internet, allowing students to virtually access course material. Rather than sitting in a classroom, online students learn through reading assignments, tutorials, lecture notes, slides, and discussions. Undergraduate courses in social work generally include human behavior and the social environment, social work ethics, cultural diversity, social welfare policy, social work research methods, and social work practice. In addition, general education courses, such as mathematics, humanities, and sciences are required.

While a bachelor’s degree in social work is not required for acceptance into a graduate program, it could be beneficial. At the graduate level, courses prepare students for clinical practice and further their knowledge of social work specializations. Courses may include social welfare policy, community partnerships, psychopathology, social work and the law, group facilitation skills, and community field education. Master’s candidates also are usually required to complete an internship or minimum number of hours of supervised field instruction.

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