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The Boise State Master of Social Work Online Program is Changing the World for Students

For many, moving to a place with a University and attending class full time isn’t an option, yet the opportunity to earn an advanced degree would improve earning potential. Boise State’s fully online degree programs offer access to this potential without the necessity of leaving home.

“The earnings of workers with an advanced degree have been between 159 percent and 175 percent of all-worker earnings.”

Beyond personal goals, the incentive to get a graduate degree is quite tangible. Not only does higher education lead to a more rewarding career, it also results in statistically higher wages for workers in the US. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Over the past two decades, the earnings of workers with a bachelor’s degree have ranged between 127 percent and 138 percent of the earnings of all workers. The earnings of workers with an advanced degree have been between 159 percent and 175 percent of all-worker earnings.”

Students gain access to a world of education

Wayne Brown is a beneficiary of the increase in access provided by online education. He recently graduated from Boise State’s Master of Social Work Online program. To celebrate, he visited campus to accept his diploma and meet face to face with the community he built while obtaining a degree.

Living in  Montpelier, Idaho, a small farming community in the southeast region of the state, Brown was already a working professional. He aspired to improve his standing in life through a career in Social Work. Maintaining an income was essential if he was going to return to school and he also needed time to care for his aging mother, “I take care of my mom in my home, who’s ninety-three now, and I work. So being able to be online …allowed me to stay there and be there with her and maintain my job and still be able to earn the degree that I wanted.”

“So being able to be online …allowed me to stay there and be there with her and maintain my job and still be able to earn the degree that I wanted.”

Wayne Brown at graduation.
Wayne Brown at the Online Master of Social Work Graduation, winter 2019. Photo by Arlie Sommer

Affordability and quality

Another reason students choose the Boise State Online Master of Social Work program rather than an in-person program is the need for affordable education. Brown cited it as a major factor for him.

The median household income in Bear Lake County, where Montpelier lies, is just over $43,000. Compared to Idaho’s largest county, Ada, where household income is around $55,000, residents of Bear Lake County have even more reason to look for ways to stretch a dollar (US Census, 2010).

Boise State University has quality and affordability as top priorities when developing online degrees. These priorities were drivers for the University to develop the Online Master of Social Work program, which launched in 2016. It was one of the first online graduate degrees at the university.

The effort has paid dividends for students; the program recently ranked No. 19 in the nation for its affordability and quality education by the independent SR Education Group. The Council on Social Work Education reaffirmed the accreditation of this successful online program through 2026. Since Boise State launched the Online Master of Social Work, the program has granted nearly 300 graduates their Master’s degree.

A community’s achievement

We caught up with Brown at graduation, as he greeted many of his fellow graduates, professors and his online program advisors, with hugs and warm, familiar salutations. “You would see people over and over. And so that was really beneficial. I really enjoyed working with my fellow students,” Brown said.

The community created within the program is a huge motivator for students,“I think my favorite part of the program was actually the interaction with the students,” Brown said.

The group projects assigned in program courses also prepare students for the types of professional collaboration they’ll employ in their life after school, “That group work can be really challenging and we’re all over the country,” said Brown. The payoff was getting to know the personalities of others in the program and accomplishing big things together, despite obstacles.

Brown also recognized that he was able to get his degree because of the support of that community, “The faculty, my fellow students, everybody that helped support me along the way, my people where I worked, everybody was really, so wonderful,” Brown exclaimed, teary-eyed, in his cap, gown and velvet master’s graduation hood, “I didn’t really do this on my own. I get that it’s my achievement. But my achievement was possible because of all of the people that I allowed to support me.”

“I didn’t really do this on my own. I get that it’s my achievement. But my achievement was possible because of all of the people that I allowed to support me.”

Wayne Brown at Graduation with advisor, Donna Haney
Wayne Brown at the Online Master of Social Work Graduation, pictured with his online student success advisor, Donna Haney. Photo by Arlie Sommer

Open communication and an open attitude

As a midlife professional returning to school, the fear for many prospective students is that the technology required to function in an online classroom will make success difficult. Brown discovered that he was more capable than he imagined at using the software and devices required to complete an online degree. “I’m not a digital native and some of that can be a little daunting, but it seemed like it all worked pretty good,” said Brown.

He shared advice for anyone considering an online degree who isn’t completely convinced that they’ll be able to manage remote communication, “Be willing to be open and communicate. Use the email; use the phone numbers; use texting, whatever it is that you can do.”

“Be willing to be open and communicate. Use the email; use the phone numbers; use texting, whatever it is that you can do.”

Open communication and an open attitude are the traits that helped Brown succeed in an online learning environment, he reflected before returning to celebrate with his class, “Be brave enough to just embrace the technology and utilize it because it does make everything better.” That mindset will also carry him in the professional world.

More About Boise State Online

Along with the Master of Social Work, Boise State University offers 45+ online degree and certificate programs to help you make your educational dreams a reality–whether you need a bachelor’s degree, a graduate degree or a single online class. For more information, visit boisestate.edu/online.