Earn an Associate's Degree in Social Work | All Psychology Schools (2022)

Earn an Associate's Degree in Social Work | All Psychology Schools (1)
Earn an Associate's Degree in Social Work | All Psychology Schools (2)

Social Work Associate’s Degree at a Glance

Degree Type:

Associate of Science, Associate of Arts

Duration:

2 to 3 years

Total Credits:

Around 60–70

Tuition and Fees:

Average of $3,156 a year for public schools to $14,587 for private institutions

Aid Eligible:

Yes, for accredited programs

Many people may primarily think of social workers as providing services to families in need or working with seniors—after all, it’s a field where soft skills such as empathy, listening, interpersonal communication, and problem-solving make a difference.

But according to the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), the reality is that social workers are the largest providers of mental health and substance abuse counseling in the country.

As the critical need for these services continues to grow, especially for veterans and first-time drug offenders, so will the need for social workers. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that the employment of social workers providing this type of care will grow by 12% through 2030, with an estimated 90,000 new jobs.

The reality is that social workers are the largest providers of mental health and substance abuse counseling in the country.

For students who want to work as a socialworker but aren’t ready to commit to a bachelor’s degree, earning anassociate’s degree is a relatively quick and inexpensive way to get started inthis fast-growing field. With just a couple of years of education, you can holda variety of assistant-level jobs in social and human services.

Getting started can sometimes be the hardestpart, but armed with our guide to earning an associate’s degree in social workand where it can take you, you’ll go from registration to job search with ease.

AA vs. AS in social work

Some of the biggest factors people consider when pursuing an education are how much time will it take and how much money it will cost. In addition to considering these factors, you’ll need to choose which type of associate’s degree you want to pursue and get a good understanding of what’s expected.

When researching associate’s degrees in social work, the most common option you’ll see is the Associate of Arts (AA); Associate of Science (AS) degrees are also available, but rare. Both of these options are designed with coursework comparable to the first two years of a bachelor’s education and are meant to be transferable to a four-year college.

The primary difference between these degrees is that an AA puts a greater emphasis on the humanities, while an AS has more requirements for science and math. Typically, the AA also tends to have more general education overall, making it more easily transferable to a bachelor’s program. All that said, you don’t need to worry too much about the title of your degree, as the majority of the coursework will generally be the same and prepare you for further education or entry-level assistant positions.

  • Curriculum
  • Coursework
  • Internships

To earn your associate’s degree, you’ll needto take general education classes in math, English, and history, as well as coursesspecific to social work and other electives in order to graduate. The exactclasses you’ll take will depend on your program, but you can expect to study:

  • Social work basics
  • Sociology
  • Psychology
  • Communication
  • Social work practice
  • Ethics
  • Social welfare
  • Human behavior
  • Statistics

Many programs also tailor their courseworkfurther, with classes that could help you advance your knowledge of a certain typeof social work. If you know you have a particular area of interest, you couldlook for programs that offer courses such as:

  • Case management
  • Chemical dependency
  • Child development and abuse
  • Criminal justice
  • Diversity
  • Family dynamics
  • Gender and sexual orientation
  • Group counseling
  • Stress management
(Video) Social Work - Associate Degree

Though not as common, some associate’s degree programs also require an internship or otherfieldwork on top of the classroom coursework. During these placements,you’ll work at a site under the direct supervision of a licensed professional,gain valuable on-the-job experience, and potentially make yourself morecompetitive when applying to four-year colleges or jobs. Ask the school’s programcoordinator if it’s offered or if they have other resources to help you find aninternship on your own.

Want more information on other types of associate’s degrees that could help you get your social service career off the ground? Check out our resources on associate’s degrees in human services or psychology.

What to Look for in a School

Accreditation

One of the most essential factors in selecting a school is to look for accreditation, which verifies that your school has met the national standards for quality education. By attending an accredited school, you may be eligible to receive federal financial aid and be more likely to transfer your credits should you choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree.

The easiest way to check accreditation is to search the database offered by either the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). The school you choose should be accredited by one of the following six regional commissions, both of which are recognized by the department and the CHEA:

Find Accredited Schools

Earn an Associate's Degree in Social Work | All Psychology Schools (3)

Ask important questions

  • Does the coursework cover any specialtyareas I’m interested in?
  • Will my associate’s creditstransfer to a bachelor’s degree?
  • What qualifications do the facultyhave?
  • Is an internship or fieldplacement required?
  • Are classes offered part time, inthe evenings, or on the weekends?
  • Does this program offer jobplacement assistance?
  • What kinds of jobs do graduates ofthis program find?
  • Is tuition assistance or financialaid available?

Choose a format: online or traditional classroom?

In addition to accreditation and resolvingother issues, you’ll also want to consider what educational format fits intoyour lifestyle and learning needs. Whether you want a more traditional experienceor you’re looking for online classes to take at your own pace, you’ll cover the same material regardlessof format.

  • Classroom: In a traditional classroom program,you’ll attend classes on campus at a set time. Some students find that thisformat helps them to stay on track and enjoy being able to interact in personwith their professors and other students.
  • Online: You’ll attend all your classes bysigning into a website with an online format. Often, online classes allow youto complete work and listen to lectures on a more flexible timetable, making ita great option for students who are working, have family obligations, or can’tget to campus. Keep in mind, however, that if your program has an internship orfieldwork requirement, you won’t be able to complete it online.
  • Hybrid: A hybrid program combines bothclassroom and online learning. In a social work program, this might take theform of students completing their general education courses online but comingto campus for classes in their major.

Admission Requirements and Prerequisites

The large majority of associate’s degree programs are what are known as open enrollment, meaning if you apply, you’ll be accepted, but you must have your high school diploma or GED. For that reason, most programs won’t require you to submit scores from the SAT or ACT. However, at most schools, incoming students take a placement test to assess their skills in English and math. This helps determine which level of classes you can take or if you need development courses to sharpen those skills. If you do have scores from the SAT or ACT, youmay be able to submit those in place of taking the test.

At some schools, programs such as social workmight have additional requirements such as a minimum GPA, essay, or letter ofrecommendation.

Financial Aid

As long as you attend an accredited school, you can be eligible to receive federal financial aid to help cover the cost of tuition. The first place to start is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which the government uses to determine what, if any, loans, grants, or work-study programs you qualify for. Your school and other organizations might also use the FAFSA as part of the application process for the many scholarships available specifically to social work students.

You might also be able to get tuition assistance from an employer, especially if you already work in healthcare, social services, or human services. Typically, you’ll need to work for an employer for a set period of time to take advantage of a benefit like this, and you may also need to get certain grades in your classes.

Schools sometimes allow you to pay your tuition using a payment plan. This allows you to split the cost of your tuition into several payments over the course of the year, rather than paying the entire amount at once.

Career Opportunities

With an associate’s degree in social work, you’ll be able to work in a variety of human services, social services, healthcare and even teaching jobs. Most of these jobs will be on the assistant or associate level and work under a supervisor and are an excellent way to gain experience. According to the 2021 statistics from the BLS, salaries for community and social service jobs range from $30,440 to $80,3200.

What you’ll do

Help develop treatment plans, research and recommend services, coordinate services with patients, complete paperwork for assistance programs

(Video) Can you Do Social Work With No Degree, Or Only An Associates Degree?

Who you’ll serve

Children and families, the elderly, veterans,people with disabilities, people with addiction or mental illness, immigrants,former inmates, or the homeless

Where you’ll work

Hospitals, nursing homes, community centers, government agencies

Who you’ll serve

People with mental illness and developmental disabilities

Where you’ll work

Psychiatric hospitals, mental health facilities

What you’ll do

Organize activities for individuals and groups for entertainment, socialization, or for rehabilitation following injury or disease

Who you’ll serve

A wide range of roles, from children’s camp counselor to leading strengthening exercises for the elderly

(Video) The difference between psychology and social work

Where you’ll work

Camps, after school programs, retirement homes

What you’ll do

Organize a client’s schedule, run errands, make sure clients are engaged in their community, and general companionship

Who you’ll serve

Typically will work with the elderly who need help with daily activities such as cooking, cleaning, and driving

Where you’ll work

Patient homes, retirement communities, assisted living

What you’ll do

Help give students additional attention andinstruction. Help take attendance and record grades, set up materials forclasswork, and supervise students between classes, at lunch, and during recess

Who you’ll serve

General education and special education students

Where you’ll work

Schools, one-on-one or in small groups to review lessons

(Video) Is A Social Work Degree Worth It?

Advancing Your Education and Career

If your associate’s degree makes you want to pursue further education and advance your career, the next step is to earn your Bachelor of Social Work (BSW). With this advanced degree, you’ll be able to take on direct-service positions such as a caseworker, substance abuse counselor, or human resources manager. Keep in mind, however, that if you want to work independently as a clinical social worker, you’ll need to earn a master’s degree.

Some community colleges have relationships with local universities that allow you to directly enter the third year of a BSW program if you have your associate’s degree.

If you’re interested in applying your credits toward a Bachelor of Social Work, you’ll need to make sure your credits will actually transfer. Talk to an advisor about your intended four-year school to make sure you’re taking the classes required for admission.

Licensing Requirements

Most states only grant social work licenses on the bachelor’s and master’s level, however Ohio, Massachusetts, Michigan, and South Dakota offer an associate’s level license. With an associate license, you won’t be allowed to provide direct social work services, but you can take on related responsibilities such as intake assessment and referral, case management and outreach, and education and advocacy. An associate license also isn’t enough to grant you permission to work in clinical settings and is typically designed to be a stepping stone to an advanced license.

If you do live in one of the states that offer an associate social work license, you can apply after graduation through the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB). You’ll need to pay a fee of $230 and take a multiple-choice licensing exam. The questions on the test vary, so scores are scaled based on the difficulty of the items on your version of the test. Depending on your jurisdiction, a passing score may be 70 or 75, but these equate to the same level of performance on the exam.

Social Work Licensing by State

Professional Resources, Blogs, and Organizations

Social work is a constantly evolving field, and staying on top of current trends is an important part of your professional development. Even as a student, you’ll give yourself a serious advantage by staying in the know. Check out some of the popular social work professional organizations, websites, social media pages, and podcasts.

Professional associations

The National Association of Social Workers: Job board, professional articles, conferences, and awards

The American Sociological Association: Member-only job board, conferences, and networking events

The Society for Social Work and Research: Networking opportunities, conferences, and job boards for both students and professionals

Social media feeds & podcasts

The National Association of Social Works Twitter feed: A great way to stay up to date on current social work trends and news

The Council on Social Work Education Twitter feed: Keep current on educational reform, student loan forgiveness, accreditation, and more

The Social Work Podcast: Social workers discuss a wide range of topics from self-care to best practices for case management

Blogs and newsfeeds

Social Worker Speak: Current events and issues from a social work perspective

Social Work Blog: The NASW’s take on current issues in social work policy, highlighting national concerns such as veteran affairs

Help Starts Here: Reports on addiction, depression, and long-term care management from the National Association of Social Workers (NASW)

(Video) Associate of Arts (Psychology) Degree | Alexander College

The New Social Workers: Quarterly information for social work students and those new to their careers

FAQs

Can I do social work with a psychology degree? ›

With a psychology degree, you're well placed to pursue careers in both arts and scientific fields, depending on your personal interests. There are many options within public and private healthcare, education, mental health support, social work, therapy and counseling.

Is the social work degree hard? ›

Social work is perhaps one of the easiest professions to do badly and one of the most difficult to do well.

What is better social worker or psychologist? ›

Social workers contribute to the human services field by providing holistic solutions to the social, behavioral, economic or health problems faced by their clients. Whereas, psychologists focus their efforts specifically on helping their patients address potentially damaging mental health issues.

Why do social workers study psychology? ›

The fields of social work and psychology attract professionals who are motivated by a desire to facilitate positive changes in people's lives. In practice, social workers and psychologists use their degrees—and the different skills and knowledge that come with each—to address and solve diverse problems.

Is being a social worker worth it? ›

Social workers are in high demand. The BLS projects that the job outlook for social workers will grow 13 percent between 2019 and 2029. That's much faster than average when compared to all positions.

What degree is best for a social worker? ›

To be a social worker, you need to hold a degree in social work from an accredited college or university program. The undergraduate degree is the bachelor of social work (BSW). Graduate degrees include the master of social work (MSW), and a doctorate (DSW) or PhD in Social Work.

How many years does it take to become a social worker? ›

take a postgraduate qualification (Diploma or Masters) in social work. Courses take two years full time or up to six years part time. train through Step up to Social Work which takes 14 months and combines work and study.

Can a social worker diagnose mental illness? ›

Clinical social workers must hold at least a master's degree in social work (MSW), and they have the authority to diagnose and treat clients with mental illnesses and substance abuse problems. Most states require clinical social workers to complete thousands of hours of supervised experience before obtaining licensure.

Is a LCSW better than a psychologist? ›

Clinical psychologists have a doctoral education that leads to a higher salary than what LCSWs make, while LCSWs have slightly better career prospects in terms of job growth and ease of entry into the occupation.

Is a social worker the same as a therapist? ›

Social workers focus on helping people deal with challenging situations while other therapists treat mental or physical disorders or diseases.

What is the relationship between social work and psychology? ›

Both social work and psychology are fields that equip others with the necessary tools to help themselves. Social work and psychology are oriented towards the same outcome: recognizing and treating mental illness, and empowering individuals to improve their own lives.

What knowledge in psychology is used in social work? ›

Psychology provides considerable help in the field of social work practice, like individual and family case work (for example, modification in individual's personality); diagnosing and treatment planning for problem of children related to schooling; individual's adjustment with primary and secondaiy groups, physical ...

What is the difference between a clinical psychologist and a clinical social worker? ›

On the clinical side, social workers can address the mental, behavioral or emotional health issues of clients. Psychologists, on the other hand, study human behavior and can diagnose and treat mental illness.

Why do social workers leave the profession? ›

Thus, the answer to the second research question was that social workers leave the profession for four reasons: due to caretaking responsibilities, because they were discontented with their social work education, because they were discontented with the effectiveness of the profession, and because they were discontented ...

How stressful is social work? ›

As per the statistics to determine the most stressful professional, human health and social work activities rank higher than any other profession with a stress score of 83%. This alarmingly high-stress rate is due to many reasons.

Can I become a social worker without a degree? ›

You cannot become a social worker without an approved qualification – a BA degree or postgraduate masters in social work. However, you may be able to find a job as a social work assistant without a degree.

What do most social workers major in? ›

In order to become a social worker, many people will pursue a major in social work to obtain their Bachelor's of Science in Social Work (BSW). Other undergraduate majors such as sociology and psychology will allow you to further your education in order to pursue a Master's of Social Work (MSW).

What qualifications do I need to become a social worker? ›

Social workers must have a degree in social work (BA), or master's degree in social work. A master's degree is a two-year-long postgraduate course for those with a degree in a different subject. Some universities offer part-time studying. Experience is an important part of social work qualifications.

Do social workers work 9 5? ›

Many social care jobs are outside the typical working hours of 9-5 Monday- Friday and many offer flexible working hours or the opportunity to work part-time. There are many different areas within social care, the main ones being: Children and families.

Can you study social work part-time? ›

A social worker's main role is to help vulnerable people overcome their problems. If you don't have the time to commit as a full-time student and want to study Social Work, here are the universities that offer part-time social work courses.

What exactly does a social worker do? ›

Social workers help people cope with challenges in their lives. They help with a wide range of situations, such as adopting a child, being diagnosed with a terminal illness, or preventing and treating substance abuse.

What degree is needed to be a social worker? ›

To be a social worker, you need to hold a degree in social work from an accredited college or university program. The undergraduate degree is the bachelor of social work (BSW). Graduate degrees include the master of social work (MSW), and a doctorate (DSW) or PhD in Social Work.

How do I become a social worker with a psychology degree UK? ›

To practise as a social worker, you must be registered with Social Work England. To register with Social Work England, you first need to successfully complete an approved degree or postgraduate programme in social work. Courses take three or four years full time.

What job can you get with a degree in psychology? ›

Activities DirectorLabor Relations Manager
Career/Employment CounselorPersonnel Recruiter
Career Information SpecialistPolice Officer
CaseworkerPolygraph Examiner
Child Development SpecialistPreschool Teacher
31 more rows
1 Jan 2018

How is social work related to psychology? ›

Both social work and psychology are fields that equip others with the necessary tools to help themselves. Social work and psychology are oriented towards the same outcome: recognizing and treating mental illness, and empowering individuals to improve their own lives.

Can I become a social worker without a degree? ›

You cannot become a social worker without an approved qualification – a BA degree or postgraduate masters in social work. However, you may be able to find a job as a social work assistant without a degree.

Do social workers make good money? ›

According to 2020 data from the BLS: Mental health and substance-abuse social workers had a median salary of $48,720. Child, family and school social workers had a median salary of $48,430. Health care social workers had a median salary of $57,630.

How many years does it take to study social worker? ›

Social Work The BA Social Work is a four-year professional degree programme. Social workers work in various fields of service such as community development, child protection, child and family welfare, youth programmes, disability, health, education, the workplace, and social policy development.

What disqualifies you from being a social worker? ›

Disqualifying Criminal Convictions

While having a criminal conviction might not disqualify an applicant, the following offenses could prevent someone from securing employment as a social worker: Child abuse. Domestic violence. Certain drug crimes.

Can you study social work part-time? ›

A social worker's main role is to help vulnerable people overcome their problems. If you don't have the time to commit as a full-time student and want to study Social Work, here are the universities that offer part-time social work courses.

Do you need maths for social work? ›

What GCSEs Do You Need to Become a Social Worker? GCSEs are an important part of any career path, and Social work is no exception to this. In order to get on to a Social Work degree, you will need to have 5 GCSE passes, including Maths and English Language.

How many years is a psychology degree? ›

A bachelor's degree in psychology is an undergraduate-level degree that typically takes four years to complete. At many universities, students can choose between a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree.

Is psychology easy to study? ›

Psychology is one of the more difficult degrees and many of your assignments will require you to cite your sources and will require you to back up a lot of the arguments that you have.

Is a psychology degree worth it? ›

For psychologists and mental health professionals, the outlook is favorable at an expected 14% growth rate through 2028. Earning a psychology degree now and continuing on to graduate work can set you up for a steady career in a growing job market.

Is a social worker the same as a counselor? ›

Is a social worker a counselor? While social workers provide therapy and counseling to their clients, they follow different pathways to licensure and different job titles. Counselors specialize in providing guidance, while social workers focus on different capacities of therapy, depending on their licensure.

What is the difference between social worker and therapist? ›

Therapists may place a heavier emphasis on psychological approaches, whereas social workers often focus on a client's overall social and socioeconomic circumstances. Professionals in both fields work toward developing positive solutions for their clients.

Can a social worker diagnose mental illness? ›

Clinical social workers must hold at least a master's degree in social work (MSW), and they have the authority to diagnose and treat clients with mental illnesses and substance abuse problems. Most states require clinical social workers to complete thousands of hours of supervised experience before obtaining licensure.

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