Earn a Social Work Degree Online

Earning an online social work degree could help you address the social needs of a community. Curriculum is generally split into two parts. First, courses teach methods to analyze an individual’s current challenges and what their causes may be. Topics could include studying behavior psychology and sociology. Then, classes shift to teach about different systems, laws, and groups that may be able to help.

Subjects could include how to work alongside groups like government agencies or non-profit organizations. This dual coursework could be a great way to develop your knowledge about the cause and effect of social issues on a community.

Online Social Work Degree Curriculum & Core Material

Online social work degree courses teach methods to effectively help groups or individuals overcome social obstacles. This could include working with individuals in some of the following fields.

Class subjects could include ways to better assist these groups. Therefore, curriculum may encourage students to examine systematic policy, social structures, and psychological issues. This could allow students to not only understand the source of the obstacle, but also to know what options they can use to address it.

Specific Courses

As part of this holistic, social justice angle, students might take some of the following courses.

  • Social & Cultural Diversity
  • Human Behavior
  • Welfare Policy
  • Psychopathology
  • Child & Family Policy
  • Social Justice Issues

Core curriculum may vary by school. It’s important to note that while each degree type may cover similar material, the depth of study will vary by degree level.

For example, a human behavior class taught at the masters level will likely cover more advanced topics than those at the associates. For more class details, speak with schools directly about their online social work degree programs.

Did you know?

Social workers may be brought in during crisis situations. This could include natural disasters, instances of child abuse, or during mental health emergencies.


While core classes may focus on general social work methods, you could also have the opportunity to concentrate your online social work degree. This means you could take classes to study a specific group or societal system. For example, you might choose to pursue some of the following concentrations.

  • Adult & Aging Development
  • Infant & Childhood Development
  • Family Intervention
  • Drug & Alcohol Rehabilitation

Available concentrations may differ by school. Concentrations might be a great way to direct your studies if you’re passionate about working with a particular group after graduation.

Be aware that concentrations may be more available as part of graduate degree programs. Undergraduate curriculums may instead emphasize general practices. For more information, speak with potential schools.

Fast Fact

Social workers may also play support roles in the oncology, pain management, and hospice fields.

Internship or Fieldwork Component

While the majority of online social work degrees could be completed digitally, programs may require students to take part in an internship or field work experience. Students could have the opportunity to shadow current social workers in their preferred field to observe their daily routines. This illuminating experience could allow students to practically apply their social work skills and knowledge.

You may also have the chance to personally interact with patients as part of an internship. This might be a little different than reading case studies in your textbook!

Internship requirements and placements may differ by school. For more details, speak with your intended school.

Online Associates in Social Work

Studying online associates in social work courses may act as a foundation for future social work studies. Much of the associate’s class time may be devoted to fundamental social work techniques instead of extra electives. It’s important to remember that concentrations do not tend to be offered at this degree level.

Students could potentially earn an associates in social work in 2 years, since the program only focuses on the basics. Program length may differ by program.

Many students choose to earn an associates degree in social work and later transfer their credits to an online bachelors in social work. It’s important to note that many professional social work positions may require a bachelor’s degree or higher for entry-level positions.i

Online Bachelors in Social Work (BSW)

Classes in an online bachelors in social work help students to better understand, diagnose, and solve an individuals’ societal challenges. As opposed to the associates, these degrees usually look more deeply into the causes of social issues.

Additionally, earning a BSW may be a great chance to begin concentrating your studies. Elective courses might offer a first look into subjects such as family development and substance abuse.

Like the associates degree, the online bachelors in social work may not offer specific concentrations. Instead, bachelors programs focus more on general, overarching coursework to potentially prepare students for entry-level social work positions.i

Online Masters in Social Work

An online masters in social work could be a great choice for students who want to focus their studies on clinical counseling. Classes in these degrees teach methods that could help students interact one on one with individuals to assess and overcome their challenges. This could involve topics in mental evaluation, advanced behavioral studies, and/or sociology.

The online masters in social work is typically focused on your preferred concentration. Due to this, electives or basic courses may not be offered. Due to this, students could potentially earn an online masters in social work in 2 to 4 years depending on enrollment. Program length varies by school.   Additionally, some MSW programs don't require a GRE for admission. 

Did you know?

82% of students who earn a masters of social work pursue careers in health care settings.

Online Social Work Certificate

Online social work certificates are usually graduate-level certificates that are earned in conjunction with another graduate degree. These programs concentrate on a specific facet of social work. Specifically, they may address the needs of a particular community.

Depending on your interest, you could potentially earn a certificate in some of the following fields.

  • Trauma & Crisis Intervention
  • Addiction
  • Bilingual Assistance
  • Mental Health
  • Developmental Disabilities
  • Youth & Family
  • Gerontology
  • Global
  • Adoption

These programs are succinct because they focus solely on your intended concentration and not on general social work knowledge.

Students could potentially earn an online social work certificate in 1 semester to 1 year depending on enrollment. You should always consult with the school to understand their timeline.

Online Doctorate in Social Work

An online doctorate in social work teaches methods to change larger social structures and systems, as opposed to meeting one on one with individuals to assess their issues. Courses are designed help students conduct research and collect data about current social structures.

This could include studying counseling techniques, government policy, or non-profit support systems to name a few. Then, students could use that information to purpose new ways of handling issues in those fields.

It’s important to note that doctoral applications may require students to be a currently practicing social worker. In addition, you may be required to have already earned a masters in social work.

Careers for Students with Social Work Credits

Those who earn a bachelors degree may be qualified to work in the field of social work. Those with a masters degree may pursue a career as a clinical social worker. This job also requires 2 years of supervised service working in an approved clinical setting, as well as the appropriate state licensing.

Fun fact!

Social workers work in many different settings. They could practice in hospitals, mental health clinics, military facilities, and addictions centers.

Choosing an Online Social Work Degree

Hopefully this information helped you narrow down your decision for a perfect online social work degree!

To continue your search, browse the list of programs on this page. To refine this list to search for a particular degree, use the menus on this page. When you find a degree you’re interested in, click its link. This provides you with a brief description about the program. While there, you could also request for more information from the school itself. Then you can find out important details like admissions deadlines, course descriptions, and graduation requirements. Good luck!

[i] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm#tab-4 | 

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