6 Questions to Ask About Online master’s in social work

Studying for an online master’s in social work can help move your career to the next level, develop your technical knowledge and learn more about yourself as a person. Some roles within the social work profession require you to have a master’s degree and licensing, so the online programs can help prepare you for this. You will gain valuable knowledge and skills to help you become a great social worker, as well as opportunities to put your new skills to the test in a workplace environment. If you are at the start of your social work career journey and have just completed your bachelors, and are thinking about the next step to take, or are considering becoming a social worker later in life and are planning everything ahead as much as possible, here are a couple of questions to ask about when it comes to studying for an online master’s in social work.

Who is it for?

These programs are for those who wish to develop their education in the field of social work, want to qualify for more clinical or higher-level positions, or wish to continue studying to pursue a DSW. Studying at master’s level has plenty of benefits. These include access to resources that you may not be able to get outside of an educational setting, higher level, and higher paid jobs, and a deeper look into the area you are studying. In particular, the online MSW programs are perfect for those who already have other life commitments that make full-time study difficult, such as a job or family. It offers a flexible, cost-effective study option that you can make work for you. Many roles within the social work profession require high levels of education and qualifications, so the online MSW programs are a great way to move forward in your academic life and career.

What is the course?

The online MSW programs are traditional masters programs that help prepare you to undertake your licensing exams and work as a social worker. You do not need to have a bachelor’s in social work to apply, and there is the option to waive the GRE. The course is taught through a combination of online learning and in-person practice, with two social work field placements and a mandatory two weekends on campus to learn valuable skills. It is part-time and can be completed in around 3 years, making it perfect for those with busy lives who cannot commit to full-time, in-person education. Self-paced learning is valuable, as it can allow students to become independent learners and develop positive learning and revising skills that they can use throughout their lives. When you study the online MSW programs, you will have a vast skill set of technical and personal skills that you have expanded and developed over the 3-year course.

What do social workers do?

Social workers have incredibly varied roles and tasks. Their work aims to act as an advocate for disadvantaged or vulnerable individuals, groups, or communities, making sure peoples’ rights are upheld and giving them access to valuable resources. As a social worker, you may find yourself working in different settings, such as clinics, hospitals, or nursing homes, performing a variety of tasks with different people. Some general tasks that you may do include teaching clients’ new skills, educating clients, referring them to essential resources, counseling clients, and looking for remedies to different social problems via research.

What does it take to become a social worker?

As well as the specialized knowledge and licensing you will need, some personal skills and traits help make a good social worker. You may already have many of these skills and just need instruction on how to use them in a social work setting. The online MSW programs can help you identify and understand these skills and utilize them effectively. Some examples of these characteristics include:

  • Communication- as a social worker, you will be interacting with a huge number of people, from different backgrounds and in different situations. Communication does not just mean talking; it also means listening and picking up non-verbal cues such as body language. You will need to know how to adapt your communication techniques to suit the person and situation you are in.
  • Patience- you will rarely see change happen overnight, so it is important to remain calm and patient with all your clients and projects. Furthermore, you may be dealing with individuals or groups who have different aims and goals, who do not want to receive your help, or who are uncooperative; therefore, it is important to remain calm and not get frustrated to reach the most appropriate solution.
  • Teamwork– social workers usually work as part of a larger team, including medical professionals, teaching, or probation officers. You must have good collaboration skills to advocate for your client and reach the best solutions.
  • Organization- you will normally have multiple clients and projects on the go simultaneously, so the ability to be organized and effectively manage your time is essential. You need to make sure you can treat each client and case with the same high level of expertise and professionalism and ensure you do not become overwhelmed.
  • Empathy – another incredibly important skill in social work, empathy is the ability to put yourself in your clients’ position to understand their situation and emotions. You will not have the first-hand experience of every situation that you are presented with, so empathy, along with compassion and objectivity, can help you connect with the client, reserve your own judgments, and perform your tasks effectively.

These are just a couple of the skills that the online MSW programs can help you develop and applying to social work roles and tasks. There are many more, and you will be able to explore and develop these through the combination of online study and practical fieldwork.

What are the career outcomes?

Social work is an incredibly varied career, and the online MSW programs can help you specialize in a certain area. There are also three different levels of social work and different jobs associated with them, and you can find yourself working across these levels, employing the correct techniques and methods for whatever situation or case you are working on. The three levels of social work are:

Micro- this is one-to-one social work and can be seen in settings and positions such as school counselors or family therapy. Social workers can assist clients with a huge range of issues, such as mental or behavioral conditions, substance abuse, or financial or personal problems. Examples of micro social work include helping someone access housing or helping young people within the foster care system.

Mezzo- mezzo social work involves working with small groups or organizations, such as group grief counseling or mediating a workplace conflict. The aim is to change the group rather than focus on the individuals within the group.

Macro- this involves working to create change in communities. Communities can be defined by a number of elements such as location, politics, or religion. You could be lobbying, making, or shaping policies, or training others to do the same. Macro-level social work careers can include politicians, attorneys, or professors.

There are many different roles and settings in which you could work as a social worker, such as nursing homes, hospitals, churches, clinics, or organizations, and companies. Common social worker jobs include:

  • EAP- this stands for Employee Assistance Program and involves occupational social workers working with companies and organizations. Tasks can include offering support and counseling to employees in a range of topics such as stress management or mental health and re-structuring to improve productivity and morale.
  • Geriatrics- if you have previous experience or qualifications in areas such as gerontology or geriatrics, this could be a great role for you. Geriatrics social workers help individuals and families with the changes that come with aging. This is a demanding yet rewarding role, and the job is very varied. You could provide bereavement counseling, help people access end-of-life care, and assist with transitioning from home to longer-term care.
  • Health- social workers, can help individuals or groups overcome and cope with many mental and physical health issues, including drug and substance abuse, mental health issues, and developmental disabilities. Social workers in the health fieldwork provide access to important resources and improve the lives of those they work with.

These are just a few of the potential careers that the online MSW programs can help prepare you to enter. Many of them require different qualifications and licensure levels, so it is important to bear this in mind when you are considering becoming a social worker. Planning your educational journey can help you understand the steps you need to take to reach your dream social work career goal, and if you are not sure, you can always have a look for intern opportunities and work placements throughout your studies to see what different areas are like.

What are the benefits of online learning?

Learning online is a great way to pursue further education and progress your career without sacrificing your current job or commitments. There are many reasons you may not commit to full-time study at an institution, and courses like the online MSW programs are a brilliant alternative that make education more accessible.

Costs

There are many costs involved in being a student, and this is one of the main aspects that put people off pursuing higher education. Living costs, accommodation, and travel are just a few of the financial elements that students have to deal with. Studying the online MSW programs can help to remove or decrease some of these costs, and the tuition fees for online courses are also often cheaper. Not only may there be financial support available for students but studying from home can reduce travel and accommodation costs, as you are working mostly from home and do not have to commute every day. Furthermore, the ability to work alongside your studies means that you continue to earn money while you complete the program.

Location

You may be limited to what your local educational institutions offer, and they may not be able to provide you with the courses or level of qualifications you need. This can result in you having to change your plans and study something different, or not study at all. The online MSW programs are available in almost every state, which means you are more likely to be able to access them wherever you are. Furthermore, working and learning from home gives you more control over your learning environment. You may find a classroom environment intimidating or overwhelming and, therefore, may not work well in that atmosphere. When learning from home, you can work at your own pace and make the course work around you. This can mean that you have time to go over sections that trouble you, ask questions, and make the most of the educational experience.

Skills

Studying online can provide you with the opportunity to develop your soft skills. These are a group of non-technical personal skills that employers look upon favorably, as they help you succeed in the workplace. They are transferable so that they can be applied to almost any workplace environment and situation. Some soft skills, such as communication, teamwork, problem-solving, and organization, are particularly useful for social workers. Completing the online MSW programs will allow you to develop these skills and provide practical examples of times when you have used them, which you can give to potential employers in an interview setting.

The online MSW programs can help you prepare to work in the social work profession, giving you the ability to develop both academically and personally to become a competent and caring social worker. If you are passionate about advocacy and helping others on an individual or group scale, becoming a social worker may be the perfect career option for you, and the online MSW programs can support you as you work towards this end goal.

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