This article describes what an online Doctor of Social Work (DSW) is, and the important features about the degree that you should consider. It also discusses the advantages of earning this degree in terms of finding work, and it also details a solid, online DSW degree program with no GRE requirement.
Why Earn an Online DSW Degree?
Many social services and social work professionals want to earn an advanced degree in social work because of the increasing need for highly skilled workers in these fields.
Increasing Job Demand for Social Workers
Government statistics according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics report that employment for social workers overall by 2024 is strong – 12% increase. This employment growth is being driven in particular by a higher need for healthcare and social services. But some social worker specialties will experience a higher demand for professionals than others.
Specifically, higher demand will be especially acute for social workers with master’s and doctoral degrees. For healthcare and clinical social workers, which require advanced degrees, jobs will increase by an excellent 19%. This demand is caused by an aging US population. As people get older, their health declines, and there is a greater need for assistance for patients and families to adjust to new medical treatments, lifestyles and prescription medications.
Employment for substance abuse and mental health social workers also is going to increase by up to 19% by 2024. More drug offenders are being treated instead of sent to prison for long terms.
Social worker professionals with doctoral degrees will see increased demand as social service agencies continue to expand. These facilities need experienced, highly trained social workers to lead them. More universities will need DSW-trained social work professionals to teach the new generation of social workers as well.
Highly trained social workers also earn a good salary. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the top 10% of social workers earn more than $78,000 per year.
Important for Leadership Roles
Earning your DSW is important for social work professionals who want a higher level of pay in clinical social work, academia, research and administration. It also is important for those who want positions with the most authority and responsibility:
- Clinician: While a master’s degree is often enough for clinical and healthcare social workers, a doctorate will put you in line for more opportunities. A DSW greatly expands and improves your clinical knowledge. It also offers you more knowledge about the latest treatment modalities and research in mental health. Professionals with a DSW also may be more able to work as a supervisor for social workers with only a master’s or bachelor’s degree.
- Professor: Most university professors who teach in social work have a doctoral degree. In fact, research at the School of Social Work at the University of Texas-Arlington suggests that most social work professors have a DSW or a Ph.D. in social work.
- Researcher: Social work professionals who want to attain research positions usually have a doctoral degree. Social work research is important for making advances in social welfare, social policy and social work practice. This is an area of social work that is growing quite rapidly, and those with a doctoral degree are able to make the greatest contributions in child welfare, gerontology, mental health and health policy. Social work researchers with a doctoral degree tend to find the most opportunities at government agencies, universities and social services organizations in major cities.
- Administrator: Professionals with a DSW can qualify for positions of authority at nonprofit social services organizations, directors of social services organizations, and clinical directors of mental health organizations.
What Makes a Strong DSW Degree Online?
Social work professionals who are considering an online DSW want to ensure that they are earning a high quality degree. Earning a DSW will take a lot of expense and at least four or five years. Here is what to look for:
- Strong, experienced faculty: Look for highly distinguished faculty with many years of experience in teaching doctoral-level students.
- Selectivity: Rigorous DSW programs should be selective and take a limited number of students each year.
- Multiple financial options: Highly qualified doctoral candidates should qualify for scholarships and grants. You should not need to borrow all of the funds to pay for your DSW.
- High completion rate: The university should provide statistics of past students that indicate a high percentage who completed the program within a normal timeframe of four to six years. A large number of graduates should be gainfully employed in the social work field in a position that is commensurate with their experience and education.
- Professors who are trained to teach online: There are relatively few online DSW programs, but it is still important that your professors have a lot of experienced teaching effectively online.
- No GRE: Standardized test scores often have not been shown to predict one’s success in graduate or post graduate school. Many online DSW degree programs today do not require you to take the GRE. This will save your months of test prep, as well as the cost.
- Accreditation: Note that the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) does NOT accredit DSW programs; it only accredits bachelor’s and master’s programs. It is recommended to check that the university has received regional accreditation by an accreditation agency recognized by the US Department of Education.
Online DSW Options with No GRE
Social work professionals who desire to further their career may consider the online Doctor of Social Work that is offered by Capella University. This is a three to four year doctoral program in social work with no GRE. It has been carefully designed around doctorate in social work education guidelines so that you will learn everything that you need in terms of critical thinking, research, and integrating theoretical knowledge with practical experience.
This program from the regionally-accredited Capella University focuses heavily on social work leadership, advanced social work practitioner skills, and using technology to expand the effectiveness and reach of the nation’s social services programs.
For your dissertation, you are required to develop a research project in social work that is action based, and will contribute to solving a recognized social work problem in the US or in another country.
Required courses include:
- Advanced Social Work Practice: Theoretical Perspectives
- Leadership and Management in Complex Social Systems
- Advanced Social Work Policy and Practice
- Clinical Theories of Social Work Practice 1 & 2
- Advanced Social Work Practice with Diverse Populations in Complex Systems
- Advanced Social Work Practitioner as a Leader of Social Change
Capella University publishes doctoral graduate statistics that indicate its doctoral programs in the social and behavioral sciences were worth the time and expense. Seventy percent of recent doctoral graduates in social and behavioral sciences reported that the skills and knowledge acquired was applicable to their career. Sixty-six percent stated that their doctoral degree helped them to achieve their career ambitions.
University of Southern California
USC offers an online DSW program that will prepare the experienced social work professional who seeks a leadership or management position. Graduates of this online program develop the skills they need to develop cutting edge solutions to major problems in our society.
USC’s program receives applications regularly from a broad range of professionals in business, social work, public administration, public health, nursing, and counseling.
Students in this program closely study social work concepts that relate to innovation, leadership and advanced social services management practice. It features both online weekly courses and two residencies that you are required to attend in person. These residencies are six days each, and are held in both Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.
At each residency, students are required to identify a major social challenge and will then research it for the final capstone project. At the next residency, students present their capstone projects. This is done instead of a dissertation.
After earning this degree, graduates are ready to advance their social work careers, and to establish a strong legacy of social impact. Graduates are able to bring positive social change and lead the country’s discourse about major social work issues that affect populations around the country and world.
Major topic areas covered in the curriculum at USC are:
- Innovation and change
- Technology fluency
- Data driven decision making
- Leading public discourse
- Organizational leadership
- Managing Innovation and Change in Social Work
- Leading Public Discourse in Social Work
- The Science of Social Work
- Informatics and Social Innovation
- Innovation Laboratory I/II
- Preparatory Scholarship for Capstone
- Leadership Capstone
- Leading and Managing Complex Systems
- Financial Management for Social Change
- Data-Driven Decision Making in Social Services
- Evaluating Innovation and Change
- Residency I/II
Earning a DSW with no GRE will help many students to further their social work career ambitions. Whether you want to work clinically, in research or academia, earning a DSW will indicate to potential employers that you have the skills and knowledge to lead and change the social work profession for the common good.
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- Guide to Online Doctorate PhD Programs without GRE
- Social Workers. (2015, Dec. 17). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm#tab-6
- Capella University. Social Work DSW Results. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.capellaresults.com/dsw_socialwork.asp