Are you considering earning an online degree in social work? Online degree programs in social work have become increasingly popular in recent times. They grant students a great opportunity to receive quality education and earn their degree in an exciting field from the comfort of their homes.
In this blog post, we will explore what you can expect from an online degree in social work, including what benefits such a degree can offer you and the outlook of a career in social work. We will cover who social worker is, their roles, what you can do with a degree in social work, and what makes social work a great career move.
The International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) defines social work as “a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people.”
The IFSW further highlights that “social justice, human rights, collective responsibility, and respect for diversities are central to social work.” Overall, social work is a profession that engages people and establishes structures to address challenges of life and enhance general well-being.
One of the core goals of social work is promoting equality and social justice. It also involves helping the community, individually or as a whole, to overcome challenges, deal with setbacks, and achieve its full potential.
A social worker practices social work aims to achieve the profession’s goals, and carries out their mandate per the above definition. Social workers do their best to promote social justice, equality, and diversity while addressing poverty, discrimination, corruption, and social inequality.
Social workers play a key role in addressing social issues in every area where they occur. However, there is no single approach to doing this, which explains why social workers do many different things in many fields. They often specialize in a particular practice area, such as family services, aging, mental health, or inter-country diplomacy. They often specialize in a specific practice area, such as family services, aging, mental health, or inter-country diplomacy. They often specialize in a particular practice area, such as family services, aging, mental health, or inter-country diplomacy. They often specialize in a specific practice area, such as family services, aging, mental health, or inter-country diplomacy.
Some of the places a social worker can work in, but not all, include:
- Schools of all kinds at all levels
- Hospitals and other medical settings
- Mental health clinics
- Disability centers
- Prisons and juvenile delinquency homes
- Community and non-profit organizations
- Government offices and public agencies
- Human services agencies such as refugee camps, homeless shelters, and child welfare agencies
- International organizations such as the United Nations and UNICEF
- Private practice
Social workers are dedicated to helping others, driving change, and generally positively impacting their environment and the world at large. The roles of social workers are very versatile and diversified. However, in their various fields, social workers can be found doing some or all of the following:
Evaluating individual, family, and community needs
Social workers typically need to assess the people they work with to determine their specific needs and the right approach to intervention. These needs could be physical, social, emotional, medical, financial, or economic. While social workers may be unable to provide for all of these needs, they can identify them, begin primary intervention, and offer referrals when the situation demands them.
Providing counseling and therapy
Some social workers specialize in and have been trained to offer counseling and therapy services to those would need them. Counseling and therapy can be provided at the individual, family, and community levels. Social workers may also develop treatment plans for the people they are working with. Treatment does not always have to be through prescription medicines — a social worker may recommend their client for alternative therapy or other effective treatment options.
Advocating for clients
Social workers are often at the forefront of advocating for the rights and needs of their clients. They may directly speak out on their behalf using the media and peaceful protests or work with other professionals who can provide such help to their clients.
Providing emotional support
Social workers provide the emotional support clients need by being available, reassuring, offering counseling, and connecting them with the resources and support they need. Social workers provide clients with emotional support by being open comforting, offering counsel, and clicking them with the help and support they need. Social workers provide the emotional support clients need by being available, reassuring, offering counseling, and connecting them with the resources and support they need. Social workers provide clients with emotional support by being open and comforting, offering to counsel, and clicking them with the help and support they need. Social workers are most needed during challenging times. In moments like these, it is normal for clients’ emotional state to be low as they go through feelings of helplessness, betrayal, anger, or loss.
For example, a social worker may refer a child who has been a domestic abuse victim to the right social service agency, such as a childcare facility that can see to the child’s physical needs. The child may also be referred for therapy if necessary.
Collaborating with other professionals
Social workers cannot do all the work by themselves. Therefore, they work with other professionals to provide the best services and coordinate interventions for the people they serve. Examples of other professionals social workers can work with include doctors, therapists, educators, lawyers, policymakers, and researchers.
Social workers are in a good position to conduct research that will provide a better understanding of social issues, offer insight into what interventions are most effective, and help develop and implement such interventions. Social workers are in a good position to conduct research that will provide a better understanding of social issues, offer insight into what interventions are most effective, and help develop and implement such interventions. Social workers are in a good position to conduct research that will provide a better understanding of social issues, offer insight into what interventions are most effective, and help develop and implement such interventions. Social workers are in a good position to conduct research that will provide a better understanding of social issues, offer insight into what interventions are most effective, and help develop and implement such interventions. Social workers can conduct research that will provide key insight or open up discoveries in relevant subjects. They might do this independently or while working with other professionals in clinical care, global and public health, international studies, psychology, etc.
Developing and implementing policies and interventions
Top-level social workers, including those who work with the government or have been elected to political positions, may be involved in developing interventions and governmental policies at the local, state, or national levels. These policies and interventions are designed to address social issues of concern with which social workers are typically involved.
Community organizing and activism
Social workers can actively assist in building solid communities that stand for a just cause or aim to provide a robust solution. Their wealth of experience can be instrumental in guiding such organizations and opening them up to opportunities. Social workers can also get involved in activism to address social issues, promote social justice, or take a stand against inequities and inappropriate government regulations.
Social workers play an essential role in addressing many of the social issues of our time, including the very pressing ones, such as juvenile delinquency, addiction, war, and domestic violence. This explains why social workers can fit into several roles, from working with individuals and families to working for hospitals, educational centers, non-governmental organizations, and the government.
A degree in social work can prepare you for a wide range of careers in any of these fields. Here are a couple of roles you can perform with a degree in social work:
As a medical social worker, you would work in hospitals and other structured healthcare settings to support patients and their families. This support could be helping patients, and their families access financial assistance or providing emotional support in the event of the loss of a loved one or a failed treatment.
Clinical social workers have a slightly different role than medical ones. A clinical social worker typically works in organizations like mental health clinics, rehabilitation centers, hospitals, and private practice. As a clinical social worker, you may be trained to counsel individuals and groups or provide therapy on mental health, substance abuse, and relationship problems.
Child social workers work to address children’s social and emotional needs, such as domestic abuse, loss of parents, and juvenile delinquency. A child social worker can work in private practice or for organizations like schools, juvenile homes, orphanages, refugee camps, and other child welfare agencies.
As a family social worker, you will support families and help them address issues of concern in marital relationships, parent-to-child relationships, and other problems such as domestic violence, extortion, and financial matters. Family social workers can organize counseling sessions to assist families in mending their broken relationships, work with a lawyer to schedule a divorce where one party may be emotionally or physically unavailable, and also see the proper care of children by referring them to the appropriate child welfare agency.
A senior social worker focuses on supporting older adults and helping their families provide a quality life for them. An aged social worker may counsel families on how to address their seniors’ unique needs and assist them in finding quality care facilities if needed.
A school social worker’s primary job is to support students and help them cope with the emotional, intellectual, and financial demands of schooling. Such roles involve addressing social and behavioral issues of concern and working with teachers, other school staff, and the parents of students to respond to these concerns. As a school social worker, you can work in schools of different levels, including elementary-level schools and higher learning institutions.
Mental health social workers work to support individuals and families dealing with mental health issues. They may provide counseling and therapy, refer to mental health facilities, organize support groups, and help to develop interventions. You can work in clinical and medical settings or private practice as a mental health social worker.
Note that addiction and substance abuse as not the only triggers for mental health issues. This means that providing intervention for mental health conditions may not always require treatment for these.
More specialized social workers focus on providing support and interventions to addiction or substance abuse victims. This specialization would require you to understand the psychology of addiction and the factors that could trigger it. You could provide therapy to affected individuals and their families, organize support groups, and collaborate with other medical and social agencies that can offer rehabilitation.
Policy social work involves aiding the community to become a better place by designing and implementing social-friendly policies that attend to the needs of the people. Policy social workers can work in private advocacy centers, international bodies like UNICEF, and local, state, and national government agencies.
There are several reasons why you should consider becoming a social worker. A social work career is not only rewarding in terms of pay but makes a meaningful difference in the lives of individuals, families, and the wider community. Here are some of the reasons that make social work a great career move:
It is a fulfilling, meaningful, and purposeful career
Nothing matches the fulfillment that comes from helping others! While every other career aims to provide one solution or the other, social work offers even more direct and fulfilling opportunities to help. You would assist people in coming out of trying situations, facing their fears, dealing with conflict, and becoming empowered to be better versions of themselves.
It is a career in demand.
Not many saw the need for social workers until a few years ago. Today, however, the story is different. This does not necessarily mean there are more failings and social issues than before — many have always existed. However, more than ever before, society now realizes the need for specially-trained professionals to attend to these issues to achieve the best outcomes. In addition, the increase in demand for social workers and the recognition of their unique role in society makes it a highly-paid career.
It is diverse and flexible.
With opportunities for social workers in almost every sector, social work offers a diverse environment that allows social workers to explore many areas and be flexible in their roles. It also makes social work jobs less competitive and allows each person to thrive in the field. Further, the diversity and flexibility make it easy to shift to another aspect of social work should you feel the need for a change.
To practice social work, most states in the US (and in other parts of the world) require a degree in social work. This could be a bachelor’s degree in Social Work (BSW) or advanced degrees like a master’s degree (MSW) or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in social work. While a bachelor’s degree in Social Work is a great way to enter entry-level positions, a master’s degree offers you more options with higher salaries. Most schools do not require a BSW to enroll in their MSW programs.
If you love to make a difference, the accredited online MSW programs at Keuka College are for you. Keuka College’s Online Master of Social Work degree will equip you with the knowledge and skills you need for an exciting career in social work.
Find an area to specialize in
Social work is wide-ranging. Therefore, you must specialize in one field. Having an idea of what you’d like to specialize in can guide your choice of advanced degrees, licenses, and certifications and help you direct your job search in the right places. Plus, when you find a niche to specialize in and direct your energy toward it, you become an authority in that field. You will then be able to scale up quickly and pursue better-paying opportunities.
Obtain a license
It is important to understand what policies apply to the social work practice where you live. While this is not as compulsory as earning a degree in social work, many states require a license to practice social work. Be sure to undertake licensing with not only accredited but also widely recognized bodies should you need to change work locations.
Your specialization may also determine what licensing or certification you should obtain. For example, a medical social worker can be recognized as a Certified Medical Social Worker (CMSW) by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). On the other hand, a clinical social worker can obtain licensure as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) from the state in which they practice. These licenses and certifications may also require different academic exposure and professional experience.
Earning a degree in social work online can be a convenient way to enter the vast field. Online programs also offer flexibility, allowing you to learn quickly while still committing to other commitments like work and family. A degree in social work promises you a meaningful and fulfilling career in which you can advocate for positive change, practice diplomacy, and help others get better, all while earning very decent, even above average, pay.