dcsimg

Online Degrees in Social Work and Human Services


Article Sources
  • Accreditation, Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), https://www.cswe.org/Accreditation, accessed August 2018
  • BA in Human Services, Southern New Hampshire University, https://www.snhu.edu/online-degrees/bachelors/ba-in-human-services, accessed August 2018
  • Bachelor of Social Work Degree, Walden University, https://www.waldenu.edu/bachelors/bachelor-of-social-work/, accessed August 2018
  • Bachelor of Social Work, Wayne State University, https://socialwork.wayne.edu/bsw, accessed August 2018
  • BS in Human Services, Walden University, https://www.waldenu.edu/bachelors/bs-in-human-services, accessed August 2018
  • Careers in social work: Outlook, pay, and more, Career Outlook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018,https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2018/article/social-workers.htm
  • Certificate in Human Services, Indiana Wesleyan University,https://www.indwes.edu/adult-graduate/programs/certificate-human-services/,accessed August 2018
  • Child, Family, and School Social Workers, 21-1021.00, National Center for O*NET Development,https://www.onetonline.org/link/details/21-1021.00, accessed August 2018
  • Doctor of Social Work (DSW), Walden University, https://www.waldenu.edu/doctoral/doctor-of-social-work, accessed August 2018
  • Health Educators and Community Health Workers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/health-educators.htm
  • Human and Social Services Associate Degree, Bryant & Stratton College,https://www.bryantstratton.edu/degrees/associate-degrees/aas-human-and-social-services, accessed August 2018
  • Human Services Certificate in Child and Family Services, Purdue Global, https://www.purdueglobal.edu/degree-programs/social-behavioral-sciences/human-services-certificate-child-family/, accessed August 2018
  • Master of Arts in Human Services Degree, Bellevue University, http://www.bellevue.edu/degrees/master/human-services-ma/, accessed August 2018
  • Master of Social Work (MSW) Curriculum, USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work,https://msw.usc.edu/academic/, accessed August 2018
  • Master of Social Work (MSW), Walden University, https://www.waldenu.edu/masters/master-of-social-work, accessed August 2018
  • MS in Human and Social Services, Walden University, https://www.waldenu.edu/masters/ms-in-human-and-social-services, accessed August 2018
  • PhD in Human and Social Services, Walden University, https://www.waldenu.edu/doctoral/phd-in-human-and-social-services, accessed August 2018
  • PhD in Social Work, Walden University, https://www.waldenu.edu/doctoral/phd-in-social-work, accessed August 2018
  • Social and Community Service Managers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook,https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/social-and-community-service-managers.htm, accessed August 2018
  • Social and Human Service Assistants, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook,https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-and-human-service-assistants.htm, accessed August 2018
  • Social Work and Social Welfare Certificate, University of Massachusetts, Amherst,https://www.umass.edu/sociology/undergraduate/current/certificates/social-work-welfare, accessed August 2018
  • Social Work, Associate in Arts Degree, Eastern Iowa Community Colleges,https://www.eicc.edu/future-students/our-programs/aa-social-work.aspx, accessed August 2018
  • Social Work, Associate of Arts, South Texas College, https://www.southtexascollege.edu/online/programs/social-work.php, accessed August 2018
  • Social Workers, All Other, 21-1029.00, National Center for O*NET Development,https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/21-1029.00, accessed August 2018
  • Social Workers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm, accessed August 2018
  • The Difference between Human Services and Social Work, Capella University, 2018, https://www.capella.edu/blogs/cublog/difference-between-human-services-and-social-work/, accessed August 2018
  • Will I need a license or certification for my job?, Career Outlook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016, https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2016/article/will-i-need-a-license-or-certification.htm
  • Women in management, Career Outlook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017,https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2017/data-on-display/women-managers.htm
  • White Paper for Trauma Informed Care, University at Buffalo, School of Social Work,https://socialwork.buffalo.edu/content/dam/socialwork/social-research/ITTIC/TIC-whitepaper.pdf, accessed August 2018
X

Individuals working in the fields of social work and human services work toward improving people's lives by helping those in need. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were more than 680,000 social workers employed in the United States in 2016 with the highest number of people specializing in helping children and families or working in schools.

If you are drawn to show compassion and empathy for people in stressful situations and have the patience needed to see people through such times, a career in social work may be for you. Whether your desire is for entry-level or advanced positions in this field, you can earn a degree in social work and human services online. Online degree programs are particularly useful for those who are already employed or have family commitments enabling them to schedule their classes and study at a time that is convenient.

Human services vs. social work

Social work and human service graduates are typically responsible for the care and well-being of elderly citizens and children, providing support and assistance to both individuals and communities. They help people in need to cope with their issues though advocacy, crisis response or by connecting individuals to the resources they need.

For example, a human services worker running a homeless shelter may notice that an individual at the shelter is depressed and refer them to a counseling facility.

A social worker, on the other hand, works directly with individuals in need, assessing their situation and developing a plan for their recovery and implementing it.

The percentage of women in management positions in the field of social work is high. In 2016, 70.5 % of social and community service managers were women

Social workers and human service professionals can work in a wide variety of settings from correctional facilities, hospitals, hospice care, counseling facilities and shelters to schools and nonprofit organizations. The duties they carry out can vary greatly depending on the kind of work they do and their job roles.

The typical duties of a human service professional may include:

  • Working with community members and other stakeholders to identify necessary programs and services
  • Developing and managing outreach activities to raise awareness of the different programs available to the community
  • Directing and carrying out fundraising activities
  • Overseeing or carrying out administrative tasks for different programs

Depending on their job role and the organization they work for, social workers may be engaged in:

  • Identifying and assessing people and communities in need of help
  • Helping clients deal with challenges they face by providing support through counseling or other resources like child care, food stamps or other program referrals
  • Responding to crisis situations like child or domestic abuse
  • Maintaining records and case files and following up with clients to ensure their well being

Social and human service assistants aid social workers and human service professionals in carrying out their duties. Typically they may be involved in:

  • Researching services like Medicaid or food stamps to help their clients
  • Determining the type of aid their clients require and referring their cases to the appropriate case workers or programs
  • Helping clients with their paperwork to apply for benefits and services
  • Working with their superiors, other professionals and clients to develop appropriate treatment plans

The BLS does not collect employment and wage data specifically on human service workers, but it does provide data for several occupations within the social services field. The table below lists the occupations related to this field along with job openings, average salary, total employment and job outlook for 2016 to 2026, using data from the BLS.

Career
Employment
(2017)
Average Salary
(2017)
Projected Job Growth
(2016 - 26)
Healthcare Social Workers168,190$58,47018.5%
Community Health Workers56,130$43,48018.1%
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers116,750$49,63017.9%
Social and Human Service Assistants392,300$35,83016.4%
Social and Community Service Managers149,870$71,67015.7%
Child, Family, and School Social Workers320,170$49,76013.3%
Source: 2017 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2016-26 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; 2016-26 State Occupational Projections, Projections Central, projectionscentral.com

Choose a degree that can help you meet your career goals

The continuing growth of healthcare spending and treatment increases the opportunities for clinical social workers

Entry-level positions in the social work and human services field can be obtained with a high school diploma. However, many employers prefer to hire candidates with some college experience. According to the BLS, a certificate or an associate degree in human services is becoming a more common entry-level requirement. A bachelor's in social work (BSW) is the minimum requirement for entry-level administrative positions.

Below you'll find the degree levels associated with online programs in social work and human services, along with their typical duration, prerequisites, and the coursework you may find.

What can I expect to learn in an online certificate program?

Certificate programs are designed to give you basic skills to work in the social services field, along with an overview of topics like sociology and psychology.

Typical duration: Up to one year of part-time study

General prerequisites: High school diploma or GED

Typical coursework: At the certificate level, students may learn how to deal with various social problems like substance abuse or domestic violence. They can also expect to gain an understanding of the various social and community service programs available to those in need. Other topics may include:

  • Case management in human services
  • Theories of personality
  • Prevention and crisis intervention
  • Interpersonal communications and helping relationships
  • Applied skills for human services

You may also be required to complete a social-work-based internship or practicum to complete your program.

Possible electives: Social class and inequality; sociology of mental health; domestic violence; asylums, and mental illness

What can I do after earning a certificate?

A certificate in social work and human services can qualify you for entry-level roles in the social services industry. Some examples of job titles are:

  • Family support worker
  • Home-based assistant
  • Human services program specialist
  • Social work associate

What can I expect to learn in an online associate degree program?

At the associate level, students may learn the fundamental skills necessary to provide basic services that help to improve the overall quality of life of individuals in need. Schools may offer the degree as an associate in human services management, where instruction can focus on the roles and logistics of human services organizations and workers.

Typical duration: Up to two years of full-time study

General prerequisites: High school diploma or GED

Typical coursework: A standard curriculum emphasizes essential support concepts like psychology and counseling practices, including how to best utilize community resources. Some courses may touch upon global agendas, providing students a wider view of social circumstances that may impact their clients. Common coursework can include:

  • Introduction to health and human services organizations
  • Introduction to counseling and case management strategies
  • General psychology
  • Introduction to social work
  • Social issues in diversity

Possible electives: Marriage and the family; social problems

What can I do after earning an associate degree?

After earning an associate degree, you may find a job as an assistant working with support providers. Occupations you may be able to apply for include:

  • Case worker
  • Community coordinator
  • Social services assistant
  • Human service worker
  • Community and social services specialist
An increase in the number of older adults is expected to result in growing demand for social services such as delivery of meals and adult daycare

What can I expect to learn in an online bachelor's degree program?

Typically, an online social work program teaches students skills in relationship building, advocacy, and group interactions. Students also learn how to guide clients in battling mental, physical and emotional ailments. Human services programs focus more on helping run organizations and community programs.

Typical duration: Up to four years of full-time study

General prerequisites: High school diploma or GED

Typical coursework: Typical coursework is designed to help students to carefully listen and respond to various client needs and formulate effective life plans to battle their mental, physical, and emotional distress. Coursework immerses students in the techniques needed to devise and administer solutions to a multitude of problems faced by clients. Curricula may include:

  • Human behavior and the social environment
  • Research methods
  • Social work practice
  • Social welfare policy and services
  • Law and ethics in human services
  • Case management
  • Social welfare in the United States: current programs

You may also have to complete an internship as a part of your degree requirements.

What can I do after earning a bachelor's degree?

A bachelor's degree in social work (BSW) prepares students for entry-level administrative roles in the social services system and can prepare them to hold direct service positions. Potential occupations are:

  • Adult day care worker
  • Child, family, and school social worker
  • Mental health assistant
  • Program coordinator
  • Workshop director
  • Juvenile court liaison

What can I expect to learn in an online master's degree program?

Individuals interested in earning a master's degree can choose from two main tracks:

  • Master of Social Work (MSW)
  • Master's degree in human services which can be:
    • Master of Arts in Human Services
    • Master of Science in Human Services

Coursework in MSW programs helps prepare students for careers in clinics or private practices, while the human services degree programs equip students for careers based on community service and broad social issues.

Typical duration: Two to four years of study depending on the program and your previous education

General prerequisites: Bachelor's degree in any field, although traditional MSW programs require students to hold a BSW

Typical coursework: Students learn to carry out evidence-based assessments and make informed, decisions. It also includes topics that can help you develop the leadership and management skills you need for higher-level job roles in social services industry. Courses may include:

  • Sustainable funding
  • Human services administration
  • Community engagement
  • Interviewing and case management in human and social services
  • Social policy, welfare, and change
  • Psychopathology and diagnosis for social work practice

You may also have to complete a certain number of field work hours, an internship or a master's thesis.

Possible electives: Crisis, trauma, and disaster response; psychopharmacology and biopsychosocial considerations; human sexuality; criminal behavior

What can I do after earning a master's degree?

A master's degree in human services or a master's in social work (MSW) can qualify individuals to run and coordinate care facilities and social service agencies or to counsel individuals, groups and families in direct clinical work.

A master's degree is the minimum requirement to work as a clinical social worker. Social work graduates may qualify for positions in schools and healthcare facilities. Graduates of a master's degree in human services may qualify for positions in the criminal justice system and correctional treatment facilities. Potential occupations are:

  • Mental health social worker
  • Clinical social worker
  • Child or family social worker
  • Policy analyst
  • Human services administrator (coordinator, director, program lead)
  • Foster care counselor
  • Medical and health services manager
  • Emergency management manager

What can I expect to learn in an online doctoral degree program?

At the doctoral level, students can pursue either:

  • Doctor of Social Work (DSW) — the coursework focuses on training students for roles in clinical settings, leading facilities or organizations that specialize in social work
  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Human Services — typically prepares graduates for careers in research or public policy creation

Both degrees culminate in a dissertation, a paper based on original research, study and analysis of a problem in social services.

Typical duration: Four to seven years of study depending on the program and individual abilities

General prerequisites: Master's degree; some DSW or PhD programs may require you to have an MSW

Typical coursework: Students may learn about the history and development of clinical practice and its possible implications for future social policies. Subjects may include methodologies of proper research and data analysis, using information systems and technologies to better study, understand, and improve social care in communities. Curricula may include courses like:

  • Advanced social work theory and practice
  • Contemporary issues, social change, and social policy
  • Management and leadership development in human and social services
  • Grant writing
  • Advanced program evaluation

You may be able to choose from a variety of specializations.

Doctoral candidates, along with their department chair, choose a panel of faculty members who review the information and conclusions formed through the research. The student must successfully defend the dissertation to the panel as well.

Depending on the school, online students may be required to complete clinical hours or community-based research at a local facility. Some schools allow students to use their current place of employment to fulfill this requirement. There may also be residency requirements for online programs. Some of these are in-person; others may be completed online.

What can I do after earning a doctoral degree?

Graduates may be qualified to help design services and programs, or manage individuals in settings such as nonprofit organizations, government agencies and senior centers. By applying the theoretical concepts of human services as well as the research and analytical skills learned through their doctoral program, graduates can implement change in the lives of individuals, and the system of human services as a whole, streamlining organizations and services to make them more effective. Potential occupations are:

  • Policy analyst
  • Educator/professor/faculty member
  • Supervisor in the social work field
  • Program director
  • Researcher

Specializations at bachelor's and graduate levels

You can choose specializations for your bachelor's or master's degree which may include:

  • Advanced clinical practice
  • Mental health and wellness
  • Disaster and crisis intervention
  • Addictions
  • Gerontology
  • Child and family services

Accreditation

Accreditation is an important criterion when it comes to choosing a school or a program. Schools undergo this voluntary process to demonstrate that the education they impart meets the high standards of quality that employers seek. Attending an accredited school or program is often a prerequisite for obtaining financial aid, student loans or even professional licenses. Educational authorities use accreditation as a tool to combat degree mills in order to ensure you get a high-quality education.

The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) is the sole accrediting body for social work education. As of June 2018, there were 521 bachelor's degree programs and 261 master's degree programs in social work holding CSWE accreditation.

Licenses and professional certifications in social work and human services serve to demonstrate a professional commitment to social work along with in-depth knowledge, proven work experience, leadership capacity and competence in the field. They need to be renewed periodically.

All states require clinical social workers to hold licenses, while most states require nonclinical social workers to either be licensed or hold certifications. The Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) develops and maintains four categories of social work licensure examinations:

  • Licensed Bachelor of Social Work
  • Licensed Master of Social Work
  • Licensed Bachelor of Social Work-Advanced Generalist
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Licensure requirements vary by state and you should check with your state boards to find out which examinations are appropriate for you.

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) offers the NASW Professional Social Work Credential and the NASW Advanced Practice Specialty Credential to qualified social workers. Other certifications may include:

Employment Statistics

Child, Family, and School Social Workers

Industries with the highest concentration of employment
  • Other Residential Care Facilities
  • Community Food and Housing, and Emergency and Other Relief Services
  • Individual and Family Services
  • State Government, excluding schools and hospitals
  • Social Advocacy Organizations
States with the highest level of employment
  • California
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas
  • Michigan
Top-paying metropolitan areas
  • Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT
  • St. George, UT
  • Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT
  • Waterbury, CT
  • Springfield, IL

Healthcare Social Workers

Industries with the highest concentration of employment
  • Home Health Care Services
  • Outpatient Care Centers
  • Individual and Family Services
  • Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Hospitals
  • Specialty (except Psychiatric and Substance Abuse) Hospitals
States with the highest level of employment
  • California
  • New York
  • Massachusetts
  • Texas
  • Ohio
Top-paying metropolitan areas
  • Nevada
  • California
  • District of Columbia
  • Oregon
  • Connecticut

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers

Industries with the highest concentration of employment
  • Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Hospitals
  • Outpatient Care Centers
  • Residential Intellectual and Developmental Disability, Mental Health, and Substance Abuse Facilities
  • Community Food and Housing, and Emergency and Other Relief Services
  • Other Residential Care Facilities
States with the highest level of employment
  • California
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • Massachusetts
  • Texas
Top-paying metropolitan areas
  • Trenton, NJ
  • San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, CA Metropolitan Division
  • Camden, NJ Metropolitan Division
  • Napa, CA
  • Longview, WA

Social Workers, All Others

Industries with the highest concentration of employment
  • Community Food and Housing, and Emergency and Other Relief Services
  • Federal Executive Branch
  • State Government, excluding schools and hospitals
  • Local Government, excluding schools and hospitals
  • Other Residential Care Facilities
States with the highest level of employment
  • California
  • New York
  • Illinois
  • Ohio
  • South Carolina
Top-paying metropolitan areas
  • San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, CA Metropolitan Division
  • Springfield, MA-CT
  • San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
  • Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX
  • Santa Rosa, CA

Source: 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Additional Resources

Article Sources
Related Resources & Tools
Online Language Degrees

Online language degree programs can open the door to exciting career opportunities in a wide range of industries. Learn more about earning a degree in a foreign language.

 

Online Degrees in Conflict Resolution and Mediation

Online Degrees in Conflict Resolution and Mediation

 
Watch This Success Story
Video_Image
Explore Degrees
X