2024 Best Associates Degrees in Social Work [ASW Programs]

By Brenda Pyzik
Edited by Briana Sukert
Updated on July 4, 2024
Edited by Briana Sukert
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Explore the 2023 best associates degrees in social work and discover exciting career paths in social and human services. Start your journey today!

Associates degrees in social work may lead to exciting careers in the field of social and human services.

Associates Degrees in Social Work

You may benefit from positive job growth in the field, and you may decide to further your education with a bachelor’s program when it suits you.

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Pursuing a career in the field of social work may help you gain valuable insight into human psychology, social work fundamentals, and sociology. An associate degree may enable you to use that insight to contribute to the well-being of individuals and families in a meaningful way.

Online Associates Degrees in Social Work

associates degree in social worker

With an online associates degree in social work, you may be prepared for a number of rewarding entry-level positions in the field.

Some career options available to you with your social worker associates degree may include social and human service assistant, health aide, medical assistant, community health worker, casework assistant, or substance abuse assistant.

Not only can these positions allow you to have a positive impact on the individuals you’re supporting, but they can also provide you with valuable experience if you plan to advance your education and career into a social worker position.

A social worker associate degree may act as a great stepping stone towards enrollment in a bachelor’s degree program.

Generally speaking, associate degree programs allow you to complete the first 2 years of a 4 year bachelor’s program. This route may allow you to finish with a degree while still providing the opportunity to continue into a bachelor’s program when you’re ready to do so.

After completing a bachelor’s in social work, you may be qualified for a position as a social worker. An associate degree’s course curriculum may include a number of general courses, such as those based in communications, science, or math.

Additional courses will focus more specifically on the field of social work and may include an introduction to psychology, sociology, and social work fundamentals.

Human behavior and social environment, cultural anthropology, child development, and race and ethnic relations are other courses that may be required as part of your education in an associate degree program.

Social Work Careers & Salaries

Social Work Careers & Salaries

To become a licensed social worker, more than an associates degree is required. A bachelor’s degree is generally a minimum requirement for licensing or entry into the profession.

Earning an associate degree in social work, though, can be a good first step towards earning your bachelor’s. Plus, a growing number of universities offer social work dual degree programs, allowing you to earn a bachelor’s and a master’s at the same time.

An associates may also provide you with the qualifications needed to work in a number of rewarding and growing fields related to social work.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with your associates in social work, you may be qualified for a position as a community health worker, social and human service assistant, medical assistant, or health aide.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Community Health Workers, Hospitals $48,150
Community Health Workers, Government $45,490
Social and Human Service Assistants, Local Government $41,620
Social and Human Service Assistants, State Government $38,010
Medical Assistants $35,850
Social and Human Service Assistants, Individual and Family Services $35,190
Social and Human Service Assistants, Community and Vocational Rehabilitation Services $32,640
Social and Human Service Assistants, Nursing and Residential Care Facilities $32,320
Home Health Aides and Personal Care Aides, Individual and Family Services $27,360
Home Health Aides and Personal Care Aides, Residential Intellectual and Developmental Disability Facilities $27,300

Depending on the employer, you may need additional education or work experience to qualify for some of these jobs.

While the average growth rate for all positions across all industries is 4%, positions in the field of social work have much higher growth rates.

Social and human service assistant positions are predicted to experience high job growth at a rate of 13% in the next decade. Similarly, positions for community health workers are predicted to increase by 13% over the same period. Other positions expected to experience growth include medical assistants (19%) and health aides (34%).

Social Work Associate’s Curriculum

social worker visiting an elderly man in his home

Pursuing an associates degree in social work may provide you with the necessary foundation to qualify for entry-level positions in the field or to continue on to a bachelor’s degree program. Foundational associates in social work courses may include:

  • Introduction to Sociology: You’ll learn fundamental theories and principles of sociology, including social change and interaction.
  • Introduction to Psychology: You’ll gain an understanding of key psychological theories, such as cognitive processing, learning, and personality.
  • Introduction to Social Work: You’ll acquire knowledge related to the field of social work, including welfare, social services, and career functions.
  • Concepts of Biology: This course covers the biological processes of living systems.
  • Statistical Reasoning: You’ll apply algebraic know-how in probability and statistic-based coursework.
  • Human Behavior and Social Environment: This course covers current theories of social work as they relate to human behavior, development, and health.
  • Cultural Anthropology: This course analyzes the various lifestyles and cultures that humans have developed globally and evaluates similarities and differences.
  • Child Development: You’ll explore the sequence of childhood development from infancy through to adolescence.
  • Foundations of Social Work: You’ll learn about the foundational elements, practices, and skills related to the field of social work, including the history of the field and current service delivery methods.
  • Race and Ethnic Relations: This course explores theories related to aspects of racial and ethnic relations, including discrimination and prejudice.

Completing your AA degree in social work will require the completion of general core curriculum coursework in addition to social work-specific courses.

Admissions Requirements

associate degree in social worker

Admission criteria for an online associates degree in social work may vary from school to school, but common requirements include those listed below.

  • Submission of an application to your school of choice
  • Completion of your high school education or GED equivalent
  • A minimum GPA from high school coursework

In some cases, social work associate degree programs may require that you have completed a certain number of courses in specific educational areas during your high school studies. These areas may include subjects such as English or mathematics.


Associates Degrees in Social Work Accreditation

Regional accreditation is an indication of a program’s overall academic quality.

A program’s accreditation status can impact your ability to transfer credits down the road. Since an associate’s in social work is commonly used as a stepping stone towards a bachelor’s in social work, you may want to ensure that your school is regionally accredited.

The accreditation status of an educational program may also influence potential employers, as higher regard is often placed on degrees that are regionally accredited. For more information regarding the accreditation status of programs you’re interested in attending, you can visit the U.S. Department of Education‘s website.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Associates Degrees in Social Work Financial Aid

There are a number of financial aid options that can help fund your associates degree if you qualify. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is available on the U.S. Department of Education’s website and is a helpful resource that can get you started.

Some options that may be available to you could include federal and state aid, offered in the form of grants or loans. Grants generally do not require repayment, but loans do.

Another funding option is scholarships. These may be offered by private or public organizations. The postsecondary institution you’re interested in attending may offer scholarships to qualifying students as well.

What Can You Do with an Associate Degree in Social Work?

associates degrees in social worker

While an associate degree in social work won’t fully qualify you to become a licensed social worker, an associates may still offer you rewarding and exciting career paths.

With an online associates degree in social work, you may qualified to become a community health worker, social and human service assistant, medical assistant, casework aide, addictions counselor assistant, or health aide.

These careers may provide you the opportunity to work in government, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, or retirement and long-term care facilities. You may also work in client homes, in the community, or in education centers.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Associate Degree in Social Work Online?

Associate Degree in Social Work student

In general, when following a traditional program with semesters that are 16 weeks in length, it usually takes 2 years to complete an associates degree in social work.

This would include the completion of 4 separate semesters, which typically take place in the fall and spring of each calendar year. In some cases, earning an associates degree may take longer than 2 years. For example, if you choose to attend one of the part time MSW programs that some universities offer, your total time to earn a degree may be extended.

On the other hand, some online programs offer 8 week classes. If you follow this schedule and stay enrolled year-round, you may be able to finish sooner.

What Is a Social Worker?

social worker with a couple

A licensed social worker is a professional who has been trained to support individuals and families in coping with various problems in their life.

This may include supporting an individual during a mental health crisis, helping families who are going through divorce or custody battles, or helping schools manage aggressive behaviors in students.

There are various types of social workers and licenses. These include bachelor social workers (BSW), master social workers (MSW), clinical social workers (CSW), family social workers, mental health social workers, and school social workers, among others.

What Does a Social Worker Do?

social worker interviewing a man

Social workers provide support to individuals and families who are managing difficult situations, including illness, family disputes, or major life changes.

Social workers may work one-on-one with youth or adults, but they can also work with groups of individuals, including families. Throughout their career, social workers may gain experience providing services in the community, hospital settings, or in ambulatory care. They may also have the opportunity to work in government.

It is common for social workers to work out of office settings, with the potential for visits to client homes or other community locations.

Can I Become a Social Worker with an Associate’s Degree?

social worker interviewing a man in her office

You can’t become a social worker with an associates degree, but you can qualify for a number of entry-level jobs in the field. You may also use your associates degree as a stepping stone to later pursue a bachelor’s degree in social work.

To become a social worker, a bachelor’s degree is generally considered to be the entry-level educational requirement. To work in clinical social work positions, many employers will require you to hold a masters of social work. Some universities offer MSW accelerated programs, enabling you to earn your graduate degree faster. Clinical social work also requires you to hold a license in order to practice.

If you plan to become a social worker, having an associates degree may allow you to start gaining work experience in the field while you study for your higher degrees.

How Much Does a Social Worker Make with an Associate’s Degree?

While you can’t become a social worker with an associate’s degree alone, there are a number of other rewarding entry-level career opportunities available with associates degrees in social work.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these career options include community health workers (average salary of $42,000), social and human service assistants ($35,960), medical assistants ($35,850), and health aides ($27,080).

By transferring your completed associates degree into a bachelors degree program in social work, you may continue to work towards social work as a profession. The average annual salary for a social worker is $51,760, ranging from $33,020 to over $85,820.

What Is the Highest Paying Social Work Position?

medical assistant visiting an old couple

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for all social workers is $51,760.

Healthcare social workers take home an average of $57,630 while salaries for mental health and substance abuse social workers average slightly less at $48,720. Child, family, and school social workers make an average of $48,430 per year.

The median salary for all other social workers who do not fall into the above categories is $64,210. While pay for social worker positions can vary from one employer to the next, the top-ranking industries include government, ambulatory care, and individual and family services.

What Is the Difference Between Human Services vs. Social Work?

social worker with a child

Social work generally focuses on the individual or small groups of people, such as a family. You may work one-on-one with people to help them cope and manage specific life experiences or situations.

Human services, on the other hand, takes a broader approach. Instead of focusing on the individual, human service professionals look at communities at large. Working in human services may allow you to contribute to the operation of larger social community causes or organizations.

What Is the Difference Between a Psychologist vs. Social Worker?

social worker visiting a woman in her home

Social workers use a more holistic view and approach to supporting individuals and families in managing issues or problems in their life.

Social work includes psychological aspects but extends into economic, social, and health-based considerations as well. Psychologists have a more direct approach that focuses intently on psychology, mental wellbeing, mental health, and cognition.

A psychologist will often dive into an individual’s mindset and mental health more than a social worker. A psychologist will also focus less on other factors, such as economic and social influences.

Is an Associates Degree in Social Work Worth It?

social workers in meeting

Yes, an associates degree in social work is worth it for many students. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 12% job growth in community and social service occupations for the next 10 years, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Common social work careers in this field include community health worker, substance abuse assistant, health aide, social and human services assistant, and medical assistant.

An associate-level social worker degree can also put you on the right path to later obtain your bachelor’s in social work. If you decide to go this route, a bachelors may open the door for you to become a full-fledged social worker.

Getting Your Associates Degree in Social Work Online

Associates Degree in Social Work Online

Earning your associates degree in social work may be the right choice for you if you’re interested in areas of social service, psychology, and sociology.

While an associate degree alone is not enough to become a social worker, it may be a great step towards entry-level positions in the field. An associates may also move you towards a bachelor’s degree program, depending on your career goals.

Entry-level careers in the field of social work offer promising annual salaries and are expected to see significant job growth over the next several years. To find out more about an associates degree in social work, you may explore online associates programs from accredited schools.

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