Becoming a social worker is a demanding but rewarding role, and plenty of education, experience, and skills are required to get there. With the MSW course, you can take your education to the next level, gaining further skills and career opportunities, with the majority of your studying taking place online.
You may just be starting out on your journey towards becoming a social worker or already have some qualifications and are looking to progress your career to the next step. Whichever stage you are at, here are some reasons why an online master’s in social work the perfect choice for you could be.
What is it?
The online MSW programs are master’s in social work programs that help prepare graduates to undertake their licensing exams and begin working in their chosen social work area. It is a traditional program, which means you are not required to have a bachelor’s in social work to apply. The course is part-time and can be completed in around three years.
With a combination of online learning and in-person practice, it is a cost-effective and flexible way to learn. There are two social work field placements and two mandatory weekends spent on-campus learning valuable skills.
There is also the option to waive the GRE, and it is taught with a combination of online learning and practical placements. If you are looking to become a social worker, online MSW programs can help develop your existing skills and knowledge and provide you with the experiences and education necessary to become a great social worker.
What do social workers do?
A social worker’s job is an incredibly varied one, and you may find yourself working with many different people in different locations. In general, social workers are advocates for vulnerable or disadvantaged individuals and seek to make sure their rights are always being upheld and that their voices are being heard.
You may offer direct support to individuals, groups, or communities, you can choose to work with children, adults, with prisoners, parolees, people who personal, economic, mental, or behavioral conditions or issues, among many others. It is such a varied and rewarding role where no two days are the same.
Social workers are incredibly skilled and caring individuals who always have the client’s best interests or clients at heart. There are different levels of social work and different roles across these levels. The online MSW programs can help you decide which area of social work you would like to work in and prepare you to take your exam to gain your license and begin working.
What are the career outcomes?
Social work is a varied career that will involve interacting with many different people in many different situations. The online MSW programs can help make you a flexible individual who has the skills necessary to help many people and knows which skills to use in different situations. Within the social work profession, there are three levels of social work:
• Micro- this is one-to-one counseling, where the social worker offers support and advice to an individual. This can be seen in settings and jobs such as school counselors or family therapy. Micro-level social work jobs are considered clinical, and you will generally require higher levels of qualifications for these jobs that online MSW programs can help you with.
• Mezzo- this level of social work involves working with small groups or organizations to change the group as a whole rather than the individuals within. An examples of mezzo social work could be acting as a mediator to help resolve conflict in a workplace.
• Macro- macro social work involves working with whole communities. These can be defined by a number of factors, including location, politics, or religion. The aim is to work on behalf of the individuals to promote change, whether this is communal, societal, or cultural.
Different roles relate to the different levels, and you may find yourself working across the different levels and using a variety of techniques from each. A few options of social worker roles and settings include:
• Geriatric- a geriatric social worker helps individuals and families cope with the changes that come with aging. There is a growing demand for these kinds of social workers, as the population is aging rapidly.
You may perform many different takes, ranging from advocacy to clinical and service interventions, helping people access end-of-life care, or offering bereavement counseling. If you already have some qualifications or experience in geriatrics or gerontology, this could be a great career option for you.
• Health- social workers are vital in many areas of health, from mental to physical, and can assist in various ways. You may support individuals, communities, or families with problems including substance abuse or developmental disabilities.
There are different types of social workers within the health field, but they all have the same goals; working to provide access to important services, improving lives on a micro, mezzo, or macro scale.
• EAP- this stands for Employee Assistance Program, and at its most basic involves occupational social workers working with an organization in various ways. These include offering counseling and support to employees and helping re-structure to improve efficiency, productivity, and morale.
This type of social work is very varied, and the types of counseling you provide can cover a huge range of topics such as addiction, bereavement, and stress management.
• Lobbyist- this is a common macro-scale role and is the process of influencing public policies. In terms of social work, this would be done to increase the clients’ wellbeing and promote social justice. Lobbying and advocacy are important parts of social work, as you are always working to ensure your clients’ rights are protected.
These are just a couple of the different career outcomes that online MSW programs can help prepare you for, and you may often find yourself performing many different roles, such as counselor, advisor, caretaker, or clinician.
The combination of online learning and in-field placements will give you great opportunities to practice your skills in a workplace environment, network, make connections and develop as a practitioner and a person.
Is it right for you?
You do not already have to have a bachelor’s in social work to apply for the online MSW programs, but there are other criteria that you will have to hit. As well as having the academic ability to work as a social worker, many personal skills and traits will be a benefit when it comes to being a great social worker. These include:
• Communication- this is one of the most important skills for a social worker to have. Communicating and listening to many different people will help you reach them and work out the best solutions. You may also be working with people who are resistant to your intervention or have different levels of understanding of social work or psychology than you.
Therefore, it is important to know how to adapt your communication techniques to match different situations.
• Teamwork- social workers often work as part of a larger team, which can involve a diverse range of people such as teachers, medical professionals, and police officers. To advocate for the client and find the best solutions, you need to be able to work as part of a team.
• Empathy and compassion– empathy is the ability to put yourself in your clients’ place to understand their emotions. Due to the variety of people and situations you will be dealing with, and it is important to treat each case with compassion, objectivity, and a lack of judgment.
Clients may have experienced traumatic events or have criminal records; for example, you must balance empathy, compassion, and objectivity when dealing with cases and clients. It can be challenging to do this, but it is important not to let your personal feelings and opinions cloud your judgment. This could lead to them getting in the way of you following the ethical guidelines that you have to stick to as a social worker.
• Patience- as previously mentioned, you may work with some clients who do not want to work with you or receive your help or have different opinions and goals. It is incredibly important to remain patient in these situations. Furthermore, your work results may not be immediately visible, and it can take time for change to occur.
• Organization- social workers often have multiple cases, clients, and projects at any one time, so it is vital to have great organizational skills. You will need to remain organized, focused, and prepared to give each case the care and attention it needs. You will also need to manage your time and workload to help prevent yourself from becoming overwhelmed.
The online MSW programs can give you the chance to explore and develop these skills and more and understand the types of social work you may like to do. It is a varied profession and requires you to be adaptable and flexible to help people and work towards solutions.
What are the benefits of online study?
The online MSW programs can give you plenty of valuable technical skills to help you succeed at your job. It can also give you the chance to develop personal skills that will also make you more successful and effective as a social worker and employee in general.
Soft skills are non-technical, personal skills that are transferable and help you stand out in the workplace. They are beneficial for any job, but there are some that are particularly useful for social workers, such as communication, organization, teamwork, and problem solving.
Furthermore, you will have more control over your learning environment and schedule, making you a strong independent learner and helping to develop useful learning and revision skills that you can use again in the future. The ability to learn at your own pace is also beneficial, as it can allow you to take in information more efficiently, without feeling pressured or rushed.
Online courses can also help you save money on your education. The cost of being a student is one of the main reasons why people do not continue their education. Learning can be very expensive, from transport, rent, living costs, food, and learning materials; it may not be financially viable for many people.
However, online courses can help to reduce or even completely remove some of these costs. Many tuition fees for online courses are cheaper than their in-person counterparts, and you also do not have to travel and commute as much when the majority of your learning is done from home. This can make studying much more accessible to a larger range of people.
Location can be another barrier to seeking further education, as your local school, colleges or universities might not offer the courses and qualifications that you need. The online MSW programs are taught mostly online and are available in almost every state, which means you can learn no matter your location.
The online MSW programs are part-time and are perfect for those who have prior commitments, such as a job or a family. This study option means you can learn alongside the rest of your life, making it incredibly flexible. You can also continue to work and earn money alongside your studies, making it even more affordable.
Furthermore, this is a great example of how you can develop your time management and organizational skills in preparation for becoming a social worker. You will need to make sure your studies and other commitments are also completed to a high level, developing your multitasking and scheduling skills, and giving you a real-life example to provide to potential employers in an interview setting.
Becoming a social worker is a demanding job, but if you love helping people and supporting individuals, groups, and communities, it could be a perfect role for you, and the online MSW programs could help you achieve this. Social workers are incredibly knowledgeable and skilled individuals who use a combination of specialistic and personal skills to help as many people and communities as possible.