Social workers seeking employment in clinical social work, school social work, and similar fields need licenses. Each state issues its own social work licenses and sets specific licensure requirements. Generally, a licensed social worker (LSW) needs to hold an MSW and meet supervised experience requirements, though some states only require a bachelor’s degree.
Social workers licensed in one state can often apply for a reciprocal license in other states, but reciprocity isn’t automatic. They may need to meet additional requirements, depending on the state. Learn more about social work licensure with the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) licensing guide.
Most graduates of an online MSW program will probably seek licensure after graduation. While the exact eligibility requirements vary by state, students can expect to possess the following elements for licensure:
- Be of a certain minimum age, usually 21.
- Possess sound moral character as defined by the state’s licensing authority.
- Complete a licensure registration application and pay the requisite fee.
- Possess a master’s degree in social work from an accredited or state-recognized institution.
- Pass an examination, such as the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB).
- Complete the required number of hours of supervised postgraduate clinical experience.
Almost all jurisdictions will require licensed social workers to take continuing education courses for license renewal. However, each state will have its own requirements as to the number of hours needed and the types of courses licensees should take. For example, some states require 20 hours each year while others require 25 hours every other year. States may also require a certain number of the continuing education hours to be in ethics. Then there’s the fact that states differ in how they define an “hour”, such as a clock hour or a contact hour. To learn more, students should visit their state licensing board.
Advanced Generalist Master’s in Social Work Online What is an advanced generalist program?
Advanced generalist programs are designed for students who wish to engage in both micro and macro social work, and who want to learn about and gain training in a number of different social work fields.
In general, this type of program helps prepare students to implement interventions External link at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels, and to work with both individual clients and larger communities. In this way, advanced generalist programs may be considered an intermediate between direct practice/clinical social work programs, which typically focus on individual work with clients, and community planning and organization programs, which focus mainly on larger communities and macro-level change.
Prospective students who wish to enroll in an advanced generalist program should research the exact curricula and course offerings of the programs that interest them in order to choose a program that meets their academic and professional goals.
Curriculum Details for Advanced Generalist Programs
Accredited online advanced generalist programs have similar curriculum structure, courses, and field education requirements as on-campus programs. As with other types of MSW programs, advanced generalist programs are generally comprised of a core set of foundational courses, and a set of concentration or elective courses (also known as advanced standing courses). While course titles and content vary across programs, sample classes may include:
- Human Behavior in the Social Environment:
Human psychological, emotional, and social development across the lifespan. How humans interact with different social environments (ex. family, school and work settings, friends), and how these environments in turn affect human thought, behavior, and development.
- Clinical social work practice:
Clinical social work is a specialty within the broader profession of social work. The American Board of Clinical Social Work (ABCSW) defines clinical social work as “a healthcare profession based on theories and methods of prevention and treatment in providing mental-health/healthcare services, with special focus on behavioral and bio-psychosocial problems and disorders
- Social Welfare Policy:
The history of social services and social welfare policy in the United States. Current social work and welfare policies are analyzed from historical, political, and economic perspectives. How current policies affect social workers’ practice.
- Foundations of Advanced Generalist Practice:
The fundamental concepts, principles, and methods of working with individuals, groups, and larger communities to address a variety of common social, psychological, emotional, and cultural issues. Professional ethics, communications skills, and therapeutic methods are discussed and applied to different client scenarios.
- Social Work Practice in School Environments:
- The principles and methods of social work practice in a school setting.
- The different federal and state laws that impact school settings and school social work practice.
- Understanding school communities as a whole, and how to work with students and school personnel to address different issues on and off campus that affect student learning.
- How to counsel students at different grade levels and help them with such challenges as learning disabilities, bullying, poverty, truancy, and family conflict.
- Advanced Clinical Practice with Families:
- How social workers can help address common emotional, psychological, and social issues that family members face individually and as a unit.
- Addressing spousal, parental, and sibling relationships, marital conflicts, different emotional disorders (ex. depression, anxiety) and how they affect the family unit, domestic abuse, and child neglect.
- Advanced Clinical Practice with Older Adults:
- How social workers can assist elderly individuals from multiple economic, social, and cultural backgrounds.
- Helping elderly clients navigate the process of applying for government benefits, addressing elderly abuse.
- Helping the families of elderly individuals manage long-term elderly care.
- For a full list of online MSW programs with a clinical social work concentration, see our online LCSW degree programs page.
- Community Planning and Administrative Leadership:
- The essential concepts and theories of effective community planning and organization.
- How to use structure, leadership, education, and program development to create positive change at the community level.
Online Master’s in Social Work — What is a Cohort Model?
Some online Master of Social Work (MSW) degree programs use a cohort model of instruction where students enter as a group and take a predetermined schedule of classes. There are some online programs that have flexible scheduling that allow students to pick and choose which classes they take each quarter or semester. With the exception of programs that offer multiple concentrations or electives, where students have the option to customize their degree program during the advanced standing year.
Advantages of the Cohort Model of Instruction
A cohort functions as a student’s support group during the program, allowing opportunities to form closer bonds with their classmates, and often starts their professional network following graduation. In addition, several programs that use a cohort model have some class sizes and limit the number of students per cohort to create a cohesive student group. Finally, with a set curriculum of classes, students do not have to worry about getting the classes they need to graduate.
Disadvantages of the Cohort Model of Instruction
One disadvantage of the cohort model is that all classes in the program may not be offered every semester or quarter. Therefore, if a student needs to take a leave of absence for personal reasons, they may have to wait sometime before continuing their degree program. This is typically true for online MSW programs that only accept incoming students once a year. This is not as much of a concern for programs that have multiple start dates as there is a higher chance that courses will be offered more than one time per year.
Synchronous VS Asynchronous Instruction
For students who are not familiar with the terms synchronous versus asynchronous, online programs typically use one of three methods for instruction:
- Synchronous Instruction: Programs that use synchronous instruction methods require students to log on at specific times to attend classes in “real-time”. Some programs require students to log on for a set schedule of classes each week, while others may only require students to log on for real-time instruction a couple of times per semester. Students typically know well in advance when they are required to log on for classes.
- Asynchronous Instruction: Programs that use asynchronous instruction methods do not require students to log on at specific times to attend classes. Students are given deadlines to watch lectures and complete assignments. For these programs, students can still interact with teachers and classmates through their school’s online learning portal.
- Combination of Synchronous and Asynchronous Instruction: Several programs actually use both types of instruction method depending on the class and professor. Again, students typically know well in advance when they are required to log on for real-time classes.
Some students may prefer classes with synchronous instruction so that they may interact with professors and classmates. Other students may enjoy the flexibility of asynchronous instruction; however, it is important to stay on track and keep up with coursework and assignments.
For students who are not sure which method is right for them, we suggest reaching out to a couple of schools to ask more questions about the different methods.
For students who are considering attending a full-time online MSW program, we recommend asking an admission advisor what happens if a student needs to take some time off during the program for an unforeseen circumstance.
Core courses in master’s in social work online programs teach interpersonal and behavioral skills that expand on the building blocks of undergraduate courses and prepare graduate students for more advanced social work careers.
Course subjects include clinical and therapeutic services, community development, organizational planning and social policy analysis. These skills train students to meet the needs of citizens and clients.
The curriculum emphasizes core social work values of service, the importance of human relationships, and social justice and integrity. These skills help social workers find fulfillment in a wide variety of settings, including community mental health clinics and nonprofit organizations.