The Best Social Work Degrees 2021

by TBS Staff
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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 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.

Top 10 Bachelor's in Social Work Programs
#1 University of Central Florida Orlando, FL
#2 University of Georgia Athens, GA
#3 Florida State University Tallahassee, FL
#4 The University of Texas at Austin Austin, TX
#5 Florida International University Miami, FL
#6 University of Washington Seattle, WA
#7 University of South Florida Tampa, FL
#8 University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Eau Claire, WI
#9 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL
#10 University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Whitewater, WI

Featured Social Work Degrees

Top Programs for a Bachelors in Social Work

University of Central Florida View School Profile $$ Orlando, FL 73% 39% University of Central Florida is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

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.

University of Georgia View School Profile $$$ Athens, GA 86% 35% University of Georgia is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

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.

Florida State University View School Profile $$ Tallahassee, FL 83% 38% Florida State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

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.

The University of Texas at Austin View School Profile $$ Austin, TX 83% 36% The University of Texas at Austin is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

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.

Florida International University View School Profile $ Miami, FL 58% 34% Florida International University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

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.

University of Washington View School Profile $ Seattle, WA 84% 26% University of Washington is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

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.

University of South Florida View School Profile $$ Tampa, FL 73% 39% University of South Florida is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

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.

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire View School Profile $$ Eau Claire, WI 67% 54% University of Wisconsin Eau Claire is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

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.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign View School Profile $$$ Champaign, IL 84% 35% University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

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.

University of Wisconsin-Whitewater View School Profile $$ Whitewater, WI 58% 58% University of Wisconsin Whitewater is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

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.

Harding University View School Profile Searcy, AR 67% 54% Harding University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Founded in 1924 after two local colleges merged, Harding earned its current name in 1979 in memory of James A. Harding.

Harding offers a bachelor of social work degree program with field experience and an optional Child Welfare Traineeship for students interested in working with the Division of Children and Family Services.

To graduate, students must complete 128 credits in liberal arts, major, and bible courses.

Harding students can apply to this program after completing the Introduction to Social Work course. They must have a minimum GPA of 2.0 and submit two letters of recommendation from faculty. Field placement requires an additional application.

University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point View School Profile $$ Stevens Point, WI 62% 61% University of Wisconsin Stevens Point is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Founded in 1894, UWSP offers more than 100 programs of study to more than 7,000 students.

UWSP offers both a bachelor of science and a bachelor of arts in social work. Sample courses include ethical practice in the helping professions, race and ethnicity, and social work and mental health.

Students must complete 120 credits and 400 hours at an internship to graduate.

Current UWSP students may apply to the program after completing 45 credits in general education or prerequisite courses. Applicants must earn a grade of "C-" or better in "Introduction to Social Work" and maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5.

University of Arkansas View School Profile $$$ Fayetteville, AR 66% 37% University of Arkansas is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Founded in 1871, U of A currently teaches over 27,000 students across 200 programs of study.

U of A first offered its bachelor of social work degree program in 1940. Courses explore death and dying, addiction and the family, and problems of child welfare.

Current U of A students interested in taking professional practice core courses must maintain an overall GPA of 2.5 or better for all required pre-professional courses.

California State University-Fresno View School Profile $ Fresno, CA 54% 30% California State University, Fresno is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior Colleges and University Commission (WSCUC).

Established in 1911 as a normal school for teachers, Fresno State granted its first bachelor's degree in 1921.

Fresno State offers a bachelor of arts in social work degree that prepares students for generalist social work practice. Sample courses include social services for the aging, treatment of chemical dependency, and principles in cross-cultural competence.

Students must complete 120 credits and an internship to graduate.

First-year students must enter the pre-health major and may apply to the social work major in their third semester.

University of Wisconsin-Madison View School Profile $$ Madison, WI 87% 32% University of Wisconsin Madison is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Founded in 1848, UW currently teaches over 40,000 students.

UW offers a bachelor of social work degree to prepare students for fieldwork in community agencies and with different populations. Students can also complete optional certificate programs in areas like criminal justice, gender and women's studies, or LGBTQ+ studies.

Students must complete 120 credits and two semesters of field education to graduate.

Current UW students may apply to this program when they have completed 71 credits, including pre-requisite courses, with a cumulative GPA of at least 2.5.

Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania View School Profile $$$ Slippery Rock, PA 67% 70% Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

Founded in 1889, SRU currently teaches more than 8,500 students.

SRU offers a bachelor of science in social work degree program. Courses include social welfare institutions, human behavior and the social environment, and numerous hands-on practice courses.

Students must complete 121 hours to graduate.

First-year applicants must submit transcripts. SRU automatically admits applicants with a cumulative GPA of 3.25 or better.

Texas State University View School Profile $$ San Marcos, TX 55% 53% Texas State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Former POTUS Lyndon B. Johnson graduated from Texas State, and 38,000 students currently study there.

Texas State offers a bachelor of social work program for students interested in generalist social work. The curriculum includes service-learning and courses on topics like alcoholism and chemical dependence, professionalism in social work, and social work research.

Students must complete 120 credits to graduate.

Applicants must fulfill the pre-social work major requirements with a GPA of 2.5 and conduct an interview before beginning major courses.

Georgia State University View School Profile $$ Atlanta, GA 54% 54% Georgia State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Georgia State currently teaches more than 54,000 students across six campuses.

Georgia State offers a bachelor of social work degree program at its Atlanta campus to prepare students for entry-level positions. Courses include methods of social work research, social welfare policy, and forensic social work.

Students must complete 120 credits to graduate.

Current Georgia State students may apply to this program after completing prerequisites with a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5.

Appalachian State University View School Profile $$ Boone, NC 72% 48% Appalachian State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

With more than 20,000 students enrolled each year, Appalachian offers over 150 programs on their campus in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Appalachian offers a bachelor of social work degree program. Courses examine the American social welfare system, cultural competence in the helping professions, and basic skills for the social work profession.

Students must complete 120 credits to graduate.

This degree program requires no special admission process, but students should have at least a 2.0 GPA when declaring this major.

Ohio State University View School Profile $$$ Columbus, OH 84% 38% The Ohio State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Founded in 1873, Ohio State conferred an engineering degree to its first woman student just six years later.

Ohio State offers a bachelor of science in social work degree at its main campus. Courses include engagement and interviewing, professional values and ethics, and social and economic justice.

Students must complete 120 credits to graduate.

First-year applicants should declare a pre-social work major.

The University of West Florida View School Profile $ Pensacola, FL 44% 64% University of West Florida is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Opening in 1967, UWF currently teaches just over 13,000 students.

UWF's bachelor of social work degree program offers students a generalist social work education that prepares students to work in child welfare, mental health centers, and more. Sample courses include human diversity and social justice, policy analysis, and abnormal psychology.

Students must complete 120 credits to graduate.

Students do not typically begin major coursework until the second semester of their junior year, after completing all prerequisite courses.

University of Wisconsin-River Falls View School Profile $$$ River Falls, WI 57% 58% University of Wisconsin River Falls is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Founded in 1874, UWRF offers over 70 degree programs across four colleges. It serves just over 6,000 students each year.

UWRF offers a bachelor of social work degree program taught entirely by licensed social workers. Courses include social welfare policy, advanced interviewing and crisis intervention, and deviant behavior.

Students must complete 121 credits to graduate.

First-year applicants must submit transcripts and may supplement their application with letters of recommendation and/or test scores.

University of Wisconsin-Green Bay View School Profile $$ Green Bay, WI 52% 46% University of Wisconsin Green Bay is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Founded in 1965, UW-Green Bay offers more than 200 degree programs to more than 7,500 students.

Students at UW-Green Bay can earn a bachelor of social work that combines classroom learning, skills labs, and field practicums. Students may choose an optional emphasis in child welfare or substance abuse.

Current UW-Green Bay students may apply to this program during their sophomore year. They must complete at least 48 credits and maintain a GPA of at least 2.5 before beginning major coursework.

University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh View School Profile $$ Oshkosh, WI 53% 43% University of Wisconsin Oshkosh is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Founded in 1871 as a normal school for teachers, UW-Oshkosh joined the UW System 100 years later in 1971.

UW-Oshkosh offers a bachelor of social work degree program with a strong emphasis on field placement. Courses include teamwork and interprofessional practice in social work, research in social services, and diversity and social justice.

Students must complete 120 credits to graduate.

Formal admission to the BSW program takes place in the student's junior year. Applicants must complete social work gateway courses to be considered for the program.

Auburn University View School Profile $$$$ Auburn, AL 78% 32% Auburn University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Originally chartered in 1856 as the East Alabama Male College, Auburn currently teaches more than 25,000 students.

Students can earn a bachelor of arts in social work at Auburn. Sample courses include aging issues and services, child welfare, and addictions. The program also requires a 480-hour practicum.

Students must complete 120 credits and earn a 2.5 GPA in all major courses to graduate.

Current Auburn students interested in entering this degree program must submit transcripts showing completion of prerequisite courses with a GPA of 2.5 or higher.

Bachelor's in Social Work Programs Ranking Guidelines

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

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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 Practice: This course covers common social work environments, the skills required for specialist and generalist social work, and the core values of the field. Students explore the modern social service system and different models for providing social work services. The course also covers topics like levels of intervention, theoretical social work foundations, and client services.
  • Social Service Delivery Systems: This course introduces social work majors to U.S. social policy and service delivery systems. Students learn about social services, mental health, and healthcare systems, with an emphasis on the historical development of these systems and their current challenges. The course also addresses specialized social services for distinct populations, such as the elderly and children.
  • Human Behavior in the Social Environment: This course covers the development of social environments and human behavior within those environments. Students examine the role of culture in shaping individual values, worldviews, and beliefs with a focus on the way society shapes personal identity. The course also explores human development across the lifespan.

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.

Social Work Professional Organizations

CSWA offers professional support, advocacy, and resources for clinical social workers. Members include licensed clinical social workers, new professionals who earned their degrees within the past four years, and social work students. Members can access to up-to-date clinical information, an exclusive job board, and free consultations on legal and ethical questions. The association also offers a therapist finder for patients.

A professional organization for school social workers, SSWAA hosts a national conference with professional development and networking opportunities. Members have access to professional discounts, industry newsletters, and advocacy and support services. The association's website also offers practice tools, position papers, and articles for school social workers. The SSWAA webinar series provides educational content for both members and nonmembers.

Founded in 1955, NASW represents more social workers than any other professional membership organization in the world. The group develops professional standards, advocates for social policies, and promotes professional growth opportunities. Membership benefits include free and discounted continuing education, practice support, access to an online research library, and automatic chapter membership.

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.

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