Associate’s Degree in Social Work
Are you considering a career in social work? Have you been thinking about pursuing an associate’s degree in social work so you can join the workforce sooner rather than later? Social work is a field that encompasses a large area, and social workers are and continue to be very much in demand. How far will an associate degree advance you in social work? Read here and get the information you need not only on what social work entails but the degree level required for various types of social work jobs starting with an associate’s degree in social work.
Overview of Social Work
In the U.S. alone, social work has been around for more than 100 years. It’s a field of study and a profession based on actual practical experiences. It deals with the understanding of behavior, human development, and economic, social, and cultural organizations and relationships.
Social workers often help individuals who have difficulty dealing with daily life stresses. Professionals working in the field of social work have attempted to provide and promote many social impacts.
- Reduced mental health stigma
- Child abuse and neglect prevention
- Medicare and Medicaid
- Workers’ compensation
- Civil rights
- Disability pay
- Unemployment insurance
There are typically three levels of social work, each of which provides a somewhat different service to specific populations.
- Micro social work – At this level, social workers address several social issues by providing services one-on-one, to families, and to small groups. These issues may be substance abuse counseling, housing support, and mental health therapy, among others.
- Mezzo social work – At the mezzo level, social workers work with larger groups of people, such as in large neighborhoods, hospitals, prisons, and schools. They coordinate patient care for hospitalized individuals, address substance abuse recovery in prisons, and help students who are struggling academically.
- Macro social work – Macro-level social workers are involved in research, policy-making, and large societal issues, including substance abuse, housing, homelessness, and similar community-based issues.
In addition, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) groups social workers into four areas or types.
- Child, family, and school
- Mental health and substance abuse
- All other social workers
A social worker is a professional focused on improving overall well-being and helping individuals and communities. They work with a variety of types of people but focus most on those who are oppressed, poverty-ridden, or vulnerable for one reason or another.
Students who pursue a career in social work are not only knowledgeable in the field of social work but also obtain valuable insight into sociology, social work fundamentals, and human psychology. Although you cannot become a social worker with an associate degree, you may be able to obtain a better understanding of social work and all it entails.
Many students who complete an associate degree in social work program use it as a foundation for a bachelor’s degree program. It’s a great way to take care of prerequisite and general education courses that may be required for the bachelor’s degree in social work program.
Social Work Careers and Salaries
Whether you have an associate, bachelor, or graduate degree in social work, you’ll find various job opportunities from which to choose. Below are some possible careers options as well as the possible average annual wages these individuals earned as of May 2021 BLS report.
- Heath aide – This position is available with a high school diploma and work experience or an associate degree. Their annual wage was $29,430.
- Social and human service assistant – Depending on the employer, you may be able to get this position with a high school diploma. An associate degree in human services, social science, or behavioral science is usually common for this job. Their average annual wage was $37,610.
- Substance abuse assistant – You may be able to get this position with a high school diploma or an associate degree in human services, social science, or behavioral science. Their average annual wage was $37,610.
- Casework assistant – You may be able to get this position with a high school diploma. An associate degree in human services, social science, or behavioral science is also common for this job. Their average annual wage was $37,610.
- Medical assistant – This position requires completion of a diploma, certificate, or associate degree program and on-the-job training. $37,190 was their average annual wage.
- Community health worker – This position is available with a high school diploma and work experience or an associate degree. Their annual wage was $29,430
- Social worker – Social workers must have at least a bachelor’s degree. Their annual average earnings were $50,390.
- Probation officer – Probation officers must have at least a bachelor’s degree. Their annual average earnings were $60,250.
Coursework in an AA in Social Work/Human Services
The Associate of Arts in Social Work and the Associate of Arts in Human Services are two degree program options that may be different in the title but are very similar in content. Some of the courses in the AA of Social Work program include:
- Introduction to Sociology
- Diversity Studies
- Marriage and Family Dynamics
- Welfare Programs
- Child Development and Welfare
- Court Systems
- Addiction and Drug Use
- Cultural Anthropology
- Human Sexuality
- Police and Corrections Systems
Here are some of the courses a student may find in an AA in Human Services.
- Introduction to Human Services
- Intro to Psychology
- Psychology of Huma Relations
- Understanding Addictions
- Introduction to Counseling
- English Composition
- Methods of Social Casework
- Group Counseling Methods
- Crisis Intervention and Stress Management
As you can see, the course titles may be slightly different in the two programs, but they have many of the same meanings and content. Both programs generally require the student to complete an internship.
Social Work vs Human Services
Social work and human services are two fields that are very similar, and both can lead to a career in social work. They both prepare students for careers where they can help their communities. The goal of human service professionals is to improve the well-being of individuals, groups, and the entire community. This may be accomplished through outreach, policy development, and direct clinical practice. The goal of social work professionals is to prevent the conditions of those needing help and welfare.
Can I Become a Social Worker with an Associate’s in Social Work?
The associate degree in social work is a very beneficial program for students interested in a career in social. This two-year degree teaches students the fundamentals of human services while also introducing them to the field of sociology. This program can be found at technical schools and community colleges.
Students learn about psychology, case management, community resources, advocacy, criminal justice, and social programs. Although an associate degree in social work is a valuable degree to have, it’s not enough to become a social worker. Depending on the type of social worker you want to be, you must have at least a bachelor’s degree.
A social worker who wants to work in a non-clinical setting can have a bachelor’s degree, but one working in a clinical setting must have a master’s degree in social work or human services. In addition to completing the bachelor’s degree program, the student may also need to be licensed depending on the state.
The AA in Human Services is often chosen by individuals who want to pursue their education and earn a bachelor’s degree in social work. The AA program helps the student complete the prerequisite and general education courses. While there are many associates in social work programs out there, the associate in human services is chosen as much if not more than the social work associate degree program.
Get started with your career in social work with an associate’s degree in social work or human services. Inquire with a few programs to find the best fit.