If you answered yes to any of these questions, social work is the right career path for you. To work in the social work field, like any other field, you have to get a degree. Most organizations require you to hold at least a master’s degree (MSW). Even if you’re already employed, an MSW degree can further you in your career. And, if you’re just getting started in the job market, there are few degrees as versatile as social work – there are so many job possibilities available after you graduate: Substance Abuse Counselor, School Social Worker, Marriage Counselor, and Medical Social Worker. These are just a few of the mental health jobs available to you. In addition, working in the business, human resources, education, and sales fields are also options with your MSW degree.
Perhaps the best part of having an MSW degree is that you can finally get paychecks you’ve always dreamed of while feeling good about helping others. Just by getting your MSW your salary goes from around $40,000 (for a Bachelors in Social Work) to $52,000 (for an MSW).
What’s more exciting is that you don’t have to sit in the classroom to earn your degree; you can now learn in the comfort of your own home.
The first and most important thing to consider is whether you’re interested in studying social work or psychology. Often, the two are referred to interchangeably. While both are part of the mental health field, that’s about the only thing they have in common. To break it down, psychology is the study of the mind and behavior, while social work looks at individuals, families, groups, communities ,and the well-being of society as a whole.
There are a number of prerequisites, and they differ for each individual program. However, in general, they include having a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university, completion of 60 credits in the liberal arts field, a minimum of a 3.0 GPA on the bachelor’s degree, three recommendation letters, three references, and a personal essay.
Completing your MSW degree online is also a good option, especially if you’re currently employed. With online degrees, you can study where and when it’s convenient for you. You’ll also experience all the benefits associated with distance learning: saving money and time, being able to learn at your own pace, and greater class options.
If you’ve completed a degree in the classroom, you’re well aware of how frustrating signing up for classes can be, as they fill up so quickly. When they do fill up, there’s nothing you can do but wait for someone to drop the course or take the course the next time it’s offered (which is totally up to the university and the professor). This issue doesn’t occur with online classes as there are so many course options available. You also don’t have to worry about conflicting timetables.
Of course, you’ll want to know the cost of an MSW degree and how an online degree compares to the classroom. On average, according to the National Center For Education Services, public universities cost around $28,000 and private ones cost around $72,000 (for the full degree). Online courses can cost as little as $13,000, but the average is around $44,000.
The curriculum often is not affected by whether the course is in the classroom or online. In most programs, students must select either a macro or clinical concentration. Macro social work is centered towards social work practices, communities and organizations, political and social action, policies, and advocacy. Clinical social work focuses on the therapeutic services given to clients and their families. After you choose a concentration you then select a specialization, which varies based on your school. However, they usually include aging, behavioral health, community action and social policy, family and children, and health.
In addition to coursework, fieldwork is also required because after you graduate the goal is for you to work with clients and you need real-world experience to provide these services. Fieldwork requirements depend on the school, but in general, most programs require you to complete at least 1,000 hours of field work. Usually, you’ll work at two different agencies during your studies.