With the growing popularity of online education, more universities offer social work degree programs online. As a result, online social work programs have become popular for students who need flexibility and convenience in their education.
This page will provide an overview of the types of online social work degree programs and the country’s top five online social work programs. Whether you’re a busy professional or a stay-at-home parent, an online social work degree can provide the education and skills you need to succeed in your future career.
Which Types of Social Work Degree Programs Are Available Online?
Multiple social work degree programs are available online, including bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate programs.
However, students should note that the online component of social work degree programs typically only refers to the coursework. It’s standard for social work degree programs to have clinical components, such as internships or residencies, which often require in-person attendance at a specific site. When considering schools, students should confirm their program’s clinical requirements, to ensure that they can fit them into their schedule.
Students who earn their master’s or doctoral degree in social work will receive higher earnings and are likely to see lower unemployment rates throughout their careers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, those with a bachelor’s degree in social work report median weekly earnings of $1,334 and an unemployment rate of 3.5%, while those with advanced degrees see median weekly earnings of $1,574 to $1,909 and unemployment rates of 2.6% to 1.5%. Therefore, pursuing an advanced degree in social work may help students secure higher earnings and better employment over time.
Top 5 Online Social Work Programs
1. Columbia University
Columbia University’s online social work degree programs offer students the opportunity to earn a Master of Social Work degree (MSW) or a Doctor of Social Work (DSW) degree through a flexible and convenient online format. Both programs are designed to prepare students for advanced social work practice in various settings, including clinical practice, community organizing, policy advocacy, and leadership.
With a focus on social justice and human rights, Columbia’s online social work programs offer rigorous academic training, diverse field placement opportunities, and access to world-renowned faculty and research resources. As a result, graduates of Columbia’s online social work programs are well-equipped to make a meaningful difference in the lives of individuals, families, and communities.
2. University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania provides an online Master of Social Work (MSW) degree with a flexible format. UPenn’s online social degree programs provide students with a comprehensive education that integrates theory, research, and practice by focusing on evidence-based practice and interdisciplinary collaboration. The program also offers students access to renowned faculty, field placement opportunities, and a supportive community of professionals and peers. As a result, graduates are well-equipped to positively impact individuals and families and advance to the field of social work.
3. University of Alabama
The University of Alabama’s online social work degree programs allows students to earn a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) or a Master of Social Work (MSW). The programs are designed to prepare students for various social work roles, including clinical practice, administration, and policy advocacy.
While most coursework is available online, each curriculum features face-to-face skills labs to help students further develop their skills. Graduate students can pursue a general degree in social work or hone in on one of two concentrations, children, adolescents, and their families, or adults and their families. In addition, graduate students participate in a field internship program to augment their skill set and prepare for a successful future.
4. Rutgers University
Rutgers University offers online social work degree programs designed to provide students with a high-quality education that prepares them for successful careers in social work. Students can choose from various programs, including a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work (BASW), Master of Social Work (MSW), and Doctorate of Social Work (DSW), making Rutgers an excellent option for aspiring social workers at any education level. In addition, the online format provides students the flexibility they need to balance their education with work and family obligations while providing a nearly identical education to on-campus programs.
Students learn from experienced faculty members and engage with their peers in online discussion forums and experiential learning activities. With a devout focus on promoting social justice, diversity, and inclusion, Rutgers University prepares future social workers for meaningful and impactful careers.
5. University of Tennessee
The University of Tennessee provides a Bachelor of Science in Social Work (BSSW) and a Master of Social Work (MSW) that are entirely remote. In pursuit of flexibility and increased access, the programs offer asynchronous coursework that can be completed anytime, anywhere, making this program an excellent option for anyone balancing their studies with other responsibilities. Additionally, the University of Tennessee offers unique electives and specializations in trauma, forensic social work, crisis intervention, and opportunities to work with veteran populations.
In addition to asynchronous coursework, graduate students can enroll in synchronous classes. This option allows students to engage with their peers and professors in real time and features an identical curriculum. In addition, all students completing the MSW program will participate in a field internship to refine their competencies and ready themselves for a successful career ahead.
Pros and Cons of Studying Social Work Online
Limited face-to-face interaction
Students who pursue a social work degree online will experience the advantages and disadvantages of a virtual classroom.
Many online programs are popular for their flexibility and convenience, making them an excellent fit for students who must balance their education with work and family obligations. In addition, online coursework can be more accessible to students who live in remote areas or have difficulty commuting to campus. Lastly, many online programs offer engaging coursework, including virtual simulations and interactive assignments, that provide students with valuable experiential learning opportunities.
However, studying social work online does have its drawbacks. Most noticeably, many programs have limited, if any, face-to-face interaction. This can be a disadvantage for students who prefer in-person learning. Similarly, online programs may offer limited networking opportunities, which can be essential for building connections in the field. In addition, these programs require students to be self-motivated and disciplined, as they are responsible for managing their own learning and meeting deadlines without the structure of a traditional classroom environment.