Graduate students receive advanced training in how to identify and address the needs of their clients. They gain techniques essential to supporting individuals and vulnerable populations including: needs assessment skills, developing care plans, and learning how to advocate for and help others.

Typical coursework in an Online Master’s of Social Work program offers advanced scholarly study in ethics, public policy and social work methods, as well as opportunities to develop hands-on, practical skills through work, internships, research and field experiences. Students will also become competent in meeting professional standards while working with clients.

Why a Master’s Degree in Social Work?

Many human service careers require a Master’s degree in Social Work. Therefore, the program is highly attractive to students who hope to attain higher-level positions such as Licensed Mental Healthcare Provider or Healthcare Social Worker, which allow practitioners to manage cases and work more independently. Others may wish to apply their education in private practice as a Marriage and Family Therapist, or work in a school-based setting as a School Counselor. To ensure that your prospective program helps you meet your career objectives, view the Licensure Requirements for key social work professions in your state.

Professionals who work in ‘direct-services’ assist people facing problems that diminish their quality of life. Clinicians, on the other hand, must continue their education to acquire assessment, diagnostic, and treatment skills if they want to work with individuals who may be suffering from mental or emotional disorders. They may work with doctors and other healthcare professionals, and provide therapy for individuals, families, children, and couples.

Getting Into a Social Work Master’s Program

Applying for a master’s program may prove demanding and time-consuming. Forethought regarding one’s research plan and academic success are both important. Other prerequisites generally include the following:

  • Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  • A copy of your college transcripts
  • Application form
  • Statement of purpose or personal essay
  • Two or three academic and/or professional references

Sometimes, programs may also require:

  • An interview
  • A research statement, if you intend to conduct research
  • A minimum GPA of 2.5 – 3.0
  • Graduate Record Examination or GRE (can sometimes be waived)

Be sure to contact your prospective schools to determine specific requirements for each program.

Inside a Social Work Master’s Degree Program

The curriculum for a master’s-level program will enable graduates to work closely with clients. To prepare them for the challenges of the human service field, graduate students of the Online Master’s Degree Program may take a required set of courses such as “Clinical Practice in Diverse Settings,” or “Policy and Practice in Social Service Organizations,” or “Human Behavior and the Social Environment.” You can view a few sample courses here.

Fieldwork and hands-on internships are typically a heavy component of any program, requiring a minimum set of hours working in a school, hospital, agency or similar setting. If you are already working your program may allow you to count your current work experience towards this requirement. Be sure to speak with prospective schools about how your online program can complement the work you’re already doing, allowing you to get graduate school credit for your real-world experience.

In most cases, a master’s-level program in social work takes two years to complete. Some accelerated programs will allow a student to complete their coursework in one year.

What’s Next for Social Work Master’s Degree Holders?

The career outlook for students graduating from Master’s programs looks positive, particularly for social workers working with elderly populations and veterans of the armed forces. Aging statistics indicate that the U.S. will soon experience a sharp increase in demand for elder specialists and advocates. Similarly, the growing population of recently discharged veterans predicts a sharp increase in governmental and private agencies equipped to assist those who have served in the Armed Forces. For those interested in working with youth, women and other vulnerable populations, career growth is also higher than average.

The key to your post-educational career placement will be learning about the licensure requirements for your state, and taking steps to begin the licensure examination process. Visit Social Work Licensure and Career Outlook by State to learn about next steps.