5 Ways to Supercharge Your Online Social Work Degree
For students that want to build a career focused around helping others and making a difference in their community, a degree in Social Work is a popular path to pursue for their higher education. In recent years, many colleges and universities have begun offering comprehensive online degree programs at various levels to help working adults balance the challenges of juggling their education with their work or family obligations.
With the flexibility now available through virtual learning, the door is opened for many adults to take their career goals to the next level. So, what are the benefits of earning a degree in Social Work? How can you ensure that you are taking the right path to maximize your potential for climbing the corporate ladder and earning a top salary in the field?
The answers to these questions vary, and social work is a complex field with several different sub-specialties that you may choose to explore. Depending upon your long-term career goals, you may choose to pursue an undergraduate degree to directly enter the workforce or take your education all the way to a doctorate degree level. Additionally, understanding your state’s specific requirements for licensing and certification is essential when choosing the path you will take for your education.
Social work can be as rewarding as it is challenging, but there are steps you can take to help ensure that you are have the skills needed to secure top positions within your field. In the sections below, we will explore five different ways you can make the most out of your online degree in Social Work.
Steps to Maximize your Degree in Social Work
Top schools around the country now offer online Social Work programs that range from basic associate’s degrees to top-level doctorate degrees. In most cases, a bachelor’s degree is the minimum educational requirement for pursuing professional employment, but many of the well-paying jobs in this field require graduate level education.
For the majority of adults returning to college, the primary goal for furthering their education is to turn their new degree into advanced career opportunities. By taking note of the following five methods for maximizing your online Social Work degree, you can help ensure that you are taking the best path to accomplish your long-term goals.
1. Make the Right Choice in Schools
Before you even delve into the coursework associated with your online Social Work program, you need to make sure that your chosen school meets necessary standards for quality and professionalism. Consider the following factors when researching schools for online degrees in Social Work:
Accreditation is key when choosing a Social Work degree program. Many states require that those seeking certification in the field received their education at a university accredited by a recognized agency. Additionally, working with an accredited school will give you peace of mind knowing that the curriculum meets high standards of quality control.
- Types of Degree Programs
Does your chosen school only offer undergraduate degrees? Do they have articulation agreements with other colleges if you choose to pursue a higher-level degree program in the future? Thinking long-term is key when you want to get the most out of your online Social Work program, and it is important to have a plan for the future before committing to a specific school.
- Faculty Credentials
Getting the most out of your online degree program requires the instruction and support of qualified professors. It is always a good idea to meet the school staff and review the “Faculty” section of their website to learn more about the accomplishments, education, and credentials that the online teaching staff holds.
Many schools offer additional student support services to their online students, and this is even more important in a hands-on field such as Social Work. Check into the resources, tutoring, and internship opportunities offered by your school when deciding on an online degree program that is right for you.
2. Complete a Relevant Internship
Choosing to complete your Social Work education online comes with a number of benefits, and for many students this type of degree program is necessary to give them the flexibility they need to work around an already busy schedule. However, the field of social work is based around interaction with others, and it is essential that you take the steps needed to complete an internship before moving on to professional employment.
Even if your courses are entirely virtual, many colleges still require the completion of in-field or internship hours before you can graduate from your degree program. This gives students the opportunity to put their book-knowledge to work in real-world scenarios and offers them a chance to see what areas to Social Work they are most interested in.
There are numerous specialties within the field of Social Work, and internships can be completed in a variety of settings, including non-profit organizations, outpatient medical clinics, and hospitals.
3. Pursue Certifications and Licensing
Depending upon the career goals that you have, licensing or professional certification may be necessary for you to practice professionally within your field after graduation. For example, if you are interested in working one-on-one with clients in a therapeutic counseling environment, you will need to take the steps necessary to become a licensed clinical social worker in many states.
The requirements regulating the field of Social Work vary greatly state by state. Some states require that all social workers be licensed, while others only require professional licensure in certain sub-sets of the field. If you want to make the most out of your online Social Work degree, it is essential that you have a full understanding of your state’s requirements so you aren’t surprised when attempting to land a job after graduation.
4. Work towards a Graduate Degree
As mentioned earlier, online degrees in Social Work can be found at every level of education – from associate’s degrees up through doctorate level programs. While basic two-year degrees can give you an introduction to the complex world of social work, landing a high-level job within the field is going to require you to have an advanced degree and certifications.
So, how do you know which graduate degree level is the best fit for you? Consider the following:
- Master’s Degree in Social Work
In many states, you will need a master’s degree or above in order to become a Licensed Social Worker or Licensed Clinical Social Worker. In this degree program, you will have the opportunity to explore and pursue various concentrations within the field to specialize your advanced skillset.
- Doctorate Degree in Social Work
Typically, this degree program is focused on preparing students for advanced clinical practice and leadership within the field. The rigorous curriculum involves residencies and challenging coursework that allows you to pursue employment as a social work scholar, researcher, or educator in the field.
If your goal is to make the most out of your online Social Work degree, then a graduate degree is an important aspect to consider in your long-term goals. Your academic advisor can help you understand the various opportunities available to choose an educational path that puts you on the track towards professional employment.
5. Work Hard to Move Up
It may sound basic or even cliché, but giving your all to every aspect of your education, internships, and entry-level job is the best way to get your foot in the door for advanced career opportunities. Social work is a competitive, highly regulated field, and the majority of graduates begin their careers working entry-level jobs. Many companies that hire social work graduates hire from within, so putting your best effort forward from day one is a sure way to make a solid first impression and set the stage for advancement within your chosen specialty.
The world of social work isn’t for everyone, but for students that have a strong work ethic, passion for psychology, and drive to improve the world around them, it can be the perfect route to advance into a lucrative, rewarding career. As discussed above, there are many paths to take within the field of Social Work, and having a solid understanding of your long-term goals is the first step towards choosing the best path for you to meet these goals.
Online degrees in Social Work are becoming increasingly popular across the United States, and they are an excellent option for students that need greater flexibility than what is offered with traditional on-campus classes. By doing your research beforehand, having a solid grasp of your state’s regulations, and striving every day to demonstrate your commitment to your work, you can get turn your online degree into a life-changing opportunity.