Associates in Social Work (ASW) Guide - 2024

Social Worker License

by Social Worker License Staff

Updated: September 8th, 2023

An associate degree in social work (ASW) gives you the foundational education needed to pursue a career as a social worker. Keep in mind that these degrees aren’t accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). At this introductory level, you can also pursue a degree in Human Services if you are interested in social work. This is the first step for students interested in the field and should be used to help determine whether or not social work suits you. It typically takes two years for full-time students to complete an ASW program, and they’re less expensive than baccalaureate and master’s programs. 

To enter an ASW or human services program, high school transcripts are required. If you attended college elsewhere, those transcripts would also need to be transferred to your new school. Each institution has its own eligibility requirements, but the basic educational prerequisites are passing scores in math and English or writing courses. Your GPA from previously attended schools may also be taken under consideration for admission. 

Courses of Associate’s in Social Work and Human Services Programs

Here is a list of the common courses offered in ASW programs and why it’s required:

Introduction to Social Work

Students will be introduced to the history of social work and its goals. The different roles and tasks performed by social workers have been learned as well as the basic overarching concepts of the practice, such as professionalism, interventions, and multi-method approaches to impact change. The class will cover the various settings workers can be found practicing generalist social work. The Code of Ethics, values and social work competencies are also introduced through this course. Topics such as diversity, oppression, and social justice are initially covered here. 

After completing the course, students should be able to recognize key values, principles, and skills according to the NASW Code of Ethics. Students will also identify and define the roles of generalist social work practice and multiple methods used in practice. Defining the needs and obstacles facing specific populations, social justice, and diversity and oppression is another way educators will know their students understand the concepts taught in the course. 

Introduction to Health and Human Service Organizations

The history of the Health and Human Service field is explored alongside the current structure of the field. This is where students will learn all about the main intervention strategies used in the Human Services field. Students will begin to develop their interviewing and facilitation skills and be taught case management. Subjects discussed include handling ethical dilemmas, program planning, the social welfare system, and how to organize and change systems.

Once the course is complete, students should be able to demonstrate knowledge about how the Human Service profession was created and recognize the attitudes and values of the field. They will identify different populations the Human Services profession serves and the distinction between each population’s needs. Any past and present legislation that impacts human service delivery will also be identified by students.

Introduction to Psychology

This course delves and so the areas of human development, emotion, personality, learning and intelligence, memory, have normal behavior, and psychotherapy. Students will learn the different areas of psychology and how they relate to other professions such as medicine and education.

The objective of the course is to ensure students understand different areas such as human development in the historical context, the research conducted and conclusions are drawn, clinical applications for psychology, and current issues. They’ll learn how to apply their knowledge of psychology to the profession of social work or Human Services. Personal development is also taken into consideration as the student should have improved understanding of their own behavior and emotions, critical thinking skills, verbal and written communication skills, and their ability to apply critical thinking and sound judgment to human behavior with intellectual curiosity.

Principles of Sociology

The basic principles of sociology are introduced to students in this course. Students will be taught to recognize where personal troubles and social issues intersect. Instead of placing events in an individualistic context, students are taught to view them in a social context to gain a better understanding of how the world around us is socially constructed. You’ll be given the tools needed to apply sociological concepts to your own experience for more insight into how to go about helping others.

At the end of the course, students will demonstrate an understanding of how diversity and inequality fit into their own social world. They’ll comprehend how evidence and the scientific method are used to assess and research information. Students will also make sense of social events by understanding other perspectives exist and apply that principle to create social change.

Social Issues In Diversity

This course introduces different tactics to use when interacting with members from diverse communities. That includes those from different races, necessities, genders, classes, sexual orientations, ages, disabilities, and religions. It examines the effects a person’s diversity has on their student development in a school setting. The course’s main goal is to take a look at the strategies used to make a positive impact on diversity and equity issues under a social framework.

Students can demonstrate their understanding of the course by identifying cultural, economic, ethical, and political trends and recognizing how they relate to the experiences of culturally diverse students living in a multicultural society. Students will understand the roles counselors play in helping clients develop cultural self-awareness. They will know how to advocate on behalf of those whose academic success is negatively affected by institutions and social barriers.

Public Health Issues

This course examines addiction in a historical and modern-day context. Addiction counseling is introduced here, as well as theories about addiction, current drug use trends, how addiction affects the family dynamics, and the effect addiction has on the larger society. Students are taught to take into account cultural differences when making assessments and deciding on treatments. There is an emphasis on ethics and confidentiality when dealing with public health issues.

After completing the course, candidates will have a basic understanding of the biology and psychology of addiction. They will also have an understanding of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR). Students will be able to intelligently discuss controversial issues surrounding addiction, such as the legalization and decriminalization of illegal drugs, and identify organizations and resources within the community to assist with treatment plans.

Health Care Information Systems

In this class, students are introduced to data sources used by the health care industry. They will be taught the definition of frequently used terms and the role they play in healthcare. HIPAA rules and regulations, the role of the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC), and the use of commonly used software are part of the curriculum.

Once the course is over, students will understand the difference between electronic applications used to manage a client’s health information. They’ll be able to demonstrate several methods for collecting data, analyzing laws, and communicating the pros and cons involved in collecting data electronically.

Crisis Intervention

Clinical crises and other related emergencies are analyzed in this course. It also covers the treatment methods used to intervene in these situations. This course continues your education about psychological crises and interventions and human behavior in social environments. The course also teaches advanced treatment for specific populations among individuals and families.

The knowledge students will gain includes crisis concepts and interventions, emergencies and emergency interventions, And suicide prevention and intervention. They’ll be able to explain crisis theory and provide various models of intervention while demonstrating the difference between intervention and psychotherapy. Students also will be able to show the ability to effectively apply intervention in emergency and crisis situations. They should have a level of comfort and competence when working with sensitive issues such as potential suicide or homicide or trauma victims.

Research And Writing For The Workplace

The goal of this course is to teach students written communication in a professional context. It will show students effective strategies and appropriate media to use when sending communication in the workplace. The efficacy of the communication depends on the community being addressed and the topic, genre, and rhetorical strategy.

Students will demonstrate an understanding of different strategies for research, drafting, revising, and editing professional written communication. They will be able to produce documents to address common social work topics, processes, and other paperwork used regularly in the workplace. Students will use an ethical framework when communicating by the written word And identify and respect the cultural attitudes regarding workplace communication.


There are some ASW programs that require you to complete an internship with a social work organization in order to receive your degree. At the undergraduate level, internships are designed to place emphasis on entry-level experiences you will face in real-life situations. As the program concludes, you should have a firm idea of which specialty area you’d like to enter to ensure you are placed in the correct setting. The internship will be done under the supervision of a qualified social worker.

When your internship is over, you’ll have the ability to conduct yourself professionally and in alignment with the social work competencies. Ethical dilemmas and conflicts will be easily identified and understood, along with the assessment process to use in real-world scenarios. 

Careers for Associate’s in Social Work or Human Services Graduates

While the ASW is only an entry-level degree in the field of social work, many students go on to develop careers in human services and other related social work fields. Human service assistants are a popular occupation for those with ASWs. They work closely with social and case workers to find resources to assist clients experiencing emotional, physical, or financial problems. 

Human Services Professionals usually hold ASWs and work in community-based settings. Their work may find them indoors or out in the field, depending on the situation they are tasked with addressing. In residential settings where 24/7 supervision of clients is required, you can find ASWs working under the supervision of more experienced staffed members and are part of a team of other Human Service professionals. They are often in charge of organizing group activities or providing counseling for individuals. 

A social work assistant is another job title held by ASWs. They usually are found working in administrative positions in assisted-living facilities, nursing homes, and social service centers. Their role is very similar to that of a human service assistant. 

Intake specialist is an avenue many ASWs take after graduating. These are the first people patients speak with when seeking assistance. Their role is critical in a client’s treatment as a bad encounter can result in the patient not pursuing the help they need. Intake specialists perform assessments and pre-screen patients so they can direct them to the correct resources. 

Victim advocacy is a role ASWs often find themselves in upon graduation. Advocacy is at the heart of social work, and these employees provide emotional support for crime victims. They inform victims of their rights, provide information on what resources are available to them, and help them fill out the paperwork they may not fully understand. They typically work in conjunction with other criminal or social justice organizations to assist clients. 

As home health and personal care aides, ASWs provide assistance to disabled individuals suffering from diminished cognitive abilities and chronic or terminal illnesses. Community outreach workers with ASWs facilitate social service programs and organize communities. They establish relationships with those in the community who provide social services and draw proposals to seek funding. 

A few other positions held by ASWs are activity assistants in long-term care facilities, family support assistants, and camp counselors.

Most students use the ASW certification as the first step on their way to obtaining a higher degree so they can become licensed in their state. The majority of states don’t acknowledge ASWs as social workers and relegate them to supporting clerical or technical roles. 

While there isn’t much data on ASW salaries since these aren’t typically licensed positions, there is information on how much the lowest 10 percent of those in the field of social workers earn, which is $37,500 (Bureau of Labor Statistics - 2022) annually. These are entry-level positions that are filled by those still figuring out if they want to join the social work profession.