15 Best Associate’s Degrees in Social Work

Associate's Degree in Social Work

Are you considering a career in social work? Have you been thinking about pursuing an easy 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.

  • Healthcare
  • 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.

  • Health aide – This position is available with a high school diploma and work experience or an associate degree. Their annual wage was $30,180.
  • 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 $38,520.
  • 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 $49,710.
  • 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 $38,520.
  • Medical assistant – This position requires completion of a diploma, certificate, or associate degree program and on-the-job training. $38,270 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 $38,520
  • Social worker – Social workers must have at least a bachelor’s degree. Their annual average earnings were $55,350.
  • Probation officer – Probation officers must have at least a bachelor’s degree. Their annual average earnings were $59,860.

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
  • Mathematics
  • 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 Human 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.

15 Best Associate’s Degrees in Social Work

Ready to begin your journey into the world of social work? Earning an associate’s degree is the first step to a new, more meaningful career. Here are our 15 top picks. 

1. Purdue University Global 

If an online associate’s degree is what you’re after, Purdue University Global may be able to help. This program will teach you how to serve some of the world’s most vulnerable populations, with classes covering everything from general theory to significant trends. A 90-credit hour program, it takes just 10 weeks to complete. 

2. Elizabethtown College

An online associate’s in human services, this degree gives students a keen understanding of the issues that are faced by society. It’s a 64-credit degree that offers all kinds of need-based financial aid programs and even adult learning scholarships to its students. 

3. Lorain County Community College

Lorain County Community College in Elyria, Ohio, offers an associate’s degree in human services that prepares students to work with at-risk children, the addicted, the elderly, and much more. It offers real-world, hands-on training that allows students to hone in on their career goals and passions

4. Waukesha County Technical College

Waukesha County Technical College is located in Wisconsin and has an online associate’s in human services degree that is ideal for students who are interested in a social work career. It includes lots of hands-on work opportunities and can be completed online or as a hybrid degree.

5. Amarillo College

This program is offered by the School of Behavioral Studies. It transfers nicely into a school’s Bachelor of Science in Social Work, if that’s your goal, and is rooted in the liberal arts. It covers basic psychological principles, the philosophy and techniques of social work, and much more. 

6. Iowa Central Community College

Located in Fort Dodge, Iowa, Iowa Central Community College has a human services/social work degree that focuses on the methodologies and key concepts in social work and related fields. It’s ideal for students to wish in fields ranging from domestic abuse to mental illness.

7. Thomas Edison State University

Thomas Edison State University is another school that offers an online credential in human services and social work. This 60-credit degree requires applicants to be already employed in the field, with at least six months of experience. You’ll take classes in everything from cultural diversity to theories or professional practice – all from the comfort of your own home. 

8. Shorter University 

A private Baptist university in Rome, Georgia, this school has one of the best online programs in human services and social work. Boasting a variety of financial aid opportunities, it allows students to complete their degrees at an accelerated pace. 

9. Franklin Pierce University 

This adaptable program from Franklin Pierce, a private school in New Hampshire, makes it possible for students to continue on to a bachelor’s degree or head right into the workforce – whichever they prefer. It is affordable and can be complemented by a variety of relevant certificate programs. 

10. SUNY Broome Community College

Ideal for the student who wants to transfer in to a four-year college, this degree in social work is online. It has a hands-on internship segment that allows students to apply the knowledge they’ve gained in the classroom to real-world scenarios. 

11. Minot State University 

Although this program focuses specifically on helping individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, it is the perfect launchpad for candidates who want to go on to later bachelor’s or master’s degrees. Minot State is located in North Dakota, but this program is always available online. 

12. Eastern Florida State College

The associate’s degree in social and human services at Eastern Florida State has two tracks – one in aging services and one in domestic violence. It prepares students for a wide variety of career paths in everything from psychology to human services to gerontology. 

13. Western New Mexico University 

A fully online AA in human services, this social work program teaches students how to engage in evidence-based practice. The program is accredited by the Council for Higher Learning, and the program is ideal for students who wish to pursue careers in criminal justice, chemical dependency, nursing, and of course, social work. 

14. Camden County College

This affordable associate’s degree prepares students for work in a wide variety of fields, including mental health, corrections, gerontology, and of course, social work. It has a 120-hour internship with a social welfare agency that occurs during the second half of the program. 

15. Penn State World Campus

Penn State has an online associate’s degree in human development and family studies. This program prepares learners for careers that truly make a difference. It has two separate tracks: one in Adult Development and Aging Services and one in Children, Youth, and Family Services.

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.

Next Steps 

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.