The Best Online Social Work Degrees 2021

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for social workers to grow 13% between 2019 and 2029, faster than the average for other occupations. The BLS also reports a median annual salary of $50,470 for social workers. Pursuing a social work degree allows students to enter a professional field with good compensation and job security

To become a licensed social worker, learners first pursue a bachelor’s degree, which typically takes four years. Many students with busy schedules earn a social work degree online, and many schools offer the same affordable tuition rate for in-state and online learners.

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Find a program that meets your affordability, flexibility, and education needs through an accredited, online school.

Individuals with a passion for helping others and empowering vulnerable populations often thrive in the social work field. Keep reading to learn about what you can do with a degree in social work, common curriculum components, and scholarships reserved exclusively for social work students.

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Top 10 Best Online Programs in Social Work

FAQ


  • What can you do with a social work bachelor's degree?

    Many graduates immediately enter the workforce as caseworkers or entry-level administrators. Alternatively, bachelor’s degree recipients usually apply for a master of social work program.


  • Is getting a degree in social work hard?

    Earning a degree in social work takes time and dedication. Students need self-discipline and a commitment to putting in work to complete a social work program.


  • What skills do social workers need?

    Social workers need strong interpersonal communication skills, active listening skills, and record-keeping skills. These professionals also must know how to develop action plans to help clients.


What Can I Do With a Social Work Degree?



A social work program opens many opportunities. According to the BLS, individuals with a bachelor’s degree in social work can enter the macro social work field. Macro social work refers to social work that uses groups, community organizations, and policymakers to improve social conditions.

A more advanced degree in social work, like a master’s degree, enables professionals to work directly with clients as clinical social workers. Some social workers provide their services to families in hospitals or school settings. Other social workers find employment at rehabilitation facilities and assist clients with mental health or substance abuse issues.

Many social workers with an interest in career advancement pursue a license. Licensed clinical social workers often provide therapy to their clients and help them develop strategies to change behaviors or cope with difficult issues. These professionals need at least two years of supervised experience.

How Does College Accreditation Work?

What Are the Requirements for a Social Work Program?



Applicants to a social work program must submit an application and official school transcripts. Some social work programs require additional application components like recommendation letters. Generally, social work programs set their own requirements for minimum GPA and SAT or GPA scores.

During their studies, social work students read case studies, listen to lectures, and pass written tests. Some social work programs require capstone projects or a thesis, which allow students to display what they learned during their studies through a service-based project or research paper. Social work programs usually include an internship component.

Courses in a Social Work Program



Social work courses teach students how to navigate family dynamics, assist clients in reaching goals, and protect vulnerable populations. While studying in a social work program, learners discover how to identify individuals in need, create action plans, and use community resources to enhance clients’ lives.

Some social work degrees allow students to choose a specialization, such as gerontology, developmental disabilities, or justice and corrections. Below, we highlight five common courses in social work programs. Keep in mind that not every program offers these exact courses. Contact your prospective school’s admissions department for specific course offerings.


  • Introduction to Social Work

    This course offers foundational knowledge that later social work courses build upon. Most programs require social work majors to complete this requirement during their first semester of studies. Learners explore the history of social work and the differences between micro, mezzo, and macro social work. The course also covers how to meet the needs of clients from varying cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds.


  • Providing Social Work Services for Children

    Students learn best practices for ensuring child welfare. The class covers the role government agencies play in social work, such as Child Protective Services. Degree-seekers also discover how to help parents meet their children’s needs despite barriers like financial struggles. Learners typically read through case studies and engage in classroom discussions about real-life social work cases involving children.


  • Providing Social Work Services for Aging Adults

    Most social work programs feature a course that focuses on representing seniors. In this course, learners discover theories on the process of aging and how to identify elderly clients in need. Students learn how to collaborate with assisted living facilities and hospice teams to ensure elderly patients live the rest of their days comfortably. Enrollees also learn how to provide care to grieving family members of hospice patients.


  • Healthcare and Social Work

    Many social workers find employment in a healthcare facility, so most social work programs include a course about offering services for chronically ill or temporarily sick patients. Learners discover the inner workings of hospitals and how to set patients up for success when they go home. Students discuss how to collaborate with family members and healthcare workers to help patients heal.


  • Social Work and Intervention

    Sometimes, social workers intervene and remove children or vulnerable adults from unhealthy situations. Certain intervention methods include placing adults in mental healthcare or rehabilitation facilities or transitioning children into the foster care system. Students learn various intervention strategies and methods, and the theories behind these practices. By the end of the course, learners understand how to identify patient needs and when to take intervention action.


Professional Organizations for Social Work Students



To network and earn continuing education hours, social workers often join professional organizations. These organizations publish exclusive newsletters and journals, advocate for laws that positively impact the social work field, and host annual conferences. See below for four professional organizations that focus on social work.


  • National Association of Social Workers This organization unites social workers on national and local levels for just one membership fee. With more than 120,000 members, NASW aims to maintain professional standards and advance social policies.

  • Clinical Social Work Association CSWA unites clinical social workers with varying experience levels and specialties. Members get to network with their professional peers, read exclusive educational material, and enhance their professional credibility. Funds from membership fees allow CSWA to advocate for legislation that benefits the clinical social work field.

  • Council on Social Work Education CSWE primarily serves as an accrediting agency for social work programs. However, many professionals join this organization for leadership opportunities. Experienced social workers apply to work as a commissioner or counselor for the accreditation process or a reviewer for the Journal of Social Work Education.

  • Society for Social Work Leadership in Healthcare Social workers need a degree from a CSWE-accredited educational institution to qualify for membership in this organization. The SSWLHC offers job listings, facilitates a mentorship program for professionals, and hosts an annual conference and leadership institute.

Scholarship for Social Work Students

To avoid taking out extra loans, many learners apply for scholarships funded by foundations and private organizations. These awards typically require essays, recommendation letters, and official transcripts. Check out these three scholarships reserved exclusively for students involved in social work. We encourage students to check with their prospective schools to discover additional merit and need-based scholarships.

A Place for Mom Senior Wisdom Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Many social work students who want to work with the senior population qualify for this scholarship. Applicants write a short essay or submit a video about wisdom they gained from a senior, and how they plan to apply this wisdom to their career when working with seniors.
Amount: $3,000

Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund

Who Can Apply: This scholarship assists students actively involved in social movements. Applicants submit recommendation letters and a 1,000-word essay about their involvement in movements for economic and social justice. Eligible applicants demonstrate financial need.
Amount: $15,000 maximum

Dr. Alma S. Adams Scholarship for Outreach and Health Communications

Who Can Apply: This scholarship accepts applications from college students pursuing a degree in social work, public health, or communication. Eligible applicants demonstrate a commitment to achieving a tobacco-free generation, especially among priority populations. The scholarship honors Dr. Alma S. Adams, a Congress member representing North Carolina’s 12th Congressional District.
Amount: $5,000

The Best Online Degrees in Social Work 2021



  1. University of North Dakota
    Location

    Grand Forks, ND

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    An early adopter of remote education, UND began offering correspondence courses in 1911. Today, the Grand Forks-based school delivers over 120 highly regarded online programs, including a bachelor's in social work program.

    The cohort-based program runs synchronously to emulate a traditional classroom experience. Learners take most classes online but attend campus for some hands-on courses. The 120-credit curriculum explores social workers' roles in serving individuals, families, and communities. Students practice their skills through fieldwork placements in North Dakota and surrounding states. A 39-credit version of the program enrolls students returning for a second bachelor's degree.

    Online learners enjoy remote access to tutoring, academic advising, library resources, and career services. Organizations for social work students provide opportunities for learners to connect and network with peers. Military service members and dependents may qualify for a discounted tuition rate.

    University of North Dakota is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  2. University of Louisville
    Location

    Louisville, KY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A member of the Kentucky State University System, UofL educates over 22,000 students annually across its three campuses and online division. The university's online bachelor's in social work develops the skills and knowledge needed to pursue graduate study or entry-level employment.

    Emphasizing social justice, the 120-credit curriculum examines contemporary and historical issues in social welfare institutions, policy, and theory. Learners study human behavior in individual, family, group, and community contexts. In their home areas, enrollees complete practicum requirements at human services organizations. UofL also offers a master's-level social work degree with concentrations in areas such as alcohol and drug counseling, gerontology, military social work, and psychosocial oncology.

    Candidates in the drug and alcohol counseling track may be eligible for special scholarships. A designated military-friendly school, UofL offers a tuition reduction to active-duty service members.

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

  3. Eastern Kentucky University
    Location

    Richmond, KY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    EKU's social work programs train graduates for diverse careers in sectors such as healthcare, education, government, and social services. Ideal for working students, the flexible programs feature accelerated eight-week terms, multiple yearly start dates, asynchronous course delivery, and affordable tuition rates. Learners can attend either full time or part time.

    The 120-credit bachelor's program furnishes a broad background in social work theories, practices, and history. Learners complete fieldwork and practicums. Bachelor's students pursue a generalist degree, while master's candidates select a concentration in addictions intervention, mental health, child and family services, leadership and management, or social advocacy and justice.

    Transfer students can apply up to 90 credits toward their social work degree. Learners may be eligible for institutional scholarships, including awards reserved for social work students. Military students pay a reduced tuition rate.

    Eastern Kentucky University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  4. Millersville University of Pennsylvania
    Location

    Millersville, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A member of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, Millersville ranks among the top public universities in its region. Designed for individuals who want to advance their careers, the public university's online social work degree-completion program welcomes applicants with associate degrees in human services or social services.

    Students build research skills and explore special topics such as cultural diversity, alcoholism, grief, and child welfare. Some learners elect to pursue minors in gerontology or social justice. A professional readiness assessment and a 450-hour practicum culminate the degree. Instructors teach most courses asynchronously.

    Students enjoy online access to support services such as tutoring, library resources, career services, advising, and mental health counseling. Online learners pay affordable tuition rates, with out-of-state tuition almost as low as in-state rates.

    Millersville University of Pennsylvania is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  5. Angelo State University
    Location

    San Angelo, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    One of four institutions in the Texas Tech University System, ASU offers an online bachelor's degree-completion program that trains graduates as generalist social workers.

    Emphasizing key West Central Texas demographics, including aging adults, military service members, and the Hispanic community, the social work program covers essential components of social work theory and practice. Students practice research skills and examine the interrelated effects of biological, psychological, and social influences on individual and community wellbeing. Learners can fulfill fieldwork requirements in their home areas.

    The program enrolls applicants who have completed the school's lower-division core requirements, including an introductory social work class, with a minimum 2.0 GPA. Applicants must submit a personal essay and demonstrate at least 20 hours of field-relevant volunteer experience. The school also offers a hybrid master's-level social work degree.

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

  6. Brandman University
    Location

    Irvine, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Originally founded to educate U.S. Marines, Brandman now focuses on serving nontraditional students. A military-friendly institution, this private university offers service members reduced tuition rates, support services, and transfer credit for military experience. Students can earn a social work degree online through one of the school's most popular programs.

    The 120-credit bachelor's in social work program prepares students for careers as skilled social workers. General education requirements hone communication, quantitative reasoning, and cultural competence skills. Core courses address social work practices for professionals working with groups, communities, and individuals across the lifespan.

    Learners hone interview, assessment, and research skills before completing 400 supervised practicum hours. Electives in subjects such as domestic violence and international social work provide opportunities to explore professional interests. The university also offers an online social work master's degree.

    Brandman University is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

  7. Huntington University
    Location

    Huntington, IN

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    An evangelical Christian university affiliated with the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, HU maintains a reputation as one of the top regional universities in the Midwest. The Indiana-based university's fully online bachelor's in social work program integrates liberal arts, faith, and career-relevant training. The program features competitive tuition rates, convenient five-week terms, and a low student-to-professor ratio, making it ideal for working students.

    All HU undergraduates, including social work degree candidates, complete a core curriculum. The curriculum includes instruction in the humanities, arts, and sciences, as well as required classes in biblical and religious studies.

    Courses in the social work major explore social policy, professional ethics and values, and key issues such as addiction and child welfare. Enrollees gain practical expertise through job shadowing, intercultural immersion experiences, internships, and practicums. Graduates may qualify to seek professional licensure.

    Huntington University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  8. Troy University
    Location

    Troy, AL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A public university founded in 1887, Troy operates four Alabama campuses and a robust online division. Students can enroll in one of the school's 95 distance-learning programs, such as its bachelor's in social work program.

    Learners enter the fully online program in their junior year, after completing lower-division prerequisites. Major courses explore the roles of social workers in nonprofits, the U.S. justice system, social service institutions, healthcare, and the military. Students sharpen research skills and learn techniques for working with diverse populations. Troy also offers an online master's degree in social work with concentrations in direct practice or organization and leadership.

    The school administers a variety of institutional scholarships, including scholarships reserved for online transfer students. Military-affiliated students receive a tuition discount and may qualify for additional scholarships.

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

  9. Northern Arizona University
    Location

    Flagstaff, AZ

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    One of Arizona's largest universities, NAU enrolls almost 30,000 learners annually across its numerous statewide campuses and online division. The public school's online bachelor's in social work prepares graduates for professional licensure in many states.

    The program aims to produce generalist social workers equipped to promote wellbeing and social and economic justice for vulnerable and marginalized communities. The 120-credit curriculum emphasizes the Southwest's rural and indigenous populations. Seniors complete 12 credits of field education experience and an integrative capstone seminar. Asynchronous course delivery helps students maintain work and personal commitments while earning their social work degree online.

    Distance learners pay the same tuition regardless of residency and enjoy remote access to library resources, tutoring, peer mentors, and tech support. For enrollees pursuing an advanced degree in social work, the school also administers an online master of social work program.

    Northern Arizona University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  10. Wayne State University
    Location

    Detroit, MI

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A public research university located in Detroit, Michigan, WSU holds national recognition as a top destination for social work education. The school's online bachelor of social work program prepares learners for graduate study or generalist entry-level careers. Enrollees may qualify for over 40 scholarships reserved for School of Social Work students.

    The cohort-based program teaches students to apply social work principles, practices, and values to create positive change, with an emphasis on urban contexts. Fieldwork occurs in the Detroit metropolitan area. Students may apply to an honors track or add an optional minor in law and social work or social work and social justice.

    The 60-credit upper-division curriculum comprises 51 credits of major coursework and nine credits of electives. Transfer students with at least 60 applicable credits can earn their social work degree in two years of full-time study.

    Wayne State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

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