2021 Best Online Social Work Degrees [Bachelor’s Guide]

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An online social work degree can help prepare you for a career of service and support for other people.

Online Social Work Degrees

As a social work major, you can learn to provide meaningful, beneficial assistance to others.

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Social work graduates tend to either find jobs in settings related to mental health and child welfare or pursue graduate work for leadership or counseling roles.

Online Social Work Degrees

Social Work Degrees

Social work can be a rewarding field. As a social work professional, you may have the chance to make a difference for people who need a helping hand. If you’re committed to a career that’s focused on others and their needs, then this field might be a good fit for you.

To earn a degree in social work, you’ll likely take classes in behavioral science, social welfare, social work practice, and diversity. Many of your courses will cover practical skills for working with people and providing meaningful assistance. You can also gain field experience in local settings so that you can put your lessons into practice.

A broad social work education can help prepare you for the diverse field of social services. Social workers can do their jobs in a variety of settings, including:

  • Addiction recovery programs
  • Child and family services agencies
  • Correctional centers
  • Disability support programs
  • Hospitals
  • Mental health programs
  • Nursing homes
  • Public health departments
  • Schools

Some social workers focus on children and adolescents. Others work with adults who have certain needs, such as addictions, injuries, or cognitive disabilities. Social workers can also provide services to elderly people as they cope with the changes and effects of aging.

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No one social worker addresses all of these issues. To help you prepare for a particular branch of this field, you might be able to select a concentration for your degree program. Some schools offer specializations like child services and aging services. In general, though, social work concentrations are more common at the graduate level.

In fact, graduate studies are common among social work graduates. Getting a Master of Social Work (MSW) could increase your opportunities for leadership positions. It might also qualify you for higher levels of licensure or private-practice counseling.

Getting a graduate degree is not a requirement to work in the social work field, though. With a bachelor’s degree, graduates might qualify to work as caseworkers, probation officers, activities directors, or even community service managers. Some states have licenses available to professionals who hold a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW).

Social Work Careers & Salaries

Social Work Careers & Salaries

Social workers can make a difference in a variety of settings, such as healthcare facilities, family services agencies, and schools. Social work is also beneficial in fields like mental health, disability support, aging services, public welfare, and criminal justice.

Many social work professionals are caseworkers. They partner with families or individuals to help them navigate certain situations. For example, children in foster care may have caseworkers who communicate with both the biological and foster families.

People going through medical crises may have hospital caseworkers who help them connect with community support and apply for financial assistance. With experience, social workers may move to management roles. As managers, they can coordinate staff or direct programs.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in community and social service pay a median annual salary of $47,520.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Social and Community Service Managers $69,600
Social Workers, All Other $64,210
Healthcare Social Workers $57,630
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists $55,690
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers $48,720
Child, Family, and School Social Workers $48,430
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors $47,660
Community Health Workers $42,000
Social and Human Service Assistants $35,960
Recreation Workers, Social Assistance $30,290

There are many entry-level jobs available for social work professionals, but getting an advanced degree may increase your opportunities and leadership potential. Education and licensure requirements for various positions vary from state to state.

In some states, professionals with bachelor’s degrees can provide substance abuse or behavioral disorder counseling in supervised settings. A master’s degree in social work could open the door to more counseling opportunities, including private practice. Some social workers provide counseling or other guidance for criminal offenders.

Social workers may choose to become activities directors. Recreation workers are needed in a variety of settings, such as community centers or residential care facilities. Some community health workers use their social worker degree to improve other’s health and wellbeing.

A bachelor’s degree generally qualifies graduates for employment as social workers. Even still, some may first enter the workforce as social service assistants.

Social Work Bachelors Curriculum & Courses

Social Work Bachelors Curriculum

Social work students take a mix of classes to prepare them for real-world work with individuals, families, and systems. The social work curriculum at your college may include courses like the ones listed below:

  • Child Services: Many social workers choose a career in child and family services, so this course will provide information about working with at-risk children.
  • Diverse Environments: You can develop your cultural competence and reflect on the importance of social justice as you take a class on diversity and multiculturalism.
  • Drugs and Alcohol: Social work often addresses people with chemical dependencies, so this class will discuss prevention and treatment strategies for drug and alcohol abuse.
  • Group Services: Social work often takes place in group settings, so this class will give you practical experience in leading groups.
  • Field Work: Over one or more semesters, you’ll gain practical experience in local social work settings and meet with classmates to debrief and learn from one another’s experiences.
  • Self-Care for Social Work Professionals: Social work can be a demanding field, so this course will focus on setting boundaries and prioritizing your own physical and mental wellbeing.
  • Social and Behavioral Science: Taking this class will be an important step in understanding how people make decisions, develop habits, and adjust their thoughts and behaviors.
  • Social Policies: This course will teach you about established social safety nets and provide information about how new systems and policies are developed and implemented.
  • Social Work Introduction: In an entry-level class, you’ll receive an overview of the social work field and its many professional paths.
  • Social Work Skills Foundation: During your first skills-based class, you’ll learn basic techniques for operating in social work environments.

Colleges often tailor their social work programs to the requirements of one particular state. It’s strategic to make sure that the school you choose can prepare you for working in your local area.

How to Choose an Online Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work Program

Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work Program

Choosing to major in social work is just the first step toward your social work career. You’ll also need to decide which school to attend for your degree. Criteria like those below may help you select a program:

  • Accreditation. Regional accreditation is critically important for any school you choose. In this field, it’s also strategic to select a college that holds programmatic accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
  • BSW to MSW. If you know that graduate studies are in your future, you might want to choose a program that allows you to seamlessly transition from undergraduate to graduate studies. Some of these programs are designed so that you can earn both degrees in just 5 years.
  • Field opportunities. Some colleges have connections to specific sites where you can gain practical experience. These partnerships may help you land an ideal fieldwork placement.
  • Online options. When getting your BSW degree online, you may be able to access your materials at any time, or you might need to log in for live sessions. You can decide which approach would be better for you and then select a program to match.
  • Specializations. Social work concentrations are more common at the master’s level, but some schools do offer undergraduate specializations, like child services or elder care.

You may have additional criteria that’s important to you during your college search.

Social Work Bachelor’s Admissions Requirements

Social Work Bachelor’s Admissions

Once you’ve narrowed down your list to your top few schools, it’s time to submit applications. Colleges may request admissions materials such as those listed below:

  • Application form and fee
  • High school transcripts that reflect graduation and a minimum GPA
  • Personal statement or essay
  • Standardized test scores, such as ACT or SAT (if required)

In addition to getting into college, you may also need to pass a background check before you can enroll in the social work program.

Accreditation

Social Work Bachelor’s degrees accreditation

Social work professionals must be qualified. To ensure that you’re getting a solid education in social work, it’s strategic to enroll in a school that holds regional accreditation.

That means that the college has been approved by one of the country’s authorized regional accrediting agencies. These organizations evaluate the academic rigor of institutions to ensure that they educate students well.

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Accreditation looks good to other colleges, too. If you end up transferring mid-program or applying for graduate studies, it’s beneficial to attend an accredited school. Accredited degrees are typically more respected by employers as well.

Social Work Licensure and Certifications

Social Work Licensure and Certifications

Becoming a licensed social worker is a process that varies from state to state, but there are general guidelines that apply in many locations. First, prospective social workers need to earn a bachelor’s degree in social work. Your state may offer some licensure opportunities for professionals who hold a BSW.

Next comes getting a master’s degree. Graduate students can usually select a program concentration. With a master’s degree and supervised work experience, you may qualify to take your state’s licensure exam for clinical social workers.

Professional associations also offer certification programs for select specialties. The education and experience requirements vary.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Social Work Bachelor’s degrees financial aid

Financial aid options may help you obtain your social work degree. Government aid is available for students who qualify.

Loan and grant programs are the most common form of aid. You may be able to get assistance from the federal government as well as your state. To learn more about your options, you can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Scholarships are beneficial, too. You might earn these tuition gifts from your college or a private organization. Some scholarships are merit-based, and others are given based on financial need. A scholarship might be a one-time gift or a renewable award.

Your employer may cover part of your costs as well. If you’re working, your human resources department can provide information on any employee assistance programs.

Social Work Professional Organizations

Social Work Professional Organizations

To network with others in the field of social work, you might consider joining a professional organization that offers resources for members.

Membership may encourage your professional growth through webinars, conferences, journals, certification programs, newsletters, discussion forums, job postings, and more.

In addition to networking opportunities, you may also receive access to valuable professional discounts when you join an organization.

Can I Become a Social Worker Without a Degree?

Social Worker Without a Degree

There are jobs related to social work that you can pursue without a degree. For example, social services assistants or nursing home recreation planners may not necessarily hold a degree. An associate degree in social work might help you qualify for jobs like these as well.

Becoming a full-fledged social worker, though, usually requires at least a bachelor’s degree. In some states, there are licensure positions for professionals who hold BSW degrees.

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Social Worker?

Many social work positions are open to people who hold a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW). Requirements for various roles can vary from one state to another. Some jobs require licensure, which you might qualify for after earning a bachelor’s degree, gaining supervised work experience, and passing an exam.

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Other roles require a graduate degree. For example, to become a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), many states require you to have a master’s degree or doctorate as well as supervised work experience. As an LCSW, you might be able to provide counseling services in independent work settings.

Is Social Work a Good Major?

Yes, social work is a good major for many undergraduate students. As long as there are people who could use a helping hand, there will be a need for social work professionals. Filling that role requires the training that’s provided in a college social work program.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, social workers earn a median annual salary of $51,760, and managers make a median of $69,600. Potential job settings include schools, family services agencies, healthcare organizations, and local government.

What Is a BSW Degree?

BSW Degree

A Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree is a four-year college program for learning the ins and outs of the social work field. Social work programs teach you theoretical concepts and practical skills for working with individuals and families who need assistance because of their circumstances.

Courses in an undergraduate social work program may cover topics like human social behavior, child welfare, and social work ethics. Students usually engage in frequent fieldwork and take related classes before and during those experiences.

What Can You Do with a Social Work Degree?

Graduates who hold a bachelor’s degree in social work often find employment as social workers. That’s a broad title that applies to workers in many different roles, though.

Social Work Degree careers

For example, social workers can be employed by government organizations, healthcare systems, or community nonprofits. Others work for schools or residential facilities.

Some social workers are known as caseworkers or case managers. Others are habilitation specialists, counselors, activity directors, or public policy advocates. There are managerial roles for social workers within various community agencies as well.

How Many Years Does It Take to Become a Social Worker?

There are social work jobs available to those who hold bachelor’s degrees. It usually takes about 4 years to get a bachelor’s degree. After graduation, you may need to earn supervised professional experience before applying for state licensure.

Earning a graduate degree is often necessary if you want to become a clinical social worker. Master’s programs often take 1 to 2 years. Between graduating and applying for licensure, you may need to earn a few thousand work hours in a supervised setting.

What Are Some Skills Needed for Social Workers?

Social Workers skills

Successful social workers are often good listeners. They use active listening skills to hear what clients are saying, respond appropriately, and establish trust.

Along those same lines, social workers need to be good communicators. They have to share ideas and resources in ways that clients will understand and accept. Although social work is fulfilling, it can also be challenging. Social workers benefit from knowing how to set personal boundaries and prioritize regular self-care.

What’s the Difference Between a Psychologist vs. Social Worker?

For a career in clinical counseling, you could consider getting a degree in psychology or social work. Both professionals are committed to understanding and helping people, but these two job titles are not interchangeable.

Psychologists Social Workers
  • Focus on understanding people’s thought processes and behaviors
  • Must have a graduate degree—most often a doctorate
  • Can pursue specializations like clinical, school, and industrial-organizational
  • Focus on helping people overcome life’s challenges
  • Can work with a bachelor’s degree, but graduate degrees are beneficial
  • Can pursue specializations like family services, gerontology, and clinical

State licensure options are available for both professions.

Is a Social Work Degree Worth It?

Is a Social Work Degree Worth It

Yes, a social work degree is worth it for many professionals. Social work can be a rewarding career path. Social services can make a lasting difference in some people’s lives. For some students, that alone is sufficient motivation for studying social work.

In addition, social work is a growing field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in this area will grow at a 13% rate over the next decade. Management roles in social services are increasing even faster. The growth rate for those jobs is 17%.

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Job opportunities in social work are varied. Potential work settings include hospitals, schools, and government agencies.

Universities Offering Online Bachelors in Social Work Degree Programs

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

Angelo State University

Angelo State University

Angelo State University offers a social work degree program that aims to help students gain the knowledge and skills needed to advocate for people with physical, mental, or social problems. The program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and can help prepare students for the Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners Licensing Exam.

Angelo State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Aurora University

Aurora University

The online Bachelor of Social Work program from Aurora University is designed to lay the groundwork needed for a career in social work.

The Child Welfare track is designed to help students become eligible for employment at child welfare agencies and earn their Child Welfare Employee License. Some courses in this program use open education resources instead of textbooks.

Aurora University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Bemidji State University

Bemidji State University

Bemidji State University’s BSW program uses a blended delivery format in which students meet one Saturday each month for in-person instruction. The rest of the coursework can be completed online. Students can also choose to complete their coursework entirely on campus. The program covers micro, mezzo, and macro practice in social work.

Bemidji State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Brandman University

Brandman University

The BA in Social Work program from Brandman University is designed to provide students with real-world experiences to prepare them for careers as social workers. Students are required to complete 400 supervised, on-site field practice hours. Coursework can be completed entirely online or in a combination of online and on-campus classes.

Brandman University is accredited by the WSCUC Senior College and University Commission.

Brescia University

Brescia University

Brescia University’s online Bachelor of Social Work program was designed with the adult student in mind. The flexible courses are intended to help students finish their degrees in as little as two years. There are five start dates each year. The program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.

Brescia University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Briar Cliff University

Briar Cliff University

Briar Cliff University offers a Bachelor of Social Work both in-person and online. The program has been continuously accredited by the Council on Social Work Education since 1974. Students have opportunities to complete practicums and go on mission trips. Three concentrations are available: Children, Youth, and Families, Behavioral Health and Addiction, and Faith-Based Ministry.

Briar Cliff University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

California State University – Chico

California State University Chico

California State University—Chico offers a BSW on campus and through a Distributed Learning mode in which students periodically come to campus but complete coursework largely online. Applicants to the BSW program must have sixty documented hours of human services experience through a volunteer or paid position.

CSU – Chico is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

Huntington University

Huntington University

Huntington University offers a fully online Bachelor of Social Work program. It is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and rooted in the Christian faith. The program is designed so that students can earn their degrees without giving up their jobs. Online students are expected to gain hands-on experience through community service and field training.

Huntington University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Liberty University

Liberty University

The online BSW program at Liberty University takes students an average of 3.5 years to complete. Online students can usually complete their field placements locally. Courses include Ethics in Professional Helping, Human Behavior and the Social Environment, and Social Work Practice with Individuals and Families.

Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Misericordia University

Misericordia University

Misericordia University offers an accelerated BSW program that can potentially be completed in as little as 2 years. Most courses are online, and the program is designed for students who have work and family obligations. Students can begin taking general education courses at any time of the year and can join a social work cohort in the fall.

Misericordia University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Northwestern State University of Pennsylvania

Northwestern State University of Louisiana

The Bachelor of Social Work program from Northwestern State University can help prepare students for entry-level social work positions and Master of Social Work programs. It is designed to provide students with a generalist foundation to prepare them for work in a variety of settings. Northwestern State is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.

Northwestern State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Our Lady of the Lake University

Our Lady of the Lake University

Our Lady of the Lake University offers an online Bachelor of Social Work program that aims to help students move into careers that can transform communities.

This is a Hispanic-focused curriculum that includes LSW exam preparation and the opportunity to earn a Violence Prevention Certificate. Coursework is 100% online, and field work placement can typically be completed locally.

Our Lady of the Lake University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Simmons University

Simmons University

The online Bachelor of Social Work program at Simmons University includes live classes with expert Simmons faculty. Classes include group discussions and other interactive activities. Topics covered include social welfare, human behavior, and social work practice and research. The application process is personal and holistic.

Simmons University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Spring Arbor University

Spring Arbor University

Spring Arbor University’s Bachelor of Social Work is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. The program is dedicated to preparing social workers who are devoted to Christ, appreciative of diversity, and committed to social and economic justice. Both online and traditional learning formats are available. Students in the program are required to complete a 400 hour long internship.

Spring Arbor University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Touro University Worldwide

Touro University Worldwide

Touro University Worldwide offers a BA in Social Work. The program includes advanced research tools, flexible online courses that are taught by experienced faculty, and post-graduation assistance. Students learn how to help individuals, families, groups, and communities with practical human services.

Touro University Worldwide is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

Troy University

Troy University

Troy University offers an online Bachelor of Social Work program. Courses include Ethics, Human Behavior and the Social Environment, Diversity, Professional Communication Skills, Social Work Research, and Social Policy and Planning. Students are also required to complete community service projects and a 400 hour long practicum to get hands-on experience.

Troy University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Louisville

University of Louisville

The online BSW program at the University of Louisville is designed for adult learners. The program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and emphasizes social justice dynamics. Students in the program are required to complete an extensive practicum to graduate. Field coordinators are available to help students find suitable placements.

The University of Louisville is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of North Dakota

University of North Dakota

The University of North Dakota offers a Bachelor of Science in Social Work on campus and online. This program has a special focus on serving vulnerable people in rural settings. Graduates are eligible to take the social work licensing exam at the B.S.S.W. level.

The University of North Dakota is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

University of Tennessee – Knoxville

University of Tennessee Knoxville

The University of Tennessee—Knoxville offers an online Bachelor of Science in Social Work. The program is geared toward transfer students who have already completed 60 credit hours of coursework from an accredited university. It includes field practice experience and can help prepare students for a wide variety of social work jobs.

The University of Tennessee – Knoxville is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Walden University

Walden University

Walden University offers a CSWE accredited Bachelor of Social Work online degree program. Courses include Introduction to Social Work, Basic Skills for Social Work, and Diversity and Multiculturalism. It can help prepare students for licensure exams in their home states. Walden has an Advanced Standing option to help students move quickly from their BSW to their MSW.

Walden is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

Getting Your Bachelors in Social Work Online

Bachelors in Social Work Online

Social work is an important field that can change lives. You can play a role in helping others by earning your bachelor’s degree in social work. With this degree, you might be suited for a job in school, healthcare, mental health, child services, or gerontology social work.

Online college courses can be a convenient way to earn a social work degree. There are many online social work bachelors degree programs that are accredited and reputable. Also, a number of universities offer an online masters in social work for those with a busy daily schedule. Some even offer online doctorate in social work programs.

Through online study, you can develop your skills and expertise for this growing field. You can start exploring accredited online social work programs today to find the right fit for you.

Ready to start your journey?
Jordan Meeks
WRITTEN BY
Jordan Meeks
Jordan is pursuing a Ph.D. in Public Policy and earned her Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management and her Bachelor's in Business Administration. Jordan's research focuses on adults returning to college and online degree programs.