Most Popular Online Social Work Degree Programs

Do you want to join the helping professions and provide assistance to those in need? Explore some of the nation's most popular social work degrees.
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Earning an online bachelor's degree in social work can lead to a rewarding career of helping others and advocating for policy change and/or social justice.

Social workers may work with individuals and groups, directing them to community resources that can help them overcome challenges, as well as provide direct service. This degree prepares graduates for entry-level, nonclinical positions, such as case managers, victim's advocates, and child welfare workers.

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Many students continue their education and pursue a graduate degree. Earning a master's and completing a minimum of 900 hours in supervised fieldwork readies graduates to pursue state licensure. Licensed clinical social workers can provide therapy for people dealing with behavioral, emotional, and mental health conditions.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), about 21,700 graduates earned a bachelor's and 31,000 earned a master's in social work in 2018-2019. By comparison, schools awarded over 116,500 bachelor's degrees in psychology, making that one of the most popular college majors.

Tuition at some of the top online schools ranges from about $300-$600 per credit. Payscale reports that bachelor of social work degree-holders earn an average salary of $52,000 as of June 2022.

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

Social workers can significantly impact people's lives. They may support them individually or in groups or advocate for community members on a larger scale. This type of work requires empathy, patience, passion, and an objective viewpoint.

Earning an online bachelor's degree in social work requires about 120-128 credits and takes about 3.5-4 years of full-time enrollment to complete. Students learn about human behavior, social welfare policy, and program evaluation.

While a graduate degree in social work focuses more on a learner's area of interest, some undergraduate programs offer concentrations or electives. Some common specializations include:

  • Child Welfare
  • Domestic Abuse
  • School Social Work
  • Drug and Alcohol Addiction
  • Victim Advocacy and Criminal Justice
  • Mental Health
  • Christian-Based Social Work
  • Gerontology

These programs typically require at least 400 hours of supervised fieldwork experience or internships. Ideally, students can gain this experience in their desired field, such as in schools, community service organizations, correctional facilities, or hospitals.

Students can earn a bachelor of arts (BA), bachelor of science (BS), or bachelor of social work (BSW).

These degrees prepare students for entry-level social work positions. The bachelor of arts usually leans toward more liberal arts courses, while the BS may focus more on math and science. A BSW is the most common degree and can prepare graduates for interacting with and supporting clients.

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Popular Online Social Work Degree Programs

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

How Do I Know If an Online Program Is Popular?

According to NCES, in fall 2019, over 3.4 million students enrolled in online courses exclusively. Students turn to online learning for several reasons, including greater flexibility, costs, and other commitments.

Clues to a program's popularity include student testimonials, which prospective students may find on college websites.

The enrollment statistics and graduation rate provide insight into the number of students who finished their degree and how long it took. Median salaries can give students an idea of the job prospects for graduates. Students may find this information on a school's website or the U.S. Department of Education College Scorecard.

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

Social Work With Individuals and Families

This course examines the qualitative and quantitative research methods and critical analysis in assessing a client's needs, strengths, and challenges. Students also explore basic intervention strategies.

Human Behavior in the Social Environment

This class examines the role of families and society in human behavior and how they influence a person's self-perception. Students also learn about the biological, psychological, and social factors affecting health.

Social Work with Communities and Organizations

Students examine evidence-based interventions for communities and organizations. They also learn how to evaluate and engage communities and apply this information to help organizations develop programs and work toward community goals.

Child Welfare

This course focuses on child welfare services and the social worker's role in protecting children as well as supporting families. Covered topics include child abuse, foster care and adoption, neglect, and teen pregnancy. In addition, child welfare social workers provide early intervention services, parenting education to at-risk families, and support for families' reunification efforts.

Social Policy and Legislation

This class introduces students to the history and legislative development of social welfare policy. Students explore society's changing values and responses to social concerns during different periods to effectively advocate for their clients.

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

Schools usually have similar admission requirements for online and in-person bachelor's in social work programs.

Popular online programs may mean a more competitive admissions process. These programs may request additional material, like a resume, or require in-person or online interviews. Remember that a popular program does not always offer a better education than one with fewer applicants.

Application

College application forms usually request contact information, educational background, references, extracurricular activities, and field of study. Students may send these applications through a college's online portal. Many schools also accept undergraduate applications through centralized application systems like the Common App. These allow students to apply to multiple colleges with one application.

Test Scores

Schools may require that applicants submit college entrance exam scores. For undergraduate students, these are usually the ACT or SAT. Some schools list minimum test scores, while others post applicants' average scores. More schools are moving away from this requirement or making it optional.

Letters of Recommendation

Many schools require 2-3 letters of recommendation. These references can play an important part in admissions, so make sure to ask for letters of recommendation at least a month before the application deadline. Good references include teachers and high school counselors who know a student's strengths and academic abilities.

Essays

Schools usually request a personal statement or college application essay. These demonstrate a student's writing abilities and allow colleges to get to know the person behind the test scores. Some schools ask students to respond to broad essay prompts, while others ask more direct questions. Make sure to stay on topic and answer the questions directly.

Official Transcripts

Almost all colleges and universities require official transcripts from a student's high school and any postsecondary institutions they attended. Many online bachelor's in social work offer degree-completion programs. These programs are ideal for students transferring from community colleges to universities.

What Can I Do With an Online Bachelor's in Social Work Degree?

Career Outlook

An online bachelor's in social work program prepares graduates to work in numerous fields, including community service, criminal justice, healthcare, and education. They may also support specific populations, such as people who are homeless, older adults, children, or people who are incarcerated.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 12% job growth for social workers from 2020-2030, amounting to an average of 78,300 job openings every year. Social workers earn a median annual salary of $50,390. Some of the highest-paying states for social workers include Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Washington.

Graduating from one of the popular, accredited online social work programs that offers a quality education may improve employment opportunities. The most important element is ensuring you earn your degree from a reputable institution, learn the key professional competencies, and gain practical work experience in social work field placements.

Career Paths

Social Work Case Manager

Case managers help people in challenging situations. They may work with people dealing with drug or alcohol misuse, formerly incarcerated people returning to society, or those facing chronic illnesses. Case managers help connect their clients to community services and help them stay on track to accomplish their goals. These managers typically work for community service organizations.

Average Annual Salary (as of June 2022): $42,900

Community Outreach Coordinator

Community outreach coordinators reach out to community members in crisis and offer support. They usually focus on different populations. For example, an outreach worker who focuses on people who are homeless works with housing services and coordinates outreach activities between the service provider and their client. They connect their clients to services that can help them.

Average Annual Salary (as of May 2022): $44,500

Eligibility Worker

Eligibility workers typically work for government agencies. They perform interviews, determining an individual's or family's eligibility for public assistance programs. They may help individuals secure housing, food, medical care, or job assistance. These professionals determine the amount their clients are eligible for, find programs that can assist them, and guide them through the process.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2021): $47,420

Probation Officer

Probation officers work with criminal offenders on probation. They monitor their progress and assist in rehabilitation. They may maintain case files, testify in court, and recommend community services such as counseling. These officers typically work for state and local governments.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2021): $60,250

Child Welfare Worker

Child welfare workers act as advocates for children living in environments that may put them in danger. They typically assess living situations — whether it is a child's home or foster care facility, for example — and make recommendations. They may work in individual and family services, government agencies, schools, and community service organizations.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2021): $49,150

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Continuing Education

Many bachelor's in social work degree-holders pursue a master's degree. Earning a master's in social work, completing clinical hours, and gaining licensure can prepare them to pursue work as clinical social workers. Clinical social workers may provide one-on-one psychotherapy.

A few common continuing education paths include:

  • Master's in Social Work: This graduate program allows students to pursue their area of interest further and qualify for state licensure. Some of the many concentrations include geriatric, medical, and forensic social work.
  • Master's in Psychology: This program also enables students to gain state licensure. Many students continue their education and earn a doctorate to pursue a career as a psychologist.

Should I Choose a Popular Online Bachelor's in Social Work Degree Program?

Choosing a popular online bachelor's in social work program may offer a quality education aligned with your academic and career goals. However, popular programs may be more competitive and not necessarily the best match for your needs.

Research accredited programs with electives and concentrations in your area of interest and ensure they provide internship assistance. Then, consider the following essential factors when choosing a school.

Additional Program Factors to Consider

Cost

Tuition for online bachelor's in social work programs typically ranges from about $300-$600 per credit. True online program costs include other factors, such as books, fees, and travel. Public colleges tend to cost less, and many online programs do not charge out-of-state student fees. Make sure to compare the costs of online versus on-campus programs when deciding the best option.

Program Format

Online programs offer synchronous or asynchronous learning formats. Asynchronous learning typically involves viewing prerecorded lectures and completing assignments within a given deadline. Synchronous learning is similar to traditional classes with scheduled class sessions that students attend virtually. Programs may also offer full-time or part-time enrollment and accelerated options that reduce completion times.

Location

Whether attending an online or on-campus college program, students should consider the location. Online programs may require in-person participation, such as orientation or weeklong labs. Additionally, some learners enjoy living close to college, making it easy to get to on-campus events, meet with instructors, and engage in networking opportunities.

Accreditation

Schools and programs can earn accreditation from third-party accrediting agencies. Online college accreditation can ensure the education meets certain requirements and that state boards and employers recognize a student's degree. Additionally, accreditation affects college credit transferability and federal financial aid. The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredits bachelor's in social work programs.

Student Support

Student support services are vital to online learners' success. Online student services can promote an engaged, inclusive college experience through the virtual campus community. Look for schools that offer mentorship programs, academic advising, career services, and tutoring. Additional considerations include virtual networking services and support in finding local internship opportunities.

Most Popular Accredited Online Bachelor's in Social Work Degree Programs

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#1 Most Popular Online Social Work Degree Programs

University of Arkansas at Little Rock

  • Little Rock, AR
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In-State | $280
Out-of-State | $280

Credits to Graduate
120

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

UA Little Rock manages the longest-running social work program in Arkansas. The bachelor of social work program prepares students for general practice. Students explore core issues such as social work and diversity and social welfare policy in both foundation courses and fieldwork. 

The social work degree requires a three-course social work practice sequence. Enrollees observe and engage with clients during field experiences that include direct practice. The school charges a flat tuition rate for both in- and out-of-state students. Admission requires a high school diploma or GED and SAT or ACT scores.

Average Tuition
In-state
$6,495
Out-of-state
$18,750
Retention Rate
66%
Admission Rate
66%
Students Enrolled
9,581
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
54% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#2 Most Popular Online Social Work Degree Programs

Campbellsville University

  • Campbellsville, KY
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In-State | $410
Out-of-State | $410

Credits to Graduate
120

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

The bachelor of social work (BSW) prepares generalists for social work practice. The 120-credit curriculum requires general education credits that students can transfer. The major examines human behavior and the social environment. Enrollees learn how to practice with individuals, families, and groups. 

Students can use a generous number of electives to pursue more in-depth studies or a minor in another discipline. A practicum gives students supervised hands-on experience. Students can transfer up to 72 credits into this bachelor's in social work. Admission to the social work school requires prerequisite general education coursework.

Average Tuition
In-state
$24,900
Out-of-state
$24,900
Retention Rate
68%
Admission Rate
70%
Students Enrolled
12,381
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
77% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#3 Most Popular Online Social Work Degree Programs

Liberty University

  • Lynchburg, VA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

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

Credits to Graduate
120

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

Liberty University is a Christian college recognized for strong online programs such as the bachelor of science in social work. Enrollees can complete the online bachelor's in social work in an average of 3.5 years. Participants learn how to perform client assessments and interventions.

They explore issues like chemical dependency and social welfare and policy. A series of courses focus on social work practice with individuals, families, and groups. Enrollees can complete the degree's field placements in their local community. 

Students must participate in one virtual intensive. Admission to this social work degree requires college transcripts and a minimum 2.0 GPA.

Average Tuition
In-state
$15,417
Out-of-state
$15,417
Retention Rate
81%
Admission Rate
51%
Students Enrolled
85,586
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
92% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#4 Most Popular Online Social Work Degree Programs

Methodist University

  • Fayetteville, NC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

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

Credits to Graduate
124

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

MU's bachelor of social work prepares generalist social workers who can work with various clients. The program focuses on clients in North Carolina's Cumberland County area. Students complete the 124-credit degree in 3.5 years on average.

Enrollees can take a child welfare course and field internship to prepare for that niche. The program features a small student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personalized learning. Learners can transfer up to 93 credits into this popular social work degree. Admission requires prerequisite social work coursework.

Average Tuition
In-state
$34,148
Out-of-state
$34,148
Retention Rate
58%
Admission Rate
63%
Students Enrolled
1,968
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#5 Most Popular Online Social Work Degree Programs

Southwestern Assemblies of God University

  • Waxahachie, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In-State | $399
Out-of-State | $399

Credits to Graduate
120

Program Information
Degree Completion Program | No
Program Accreditation | Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Students interested in social work training from a Christian perspective may appreciate SAGU's bachelor's in social work. The program is fully online and blends general education and social work courses. 

The major explores concepts like cultural issues in the helping professions. A series of courses teach enrollees how to work with different populations. Enrollees can choose a minor such as addictions counseling or criminal justice.

Field experience is an important part of this popular social work degree. SAGU offers smaller classes and affordable education. Admission requires a high school diploma or GED certificate.

Average Tuition
In-state
$20,496
Out-of-state
$20,496
Retention Rate
67%
Admission Rate
88%
Students Enrolled
2,050
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
70% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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#6 Most Popular Online Social Work Degree Programs

University of North Dakota

  • Grand Forks, ND
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In-State | $390
Out-of-State | $586

Credits to Graduate
120

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

A leader in distance education, UND offers an online BS in social work. Students can complete this transfer-friendly degree in 1-4 years. Participants learn how to work as social work generalists with individuals, families, and groups.

Students can specialize their skills with a gerontology or chemical dependency minor.
Enrollees complete a supervised field internship. UND offers financial support to students who commit to work at a child welfare agency in North Dakota when they graduate. 

Admission requires prerequisite coursework with a minimum 'C' grade, and a minimum GPA of 2.75 for transfer students.

Average Tuition
In-state
$8,212
Out-of-state
$14,371
Retention Rate
78%
Admission Rate
81%
Students Enrolled
13,581
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
45% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#7 Most Popular Online Social Work Degree Programs

Brescia University

  • Owensboro, KY
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

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

Credits to Graduate
128

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

Brescia created its bachelor of social work program with the needs of adult learners in mind. Students can complete this degree in two years with enough transfer credits. The 128-credit curriculum blends social work theory and practice.

Students explore social welfare policy and human behavior in the social environment. They develop practical skills during courses focused on social work practice. Enrollees apply their learning during field practice and field practicum experience. Admission requires a high school diploma or GED certificate and all college transcripts.

Average Tuition
In-state
$22,900
Out-of-state
$22,900
Retention Rate
68%
Admission Rate
42%
Students Enrolled
1,014
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
43% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#8 Most Popular Online Social Work Degree Programs

Aurora University

  • Aurora, IL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

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

The bachelor of social work at AU offers an optional child welfare track. Students can complete the online degree in 2-4 years. Enrollees complete core courses exploring topics like social work practice in different settings.

The child welfare track can lead to child and adolescent needs and strengths certification. Students can complete a supervised internship component at their place of employment.

Once students complete this popular social work degree, they may qualify for a child welfare employee license. Admission to the social work school requires at least 60 credits and a minimum 2.5 GPA. 

Average Tuition
In-state
$24,800
Out-of-state
$24,800
Retention Rate
73%
Admission Rate
87%
Students Enrolled
6,246
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
20% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#9 Most Popular Online Social Work Degree Programs

Wayne State University

  • Detroit, MI
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In-State | $489
Out-of-State | $1,125

Credits to Graduate
120

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

WSU developed the bachelor of social work for students who need a flexible and accredited BSW. Students complete the same BSW sequence as their on-campus peers. Topics covered include social welfare policy and services and social work practice. 

Participants complete a 460-hour internship in person. Enrollees can access support services such as online mentoring, tutoring, and the option to participate in face-to-face activities. Admission to the bachelor's in social work requires at least 60 credits and a minimum 2.5 GPA.

Average Tuition
In-state
$13,024
Out-of-state
$29,894
Retention Rate
79%
Admission Rate
73%
Students Enrolled
26,824
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
34% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#10 Most Popular Online Social Work Degree Programs

Bemidji State University

  • Bemidji, MN
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Hybrid | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In-State | $302
Out-of-State | $302

Credits to Graduate

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

Located in Bemidji, Minnesota, Bemidji offers a hybrid bachelor of social work. The BSW blends online learning and monthly in-person Saturday sessions. Enrollees complete the degree in two years as part of a cohort. They explore topics such as family dynamics, intercultural communications, and generalist practice.

The on-campus classes provide a forum for dialogue and practical training. Students apply to the BSW during or after their sophomore year. All distance learners pay in-state tuition. Admission to the bachelor's in social work requires prerequisite coursework and a minimum 2.5 GPA. 

Average Tuition
In-state
$7,858
Out-of-state
$7,858
Retention Rate
72%
Admission Rate
65%
Students Enrolled
4,897
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
45% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

Frequently Asked Questions About Popular Social Work Degree Programs

Are popular online bachelor's programs more difficult to get into?

Popular online programs may mean more students vying for available openings. This can result in greater competition and selective admissions. However, many high-quality online bachelor's in social work programs accept a high percentage of applicants.

When selecting a program, students should ensure it's accredited, offers electives or specializations in their area of interest, and provides robust online student support services. Many online programs offer the same quality education as their on-campus counterparts and lead to the same career opportunities.

A CSWE-accredited social work program should include 400 hours of fieldwork, so make sure the program helps you locate local facilities.

What are the most popular college majors?

The NCES reports that in the 2019-2020 academic year, 58% of the 2 million bachelor's degrees conferred were in six fields. About 387,900 graduates earned a bachelor's in business. Business includes marketing, management, and support services.

Schools awarded another 257,300 bachelor's in health professions and related programs and 161,200 degrees in social sciences and history. The three fields of study to round up the top six included engineering, biological and biomedical sciences, and psychology. Another popular major is nursing.

How should I choose an online degree program?

Choosing the right college and online degree program starts by finding properly accredited schools and programs in your field. Check coursework, including electives and concentrations, and select programs that offer the area of social work that interests you. Check online support services and make sure instructors are experts in their field.

Some additional considerations include tuition and if they charge an out-of-state student fee. These fees can significantly increase costs. If the program requires on-campus participation, check the details and ensure you can fulfill the requirements. Additionally, students working full time or caring for a family may need a program that offers asynchronous learning.

Are the most popular online programs also the highest quality?

Not necessarily. A betterquality barometer is the accreditation status of the school and program. Graduation rates also inform students how well a program retains students and prepares them for their chosen careers. The level of career services, online engagement, and virtual networking also reflect an online program's quality.

Online programs can offer challenges if students don't commit to doing the work as if they were on campus. Make sure the program provides opportunities for you to engage with classmates and professors and offers a support line if you start falling behind. Despite the distance, feeling like you're part of a community is possible.

What jobs can I get with an online bachelor's in social work?

An online bachelor's in social work prepares students for entry-level roles in social services. Graduates find positions as eligibility workers, social work case managers, counselors who help those dealing with substance misuse, and child welfare workers.

If interested in the criminal justice system, they may lean toward a career as a parole or probation officer. Students interested in pursuing clinical social work continue their education and earn a master's degree.

These positions are found in numerous fields, and most online programs offer electives that can steer your education toward your career goals. Searching for that first post-graduation job can be intimidating. A positive attitude and professional demeanor go a long way toward success.

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BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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