Social workers are everywhere – working with individuals, families or communities in hospitals, clinics, schools and many organizations. They’re helpers who provide resources and so much more.
To better meet the needs of these future professionals, Missouri State University now offers the first fully accredited, fully online Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) in the state of Missouri.
“This decision predates the pandemic and really spurred from discussions with students who were considering transferring from community colleges,” said Natalie Curry, clinical assistant professor of social work and BSW coordinator.
These students were often working full-time or had other obligations, she said.
“We would hear some of those students say, ‘If you tell me that the only way I can be a social worker is to do daytime classes on the Springfield campus, I’m not going to be able to do that.’
“For us, that really was an access issue. We want to open the door to social work for more students. That’s a no brainer for us.”
At this time, the online option is open to students who reside in Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma.
First online cohort enrolled fall 2021
In fall 2021, the first online cohort began. They enrolled 30 online students and approximately 40 seated. On average, the seated cohort usually enrolls about 50.
“We’ve had really great feedback from the students who started the program this fall,” Curry said. “They are really enjoying the online experience.”
Curry said the social work faculty took great care to make sure the online program was dynamic. The courses have been developed to encourage interaction and relationship building.
That will be key to success in the social work career, too, noted Curry.
What’s it like?
When researching other online programs, Curry found they vary widely.
The team considered the best options and modeled each of the online courses similarly.
“They’re high-quality designed classes,” she said. “The classes have a similar design and format, so once the students familiarize themselves with the expectations in one, they’re going to be comfortable.”
MSU’s online BSW program:
- Is asynchronous, so it’s flexible.
- Includes a high degree of interaction with students in the cohorts and with the faculty.
- Is taught by a mix of experienced, full-time faculty and some per-course instructors.
“You are still going to get with your faculty and your peers, while still maintaining the asynchronous format to have the most flexibility possible,” Curry said.
What accreditation means to me
Curry stressed the significance of the accreditation.
“Accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education ensures that both our seated and online program options adequately prepare graduates for social work practice,” Curry said.
“Most social work positions and graduate schools require a degree from an accredited program, and many states have a similar requirement for licensure.”
Now more than ever before, this stands out to incoming students, noted Curry.
“We want students to know: You are being prepared for the workforce or graduate school,” she said.
Preparing for graduate school
For a student that intends to move into clinical social work practice, they will need to receive a Master of Social Work, noted Curry.
Those who already have a BSW from an accredited program will save time and money getting an MSW.
That’s because the accredited BSW provides advanced standing status into the MSW program for eligible applicants.
Advanced standing students are able to complete the MSW program in one year full-time or two years part-time, which is half the time it takes for students without a BSW.