Online Social Work & Behavioral Health Degrees

Are you looking for a career that addresses the social and behavioral health care needs of individuals or communities? The Arizona State University online social work and behavioral health degree programs may be right for you. The university offers master's, doctorate and certificate programs designed to explore the skills necessary to address the growing need for clinicians and managers who understand concepts of behavioral health, analysis, counseling and emotional and learning disorders.

The field of health is undergoing a massive transformation as consumers and public officials demand more comprehensive care strategies. Part of this transformation includes an increased focus on mental health. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explained, mental illness can directly contribute to other chronic health issues, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately 1 in 5 U.S. adults suffer from mental illness in a given year, which has severe consequences, both on the individual and on the nation as a whole. Mood disorders are the third most common cause of hospitalization for youth and adults aged 18-44 in the U.S., according to NAMI, and the estimated earnings loss resulting from serious mental illness amounts to $193.2 billion per year. That said, a study by the American Psychiatric Association shows the majority of adults with and without mental health symptoms agree that treatment helps such individuals lead normal lives.

All of these elements are driving revolutionary mental health care approaches, innovative business models and revised strategies to treating mental health issues. The World Health Organization is editing the latest version of the International Classification of Diseases, the ICD-11, to better address a lack of information on mental health care that existed in previous editions. However, in order to effectively treat the mental and behavioral health issues facing the nation, more health care professionals will need an in-depth and nuanced understanding of these conditions. The ASU Online social work and behavioral health degree programs are designed to help current and aspiring professionals fulfill this need.

The job outlook for the community and social service field is excellent. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in this area is expected to grow faster than average for all occupations, increasing 14 percent from 2016 to 2026. The same growth projections apply for psychologists and related professions. Earning an online social work or behavioral health degree with ASU can help prepare you to take advantage of this promising job market.

All of the courses are 100-percent online, allowing students increased flexibility. They will participate in a series of video lectures, projects and internships where applicable. Some programs also prepare students to take the national Board Certified Behavior Analyst exam or help them fulfill a state licensure requirement.

Read on to learn more about the suite of social work and behavioral health programs offered through ASU Online to find which one is right for you.

Social Work and Behavioral Health Master’s Programs

Special Education, Applied Behavior Analysis (MA)

Offered by the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, the ASU Online Master of Education in Special Education, Applied Behavior Analysis program instructs students on how to assess, treat and manage behavior in a variety of settings, including schools, homes, communities and clinics. The curriculum incorporates a variety of interests including, but not limited to, classroom instruction and organization management, developmental disabilities and behavioral health. Students can use these skills in a variety of occupations related to education, health care, business and more.

This program includes coursework approved by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board, making it ideal for students who plan to take the Board Certified Behavior Analyst exam.

Courses cover subjects including:

  • Behavior assessment
  • Ethics of applied behavior analysis
  • Applied behavior analysis in inclusive settings

Possible careers include:

  • Social worker
  • Marriage and family therapist
  • School psychologist

Special Education - Autism Spectrum Disorders (MA)

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 1 in 150 children were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in 2000. That number has steadily risen to 1 in 68 as of 2012.

This rise in diagnoses reveals a clear need for professionals who are not only aware of how ASD affects individuals, families and communities, but are also properly trained to care for the people involved.The ASU Online Master’s of Arts in Special Education, Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is designed to meet that demand. It can help students learn to provide for and advocate on behalf of individuals with ASD as teachers, psychologists, speech pathologists, behavior analysts and more. The capstone project requires students to create a portfolio demonstrating mastery of the program's material and competency in the six autism standards set by the Council for Exceptional Children.

Courses cover subjects including:

  • Behavior analysis for exceptional populations
  • Characteristics of children with behavioral disorders
  • Family-centered practices

Possible careers include:

  • Special education teacher
  • Adapted physical education specialist
  • Speech-language pathologist
  • Photonics technician

Social Work (MSW)

The ASU Online Master of Social Work program is built on Advanced Generalist training and is designed to address a variety of social concerns for individuals, families, groups and communities. The coursework prepares students to promote various aspects of social justice and find practical solutions to some of the world's most pressing issues, such as child welfare, policy advocacy, human trafficking, gerontology and more. Students can also receive a tailored education highlighting experiences and issues unique to populations in the Southwest.

Online students will participate in hands-on field education, working with the School of Social Work to find internship opportunities close to home that meet standards set by the school and the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

The ASU Online MSW program is accredited by the CSWE. Graduates aiming to pursue professional practice should review their state's social work licensure regulations.

Courses cover subjects including:

  • Research
  • Policy practice
  • Advanced generalist social work practice

Possible careers include:

  • Community services manager
  • Mental health counselor
  • Sociologist
  • Social worker

Social Work and Behavioral Health Doctoral Programs

Behavioral Health (Clinical) (DBH)

The ASU Online Doctorate of Behavioral Health (Clinical) program helps provide clinicians with the skills necessary to deliver integrated treatment programs in a variety of medical settings, including patient-centered medical homes, accountable care organizations and more. Students can learn the clinical practice techniques needed to create, support, deliver and evaluate health care services, programs and interventions.

This program is designed for practicing nurses, counselors, social workers, physician assistants and more. Students may intern with a health care provider in their area as part of their coursework.

This degree is primarily focused on helping students improve their clinical work and develop or build upon existing management skills. The coursework is designed for graduates who plan to work in hospitals, primary care clinics or other institutions that treat both medical and behavioral conditions.

Courses cover subjects including:

  • Health entrepreneurship
  • Integrated primary care
  • Clinical neuropathophysiology
  • Population-based health management

Possible careers include:

  • Behavioral health provider
  • Health care consultant
  • Clinical manager

Behavioral Health (Management) (DBH)

Designed for current and future health care, the ASU Online Doctor of Behavioral Health (Management) program prepares students to take leadership positions within various healthcare organizations. It accomplishes this goal by supporting three key ideas:

  • Focus on the “Triple Aim”: improved patient experience, better clinical outcomes and reduced over-utilization and cost of care
  • Business entrepreneurship to help students fill demands in the market or at various health care organizations and maximize their earnings
  • Measuring quality and performance to align with the new Accountable Care Organization model


In addition to live chat with instructors and students, the online doctorate in Behavioral Health (Management) includes live-streaming video consultation for internship training, connecting students with experts in the field. The program concludes with a capstone project in which students create a business plan specific to their professional interests.

Courses cover subjects including:

  • Measuring quality and performance
  • Entrepreneurship as it relates to behavioral health
  • Financial management

Possible careers include:

  • Health care administrator
  • Health care executive
  • Clinical project manager

Social Work and Behavioral Health Certificate Programs

An Overview of Autism Spectrum Disorders (Graduate Certificate)

The rise in autism spectrum disorder diagnoses demands an increased number of professionals who understand how to address the unique issues of this special population. The ASU Online Graduate Certificate in Autism Spectrum Disorders program is designed to provide students with the foundation necessary to support individuals of all ages with ASD. This program streamlines the learning process, providing an overview for understanding ASD.

Offered by the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, this program is beneficial for anyone interested in a career that provides support or services for individuals on the autism spectrum. Those who complete the program can enter or transition within the workforce as counselors, educators, social workers, therapists and program managers. Students have the option to earn their certificate over a two-year period while pursuing a separate graduate degree or as a standalone option.

Courses cover subjects including:

  • Verbal behavior
  • Applied behavior analysis for exceptional populations

Possible careers include:

  • Special education teacher
  • Adapted physical education specialist
  • Clinical psychologist
  • Speech-language pathologist

Applied Behavior Analysis (Graduate Certificate)

The Graduate Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis prepares professionals to work with those with special learning and behavior needs, providing them with a foundation of research and experience. This streamlined certificate can be completed alongside an online graduate degree or as a standalone program.

Coursework for the ABA graduate certificate is pre-approved by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. Students can sit for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst certification exam, but are not required to do so.

Students who enroll in this program can learn how to assess, treat and manage behavior in a variety of settings. They will study subjects like classroom instruction and organization management, developmental disabilities and behavioral health. Students can then use their skills in numerous occupations related to education, health care, business and more.

Courses cover subjects including:

  • Behavior change systems
  • Behavior assessment
  • Ethics
  • Research methods

Possible careers include:

  • Special education teacher
  • Sociologist
  • School psychologist
  • Mental health counselor

Integrated Behavioral Health - Clinical (Graduate Certificate)

Behavioral clinicians who desire to transition into an integrated primary care setting can develop qualified skills to do so by enrolling in the online Graduate Certificate in Integrated Behavioral Health - Clinical. This program is designed for people who are currently employed as or studied to be social workers, marriage and family therapists, allied health providers, counselors, clinical psychologists or anyone else with a behavioral background who intends to learn more about primary care treatments for the benefit of their clients.

Organizations across the country have created or expanded initiatives that incentivize primary care practices providing comprehensive health services for all of their patients, such as the primary care medical home model. This means the field of health needs an increasing number of behavioral health providers who can also advocate for or address the physical and mental primary care of their patients. Unfortunately, students and clinicians who want to do so have limited training options. Most people in this field are licensed social workers and counselors who haven't been trained on how to deliver brief interventions in primary care settings.

This program attempts to alleviate this issue by helping behavioral clinicians develop medical literacy, utilize evidence-based approaches to behavioral health care, gain an understanding of population-based health and more.

Courses cover subjects including:

  • Motivational interviewing
  • Interventions in primary care
  • Population-based behavioral health management
  • Clinical medicine and pathophysiology
  • Possible careers include:
  • Director of behavioral health
  • Behavioral health provider
  • Behavioral health consultant

Integrated Behavioral Health - Management (Graduate Certificate)

Thanks to initiatives that reimburse primary care providers for adopting a more comprehensive approach to patient care (such as the Primary Care Medical Home model), knowledge of behavioral health is becoming more integral to the medical profession. As such, graduate-level health care management students and professionals may desire to learn more about this field. The ASU Online Graduate Certificate in Integrated Behavioral Health - Management was created to help such individuals acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to integrate behavioral health concepts into their practices. It is designed to address the growing need for formal training on the business and funding aspects of providing clinical environments that address behavioral, mental and physical health.

Students can learn how to analyze and manage integrated behavioral health costs, better manage integrated care systems and design and launch programs that achieve the goals of “Triple Aim”: reducing costs, improving patient experiences and improving the health of populations. This program is focused exclusively on management rather than clinical licensure.

Courses cover subjects including:

  • Financial management
  • Measuring quality and performance
  • Effective consultation

Possible careers include:

  • Behavioral health technician
  • Behavioral health intake specialist
  • Clinical affairs program manager


Earning a degree in behavioral health or social work from ASU Online

As the public continues to scrutinize health care providers, demanding reduced costs and more comprehensive services, clinics, schools, hospitals and similar institutions will need professionals trained in multiple aspects of care. A degree in behavioral health or social work from ASU Online can prepare you to meet this demand, applying evidence-based care models to promote the health of individuals, communities and populations.

If this sounds like the path you want to pursue, explore the various graduate, doctoral and certificate programs offered by ASU Online and visit the specific program pages to request more information.

Program details are subject to change. Current information can be found by visiting individual program pages on the ASU Online website.

Sources:
Mental Illness Surveillance Fact Sheet by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Mental Health by the Numbers by the National Alliance on Mental Illness
Data on Behavioral Health in the United States by the American Psychological Association
Community and Social Service Occupations: Occupational Outlook Handbook by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Psychologists: Occupational Outlook Handbook by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Research | Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Data and Statistics | Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
All Online Degree Programs by ASU Online
Behavioral Health (Clinical) (DBH) by ASU Online
Behavioral Health (Management) (DBH) by ASU Online
Curriculum and Instruction: Applied Behavior Analysis (MEd) by ASU Online
Special Education - Autism Spectrum Disorders (MA) by ASU Online
Social Work (MSW) by ASU Online
An Overview of Autism Spectrum Disorders (Graduate Certificate) by ASU Online
Applied Behavior Analysis (Graduate Certificate) by ASU Online
Integrated Behavioral Health - Clinical (Graduate Certificate) by ASU Online
Integrated Behavioral Health - Management (Graduate Certificate) by ASU Online

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