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Best Online Social Work Associate Degree Programs in 2024

Getting a social worker associate degree online is a great way to jumpstart a meaningful career helping others. This guide reveals the best social work associate degrees in 2024, as well as crucial tips for choosing the right program for you and other helpful resources.

Author: Angela Myers
Editor: STEPS Staff

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Two women are sitting and talking in a bright room filled with plants. One woman with brown hair and bangs is smiling, wearing a light-colored sweater. The other, her associate with darker hair, blurred and wearing glasses and a striped shirt, gestures animatedly with her hand.

Entering the field of social work is a great choice for anyone who wants to positively impact their community while also enjoying amazing job security. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for social workers is growing by 16% — more than double the average growth rate projected for all other professions. In short, the demand for social workers isn’t going away, in fact, it’s only going to increase in the coming years.

If you think you might be interested in a rewarding career in social work but aren’t sure about the long-term school commitment, an associate degree is a great first step because it provides introductory knowledge of the field and may even allow you to begin working in the field and gain experience before you work towards a more advanced degree. And getting a social worker associate degree online adds extra flexibility and convenience, making it a better option than traditional degrees, particularly if you are juggling other responsibilities.

If you’re looking to get your associate degree in social work online, then you are in the right place. This guide details some of the best online associate in social work programs, provides tips for the application process, and answers the most frequently asked questions about earning your associate degree in social work. Let’s get started.

Spotlight on Online Social Work Associate Degree Programs

When looking at associate degree social work programs, it’s important to remember there isn’t one “best” program. Instead, the right program differs from person to person, and you should find the program that best suits your interests, budget, and state licensure aspirations. With that being said, some programs are objectively excellent. As a quality barometer for use during your search, we selected three of the best social worker associate degrees online and outlined what sets them apart.

When looking at social work associate degree options, consider the program from Georgia Military College (GMC). This program can be completed fully online within two years, with the option to directly transfer into the school’s bachelor’s program upon completion. The coursework is designed to educate students on opportunities within the social work field and to understand the responsibilities of entry-level employees in private and public settings.

Along with taking fundamental courses in social work, students choose among concentrations in health education, marriage and family therapy, or school and career counseling. Each option includes some specialized coursework, as well as networking opportunities with employers in Georgia.

To make the admissions process easier, GMC assigns an enrollment coach to guide each applicant through the process and ensure they register for the right courses. Upon graduation, students are prepared to either enter the workforce or complete their bachelor’s degree on an accelerated track.

Delivery:

  • Online
  • Full-time

Specialization Options:

  • Health education
  • Marriage and family therapy
  • School and career counseling

Reading Area Community College (RACC) offers a robust associate degree in social work. The program features flexible delivery options, with students choosing if they want to complete the degree 100% online, in person, or in a hybrid format. No matter which format a student selects, they receive the same high-quality curriculum consisting of general education courses and electives that align with their interests.

General education courses include introduction to social work, social welfare policy, and general psychology. Electives delve into a specific area of social work, such as working with children or substance abuse, though there aren’t specific concentrations within the program. This degree aims to prepare students to continue on to their bachelor’s. As a result, RACC has an agreement with Temple University to accept students who successfully complete this program into Temple’s bachelor’s degree in social work.

Delivery:

  • Online
  • On-Campus
  • Hybrid
  • Part-Time
  • Full-Time

One of the best social worker associate degree online programs is housed at San Antonio College, one of five campuses in the Alamo Colleges District. This program takes two to three years to complete, with online and in-person formats available. Students can also choose to take a full-time or part-time course load, depending on other work and life obligations.

While the program provides an overview of the field, some courses focus on behavioral and social studies, making this an ideal program for those interested in mental health and social work. It’s the only program within the Alamo Colleges District to offer a Level II Case Management Certificate, meaning students can begin their career as social worker assistants after graduating or as they continue for their bachelor’s at a four-year university. Should students choose the latter, San Antonio College has a team to help with the application process and transition.

Delivery:

  • Online
  • On-Campus
  • Part-Time
  • Full-Time

Specialization Option:

  • Mental health and social work

What You’ll Learn in an Online Associate Degree in Social Work

An associate degree in social work is an opportunity to learn the foundations of the field. As a result, many of the courses introduce students to the varied concepts and subfields within social work, such as mental health social work or family social work. For a better idea of what classes often cover, we outlined five common course topics below and provided real-world examples.

Common Courses in Associate of Social Work (ASW) Programs

Introduction to Social Work

Almost every degree we looked at included an introductory course to social work. Typically taken in a student’s first semester, this class offers an overview of the field and outlines the most important concepts for students to know. Reading Area Community College is one of the many schools with this course.

Social Workers in Healthcare Settings

A 2022 study suggests social workers can help improve outcomes in healthcare settings. As a result, more hospitals are hiring social workers to support patients and many universities, such as Georgia Military College, offer courses on social work within healthcare.

Case Management Skills

Social workers often manage cases with many moving parts, which makes this course crucial to associate degree social work students. Many schools, such as San Antonio College, host an introductory course focused on case management and/or provide a licensure track for this skill set.

Introduction to Psychology

Social work is heavily based on psychology. As a result, many social work associate degree programs require students to take a general course in psychology. Some programs may also require a course in sociology, though psychology is the more common requirement.

Practicum

While not a requirement of every associate degree social work program, some require students to complete a practicum in the field of social work. This practicum allows them to gain hands-on experience and apply what they learn in the classroom to a real-world setting. Central Ohio Technical College’s associate degree in social work, for example, offers a practicum.

Accreditation for Your Online Associate of Social Work Program

One of the most important aspects when choosing a social worker associate degree online program is accreditation. Without proper accreditation, your degree won’t be accepted by many employers or by other academic institutions. For social work specifically, there are two types of accreditation to look for.

The first is university accreditation. Schools that are accredited by a regional or national accrediting organization are often seen as superior. You can find out more about university accreditation in this guide.

The other is programmatic accreditation. There are a few programmatic accreditation boards that may apply, but one of the most popular is the Council on Social Work Education. However, this group doesn’t accredit social worker associate degree programs. As a result, programmatic accreditation isn’t as important as you get your social work associate degree but is crucial if you continue onto a bachelor’s in social work.

All of the social worker associate degree online programs in this guide are institutionally accredited, and any programs you apply to should be as well. If in doubt about accreditation, ask an admissions counselor.

FAQs About an Online Associate Degree in Social Work

Getting an associate degree in social work is a serious decision, and you want to make sure you have all the answers before applying. To help, we’ve tackled the most frequently asked questions about getting this degree.

How long does it take to earn an associate in social work degree online?

Typically, it takes two years to earn a social work associate degree. Some programs may be completed within one year, though this is rare. Other programs offer a longer, part-time track. While these tracks typically take three or four years to complete, the coursework is easier to balance with a full-time job or other responsibilities.

How much does an online social work associate degree cost?

Getting an associate degree in social work can be pricey, as seen by the cost per credit and total tuition outlined in the chart below. From the programs we looked at, the average tuition cost for the entire degree was $9,107. It’s possible to find a more affordable program, and financial aid resources are available to help offset the cost.

SCHOOL NAME# of CreditsCost/CreditTotal Tuition
Georgia Military College45$169/credit plus fees$8,280
Reading Area Community College60$209/credit for Berks County residents, $363/credit for other Pennsylvania residents, $401/credit for nonresidents$12,540-$24,060
San Antonio College60$109/credit for district residents, $180 for Texas residents and nonresidents$6,540-$10,800

What are the admissions requirements for an online associate degree in social work?

Admissions requirements for an associate degree in social work vary, though most schools share a few common requirements. These include submitting high school transcripts, ACT or SAT scores, and letters of recommendation from teachers. Some programs may also require students to write an essay or answer shorter questions about their interest in social work.

Can I earn my associate degree in social work 100% online?

It’s possible to earn an associate degree in social work 100% online. In fact, Georgia Military College and San Antonio College both have fully online programs, as do many other institutions. When looking at online programs, select one within your state if you intend to apply for licensure later in your career.

How much can you make with an associate degree in social work?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, social workers make about $55,350 annually. Since this statistic pulls from the salaries of social workers with varying education levels, someone with an associate degree most likely will make less. For an idea of businesses that employ social workers and specific jobs you might do, check out this guide from the University of Cincinnati.

Do I need additional certification or licensure to work as a social worker with an associate degree?

Depending on your desired job, you may need state licensure to work as a social worker. In most states, a bachelor’s or master’s degree is required to apply for licensure. However, some jobs require only an associate degree in social work and thus don’t require additional certificates or licenses. Job titles that are accessible to those with an associate degree include social work assistant and human services assistant.

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Additional Resources for Social Work Students and Professionals

As you complete your associate degree in social work, you may need extra support. These ten resources can provide it, as well as offer clarity about career options after graduating.