Two-Year Social Work Degree: Definition, Content and Job Opportunities

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published September 29, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Social work professionals analyze problems in communities and work to improve living conditions for residents. They work for a wide range of community organizations and public agencies and may specialize in helping specific parts of the population, like children or elderly people. If you're interested in a career in social work, it might help you to learn about the role a two-year social work degree can play in your professional development. In this article, we define a two-year social work degree, explain why you might get this degree and describe some potential jobs you can get with it.

Related: FAQs About Getting Your Associate Degree in Social Work

What is a two-year social work degree?

A two-year social work degree, or associate degree, is an academic course of study that gives you a foundational knowledge of social work theory and practice. Usually, students enroll in an associate degree program after earning their high school degree or equivalent certification. This degree can prepare you to enter the social work field or to proceed to a bachelor's degree program in social work or a related subject. Many colleges offer two-year degrees in social work or in a related field, like human services. Classes for these programs might be on-campus, online or a combination of the two.

What content does a two-year social work degree program include?

Associate degree programs in social work provide students with a foundation in social work knowledge while also helping them develop advanced reading and writing skills. The specific content of a two-year social work degree program might vary by institution, but many programs include courses in the following content areas:

Research methods

In a research methods class, students might learn about different ways to perform sociological research, including surveys and case studies. They may also learn how to detect research bias and practice assessing research data for its validity. Students might examine important studies in social work or related fields to understand how the researchers used data to come to their conclusions. Research methods classes can help students develop key critical thinking and problem-solving skills that might give them an advantage in their professional careers.

Psychology

Psychology courses focus on human thoughts and behavior. They may introduce students to how the brain and nervous system interact to produce emotional responses or teach them how different cultures have perceived the human mind. Some psychology courses might focus on a specific group of people. For example, child psychology classes teach students about human mental development and can help future social work professionals understand how children perceive themselves and others.

Sociology

Sociology is the study of how human beings interact with each other and form communities. These courses might focus on concepts like social change and conflict or on the evolution of human interaction. Some sociology courses explore the development of communities in specific countries or time periods, while others examine prevalent social issues, such as poverty and violence. Students may complete research papers about key topics or perform sociological research for independent projects.

Social work principles

These classes help students understand social work theories and practices. Classes might focus on the history of social work as a professional field, famous social workers or the development of research methods. Some courses teach students to apply different social work theories to situations in order to understand them better. Students might also learn about social work ethics, different social service agencies and effective work practices in these courses.

Related: 15 Social Work Theories for You To Know

Why get a two-year social work degree?

Here are some reasons you might choose a two-year social work degree program:

They require less time

Usually, students can complete an associate degree in social work within two years if they follow the course catalog's recommended number of credit hours per semester. They might take more time if they're enrolled as a part-time student because of work or child care responsibilities. The shorter length of an associate degree program might make it ideal for students who want to spend less time in the classroom or whose life situations require them to begin work soon.

They can save you money

Two-year degrees often cost less money than four-year and graduate degrees, which can allow you to continue your education and save money at the same time. Many associate degree programs offer evening and weekend classes, so you might work while earning your degree, saving more money. Choosing a virtual two-year social work degree program might increase your savings by reducing your transportation costs.

They can prepare you for jobs

A two-year degree in social work can prepare you for a range of entry-level positions in human and social services. You might work in schools, addiction recovery centers or state and local administrations, assisting social workers and case managers. These positions can help you develop key professional skills and decide what area of social work you might focus on in your future career.

They can help you get a higher degree

After working as a social services assistant or caseworker, you might decide to earn a higher degree in order to advance in your field. Becoming a licensed social worker usually requires a four-year degree in social work, but your associate degree can help make the process quicker. You might be able to apply credit from your associate degree program to a bachelor's program in social work, reducing the amount of time you take to complete that degree.

Related: 10 Types of Social Workers

Job opportunities for a two-year social work degree

Here are some careers you can pursue with a 2-year social work degree:

  • Social services assistant

  • Caseworker

  • Community outreach worker

  • Residential counselor

  • Gerontology aide

  • Probation officer

Read more: 10 Jobs You Can Get With an Associate Degree in Social Work

Salary and job outlook for a two-year social work degree

The exact salary and job outlook for professionals with a two-year social work degree might depend on their location and position. The median salary for social and human services assistants, a broad category that includes many entry-level social work positions, is $35,960 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In addition, the job outlook for these positions is optimistic, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the field might grow by 17% between 2020 and 2030, which is much higher than average.

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