Best Online Social Work Degrees 2023

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Updated November 17, 2022

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An online bachelor's in social work (BSW) degree is a great way to start a satisfying career helping other people.

A BSW qualifies you for unlicensed, entry-level careers in both public and private sectors, as well as with government or non-profit organizations. It also lays the foundation you need to pursue advanced degrees in the field.

What Can I Do With a BSW?

  • Probation counselor
  • Community outreach worker
  • Caseworker
  • Juvenile court liaison or assistant
  • Community outreach worker
  • Mental health assistant
  • Substance abuse counselor

What Do I Need to Qualify for a BSW?

  • A high school or GED diploma
  • A good GPA
  • Official transcripts
  • A personal essay
  • In some cases, standardized test scores
  • In some cases, recommendation letters

You can expect your online BSW to include reading and research-heavy classes that feature sociology, human behavior, and psychology. You'll also have opportunities to investigate specific fields of social work — like families, trauma, or policy.

Why Get a Social Work Degree?

First: You won't hurt for a job if you are willing to be flexible: the BLS projects an above-average growth rate of 12% for social workers during 2020-2030.

Second: You will develop highly marketable and transferable skills, including soft skills like empathy, interpersonal communication, and cultural competence.

You will also learn valuable skills like workload management, interviewing, and advocacy. These skills will serve you well, both in social work and other industries you may want to transition into.

Third: You'll get paid to advocate and assist populations you are passionate about, whether that may be children and adolescents, families, individuals with substance use disorders, people with disabilities, veterans, the geriatric community, or individuals diagnosed with mental health disorders.

The Benefits of a Social Work Degree

A bachelor's degree in social work may create the foundation for a fulfilling career in social work. In a social work program, you are exposed to a curriculum that identifies what it takes to help and advocate for vulnerable populations.

You will also become proficient in the entry-level critical thinking and research skills required to stay current with the latest evidence-based approaches and provide the best outcomes.

A BSW sets you up for meaningful work while you pursue graduate school, licensure, clinical practice, and greater leadership within the field. It's important to note that many BSW graduates do go on to master's programs in order to qualify for clinical licensure.

A licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) has access to better-paying jobs and can work in a direct clinical manner in either an agency setting or in private practice independently.


Featured Online Social Work Programs


Best Bachelor's in Social Work (BSW) Programs Online

#1 Best Online Social Work Degrees 2023

University of Arkansas at Little Rock

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

The top-ranked bachelor of social work program at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock offers an online enrollment option. In addition to on-campus programs, the public institution offers a variety of online bachelor's programs. The online programs prioritize flexibility, which appeals to busy students and working professionals.

During the online social work bachelor's program, undergraduates take advanced coursework in social work. Undergraduates meet with faculty mentors and academic advisors to create an individual degree plan based on their career goals. The school's online services, including tutoring, financial aid advising, and career counseling, help distance learners complete the program.

Online students attending the accredited institution can use federal financial aid programs like the Pell Grant to pay for school. The school's financial aid office works with students to identify scholarships and grants to cover costs.

University of Arkansas at Little Rock At a Glance:

Total Bachelor's Programs: 58

Online Bachelor's Programs: 19

Number of Online Students: 5,209

Rate of Acceptance: 66%

Rate of Graduation: 43%

Transfer Credits Toward Degree: No

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 Best Online Social Work Degrees 2023

Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

  • Indianapolis, IN
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis is a leader in distance learning. The bachelor of social work is among many of the school's programs that help graduates enter relevant careers. The school’s online degrees offer benefits such as asynchronous learning and affordability.

The school's flexible online programs include a BSW program. Online learners complete social work coursework in a flexible learning environment. Video lectures, assignments, and class discussions cover topics in social work. Distance learners can also transfer credits or an associate degree to accelerate degree completion. The distance learning format helps students save money on their degree.

Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Information:

Undergrad Tuition Rate: $8,580/year in-state, $29,589/year out-of-state

Average Price With Financial Aid: $9,807

Percent of Students Accepted: 81%

Percentage of Students Awarded Financial Aid: 89%

The school holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission, a regional accrediting body.

Average Tuition
In-state
$8,580
Out-of-state
$29,589
Retention Rate
73%
Admission Rate
81%
Students Enrolled
29,537
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
41% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#3 Best Online Social Work Degrees 2023

Daemen College

  • Amherst, NY
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

A private postsecondary school in Amherst, Daemen College has one of the best online schools in the country. The school has 53 in-person bachelor's-level programs. Some programs blend in-person and online sessions.

Learners can pursue their degree on campus or online, with options such as the online bachelor of arts in social work. The online social work program provides learners with a flexible learning environment. The program educates learners through video lectures, assignments, and class discussions. The school accepts transfer credits to save students time and money. The online format helps students take advantage of cost-saving opportunities.

Daemen College Fast Facts:

Tuition for Undergrads: $28,830/year in-state, $28,830/year out-of-state

Acceptance Rate: 62%

Percentage of Students Receiving Financial Aid: 100%

Daemen College holds accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, an independent accrediting agency.

Average Tuition
In-state
$28,830
Out-of-state
$28,830
Retention Rate
78%
Admission Rate
62%
Students Enrolled
2,603
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
22% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#4 Best Online Social Work Degrees 2023

Campbellsville University

  • Campbellsville, KY
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Undergraduate and graduate degree-seekers can pursue Campbellsville University's programs online or in person. The private institution offers 28 online programs, including eight online bachelor's programs. The bachelor of social work features a curriculum designed to prepare degree-seekers for social work careers.

The online social work program features flexible scheduling and enrollment options, which can make earning a degree easier for busy enrollees balancing academics with personal obligations. The virtual classroom environment allows distance learners to complete the social work program without commuting or relocating. Students in the online program complete assignments and participate in class discussions virtually. Degree-seekers enrolled full time typically require four years to complete the online bachelor's program. Incoming students with transfer credits can earn their degree in less time.

The institution holds accreditation, which means degree-seekers with financial need to qualify for federal grants and loans. The school charges an average per-credit tuition rate of 423 for online bachelor's programs, which typically require about 120 credits. Financial aid counselors help students understand funding options, such as scholarships and grants. The school reports that 94% of its student body receives financial aid to fund their education.

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

#5 Best Online Social Work Degrees 2023

Liberty University

  • Lynchburg, VA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

A private institution, Liberty University educates students in online and in-person formats. The school's academic offerings include 161 online programs. The institution's flexible bachelor's in social work helps students earn an affordable social work degree.

Learners complete core courses, general education requirements, and upper-division classes. Degree-seekers take specialized elective courses and complete experiential learning components such as internships to gain knowledge and skills necessary for social work careers. Majors meet with academic advisors and faculty mentors to discuss their interests and career goals.

Enrollees at the accredited institution qualify for federal financial aid programs, such as the Pell Grant. For details about application deadlines and requirements, prospective students can review the school's website.

Liberty University Numbers:

Total Bachelor's Programs: 91

Online Bachelor's Programs: 30

Number of Online Students: 78,511

Rate of Acceptance: 51%

Graduation Rate: 47%

Average Per-Credit Cost: 750

Transfer Credits Toward Degree: Yes

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

#6 Best Online Social Work Degrees 2023

University of New England

  • Biddeford, ME
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

A private institution, the University of New England delivers academic programs in many disciplines. In addition to educating learners at its Maine campus, the school enrolls degree-seekers in 13 online programs. Students enrolled in the flexible master of social work program often work full time while earning their social work degree.

During the online social work program, distance learners take general education courses along with classes in their major. Elective classes and experiential learning opportunities help degree-seekers gain field-specific skills. Faculty advisors and career counselors help undergraduates and alumni identify career opportunities.

The institution holds accreditation, which means enrollees can submit the FAFSA and determine whether they qualify for federal financial aid. Admissions advisors provide prospective applicants with details about application deadlines and requirements.

University of New England Facts:

Total Bachelor's Programs: 38

Number of Online Students: 3,521

Undergraduate Admission Rate: 84%

Graduation Rate: 68%

Transfer Credits Counted: No

Average Tuition
In-state
$37,390
Out-of-state
$37,390
Retention Rate
81%
Admission Rate
84%
Students Enrolled
7,483
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
47% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes New England Commission on Higher Education

#7 Best Online Social Work Degrees 2023

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

  • Edinburg, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

A degree from The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley leads to new career opportunities and increased responsibilities. Liberal arts and skills training are at the center of programs at this school. At the school, 14,840 degree-seekers attend online programs.

Distance learners can pursue an online master of science in social work. The program requires about 63 credit hours, which students can complete in a flexible format. Online learning often appeals to students with children or other responsibilities. Earning a master's degree can lead to promotions and raises.

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Statistics:

Percentage of Learners Awarded Financial Aid: 90%

Average Price After Aid: $4,654

Transfer Credits Toward Degree: No

Undergraduate Admission Rate: 80%

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley has received accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Average Tuition
In-state
$6,664
Out-of-state
$16,792
Retention Rate
76%
Admission Rate
80%
Students Enrolled
29,113
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
51% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#8 Best Online Social Work Degrees 2023

New Mexico State University

  • Las Cruces, NM
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Graduates of New Mexico State University's online master of social work program can pursue a variety of positions in social work. Learners with personal or professional obligations often benefit from the online social work program's flexible scheduling options.

New Mexico State University is a public institution delivering academic programs from its campus in Las Cruces. The school's catalog of 40 online programs provides options for students interested in many fields. Distance degree-seekers can pursue 12 bachelor's programs online.

While enrolled in the social work master's program, undergraduate learners complete core courses and upper-division classes. The curriculum emphasizes field-specific and transferable skills to prepare enrollees for various social work careers. Graduates often pursue higher-level roles than bachelor's degree-holders.

The school's support services, including career and academic advising, help learners prepare for academic and professional success. For assistance locating job placements, students and alumni can consult with the institution's career counselors. The school's financial aid counselors support online students as they search for funding options.

Average Tuition
In-state
$5,875
Out-of-state
$21,864
Retention Rate
75%
Admission Rate
55%
Students Enrolled
14,296
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
44% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#9 Best Online Social Work Degrees 2023

Methodist University

  • Fayetteville, NC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Methodist University is a private institution. The flexible bachelor of social work is ideal for students who want to earn an affordable social work degree.

While pursuing the bachelor's degree, learners complete general education requirements and field-specific classes. Degree-seekers take specialized elective courses and complete experiential learning components such as internships to gain knowledge and skills necessary for social work careers. Online undergraduates can access professional assistance from faculty advisors and career counselors.

Enrollees at the accredited institution qualify for federal financial aid programs, such as the Pell Grant. Prospective students can contact the program for more information about admission requirements and start dates.

Methodist University At a Glance:

Total Bachelor's Programs: 57

Number of Online Students: 205

Rate of Acceptance: 63%

Graduation Rate: 45%

Average Price Per Credit: 422

Transfer Credits Toward Degree: Yes

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

#10 Best Online Social Work Degrees 2023

University of Pennsylvania

  • Philadelphia, PA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The University of Pennsylvania is a private institution.The school offers seven online programs for degree-seekers who prefer an online enrollment option. Graduates of the institution's online doctorate in clinical social work program often pursue lucrative careers in the social work field.

The doctoral social work program requires advanced coursework that prepares degree-seekers for high-level positions in the field. Learners develop widely applicable skills, such as critical thinking abilities. Graduates qualify for roles in research and academia.

To help learners succeed academically and professionally, the school provides a variety of support services, such as academic advising and career counseling. Enrollees at the accredited institution can receive federal financial aid, such as the Pell Grant.

University of Pennsylvania Fast Facts:

Student Admission Rate: 8%

Total Programs: 355

Total Bachelor's Programs: 93

Transfer Credits Toward Degree: No

Average Tuition
In-state
$51,156
Out-of-state
$51,156
Retention Rate
98%
Admission Rate
8%
Students Enrolled
26,675
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
6% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

How We Rank Schools


Frequently Asked Questions About Bachelor's in Social Work Degrees


How Much Does a Social Work Degree Cost?



We hear you: College is expensive. Fortunately, social work students can qualify for different kinds of scholarships and financial aid to help make getting their BSW more affordable.

The right online program can save you money on commuting costs, room, board, and on-campus fees while also providing the flexibility to work and minimize lost income while you study.

How Much Do Social Work Graduates Make?

Earning a master's in social work (MSW) can help you advance your career and attain higher salaries. According to the BLS, the median annual pay for social workers in 2021 was $50,390.

But of course, salaries vary based on education, position, employer, and credentials:

How Do I Become a Social Worker?

Step one: Get a bachelor's degree in social work or a related field (sociology, psychology, or human services). With a BSW, you can pursue entry-level roles in the field — but you can't qualify for licensure or clinical practice.

Step two: To become a clinical social worker, get an MSW. MSW programs provide specialized training in clinical assessment and management.

Step three: Complete your required practicum or internship experiences. For clinical social work licensure, MSW graduates usually need two additional years of supervised training.

Step four: Pass the required national social work licensure examinations.

Step five: Get out there and start changing the world as a licensed clinical social worker. Provide therapy, advocate for clients, work in policy, or open your own private practice — now you can do it all.

What to Expect From a Bachelor's in Social Work (BSW) Program

A BSW will provide you with a broad and comprehensive overview of the field. It's a pretty challenging program: There will be a lot of reading, research, and analysis required.

At the same time, the course material tends to be fascinating and enlightening. It will help you understand yourself, other people, and society through the lens of evidence-based theory.

You will begin to do the uncomfortable but rewarding work of identifying and unraveling your own assumptions and biases so that you can eventually become the kind of ethical, empathetic, and non-judgemental social worker your future clients deserve.

You will also explore specific demographics and populations you may want to specialize in. Then you'll apply everything you're learning in the real world during supervised internships.

Overall, a BSW is a great way to:

Online Bachelor's in Social Work Courses

Most Online BSW programs require 120 credits, including 60 credits of associate-level general education requirements (like math, sciences, and humanities courses.)

Your core BSW classes will include:

Many programs offer specializations, such as:

Other concentration options may include:

Here's a brief breakdown of classes most social work programs offer:

  • Introduction to Social Work

    Students typically take this course early in their BSW program. This course covers societal issues and corresponding interventions and will introduce you to foundational social work agencies and services.

  • Social Welfare Policy

    Typically a core course, social welfare policy teaches the history and values of social welfare services. You will explore policies in mental health, corrections, and child welfare. You'll also learn to identify modern issues in the social welfare system.

  • Cultural Diversity and Cultural Competence

    Almost all social work programs feature some version of diversity training. You will learn to consider diverse experiences and perspectives based on gender, race, and class. These courses also focus on multicultural competency skills, including cultural humility and sensitivity.

  • Human Behavior in the Social Environment

    This is a broad but foundational topic that is fundamental to social work. It provides a framework for understanding individuals, their behavior, and the many ways that social and physical environments can impact that behavior.


Bachelor's in Social Work (BSW) Admission Requirements

Here's everything you need to apply for your BSW in Social work:

  • Application

    Typically, you'll be able to fill out your application online. Be ready with your personal contact and identifying information. You may also be asked about your family, your hobbies, your interest in social work, awards you've received, activities you've participated in, or jobs you've worked.

  • Essay

    The college essay is a great opportunity to display your passion, drive, and personality. Tell your story and tie it to your academic and career goals.

    Don't: Don't: Be afraid to be yourself.
    Do: Write clearly and carefully — and copy edit for mistakes.

  • Test Scores

    Many colleges will want to see your SAT and ACT scores, though some online BSW programs may waive this requirement.

    Students who aren't native English speakers may also need to submit TOEFL or IELTS scores.

  • Official Transcripts

    If you're applying to college for the first time, you'll need to include official transcripts from your high school (your high school counselor can help you with this).

    If you have some college under your belt already, most schools accept transfer credits — just ask for them from the registrar's office at your former institution.


Social Work Career and Salary Information

If you want to dive deeper into your career options as a BSW graduate, here's a list of roles and salaries you can pursue.

  • Social and Community Service Manager

    What you'll do: Manage programs that support and advocate for public well-being

    Median annual salary in 2021 (BLS): $74,000

    How to get this job: You'll need at least a bachelor's degree in social work or a related field, as well as several years of relevant work experience in public service and management.

  • Child and Family Social Worker

    What you'll do: Assist vulnerable or at-risk children and families by monitoring their well-being, connecting them to resources, and liaising with schools and other institutions.

    Median annual salary in 2021 (BLS): $50,390

    How to get this job: Typically, you'll need both a bachelor's degree and a graduate degree in social work (specializing in child and family social work) to qualify for licensure. But not all states require licensure to work with families and children.

  • Substance Abuse Counselor

    What you'll do: Work with clients who struggle with addiction or have a substance use disorder to treat, manage, and overcome addiction through providing access to resources and acceptance to treatment programs and/or housing links.

    Median annual salary in 2021 (BLS): $48,520

    How to get this job: Most positions require at least a bachelor's degree in social work or substance abuse counseling, preferably specializing in addiction. It's also important to have an internship or practical experience in the field.

  • Behavior Disorder and Mental Health Counselor

    What you'll do: Provide access and referrals to evidence-based treatment and advocacy for individuals struggling with behavioral or mental health problems.

    Median annual salary in 2021 (BLS): $48,520

    How to get this job: At the very least, you'll need a related bachelor's degree — to become a mental health counselor, you'll typically also need to complete a master's degree and an internship.

Social Work Continuing Education

In many states, continuing education is required to renew your social work license. The requirements and rules are always changing, so it's important to keep your finger on the pulse wherever you live. The Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) provides an exhaustive database of licensure requirements for each state.

Continuing education is crucial to keeping your skills up to date and pursuing new skills as a social worker. Want to work with a new population? Get into policy? Land a different job?

No reason to do one thing for your whole career — you never have to be bored as a social worker. CE courses can get you certified to do whatever new area of practice interests you.

Social Work Licensing

If you want to become a licensed social worker, here's what that's going to take:

Expert QA Section With Lindsey Konchar (MSW, LGSW)

Portrait of Lindsey Konchar MSW, LGSW

Lindsey Konchar MSW, LGSW

Lindsey Konchar, MSW, is a licensed graduate social worker (LGSW). She earned her BA in psychology in 2014, then chose to serve in AmeriCorps on a 10-month commitment. After her time in AmeriCorps came to a close, Lindsey worked in an inpatient psychiatric hospital, working with patients experiencing severe anxiety, depression, and other diagnoses. She chose to go back to graduate school, and went on to earn her master's in social work in 2019. Lindsey has since had experience working in transitional care units and integrative health care settings. She also wrote the book "I Got 99 Coping Skills and Being a B*tch Ain't One" and is the owner of copingwithlindsey.com.

Q: Why did you decide to pursue a degree in social work?

A: "When speaking in terms of the helping profession, social work offers the most variety — by far. With a social work license, you can work in a variety of settings with a variety of populations, and you aren't limited to one specific niche. I chose a degree in social work for the flexibility and options it provides."

Q: In your opinion, what is the value of earning a social work degree?

A: "It's hard to put a price on something that is a part of you. Social work certainly isn't the highest-paying profession, but on average, the pay is good. The bigger value I receive from my degree is the fulfillment it brings me."

Q: Do you feel that a bachelor's degree in social work is limiting as far as job opportunities?

A: "Short answer: Yes. Long answer: It depends. Everyone has different goals and stories of success. If you are hoping to be a caseworker, child welfare specialist, child protective worker, research assistant, behavioral health professional, psychiatric technician, or outreach specialist, then go for gold and stick with a bachelor's in social work. If you want to have more options than that, then earning a master's is a better plan for you!"

Q: Would you encourage undergraduate students who are working toward a social work degree to pursue a master's in social work (MSW)?

A: "Absolutely. Having a master's degree is when more doors open, and the professional job opportunities become endless. I chose to earn my BA, take two years to gain some "real world" experience, then go back to school and earn my MSW. Not everyone will or even should take that same road, but I thought it was the best use of my time."

Q: What is the biggest piece of advice you would give aspiring social workers?

A: "Keep an open mind. When I started on the journey of earning a master's degree, I was working toward counseling and student personnel (CSP) with the hopes of becoming a school counselor. Then my eyes were opened to new and different possibilities. I, instead, pursued a master's in social work. I am so happy I kept an open mind and allowed change to work its way into my life. Instead of working in schools, I have found myself in psychiatric hospitals and integrative clinics, and both have been such a great fit. With an MSW, I can always go work in a school whenever that seems to be the best fit. But if I had just stayed in the initial CSP program, I would have been limited and never experienced this other work. An MSW is where it's at!"

Q: Has a social work degree been worth it for you?

A: "I have loved my career path and trajectory. The ups and downs, triumphs and tribulations, have all been wonderful learning opportunities. I definitely think a social work degree is worth it!"

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