Social work students who planned to pursue graduate degrees were once forced to upend their lives by quitting their jobs and moving to new cities for higher education. Technology has made online education more accessible than ever, driving what was once strictly classroom work to personal computers and home offices. More than ever, students are pursuing online social work master’s degrees to begin a career in social work. In the Council on Social Work Education’s (CSWEs) report, “2017 Annual Statistics on Social Work Education in the United States,” researchers said growth had been slow but steady in the number of graduate social work programs being offered online. In 2015, there were 41 online master’s in social work programs. In 2017, 44 online social work master’s degree programs were offered, including from Ohio University.
At the same time, the role of social workers in the United States is expected to expand. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the overall employment of social workers will grow by 16% from 2016 to 2026.
Benefits of Enrolling in an Online Masters in Social Work Program
Social workers strive to help clients obtain essential services and counseling for happy and healthy living. While working at an entry-level position is possible with a bachelor’s degree in social work, most social workers earn graduate degrees and licensure to make the biggest impact in the communities they serve. A Master of Social Work degree opens the door to a wide variety of social work positions.
In addition to the growing popularity of online degree programs, there are many other advantages to earning an online social work master’s degree, including:
- Flexibility: Gone are the days when all students are expected to be in a classroom at a specific time for 60 to 90 minutes. Online education changed the notion of fixed scheduling to instead promote fully accessible learning that can be completed from any internet-connected device at any time. Students who participate in online education can fit their coursework in their schedules instead of building their lives around it. Students also have multiple ways to access content, including online slideshows with voiceovers, videos, and screencasts.
- Convenience: Online students don’t have to battle traffic or prowl for a spot in a crowded parking lot. They also don’t have to rearrange work schedules or childcare. The flexible scheduling of online coursework makes things that were once problematic for college students much easier.
- Networking opportunities: Video conferencing, teleconferencing, and other collaboration tools provide real-time interactions that allow students and instructors to build relationships and discover connection points. Even with asynchronous coursework, student interactions through online discussion groups and message boards provide opportunities for networking and professional connections.
- Diversity: Online classrooms bring together students with differing points of view and experiences. “Online education provides students with the opportunity to interact with students from many different places, cultures, and walks of life, and this enriches education with cultural information and knowledge,” U.S. News & World Report said in “3 Ways Your Online Classmates Might Surprise You.”
- Improved technical skills: Students enrolled in coursework online learn how to share documents, incorporate videos and audio into documents, and participate in online video chats. Improved technical skills from coursework translate into essential on-the-job skills.
- Professional growth: Students who earn an online master’s in social work expand their career options and earning potential. A master’s degree in social work prepares graduates for clinical work and the social work licensure test. After they pass the licensure test, graduates have access to a wide range of career options in public policy, behavioral health, social services, and labor relations, among other fields.
Tips for Online Class Success
While online classes are more convenient and flexible than on-campus classes, they are not easier. Professors don’t simplify the coursework or go easy on the grading, particularly for master’s in social work students. The leading online masters of social work programs want their students to pass the social work licensure test to begin successful careers. Here are some tips for success in online coursework:
- Determine the best time to study: Some people are busy in the morning; others are busy at night. Set aside time each day to study and complete coursework. Find a quiet place to complete the work.
- Actively participate: Take part in online discussions, ask questions, and respond to classmates. Many professors like to see students who are engaged in the coursework. Some professors grade participation.
- Save coursework: Students should have backups of all their work, from research papers to online discussion comments, in case of computer malfunctions.
- Have up-to-date technology: Because the coursework is dependent on technology, a stable internet connection and dependable hardware are essential.
- Only trust accredited programs: Accreditation is a sign that a college or university upholds the strictest educational standards and provides a quality academic experience. Ohio University’s online Master of Social Work program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), the only accrediting agency for social work education in the United States.
Students who participate in Ohio University’s Online Master of Social Work degree program can take advantage of three start dates per year and the chance to complete the degree program in as few as 24 months.
About Ohio University’s Online Master of Social Work (MSW) Program
Ohio University’s online Master of Social Work program focuses on ethical and professional practice in rural environments and across multiple contexts and communities. Through the thought-provoking coursework, students engage with underserved clients and communities and learn essential skills for the profession.
In addition to the prestigious CSWE accreditation, Ohio University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, one of the leading accreditation agencies in the United States.
CSWE, 2017 Statistics on Social Work Education in the United States
U.S. News & World Report, 3 Ways Your Online Classmates Might Surprise You
Petersons, Want to Succeed in an Online Class? Consider These 7 Tips