A Guide to Online Social Services Degrees Accredited Online Degree Programs in Social Services

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Interested in an online degree in social services? Let’s begin with a definition of social services. Although the definition of social services varies among sources, most agree broadly on the answer to the question.

Social services’ objective is to optimize the potential of human development by working diligently to fulfill the needs equally among all members of a population. The definition of social services will also include a focus on providing social justice through the implementation of social programs of change and development.

In short, social services encompasses those services designed to help others overcome difficult and challenging life circumstances. Social service, as a field, has grown substantially during the 20th century as social responsibility ideals have been raised by awareness and education. The field of social services is primarily concerned with –

  • Vulnerable populations like the elderly, the infirm, or the young.
  • Disease and disorder management.
  • Poverty
  • Disabilities, among others.

What Can You Do with a Social Services Degree? 

If you are considering one of the many careers in social services, it is essential first to search the internet to determine the number and quality of jobs in social services near me. By using the search-phrase – jobs in social services near me, prospective students can begin to understand the available jobs in social services within a reasonable commuting distance.

Most jobs within social services include rewarding work helping underserved communities; however, most jobs in social services require professionals who have an innate need to help others and make a difference in others’ lives. Many jobs in social services include positions where trained professionals help manage issues that disrupt their lives or social functioning.

Jobs within social services often require social workers to take on professional roles in healthcare settings, clinical centers, or educational facilities – all in the name of helping others develop a more effective coping mechanism that will lead to a better quality of life.

Most Popular Schools with Online Social Services Degree Programs

Community and Social Service Career Options

According to recent BLS data, employment in community and social service occupations is projected to grow 12 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations, adding about 348,600 jobs.

The median annual wage for community and social service occupations was $46,090 in May 2019, which was higher than the median annual wage for all occupations of $39,810.

Health Educators and Community Health WorkersSee How to Become One$46,910
Marriage and Family TherapistsMaster’s degree$49,610
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment SpecialistsBachelor’s degree$54,290
Rehabilitation CounselorsMaster’s degree$35,950
School and Career CounselorsMaster’s degree$57,040
Social and Human Service AssistantsHigh school diploma or equivalent$35,060
Social WorkersSee How to Become One$50,470
BLS, 2021

Most Affordable Online Social Services Degree Programs

Careers in Social Services

  • Child & Family Social Worker – these jobs within social services are great opportunities to help prevent domestic violence and child abuse by educating parents and families and improving existing family dynamics.
  • Geriatric Social Worker – these jobs within social services focus primarily on the elderly population and the challenges they face with regard to mobility, mental health, finances, and medication, among others.
  • Clinical Social Worker – these jobs within social services offer professionals the opportunity to provide the delivery of healthcare across a number of potential afflictions, including substance abuse and mental health. These social workers also deal with psychological support for those (and their families ) afflicted with chronic or life-threatening illnesses.
  • Education/School Social Worker – these jobs within social services are filled by social work professionals who facilitate education programs to improve learning outcomes or help by supporting students with mental health issues or those in need of career counseling.
  • Mental Health Counselors/ Behavioral Disorder Counselors – these jobs within social services are filled by social work professionals who have earned at least a master’s degree.
  • Private Practice Social Worker – many social workers seek to work in their own practice helping clients within their specialty, for example, with eating disorders, stress & anxiety, or PTSD, to name a few.
  • Substance Abuse Counselors – these jobs within social services are filled by social work professionals who seek to help others overcome the many types of addictions – drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, and food, to name a few.

Social work is primarily viewed from three fundamental systems, as follows:

  • Micro Social Work – these social workers are typically LCSW’s – Licensed Clinical Social Workers who work with individuals to help them overcome mental, physical, and emotional challenges.
  • Mezzo Social Work – mezzo social workers are also usually LCSW’s; however, they tend to work with communities, groups, and agencies – performing more as liaisons and collaborators among many groups.
  • Macro Social Work – macro social workers, perform at a systemic level, often specializing in the needs of one particular sub-population. Macro social workers tend to work on the development of policy and legislation to help underserved populations.

The level of the social work degree one chooses to pursue — associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate — is contingent upon the student’s academic interests and career objectives.  

Degree Types

Associate’s Degree in Social Work

Those who choose to earn a social services associates degree online or on-campus begin to complete general education requirements that can be used towards social work baccalaureate degree requirements. Most students complete an on-campus or online associates degree in social services in two years or less.

Those who have completed an online associates degree in social services can begin to work as a community outreach worker or home health aide.

Students may complete an Associate of Arts (AA) degree or an Associate of Science (AS) degree in Social Work, with the primary difference is that the Associate of Science degree requiring the completion of more mathematics and hard science.

Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work

The next level of social services online degrees is the baccalaureate or bachelor’s level degree. Earning an online social services bachelors degree is generally the first degree required for an entry-level, non-clinical social work position.

Online degrees in social services include classes like introduction to psychology, welfare issues, and intercultural social awareness, plus a social work practicum. However, it is noted that social services online degrees, depending on the state, may or may not allow for a social worker to become a case manager as a public health worker. Online degrees in social services are offered as follows –

  • A Bachelor of Arts degree program in Social Work (BASW) – this degree offers a liberal arts generalist degree, with coursework that includes social work classes.
  • A Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) – this degree is the bare academic minimum to becoming a full-time social worker under the tutelage and supervision of a larger social work organization.
  • A Bachelor of Science (BSSW) – this social work baccalaureate degree is most scientifically focus, typically requiring internship or practicum requirements, plus an emphasis on research methods related to social work and social work techniques.

Master’s Degree in Social Work

Most professionals and working learners seek to earn their masters in social services online or on-campus if they have a professional objective of earning clinical licensure. A masters in social services online or on-campus degree program generally requires more in-depth explorations into –

  • Social Work Theory & Practice.
  • Substance Abuse.
  • Human Development.
  • Family Dynamic Counseling.
  • Learning Disabilities.
  • Communication Counseling, to name a few.

Most master’s degree programs offered in the social work realm require students to complete 30 to 50 semester credits, depending on the school and the academic emphasis chosen by the student. A Social work master’s degree program includes comprehensive practical experiences to meet what is often extensive clinical requirements as mandated by each state’s licensure board.

Doctoral Degree in Social Work

Degree candidates studying to earn their on-campus or online PhD in social services are typically interested in academia, upper-management, or a research-oriented career. Those who earn an on-campus or online PhD in social and community services can do so in 2 to seven years, depending on one’s ability to devote the time to their academic pursuits. PhD social workers often rise to lucrative positions in academia or directing a large social services agency.

Accreditation in Social Work

The accreditation process is the standardized procedure in which professional colleges and universities can earn accreditation from one of the federal government’s six regional accreditation agencies.

Accreditation is often viewed as a stamp of approval from a third-party accreditation agency. In addition to regional accreditation, many programs seek to become voluntarily accredited by an industry-sanctioned accreditation agency.

Accredited online colleges for social services are accredited typically by this social work professional organization –

The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) – established in 1952, the Council on Social Work Education has accredited more than 750 bachelor’s and master’s degree programs dedicated to social work. The Council on Social Work Education is dedicated to advancing the quality of social work education, practitioner levels, and the availability of social services to populations in need. Accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education is considered the gold standard among social work programs.


A certificate program is a great opportunity for professionals to gain additional training and education within a subspecialty of their field. Many certificate programs are quite affordable, and some can be completed in only a month or so, whereas others may take up to one year to complete. Most students choose to enroll in one of the many certificate programs for social workers to ensure their social work professional skills are up-to-date or to specialize in a specific area.

Social services certifications are available across a number of subspecialties in the social work field. Most social worker professionals choose to specialize in the social work-specialty for which they have the most interest.

Social Services Certificate Options

  • Certification in Cognitive Therapy – this certificate in social services is offered by the Academy of Cognitive Therapy.
  • Board Certified Diplomate in Clinical Social Work – this certificate in social services is offered by the ABECSW – the American Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work.
  • National Certified Addiction Counselor Level I & Level II – these social services certifications are offered by the Association for Addiction Professionals.
  • Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist – this social services certificate is offered by the National Board for Certified Clinical Hypnotherapists.
  • Gerontology/Aging Studies Certificate – offered by many different higher learning institutions, this certificate provides students with the opportunity to gain experience to be effective frontier workers working with the elderly population.

Certificate programs are offered to those without degrees and to those who hold both an undergraduate or graduate degree.

Social Service Scholarships

Obtaining scholarships are a great way for students to help pay for a college education. Scholarship opportunities are available from organizations, government agencies, colleges, universities, professional organizations, and even philanthropic individuals.

Fortunately, for the social work student, there are many scholarships from which to choose. These social service scholarships shown below are but a mere sampling of available financial assistance for students with an interest in social work.

Davis- Putter Scholarship Fund – this social service scholarship is available to those students who live in the United States and are involved actively working towards justice and peace. This is a need-based scholarship that offers up to $15,000 to those students actively involved in a progressive on-campus movement.

Patty Gibbs-Wahlberg Scholarship – this social service scholarship, offered by Phi Alpha Honor Society, is open to students demonstrating leadership and service. Awards are offered for $1,000, $2,000 and $3,000.

The Verne LaMarr Lyons Memorial Scholarship – this is offered by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) to a master’s level student who has expressed interest and has experience working with the mental health needs and challenges of the African American population. This scholarship is valued up to $5,000 and is offered towards one year of master’s in social work tuition.

The Carl Scott Memorial Fund Book Scholarship – this is offered by the Council on Social Work Education to one of its members who represent an underrepresented racial or ethnic groups. The scholarship, valued up to $500, is offered for a student’s final year of their social work academic degree.

The Indian Health Service Preparatory Scholarship – this social work scholarship is eligible to those undergraduate students who are of Alaska Native or American Indian heritage who are in a prep school but intend to pursue a health care/social work-related degree. The value of the scholarship varies based on need and actual expenses.

A Place for Mom (PFM) Senior Care Scholarship – this social work scholarship is eligible to those who are either a graduate or undergraduate student in social work who is planning to enter the workforce as a professional in the field of gerontology. Applicants for this social work scholarship values at $2,000 are required to submit a personal narrative regarding their plans and career objectives to working with the aging population and seniors.


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