If you are interested in becoming a social worker with the convenience of online classes, you can earn your social work degree online! There are many excellent online MSW programs. However, the quality of online programs varies widely. You want to make sure that the one you choose meets certain standards. Look for the following traits:
National Accreditation by CSWE
The most important thing to find in an online social work degree program is accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). This governing body goes to great lengths to ensure that its accredited programs will prepare students to become licensed social workers. In many cases, if you do not attend an accredited program, you may not be able to get your license once you graduate – and that means you may not be able eligible to work or advance your career in the field. To be sure that your prospective online msw program is accredited by the CSWE, you should check both with the school and with the organization’s list of currently accredited programs. Learn more about different licenses available such as the LSW or LCSW, licensed clinical social worker.
Availability of Accelerated Online MSW Programs
If you already have a bachelor’s degree in social work, you may qualify for advanced standing as a master’s student. Several online social work degree programs offer this option to enable those with a strong background in the field to move through a program more quickly. These programs tend to offer a “regular” track as well, designed for those with undergraduate degrees in related areas. Some, though, are so specially designed that they accept only advanced standing applicants. So, once you have identified a few accredited programs, you need to find one in which your background – whatever that might be – will be both accepted and nurtured.
Location of Administrative Offices/Classrooms
You also need to consider your location. First and foremost, know that if you live in close proximity to a campus offering an online msw program, you might have to complete part of the program on campus. If you are fully committed to an online program, double-check that there aren’t any in-person requirements.
Some online msw programs are open to residents of any state, but many have residency requirements. The primary reason for this is that the curriculum for most programs is designed to help students obtain a license in the same state in which the university is located – or perhaps in a neighboring state. Because state licensure requirements vary quite a bit, it may be difficult – if not impossible – to become licensed if you live in an entirely different part of the country or if you plan to work in a different region once you graduate. Moreover, the influence of the local social and cultural environment on a particular program might make it a poor match for you if you do not plan to work in or around that same place. You need to become familiar with the challenges most often faced by the people you will be helping in your career, not by a distinctly different population.
Program Structures that Match Your Study Style and Schedule
Online social work degree programs vary widely in the options they offer their students. Some are almost entirely self-guided, featuring asynchronous classes which are completed online at the student’s own pace. Others require at least some courses to be taken in a sequence and may involve some specific hours spent working and communicating with faculty and students in an online environment. Many are designed for part-time students, but some offer full-time study options. Many can be completed without any campus contact, but some require occasional face-to-face meetings.
None of these options is inherently better than another, but they are probably not all equally well-suited to your learning style and schedule. So, as you narrow your list of options, consider which program or programs offer the right online study options for you. Ask yourself questions such as:
- What kind of material delivery will be most appealing to me?
- Am I able and willing to meet online at specific times?
- How quickly do I want to progress through my program?
- How much do I value personal contact with my professors?
- What kind of learning environment will make me most accountable?
Online social work degree programs – like their campus-based counterparts – generally offer students at least a few options for concentrations in the field. Some offer more options than others, however. If you have a particular concentration in mind, such as a clinical or medical social worker, you will want to ensure that it is possible to pursue that area of study at your chosen institution. Conversely, if you are uncertain of a concentration, you may want to select a program with a reasonable range of options.
Determining which program best suits your needs will require careful consideration of all of the factors mentioned above in addition to other personal requirements. The advantage of getting an msw online is that your options are no longer limited by location, or scheduling requirements and it is likely that you will be able to find a program that meets your personal and professional needs.