Earning your social work degree online means you can prepare for an rewarding career on your own schedule.
The Benefits of an Online Social Work Degree
Here are some of the major benefits of getting your social work degree online:
1. Online social work degree enables one to work at his/her convenient time.
2. It’s often more affordable than traditional on-campus degrees
3. It enables one to learn at his/her pace.
4. An online social work degree provides the same core curriculum and opportunities to develop skills as an on-campus program.
Top Accredited Online Social Work Programs
The following accredited schools offer highly-rated online MSW and BSW programs:
1. University of Southern California (USC)
USC’s online MSW program is ranked #3 in the U.S. by U.S. News and World Report. It offers specializations in mental health, health, and community organizing. USC is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
2. University of Texas at Arlington (UTA)
UTA offers an online BSW and MSW program with a concentration in direct practice. UTA is accredited by the CSWE and its social work programs are ranked in the top 25 nationally by U.S. News and World Report.
3. Colorado State University
Colorado State University provides an online BSW degree completion program for transfer students and an online MSW with specializations in advanced generalist practice and social work administration. It is accredited by the CSWE.
Capella University offers online BSW, MSW, and DSW programs with specializations in areas like child welfare, leadership and supervision, and social work administration. Capella is accredited by the CSWE and the Higher Learning Commission. Their MSW program is ranked in the top 25 online programs by U.S. News and World Report.
These are just a few of the many accredited online social work programs available. When researching schools, look for those accredited by the CSWE, which ensures high standards of quality.
Ways to Finance Your Online Social Work Degree
There are several options to consider to help make your degree affordable and accessible.
1. Grants and Scholarships
The first place to look is free money in the form of grants and scholarships. As a social work student, you may be eligible for federal grants like the Pell Grant or TEACH Grant. Many schools and private organizations also offer scholarships for social work students.
2. Student Loans
If grants and scholarships don’t cover all your costs, student loans are the next best option. Federal student loans should be your first choice. They offer fixed interest rates and flexible repayment plans. The most common types are subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans.
3. Payment Plans
Most online schools offer payment plans that allow you to pay tuition and fees over the course of the semester or year instead of all at once. This can make your costs more manageable by breaking them into smaller payments.
4. Employer Tuition Reimbursement
If you’re employed, check if your workplace offers any tuition reimbursement or assistance. Many employers will reimburse at least part of your tuition costs, especially if the degree is related to your job. The amounts and requirements vary, but it’s worth looking into, as any contribution will help lower your overall costs.
How Prepare for the Social Work Licensure Exam
The exam covers a broad range of topics, so start studying at least 3-6 months ahead of your exam date.
1. Focus your studying
The licensing exam tests your knowledge of social work theories, ethics, interventions, and more. Review the exam blueprint to determine which areas you need to focus on. Some topics may be more familiar, allowing you to briefly review them, while other areas may require more in-depth studying.
2. Obtain review materials
Get copies of official exam guides, practice questions, flashcards, and workbooks. Read over summaries of key social work concepts, models, and theories. Study real-world examples of how to handle different situations. Solve numerous practice problems and work through sample questions.
3. Make a study schedule
Don’t cram at the last minute. Space out your studying over several months to keep topics fresh in your mind. Aim for at least 2-3 hours of studying per week, with extra time on weekends.
4. Form a study group.
A study group can also help keep you accountable to your schedule.
5. Manage anxiety
It’s normal to feel some anxiety about the licensing exam. To keep your stress in check:
6. Focus on one section or topic at a time
Don’t feel overwhelmed by the scope of information.
7. Take regular breaks while studying to rest your mind.
Even taking short walks can help.
8. Try relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or yoga.
9. Get enough sleep the night before the exam.
Being well-rested will help you stay focused during the test.
Steps to Begin Your Social Work Career After Graduation
Here are some steps to begin your new career:
1. Gain Practical Experience
Look for entry-level jobs or internships in your area of interest, such as child welfare, healthcare, or community organizing. Hands-on experience will help strengthen your skills and make you a strong candidate for social work positions.
2. Build Your Professional Network
Connect with other social workers through professional organizations like the National Association of Social Workers. Attend local events and conferences to make personal connections with social workers in your area. Join relevant groups on LinkedIn to connect with professionals across the country. Developing a strong network will open you up to new opportunities and mentorship.
3. Consider Licensing or Certification
Obtaining proper licensure will allow you to advance in your career and open up more job opportunities.
4. Continuously Learn and Improve Your Skills
The field of social work is always evolving, so commit to lifelong learning. Stay up-to-date with the latest practices and interventions through online courses, webinars, books, podcasts, and journals.
5. Look for Job Openings and Apply
Search for social worker jobs on sites like Indeed, Glassdoor, Monster, and Social Service. You can look for positions such as case manager, youth services worker, healthcare social worker, or school social worker.
Financing your social work degree may seem challenging, but with a mix of these options like grants, scholarships, student loans, payment plans, and employer assistance you can achieve your goal of earning an online social work degree, even while working full time. .