Top 10 Ranked Online Degree Programs In Social Work for 2014


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The field of Social Work offers substantial rewards to the professionals who choose it as a career. Though challenging, social work professionals are able to improve the quality of life for the most vulnerable and in need populations. Social workers are employed by a range of human service agencies identifying individuals, families and groups in need, determining appropriate intervention actions and providing support services. Social workers practice in hospitals, schools, nursing homes and government agencies in all states – Delaware, Louisiana, Mississippi, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, etc. Some specialize in specific populations such as pediatrics, families or geriatrics or in a specific at-risk group such as abused children, drug or alcohol addicted individuals or providing counseling for pregnant teens. The need for qualified, educated social workers is great and exists in all urban, suburban and even rural areas across the country. Professionals are needed in most regions of the country.

Education in the field of Social Work is essential and salary ranges increase with advanced studies. Professionals with advanced degrees receive much higher salaries than those with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Individuals trying to pursue additional educational accomplishments while working face significant challenges and difficulties. Online degree options provide students with the flexibility necessary to allow them to successfully complete their educational goals without interfering with other responsibilities. Below is a list of the top ranked online programs for 2014, offering the highest quality educational programs at a range of degree levels from undergraduate to graduate programs and post graduate certificate programs. All of these programs will increase the skills and knowledge of the students while providing the education necessary to advance their careers and salary range.

  1. Ashford University

    Ashford University, founded in 1918, boasts a long history of providing quality distance degree programs to the working population. The degree programs are designed to accommodate the scheduling constraints of motivated working adults. Students have access to their courses 24/7 and are able to contact their instructors through email and message boards. Programs can be completed on a part time or full time basis. Ashford University also offers degree programs which require as little as twelve month’s time to complete. Students have the option of completing degree programs at campus locations which offer evening and weekend schedules. The courses are generally taken one at a time and can be taken continuously throughout the year to ensure students have the time to dedicate to each subject without lengthening the time necessary for completing the program. Ashford University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

    Ashford University offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Science with an emphasis in Social Services which provides a comprehensive understanding of the demands of the challenging field. The curriculum provides a foundational knowledge of society from the perspective of families, communities, cultures, individuals and even governments. The students will study the core areas of history, psychology and sociology, examine cultural diversity and develop research skills. The multidisciplinary approach of the program is designed to develop the students’ skills in communication, critical and analytical thinking and problem solving. Students have the opportunity to select an additional are of concentration from the 20 accepted at Ashford University to enhance their credentials and increase their understanding of the field.

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  2. Capella University

    Capella University is a well regarded institution of higher learning which focuses on providing online degree programs tailored to meet the needs of working adults. Working adult students are provided with respected, challenging online degree programs within a range of disciplines which facilitate career advancement, career changes and entry level career opportunities. Students enrolled at Capella University have the opportunity to pursue degree programs in business management, higher education, information technology, public safety and health care. The extensive resources and support services provide students with the added assistance necessary to ensure their educational and career success. Faculty members forge personal relationships with their students which further enhances the experience at Capella University. Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and schools.

    The School of Public Service Leadership at Capella University provides a range of graduate degree programs relevant to social work. Programs offered in the field of social work or related areas include social work, counseling, emergency management, school counseling, psychology and a PhD in human services. The 48 credit Master degree program in the Social and Community Services specialization requires students to complete courses such as philosophy of social work, history of social welfare, scope of human services, utilization of community resources, ethnic and cultural awareness and survey of research in human development and behavior. The Master of Social and Behavioral Sciences specialization focuses on public health issues and the administrative systems. Students study the areas of social and behavioral theories, program planning and evaluation, international public health and public health information for diverse populations. The 60 credit program requires students to complete courses such as psychological, behavioral, and social issues in public health, principles of epidemiology, environmental health concepts in public health and theories of social and behavioral sciences.

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  3. Walden University

    Walden University is a student centered institution dedicated to the success of working students. Since its founding in 1970, Walden University has evolved into a highly regarded institution offering a range of undergraduate and graduate degree programs and certificate programs tailored to meet the scheduling needs of their working students while providing a challenging and industry current curriculum. The degree programs are intended to provide students with the tools needed to advance their careers and produce positive social change through the application of research and the discovery of new knowledge. The programs at Walden University are enhanced through the shared insights of instructors and peers who are experienced in the professional setting. Walden University provides a supportive environment with the latest technology in online learning and various educational services in research and writing. Students are offered a range of career assistance and advising and lifelong learning opportunities to ensure they remain abreast of advancements in their fields of study.

    Students enrolled at Walden University have the opportunity to pursue a range of degree options with relevance to the field of social work. Walden University offers a 63 credit Master of Science in Psychology with a specialization in social psychology. The program provides a comprehensive understanding of the various social, environmental and situational factors which impact the development of social and behavioral interaction in humans. The curriculum includes the analysis and evaluation of psychological theories, research, social and cultural factors, psychological concepts and principles and contemporary and global issues influencing social change. Walden University offers a 132 credit doctoral program in clinical social work which focuses on the models and theories of clinical practice for vulnerable and disadvantaged populations. The program requires students to complete 42 credits in core knowledge areas, 42 credits in specialized knowledge areas, 12 credits in research and a 30 credit dissertation sequence. The program is intended for students with a solid foundation in qualitative and quantitative methods of study and inquiry.

    [Click here for more information about online degree programs in social work]

  4. University of Southern California – School of Social Work

    University of Southern California first opened its doors in 1880 in the heart of the frontier town of Los Angeles. As Los Angeles grew and thrived, so did USC, enrolling more and more students, offering more programs, and establishing new departments and schools. In 1920, USC established their School of Social Work, making it one of the first schools of social work in the nation. The faculty here consists of well-respected scholars and researchers who focus on real-world social issues. Through education, research, and professional leadership, the School of Social Work strives to achieve its mission of producing graduates who are fully prepared to work with and improve the lives of individuals and communities.

    The USC School of Social Work became one of the first research universities to offer a Master of Social Work degree program entirely online, the MSW@USC. Through this program, students are able to gain a high-quality education from a respected university without ever having to attend the physical campus. The flexibility and convenience of online learning allows students log on from anywhere they can connect to the Internet. The program features live online classes and ways to interact with instructors and fellow students through online study groups and chat sessions. Plus, students will have the opportunity to gain hands-on real world training in their local communities. The curriculum in the online MSW@USC program mirrors that which is found in the traditional on-campus program. Foundational courses focus on areas including human behavior, the social environment, social work practice, social work organizations, and social work research. Students can choose from concentrations in mental health, community organization, planning and administration, military social work, or families and children. The MSW@USC is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) and the Western Association of Colleges and Schools (WASC).
    [Click here for more information about online degree programs in social work]

  5. Grand Canyon University

    Grand Canyon University is a private Christian college established in the mid 1940’s for the purpose of providing a quality distance learning education. Grand Canyon University is considered a leading provider of online education; boasting an enrollment of 25,000 students. Students have the opportunity to attend courses on campus or to select the time flexible, online degree programs instead. The university endeavors to prepare graduates to become ethical and socially aware leaders with a global perspective. The programs are taught by practitioner faculty who provide advanced knowledge which can be immediately applied within any field. Student success is a priority of the institution which offers individualized attention and support.

    Grand Canyon University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a Bachelor of Science in Sociology degree program. The Sociology program provides students with an understanding of the impact of social structures on human behavior and develops students’ skills in analytical and critical thinking. The 120 credit program includes up to 40 credits in general education courses, 44 credits in sociology courses and up to 42 credits in elective courses. Courses include sociological theory, social inequality and stratification, social psychology American Minority Peoples, Social Problems and Marriage and Family. The psychology program provides perspective of human actions and utilizes this understanding to evaluate similar behaviors in others. This program is intended to prepare students for a career in human service agencies providing assistance to individuals and groups in need. Also a 120 credit program, courses are concentrated in the various areas of psychology, counseling and guidance.

    [Click here for more information about online degree programs in social work]

  6. Florida State University

    Florida State University is a highly regarded traditional institution, offering a 150 year history, which is offering a few of their exceptional, award winning degree programs entirely through online courses. The research institution is credited with significant academic achievements and continues to make important contributions to the academic world. Florida State University boasts 15 colleges with more than 275 majors offered in undergraduate, graduate and professional programs. Students have the opportunity to complete their degree programs entirely through online courses and are afforded the same level of support as the traditional students enrolled at the institution. Florida State University endeavors to meet the individualized needs of each student to ensure success both academically and professionally. The online degree programs offered at Florida State University include undergraduate and graduate and also include certificate programs as well. Students also have the option of pursuing a degree completion program.

    Florida State University offers an online degree completion program for students who already possess an associate’s degree and are interested in pursuing the bachelor degree. The 42 credit Bachelor of Science offered in Interdisciplinary Social Science provides students with a comprehensive understanding of the social science discipline and develop skills in problem solving and adapting to rapidly changing circumstances and situations. The curriculum also includes a liberal arts study of core courses required by Florida State University for the purpose of providing students with an understanding of the social environment and the evolution of the world in which they live along with the history and development of man. The ten semester program permits students to select an area of concentration including economics, public administration, geography, sociology, and political science. Students are required to complete 18 credits in their areas of concentration, 12 credits in a secondary concentration and 12 credits in other departments within the College of Social Sciences.

  7. Michigan State University

    Michigan State University, established 1855, is considered one of the leading international research universities. It has earned recognition for its superior quality degree programs, social engagement and success in research. The high ranking Michigan State University is regarded as a top public university and considered one of the top 100 universities in the world and is also recognized for their efforts in sustainability and exceptional study abroad programs. Michigan State University is a traditional institution which offers a number of its degree programs online for the students who require more flexibility in their educational programs. The degree programs offered at Michigan State University prepare graduates to become leaders in their industry equipped with the knowledge and skills to be successful in a diverse global economy and community. Michigan State University strives to facilitate and be a catalyst for positive change and advance knowledge through research and innovative, academic endeavors.

    The School of Social Work within the College of Social Science at Michigan State University offers a rigorous and challenging Master of Social Work degree program as well as a series of graduate level courses in Social Work for individuals working within the field. The Master of Social Work degree can be completed on a part time basis, permitting working professionals to continue working while earning their advanced degree through online courses. The online program utilizes face to face video conferencing and online instruction. Students are offered a series of competency developing programs which advance the students skills in defining, identifying and meeting the needs of children. The programs focus on learning to communicate with children of all ages and working within a collaborative, educational setting. Students enrolled in the program will be required to complete general seminar courses such as school social workers continuing professional development seminar, social work in school settings, children with special needs and school social work assessment: integrating psychological and educational testing.

  8. Bellevue University

    Bellevue University, established in 1965, is a private, regionally accredited institution which offers challenging and innovative degree programs through online or traditional classroom courses. Home to more than 11,000 students and 12 locations throughout five states, Bellevue has become an award winning university and a leader in distance learning education. Bellevue University has earned the distance learning associations 21st century best practice award and ranked as one of the top 20 schools in the country in developing leaders by Leadership Excellence Magazine. The flexible degree programs can be completed on a part time or full time basis and some programs are offered at an accelerated pace. Bellevue University emphasizes active learning. Students apply the knowledge and skills learned in the classroom through practical application requirements and workplace projects. Bellevue University offers extensive support and resources to their students including an electronic library, educational advising and career placement assistance. Courses are taught by experienced educators through interactive online lectures.

    Bellevue University offers a 127 credit Bachelor of Science in Human and Social Services administration. Students are able to complete the program at an accelerated pace; requiring the courses to be taken in a specific order. The program provides a comprehensive and challenging curriculum intended to equip graduates with the skills and knowledge necessary to become successful leaders in the field of human and social services administration. Students develop skills in problem solving, communication, collaboration and leadership. Areas of study include finance, strategic planning, human resource management, general management and focuses on issues related to agencies which administer human services. Required courses include essential management skills for human and social services, human resource management in human and social services, managing change in a social service system, grant writing and funding for non-profit organizations, ethical and legal issues in human and social services and research methods for human and social service practitioners.

  9. Boston University Online

    Founded in 1839, Boston University has a long history of producing excellence. They can boast about Nobel and Pulitzer Prizes, milestones in the civil and women’s rights movements, and being ranked as one of the top 50 universities by U.S. News. Boston University is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Inc. and the Commission on Institution of Higher Education. It is a nonprofit, private research institution dedicated to academic excellence and social relevance. A faculty of scholars ignites and encourages students’ imaginations, leading to innovative ideas and engaging discussions. BU’s online programs promise the same dedication and world-class education a student would expect on campus. Designed and taught by distinguished faculty members, Boston University’s distance learning programs reach students around the world.

    The online Master’s Degree in Social Work, offered through Boston University’s School of Social work, is a part time program that allows individuals the chance to further their educations while continuing to work within their communities. It is open only to applicants who live within the United States, but not those from New Hampshire, Maryland, nor within the Massachusetts Route 128 corridor. There is an optional concentration in Clinical Social Work Practice, and students of this program will take required and elective courses ranging from Social Policy I to Mental Health and Social Policy. For more information on courses offered through this program, please see the Curriculum and Course Descriptions.

  10. University of North Dakota Online

    Founded in 1883, the University of North Dakota is focused on preparing students for the future. It boasts over 200 fields of study to prepare for or advance a career. The students matter, and they are given the opportunity to learn from and work with some of the brightest researchers around. The University of North Dakota has a strong liberal arts foundation, and it allows students to be self-reliant and self-motivated while still being involved in their surrounding community. Each college under the UND umbrella is accredited in its own right, and the University as a whole is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The Online & Distance Education option offers students a chance to take courses that will supplement a regular schedule, feed an interest, or advance a career. From individual courses to full, degree earning programs, the University of North Dakota has a lot to offer.

    The Online & Distance Education at University of North Dakota offers two graduate level social work programs: one for Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) students and one for non-BSW students. The Master of Social Work (MSW) for BSW students is a part-time program that starts at the beginning of the summer term (May). To be eligible for graduation, students will complete 36 credits over two years.  Classes are held online in the evenings and on weekends, and there is one on-campus visit required. The MSW for non-BSW students is a part-time program that starts at the beginning of Spring term (January). To be eligible for graduation from this program, a student will complete 60 credits in three or more years. Like with the previous program, classes are held online in the evenings and on weekends, but those in this program will have two on-campus visits. Both programs are designed to give students advanced practice, knowledge and skills required to meet the ideals of the profession.

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