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Social work professionals help people overcome complex problems. From social workers assisting families as they navigate healthcare systems to probation officers guiding individuals seeking a fresh start, these professionals provide customized assistance for each client.
A bachelor's degree in social work prepares you to enter this growing field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 13% job growth for social workers between 2019 and 2029. There are career opportunities in many industries, including healthcare, education, mental health, and criminal justice.
Read on to explore the requirements for a bachelor's in social work, including standard courses and potential career paths. You can also learn about top schools offering an online bachelor's in social work.
What Are the Best Online Bachelor's in Social Work Programs of 2020? Here Are Our Top 10:
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|1||University of Utah||Salt Lake City, UT|
|2||University of North Dakota||Grand Forks, ND|
|3||Spring Arbor University||Spring Arbor, MI|
|4||Northwestern State University of Louisiana||Natchitoches, LA|
|5||Liberty University||Lynchburg, VA|
|6||Bemidji State University||Bemidji, MN|
|7||Aurora University||Aurora, IL|
|8||The University of Tennessee, Knoxville||Knoxville, TN|
|9||Touro University Worldwide||Los Alamitos, CA|
|10||Brescia University||Owensboro, KY|
- How We Rank Schools
At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you will make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering school rankings that are transparent, inclusive, and relevant for online students.
Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our Ranking Methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.
2020 Best Accredited Online Bachelor's in Social Work Programs
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University of Utah
|Salt Lake City, UT||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 70%||
The University of Utah is a top research university and the Beehive State's flagship public institution. More than 30,000 students enroll each year, and the U boasts an impressive 89% freshman retention rate. Several university departments offer flexible online courses and degrees, including the college of social work.
Accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), the U's online bachelor's in social work requires 48 credits of core courses, including an in-person internship. Areas of study include social diversity and cultural understanding, the developmental impact of child abuse, and social work research and evaluation.
At the time of program application, prospective students must have completed all general education requirements with a minimum 2.35 GPA.
University of North Dakota
|Grand Forks, ND||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 55%||
The University of North Dakota was founded in 1883, six years before the state itself was established. Today, this high-activity research institution enrolls more than 13,000 students each year. UND offers an on-campus and online bachelor's degree in social work accredited by the CSWE.
This highly respected program covers key concepts in social work research, social policy, and human behavior in the social environment. Students participate in synchronous classes, several campus visits, and a supervised field internship. Graduates are prepared for generalist social work practice with individuals, families, communities, and organizations.
Admission requirements vary by student status. Freshmen applicants must hold a minimum 2.75 high school GPA and minimum 22 ACT/1100 SAT. Transfer students must demonstrate a minimum 2.0 GPA on college coursework.
Spring Arbor University
|Spring Arbor, MI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 57%||
Spring Arbor University is a Christ-centered, private, liberal arts university where 92% of students report positive outcomes after graduation. The university catalog boasts more than 70 undergraduate majors and graduate options. Fourteen of these programs offer online completion, including the bachelor's in social work.
The 124-credit degree, accredited by the CSWE, prepares students to provide social work services to individuals, families, organizations, and communities. Core courses include racial and ethnic relations, statistics for the behavioral sciences, and social welfare policies. Students must complete a minimum of 400 internship hours.
Admission to the social work major requires ACT/SAT scores of 20 or 940, respectively, a minimum 2.5 GPA for transfer students, and a personal interview.
Northwestern State University of Louisiana
|Natchitoches, LA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 45%||
Originally established in 1884 as a two-year teachers college, Northwestern State University of Louisiana boasts the state's oldest continually occupied site for higher education. Today, NSU enrolls approximately 11,000 students, 40% of whom study exclusively online through Louisiana's first and largest electronic campus, eNSU.
Among eNSU's flexible program options is an online bachelor's degree in social work, which prepares graduates for immediate entry into several social work and human services careers. The 120-credit curriculum consists of general education, core courses, and in-person field placement. The program delivers coursework asynchronously, and all online students pay a flat tuition rate.
Applicants must submit official transcripts and SAT/ACT scores.
|Lynchburg, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 50%||
Liberty University is a private Christian institution headquartered on a 7,000-acre campus in Lynchburg, Virginia. The university offers more than 400 online programs to a global student population of 79,000. Among Liberty's extensive offerings is an online bachelor's degree in social work.
The 120-credit program takes 3.5 years on average, although Liberty allows students to transfer in up to 75% of the total curriculum. Students complete courses in human behavior, sociology, and social welfare policy in an online asynchronous format. Local field placements and a five-day on-campus intensive are required.
Undergraduate applicants must fill out a high school self-certification form and mail in official transcripts. A minimum 2.0 GPA is required for admission in good standing.
Bemidji State University
|Bemidji, MN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 46%||
Located in the Northwoods region of Minnesota, Bemidji State University is a public institution serving approximately 5,400 students. BSU offers more than 65 academic and pre-professional programs for undergraduates, including an on-campus and online bachelor's in social work.
Using a cohort model, BSU allows groups of students to progress through the 69-credit major together, completing courses in interpersonal relations, family dynamics, and social work practice. While most classes are held online, students must attend 3-4 on-campus sessions each semester. A 480-hour social service internship is also required.
Prior to admission to the social work program, students must complete approximately 30 credits of general education coursework with a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0. An essay, statement interest, and two professional references are required for admission.
|Aurora, IL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 54%||
Aurora University is a private, nonprofit institution serving approximately 6,000 students. Through AU Online, the university offers 13 flexible programs designed for adult distance learners with prior college coursework and relevant life experience.
Depending on the number of eligible transfer credits, students can earn their CSWE-accredited online bachelor's degree in social work in 2-4 years. The 120-credit curriculum requires 40 credits of major courses, including social work research, social welfare institutions and policies, and field instruction.
Admission to the school of social work requires at least 60 credits of college coursework with a minimum 2.5 GPA. Applicants must provide a resume demonstrating relevant experience, a personal statement, and official transcripts.
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville
|Knoxville, TN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 73%||
Approximately 30,000 students attend the University of Tennessee, Knoxville each year, choosing from more than 360 undergraduate and 530 graduate programs. In addition to on-campus programs, UT Knoxville also offers hybrid and online options, including a bachelor's in social work, the first program of its kind in the state.
Social work students complete coursework both synchronously and asynchronously. Available courses include adverse childhood experiences and trauma-informed care, understanding diversity in a global society, and forensic social work. Students must participate in a supervised field placement.
Admission to this program is limited to transfer students with 60 credits of prior college coursework and a completed associate degree. A minimum 2.5 GPA is required.
Touro University Worldwide
|Los Alamitos, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 50%||
The Touro College and University System encompasses several Jewish-sponsored, nonprofit institutions of higher education. Touro University Worldwide is the global branch of this network, offering 100% online degrees designed with working professionals in mind. Among its offerings is an online bachelor's degree in social work.
Full-time students can finish their degree in 3.5 years, completing 120 credits through flexible, eight-week courses. The social work core requires courses in ethics and social policy, child welfare services, and human behavior. Prior to graduation, students must participate in a field experience and complete a capstone course.
High school graduates, those who have completed the GED, and college transfer students in good standing, are eligible for admission to TUW.
|Owensboro, KY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 35%||
Brescia University is a private, Catholic liberal arts university founded on the principle of personal and social transformation through education. More than half of the school's 1,000 students attend classes on campus in Owensboro, Kentucky, but BU also provides several degrees in an entirely online format.
The CSWE-accredited online bachelor's in social work offers five start dates each year. Students must satisfy general education requirements and complete 42 credits in the social work core, including social issues in diversity, the social aspects of aging, and ethical considerations in the human services field. Two on-site field practicums are required, totaling 450 clock hours.
BU accepts online applications on a rolling basis. First-time college students must submit high school transcripts.
What Can I Expect From an Online Bachelor's in Social Work Program?
This degree features interdisciplinary courses in psychology, sociology, and human development.
Social workers need compassion for their clients, but their work extends beyond offering kindness and empathy. Social workers carefully evaluate each person's needs, investigate possible solutions, and track progress.
Students interested in this field need problem-solving and analytical skills, active listening abilities, and good written and verbal communication. An online bachelor's in social work curriculum can help develop these skills.
A bachelor's in social work typically takes four years and requires about 120 credits to complete. This degree features interdisciplinary courses in psychology, sociology, and human development. Many schools for social workers encourage fieldwork through practica and internships.
Few undergraduate programs offer specializations in social work. Instead, learners can pursue a minor in a related field like criminal justice, health education, or early childhood education. A master's in social work program does provide concentrations in areas like mental health and clinical social work.
Degrees available include a bachelor of social work and a bachelor of arts in social work. Students should check that their chosen school holds institutional accreditation and approval from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
After graduation, you may need to seek state licensure before you can begin your social work career. Ensuring that your program meets licensure requirements can ease this process. Requirements vary by state.
Still looking for the right fit? Discover similar degree programs.
What Courses Will I Take in an Online Bachelor's in Social Work Program?
Most programs require at least 45 credits of social work courses, with general education and elective courses composing the rest of the 120 credits. Curricula vary by school. However, the courses listed below are offered in most bachelor's programs in social work.
- Human Behavior and the Social Environment
This course introduces students to social psychology and human development principles, as well as their role in social work. Students explore environmental and cultural influences on individual and family development and identify personal and professional values related to human behavior. Assignments often include research projects, exams, and readings.
- Professional Ethics
With great trust comes great responsibility. Professional organizations, legislative groups, and regulatory bodies have developed ethical standards for social workers. This course helps future social workers understand their responsibilities and develop skills in ethical decision-making. Assignments often include case studies, class discussions, and research papers.
- Adverse Childhood Experiences and Trauma-Informed Care
This course introduces students to adverse childhood experiences like neglect, abuse, and toxic stress. Research shows these experiences can negatively impact child development and result in long-lasting psychological and physiological conditions. Through case studies, discussions, readings, and reflection, students learn how to provide treatment to individuals who have experienced trauma.
- Social Welfare Policies and Issues
This course provides a historical look at the development of social welfare policy, which determines who can receive assistance and the type of aid available. Students learn how to analyze policy proposals, identify culturally sensitive approaches, and develop methods to measure policy effectiveness.
- Social Work Research
Social work research identifies areas where policies and programs can impact individuals and measures those policies' success. Legislators rely on evidence-based projects when developing new policies. This course provides an introduction to sociological research using quantitative and qualitative methods. Students explore data analysis and data visualization.
Find the Tools You Need to Get Started on Your Degree
- Scholarships for Social Work Majors
- The Student Guide to College Planning
- How to Make College More Affordable
What Can I Do With an Online Bachelor's in Social Work Degree?
Demand for social workers continues to increase across the country. The BLS projects 13% job growth for social workers between 2019 and 2029.
The CSWE found that colleges and universities continue to educate new social workers to meet this growing demand. From 2005 to 2015, the field saw 55% growth in the number of master's degrees awarded. This higher level of education could increase competition for entry-level positions, especially for individuals with only a bachelor's in social work.
An online bachelor's in social work prepares graduates for many careers, including those covered below. Learn more about social work careers on this page.
- Social Worker
Social workers evaluate the needs of a client and connect them to resources like education programs, job training, housing assistance, and parenting classes. These professionals work for government agencies, schools, and nonprofit organizations. Social workers often work outside the regular workday. The BLS reports that social workers earn a median annual salary of $50,470.
- Substance Abuse Counselor
Also known as addiction counselors, these specialists help clients overcome drug or alcohol addiction. They focus on teaching positive stress management and recovery techniques. More intensive therapy services may require a higher degree. These counselors work in inpatient and outpatient treatment centers, hospitals, and government agencies. They earn a median annual salary of $46,240.
- Social or Community Services Manager
These professionals often focus on community-wide social programs and projects. They handle scheduling, gather data for reports, and seek funding from government agencies and grant programs. Social service managers earn a median annual salary of $67,150.
- Correctional Treatment Specialist
Correctional treatment specialists work with individuals who have been convicted of a crime. They may help inmates in prisons or jails develop rehabilitation plans. They also help individuals meet probation or parole requirements by finding suitable housing or enrolling clients in substance abuse counseling. These professionals earn a median annual salary of $54,290.
- Medical Social Worker
These professionals work in hospitals and healthcare organizations. They help patients arrange for ongoing care needs, such as in-home health services and referrals to specialists. They may connect families to community resources like meal programs and transportation services. Medical social workers earn a median annual salary of $56,750.
Social work not for you? Check out these related careers.
Frequently Asked Questions About Bachelor's in Social Work Programs
- Do you need a bachelor's degree for social work?
Most entry-level positions in the social work field require a bachelor's degree. States licensure requirements also require specific coursework in social work or a similar subject. A bachelor's degree can also serve as the first step toward a master's degree and clinical licensure.
- Is a social work degree worth it?
If you want a career helping others, yes. According to the BLS, social workers earn a median annual salary of $50,470. Graduates find their degree worth it in many ways, since social work is a fulfilling career in which you can make a difference in others' lives.
- What can I do with a bachelor's in social work?
A bachelor's in social work prepares you to work in many fields. You can become a caseworker in state children's or adult protective services agencies. You can work for a hospital helping patients access community services for better health. You can also work as a probation officer, mental health evaluator, or victim advocate.
- How much money can I make with a bachelor's in social work degree?
According to the BLS, social workers earn a median annual salary of $50,470. Many factors can impact earning potential, including education, experience, location, or industry. Hawaii reported the highest average salary for social workers at $81,520.
- What are the highest paying jobs with a bachelor's in social work?
Salaries vary depending on your field and employer. For example, healthcare social workers report median earnings of $56,750, and social workers employed by local governments earn $55,500.