If you’ve been thinking about going back to college to study for a Bachelor of Social Work degree (BSW), you might have been put off by the idea of having to relocate to a new city in order to attend classes on campus. For many people, the prospect of having to quit their day job in order to study – and the resulting loss of income that would mean – is too much of a barrier. Even if you can work remotely, you might have other family obligations that prevent you from enrolling. This is where distance learning comes in.
Taking your BSW online can give you the flexibility and freedom you need to fit your studies around all of your existing commitments at work and home. At the same time, thanks to the increased popularity of virtual learning and the improved technology involved, you do not have to worry about the quality of your education suffering in comparison to traditional campus courses. This makes it a great option for busy but ambitious people who want to boost their qualifications or retrain in the field of social work.
This article will take a closer look at the experience of doing a BSW online and discuss some of the pros and cons of distance learning to help you figure out if it is the right choice for you. If you decide that this is the pathway you want to take, there are also some tips at the end about how to successfully study for an online degree.
What topics will I cover on a BSW online?
Being a social worker involves helping people from all backgrounds and walks of life, enhancing their well-being, and ensuring that their needs are met. It usually means working with the most vulnerable people in our society, including children, the elderly, people with disabilities, families living in poverty, the unemployed, and those who are homeless. Depending on the circumstances, this could be on an individual basis, or with couples, families, or larger groups of people. In addition, you can be employed in a range of settings such as schools, hospitals, prisons, nonprofit groups, addiction centers, mental health centers, governmental organizations, and so on.
Therefore, as you might expect, a BSW online will cover a very wide range of topics to prepare you for your future career. Some will be compulsory, whereas, for others, you will choose from a longer list of electives. The exact modules you take will vary depending on the college that you enroll with and the specific program you choose; however, the following list gives you a good idea of the sort of titles you will cover:
Basic skills for social work practice
Introduction to social work
Social work theories
Human behavior in the social environment
Child welfare services
Drug and alcohol treatment in social work
Introduction to economics
Introduction to sociology
Introduction to psychology
Interviewing and assessment
Social welfare policies
Social work in the military
Diversity and multiculturalism
State and local government
What is it like studying for a BSW online?
When studying for a BSW online, the modules you take will be delivered through a range of virtual teaching and learning methods. For example, these could include live video lectures, prerecorded lectures, seminars, and tutorials on Zoom, reading, online forums, discussion boards, interactive quizzes, and other exercises, group work, written assignments, presentations, and individual research projects. Do not worry if you are unfamiliar with many of these, because your college will provide all the training and support you need. In addition, you will be able to maintain regular contact with your professors via email, video chat, messaging services, or similar methods if you need to ask questions or receive feedback.
Because social work is a vocational subject, doing a BSW online still involves completing some fieldwork in person. This is a vital part of the program because it enables you to get real, practical experience and put what you have been learning into practice. Your college will assist you in finding a suitable location near to where you live. Try to choose somewhere that is relevant to your passions and career goals so that you can work on the type of cases that are of most interest to you.
During placements, you will work under the guidance and supervision of a qualified social worker. They will offer you valuable advice and feedback, giving you the chance to boost your skills and your professional network. These will both be important when it comes to looking for jobs after graduating from your BSW online. Fieldwork is also a good opportunity to test out a few different types of social work if you are not yet sure which specific area of the industry you want to work in.
What skills will I gain on a BSW online?
Studying for a BSW online does more than simply give you the subject knowledge you need to be a social worker. It will also help you to develop a number of transferable skills that will be key regardless of the job role you progress to after you qualify. For example you’ll work on areas such as communication, active listening, patience, and observation, all of which will help you to better understand the difficulties your clients are facing and therefore assist them more effectively. It will also teach you how to build connections with the people you work with, encouraging them to open up and be honest with you.
Likewise, you will build the sort of time management, attention to detail, and organizational skills necessary for juggling many cases at once. In addition, you’ll develop your critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making abilities, which will enable you to come up with innovative solutions to tricky issues and work out the best ways to help those in your care.
Getting qualified is also a great way to boost your confidence in doing the job and ensuring that the more troubling cases you face do not impact your own well-being. Remember that social work can be a difficult industry to work in at times. However, the feeling of satisfaction that you get when you help someone is well worth it.
What are the advantages of doing a BSW online?
Completing a BSW online (or any distance learning program for that matter) has a whole wealth of benefits. Firstly, it enables you to study more flexibly than traditional courses held on campus. Second, except for a few live classes, it gives you the freedom to choose exactly when you learn. So, for example, if you are an early bird, then you can get up at the crack of dawn to get your work done, whereas night owls can stay up late at night instead. Similarly, you can decide whether you want to study a little bit every day or in fewer but longer sessions on your days off. This makes it very convenient for those who wish to fit their education around their current job, family obligations, hobbies, or travel.
Likewise, you can often choose to study at the pace that is most appropriate for you too. So, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a quick learner or you want to take more time to understand a topic fully – you can work at a speed that’s comfortable for you. In line with this, both full-time and part-time programs are available to choose between so that you can pick a course that truly suits your needs.
In addition to these advantages, you also get more freedom over where you study when you take your BSW online. If you need peace and quiet to focus, you can retreat to your home office or hole up in a local library, whereas those who prefer a bit of background noise can set up in their favorite coffee shop or cafe. You could even work from the beach if you want to! Moreover, doing a BSW online also opens more options for the colleges you can study with. Rather than being restricted to those institutions that you can feasibly commute to or move to, you can enroll with colleges anywhere in the country – or even international ones.
Another advantage of taking a BSW online is that it can save you money. Tuition fees for distance learning courses are often lower than the campus equivalents, plus you do not have to cover extra costs such as commuting, parking, childcare, or accommodation during the academic year. Lastly, virtual learning means that you have the chance to use a range of cutting-edge software in a supportive environment. Not only does this boost your tech skills, but it could also give you an advantage in the workplace because many companies are beginning to utilize similar tools themselves.
Are there any disadvantages to doing a BSW online?
Doing a BSW online does not have any inherent disadvantages. Employers are more than used to the idea of distance learning these days, so having an online qualification will not count against you when it comes to applying for jobs. This is largely because your fieldwork will still be carried out in person, so you will be getting all the hands-on experience that you need to be a successful social worker after graduation.
Having said that, it is important to recognize that your study experience will be different to a degree taught on campus. Your interactions with your fellow students and professors will all be virtual, which might not satisfy you if you are hoping for library group study sessions and drinks after lectures. Of course we’ve all learned during the COVID-19 pandemic that effective online networking is more than possible, so rest assured that you will still be able to make valuable contacts and lifelong friends on a BSW online.
Finally, you will also need to take more responsibility for your learning because no one will be looking over your shoulder and checking that you are studying. On the other hand, many students find this extra independence beneficial because it helps to boost your organizational skills and motivation. Plus, it can look very impressive on your resume to show that you completed a BSW online while still holding down your day job!
Top tips for studying for a BSW online
If you are keen to enroll on a BSW online but are a little apprehensive about virtual learning, the following tips should help you to complete the program successfully:
Create your ideal learning space. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a private home office or a desk in the corner of your bedroom, as long as it’s an area dedicated to learning. Every time you sit down here, your brain will be primed for study, so you should find it easier to get into the zone and focus. Make sure you have space for all your books, notes, and stationery, as well as good lighting so that you do not strain your eyes. Setting up your laptop and furniture ergonomically is also important to not get backache or other problems.
Figure out your perfect study schedule and stick to it. Have a look at your existing commitments and work out when the best times are for you to learn. This is much more effective at keeping you on track compared to just studying as and when you are free.
Prepare in advance. If you have never done a distance learning program before, try signing up for a free, short online course to get a feel for how they work before starting your BSW online. You can also do some reading around the subject before the first semester to familiarize yourself with the sort of topics you will be covering.
Do not forget about self-care! Looking after both your physical and mental health is crucial if you want to succeed on your BSW online. Therefore, you should make sure that you eat well, drink lots of water, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and make time for hobbies and relaxation.