Individuals hoping to pursue a career that allows them to make an impact in their community and in people’s lives without having to provide hands-on medical care should consider a degree in social work. Social workers work in a number of different areas, including schools, nursing homes, colleges and universities, substance abuse clinics, and military bases. Social work majors can even go as far as becoming a licensed clinical social worker. Licensed clinical social workers help diagnose and treat individuals with mental, behavioral, and emotional disorders. Most entry level-positions in the field require a bachelor’s degree, while more advanced positions, like a clinical social worker, require a master’s degree. A doctoral degree is usually only needed for an individual wanting to teach the subject at the post-secondary level.
The best online colleges in social work will prepare students to work with individuals, families, groups, organizations and communities. Students will take courses in psychology, sociology, human biology, as well as general courses in statistics, composition, communications, and English. The programs are designed to give students a sound understanding of human populations, human behavior, and the social welfare systems in place in the country. All programs require students to complete at least one work study or supervised internship before earning their degree. Master’s degree programs in social work will focus on the clinical side of social work, including techniques for working with families and small groups. By learning the fundamentals of clinical social work, students learn to think critically to diagnose mental illness, developmental disabilities, discrimination, and oppression, and to also implement the appropriate treatment plan.
Social work majors who enter the field after graduation should expect to split their time between office work, and by actually working with individuals with a specific problem. One major upside of pursuing a career in social work is the extensive amount of working opportunities, and environments to choose. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, social workers held more than 650,000 jobs in 2010. In addition, the BLS expects the field to grow by 25% through 2020, which is faster than average for all occupations. Most jobs for child and family social workers were in private practices or in state government offices. The two accounted for 42% of all jobs in the field. Local government and elementary and secondary schools also accounted for a significant number of jobs in the field, employing 31% of individuals in the field. Most clinical social workers worked in state, local, or private hospitals, while those working specifically in substance abuse rehabilitation were employed in outpatient mental health and substance abuse facilities.
To gain entry to the field, all social workers are required to possess some type of licensure or certification, however requirements will vary from state-to-state. Some states require exemptions for clinical social workers that work for government agencies. Almost all positions in a clinical, school, or post-secondary setting will require a master’s degree in social work. To earn a license, social works must possess a master’s degree in the field, and two years or 3,000 hours of supervised experience in a clinical setting after the student has graduated. Individuals must also pass an exam that is usually administered by the state. The best online colleges for social work can help you determine the necessary licensing requirements, or you can find the information through the Association of Social Work Boards’ website.
While earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree in social work can be one of the most direct routes to earning a career in the field, prospective students should ensure that the program they consider is accredited. In addition to being accredited, make sure that the accrediting organization is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. This ensures that the degree you earn meets an acceptable level of quality, and shows potential employers that you received a quality education in the field. In addition, earning possessing a properly accredited bachelor’s degree is an essential part of pursing a graduate degree, as it is required by almost all universities. The best online colleges for social work will also be accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. You can find a directory of schools that are accredited by the CSWE on their website.
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