Do you usually feel like stepping in and helping people through their challenges? In this article, we have listed some free online social work courses to help you become a better social worker, and guide you from beginner to professional level in your career.
Being a social worker means living for people. Your mind and all your attention will be focused on making people’s problems go away to the best of your power. However, Social workers are not magicians. The best they can do is offer as much help and solutions as their human ability can carry.
On that note, we have curated a list of free online social work courses to equip you with all the skills you need to become a social worker or advance in your social work career. Whether you are already in the profession or are looking to transition, there is a course for you. Take your time to go through all of them and see which is the best option for you.
By the end of each course, you will be issued a certificate of completion, which will only be possible if you complete all your coursework and ace your quizzes and projects.
I however recommend that you focus less on the certificate and more on the course content, because a certificate without proven skill, is as good as worthless. If you can dedicate your time and energy to any of these courses, I promise you that in no time, you will be right on your way to becoming a professional social worker and start doing the job your heart solely desires.
What is Social Work?
According to the University of Buffalo’s School of Social Work, Social work is a profession in which trained professionals are devoted to helping vulnerable people and communities work through challenges they face in everyday life.
Social worker practices in a wide variety of settings, united in their commitment to advocating for and improving the lives of individuals, families, groups, and societies.
As a social worker, your job includes providing your clients with all the help they will need to prevent, cope, manage, and overcome problems such as poverty, abuse, addiction, and mental illness through counseling, connecting them with needed resources, and empowering them to create change in their own lives. Clinical social workers, however, diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional problems.
Not everyone can be a social worker, as you can see. Skills have to be built and developed for one to thrive successfully in this career.
Benefits of Being a Social Worker
The benefits of social work and service may seem one-sided. It doesn’t look like the social workers are benefiting much from this profession, since all they do is help from a place of empathy and concern. As challenging as this profession may seem, if you should ask any social worker why they do what they do, you will hear them list a whole lot of benefits that they derive from their job. It’s not so one-sided after all.
Now, let’s look at some of the benefits of being a social worker, and why you should consider this profession.
It is a Growing Field
According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, overall employment of social workers is projected to grow 12 percent from 2020 to 2030, faster than the average for all occupations. If you are entering this field, you can rest assured you will be able to choose from a wide range of job options in different specialties. This brings me next to my next point.
It is a Versatile Field
Social workers are not limited to working in government-run social service agencies. Besides working in schools, hospitals, health centers, and churches, they can also work in places like law firms, and insurance companies. This versatility in job opportunities and positions makes social work a lucrative field where anyone can find a role they are absolutely comfortable with.
If helping people is something you enjoy doing, imagine having that as your day job. It is safe to say that people in this profession are super fulfilled in their jobs and in themselves because they get to do what they love regularly and get paid for it.
Job satisfaction and fulfillment lead to self-improvement among social workers. When you interact with people often, you would be pushed to pick up certain skills along the way. E.g speaking skills, patience, resilience, etc. When you advocate for the poor, you’re inherently empowering yourself. The obstacles you overcome and the challenges you face eventually transform you into a better version of yourself.
There is Room for Growth
Being in the social work field gives you a huge potential for growth. You would want to climb the career ladder some more by acquiring more and more degrees that will qualify you for higher positions.
How to become a social worker
If you are thinking about becoming a social worker, you need to have in your mind that it will require you to complete specific education and training requirements. And in some countries or states, you will need a social work license before you can practice, and this on the other hand will require you to earn a Master of Social Work (MSW).
Here are simple steps you should follow if you are not sure of how to go about it
- Complete a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work or a Related Field
- Pursue a Master’s Degree in Social Work (MSW) or MSW-Equivalent Program
- Complete Fieldwork Hour Requirements
- Complete the ASWB Examination
- Apply for State Social Work Licensure
- Choose a Social Work Career
- Advance Your Practice Through Continued Learning
Importance of free online social work courses
These 10 free online social work courses for social work majors and professionals cover a range of topics relevant to the social work profession.
For social workers who are looking to advance their career by acquiring more skills and certificates, these courses will help meet those needs.
Similarly, if are new to the field and are not sure about where to start, these courses will give you both an overview and in-depth understanding of what social work is and how you can find out if it is the right career for you.
Requirements to take social work courses online
Except for the passion to make an impact in people’s lives, these free online social work courses are come-as-you-are. No extra requirement is needed other than what you already have.
- A device
- A network connection
Anyone can enroll in these courses, it doesn’t matter whether you are just starting out, not sure how to begin, a professional, etc. Just find a course that is best suited for you and start learning.
10 Free Online Social Work Courses
Social work requires a lot of skills, that is why courses such as these exist. Depending on what skill you want to build on, these free online social work courses will help you achieve that. It is recommended that you set time aside to take them because dedication and consistency are the keys to excellence.
1. Introducing social work: a starter kit
The first course on free online social work courses is this introductory course on OpenLearn. Designed for people who might be interested in and curious about social work practice, this course will introduce you to what social workers do and why and how social work is done. It will also be a useful initial resource for those who may be thinking about entering the social work profession at some point in the future.
The course is very much introductory in nature and is designed for learners with a wide variety of previous experiences of study. However, on occasions, the study materials reflect closely the style and academic level of the original materials, which are postgraduate level.
At the end of the course, you will notice that there is a section called ‘Where next?’. This is where you will find some information and online links to further study. It includes ideas about professional qualifying social work courses for those who may be considering taking their initial curiosity further, possibly into a social work career.
2. Caring for Vulnerable Children
The second course on free online social work courses is Caring for Vulnerable children, a 6-week course that will help you develop a better understanding and approaches employed in caring for children who are vulnerable.
In this course, you will better understand the characteristics of different childcare approaches and possible interventions.
You’ll explore the definitions of risk and vulnerability, good enough parenting, child development, and fostering meaningful relationships and attachments, examining these issues in the real-life context of budget cuts and increasing child poverty.
3. Intro to Community Services
Intro to Community Services is another course on free online social work courses. This course is provided by Robertson College, Winnipeg Canada via their website.
In this 40-hour course, learners will be introduced to social programs and services, and effective social work practices within well-defined populations. It is necessary for community service workers to be familiar with a variety of settings and populations of people whom they may work with, so they can recognize the distinct responsibilities in each and capably deliver services.
There are no specific requirements for this course as anyone can take it. It must be completed within six months of enrolment. If incomplete upon expiry, learners will lose access and will be unenrolled. To sign up, start by filling out the form embedded on the website.
4. Social Work Practice: Advocating Social Justice and Change
This is another course on free online social work courses. This course is offered by the University of Michigan via Coursera.
In this course, you will learn how social workers in the United States engage in creating change and supporting the resilience of individuals, families, and communities in this new era. You will have an opportunity to explore the social work profession, the different roles of social workers in a range of settings, the cross-cutting themes that guide social work practice, the history of social work, and current challenges.
Using a social justice lens, you will reflect on current challenges facing the lives of individuals, families, and communities and examine ways to advocate for needed changes.
5. Human Rights, Human Wrongs: Challenging Poverty, Vulnerability and Social Exclusion
Up next on free online social work courses is this course by SDG Academy available on edX.
From women to children to indigenous peoples, the rights of marginalized groups the world over are violated daily. These injustices affect not just these groups, but also the stability of our world – and our collective future.
In this course, you will learn about the establishment of human rights and their linkages to many other global issues in sustainable development. Using legal frameworks as the lens, the course explores the barriers that prevent rights from becoming reality in different societies.
6. Addiction Treatment: Clinical Skills for Healthcare Providers
As one of the courses on free online social work courses, this course is designed to improve the care you provide to your patients with substance use disorders.
During this 15-hour course, you will learn from Yale instructors, the techniques to screen your patients for substance use disorder risk, diagnose patients to gauge the severity of their use, directly manage treatment plans, refer out to treatment services, and navigate the various conditions that may limit your patient’s access to treatment.
You will ultimately be prepared to provide compassionate and evidence-based care to a large population of patients living with an addiction.
7. The Social Context of Mental Health and Illness
This is another course on free online social work courses. In 14 hours, this course will teach you how social factors promote mental health, influence the onset and course of mental illness, and affect how mental illnesses are diagnosed and treated.
It explores how our understanding of mental health and illness has been influenced by social attitudes and social developments in North America and around the world. The course begins by situating our contemporary mental health practices in historical context, then looks at different aspects of mental health, mental illness, and mental health services and their connections to what’s going on in our social environment.
8. ‘Talk to me’: Improving mental health and suicide prevention in young adults
As one of the free online social work courses, this massive open online course is a German-Australian collaboration developed in response to the growing need to provide young people and those around them with the knowledge, skills, and understanding to recognize, identify, and respond to mental health challenges in themselves and others.
Key topics in this course include understanding contributing factors to poor mental health, how to talk about addressing poor mental health, and strategies to increase mental fitness.
Note that you may also further your studies with this article on free online mental health courses.
9. Introduction to Psychology
Offered by Yale, Introduction to Psychology is one of the free online social work courses on Coursera. A beginner-level course that takes approximately 15 hours to complete.
It provides a comprehensive overview of the scientific study of thought and behavior, exploring topics like perception, communication, learning, memory, decision-making, persuasion, emotions, and social behavior. It looks at how these aspects of the mind develop in children, how they differ across people, how they are wired up in the brain, and how they break down due to illness and injury.
If you are looking to take more beginner-friendly courses on psychology, you should definitely check out our post on free online psychology courses, or this post on the different roles in psychology. Also, we have written about the best schools to study psychology in California. Feel free to check it out as well.
10. Community Organizing for Social Justice
This is the last course on free online social work courses. It looks at specific strategies for community organizing for social justice in a diverse, democratic society.
This course examines core concepts of social justice and practical steps for bringing people together to set goals and priorities, assess community assets and needs, develop action plans, and build support for implementation. It includes information on how to form core groups, build organizational capacity, and formulate a strategy for reaching out to constituents and allies.
Because each person learns in a different way, the course features a variety of learning acclivities, information on successful programs, individual instructions, and small group exercises, as well as hands-on materials for problem-solving and program planning, You can use these activities with individuals, with a small group of people, or with several groups in a community campaign.
Social work is a really interesting career. If you are still considering it, I hope with this article, you obtain the clarity and motivation you need to follow your heart. You are going to enjoy being a social worker if these are part of the things you enjoy doing naturally.
With these free online social work courses, you will have a leg up in your industry, and be right on your way to making a difference in someone’s life.
Free Online Social Work Courses – FAQs
Can I study social work online?
Yes, Social work can be studied online. All the courses we have listed in this article are online courses, and they are absolutely free.
Which course is best for social work?
There is no overall best social work course. Each course has something different to offer, therefore there is no basis for judgment. It all depends on you and what you look forward to achieving from the course you are enrolling in. Maybe by the time you are done taking all the social work courses in this article, you can answer that question for yourself, i.e, which course was best for you.
How long does social worker course take?
If you are taking the degree route, it will take a minimum of 4 years to obtain a bachelor’s degree program in social work, after which you can either start practicing or pursue a Master’s degree.
For the certificate route, social work courses can take as short as 1 hour, and as long as 6 months to complete.
What qualifications do you need for social work?
Social work is a graduate profession, so you need to be educated to at least a degree level in order to qualify. Most social worker positions will require a bachelor’s degree in social work, but will also accept degrees from related fields such as psychology and sociology.
What field of social work pays the most?
According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, Healthcare Social Workers are the highest-paid social work practitioners.
Can you be a social worker without a degree in Australia?
No, you cannot. To work as a Social Worker in Australia, you need to acquire a Bachelor of Social Work degree. This will provide you with both theory and clinical placement experiences.
What can you do with a social work degree besides social work?
Asides from being a social worker, there are several other professions you can pursue with your degree in social work. They include;
- School counselor
- Counseling psychology
- Social and Community Service Managers
- Human resource management
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