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Best Online Associate's in Social Work Degree Programs

There are a few online associate's degree programs in social work that help prepare students for further education in the field. Find out what makes a few of these schools the best, as well as common courses and career information.

Best Online Associate's Degree Programs in Social Work

Some of the best online associate's degree programs in the field of social work provide students with flexible learning schedules, unique online services, and/or easy credit transfer opportunities. Compare and contrast some of the top associate's degree programs in social work below.

1. Copiah-Lincoln Community College

LocationTuition & Fees (in-state)% Receiving Financial Aid
Wesson, MS$3,18092%

Copiah-Lincoln Community College offers an associate's degree program in social work that can be completed fully online. The program requires a total of 63 credits and takes 2 years to complete. The freshmen and sophomore-level courses that are taught at the institution will easily transfer to other public higher education schools in the state per the Mississippi Articulation & Transfer Tool (MATT) agreement.

2. Western Wyoming Community College

LocationTuition & Fees (in-state)% Receiving Financial Aid
Rock Springs, WY$2,95392%

Western Wyoming Community College has a fully online Associate of Arts (AA) in Social Work degree program. The program totals 64 credits, can be completed in 2 years, and offers asynchronous coursework. Online students get a 24-hour help service for the online learning system. Western Wyoming is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges & Schools.

3. East Mississippi Community College

LocationTuition & Fees (in-state)% Receiving Financial Aid
Scooba, MS$3,44096%

East Mississippi Community College provides an AA in Social Work that requires 60 credits. The college offers more than 450 online courses to allow for flexibility when completing one's degree. The college is also a part of the online initiative of 15 state community colleges called the Mississippi Virtual Community College (MSVCC), which lets students connect with a large network of educational resources. Courses are not self-paced but are asynchronous for flexibility.

4. Holmes Community College

LocationTuition & Fees (in-state)% Receiving Financial Aid
Goodman, MS$3,11091%

Holmes Community College has an online AA in Social Work that requires 62 credits. Courses in the program are offered in 4-week and 8-week terms, are not self-paced and can be accessed anytime. This school is part of the Community College Network (CCN), a system that connects students with resources from 24 community colleges across the state of Mississippi.

5. Barton County Community College

LocationTuition & Fees (in-state)% Receiving Financial Aid
Great Bend, KS$3,58491%

Barton County Community College offers an online AA in Social Work that requires 60 credits. Students can complete the degree in 2 years and pay only $150 per credit. Online students may also access free, online tutoring through the school.

All statistics provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, tuition based on 2018-2019 school year

Learn.org's school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions.

Degree Overview for Online Associate's in Social Work

Online associate's degree programs in social work are typically designed to help students complete their general education requirements and/or some foundational coursework in social work before transferring to a 4-year program in social work. Most of these degree programs are available as AA degrees and require between 60 and 64 credits. Online associate's degree programs in social work can typically be completed fully online and usually offer asynchronous courses that may vary in length, depending on the institution. Find out more details about these online degree programs below.

Program Length

Typically, online associate's degree programs in social work can be completed in 2 years, or 4 semesters. Courses for these degree programs may vary from 4 weeks in length to the entire semester. Although it is not required, students wishing to become a social worker usually need a bachelor's degree and may transfer to a 4-year school to complete another 2 years of coursework specific to social work. If this is a student's plan, then the total time for a social work degree may be 4 years.

Common Courses

Students in online associate's degree programs usually take general education courses, some courses in the social work emphasis, and/or elective courses. Outside of general education courses, which usually include courses in English, science, math, and the humanities, students may take emphasis or elective courses for social work in areas like:

  • Sociology- Sociology courses are usually available at the introductory level and help introduce students to the study of human society. In these courses, students explore the social interactions of groups and individuals, as well as various social influences on these interactions, such as culture. Students may apply what they learn in these courses to current social issues.
  • Social Work- Introductory courses in social work help students become familiar with social services and the foundational practices of social work. Students may examine the history and philosophies of the field, as well as ethical considerations. These courses may discuss the role of social workers in various settings, such as counseling, corrections, faith-based, or child welfare. Students might learn about this 'helping' profession through experiences of real social workers.
  • Marriage and Family- Courses in marriage and family examine the development of these social institutions in society. Students may apply sociological research methods and study topics in issues facing families and marriages, gender theory, and/or the effects of social change.
  • Psychology- Introductory courses in general psychology provide students with a broad overview of the field. These courses may include lectures and readings to discuss topics in the theories and history of psychology, abnormal psychology, principles of learning, research methods, psychological mechanisms, development of behavior, and more.

Human Services vs. Social Work

At the associate's level, online degree programs in human services and social work are fairly similar. Both degree programs can usually be completed in 2 years, both help prepare students to transfer to a 4-year program or start an entry-level position, and both include similar coursework in areas like social work, psychology, and sociology.

One of the biggest differences between the fields of human services and social work is the type of career these programs prepare you for. Human services roles take on a broader approach that can be applied to additional areas of study. For example, students may go on to pursue a bachelor's degree in social work, theology, psychology, and more. Graduates of human services may work more administrative or managerial positions. On the other hand, programs in social work might generally prepare students for a bachelor's degree specifically in social work.

While graduates of either degree program do perform some administrative work and aim to help people, social workers tend to work directly with clients. Those in human services may work on a broader scale to help plan and implement social services.

How to Choose an Online Associate's Degree in Social Work

Once students are sure that they would like to earn their associate's degree in social work, they must then consider the differentiating features of programs. Students should first think about their career and/or future education plans. For instance, students who are fairly certain they would like to continue on to earn their bachelor's degree may look for an associate's program that meets the requirements for their target school's social work program. Students may also need to research transfer policies and find an associate's degree that has transfer agreements with desired schools.

Students may also want to look for schools that meet other personal preferences and/or needs as far as course formatting. Many of these degree programs are asynchronous for flexibility, and some students may desire additional resources, such as online tutoring. A couple of other important considerations for choosing an online associate's degree in social work are discussed below.

Accreditation

Students should make sure that the school that offers the online associate's degree program in social work is an accredited institution. Some 4-year programs may only accept transfer credit from accredited institutions, which typically indicates that the institution has met academic standards set forth by an accreditation body. These standards are put in place to help make sure that students are gaining a quality education. Community colleges with online associate's degree programs in social work are typically accredited regionally, so look for your program to be accredited by these organizations:

  • Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC)
  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACSCOC)

Cost of Program

Affordability is often the biggest factor in a student's school selection. Tuition rates vary greatly by institution, residency status, and other factors, but some online associate's degree programs in social work may cost between $150 to $300 per credit hour. Students may need to research additional costs, such as books or course materials, as well as any additional fees, like a fee for online courses.

Many schools with online associate's degree programs in social work accept different forms of financial aid to help students pay for tuition. Financial aid may come in the forms of grants, loans, or scholarships that may be offered by the school and/or outside organizations. Many forms of financial aid are based on financial need and/or academic merit.

Career Options in Social Work

While some graduates with an associate's degree in social work may go on to earn their bachelor's degree and pursue a career as a social worker, other graduates may take on entry-level positions in the broader field of human services. Students may work in a variety of locations and industries including:

  • Home health agencies
  • Mental health organizations
  • Corrections
  • Case management
  • Healthcare
  • Religious organizations

Social and Human Service Assistants

Social and human service assistants usually need to have at least a high school diploma and some on-the-job training, but a certificate or associate's degree in the field is becoming more popular. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that these assistants made a median annual salary of $35,060, as of 2018, and had a job outlook of 13% from 2018 to 2028, which is much faster than average.

Social and human service assistants may work in areas like social work, psychology, rehabilitation, and more assisting clients and connecting them with needed resources. These assistants generally work closely with social workers as they research and coordinate services for clients. Social and human service assistants may work with various populations of clients, such as the elderly, families, immigrants, veterans, the disabled, and more.

Home Health Aides and Personal Care Aides

Home health aides and personal care aides also typically need to have at least a high school diploma and some on-the-job training. As of 2018, the BLS reported that these aides made a median annual salary of $24,060 and had a job outlook of 36% from 2018 to 2028, which is much faster than the national average.

Home health aides and personal care aides provide direct assistance to disabled, elderly, or otherwise impaired clients performing daily activities. These aides may help clients get dressed, travel to appointments, schedule appointments, and get involved with the community. Home health aides may perform additional health-related services, such as checking vital signs, giving medication, and/or changing bandages.

Childcare Workers

Childcare workers are dedicated to caring for children of various ages while their parents or guardians are working. These workers may perform a wide range of duties, depending on children's ages, such as prepping meals, cleaning children, planning activities, and ensuring children's safety. Childcare workers may also be trained to watch for developmental issues in children and monitor a child's progress.

Depending on the location and employer, childcare workers may need to have a high school diploma and some on-the-job training. However, an associate's degree might increase job opportunities and command higher pay. According to the BLS, these workers made a median annual salary of $23,240, as of 2018, and had a job outlook of 2% from 2018 to 2028, which is slower than average.

Professional Licensure and Certification

While human and social service assistants do not usually need any professional licensure or certification, other possible career options may and typically these requirements vary by position and state. For instance, most home health aides and personal care aides are required to have CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) certification, but then additional certifications may vary by state as well as formal vs. on-the-job training.

Childcare workers in many states have to obtain a state license to care for children. Licensure may require CPR and first aid certification, a minimum training requirement, a background check, and/or immunizations. Depending on the state and employer, some of these workers may need to obtain the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential from the Council for Professional Recognition or another nationally recognized designation.

As mentioned, to become a social worker students usually need to earn at least a bachelor's degree and have a state license or certification. State licensure, a master's degree, and the completion of a supervised practicum or internship are usually required for a position as a clinical social worker. State requirements for clinical and nonclinical social workers vary by state.