Best Associate Degrees in Social Work

People often pursue social work because they want to help others. Social workers give aid to vulnerable people, guiding them through challenges, such as addiction or an abusive family life. Although professionals usually need at least a bachelor’s degree to become a social worker, an associate degree in social work (ASW) can help them prepare for further education or similar jobs.

Learn what to expect from an associate in social work and how this degree can set the foundation for a fulfilling career in social work.

Featured Online Associate Social Work Degrees

Loading...Learn More
Visit Site
Loading...Learn More
Visit Site
Loading...Learn More
Visit Site

Associate in Social Work Degree Overview

An associate degree in social work offers students the foundational education they need to work in the social services field. Typically billed as a two-year degree for full-time learners, students can often transfer credits from their ASW to a bachelor of social work (BSW).

Interested individuals can find both online and on-campus programs, and schools may offer part- and full-time enrollment options.

ASW courses provide a foundation for further education. In additional to general courses, such as college writing, ASW classes might include:

  • Introduction to sociology
  • General psychology
  • Cultural diversity in the United States
  • Introduction to social work
  • Social services delivery systems

Unlike bachelor’s or master’s degrees, associate degrees do not always require fieldwork as part of the curriculum. However, some ASW programs might offer students the opportunity to gain practical experience by visiting professionals in the field or carrying out some supervised work.

Key Factors for Selecting an Associate in Social Work Program

With so many social work degrees to choose from, it can seem difficult to narrow down a list of the best programs for you. Consider key factors like accreditation and curriculum when deciding on a program. These considerations can help you determine program quality.

  • Accreditation: The accreditation process involves independent reviews of academic programs. Accreditation ensures that programs offer students a first-rate education and adequately prepare them for their careers.
  • Curriculum: You can usually find the program curriculum on the school’s website. The curriculum gives insight into what you can expect from the program’s academics, such as whether you’ll be taking more general education or specialization classes.
  • Faculty: College websites often list faculty members in each department with a short biography. Read through faculty member’s academic credentials to see if their expertise matches your interest areas.

The Best Associate in Social Work Programs

You can find associate in social work programs at colleges across the country, both online and on campus. Explore what the best associate degrees in social work have to offer with this ranking.

We use a data-driven methodology to determine the best associate in social work programs based on four primary factors: academic quality, overall cost, reputation, and accessibility.

1. Haskell Indian Nations University

Members of federally recognized Native tribes who wish to earn an associate degree in social work can enroll in Haskell Indian Nations University’s associate of arts in social work program. This 60-62 credit curriculum emphasizes tribal culture in communities and social welfare structures.

Regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), Haskell’s social work courses can transfer to other universities. Coursework includes tribal management, community health social work, and working in groups and teams.

Candidates do not need specific admission requirements on top of their tribal membership, but must remain in good academic and social standing throughout the program.

2. City Colleges of Chicago-Wilbur Wright College

Degree-seekers interested in social work at an HLC-accredited college can enroll in City Colleges of Chicago-Wilbur Wright College’s associate in arts in social work program. This program aims to transition students into bachelor’s programs by offering required general education courses.

Students typically spend four semesters completing the 60-credit-hour curriculum, with the option to enroll in a part-time class schedule. Coursework in cultural anthropology features a human diversity requirement.

Applicants can apply at any time, with start dates throughout the year. Prospective students must submit an online application, proof of residency, and high school transcripts.

3. Northeast Community College

Students who want to earn a social work degree with an online option can apply to the associate of arts in social work program at Northeast Community College. This HLC-accredited program prepares students for careers in areas of child welfare, school systems, and corrections.

The social work concentration requires 60 credit hours, including core classes like social work ethics and skills and exploring unity and diversity. Required general education courses ensure that students can successfully transfer to a four-year university.

Applicants can apply with either a free paper or an online application. Admission requirements include high school transcripts, any previous college transcripts, and test scores.

4. Lee College

Degree-seekers interested in an associate degree in social work with the goal of transferring to a four-year university can enroll in Lee College’s associate of arts in social work program. Students at Lee frequently transfer to a local university for higher education, having completed foundational and core social work courses.

Regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), Lee offers culturally and socially relevant courses, such as social welfare: legislation, programs and services and social problems.

First-time local applicants may qualify for a free semester, including the cost of e-books. Admission requirements include an online application, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and high school transcripts.

5. Palo Alto College

Palo Alto College’s associate of arts in social work is accredited by the SACSCOC. This 60-credit hour curriculum includes social justice knowledge, with elective courses in court systems and practices and the juvenile justice system. The program encourages physical activity with a two-credit kinesiology or dance course, offering a variety of dance and sports classes.

Core curriculum requirements support the transfer to a four-year university.

Candidates must submit an online application, a FAFSA, and high school transcripts with test scores. High school students can apply to the dual credit program to complete core curriculum courses, allowing for shorter degree completion time.

Advantages of Earning an Associate in Social Work

Even though an associate degree in social work does not lead to qualification as a social worker in most states, an ASW offers value in many other ways.

  • Explore if the social work field is good for you: Some students might consider becoming a social worker but do not want to fully commit to a BSW. If this sounds like you, an associate degree can introduce you to the foundational concepts that a BSW program teaches at a higher level. It’s a smart way to become familiar with the subject and decide if social work is the right career path for you.
  • Transfer credits to a bachelor’s degree: Community colleges frequently offer lower tuition rates than four-year colleges. Some students decide to begin the first two years of their degree at a community college to save money, and then transfer the credits to a university to finish their BSW.
  • Start your career in social services: An ASW can also give you the educational training you need for roles like patient advocates, rehabilitation aides, or social services assistant.

How to Apply to an Associate in Social Work Program

Since you can typically find ASW degrees at community colleges, follow your prospective college’s guidelines for applications.

This process involves filling out an application with your demographic, extracurricular, and past academic information. Colleges increasingly offer application forms online, though some colleges may offer paper applications too.

Prospective students need to submit their high school transcripts or GED scores if the community college accepts them. Some colleges require additional documentation, such as a resume, personal essay outlining your academic and career goals, and letters of recommendation.

{% subnav_item title:”Careers and Salary” hash:”careers-and-salary” %}

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

Most states require either a BSW or master of social work (MSW) to qualify for a social work license. Some states may allow ASW graduates to become social workers with limited responsibilities. However, most associate degree graduates either further their education with a bachelor’s degree or go for another job in the social services field.

ASW graduates can pursue careers, including:

  • Social and human service assistant
  • Community outreach worker
  • Community health worker
  • Patient advocate
  • Rehabilitation aide
  • Home health and personal care aide
  • Counselor assistant
  • Case manager

For individuals who go on to earn their BSW or MSW degrees —or even a doctorate in social work — opportunities abound. Graduates can become social workers or clinical social workers. They can also work at the managerial level for social services organizations.

Average Associate in Social Work Salary

Graduates with an associate degree in social work earn an average base annual salary of $40,000, according to data gathered by Payscale. That breaks down to an average of $15.35 per hour. Keep in mind, the salaries vary based on career path, location, and years of experience.

How to Decide if an Associate in Social Work Is Right for You

Although an associate degree in social work may not be the right decision for everyone, its advantages make it a smart option for others.

First, consider your level of interest in becoming a social worker, then familiarize yourself with the field through an ASW. If you know with certainty that becoming a social worker is your ultimate goal, pursuing a BSW may prove the better option.

Next, consider your finances. If money is a concern, enrolling in a community college can help you save money and avoid taking out loans.

Frequently Asked Questions About Associate in Social Work Programs

Can I earn an associate in social work online?

Yes. Many colleges offer online associate degrees in social work. These programs allow students to enroll in classes through distance learning, completing their coursework online at locations convenient to them. Many schools offer asynchronous courses, which give students the option to study at their own pace.

What’s the difference between an associate and a bachelor’s degree in social work?

An associate degree gives students an introductory and foundational education in the social work field. These programs traditionally last two years. In most states, graduates cannot become licensed social workers.

A bachelor’s degree follows a traditional four-year format and teaches students foundational, advanced, and specialized knowledge in the social work field. Students must also complete supervised fieldwork on location. A BSW prepares students for careers as social workers.

What’s the difference between an associate of arts and associate of science in social work?

These degrees offer similar curricular options. However, an associate of arts degree typically includes general education classes that focus more on the humanities. An associate of science degree, in contrast, offers a general education curriculum with a greater math and science focus.

Is earning an associate in social work worth it?

The answer to this question depends on the student and their academic and career goals.

If you wish to land a job in the social services — but not become a social worker — then this degree can prepare you for that career. It can also provide a head start for students who want to consider bachelor’s degrees but are unsure about their career path.

An associate degree may not be worth it for those who know they want to become social workers and earn a BSW.

Note: The ranking list and school descriptions on this page were created and reviewed independently by our Rankings Team.