Careers With an Associate's Degree in Social Work

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Social workers typically need a bachelor’s or master’s degree, but an associate degree in social work can also open employment doors. The social sciences focus on studying society and relationships between people, helping people change their behavior and improving communities. Employment opportunities in the field are related to those activities.

Do Your Research

  • Social science, like any science, uses research to develop the basic tenets of its theories and provide structure for activities in the discipline. Although the research is designed and supervised by scientists with graduate degrees, those with an associate degree in social work can act as research assistants, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Duties vary, but might include helping prepare research findings for scientific or general publication, working in laboratory analysis, quality control or data management. Work experience is not required, and the BLS reports a median salary of $37,140 in 2012. Projected growth for this occupation is 12 percent through 2022, slightly faster than the 11 percent average projected for all occupations.

Helping Others

  • Social and human service assistants assist social workers or help people get benefits and services. Typically employed by nonprofit organizations, social service agencies, or state and local governments, they earned a median salary of $28,850 in 2012. A high school diploma is the minimum requirement, but the BLS notes some employers prefer more education. Those with additional education such as an associate degree in social work are more likely to be given additional responsibilities and have opportunities for advancement. On-job training is common in this occupation, and previous experience is helpful but not necessarily required. Employment opportunities for social and human services assistants are projected to grow 22 percent through 2022, according to the BLS.

Dealing With Substance Abuse

  • Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counseling is another potential career field for those with an associate degree in social work. Although some states require a master’s degree for certain kinds of counseling, an associate degree might be acceptable in some cases. Educational requirements differ according to work setting, type of work, state regulations and the level of responsibility. On-job training is typically required for those who have less education. Regulations regarding education, licensing and certification vary by state. These workers can be found in mental health facilities, prisons and community health centers. The BLS projects a growth rate of 31 percent through 2022. The median salary was $38,520 in 2012, according to the BLS.

Helping to Improve Health

  • Community health workers teach people ways to improve health behaviors and make lifestyle changes such as eliminating tobacco use or increasing exercise. Although some workers need only a high school diploma, an associate degree might improve employment opportunities and advancement potential. On-job training is common and often targeted to a specific patient population. Certification is optional in most states, but regulations vary. A license is not required. The median salary was $34,620 in 2012, and the BLS expects a 21 percent growth rate through 2022. Most community health workers are employed by government agencies such as public health departments, or by hospitals and ambulatory health care services.

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