Online Degree vs Campus in Social Work

Social Work Degree ProgramThe most important thing to know regarding online degrees and traditional on-campus degrees is that in order for you to become licensed as a social worker, the college you attend must be accredited by your state social work licensure board or meet their accreditation standards. If the college you attend is not accepted or accredited by your state board, quite possibly you may not be able to qualify for the jobs you want or enroll for the graduate work you desire.

How Do I Find out If My Social Work Program Is Licensed?

The first stop would be your own state licensing board’s website. One way to search would be to enter into your search engine the name of your state and the words “social work licensing board.”  If you are unable to locate your state’s site check out our complete social work licensing guide which provides a state-by-state listing for all licensing board websites.

Margaret Smead is an academic counselor for a private institution in California. She shares that many students do not realize that there are often licensing requirements that must be met, even when someone graduates with a master’s degree.

“One of the first things I encourage students to do is “follow the degree through..” By that I mean follow the degree through to the job. Do you need to do anything in between?  For some the answer is no, they only need the degree. For others they need to factor in and plan for internships as well as meeting varying licensing requirements. If they face an array of tests and scores that will be necessary to take and pass, I work with them on a planning calendar, in order to keep them on track.”                                                           

-Margaret Smead

Further Reading:

How Will I Know If a Social Work School I Am Considering Is Accredited?

Most states require that the social work program be approved by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). According to their website;

“The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) is a nonprofit national association representing more than 2,500 individual members, as well as graduate and undergraduate programs of professional social work education. Founded in 1952, this partnership of educational and professional institutions, social welfare agencies, and private citizens is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation as the sole accrediting agency for social work education in this country.”

As of February 2014 the current number of social work programs is as follows:

493 accredited baccalaureate social work programs

231 accredited master's social work programs

19 baccalaureate social work programs in candidacy

13 master's social work programs in candidacy

Featured Online Social Work Degree Program

In order to find out if a particular college program (bachelor’s or master’s) is accredited by the CSWE, follow the link below to gain access to their list of approved degree programs: http://www.cswe.org/17491.aspx.

What If My Social Work College Is Not Accredited?

If the college you attended is not accredited, you may consider returning to school. Although the cost and time is considerable, you may need to take the time and spend the money in order to have the career of which you have dreamed. One of the advantages of having weathered academic storms is that you will be primed for your new class workload. Since you probably have covered much of the coursework previously, you will be better prepared for tests and assignments. If the overlap is great between the former school and the new one, you might consider getting a part-time job at an institution that deals with the division of social work in which you are interested. The most important thing to remember is that knowledge and learning are never a waste of time. The years you spent working on your degree at the old institution were not for nothing by any means. You assimilated valuable information and incorporated discipline and skills during your time of study. Focus only on the present and what you can reap from this phase of life. Looking backwards will only distract you from your goal and keep you reminiscent of what “used to be” and what “might have been.” Neither are reality based propositions and therefore not worth the time it takes to think the thoughts.

Again Smead encourages students to persevere no matter what their position in the academic ranks;

“No one need look upon education as useless. Everything happens for a good reason; even if no one seems to know what that reason is exactly. If I were talking to someone who had earned a degree from an institution which was not accredited, I would encourage them to look at it as work experience. They were in fact doing a form of work and they are all the smarter for it. Never get discouraged, it is counter-productive.”

Wherever you are on the timeline of your path to becoming a social worker, be sure and form some sort of connection with your state’s licensing board. Until you are happily practicing with your license, they will be the powers that be.