Should I Earn My Master’s in Social Work Degree Online?

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As you consider your options for earning a master’s in social work (MSW) degree, you may wonder if online learning is a good choice for you. Some of the top master’s in social work degree programs in the nation offer online learning options. Many MSW programs make great use of technology to enhance your education. Though studying online offers a number of advantages, it’s important that you know what to expect before you commit to an online MSW program.

How MSW Degree Programs Use Computer Technology

An online master’s in social work degree program is one that offers classes through a virtual classroom, on that you can log into from anywhere in the world, as long as you have an Internet connection. Some MSW degree programs offer all of their courses online. Others offer some courses in a fully online format, but may still require you to take other classes on campus. There are also hybrid distance learning courses, in which you attend on-campus classes but also have access to online course materials that enhance your education.

Benefits of Online Learning

For many students, the biggest benefit of studying social work online is the flexibility. Perhaps you already have a full-time job or family obligations that make it difficult to fit a regular course schedule into your life. Often, online MSW programs allow you to learn on your schedule. If you need to take your exams on your lunch break, or before work, or after putting the kids to bed, you can.

Online learning can offer other benefits as well. At some schools – though not all – online courses cost less than traditional courses, making your education more affordable. Some online degree programs are accelerated, allowing you to complete your coursework, and perhaps even your whole degree, in less time.

What to Expect From an Online MSW Program

You can choose a master’s in social work degree program in which the coursework can be completed entirely online, but you still will need to commit a good deal of time to real-world learning. Even in online master’s in social work degree programs, it’s mandatory for students to complete multiple supervised clinical experiences, according to U.S. News & World Report. These experiences are hands-on and require you to be present in person, not just virtually present.

It’s not unusual for the top-performing MSW programs to require that students complete nearly 1,000 hours – at some schools, well above 1,000 hours – of supervised field work. This fieldwork is just as important when you’re earning your degree online as it is when you earn a degree on campus. Often, colleges help online MSW students find field placements in agencies near their home or job to make even this aspect of earning your degree as convenient as possible.

An online master’s in social work degree program offers many benefits, but it’s not the right choice for every student. As you consider your options, ask yourself what you value most in your education. Is flexibility the most important thing, or do you care more about feeling engaged with the class and the material? Are you an independent learner who would do well in an online course, or would you be more successful in an on-campus course that offers more structure? Do you have a realistic understanding of your options and requirements when it comes to fieldwork? Only by thinking critically about these and other questions can you make an informed decision about whether to earn your MSW degree online or on campus.