Psychiatric social work degree programs can help students integrate knowledge from both social sciences and psychology into their practice. Through a diverse course load, students can gain a better viewpoint of psychiatric illnesses and disorders, as well as more information and background about the agencies that provide services to people with these disorders. The purpose of combining the field of psychiatry with that of social work is to educate and train upcoming social work professionals for working with individuals and families as they navigate this treatment setting.

Psychiatric Social Work Programs

Degree programs in different specialized fields in social work, such as Psychiatry, can assist you in gaining the skills you need to apply theoretical knowledge and proven tools in society. Depending on the type of field that you are planning to work in while in the field, different types of degree programs in social work may be a better fit for your needs. Social workers that focus on the needs and treatment planning of patients within a psychiatric setting might benefit most from enrolling in online degree programs focused on psychiatric social work.

If you have a background in psychology or counseling and are interested in learning more about what this type of degree program could provide for you, our team encourages you to read deeper into the guide provided to you below.

More and more people are finding psychiatric social work to be a relevant and providing career field in society as it stands today. Through this guide, you can learn about the educational programs that can set you on the path to success in this field, as well as some of the career options that might be available to you once you have obtained your license. While on your journey you might consider reviewing an Online MSW program from a CSWE-accredited university. More and more universities are bringing their MSW programs online and with great success.

Read more in the sections following to see some examples of online degree programs that you could consider throughout your path.

Online Psychiatric Social Work Programs

Historically, students would have to plan for months in order to prepare for moving to college and dedicating their next few years to strictly their education. Since technological advancements have allowed universities to be more diverse in their program offerings and also offered more convenient and immediately methods of communication, students can now take advantage of online degree programs in psychiatric social work to achieve their career goals. Online degree programs are essentially duplicated traditional degree programs that can be attended and completed in the online setting.

Through online learning, students can use tech-oriented tools to study, do research, and complete assignments. Since online degree programs are attended through virtual means, students can generally log in during the day or night when it is convenient for them and turn in their homework through a course's virtual drop box feature. If you decide to pursue your program online, you can contact your teacher and other students with ease through embedded chat and email tools, making this experience even more flexible than what can be found in the traditional environment.

Online degree programs in social work can also provide you with a sense of security in that these programs receive the same type of accreditation as traditional learning programs. Since social workers may be required to obtain their license prior to providing direct services to clients in the field, the benefit of accreditation can be irreplaceable for learners enrolled.

Bachelor’s in Psychiatry Social Work Degrees

The bachelor’s level is not only an introduction to social work for new students in this field, but it is also a learning experience for students that are new to the collegiate environment as a whole. In this program, you can expect to see some general courses such as English, Algebra, and History, which will be integrated into your general and introductory social work programs. Taking these courses together with your major classes can be helpful when associating your field with the world around you, as well as when using general skills in your specialized field. Our team has reviewed some of the best online BSW programs. Here is a preview:

  • The University of Arkansas – Little Rock – Online Bachelor of Social Work

    The online BSW at the University of Arkansas begins with a look into generalized courses required for bachelor’s learners. This quickly transitions into social work-specific courses that can teach you more about the field and development of social work, general practice, and ethical guidelines for working with the public. This program currently holds accreditation, meaning it can lead to bachelors-level licensure for those completing the internship requirements.

  • Wayne State University – Online Bachelor of Social Work

    Wayne State’s Online BSW program is suitable for upcoming professionals interested in becoming a positive factor in the lives of others. This degree program can teach you more about social work policy, individual and family methods, and even set you up with internships in your community. The average completion time for this program is 3-4 years.

Master’s in Psychiatry Social Work Degrees

In order to become a social worker in the field of psychiatry, some agencies may require that you hold a minimum of a Master’s in Social Work with a specialization related to psychology, psychiatry, or mental health. Each of these concentrations can prepare you for working with clients that may be working through the negative side effects of mental illness and require professional intervention along the way. Some of the skills in this program may also be focused on providing support to families as they manage the emotional effects of mental illness within their family unit. Take a look at some of the available online programs current accepting applicants below.

  • The University of New Hampshire – Online MSW – Mental Health

    The Online MSW in Mental Health at the University of New Hampshire can be a great asset to your career in psychiatric social work. This program is accepting of current licensed BSW as well as individuals from alternative bachelor’s programs. The estimated completion time for enrollees is 2-3 years, while licensed students can sometimes complete the program faster through advanced standing enrollment options.

  • Florida State University – Online MSW – Clinical Mental Health

    If you decide to pursue an online MSW with a Clinical Mental Health designation, you could potentially move forward into licensure as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in your future. This degree program can help you learn more about clinical practice, diagnosis, and treatment for people within your treatment field. When accompanied by a supervised work experience, this program could lead you into your professional license.

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Common Psychiatry Social Work MSW Level Course Work

While social work generally focuses on people and their environment, degree programs in psychiatric social work often focus harder on the psychological basis of a person’s behavior in relationship to their environment. The courses that can be expected to be included in these online degree program should focus on both general mental health and illness, as well as the policies and theories that dictate the field of social work as a whole. If you would like to read more about some of the most common topics present within this degree program, follow along in the list below. These courses and their descriptions have been pulled from actual online programs that are waiting for new applicants to enroll.

  • Attachment, Neurobiology, and Social Work Practice: In psychiatric social work practice, professionals should have historical knowledge of their clients in order to comprehend their current mental and emotional state. This course help students understand the influence of early attachments, biological aspects of psychology, and methods for treating clients that have deficits in either of these areas. The influence of heredity and early childhood experiences can be monumental on a person’s current mental health, making this type of course important for effective practice in the field.
  • Perspectives on Severe Mental Illness: This course outlines some of the most important aspects to consider when working with clients that have been diagnosed with severe mental illness and their families. Knowledge about symptoms associated with mental illness, as well as treatment methods associated with each one may be covered in this course in order to extend your capabilities in this area of practice. Students can expect to explore various theoretical treatment models in an effort to sharpen their integrity when working with psychiatric clients in the field.
  • Advanced Clinical Practice: Psychiatric social workers should have experience and knowledge in the advanced clinical foundations in their field. In this course, students can learn the key components of effective clinical practice, such as effectiveness, flexibility, and community-based treatments. Students can also learn more about development of a therapeutic relationship, continued professional development, and the dedication to client success.

An Overview of the Psychiatry Social Work Program Area

Psychiatric social work is a field that is centered around the need for well-rounded and coordinated services for people with varying degrees of mental illness. In this field, you could be part of a counseling team that is assisting clients with finding better methods of coping with their disorders or even possibly in a case management position responsible for maintaining and following a treatment plan written by clinical professionals. In some cases, psychiatric social workers may also transport their clients to appointments, conduct home or office visits, and meet with families to discuss barriers and progress.

When ingrained into a degree program, psychiatric social work can create an optimum experience that can prepare you for a unique work experience in the field. These programs are intense in nature and can subject you to learning about common and uncommon mental illnesses that can affect a person’s overall quality of life. Applicants to this program should be ready and willing to learn about the challenges that are presented by mental illness, as well as the many different methods of treatment and counseling that are available for guiding people through daily life.

Common Psychology and Psychiatry Career Options

Once you have completed your degree program and received your license, you can be free to seek out open positions in the field. A large number of individuals in this field find careers in mental health facilities or psychiatric treatment hospitals. Even though these are some common areas for new professionals, they are not the only options for professionals in this line of work. Psychiatric social work professionals can be important members of research teams, educational staff, and even case management professionals in social services.

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Before you choose a career path to pursue with your certifications, you should take a look at the potential earnings of some common social work professionals in the field. Less common career paths in social work could possibly offer you more income for your expertise, while positions that are well-known in society may offer job stability and familiarity in your day to day work. Our team has listed some of the most popular career titles in this field below, as well as some salary data for you to review.

  • Social Workers – all, other: $63,010 on average per year. 
  • Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers: $57,800 on average per year. 

2021 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and employment figures for Social workers (All, other; and Mental Health and Substance Abuse), reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed March 2023.