Area residents interested in the field of social work can now begin that degree at Missouri State University-West Plains (MSU-WP).
The new Associate of Arts in Human Services degree is designed to provide the first two years of study required for the Bachelor in Social Work (BSW) degree offered by Missouri State University (MSU) or similar baccalaureate programs offered at other four-year institutions.
“The AAHS degree prepares students to transfer to Missouri State University in Springfield to finish their bachelor’s degree in social work, either seated or online,” said Dr. Michael Orf, interim dean of academic affairs at MSU-WP.
“It’s a great opportunity for individuals interested in the social work field to not have to leave the area and earn a four-year degree,” he added. “The need for social workers in this area is great. Hopefully, this will be a step in the right direction to meet that need.”
Academic officials at MSU-WP worked with their counterparts at the MSU School of Social Work and the MSU Outreach program to develop the new degree, according to Dr. Jason McCollom, associate professor of history and department chair of arts, humanities and social sciences at MSU-WP.
The program is built upon MSU-WP’s general education curriculum, making it not only cost effective for MSU-WP, but also conducive for transfer into similar programs at other four-year colleges and universities, McCollom pointed out.
To earn the AAHS, students will enroll in three online social work courses in addition to the general education component. The social work courses will be offered on a semester rotational schedule. The courses include Introduction to Social Work (SWK 200), Social Welfare Policy and Services (SWK 213) and Human Diversity (SWK 219).
The courses will be taught by current per course faculty member Rebecca Holman, a licensed clinical social worker who has extensive experience in residential treatment, private practice and hospital settings. Holman received her undergraduate degree in sociology and criminology from Drury University in 1995 and her master’s degree in social work from the University of Missouri in 2004. She has been an instructor with MSU-WP since the 2010 spring semester and has taught social work courses at Drury University’s Cabool campus.
Online option opens opportunities
The MSU School of Social Work recently moved its entire bachelor’s degree program online, opening a pipeline into the program for interested MSU-WP students, he said. Currently, there are between 10 to 15 students traveling to the MSU campus in Springfield pursuing the degree, he added.
“The program came about in response to two conditions – the opportunities for transfer to MSU-Springfield’s BSW program and the projections of the social work field expanding and the need for social workers in a variety of settings,” McCollom said.
“It’s an in-demand career, and MSU-WP’s relationship with the Springfield campus creates a great opportunity for West Plains students to earn a bachelor’s degree and work towards building a career in social work,” he added.
Those who complete a bachelor’s degree in social work will find work in a variety of settings, including child welfare, health care, behavioral health, criminal justice, military and veterans affairs, and many other community positions, McCollom pointed out.
Social workers in great demand
And all these settings need trained individuals with these skills. According to statistics from CareerOneStop.org, projected growth for child, family and school social workers is more than twice the national average. The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC) projects a significant growth rate in all social work fields for the next 10 years, McCollom said.
“Individuals are desperately needed in the field of social work,” McCollom stressed. “In 2019, the turnover rate in child social work was 80%, according to Amanda Keys, associate professor of social work at Missouri State University. Currently, there are four open positions in the field of social work at Ozarks Healthcare and several other open positions across southern Missouri.”
For more information about the degree, contact McCollom at 417-255-7284 or JasonMcCollom@MissouriState.edu; the MSU-WP admissions office at 417-255-7955 or WPAdmissions@MissouriState.edu; or visit the campus’ website, WP.MissouriState.edu.
For more information about the BSW program and how it can be completed locally, contact Deanna Smith, southeast regional outreach administrator with Missouri State Outreach, at 417-255-7777 or DeannaSmith@MissouriState.edu.