Online Social Services Degree Programs
A social services degree could train you for a career as a social worker, postsecondary educator or researcher. Get information about degree options and commonly offered classes.
Can I Earn in a Degree in Social Services Online?
Degrees in social services exist, though you may need to choose a variation like social work for online options, which are available at every degree level.
Online associate's degrees in social work are usually designed to help you transfer into a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) program by providing the background you'll need to meet core requirements at the bachelor's level. The BSW program prepares you for general social work practice. You learn how to serve individuals and families, groups, organizations and communities. You may find the online BSW is primarily offered in hybrid or degree completion formats.
The Master of Social Work (MSW) is required for clinical work and for positions in school and healthcare settings. You can also earn a doctoral-level social work degree in one of two ways, either in a Doctor of Social Work (DSW) program or as a concentration within a Ph.D. program, such as a Ph.D. in Human Services. It's important to state that online doctoral social work programs are rare.
|Online Degrees||Associate's, bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees are all available online or partly online|
|Common Courses||Classes include human behavior, ethics and social research, social justice and psychological assessment|
|In-Person Training||Bachelor's and master's may incorporate hands-on training at community agencies|
|Residency Requirements||Degrees higher than associate's often require some on-campus visits or hands-on training and in-person research|
|Median Salary (2018)||$49,470* (for social workers)|
|Job Outlook (2016-26)||16% growth* (for all social workers)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
What Courses Will I Take?
Course topics at the bachelor's level might include social welfare policy, intervention methods, human behavior, ethics and social research. In a master's program, courses you might take include:
- social policy delivery
- community dynamics
- social justice
- research design
- psychological assessment.
Depending on the program, you can choose a track. Tracks might include clinical practice, policy-making, advocacy or administration.
Course topics for the DSW might include social work leadership, child counseling, social influences and higher education assessment. Courses for the Ph.D. in Human Services might include organizational management, human development theories, intervention techniques and social change. Both the DSW and the Ph.D. will require you to write a dissertation.
Will I Receive Hands-On Training?
Most hands-on training in the online program is typically found in the bachelor's and master's degree programs. The field practicum at the bachelor's level may focus on general social work practice at a community agency. Faculty and other social workers will likely supervise you, and more than one practicum might be required.
The field practicum for the MSW will focus on developing advanced skills for working with individuals, couples and families, groups, communities and organizations. A field practicum seminar may be included as well. The seminar might cover topics in social work values, ethics, agency demands and client relationships. Just like the BSW program, more than one practicum might be required in the MSW as well.
Are There Any Residency Requirements?
Residency requirements depend on the program. The associate's degree in social work typically can be completed entirely online. The BSW features both hybrid programs and hybrid courses, so there will be some face-to-face meetings on campus.
The MSW may require you to visit the campus during your first year. Some MSW programs are also in hybrid format, so some of your courses in the program will be completed online while the rest will be completed in the classroom. The doctoral programs may require some face-to-face learning and in-person appearances for participation in research.