The Best Guide to Online DSW Programs

The DSW, also known as the Doctor of Social Work, can provide you with expertise for a number of areas. One of the top careers for DSW graduates to enter into is an Administrator or Director at a social work agency. The DSW can also prepare you for higher tier positions in state and government agencies responsible for organizing social services. If you have some experience in the field of social work and are seeking degree options that can help you move up in your career, this is a degree program to consider.

Typically DSW programs will require a MSW (most likely) or sometimes a BSW and another Master's degree for entry but be sure to check with all programs you are considering. Students that enter into this program can use their experience as a learning tool as they browse through research methods for social services, teaching techniques for social work instructors, and management techniques that can be useful when leading a large team of social workers within different social service agencies within the community.

Social Work Doctorate Degree

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The wide range of social, health care, and assistive services available within the United States can provide citizens with the option of receiving guidance during and throughout their lifetime. One factor to consider about these services is that they may be difficult to navigate, apply for, and maintain over time. Social work professionals can help people determine what type of services they qualify for, assist them with applying for and keeping these services, and locating new services when they are available.

Degree programs that can prepare students to become helpful social work professionals can be found at multiple levels, with the highest being the Social Work Doctorate. The Social Work Doctorate is a terminal degree program that can allow students to gain knowledge about leadership and research in the social work field. Degree programs at the bachelors and masters level can teach students how to apply their skills in a real-world setting, introduce theory into their work, and follow all of the ethical and legal protocols set forth by national and state agencies.

Our team of educational experts has thoroughly reviewed degree programs within the field of social work in order to provide you with this help guide to lead you along the way. Check out what our team found in the sections below.

Outline of the Degree Program

The online Social Work Doctorate is an accumulative degree program that includes the primary components of a social work curriculum alongside topics such as leadership and instruction. This degree program is best suited by professionals that have achieved their bachelors and masters in social work and are prepared for further learning in their field. Students enrolled in this degree program can also learn more about how to promote social change within their community, which is a major aspect of successful social work practice. If you would like to see more specific topics covered in this degree program, check out this short list below.

As you can see, the online Social Work Doctorate program consists of some very up-to-date and relevant topics that may concern those working in various fields in the public domain. This degree program can also educate you more on how to be an effective social work instructor or even a leading within social service agencies. The entire online doctorate program in this field can be taken at your own pace, meaning it can be completed in anywhere from 2-5 years. Students enrolled in this program at a full-time rate could finish within the quickest timeframe.

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Learning in the Online Setting

Upcoming doctoral students that have spent any time looking at the new and innovative online options for their degree program may be aware of some of the benefits that this type of degree program can offer them. More students may find that the online Social Work Doctorate can be a reliable form of advancing their status in the field without the same level of commitment that is found in traditional on-campus programs.

Online programs can allow you the freedom of scheduling school work and study time during the day or at night, logging in at various times of day, and continuing to pursue excellence in a full-time career without hindering school obligations. Typically students take 1-2 classes online at a time. Online courses may be shorter in duration than the standard traditional course, with some universities offering 10 week courses as part of their online program.

Part of completing courses online may involve logging in a minimum of 2-3 times per week, completing required class discussions about different weekly topics, and researching different topics in order to create helpful and intuitive research papers. The online course can also be a great platform for communication with students and your instructor. Although online degree programs are relatively new in comparison to many of the traditional options in society, more students are finding them to be better options for what they require.

In the field of social work, degree programs are reviewed and accredited by accreditation agencies responsible for consistent quality reviews of different collegiate degree programs. As the interest in online degree programs has grown over the last decade, this method of degree acquisition has continued to grow in quality and is comparable to traditional programs in the same subject area.

Example Courses

One of the first things that students may review when looking for a fitting degree program online is a program’s curriculum. You can learn a lot by reviewing what types of courses are involved in a degree program, since this is the area that provides students with the information used throughout their career. In Social Work Doctorate programs, students may be responsible for learning in several different areas, since this field is heavily reliant on multidisciplinary practice and interorganizational collaboration. Working in such a diverse field also requires a versatile skill set that can applied in a wide variety of professional settings.

Our team of educational experts has spent a significant amount of time reviewing degree programs within this field. The purpose of this research is to provide you with in-depth information about the degree program that you have chosen before you take the next step towards enrollment.

The courses provided below are some that you may see in different degree programs and can help shape your understanding of the field of social work from the doctoral level of practice. The information provided in these courses may be best absorbed by professionals that have some work experience in the field. Take a look at what our team has discovered through their research below.

History of Social Work Practice

Before you begin your experience as a doctoral social worker, you should have some insight into the history and development of the field as a whole. This course can teach you more about the introduction of social services, the struggles and challenges that were experienced when developing an effective social work discipline, and the field’s path to where is stands today. The goal of this course is to help you comprehend of the role of the social worker beginning with the very introduction of the field.

Research Theory and Design

Students enrolled in this course may begin with a look into social research practice and ethics in the U.S. This introduction can lead you into ethical development of research programs, skills for conducting meaningful research, and practical design of projects in the field. This course can outline some of the legal considerations associated with research in this field, as well as proven methods for gaining insight into the theoretical application of social work practice within the field.

Program and Practice Analysis

At the doctoral level, graduates of this program could potentially seek out leadership positions in the field. This course can help prepare learners for careers at this level, by teaching methods for properly assessing and improving social programs at various levels in society. This may include a look into efficiency surveys, results evaluations, and program planning. Students that complete this course may have a better comprehension of what is included during the auditing process, as well as initial program development stages.

Career Opportunities with this Degree

The field of social work is highly concerned with different sectors of the general public. Some fields within this area may work with children that have experienced neglect or abuse, the aging population, or even with patients in a healthcare setting. There are also secondary fields of practice in social work that may indirectly influence the quality of services provided to the general public. Your personality and skills can help guide you into a specialty field that can best exhibit your expertise. Take a look at some of the most popular career areas for upcoming professionals in the field.

Youth/Adult Services

Child and adult welfare services can be found at the state level in most state within the U.S. The role of the social worker in these areas may be to work within individual clients to ensure that they are receiving all of the right type of care required for their needs. These professionals may also work in a protective division that is responsible for stepping in when children or the elderly are mistreated, neglected, or abused.


People receiving regular healthcare services may also require social work professionals to help them make the best decisions for their care. Doctoral level social work professionals can be helpful when working with clients that need basic assistance with making healthcare decisions, such as those that have experienced memory loss or those that have certain types of cognitive impairment. In addition to helping people with specific needs, social workers in this field can also be helpful for people without a diverse knowledge of healthcare terms and treatment options.


The field of social work is an incredibly influential field within society. If you want to have the strongest influence on your field, you might consider pursuing a career as an educator in your field. This type of career can allow you to teach others about the theory and practice involved in being a social work professional, as well as share some of your experience from working in the field. Colleges and universities all over the country could benefit from the influence of doctoral level social work professionals.


Likely one of the most popular professional options for online Social Work Doctorate holders is at the management level. Paired with experience, the online doctorate in this field can be a great resource for those interested in managing large teams of social workers, developing improvement plans for their communities, and partnering with different agencies to ensure well-rounded care. This type of position can be found in local and state social service agencies, hospitals, and even at the government level.

Now that you have had the chance to explore some of the most popular career options in this field, you might be interested in learning more about the salary expectations at this degree level. The amount of money that you earn at this degree level can rely heavily on how much time you have spent working in this field, the state in which you work, and the subfield of social work that you have chosen for your career. The information provided below was gathered from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and provides real-world averages for you to review.

Professional Organizations to Know

Completing your Social Work Doctorate online can be an exhilarating experience. All of the hard work and dedication that goes into completing your degree can leave you with feelings of satisfaction that can jump-start your career from the very beginning. However, some individuals worry about their transition into doctoral level positions in the field and wonder if they have all of the tools they need to truly succeed.

One way that upcoming professionals can better prepare for their transition into the workforce is by joining professional organizations. An interesting aspect about professional organizations in social work is that there are a multitude of reliable options at both the general and specialized level. New graduates can join more than one organization in order to gain the most helpful support and information along the way.

The benefit that these organizations programs goes beyond just standard networking and spreads into areas such as professional advocacy, extended learning experiences, and even the release of new policies to members. Check out some of the most popular professional organizations for doctoral level social work professionals in the list beneath this section.

The National Association for Social Workers

If you are seeking a well-rounded and diverse group of social workers to join, the National Association for Social Workers (NASW) may be the right choice for you. This large group of professionals includes social work professionals from all disciplines, making it a great place to learn more about the field and those influenced by it. This organization can allow you access to research and conferences that can expand your knowledge of the field and help you to improve your own personal practice in the field.

The Society for Social Work Leadership in Healthcare

Specialized fields in social work can also benefit from the perks of professional organizations. If you have decided to pursue a specialization focusing on healthcare, the Society for Social Work Leadership in Healthcare may be a great option for you to consider. This organization focuses on the needs of professionals that are providing social work services in hospitals or other healthcare-related entities throughout the U.S. Specific topics and trends in the healthcare field can be provided to members on a regular basis.

The American Council for School Social Work

Like other specialized groups in social work fields, the American Council for School Social Work can also provide members with focus into the practice and guidelines of school social work. This group can be beneficial to social workers that work in a school setting, or even for social workers that work with school-aged children during their careers. This organization can be a great benefit to social work professionals interested in staying up to date with methods and techniques for use in the school system.

Search Online Colleges by State

There are over 2,500 colleges with online degrees in our database. Many students find that there are universities that offer their programs online, but are in their vicinity. The majority of students studying online actually chose a college that is close to them, or at least within their region. Simply click on the state of your choice to view all of the online colleges in your state.