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Associate Degree in Social Work

An associate degree in social work (ASW) commonly takes two years to complete with full-time study and provides students with introductory courses and a foundation for social work practice. Courses may include topics like psychology and sociology along with core social work classes. In certain states, an associate’s degree may qualify you to work as in social work support positions. It can help you to prepare for your bachelor’s degree in social work and it may also help you secure a job in line with your career aspirations. Associate social work degree holders tend to hold positions such as case management aides, social work assistants, and community outreach workers.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the median pay for social and human service assistants is $30,830.1 This position is projected to grow by 11% through 2024.1

Admission Requirements

In order to apply to a program, prospective ASW degree students will typically need to provide the school with transcripts from high school and any other college or university that they have attended. Admissions departments will determine whether students are eligible based on grade point average (GPA), application submissions, and in some cases, English and math placement tests.

Core Concepts and Coursework

Associate social work degree programs focus on introducing students to disciplines like psychology, sociology, and human welfare to help develop a broad understanding of the specific needs of individuals, families, and communities. If your goal is to complete a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree in the future, it’s a good idea to find an associate’s program that will help you fulfill some prerequisite requirements for that degree program. Many colleges that offer associate’s degrees in social work also maintain articulation agreements with four-year schools that can make transferring credits towards a bachelor’s degree easier.

Common courses in an ASW program include:

  • Introduction to Psychology
  • Introduction to Health and Human Service Organizations
  • Principles of Sociology
  • Introduction to Social Work
  • Social Issues in Diversity
  • Public Health Issues
  • Healthcare Information Systems
  • Crisis Intervention
  • Research and Writing for the Workplace
  • Internship/Capstone

Traditional Associate in Social Work Programs

Georgia Military College logo

Georgia Military College (Martinez, GA)

The social work associate’s degree from Georgia Military College helps prepare students for an entry-level career in social work. Using the historical development of social work and the National Association of Social Worker’s Code of Ethics as teaching guidelines, this degree program helps students to learn about basic social work principles and the variety of settings that can define a social work career. This two-year social work degree program is comprised of core requirements and courses dedicated to the social work concentration. Students are expected to complete between 70 and 73 quarter hours through required courses like Introduction to Social Work, Careers in Social Work, and Self-Awareness and Professional Development, as well as mandatory courses related to natural sciences, humanities, fine arts, social sciences, and communications. Students who complete this degree will leave prepared for employment in a social service organization and will be ready to pursue a more advanced social work degree.

Miami Dade College logo

Miami Dade College (Miami, FL)

Located in Miami, Florida, Miami Dade College offer students the opportunity to earn an Associate of Arts in Social Work (AASW) degree. The program is designed as a bridge program for students who intend to ultimately pursue a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW). Students who complete this program are guaranteed entrance into a Bachelor of Social Work degree program within the Florida public university system. Students who enroll at Miami Dade will work with an advisor to ensure that the courses they take during their associate’s program adequately prepare them for their future studies. The courses that students will complete will fulfill general education course requirements and build foundational social work knowledge. Required courses include English Composition, Introduction to Literature, Introduction to Psychology, Human Growth and Development, and General Education Biology. Students must complete 60 credits to graduate.

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Walters State Community College (Morristown, TN)

Walters State Community College (WSCC), also known as the Great Smoky Mountains Community College, serves ten rural communities in East Tennessee with four campuses located in Morristown (main campus), Greeneville, New Tazewell, and Sevierville. The school’s Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences offers an Associate of Science in Social Work degree program for students looking for a curriculum founded in the liberal arts. Students who enroll in this two-year program will also complete courses in specialized areas of study like psychology, sociology, political sciences, and economics. Students can expect to take courses such as Composition, General Psychology, American History, and Probability and Statistics during their first year. Mandatory second-year courses include Introduction to Social Work, American Government, Sociology of Citizenship, and Cultural Diversity. WSCC recommends students complete this 60-credit program on a full-time basis. The program is designed to prepare graduates for transfer into a baccalaureate social work degree program.

Online Associate in Social Work Programs

Wright State University logo

Wright State University (Dayton, OH)

Wright State University offers an online associate’s degree in social work for students who are looking to take the first step toward becoming a social worker. This program helps prepare students for careers as social work assistants in a variety of public and private settings, including hospitals, social service agencies, public schools, and mental health centers. It is also a great first step toward completing a Bachelor of Social Work degree, as students can transfer over their credits toward many BSW degree programs. The curriculum is comprised of core requirement courses, departmental and related core requirements, and electives. Some examples of classes for this associate degree include Introduction to Psychology, Introduction to Sociology, Multicultural Competence in a Diverse World, Introduction to Social Work, and American National Government. Altogether, this 60-credit degree program traditionally takes two years to complete, although students will work one-on-one with a career advisor to determine the right schedule for their individual needs.

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New England College (Henniker, NH)

New England College offers an online Associate of Science in Human Services (ASHS) degree for students looking to start their career in the social work field. This 60-credit degree program prepares students for work with some of the most vulnerable populations, focusing on the development of critical thinking and client assessment skills. The online classroom provides students with an accredited education with added convenience and flexibility. Using a combination of podcasts, video lectures, chat rooms, and discussion boards, New England College makes it easy for students to define their own weekly schedule while staying connected and focused on pursuing their degree. Enrollees must complete 15 courses over the span of two years. Required courses fall into three categories: general education, major requirements, and electives. Students will have the opportunity to take a number of engaging courses such as Introduction to Psychology, Delivery of Human Services, Substance Abuse, and Client Assessment and Planning. The program offers maximum flexibility for working professionals, with six different start dates throughout the academic year.

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Palo Alto College (San Antonio, TX)

Palo Alto College, part of the Alamo Colleges group, offers distance education programs for a number of degree programs, including the Associate of Arts in Social Work degree. Using a combination of internet, blended, interactive video conference, and telecourses, Palo Alto’s distance education programs are ideal for students who are trying to balance family and/or career responsibilities. Students are required to attend an in-person or online orientation session for all telecourse or internet courses. Palo Alto’s online social work associate’s degree program educates students on creating effective social change and provides them with the tools that they need to empower individuals and families to enhance their own wellbeing. Required courses include Social Welfare as a Social Institution, Marriage and the Family, Correctional Systems and Practices, and Social Psychology. This 60-credit program takes two years to complete, after which students may choose to secure a job in the field or transfer their credits to a four-year Bachelor of Social Work degree program.

Social Work Licensure

Some states offer ASW grads the opportunity to become a licensed social work associate/assistant (LSWA). In order to become an LSWA in Massachusetts, for example, you must pass the Association of Social Work Boards’ bachelor’s level licensing exam in addition to possessing a minimum of an associate’s degree in social work. Check with your state’s regulations to see if any additional experience or education is required.

Jobs with an Associate Degree in Social Work

If you do not plan on continuing your education with a BSW, an associate degree in social work may still be a good launching point for a number of jobs in the field. Some examples include:

  • Case Management Aide
  • Community Outreach Worker
  • Gerontology Aide
  • Intake Specialist
  • Social Work Assistant
  • Substance Abuse Counselor
  • Probation Officer
  • Victims Advocate Associate

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What can you do with an associate’s degree in social work?

Answer: An associate degree in social work can help you get your foot in the door in the social work/human services field, but it can also be a good bridge for students who plan to continue their education with a BSW or even an MSW later. In some states, students who obtain an associate’s degree and have the required amount of work experience and supervision may be able to become an LSWA. Those with an associate’s degree may hold positions such as social work assistants or case management aids. Gaining experience can help you to determine whether you want to pursue a higher social work degree and/or license and can help showcase your interest in and dedication to the field.

Question: What do social work assistants do?

Answer: According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, social and human service assistants connect individuals and families in need with services, benefits, and support through community resources. They usually assist social workers in a number of fields such as psychology, rehabilitation, and social work.

Question: Do I need to attend a CSWE-accredited college for my associate’s degree?

Answer: The Council on Social Work Education only accredits BSW and MSW level degree programs. If you plan to attend a bridge or pathway program, however, make sure the school that you are are transferring into is CSWE accredited.

Question: What are the benefits of getting my social work associate’s degree online?

Answer: Getting your social work associate degree online can be a benefit for those looking for a flexible education plan. Colleges and universities are using the latest technologies to ensure that students’ online experiences match those of traditional on campus attendees. Completing core social work requirement classes in an online environment can allow you to continue your daily activities with more scheduling flexibility. If you are considering transferring your credits and receiving your bachelor’s degree in social work, it may be easier to complete the first two years of your degree from the comfort of your own home. However, students who prefer a face-to-face learning style or who are less self-directed may be better suited for a traditional, on-campus ASW program.

References:
1. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-and-human-service-assistants.htm