Best Online Social Work Programs of 2022

Students who have a big heart for community and service may want to consider a social work degree. You can choose concentrations like social justice, children and families, and policy.

portrait of Sharon Wilfong portrait of Liz Simmons
by Sharon Wilfong, Liz Simmons

Published on December 22, 2021 · Updated on July 27, 2022

Reviewed by Melissa Russiano, LCSW, LISW

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Earning a Social Work Degree

If you're motivated to help others, a bachelor's degree in social work is worth considering. This degree prepares graduates for entry-level social services and administrative positions. Graduates can work at government agencies, schools, hospitals, and substance abuse clinics.

An online bachelor's degree in social work typically provides additional flexibility. Another benefit of online classes is the ability to enroll in top programs regardless of location, rather than limiting your options to local schools.

While employment growth varies by specialization, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 13% job growth for social workers between 2019 and 2029. Read on to learn more about this in-demand field.

Benefits of a Social Work Degree


A degree in social work can provide ample financial value and personal fulfillment.

The median annual salary for social workers in 2021, according to the BLS, was $50,390. Social and community service managers earned a median salary of $74,000 per year.


Salary for social work careers varies by education level, experience, employer type, and location.

The top-paying areas for child, family, and school social workers are New Jersey, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, New York, and California.


Many people find careers in social work to be personally rewarding.

Most job duties are centered on helping people, uplifting communities, and making a positive change. Social work skills like communication, problem-solving, teamwork, empathy, and leadership are also transferable to many other career paths.

Popular Online Bachelor's in Social Work Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

2022 Best Bachelor's in Social Work Programs

Rankings compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team

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#1

Liberty University

School Information
Location Lynchburg, Virginia
Admission Rate 51%
Graduation Rate 47%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 92% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online with One Virtual Intensive| Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $390
Out of State | $390

Credits to Graduate
120

Program Information
Degree Completion Program | Yes
Program Accreditation | Council on Social Work Education

Liberty's online bachelor's in social work takes about 3.5 years to complete. The curriculum includes classes like ethics in professional helping, social work practice with groups, and human behavior and the social environment. Bachelor's in social work students also complete two full-semester field placements and one virtual intensive course.

Courses last eight weeks, and new learners can start the program eight different times each year. Applicants need a minimum 2.0 cumulative GPA.

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#2

Thomas University

School Information
Location Thomasville, Georgia
Admission Rate 38%
Graduation Rate 47%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 100% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online 

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $450
Out of State | $450

Credits to Graduate
120

Program Information
Degree Completion Program | No
Program Accreditation | Council on Social Work Education

Thomas University's completely online bachelor's in social work requires a 400-hour field practicum with a community partner agency. Social work majors take classes like research and program evaluation, social work practice with families, and social welfare policy. The program's low student-to-teacher ratio facilitates small class sizes and individualized attention.

Admission requirements for the fully accredited bachelor's in social work program include a minimum 2.5 cumulative GPA. Prospective students must submit official transcripts and a completed application form.

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#3

University of Massachusetts Global

School Information
Location Irvine, California
Admission Rate 89%
Graduation Rate 60%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 96% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online 

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $500
Out of State | $500

Credits to Graduate
120

Program Information
Degree Completion Program | Yes
Program Accreditation | Council on Social Work Education

UMass Global offers a 120-credit online bachelor's in social work that includes core courses like diversity and justice in a global society, interview and assessment skills in social work, and social work research. Electives explore domestic violence, child abuse, drug and alcohol treatment in social work, and victim advocacy.

The bachelor's in social work program accepts applications from students with at least 12 transferable college credits and a minimum 2.0 cumulative GPA.

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#4

Simmons University

School Information
Location Boston, Massachusetts
Admission Rate 73%
Graduation Rate 81%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 55% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $500
Out of State | $500

Credits to Graduate
128

Program Information
Degree Completion Program | Yes
Program Accreditation | Council on Social Work Education

Distance learners can earn a fully online bachelor's in social work from Simmons University. The curriculum explores social justice, social work practice, human behavior, and social research in various settings. Live class sessions feature small group activities, faculty mentorship, and face-to-face discussions.

The 128-credit bachelor's in social work program accepts up to 96 transfer credits and offers credit for life experience. Applicants must submit an online application, college essay/personal statement, transcripts, and a letter of recommendation.

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#5

Aurora University

School Information
Location Aurora, Illinois
Admission Rate 87%
Graduation Rate 54%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 20% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online 

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $425
Out of State | $425

Credits to Graduate
120

Program Information
Degree Completion Program | Yes
Program Accreditation | Council on Social Work Education

Aurora University's online bachelor's in social work features faculty with real-world experience in the field. The curriculum requires classes like research methods in social work, social work with communities and organizations, and field instruction.

Students who complete the child welfare track gain child and adolescent needs and strengths certification. They can also get a child welfare employee license from a child welfare agency after graduation. Bachelor's in social work graduates can apply for advanced standing in AU's master of social work program.

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#6

University of North Dakota

School Information
Location Grand Forks, North Dakota
Admission Rate 81%
Graduation Rate 61%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 45% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $376
Out of State | $376

Credits to Graduate
120

Program Information
Degree Completion Program | Yes
Program Accreditation | Council on Social Work Education

The University of North Dakota's online bachelor's in social work takes 1-4 years to complete. The 120-credit degree requires classes like human behavior in the social environment, social policy, and social work research. Social work majors complete a field internship under the supervision of a licensed field instructor. 

Students can join Phi Alpha, the social work honor society or the Student Social Work Association. Learners get research and training opportunities at UND's rurally-focused Children and Family Services Training Center.

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#7

Northern Arizona University

School Information
Location Flagstaff, Arizona
Admission Rate 85%
Graduation Rate 57%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 46% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes and Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Year
In State | $10,920
Out of State | $10,920 

Credits to Graduate
120

Program Information
Degree Completion Program | Yes
Program Accreditation | Council on Social Work Education

Northern Arizona University offers a 120-credit online bachelor's in social work that explores challenging topics like domestic violence, substance abuse, homlessness, and disability. Social work majors must complete 450 hours of fieldwork experience and take classes in social statistics, social welfare policy practice, and contemporary issues in social work. 

Applicants to NAU's bachelor's in social work program need a minimum 2.25 GPA and at least 24 credits with a grade of "B" or better.

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#8

Touro University Worldwide

School Information
Location Los Alamitos, California
Graduation Rate 100%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 98% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online 

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $400
Out of State | $400

Credits to Graduate
120

Program Information
Degree Completion Program | Yes
Program Accreditation | Candidacy for Accreditation by the Council on Social Work Education’s Commission on Accreditation

Touro University Worldwide's 120-credit online bachelor's in social work program takes about 3.5 years to complete. Students can transfer up to 90 credits towards the BSW. The curriculum requires classes in social justice and diversity, ethics and social policy, and social welfare.

The student-centered BSW program features small class sizes and personal attention from instructors. Applicants must hold a high school diploma or GED certificate, or be a transfer student in good academic standing from an accredited college.

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#9

Spring Arbor University

School Information
Location Spring Arbor, Michigan
Admission Rate 66%
Graduation Rate 59%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 47% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $598
Out of State | $598

Credits to Graduate
120

Program Information
Degree Completion Program | Yes
Program Accreditation | Council on Social Work Education

Spring Arbor University offers a fully online bachelor's in social work with a Christian focus. The 120-credit curriculum features classes like racial and ethnic relations, social welfare policies, and practice with individuals and families. 

SAU's online support for social work majors includes access to a tech support team, personal student success coach, academic advisor, and graduate career advisor. Depending on how much transfer credit students bring to the bachelor's in social work, they can graduate in as little as 20 months.

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#10

King University

School Information
Location Bristol, Tennessee
Admission Rate 62%
Graduation Rate 59%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 71% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online 

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $305
Out of State | $305

Credits to Graduate
124

Program Information
Degree Completion Program | Yes
Program Accreditation | Council on Social Work Education

King University offers a fully online bachelor's in social work designed for adults who want to finish their bachelor's degree and anyone who wants generalist social work training. Distance learners explore ethics, policy, family practice, and research and evaluation. 

The curriculum includes classes like writing for social workers, integrative practice, social welfare policy, and family and group practice. The bachelor's in social work program includes hands-on training opportunities at more than 60 field practicum and employment partners. Students complete 400 hours of field education. 

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How We Rank Schools

Each year, the BestColleges Ranking Team evaluates hundreds of online programs to produce our annual Best Online Bachelor's Degree in Social Work ranking. In 2022, the team sourced the most recent data available from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and College Navigator, both of which are hosted by the National Center for Education Statistics. We identified 55 schools that qualify for our ranking list based on the following criteria.

To ensure the accuracy and quality of our final ranked list, the ranking team reviewed each qualifying school to ensure it met the criteria for our ranking, and then applied our proprietary ranking methodology to identify the best online schools offering this program in the nation. Each school is ranked based on a formula measuring academic factors (50%), affordability (25%), and the availability and popularity of online programs (25%).

The BestColleges Ranking Team is made up of contributors from our data science and product management teams. These contributors operate independently from the editorial team. All BestColleges school rankings are produced by the ranking team and are free of editorial influence. Read our Editorial Policy and Standards to learn more.

BestColleges' Ranking Factors

Academics (50% of total score)

  • Admissions Rate
  • Enrollment Rate
  • Full-Time Retention Rate
  • Graduation Rate
  • Number of Bachelor's Degree Graduates in the Given Subject

Affordability (25% of total score)

  • Average Net Price
  • Percentage of Enrolled Students Taking Federal Loans
  • Average Loan Default Rate

Online Programming (25% of total score)

  • Percentage of Bachelor's Degree Programs Offered Online
  • Percentage of Programs Offered at the Bachelor's Level
  • Percentage of Enrolled Students Taking Online Courses

Popular Online Bachelor's in Social Work Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bachelor's in Social Work Programs

Is a bachelor's in social work worth it?

A bachelor's degree is the first step to a career in social work. Graduates often work while they complete their master's degree and gain licensure to further their career. Additionally, a bachelor's degree in social work opens doors to administrative careers, community advocacy, counseling, and individual and family health services.

What can I do with a bachelor's in social work?

A bachelor's degree in social work prepares graduates for nonclinical social work in entry-level administrative positions. They can also pursue careers as caseworkers, counselors, social workers, and mental health assistants.

Are social workers in high demand?

The BLS projects 13% job growth for social workers between 2019 and 2029. Specifically, during that period, the BLS projects 12% growth for child, family, and school social workers; 14% growth for healthcare social workers; and 17% growth for substance abuse social workers.

How much money can I make with a bachelor's in social work?

Salary potential depends on education, licensure, experience, and location. According to the BLS, community and social services occupations paid a median annual salary of $47,520 in 2020. Graduates with a bachelor's degree in social work are qualified for several of those positions.

What are the highest-paying jobs with a bachelor's in social work?

According to the BLS, social and community service managers earned a median annual salary of $69,600 in 2020. Individuals with only a bachelor's degree may need professional experience to qualify for these roles.

What Can I Expect From an Online Bachelor's in Social Work Program?

Students usually earn an online bachelor's degree in social work because they want to make a difference in people's lives. Social workers educate and support community members. Empathy, open communication, active listening, organization, and commitment to advocacy are all important qualities for these professionals.

Students in social work programs learn to identify people and communities who need help. Coursework typically covers assessment, advocacy, and best practices for clinical intervention. A bachelor's degree in social work prepares graduates to work with individuals, groups, and community organizations.

Common concentrations include the following:

Taking classes online requires computer literacy and self-motivation. Asynchronous online programs often feature weekly modules with discussion boards, video chats, presentations, and assignments to upload. Students can easily communicate with their instructors and classmates through email, discussion boards, and shared files.

A bachelor's degree in social work typically requires 120 credits. In addition to coursework, most programs feature fieldwork, which online students can often complete in their local communities or at their current workplace.

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What Courses Will I Take in an Online Bachelor's in Social Work Program?

Social Work Practice

Social work practice courses examine human behavior; social, economic, and cultural institutions; and how each affects the other. This course focuses on fundamental social work methods. Learners practice cross-cultural interviewing and hone their skills in casework, communication, and relationship-building.

Family Social Work

This course track explores how culture, location, and politics affect families, as well as how families impact an individual's life. Degree-seekers study principles of working with families, client assessment, planning and implementation, case management, and program evaluation.

Understanding Diversity

These courses provide an overview of the challenges and complexities regarding human diversity. Students examine privilege, age, economic justice, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and inclusiveness. Learners develop the sensitivity and communication skills they need to connect with diverse people and communities.

Social Work Research

Learners explore the social science research methods needed to conceptualize a problem and design a research strategy. Students learn how to use both qualitative and quantitative research methods and interpret research data.

Public Policies

Public policy courses examine both historical and current influences on local and national social service policies. Students develop practical skills in analyzing and influencing policy process, design, adaptation, and implementation.

What Are Admission Requirements for an Online Bachelor's in Social Work Program?

Applicants to online bachelor's programs in social work must fill out an application, submit letters of recommendation, and write a personal essay. However, online programs often offer rolling admissions with nontraditional term start dates, while on-campus programs typically maintain stricter deadlines.

Application

Students must typically complete college applications online. The application form requests applicants' name, address, birthday, Social Security number, interests, hobbies, and family information. Some applications provide space for honors and awards, volunteering, extracurricular activities, and employment history.

Test Scores

Traditional four-year colleges and universities use ACT or SAT test scores to measure students' critical thinking, math, reading, and writing skills. However, online bachelor's programs may waive these requirements. Students who are not native English speakers need to submit TOEFL or IELTS scores.

Letters of Recommendation

Social work programs generally require letters of recommendation attesting to applicants' personal and academic character. You must usually submit at least two letters from teachers, counselors, employers, or mentors who can describe your values, learning style, and leadership ability.

Essays

Your college essay is how administrators get to know you and learn about your goals, what you have to offer, and your expectations. The essay also demonstrates how well you write. Grammar and word choice are essential, so have someone proofread your essay to ensure it is error-free.

Official Transcripts

First-year college students usually need to submit transcripts from their high school. For students with prior college experience, many online programs accept transfer credits as long as they meet specific criteria. For example, regionally accredited colleges typically only accept transfer credits from other regionally accredited institutions. Students can order their official transcripts from the registrar's office at their former college.

Career Paths

Case Manager

Social services case managers implement behavioral, support, and rehabilitation services and ensure clients engage in resources, services, and activities that benefit them. They help clients set goals and suggest treatment options. Case managers also participate in staff meetings and update case files.

Average Annual Salary: $39,580

Counselor

Counselors evaluate clients' psychological and physical health. They develop, recommend, and review treatment goals. They also assist clients with developing skills to modify their behavior and identify situations that interfere with their recovery. Additionally, counselors refer clients to other resources, services, and support groups. A master's degree will be required to provide direct clinical care.

Median Annual Salary: $47,660

Social Worker

Social workers with a bachelor's degree often focus on policy, program development, and services. They advocate for community resources like food stamps, childcare, and healthcare. Additionally, they work with groups and individuals to help clients adjust to change and challenges, including health issues, divorce, and unemployment. Clinical social workers need a master's degree.

Median Annual Salary: $51,760

Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists evaluate probationers and parolees to determine rehabilitation avenues. They interview their clients and clients' friends and relatives to assess progress. These professionals also provide resources, write reports, maintain case files, perform drug tests, complete prehearing investigations, and testify in court.

Median Annual Salary: $55,690

Social and Community Service Managers

Social and community service managers typically work with the community and stakeholders to identify needs for programs and services. They also plan and manage outreach activities and write proposals for social services funding. These administrators analyze data to determine program effectiveness, then suggest and implement improvements. Social and community service managers may need a master's degree for some roles.

Median Annual Salary: $69,600

Social Work Not For You? Check Out These Related Careers.

Psychology Careers Addiction and Recovery Careers Child Development Careers

Continuing Education

Graduates with an online bachelor's degree in social work often begin their career in administration and return to school to complete a graduate degree. Clinical positions require a master's degree focused on clinical assessment and management skills in a specific area.

A master's degree in social work can help professionals advance into clinical work as child and family social workers, school social workers, healthcare social workers, and upper-level administrators. These professionals also need state licensure.

Licenses and Certifications

Social work licensure comes from the state. All clinical social workers must hold a license in the state where they practice.

Additionally, many states require nonclinical social workers to maintain licensure. The Association of Social Work Boards provides information about the entry-level licensed baccalaureate social worker (LBSW) credential. Some states may not require clinical work experience to become an LBSW.

Advice from a Social Work Program Graduate

Portrait of Danica Copp, MSW, LICSW (Massachusetts)/LCSW (Virginia)

Danica Copp, MSW, LICSW (Massachusetts)/LCSW (Virginia)

Danica (Da-NEE-Ka) Copp is a master’s level social worker licensed independently in both Massachusetts, where she is originally from, and Virginia, where she now lives.

Danica has over 25 years of clinical experience in many roles and settings: residential care; emergency psychiatric screenings; home, office, and video-based psychotherapy and psycho-education; directing a private foster care agency; managing care for mental health; and school-based threat assessments. Currently, she provides psychotherapy both privately and through TalkSpace. She has also launched a coaching program for parents of teenagers to teach them to successfully launch their teenagers to adulthood.

What made you decide to pursue a bachelor's in social work?

At age 16, my family became a “child specific foster family” for a child my mother worked with. I had always wanted to help people. Watching what his social worker did for him created my interest in social work.

What did you like about your BSW program?

I loved that a BSW program is hands-on in learning about populations and working with people. It was so much more than just “book knowledge” with the required volunteer practicums.

What advice would you give students considering pursuing a bachelor's in social work?

Absolutely do it! This is a very marketable degree. You will learn about justice issues, underserved populations, and how to make a difference in the world. You will be inspired but you will also have skills to pursue other careers.

How was your job experience after graduating with a BSW (before pursuing an MSW)?

My initial job post BSW graduation was at the New England Center for Autism (now the New England Center for Children). I was a behavioral teacher/case manager for adolescent boys with severe behavior challenges and little communication skills. This was in the early 1990s and we were learning about using applied behavior analysis with these children on the autism spectrum. My second job was with adolescents in group homes due to behavior or family issues. I was the house manager of five girls and rapidly promoted to the program coordinator supervising five house managers. I loved the experience I gained prior to returning to school for my master’s degree.

Why did you decide to go back to school for an MSW?

I had maxed out my career and salary options without a master’s degree. It was necessary to continue to grow my career.

Would you recommend students pursue an MSW, or is a BSW enough for the field?

It would depend upon what you are interested in pursuing. There is a point where you will max out with only a bachelor’s degree.

Does someone with a bachelor's degree in social work have to become a social worker?

Absolutely not! I think a social work bachelor’s degree is an excellent degree for any career: politics, law, medicine, etc.

Is there anything else students should know about pursuing a bachelor's in social work?

I always tell prospective students that a social work degree is so much more useful than a psychology or sociology bachelor’s degree. Social work teaches interpersonal and communication skills in addition to theory. Having both the NASW and CSWE to protect the education and career of social workers is also a huge benefit.

Find the Tools You Need to Get Started on Your Degree

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