The Best Social Work Degrees

by TBS Staff
TheBestSchools.org

thebestschools.org 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.

Are you ready to discover your college program?

Social Work Undergraduate Programs

Social workers support communities by providing social services, helping clients manage mental health disorders, mentoring children, and connecting clients with resources.

A bachelor's degree in social work (BSW) can pave the way to a meaningful and in-demand career assisting society's most vulnerable people and groups. Specific job duties vary by specialty and employer, but social workers help people access community resources, like healthcare or food stamps; respond to crisis situations, like child abuse; and provide counseling or psychotherapy for individuals, couples, and families.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 13% growth rate for the social worker profession between 2019 and 2029. The BLS anticipates particularly good job prospects for clinical social workers, who provide treatment services in a clinical setting.

Professional social workers need a bachelor's in social work at a minimum. Our rankings list provides insight into some of the best schools for social work, as well as common career options for graduates. Professional social workers can also consider online social work degrees as an option for their BSW.

Featured Social Work Degrees

Top Programs for a Bachelors in Social Work

  1. University of Central Florida
    Location

    Orlando, FL

    Tuition

    $13016

    Founded in 1963 to educate students for the new space industry, UCF currently offers more than 230 degree programs.

    UCF offers an on-campus bachelor of social work degree program. Courses include human behavior and the social environment, culturally competent social work, and social welfare policies and issues.

    To graduate, students must complete 120 credits and maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5 in all social work courses.

    Applicants must enroll at UCF and complete at least 15 semester hours in common prerequisites with at least a "C" grade and have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5.

  2. University of Georgia
    Location

    Athens, GA

    Tuition

    $15539

    Considered the birthplace of public higher education in America, UGA currently teaches nearly 40,000 students.

    UGA's bachelor of social work program offers hands-on learning experiences through field placements facilitated by the program. Sample courses include communication as a helping professional; diversity, equity, and inclusion; and service-learning in social work.

    Students must complete 120 credits to graduate.

    First-year applicants must submit transcripts and a letter of recommendation. Transfer students should have a cumulative GPA of at least 2.5.

  3. Florida State University
    Location

    Tallahassee, FL

    Tuition

    $13318

    Founded in 1851, FSU currently offers nearly 300 degree programs.

    FSU teaches its bachelor of social work program at its main campus and Panama City campus. Students can focus on children and families, criminal justice, or military social work, among others.

    Students must complete 120 credits to graduate, with at least 50 credits in the social work curriculum.

    Applicants must enroll at FSU and complete at least 60 hours of required liberal studies courses, plus social work prerequisite courses. Applicants must also have a cumulative GPA of 3.0. FSU requires all first-year applicants to submit transcripts, ACT or SAT scores, an essay, and a resume or list of activities.

  4. The University of Texas at Austin
    Location

    Austin, TX

    Tuition

    $14156

    Founded in 1883, UT Austin currently teaches about 51,000 students.

    UT Austin offers an in-person bachelor of social work program. Foundation courses include social work research methods, social work statistics, and generalist social work practice.

    To graduate, students must complete 122 credits, 480 internship hours, and 60 hours of service-learning.

    Before moving into the practice-based courses, applicants must complete at least 45 credits with a cumulative GPA of 2.0 and at least a 2.5 GPA in all social work courses. Applicants must also submit a personal statement and a letter of recommendation from their SW 312 (generalist social work) instructor.

  5. Florida International University
    Location

    Miami, FL

    Tuition

    $9180

    Founded in 1965 on an old airfield, FIU currently teaches about 54,000 students.

    FIU offers students the chance to earn a bachelor of science in social work through an on-campus curriculum. Students complete two internships and explore topics like human diversity, interviewing techniques, and social welfare policies and services.

    Students must complete 120 credits to graduate.

    Before beginning upper-level coursework, applicants must complete 60 credits with a cumulative GPA of 2.75. First-year FIU applicants must submit transcripts and ACT or SAT scores.

  6. University of Washington
    Location

    Seattle, WA

    Tuition

    $9765

    Founded in 1861, UW currently teaches more than 54,000 students each year.

    UW offers a bachelor of arts in social welfare program at its Seattle campus. The program combines classroom learning with service learning and field experience. Courses include social welfare policy, evidence-based practices, and chemical dependency treatment and assessment.

    Applicants must complete 65 credits of prerequisite courses with at least a 2.0 GPA and pass a criminal background check.

  7. University of South Florida
    Location

    Tampa, FL

    Tuition

    $10460

    Chartered in 1955, USF officially opened its doors in 1960. Today, it serves more than 50,000 students.

    USF offers a bachelor of social work degree program at its main campus. Courses explore the American social welfare system, research and statistics for social work, and human behavior in the social environment. Students also complete hands-on field experience.

    Students must complete 120 credits and earn at least a "C" grade in all major courses to graduate.

    Admission to this major requires completion of prerequisite courses and a cumulative GPA of at least 2.75.

  8. University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
    Location

    Eau Claire, WI

    Tuition

    $13940

    Founded in 1916 as a school for teachers, UWEC offered its first bachelor's degrees in 1951.

    UWEC offers in-person classes for its bachelor of social work degree program. Sample courses include human rights and global justice, human behavior and the social environment, and social work in mental health settings.

    To graduate, students must complete 120 credits and have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0.

    Admission to this program requires completion of at least 30 credits and completion of prerequisite courses with at least a 2.5 GPA.

  9. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
    Location

    Champaign, IL

    Tuition

    $15829

    Founded in 1867, U of I currently teaches more than 47,000 students.

    U of I combines classroom learning and field experience in its bachelor of social work program. Sample courses include social work and the military, child welfare issues and trends, and dementia care for older adults.

    Students must complete 120 credits — including 60 at U of I — to graduate.

    Program applicants should demonstrate volunteer or paid work experience, strong interpersonal communication skills and personal attributes, and a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5.

  10. University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
    Location

    Whitewater, WI

    Tuition

    $12094

    Founded in 1868, UW-Whitewater joined the University of Wisconsin System over 100 years later in 1971.

    UW-Whitewater offers both a bachelor of science and bachelor of arts in social work. The program prepares students for careers as generalist practitioners. Sample courses include child welfare, assertiveness training in the helping professions, and legal issues in social work practice.

    In addition to general UW-Whitewater graduation requirements, students must complete 37 credits in the major and a 12-credit internship.

    Applicants to the Social Work Professional Training program must complete at least 40 credits with a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5.

Bachelor's in Social Work Programs Ranking Guidelines

We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.

The motto of TheBestSchools.org is Finding the best school for you. Here is how we do it:

The value of any ranking list of schools and/or degree programs depends on having a methodologically sound assessment of each school’s/program’s characteristics, especially insofar as these can be objectively measured. A college or university is a complex entity, with numerous factors to consider, and distilling these down to the place where meaningful comparisons can be made to form a defensible ranking list becomes part science and part art.

To meet this challenge—and thereby provide you with the most useful and insightful educational rankings on the Internet — TheBestSchools.org formulates our rankings based on five informational categories (six, when considering online schools). The major metrics and qualities for which we rank are these (with expanded, detailed considerations and weights listed):

1. Academic excellence based on a school’s curriculum generally or within the selected discipline [weight = 25%]

  • Weighs school against known leading schools in that discipline
  • Weighs number of core curricula listed as advanced courses within that discipline and compares against introductory courses
  • Weighs school’s curriculum against known knowledge needs of major employers in that discipline
  • Considers number and types of specializations offered within that discipline
  • Considers faculty expertise in that discipline
  • Considers range of electives within that discipline
  • Considers quality of online environment offered to students (if applicable), particularly within that discipline

2. Strength of faculty scholarship [weight = 25%]

  • Considers education background of the faculty
  • Considers years of faculty experience both inside and outside of academia.
  • Considers faculty membership and leadership within relevant, prominent associations
  • Considers academic papers published by faculty in relevant, prominent periodicals
  • Considers awards and recognitions given to faculty members from prominent organizations and from other sources

3. Reputation [weight = 20%]

  • Considers a school’s reputation among academic peers and employers regarding the following:
    • Faculty
    • Curriculum
    • “Freshness” of academic knowledge
    • Adaptability to changes in employment sectors
    • Suitability of graduates for the workplace

4. Financial aid [weight = 10%]

  • Mandatory: Requires full accreditation from an agency endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education and listed on the federal register to accept student federal financial aid
  • Considers range of school-sponsored financial aid such as scholarships and grants

5. Range of degree programs [weight = 20%]

  • Considers range of degree levels: associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral and professional
  • Considers range of degree subjects offered, such as art & design, computers & technology, education & teaching, criminal justice, and business

6. Strength of online instruction methodology (if applicable) [weight = 25%; subtract 5% from each of the above for online schools/programs]

  • Considers the following of the online classes:
    • Types of online technology used to deliver content
    • Pedagogy style: asynchronous, synchronous, or both (depending on the degree)
    • Extent and quality of the online, community learning environment, including options for communication, interactivity, and collaboration between students and also between students and instructors
    • Variety, breadth, and depth of coursework, and its support, including project options and online tutoring
  • Considers the following of instructors:
    • Extent of training for teaching within an online learning environment
    • Amount of timely, consistent feedback to students
    • Extent of collaboration with prospective employers to ensure suitability of instructional materials for achieving desired skills
    • Ratio to number of students in a class
  • Number and quality of internships in a student’s geographical area for applicable degrees

Because students tend to review a variety of information when choosing a school, the weight a student gives any one criterion will vary. For instance, it’s not enough to offer a carefully constructed ranking of great schools if many are too expensive or too difficult to get into.

To better serve the needs of prospective students, we are therefore increasingly offering filters that help you better use our rankings to find the schools that match your specific needs. These supplement our ranking criteria and include:

  • Accreditation
  • Public or private status
  • Acceptance rate
  • Retention rate
  • Graduation rate
  • ACT/SAT requirements
  • Cost in-state / out of state
  • Undergrad, grad, or both offered
  • Region
  • State
  • City

Get the best rankings here AND get them to suit your personal needs. That’s TheBestSchools.org advantage!

If you have any questions about our ranking methodology, please contact us.

Citations: For a broader account of our ranking methodology, especially as it relates to TheBestSchools.org's underlying educational philosophy and, in other ranking articles, looks beyond academic excellence (as here) to such factors as return on investment or incidental benefit, see our article "Ranking Methodology: How We Rank Schools at TBS." Reputation of schools and degree programs can at least in part be gauged through the school or department's publishing activity, citations, and desirability. At TheBestSchools.org, we keep track of such social and peer validation: "Making Sense of College Rankings." For nuts-and-bolts information about colleges and universities, we look to the National Center for Education Statistics and especially its College Navigator. Insofar as salary and inflation data are relevant to a ranking, we look to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Finally, nothing beats contacting schools and degree programs directly, which our researchers often do, with the result that all the entries in this article should be considered as belonging to this citation!

What Is Social Work?

Social workers support individuals, families, and communities struggling with issues such as poverty, mental health disorders, and behavioral issues. Social workers may help clients access social services and address problems through behavior modification. Many social workers also provide counseling services.

Social workers have several specialization options. For example, school social workers help children and adolescents overcome challenges at school, while substance abuse and behavioral social workers help clients manage substance use disorders and behavioral problems. Clinical social workers diagnose and treat behavioral and mental health disorders.

The largest employers of social workers are local and state government agencies, individual and family services, and ambulatory healthcare services.

What Is a Bachelor's in Social Work Degree?

A bachelor's degree in social work prepares students for entry-level, generalist positions in social work. Graduates of social work bachelor's programs can also apply to online master of social work programs.

Many students need or prefer the flexibility and convenience of earning a social work degree. Typical social work majors include college students who know they want to become social workers, working professionals who want to change fields, and healthcare administration professionals who want to advance their career and earning potential by earning a BSW.

Bachelor's in social work programs provide a foundational understanding of the history, major theories, and practices of the profession. Programs cover case management, human growth and development, and professional identity. Students gain critical thinking, advocacy, communication, and interpersonal skills.

Choosing a Program

Students looking for bachelor's in social work programs have a lot to consider when choosing a degree, including individual career goals and academic interests, cost, program length and flexibility, and specializations.

Read on to learn more about how to choose the right social work degree.

What Else Can I Expect From a Bachelor's in Social Work Program?

Bachelor's in social work (BSW) students develop foundational social work skills like case management, crisis intervention, and treatment planning.

A typical curriculum offers courses in social work research, human behavior in the social environment, basic skills for social work practice, and diversity and multiculturalism. Many social work bachelor's programs do not offer concentrations, instead focusing on preparing students for general practice social work.

Students who plan to pursue a master of social work should use their electives to gain specialized knowledge during undergraduate studies.

Bachelor's in Social Work Curriculum

Social Work Specializations

Mental Health and Substance Abuse

Social Work Social workers who specialize in mental health and substance abuse help individuals struggling with mental health challenges and addiction. This specialization explores mental health assessment, trauma, substance use intervention policy, and suicide risk assessment. Students who plan to pursue an MSW and become clinical social workers can benefit from this specialization.

Community Social Work

This specialization focuses on working directly with specific communities to improve daily life for people in that community. Community social workers often work on particular issues with citizens, nonprofit groups, and government agencies. For example, they may help start a new school or create a public health initiative.

Child, Family, and School

Social Work Child, family, and school social workers typically offer support to children and their families. They can work both in and outside of school settings, including at government agencies and social service agencies. Job duties may include conducting training for school staff, helping parents with children who struggle with behavioral issues in school, and intervening when a child experiences bullying.

Careers in Social Work

There are a number of specialities that you can pursue after earning a bachelor's in social work. However, note that some careers require at least a master's in social work, so it's important to check with local licensure requirements if you are pursuing one of these social work careers.

Social Workers
Median Salary: $50,470 Projected Job Growth: 13%

Social Workers help people overcome and deal with struggles in their everyday lives. Typical job duties may include helping a student experiencing bullying, connecting a family with community resources like food stamps, or helping a victim of domestic violence find emergency housing. Professional social workers be able to quickly and effectively solve problems while remaining calm.

Social workers need a bachelor's degree in social work at minimum to qualify for generalist social work positions. However, many social work jobs require a master of social work and state licensure.

Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors
Median Salary: $46,240 Projected Job Growth: 25%

Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors help people who struggle with behavioral disorders and addiction. Job duties vary by specialization, but they may include evaluating clients' readiness for treatment, creating treatment goals with clients and their families, and referring clients to other services and resources.

Most substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors need a bachelor's degree at minimum. Some states may require a master's degree. All states require licensure for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors working in private practice. Licensure requirements vary by state for those outside of private practice

Social and Community Service Managers
Median Salary: $67,150 Projected Job Growth: 17%

Social and community service managerscoordinate programs and initiatives that promote public well-being, usually under the auspices of a government or nonprofit organization. They may write funding proposals, identify necessary programs and services with the help of stakeholders, analyze program effectiveness, and manage outreach to promote programs.

Most social and community service managers need at least a bachelor's degree in social work or a related field and relevant professional experience. Some social and community service manager positions require a master's degree. This career does not require a license.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does It Take to Complete a Bachelor's in Social Work Program?

It usually takes students four years to earn a bachelor's in social work. Transfer students and students who already hold an associate degree can graduate in less time.

What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Social Work?

A bachelor's in social work prepares graduates for jobs as social workers, case managers, and social services managers. It also meets educational admission requirements for most master of social work (MSW) programs.

How Much Do You Make as a Social Worker?

The BLS reports that social workers make a median annual salary of $50,470.

What Is a Social Worker?

Social workers help people solve problems in their everyday lives. Typical job duties include developing programs to help meet clients' basic needs, maintaining records, responding to crisis situations, and referring clients to community resources.

What Is a Bachelor's in Social Work?

A bachelor's degree in social work prepares graduates for careers as generalist social workers and case managers. Graduates can also apply to master's in social work programs.

Learn more, do more.

More topic-relevant resources to expand your knowledge.

Popular with our students.

Highly informative resources to keep your education journey on track.

Take the next step toward your future with online learning.

Discover schools with the programs and courses you’re interested in, and start learning today.

woman in an office