If you are looking for a career that puts you at the forefront of improving lives, then online social work degrees can help you achieve that goal.
Those in the field of social work help individuals who are struggling with mental health or social concerns find assistance to improve their lives. Now more than ever, adult students are left juggling work and family obligations while trying to complete their education.
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Online degree programs in social work have been a popular option for those who need the flexibility to schedule classes around their busy lives and still receive a reputable, quality education.
Social Work Degrees Online
Having a bachelor’s degree in social work is often the minimum educational requirement that allows for licensing in select states.
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Even if your state does not license at the bachelor’s level, you may have the opportunity to work within the field through rewarding careers in anti-poverty programs, corrections, or criminal justice. There are a number of topics that you are likely to study throughout your online bachelor’s in social work degree program, including:
- Human behavior in social environments
- Social work and aging
- Diversity and ethical considerations
- Social welfare policy
- In-depth research methods
Although many of your courses may be completed online at a pace that suits your lifestyle, some programs also require on-site field practicums in order to learn the advanced skills needed to succeed in the workplace.
Social Work Careers and Salaries
The field of social work is broad, and there are a number of different career paths you may take once you have earned your online degree.
Whether you want to work in the field as a child or family social worker or hope to provide one-on-one counseling, the various degree programs available can be customized to help meet your goals. Those employed in the community and social service field are valued within society, and skilled professionals are in demand.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the overall employment for social workers will grow by 9% over the next 10 years, but the projected outlooks can vary based on specialty. For example, child, family, and school social workers have a projected growth rate of 8%, while healthcare social workers have a projected growth rate of 11%.
These are some of the popular career paths in the field of social work and their median annual salaries based on data from the BLS:
|Annual Median Salaries
|Social and Community Service Managers
|Healthcare Social Workers
|Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists
|Health Education Specialists
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors
|Child, Family, and School Social Workers
|Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers
|Community and Social Service Specialists
|Community Health Workers
Some employers look for a minimum of a bachelor’s degree to be considered for these positions, and some may require advanced degrees or experience.
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For further information, you can view our list of the top 40 social worker careers to compare jobs and salaries in this field.
Online Bachelor of Social Work Curriculum & Courses
Different online social work degree programs have their own course requirements, including a certain number of core classes and elective courses.
While each school will offer a unique curriculum, here are the types of courses you may encounter while earning your BSW online degree and what they often entail:
- The Foundations of Social Work: This course outlines common topics related to social work, including social services, welfare, community programs, at-risk populations, and social issues.
- Interventions in a School Setting: If you are interested in working with students, this course can help you learn how to identify vulnerable populations as well as how to conduct outreach within school settings.
- Statistics and Risk: Presented in the context of social work, this course teaches how to conduct statistical research, including probability theory and experiment design
- Social Work and Diversity: This course provides insight into many diversity factors encountered in social work, including language, cultural, religious, ethnic, and value systems.
- Development of Human Behavior: In this course, students learn about how external and internal factors impact human behavior throughout their lives.
- Social Welfare: This course dives into the challenges of social service programs, such as income, assistance opportunities, and community services.
- Ethics and Law in Social Work: This class explores many of the ethical and legal concerns of social work professionals.
- Introduction to Substance Abuse: For those who are interested in working with communities impacted by substance abuse, this course introduces risk factors, vulnerable populations, types of addiction, and intervention options.
- Chemical Dependency and Behavior: Similarly, this course examines the physical and biochemical impact of substances, as well as potential emotional and behavioral changes.
- Psycho-social Behaviors: Courses such as this examine the link between psychology and various social settings.
The exact courses you select may depend on your interests and professional goals.
How to Choose a Bachelor’s in Social Work Degree Online Program
With the rise in the popularity of online education, many of the nation’s top universities are offering competitive online social work bachelor degree programs.
With so many online programs offered, it’s important to compare them to find the Bachelor of Social Work online program that best fits your needs. While this will differ from person to person, these are some things you likely want to consider:
- Accreditation: Attending a regionally accredited program can help ensure that you’ll receive a quality education that meets high standards and that your degree will be recognized by future employers. It is also necessary for federal financial aid and other forms of aid.
- Student-to-faculty ratio: Smaller classes can help you receive more one-on-one feedback and support from your professors and allow for more interaction between classmates.
- Academic advising and student services: Some services you may want to consider are academic and career counseling, online libraries, tutoring services, and internship placement.
- Concentrations offered: It can be helpful to choose a school that offers specializations that can help you meet your specific career goals.
- Scheduling: You may wish to attend a program full-time or part-time. You may attend asynchronous classes or synchronous classes, which have set meeting times. Many schools even offer accelerated programs in which you may be able to complete your degree in less time.
- On-campus requirements: While you may be able to complete most of your degree online, many programs do require on-campus residencies or internships. It is important to research any required traveling needs so you can find what works best for your needs.
These are just some of the most common things you may want to consider. Each program will offer unique services and courses, so doing your research can help you find the best one for you.
Social Work Major Admissions Requirements
There is no single application for online schools for social work, so it’s a good idea to review the application process for each school before you get started.
Some common requirements among schools that offer online social work degrees include:
- SAT or ACT scores (only some schools require them)
- Transcripts from high school and previously attended institutions
- Letters of recommendation
- Personal statement
Additionally, schools may request academic writing samples with the application or an interview with admissions staff as part of the admissions process.
Social Work Ongoing Education
There are a number of advanced education opportunities in the field of social work. The degrees and credentials you choose to pursue will depend largely upon your long-term career goals and your state’s specific licensing requirements.
Every state has different requirements for social work licensing. It is essential to check into the laws and regulations where you live to ensure that you are enrolling in an online degree program that meets these requirements. Regardless of your state’s educational requirements, you will likely have to sit for comprehensive examinations in order to successfully obtain your license as a social worker.
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When you are ready to go beyond the basics and earn a graduate degree to pursue work as a licensed social worker or other high-level position, a master’s degree in social work is typically the next step. Online master’s degrees in social work can help prepare you for supervisory roles within clinical practices.
If you are interested in reaching the pinnacle of social work education, you may want to pursue a Doctor of Social Work (DSW). Select universities now offer online doctorate degrees in social work. The intensive courses in these programs are designed to prepare students to be advocates for social justice and trailblazers for public policy changes.
Social Work Degrees Accreditation
Attending a regionally accredited school can help ensure that you will receive a quality education and a degree that will be recognized by future employers.
A school earns accreditation by undergoing a voluntary review process conducted by a recognized accrediting agency. Doing so demonstrates that the school’s degree programs and services meet top-quality standards. Regional accreditation is also required for many forms of financial aid. Credits from regionally accredited institutions are more likely to transfer to and be recognized by other institutions as well.
To check your chosen school’s accreditation status, you can visit the U.S. Department of Education’s website.
Online BSW Programs CSWE Accreditation
The Council on Social Work Education provides accreditation for social work programs. Over 800 universities and institutions offering bachelor’s and master’s programs in social work have received accreditation from CSWE.
The mission of CSWE is to encourage growth, innovation, and progress in social work. This includes supporting educators, as well as promoting leadership and learning opportunities. With the goal of achieving and sustaining social and economic justice, CSWE provides accreditation for programs based on their educational excellence.
Social Work Licensure and Certifications
The type of licensure or certifications you may need to practice social work depends on many factors, including the state in which you plan to work as well as the type of work you plan to do.
Earning your online BSW degree can help prepare you for the process of earning Licensed Bachelor of Social Work (LBSW) licensure. Depending on your area of study, a variety of specialized licenses and certifications may be offered in your state.
When reviewing online schools for social work, you may wish to consider how each program can prepare you for potential licensing and examinations
Financial Aid and Scholarships
If paying for your social worker online degree seems challenging, you may wish to explore the many opportunities available for assistance.
If you are interested in needs-based financial assistance from the federal government, you’ll need to complete the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Additionally, you may wish to review scholarship and grant opportunities offered by the school you select.
Many scholarship opportunities exist beyond the school itself, with corporations, communities, professional organizations, and private donors offering educational assistance to applicants.
Is an Online Degree in Social Work Right for Me?
There are several factors to consider when determining if an online social work degree is right for you. If you are a self-motivated individual who needs flexibility in scheduling, then an online program may be the right option to help you balance the demands of your daily life.
Some of the many advantages that come from completing a social work degree online include:
- Ability to log on to classes at your convenience
- Options to complete your coursework at an accelerated pace
- Flexible on-site practicums that can be scheduled around your busy life
- Ease of transferring credits to graduate social work degrees
If these sound like positive advantages to you, then online colleges for social work may be right for you.
What Does a Social Worker Do?
The term “social worker” encompasses a variety of professionals who work to provide assistance and rights to vulnerable populations. This may include individuals, families, specific local, social, religious, socioeconomic, or ethnic groups, or entire communities.
As such, they may have careers within schools, clinics, hospitals, community resource centers, or within nonprofit organizations. They may specialize in areas such as substance abuse or domestic situations and may work as educators, advocators, fundraisers, and policy-makers.
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Earning a social services degree online is an exciting first step for many students who aspire to work in a variety of helping roles.
What Degree Do You Need to Be a Social Worker?
The level of education you require depends on the type of career you wish to pursue. For most social work professionals, the first step is to receive a bachelor’s degree in social work or a related field, such as psychology.
Any specialties you want to focus on for your career will determine what additional education, licensing, or certifications are required. In most cases, social workers in clinical settings will be asked to earn their masters degree in social work in order to earn state licensing before practicing.
What Can I Do with a Social Work Degree?
Earning your bachelor’s in social work online can be the first step to a variety of careers in educational, clinical, and therapeutic roles.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that employment for social workers is expected to increase faster than the average national growth rate. From community health workers to school counselors to mental health counselors, the BLS notes that many fields related to social work are expected to be in increased demand over the next ten years.
How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work?
The length of time it takes to earn your online bachelor’s degree in social work depends on the program’s structure as well as your own enrollment.
In a traditional 16 week semester schedule, a bachelor’s degree can typically be earned in 4 years of study if you remain enrolled full-time each semester. If you select a program that follows an 8 week semester format, you may be able to complete your degree in less time, provided you are a full-time student and enrolled year-round.
What’s the Difference Between an Online Bachelors in Social Work vs. Counseling?
The fields of social work and counseling have many overlaps, so it is helpful to understand the unique roles of each position before deciding on a program of study.
|Bachelors in Social Work
|Bachelors in Counseling
When deciding between a degree in social work or counseling, it can be helpful to look into the specific laws that govern those careers in your state. The licensing requirements varies between states. Understanding these regulations can help you decide which career path best suits your long-term goals.
For more information on counseling programs, you can check out our in-depth discussion of counseling degrees and programs offered online.
Is a Bachelor in Social Work Degree Worth it?
Yes, a bachelor in social work degree is worth it for many students. If you have a passion for helping those in vulnerable populations or situations of need, you may wish to consider a career path in social work, starting with your BSW degree.
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The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that the demand for many social work-related professions, including counselors, educators, community organizers, and advocates is expected to increase over the next 10 years. As a result, these fields will be in search of driven professionals with educational backgrounds in social work.
Universities Offering Online Bachelor in Social Work Degree Programs
Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.
Aurora University offers an online Bachelor’s in Social Work. Specializations in Addictions and Child Welfare are available. The program requires 120 credit hours. General education credits are required to apply for the Social Work major. Courses are 8 weeks long.
Aurora University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
U.S. News & World Report ranked Ball State University as one of the best schools in the country for online bachelor’s degrees. The school offers a Bachelor of Social Work through its online program. A practicum is required and must be completed at a local agency. Courses are in an asynchronous format.
Ball State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Liberty University offers a Bachelor’s in Social Work. The program is entirely online, and students must attend one virtual intensive. Up to 75% of the 120 required credits may be transferred into the program. Most courses are 8 weeks long, with several start dates throughout the year.
Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
A Bachelor’s in Social Work is offered through Maryville University. The program is entirely online with opportunities for experiential learning and creating a portfolio for a capstone project. The curriculum is designed to prepare students for the ASWB licensing test. Courses are 8 weeks long.
Maryville University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Metropolitan State University of Denver offers a BS in Social Work. The program is available online, on campus, and in a hybrid format. Courses are in synchronous and asynchronous formats while following a regular semester schedule. Potential courses include Social Policy and Social Justice and Privilege, Oppression, and Power.
MSU Denver is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
A Bachelor’s in Social Work can be earned through Our Lady of the Lake University. The program is entirely online and requires 120 credit hours along with 450 hours of local fieldwork. The program has a specific focus on Hispanic Communities. Optional certificates in Dismantling Oppression and Violence Prevention and Intervention can also be earned.
Our Lady of the Lake University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Pennsylvania Western University offers a Bachelor’s in Social Work through a fully online program. There is also an opportunity to complete an internship. The program requires 120 credit hours. Courses are in an asynchronous learning format and may include Diversity in the Changing World and Social Work Practice with Families.
Pennsylvania Western University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
The State University of New York – Plattsburgh offers the opportunity to earn a Bachelor’s in Social Work. All coursework is online with additional fieldwork requirements. Applicants are required to have an associate degree before applying. The program follows a semester schedule and can typically be completed in 2 years.
State University of New York – Plattsburgh is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
College Consensus named the University of Cincinnati as one of the best schools in the country for online social work degrees. The school offers an online Bachelor of Social Work. The program requires 57 credits and follows a regular semester schedule. An associate degree in a related field is required to apply.
UC is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign offers a Bachelor’s in Social Work. The program is online and requires a local in-person field placement. Applicants need at least 60 hours of general education courses before applying. After completion of the program, there is an option to enter a 1 year master’s program.
The University of Illinois Urbana – Champaign is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
U.S. News & World Report ranked the University of Louisville as one of the best schools for social work in the state. The school offers an online Bachelor’s in Social Work. Up to 90 of the 120 required credits may be transferred into the program. Courses are 5 to 8 weeks long.
The University of Louisville is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
A BA in Social Work is available through the University of Massachusetts Global Learning program. The program is online and requires 120 credit hours. Courses are in an asynchronous learning format and are offered in accelerated half-semesters. There are 6 start dates throughout the year.
The University of Massachusetts Global is accredited by the WSCUC Senior College and University Commission.
EDsmart named the University of North Dakota one of the top online universities in the country. The school offers a BS in Social Work. The program is mostly online with required immersion experiences held on campus. The program requires 450 hours of field experience and courses follow a regular semester schedule.
UND is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
Walden University offers the opportunity to earn an online Bachelor’s in Social Work. Up to 135 of the required 182 credits may be transferred into the program. There may also be an opportunity to enter the master’s program with advanced standing. Courses are in an accelerated format, with several yearly state dates.
Walden University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Wayne State University offers a Bachelor’s in Social Work. All coursework is online and in an asynchronous format with weekly due dates. Students are required to meet on campus at the beginning of the program and must also complete 450 hours of fieldwork. Courses follow a regular semester schedule.
Wayne State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Getting Your Bachelor Degree in Social Work Online
Many individuals, families, social groups, communities, and vulnerable populations benefit from the dedicated service of professional social workers.
If you wish to pursue a career in which you focus on education, advocacy, counseling, and intervention, earning your social worker degree online may be a great step for you. With many different areas of specialization to consider, earning an online degree in social work can be a fantastic opportunity for many students.
If you are ready to get started, you can take a look at some of the programs and institutions offering online degrees in social work to determine which best fits your interests and professional goals.