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Associate Degree in Social Work


Full-time students can often complete an associate degree in social work (ASW) in two years. ASW-seekers take introductory courses in psychology, sociology, and core social work concepts. An ASW also lays the academic foundation for a bachelor's degree in social work.

An ASW may also help graduates secure jobs in line with their career aspirations. ASW-holders typically work as case management aides, social work assistants, and community outreach workers. In certain states, individuals with an associate degree may work in social work support positions.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for social and human service assistants are projected to grow 17% between 2019 and 2029, much faster than other occupations. In 2019, these professionals earned a median annual salary of $35,060.

Associate level social work degree

Length: 2 years

Credit Hours: 60 credits

Licensure Requirements: An associate degree does not meet most state’s qualifications for a social work license

What is the Difference Between a Social Work Associate Degree and a Human Services Associate Degree?

While human services associate degree programs and ASWs share similarities, human services programs focus on the community level. Graduates secure jobs in community services organizations and agencies as case management aides, community outreach workers, and social work assistants. In contrast, ASW programs train social workers to work with individual clients, and ASW degrees function as stepping stones to bachelor's, master's, and doctorates and social work licensure.

Associate degrees typically take two years to complete and consist of 60-90 credits. The human services associate degree curriculum emphasizes case management, crisis counseling, and intervention. Core courses include introductory classes in human service, psychology, and social work, along with developmental psychology, perspectives on human behavior, principles of sociology, and social issues in diversity.

Admission Requirements for a ASW Degree Program

Applicants to ASW programs typically must provide transcripts from high school and any previously-attended college or university. Individual admission departments determine whether students are eligible based on GPA, application materials, and in some cases, English and math placement tests.

Core Concepts and Coursework

ASW curricula introduce learners to concepts in psychology, sociology, and human welfare, developing a broad understanding of individual, family, and community needs. Individuals interested in earning a bachelor of social work (BSW) should look for an associate program that will help them fulfill some prerequisites. Many colleges that offer ASW programs maintain articulation agreements with four-year schools, making it easier to transfer credits towards a bachelor's degree.

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

Online Associate of Social Work Programs

Candidates who earn an ASW online gain the skills and knowledge required to succeed in entry-level roles. An ASW also prepares students to pursue a BSW or master's degree in social work, further expanding their career opportunities.

Online programs often run asynchronously, allowing learners to complete their coursework from any location, during any time. This flexibility also enables students to continue working as they earn a degree. Online and on-campus programs typically feature the same coursework and instructors, differing only in the delivery format.

Social Work Licensure

Some states allow ASW-holders to become licensed social work associates/assistants (LSWAs), although requirements vary by state. In Massachusetts, for example, students must pass the Association of Social Work Boards' bachelor's exam after completing an ASW to earn their LSWA.

Jobs with an Associate Degree in Social Work

Graduates with an ASW can explore a variety of entry-level positions in the field. While ASW-holders cannot become licensed social workers, graduates may pursue a bachelor's program in social work and complete the requirements to become a licensed social worker.

Social and Human Service Assistant

These professionals provide a variety of client services, including support for families. They find employment in areas like social work, rehabilitation, and psychology.

Home Health Aide and Personal Care Aide

Professionals in this occupational field help people with disabilities, cognitive impairments, and chronic illnesses handle daily life. These workers often assist older adults by monitoring vital signs or administering medication.

Community Outreach Worker

These professionals supervise and coordinate social service programs and community organization, collaborating with workers who provide various social services to the public. They also write proposals for social services funding.

Frequently Asked Questions

What's the difference between an associate in social work and an associate in human services?

An associate degree in social work prepares students to advance their education, pursue licensure, and carry out research studies on sociological topics. Associate in human services programs are intended for those seeking careers as aides, assistants, or advocates in health-related fields.

Can you become a social worker with an associate degree?

Earning an associate degree in social work allows graduates to consider entry-level roles in the field and advance their degree to broaden their job opportunities.

What jobs can you get with an associate degree in social work?

An associate degree in social work provides the foundational skills and knowledge necessary to pursue entry-level jobs across the field. These job opportunities include social work assistants, case management aides, and community outreach workers.

What are the benefits of earning an associate in social work degree online?

Students pursuing an associate degree online benefit from flexible program formats, and many continue working as they earn their degree. Some schools offer online associate programs in accelerated formats, allowing students to graduate sooner.