March 16, 2009
Metropolitan State University of Denver
Social Work major offers online option
Metropolitan State College of Denver's Department of Social Work recently received reaccreditation from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) for another eight years. It is the only accredited undergraduate program in the United States approved by the CSWE to offer the entire major on campus and via distance education.
Students from more than 20 Colorado counties have enrolled in the program since 2001, and the online classes are available throughout the state's 64 counties. There is an obvious advantage for those who will avoid traveling long distances and through stormy weather. The program is also instrumental in recruiting more people in the field to help meet the growing demand, says Chair and Professor of Social Work Virginia Cruz.
"As the Colorado population continues to grow in numbers and in ages, more and more social workers will be needed," says Cruz. "Evidence of this is based on the fact that the current social work major at the College has grown about 10 percent a year for the last 10 years."
For the 2008-09 academic year, Metro State has 268 declared social work majors. Of these students, 126 are juniors and seniors. The seniors, representing about 60 students, are already making a difference in Colorado communities through their year-long field placements with various agencies throughout the state.
The ethnic breakdown of the 126 juniors and seniors is 17 percent African American, 17 percent Latino, four percent Asian American, one percent Native American, 56 percent White and five percent unknown. The diversity of students in the program is important because of "the shortage of culturally appropriate providers," Cruz says. "If you are establishing a relationship with your caseworker, it's helpful for the caseworker to not only understand your specific situation, but your culture."
In her time working with the program, Cruz has noticed a surprising outcome. Because the students are corresponding with each other regularly online, it helps to build their writing skills, which is key in the social work profession as "everything is reduced to writing about your clients."
An undergraduate degree in social work allows beginning professional social workers to serve as family advocates, case managers, caseworkers and social workers in a variety of settings, including child welfare, mental health, developmental disabilities, K-12 education and corrections.
About half of the graduates go into master’s-level programs within a year of receiving their baccalaureate degree. Those in graduate programs often become administrators, licensed clinical social workers or licensed social workers.