Studying to become a social worker takes a lot of time, skill, and perseverance. It is a demanding career that will use your technical and personal skills to help you support and care for disadvantaged and vulnerable individuals, communities, and groups. If you are considering becoming social worker and are planning out your academic journey, or are wanting to specialize your education and change career paths, an online master’s in social work could help you to achieve this. Here are just a couple of things to consider when thinking about online MSW programs.

What is it?

The online MSW programs are a traditional master’s program that help prepare you to take your licensing exams to begin working as a social worker. The course is part-time and can be completed in around 3 years. The online MSW programs are taught mostly online, with 2 fieldwork placements and 2 mandatory weekends on campus. It is perfect for those who do not already hold a bachelors in social work, but who want to further their studies or build upon skills from a similar degree or subject. There is also the option to waive the GRE. This is a flexible and cost-effective study option that is perfect for those who cannot commit to fulltime, in-person study for whatever reason, but are still passionate about working in social work.

Is it for you?

It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to become a social worker. You must be passionate about helping others, working for social change, and being an advocate, whether this is on an individual or national scale. The online MSW programs will teach you the theory and technical skills that you will need in order to succeed, as well as helping you identify, develop, and apply the important personal skills and characteristics that make an effective social worker. These can include:

  • Communication- this is an incredibly important skill for social workers to have. You will have to be a good speaker and listener, as well as have the ability to pick up on any non-verbal cues like body language. Some clients may be more forthcoming than others, and you will have to adapt your communication techniques to suit the situation to work with the client and connect with them.
  • Teamwork- social workers often work as part of a larger team, which can consist of many people and professions, such as teacher, police officers, medical professions, or probation officers. In order to be an advocate for your client and reach the best possible outcomes, you will have to have great team working skills and be able to collaborate with a range of different people.
  • Self-Awareness– this is a very important skill for social workers to have, as it can help make you a more effective social worker in a variety of ways. For example, it can make you more empathetic, allow you to establish and stick to boundaries, and have healthy and professional relationships with clients.
  • Compassion- another vital skill, having compassion can help you remain objective yet caring when it comes to dealing with the huge range of different people, who may have experienced traumatic events or broken the law. You cannot let your personal judgements and beliefs cloud your approach and treatment of your clients. Compassion is essentially sympathy, combined with the desire to alleviate whatever is causing the distress.
  • Empathy- this is the ability to place yourself in the shoes of your client, to understand their thoughts and feelings. It is unlikely that you will have firsthand experience of every situation that a client or clients present to you; therefore you should use empathy to try and understand what they are feeling in order to work towards to best solution.
  • Patience– often, the results of the work you and your clients do will not be immediately visible. It is important to remain patient and understand that change does not happen overnight, whether you are helping an individual or a community. Furthermore, some clients may not want to work with you or may have different goals and opinions than you or among themselves. In this situation, patience is also vital in making sure you can help them reach the most appropriate solutions without becoming frustrated.
  • Organization- you will often have more than one client or project on the go at any one time, so organization, time management, and scheduling are important skills to have and develop. You need to treat each case with the same level of professionalism, skill, and care, and making sure you are organized and not overwhelmed with help you do this.

Why should you study online?

The online MSW programs can help develop your technical and personal skills, the combination of which can make you an effective and caring social worker. As well as the course content, studying the online MSW programs can also help to develop these personal skills. Online learning has plenty of unique challenges that you must overcome, and doing this will develop important life skills.

Skills

Soft skills are a set of transferable, non-technical skills that can help you stand out in the workplace. They can be applied to the majority of jobs and industries, and the online MSW programs can help you to develop these. Soft skills include communication, teamwork, problem solving, conflict resolution, organization, and self-motivation, many of which are incredibly useful for social workers. For example, when you are a social worker, organization is important to make sure you keep up with your workload and can apply the same level of professionalism and care across all your clients and projects. When learning online, you may also be working or taking care of your family, so these multitasking skills will be strengthened as you complete the online MSW programs, even if you do not realize it.

Cost

One major benefit of online learning is the ability to reduce or remove some of the costs involved in studying. Being a student can be very expensive, with costs such as accommodation and transport adding up and making further education financially unviable for many talented individuals. When you study online, many of these costs may be reduced because you do not have to travel as much or find alternative accommodation on a campus. Furthermore, the course fees themselves may be cheaper for online courses, and you may also be eligible for financial support from the institution you are studying with.

Location

Being able to learn at home can have many benefits for your enjoyment of the experience and can help make you a more efficient and independent learner. You will have more control over your learning environment and can develop learning and revising skills that work for you and that you can continue to use in the future. Furthermore, online learning gives you access to courses and institutions that you may not be able to attend full-time in real life. You could be limited to the courses that your local colleges or universities offer, and they may not provide the courses that you need. This can result in you having to change your plans or not study at all, which can have a serious impact on your career journey.

Flexibility

Another reason why online MSW programs could benefit you is the level of flexibility they offer. You can work from home, part-time, and make the course work around the rest of your life. Furthermore, the ability to continue to work alongside your course gives you the ability to continue earning money while you learn. Setting your own learning pace and completing the course over 3 years can help you take in information and feel less pressured or overwhelmed when completing your studies. It also means that no matter what emergencies might happen, you will not miss anything important by taking time off.

What do social workers do?

Social workers have varied roles and tasks, with different positions and levels within the profession. In general, a social worker’s main aim is to be an advocate for their clients and make sure their rights are upheld. You can help individuals, communities, or groups access essential resources, as well as offer counseling, helping people access housing, or assist young people in the foster care system. Social work attracts a broad range of people due to the different roles and positions that range from clinical to political.

Levels of social work

During your career as a social worker, you may find yourself specializing in a job or level of social work. You may also work across the levels, using different methods and techniques from each when they are appropriate.

Micro- this is what a lot of people think of when they are first considering becoming a social worker. Micro level social work is concerned with the individual. You will work one-to-one with your client, perhaps offering counseling to helping them access resources such as housing. This type of social worker can be seen in roles and settings such as school counselors and family therapy. Often, these roles are considered clinical, and therefore need further education and qualifications, which online MSW programs can help prepare you for.

Mezzo- mezzo social work is concerned with small groups or organizations. The social worker’s aim is to change the group as a whole rather than the individuals. Examples of mezzo social work include acting as a mediator in a workplace dispute to help resolve the conflict or providing group grief counseling to individuals brought together by a common event or situation.

Macro- macro social work involves working with communities and larger groups that can be defined by a number of factors such as location, politics, or religion. When working at this level, you may be lobbying to bring about social change, making, or shaping policies, or training others to do the same. Common mezzo level social work jobs can involve politicians, attorneys, or professors.

Career outcomes

The career outcomes for a social worker are incredibly varied, and you can find yourself playing a number of roles, from therapist to clinician. Here are just a couple of potential career outcomes that the online MSW programs can help prepare you to work in.

Geriatric

This is a perfect job if you already have some experience or qualifications in areas such as geriatrics or gerontology. Geriatric social workers help individuals and families cope with the changes that come with aging. You could help with paperwork, accessing end-of-life care, bereavement counseling, or assist with the transition from home care to longer-term care.

Health

Social workers are vital in healthcare, assisting with both physical and mental health. Healthcare social workers help people access resources related to their health, as well as education with the aim of helping the client achieve and maintain optimal health. Within the healthcare industry, there are many different roles for social workers, but the general aim is to improve the lives of those they work with and help them access important resources.

Employee Assistance Program

Occupational social workers assist organizations on the EAP. This can involve offering counseling to employees and staff for a wide range of mental health or stress management issues. You can also help the company re-structure to improve productivity and morale. Occupational social work is targeted at the population of the workplace.

Completing the online MSW programs can help you develop important personal skills, get valuable practical experiences, and understand the different roles and positions within social work. It will help you prepare to take your licensing exam to begin practicing. You can also go on to further education, completing a doctorate in an area of social work you are passionate about. Wherever you are in your career journey, becoming a social worker is a rewarding role that will suit those who are passionate about helping others and being an advocate. You will use a combination of technical and personal skills to help those who need it the most and become an effective social worker who always has the clients’ best interests at heart.

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