BY SAMUEL STEVENS
Salisbury University added a third online master’s program starting in the fall 2015 semester for social work.
The program is designed for students whose lives prevent them from attending traditional classroom education.
The program consists of a three-year cohort program of two courses per seven week session year round. The last two years are an internship in a social work related occupation at least three days per week.
The university gives students a network of social work internship options to complete their degrees. Students interested in the program must have a broad range of experience in sociology, psychology and basic statistics in addition to a minimum 3.0 GPA in undergraduate upper-division classes.
The online program and curriculum matches the traditional classroom program in rigor.
“The quality of education is absolutely the same,” Director of the Online Program Karen McCabe said.
Although the main program is beginning in the fall 2015 semester, SU has offered its distance learning MSW program to active duty military and their dependents serving in Germany since last April.
The online program covers the same curriculum that has been accredited since 1976, but gives more people the opportunity to pursue a graduate degree whom may not be close enough to SU or are working full-time. Students must have the self-discipline to complete the coursework on their own time, however.
In March, a U.S. News and World Report story published findings taken from multiple studies saying that students perform neither better nor worse with online courses.
However, the independent study reported on in the U.S. News story also revealed the gains software companies promise to universities are not as extensive in reality.
Although the studies offered some answers, the studies cited were limited to basic economics or statistics courses and included hybrid education (with both a physical and computerized component) to reach its conclusion.
The new research also stated more study was needed to determine the benefits of online education.
Social work is a growing industry, with social work jobs projected to increase by 19 percent from 2012 to 2022 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, eight percent higher than all other occupations in the American economy.
A master’s degree in social work can open up more opportunities for graduates including better salaries and licensing opportunities. Students with graduate degrees in social work can be a Licensed Graduate Social Worker in Maryland, a higher certification than the BSW available to a bachelor’s degree holder.
Social workers can work in a wide-range of settings and occupations, as well, including schools, social services, veteran care and substance abuse treatment. Social services have also been in demand because of the poor economy and increasing need for healthcare overall.
“There are so many things social workers can do,” SU Social Work Alum Kevin Meenan said.
Meenan works at Warwick Manor Behavioral Health, a rehabilitation center near Salisbury. He works with recovering drug addicts and people trying to cope with a variety of mental illnesses from PTSD to schizophrenia.
Meenan said that he finds his work rewarding.
“The training social workers get…can help people who can’t help themselves,” he said.
He also said his occupation is an important application of sociology and psychology.
“Social work bridges that gap between learning about that (sociology and psychology) and applying it,” Meenan said.
Social work, though, is not without its challenges.
Meenan said some of the difficult aspects of his job are the recovering addicts who leave treatment too early, as well as the stress associated with treating the more extreme mental health patients.