For those who want to begin a career in social work without attending a traditional university program, one popular option is a distance learning social work degree. Degrees in social work are available at the associate's, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels, all of which may be obtained online. Getting a distance learning social work degree will take some research, a good application, and dedication to meeting degree requirements.
One of the first steps to getting a distance learning social work degree is to determine what level of degree is appropriate. Those without any college experience may want to start out with a bachelor's or associate's degree program in social work or psychology. People with an undergraduate degree may want to apply for either a master's or doctoral program. It is possible to get a graduate-level education without having a bachelor's degree or equivalent, but finishing the program will result in a certificate of completion rather than a master's degree or PhD.
Once the level of degree is determined, it is then important to look at the available distance learning social work degree programs. One important question to ask is whether the program is through an online university or is a distance learning program that is affiliated with a traditional university. Choosing a program with an affiliated school can qualify students for student services and discounts and greater opportunities for scholarships and grants. Online universities tend to be somewhat less expensive, but generally offer more pared-down services.
After choosing potential programs, it is important to fill out all application materials carefully. Applications for distance learning social work degree programs can be very lengthy, and may require information such as transcripts, letters of recommendation, proof of identification and citizenship or residency, and application fees. In addition, many programs require at least one essay that talks about the personal and professional goals of the student and why he or she feels the program will be beneficial. For some programs, this may be the only opportunity an applicant has to convince the school to accept an application; essays should be carefully checked for errors and even given to friends or colleagues to critique.
Once accepted to a distance learning social work degree program, a student will need to work very hard to keep up with classwork and perform all required tasks. Though distance learning and online programs typically have a more flexible work schedule than traditional college programs, students can still expect to spend many hours per week reading, researching, and completing projects. Some distance learning programs require students to take classes together at nearby university branches, or correspond with one another for group projects. Making friends within the program is a good way to form study groups, get help with test preparations, and make professional contacts.