KEARNEY – Rural communities across the country, including many in Nebraska, have a shortage of qualified professionals to fill social work positions.
To help address the shortage, University of Nebraska at Kearney has expanded the reach of its on-campus social work programs by adding an online Bachelor of Science in Social Work degree and online social work minor.
The online programs prepare students for social work positions while allowing them to reside in their own communities. Online students will take the same courses from the same instructors as on-campus students, and they’ll also get the chance to interact with on-campus students.
“Offering an online social work program is a win-win situation for students and for the state. Now with the online offering, students who need flexibility around time or place can pursue their degree,” said Ben Malczyk, assistant professor of social work at UNK. “This means that students who have to work full time, or who have children, or who live in rural communities all across the state can work towards their degree.”
Both of UNK’s online social work programs will prepare students for human services jobs that are projected to remain in high demand over the next few decades, according to the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. These careers include positions within medical and public health; mental health and substance abuse; youth and family services; geriatrics; community action agencies, and many other areas.
“The online program will directly benefit Nebraska. Nebraska currently, and historically, has a shortage of qualified professionals in social work-related positions,” Malczyk said. “For example, about 90 percent of counties in Nebraska have been designated as counties with a shortage of mental health providers. That’s essentially everywhere in the state that’s not Lincoln or Omaha.”
Graduates of UNK’s online Bachelor of Science in Social Work – one of only 16 online programs of its kind nationwide – are trained and qualified to work as generalist social workers. The program requires general studies coursework to be completed prior to beginning the degree at UNK. Completing the program opens the door to a master’s degree in social work with advanced standing because of an additional accreditation by the Council on Social Work Education.
Advanced standing at the baccalaureate level reduces the time and financial investment required to reach a graduate-level education in the social work field, Malczyk said. The 24-credit hour online minor in social work complements many UNK undergraduate degrees, whether on campus or online.