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Associate Degree in Social Work

By Rachel Schneider


Full-time students can often complete an associate degree in social work (ASW) in two years. Learners in ASW programs take introductory courses that lay a foundation for social work practice. Degree-seekers study psychology and sociology along with core social work classes. In certain states, individuals with an associate degree qualify to work in social work support positions. An ASW can help prepare you to earn a bachelor's degree in social work. An ASW may also help you secure a job in line with your career aspirations. Individuals with an ASW typically work as case management aides, social work assistants, and community outreach workers.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that jobs for social and human service assistants are projected to grow 13% between 2018 and 2028, much faster than other occupations. In 2018, these professionals earned a median annual salary of $33,750.

In This Article

Admission Requirements

Applicants to ASW programs typically must provide transcripts from high school and any previous 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 programs introduce learners to disciplines, such as psychology, sociology, and human welfare to help develop a broad understanding of the specific needs of individuals, families, and communities. If you aspire to complete a bachelor of social work (BSW) in the future, look for an associate program that will help you fulfill some prerequisite requirements. Many colleges that offer ASW programs 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

Online Associate of Social Work Programs

Earning an ASW online prepares degree-seekers with the skills and knowledge to succeed in entry-level roles. An ASW also prepares students to continue advancing their education by pursuing a BSW or master of social work, 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 their degree. Online and on-campus programs often feature the same coursework and instructors, differing only in the delivery format.

Social Work Licensure

Some states allow ASW grads to become licensed social work associates/assistants (LSWAs). Requirements vary by state. In Massachusetts, for example, students must pass the Association of Social Work Boards' bachelor's exam in addition to possessing an ASW to earn their LSWA.

Jobs with a Associate Degree in Social Work

Graduates with an ASW can explore a variety of entry-level positions across the field. While graduates of associate programs cannot pursue licensure as social workers, the degree prepares them to advance into 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 can work in fields like social work, rehabilitation, and psychology.

Home Health Aide and Personal Care Aide

Professionals in this occupation help people with disabilities, cognitive impairments, and chronic illnesses handle their daily living activities. 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 continue advancing their education to pursue licensure and carry out research studies on sociology issues. Associate in human services programs prepare students to pursue 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?

Earning an associate degree in social work equips degree-seekers with 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 do social work assistants do?

Social work assistants coordinate services for clients, helping determine what kind of aid they need. These professionals collaborate with clients and other professionals, including social workers, to develop effective treatment plans. They also help clients complete paperwork to apply for various assistance programs.

Do I need to attend a CSWE-accredited college for my associate degree?

Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) does not accredit associate or doctoral programs. CSWE focuses on programs that prepare students for professional social work practice, providing accreditation for bachelor's and master's programs.

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

Earning an associate degree online allows students to take advantage of flexible program formats. The flexibility and convenience of these programs enables learners to continue working as they earn their degree. Some schools offer online associate programs through accelerated formats, allowing students to earn their degree sooner.