Do you dream of making a positive impact on the world? Are you constantly trying to give advice to your friends and family? Do you want to change public policies and implement new programs?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then social work is the right career path for you. To work in the social work field, like any other field, you have to get a degree and most organizations require you to hold at least a master’s degree (MSW). Even if you’re already employed, an MSW degree can further you in your career. And if you’re just getting started in the job market, there are few degrees as versatile as social work; there are so many job possibilities available after you graduate. Substance Abuse Counselor, School Social Worker, Marriage Counselor, and Medical Social Worker – these are just a few of the mental health jobs that will be available to you. In addition to these mental health jobs, working in the business, human resources, education, and sales fields are also options with your MSW degree.
Perhaps the best part of having an MSW degree is that you can finally get the paychecks you’ve always dreamed of, while feeling good about helping others. Just by getting your MSW your salary goes from around $40,000 (for a Bachelors in Social Work) to $52,000 (for an MSW).
What’s more exciting is that you don’t have to sit in the classroom to earn your degree, you can now learn in the comfort of your own home.
Difference Between Psychology and Social Work
The first and most important thing to consider is if you’re interested in studying social work or psychology, as often times the two are referred to interchangeably. While both areas are part of the mental health field, that’s about the only thing they have in common. To break it down in the simplest terms, psychology is the study of the mind and behavior and social work looks at individuals, families, groups, and communities to lead to the well-being of society as a whole.
What Do You Need to Apply For These Programs?
In order to apply for MSW programs there are a number of prerequisites that you’ll have to meet and they differ based on each individual program, but in general they include having a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university, completion of 60 credits in the liberal arts field, a minimum of a 3.0 GPA on the bachelor’s degree, three recommendation letters, three references, and a personal essay.
If you’re interested in completing your MSW degree online, this is also a good option, especially if you’re currently employed. With online degrees, you can study when it’s convenient for you and at your own time. You’ll also experience all the benefits associated with distance learning like saving money and time, being able to learn at your own pace, and more class options.
If you’ve completed a degree in the classroom, you’re well aware of how frustrating signing up for classes is as they fill up so quickly. And when they fill up, there’s nothing you can do but wait for someone to drop the course of to take the course the next semester it’s offered. When the class is offered next is really up to the university and the professor. This issue doesn’t occur with online classes as there are so many course options available and you don’t have to worry about the times conflicting with the other classes you’re required to take.
Cost of Master’s Degree
Of course, you’ll want to know the cost of an MSW degree and how an online degree compares in price to one you get in the classroom. On average, according to the National Center For Education Services, public universities cost around $28,000 and private ones cost around $72,000 for the full degree. Online courses can cost as little as $13,000, but the average is around $44,000.
The curriculum doesn’t really change based on if you study in the classroom or online and as part of most programs students must select either a macro or clinical concentration. Macro social work is more centered towards social work practices, communities and organizations, political and social action, policies, and advocacy. Clinical social work focuses on the therapeutic services given to the clients and their families. After you choose a concentration you then select a specialization which varies based on your school but they usually include aging, behavioral health, community action and social policy, family and children, and health.
In addition to the coursework, fieldwork is also required because after you graduate the goal is for you to work with clients and you need real-world experience to provide these services. Again, the fieldwork requirements depend on the school, but in general, most programs require you to complete at least 1,000 hours of fieldwork. Usually, you’ll work at two different agencies, one for each year, during your studies.