An online Social Work degree provides you the opportunity to obtain an entry-level position in social work, with positions such as a mental health assistant, group home worker, residential counselor, program coordinator, etc. Organizations employing bachelor’s level practitioners include the Department of Social Services, county health agencies, home health agencies, group homes, nursing homes and more.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 16% increase in social worker employment between 2016 and 2026. This is much faster than the 7% projected growth rate for all occupations. Analysts expect the field to gain nearly 110,000 new positions during this period.
Some social workers perform entry-level administrative duties, while others interact regularly with clients. Both positions typically require a bachelor’s degree. A bachelor of social work (BSW) can also be a stepping stone to earning a master’s degree, which most clinical social work positions require.
In addition to traditional on-campus programs, many colleges and universities offer online social work degrees.
Choosing a Program
Most students spend approximately four years earning a social work degree online. Although program length varies, most require approximately 120 credits.
Coursework for an online social work degree typically addresses issues such as human behavior, child welfare, and community organization. Students may also study social work policy and statistics. Some online social work programs encourage BSW students to select a concentration, such as criminal justice, healthcare, or addiction.
Students pursuing a social worker degree online usually complete a supervised practicum in lieu of a final capstone or research project. Practicums allow learners to apply new knowledge and skills to real-life social work settings. Practicum lengths vary by school, but most students spend between 400 and 600 hours in the field.
For career information, skip down:
Bachelor in Social Work degree
Bachelor in Social Work (BSW) degree programs prepare graduates for entry-level social work practice or to pursue a Master’s degree in Social Work. The programs typically provide preparation for the generalist social worker.
Online Social Work programs often feature a strong liberal arts foundation as well as practical social work experience. While completing the program, students hone their critical-thinking and analytical skills — and learn to use those skills to improve people’s quality of life and well-being.
Online schools for Social Work typically include coursework in social welfare policy, human behavior, research methods, diversity, social policy, ethics and treatment/interventions. Also, students usually have opportunities to take seminars in areas of interest.
Students can earn their degree in Social Work mostly or entirely online — although some programs do include face-to-face sessions. Undergraduate Social Work programs also include at least 400 hours of field experience (typically in a social service agency), which helps students develop practical skills and apply theory and knowledge in real-life practical settings.
Some programs allow students to tailor the degree program with minors in sociology or chemical dependency — or earn certificates in alcohol and drug counseling, or school social work.
Accredited Social Work Degree Programs
The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) provides accreditation to programs which meet a set of rigorous standards, designed by social work practitioners and educators to ensure programs adequately prepare students for professional practice. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation recognizes the CSWE as the only accrediting agency for social work education in the United States.
The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and social work licensing laws in most states require graduates to earn their degrees from CSWE-accredited programs.
Important note: Students who hold a Social Work degree online from a CSWE accredited program may receive advanced standing in a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree program. Advanced standing can reduce graduate requirements to one year. The typical Master in Social Work degree program consists of the equivalent of two years of full-time study. BSW degree program graduates do not have to attend the same school to obtain advanced standing status in a MSW degree program.
Social Worker License
Many states license baccalaureate social workers. If a state does not have a license for baccalaureate social workers, it doesn’t necessarily mean the state prohibits practice.
Every state has adopted Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) licensing examinations. The four levels are bachelor, master, clinical and advanced generalist. Some states use all four exams, whereas some states require only one exam. Look for social work license requirements by state.
The National Association of Social Workers’ ACSW certification is not the same as licensing, rather it typically indicates accomplishment. However, some states have indicated they accept the credential as evidence a candidate has met their own supervised practice requirements.
The National Association of Social Workers provides specialty certifications at the bachelor’s level.
See also: What can I do with a Social Work degree?
Online Bachelor’s in Social Work Degree Program Ranking Guidelines
We selected the degree programs based on the quality of program and range of courses provided, as well as school awards, rankings, and reputation.
What Are the Best Online Bachelor’s in Social Work Programs?
1. Troy University
A comprehensive public institution in southern Alabama, Troy University boasts a popular virtual campus. The school hosts dozens of programs online, from the undergraduate to the doctoral levels, including an online degree in social work. Built using standards set by the industry-leading Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), Troy’s undergraduate program in social services lays the groundwork for a career in the profession or for graduate study.
Troy’s online bachelor’s in social work requires students to earn a total of 120 credits. Degree candidates must complete the school’s general education program in addition to earning 27 credits in the social work core and 25 more in the social work professional program. Troy recommends that undergraduates declare their major as early as possible to give them time to earn the required credits for admission into the social work program. Individuals must maintain a GPA of 2.25 or higher on their first 30 credits to enter the program. Faculty deliver most coursework asynchronously.
Distance learners progress through advanced topics in their junior and senior years, preparing them for generalist social work practice. Courses include a seminar and a practicum, which requires students to spend 400 hours working at a social work agency, gaining valuable professional experience.
Admission to Troy requires a high school diploma or GED certificate. The university accepts transfer credits earned with a 2.0 GPA or better from an accredited college or university. All online students pay the same flat-rate tuition.
Troy University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). The online social work program is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
2. University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, North Dakota
The flagship public institution of higher learning in the state, the University of North Dakota offers an online social work degree in the form of a bachelor of science in social work. This degree track prepares students for initial licensure in the field. UND designed this program for distance learners with associate degrees or some college credit; however, students without previous college experience can still earn most their credits online. The program requires students to visit campus once during their studies; this visit is usually carried out in their first semester.
UND’s 39-credit social work program readies students for careers at social work agencies, hospitals, mental health centers, and community health centers. The curriculum revolves around live weekly web classes, typically held on Tuesday or Thursday evenings. It includes coursework in human behavior and the social environment, social policy, and research methods. All degree candidates must complete a 450-hour practicum in the field in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, eastern Montana, or southern Manitoba.
Admission to the program requires an overall undergraduate GPA of 2.75 and compliance with the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics. Students should also hold at least 45 credits before they apply. All distance learners pay in-state tuition.
The University of North Dakota is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The online social work program is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
3. Indiana Wesleyan University
Indiana Wesleyan University is a private, evangelical Christian school based in the city of Marion. The university integrates its Christian convictions into its online degree in social work. This program takes a generalist approach, readying graduates for licensure in any state or to pursue an advanced degree in a master’s programs.
Students enrolled in this online bachelor’s in social work program enter a supportive cohort and progress through the curriculum with their peers. Learners take courses one at a time in succession. Classes cover topics such as psychology, sociology, social welfare organizations, social policy, statistics, and human behavior and the social environment.
Distance learners must earn 120 total credits, including 30 in general education. Participants need to maintain a GPA of 2.5 or higher throughout the length of the program and earn at least a 2.75 in all in-major classes. Additionally, accumulate 400 hours of supervised field experience before earning their diploma.
Admission into the program requires a high school diploma or GED certificate. Indiana Wesleyan requires applicants to complete at least 45 transferable credits before beginning the bachelor’s core. Students may earn up to 40 credits using the school’s prior learning assessment tool. All online learners pay the same flat-rate tuition.
Indiana Wesleyan University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The social work program is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
4. Northwestern State University of Louisiana
Set on a hill overlooking the port of Natchitoches, Northwestern State University of Louisiana hosts an online social work degree as part of its eNSU Global Campus. A mid-sized public university, NSU designed its social work program as a generalist degree, preparing graduates for direct entry into a variety of social work positions.
The 120-credit curriculum typically takes full-time distance learners four years to complete. Degree candidates must fulfill all of the university’s general requirements, which is typically done during the first two years of the program. The curriculum covers all aspects of social work, investigating policy, individual and group dynamics, cultural diversity, social research, interview techniques, and even economics of the field. Students may complete a mandatory practicum in one semester or across a whole year. Most classes run asynchronously. The university schedules courses in accelerated, eight-week sessions in the fall and spring and in four- and eight-week terms in the summer.
Students at NSU can earn credit for work and life experiences using the school’s prior learning assessment tool. The university boasts a generous transfer policy, but all degree candidates must earn at least 25% of their required credits through NSU. All online students pay a flat-rate tuition.
Northwestern State University of Louisiana is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). The online BSW program is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
5. Northern Arizona University
Located in the city of Flagstaff, Northern Arizona University is a large public institution with an active digital campus — NAU Online. The school offers 80 programs to distance learners, including an online degree in social work. This program grounds students in the basics of social services and allows them to customize their degree with cognate areas in ethnicity, gender, human biology, social and economic justice, and the human populations of the Southwest. The degree also emphasizes working with rural indigenous peoples of the region.
NAU’s curriculum requires students to complete 120 credits and includes courses in liberal studies, diversity, writing, and a capstone project. The social work major consists of 75 credits, 30 of which must be upper-division classwork. Half of the program’s curriculum consists of professional courses. Because of the advanced nature of these classes, graduates leave with a significant number of master’s-level credits.
Students must maintain a cumulative 2.0 GPA or higher while progressing through the program. Most classes run asynchronously, and NAU allows degree candidates to apply as many as 64 transfer credits toward online social work programs. Distance learners pay a flat-rate tuition.
Northern Arizona University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The online BSW program is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
6. The University of Tennessee
One of the nation’s oldest institutions of higher learning, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville offers distance learners the opportunity to pursue both their bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work at the same time. The five-year master’s program allows students with high GPAs to take graduate level work during the senior year of their undergraduate studies. By adding 37 extra credits to their bachelor’s curriculum, learners can graduate with a master’s degree. The program can be completed entirely online and requires no trips to Knoxville.
The curriculum of UNT’s online social work program emphasize the importance of empowering people, advocating for social justice, and working against the oppression of diverse and vulnerable populations. It allows students to concentrate on evidence-based interpersonal practice or organizational leadership. The former is a clinical specialization that explores interventions and group work, where students learn to promote mental health and social functioning using evidence-based practices.
Alternatively, in the organizational leadership focus, degree seekers develop management skills and study policy and socioeconomics, readying them for careers at the helm of nonprofits and social service agencies. UNT’s college of social work utilizes both real-time and asynchronous formats to deliver classwork.
All degree candidates must also complete a field practicum. The university arranges placement for distance learners, endeavoring to minimize travel. Students spend either two or four semesters working for hospitals, shelters, nursing homes, and/or state agencies. Program participants must maintain an overall 3.5 GPA or higher and earn a “B+” or better on all required social work classwork.
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). The online BSW program is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
7. University of Nebraska at Kearney
Founded as a teacher’s college in the early 20th century, the University of Nebraska at Kearney has grown into a popular regional public university. UNK hosts a comprehensive online social work degree through its eCampus. This 120-credit program prepares distance learners to either immediately enter the workforce upon graduation or to matriculate into a master’s program.
The course of study at UNK is broken into four parts, including 45 general studies credits, 48 credits in major-related courses, 36 credits in other required courses, and 24 credits of unrestricted electives. Students can utilize these free courses to tailor their education to match their academic and career interests. For example, participants can focus on disabilities, mental health, or child services. The program also features two field placements and a senior social work seminar. UNK’s eCampus delivers coursework asynchronously, and the university recommends distance learners allocate 9–12 hours per week, per course.
UNK asks applicants to submit high school transcripts or GED certificates and their SAT or ACT scores. The university accepts up to 66 transfer credits from approved colleges or universities on classes passed with a “C” or better.
The University of Nebraska at Kearney is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The school’s online social work programs are fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
8. Brandman University
A private nonprofit founded in 1958 to provide educational opportunities to adults and nontraditional learners, Brandman University boasts more than 25 learning centers across California and Washington. The school also features a dedicated digital campus. Based in the greater Los Angeles area, the university offers online social work degrees that emphasize practical experience. Students delve into the social, political, and cultural roots of social services and build skills in organizational dynamics and technology to help serve diverse communities.
The curriculum of Brandman’s online bachelor’s in social work splits into three main parts. Students must earn 42 credits of core requirements, 48 credits of social work electives, and 18 credits related to a minor core. Learners typically use their elective and minor selections to focus their studies on an area that aligns with their career goals. Options include diversity, victim advocacy, child abuse and at-risk youth, domestic violence, working with the military, and drug and alcohol treatment.
Professors at Brandman format their classes asynchronously to provide increased scheduling flexibility. Coursework explores social welfare, human behavior, and policy, including half a dozen classes focused on social work practice. Degree candidates must also accrue 400 hours in the field by working at a social service agency, fulfilling three practicum requirements.
Admission requires 12 or more transfer credits, a minimum 2.0 GPA, and submission of college transcripts. All undergraduate distance learners pay the same flat-rate tuition, and active duty military members receive a dramatic discount.
Brandman University is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). Brandman University’s Bachelor of Arts in Social Work program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
9. King University
King University is a private, Presbyterian institution set in Bristol, Tennessee. The university offers a social work degree online in keeping with its Christian, faith-based mission, training prospective social workers to be ethical and competent generalists with a commitment to public service.
The social work curriculum consists of 52 credits, progressing through courses in research and evaluation, diversity, human behavior, generalist practice, family and group practice, community organization, and policy. Distance learners also complete an integrative practice course that accounts for 12 credits.
To complete this program, students accrue 124 total credits, including coursework in foundations of Christian thought and practice. Learners can earn all major-related credits in as few as 16 months, working entirely online in accelerated, five-week sessions. Most classes run asynchronously. To graduate, degree candidates also need to pass the program’s comprehensive exam and the university’s general studies test (i.e., the Outcomes Assessment at King).
Degree candidates must hold at least 45 credits to matriculate into the social work program, and the school accepts up to 76 transfer credits toward undergraduate degrees. Those who do not have enough credits can enroll in King’s pathway program, which fulfills most of the university’s general studies requirements. King offers multiple start dates and schedules classes year round, allowing students to graduate more quickly.
The university requires a high school diploma or GED certificate for admission. Accepted students must also submit their ACT scores.
King University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). The online bachelor’s in social work program is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
10. Brescia University
Brescia University is a small Catholic school based in Owensboro, Kentucky. Its online bachelor’s degree in social work is one of the its most popular programs. This degree-completion program requires applicants to have at least 45 college credits to gain admission. Individual’s without the necessary credits can obtain these by earning the school’s associate in human services degree.
This program requires students to earn a total of 128 credits. Distance learners who start with their general education credits completed can fulfill all requirements for their bachelor’s degree in two years or fewer. Besides the general studies curriculum, the program has two prerequisites: American government and introduction to sociology. The university hosts most classes in accelerated, eight-week sessions. Students can complete most work asynchronously.
The social work curriculum requires students to progress through 11 classes in subjects such as ethical social work, social policy, human behavior, social research, and issues in diversity and aging. All degree candidates must also complete two field practica carried out at social welfare agencies.
To be admitted, students must already hold 45–86 transferable credits. All distance learners pay the same flat-rate tuition. Brescia provides five start dates throughout the year, allowing students to join the program at their convenience.
Brescia University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). The online BSW program is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
11. University of Utah
Salt Lake City, Utah
Based in Salt Lake City, the University of Utah is the flagship institution of higher learning in the state. Known for research and innovation, the large public university is home to a burgeoning online campus. “The U,” as students call it, boasts hundreds of online courses and several degree programs. Students can earn a social worker degree online that empowers them to help improve the lives of marginalized people. The program trains participants to become agents of change in communities and organizations, working toward social justice.
The program requires degree seekers to complete 48 credits and a field internship. Distance learners can earn all required credits asynchronously and finish all major-related coursework in 4–4 semesters. To graduate on time, participants enroll in 3–4 classes per term. The University of Utah’s curriculum emphasizes working with diverse communities, including people of color, indigenous peoples, refugees, and LGBTQ individuals. Coursework explores human behavior, cultural understanding, research, evaluation, and welfare policy.
Applicants must submit collegiate transcripts and SAT or ACT scores. Candidates with fewer than 30 college-level credits should also send in their high school transcripts. The university’s BSW program enjoys its own grant, which goes toward social workers interested in working with children. This award pays for all 48 major-related credits and includes a $1,100 stipend.
The University of Utah is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). The BSW program is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
12. Spring Arbor University
Spring Arbor, Michigan
A small Christian school in the Michigan community of the same name, Spring Arbor University is an online leader among Bible-based universities. The evangelical institution provides supportive, Christ-honoring degrees through the internet. More than 50% of the student body is composed of adult and nontraditional learners, many of whom attend courses online. Spring Arbor offers an online social work degree rooted in its Christian principles. The program bases its premise on the idea that Jesus was the first social worker, and today’s students simply continue in his footsteps. Learners can complete all required credits online.
Spring Arbor’s online social work degree readies distance learners to work with diverse populations in locations around the country. The 43-credit curriculum trains participants about how people interact with their environments, teaching them the techniques to intervene and help in appropriate ways when necessary. The university assigns each student a mentor, who shepherds participants through the curriculum and their two field placements. Michigan residents can qualify for child welfare endorsements. Additionally, the program recently began teaching coursework that focus on combating human trafficking.
Applicants must submit previous college transcripts or high school records and their SAT or ACT scores. Spring Arbor prefers candidates with a GPA of 2.6 or better, although students with lower GPAs may be admitted on a conditional basis.
Spring Arbor University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The online BSW program is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
13. Eastern New Mexico University
Portales, New Mexico
Set in the small city of Portales, Eastern New Mexico university is the state’s largest regional comprehensive institution of higher learning. ENMU offers more than 30 degrees on its virtual campus, including an online social work program. This 61-credit program trains participants to be ethical, compassionate, and effective practitioners. Degree candidates can earn all required credits on the web, and the program requires no visits to New Mexico.
ENMU’s curriculum revolves around 21 courses in subjects that include social research, public child welfare, policy, and Southwest people and cultures. Professors mix asynchronous components (e.g., readings, lectures, assignments, and labs) with real-time, online discussions and group projects. Students must maintain a 2.0 GPA or better throughout the program. Learners must also complete two field seminars and two field placements totaling 480 hours. In addition to the social work requirements, distance learners earn 38 general education credits.
Candidates for admission must send transcripts from previous colleges or high schools, a 500-word essay describing why they want to be a social worker, and three letters of recommendation. The university schedules interviews with qualified candidates.
Eastern New Mexico University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The online BSW program is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
14. Huntington University
Huntington University is a small Bible school of about 1,300 students with campuses in Huntington, Indiana and Peoria, Arizona. Affiliated with the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, the school offers a handful of adult degree programs through the internet. Although small — with only 79 total students currently enrolled — these programs enjoy good reputations. Huntington’s online social work degree is a hybrid program, merging accelerated, asynchronous web-based classes with on-campus intensive workshops. The university’s small size leads to increased personal interactions with professors, and most classes have an 8-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.
Huntington’s Christ-centered social work program emphasizes the foundational values of the social work profession, including ethical service, social justice, and the dignity and worth of every individual. The program leads toward licensure in every state. In addition to completing field programs during their course of study, distance learners also engage in community service projects — a longstanding tradition of the university. Social work students fulfill three social work field practica and an intercultural immersion. Learners must maintain a 2.0 GPA or higher while working through their classes.
Undergraduates at Huntington must also complete several faith-informed values courses as well as traditional liberal arts general education classes. A bachelor’s degree requires 128 total credits, of which the social work program comprises 66. Students may transfer in credits, but the university requires degree candidates to earn at least 30 credits at Huntington to qualify for a degree.
Huntington University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The online BSW program is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
15. Bemidji State University
Located on the shores of Lake Bemidji in northern Minnesota, Bemidji State University is part of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. This institution offers a social work degree online as part of its extended learning curriculum. BSU refers to this program as SWIM — the Social Work Integrated Model — and hosts it as a hybrid program. The 69-credit curriculum combines largely asynchronous, web-based learning with visits to Bemidji for one Saturday each month. To gain admission, students must hold an associate degree and a GPA of 2.25 or higher.
BSU’s online social work degree follows a generalist curriculum that highlights the region’s cultural heritage. The school houses an American Indian resource center since members of the Chippewa tribe lived on the lake, and many tribal organizations still function in the area. The cohort-based program trains students to work in micro, mezzo, and macro social work, teaching graduates to counsel individuals, groups, and whole communities, respectively. The program is limited to 20 students and lasts six semesters.
Degree candidates must fulfill credit requirements in core courses, supporting foundation courses, and a diversity class. They also complete an internship in the field. In addition to its bachelor’s degree, the university’s department of social work offers a minor in substance abuse and addictions, an alcohol and drug counselor certificate, and a certificate in licensure preparation.
New cohorts begin every two years, with the next available opening in 2020; BSU will accept applications in late 2019 for this program.
Bemidji State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The online BSW program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
16. California State University, Chico
California State University, Chico is the second-largest school in the California State University system. Located in the northern Sacramento Valley, the university hosts an online social work degree that functions as a hybrid, degree-completion program. Aimed primarily at residents of northern California who can attend required classes in Chico twice a semester, the program takes full-time students two years to complete. Part-time distance learners typically finish in three years.
Chico State designed this program for degree candidates who already hold two years’ worth of credits. Sixty-six percent of coursework is completed asynchronously online, while the remainder is carried out on-campus or in the field. Most students complete required internships at locations in northern California; the university does allow online students to pursue their field placement elsewhere, but they must submit a formal request. Additionally, many participants fulfill this requirement at their places of employment. Chico State also requires all students to carry out 60 hours of community service.
Learners work with social work coaches who help them set and meet academic goals. These mentors typically hold master’s degree in the field and serve as social work professionals, providing advice and assistance related to course selection, field placements, and other issues. Applicants to the program should hold 60 or more transferable credits, including 30 credits of general education classes.
California State University, Chico is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). The online BSW program is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
17. Union Institute and University
Founded in 1964 to educate adult learners, Union Institute and University has long been a pioneer in nontraditional and distance education. From its base in Cincinnati, Ohio, the private university offers several web-delivered degree programs. These include online social work programs that build on the school’s traditions of providing progressive educations. The school’s bachelor of science in social work is a generalist degree that readies students for careers in healthcare, mental health, human services, corrections, addiction recovery, and juvenile justice. The program stresses critical thinking, problem solving, and leadership skills. Distance learners can enroll full- or part-time and complete most classes asynchronously.
To earn a bachelor’s degree at Union, degree candidates need to complete 120 credits. The social work curriculum includes 48 credits in such subjects as ethical issues, human behavior, multiculturalism, research methods, and policy. In addition, students learn techniques for working with individuals, families, groups, and communities. New classes begin every eight weeks. All students must also serve 400 hours in the field; participants generally complete this requirement while taking the program’s field integration seminar.
Union accepts up to 90 transfer credits from approved university programs, and the school charges a flat-rate tuition to all online learners.
The Union Institute & University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The online BSW program is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
18. Aurora University
Located 40 miles from Chicago, Illinois, Aurora University offers the region’s only CSWE-accredited, web-based BSW program. The private liberal arts institution serves as one of the nation’s best online schools for social work. This 120-credit program readies graduates to take Illinois' licensure exam and allows them to apply to master’s programs with advanced standing.
The major curriculum of AU’s online bachelor’s in social work consists of 40 credits, and most participants earn their bachelor’s degree in four years. Classes run for eight weeks, and most professors conduct classes asynchronously. Coursework covers human behavior in the social environment and social welfare. Instructors create a supportive atmosphere and serve as advisers, mentors, and coaches.
All degree candidates must also fulfill AU’s general education requirements, and prerequisite classes for the social work degree include introduction to U.S. government, general psychology, and principles of sociology. Students also carry out two required field seminars.
All distance learners at AU pay the same flat-rate tuition. Students can apply as first-time freshmen, transfer students, or adult degree-completion candidates. The university admits students on a rolling basis.
Aurora University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The online BSW program is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
19. Metropolitan State University of Denver
Also known as MSU Denver, Metropolitan State University of Denver offers a full array of liberal arts and sciences undergraduate degree programs, including an online Bachelor of Science in Social Work through its Department of Social Work.
The online BSW consists of 120 credits total, with 60 of them in the major. Students engage with a curriculum covers fundamental concepts of social work, developing the knowledge and skills necessary make a difference through mediating personal, interpersonal, and societal issues. Students emerge from the program prepared to act as advocates for their clients.
To complete the program, students engage in a blend of asynchronous courses and activities, such as exams, pre-recorded lectures, and discussion boards, alongside synchronous activities, such as live-streaming lectures, and one-on-one conferences with instructors and mentors.
For admission, students must apply to the program in the semester before they intend to begin the online BSW curriculum, and must have completed all prerequisite coursework.
The online BSW program is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Accreditation (CSWE). Metropolitan State University of Denver is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
20. Campbellsville University
A private, non-profit, Baptist institution, Campbellsville University has been promoting higher education and Christian values since 1906. The university offers a variety undergraduate and graduate degree programs, including an online Bachelor of Social Work degree program.
The online BSW requires a total of 120 credit hours for completion, with 57 credit hours devoted to the major. Students engage with a blend of core and elective coursework, covering key subjects such as social policy, human development, human rights, and human diversity. The program emphasizes an understanding of social work professions through a Christian worldview.
The courses utilize an eight-week schedule, and the program may be completed in as few as two years, depending on how many credits students transfer in.
For admission, students submit official transcripts of all previous educational experience, as well as a Carver School of Social Work application, three letters of reference, and a personal essay.
The online BSW program is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Accreditation (CSWE). Campbellsville University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
21. Limestone College
Gaffney, South Carolina
Since 1845, Limestone College, a private, non-profit liberal arts college has offered a wide selection of two-year and four-year undergraduate degree programs. Among Limestone’s offerings are business degrees, science degree, criminal justice degrees, and an online Bachelor of Social Work degree program.
The online BSW at Limestone College requires a total of 123 credit hours for completion. The curriculum includes an full overview of social work fundamentals, including the history and current state of the profession, social work policy, human behavior, human sexuality, intervention, and practice in culturally diverse settings. Students prepare to pursue careers such as industrial social worker, hospice social worker, gerontologist, and homeless shelter worker.
In addition to the coursework, students must complete a 400 hour supervised field practicum.
The online BSW program is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Accreditation (CSWE). Limestone College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
22. Briar Cliff University
Sioux City, Iowa
Briar Cliff University, a private, non-profit, Roman Catholic Institution has dedicated itself to providing comprehensive liberal arts education programs based in Catholic values since 1930. Among a variety of associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs, the university offers an online Bachelor of Social Work degree program.
The online BSW is a degree completion program, designed to meet the needs of students who have already completed their general requirements. The program consists of 47 credit hours of upper-level coursework, a 450-hour internship (local to the student), and one-on-one mentorship meetings. The curriculum covers key topics in social work, including history and state of the field, research methods, social issues, theory and practice, and community organization.
For admission to the program, students must have an associate’s degree in a relevant field of study, or a minimum of 77 transferable credits, as well as official transcripts and two letter of recommendation.
The online BSW program is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Accreditation (CSWE). Briar Cliff University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
23. Western New Mexico University
Silver City, New Mexico
Western New Mexico University, a public, non-profit university established in 1893, offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate degree programs, including an online Bachelor of Social Work.
The online BSW program consists of 120 credit hours, with 53 devoted to the major. The curriculum blends social work theory and practice, through courses in areas such as social welfare policy, research, diversity in social work, and ethics, as well as a field practicum component. Students develop a strong foundation of knowledge and skills necessary for careers such as community organizer, institutional social worker, child social worker, and elderly social worker.
Applicants for the program must have a minimum 2.5 GPA.
The online BSW program is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Accreditation (CSWE). Western New Mexico University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
24. St. Joseph’s College of Maine
Not to be confused with Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, Saint Joseph’s College is a small, Catholic, liberal arts school located near Portland, Maine. The college boasts a strong internet presence, hosting dozens of degree programs online. Students can pursue a social worker degree online that leads to immediate licensure in Maine. Distance learners can pursue all of the 120 required credits from the comfort of their homes, taking most courses through an asynchronous format.
Saint Joseph’s bachelor’s degree in social work follows a generalist curriculum, readying students for careers in the social services or for further study in a master’s program. Coursework explores human behavior, policy, research, theory, and practical application. The program emphasizes experiential learning, requiring the completion of two field placements, one of which extends for a full year. The college’s field directors help students find approved agencies nearby. To distinguish themselves to future employers, Saint Joseph’s encourages students to add a second major in a related field or consider the social service professional minor.
Degree candidates enter into a cohort and work through the program with the same group of classmates. The student-to-faculty ratio is 14-to-1, and the college provides opportunities for networking through its Phi Alpha National Honor Society in social work and its affiliation with the National Association of Social Workers.
Admission into the program requires a high school diploma or GED certificate, but the college does not require SAT or ACT scores. All online students in the social work program pay a flat-rate tuition.
Saint Joseph’s College is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). The online BSW program is in candidacy for accreditation by the Council on Social Work Accreditation (CSWE).
25. Liberty University Online
Liberty University is an accredited nonprofit evangelical university that has been paving the way in distance education for more than 30 years. Liberty now offers more than 250 online programs, including an Online Bachelor of Science in Social Work. The program focuses on teaching students how to evaluate and offer healing hope to communities, groups, families, individuals, and organizations.
Liberty’s online BSW uses field-tested techniques to train students in assessment, intervention, and counseling, preparing each student for a career as a practicing human services professional able to work in and with diverse communities. Students will also gain knowledge of human psychology, empowering them to help individuals, families, and groups from a variety of ages and backgrounds. Students are able to learn under practicing agents by completing field placements in their area, allowing them to gain real-world experience.
Liberty’s online bachelor’s degree in social work is a 120-credit program, which includes one three-credit-hour-intensive and two three-credit-hour field placements. The program takes an average of three-and-a-half years to complete. Liberty allows up to 90 eligible credit hours to be transferred. Liberty has frozen their tuition rates for the past three years and provides free electronic textbooks for all of their undergraduate courses.
Applicants must have a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or above, submit an admission application, college transcripts, a high school self-certification form, and proof of proficiency in English.
Liberty University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). The online BSW program is in candidacy for accreditation by the Council on Social Work Accreditation (CSWE).
What Will I Learn in an Online Bachelor’s in Social Work Program?
Specific coursework requirements differ between schools, but most online social work programs address the same major themes. Students earning an online social work degree often take courses similar to those listed below.
Social workers respond to the needs of people who experience social problems and address the stress the problems create. With an interest in diversity in sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity, age, class and race, social work professionals help people, groups and communities identify needs and use assets and strengths to fulfill those needs.
Baccalaureate social workers often perform case management and intake work as well as connect people with resources in their community. They may have a role in community organization or program management.
Baccalaureate social workers might have permission to provide counseling in some situations when it relates to life adjustment and decision making. Baccalaureate social workers typically have a ban on private practice, however, some states allow private practice for baccalaureate social workers who are working within their acceptable range of practice. This work may have a connection to a supervised practice requirement.
- Diversity and multiculturalism: A keen understanding of diversity and social justice issues is crucial for social workers, who serve people from all walks of life. This course examines theories and concepts related to social, economic, and environmental justice. Students also consider how oppression and discrimination affect different populations.
- Community organization: This course explores the intersection of social work and community outreach. Students examine historical approaches to community organization within social work. They also consider strategies to facilitate community-based capacity building, empowerment, and social justice initiatives.
- Social work practice with individuals and families: Most social workers meet with individuals and families regularly. In this course, learners study the approaches that social work generalists use for client engagement, evaluation, and intervention. Coursework also includes trial practices and mock interviews to prepare students for real-world client interaction.
Online Bachelor’s in Social Work Careers
After earning a social work degree online, graduates pursue careers as clinical case workers, desk-based administrators, and mental health assistants.
To become a clinical social worker, students must earn a master’s degree and obtain licensure. However, a bachelor’s is sufficient for other positions. An online social work degree prepares students for occupations including those listed below.
Child and Family Social Worker: These professionals assist vulnerable children and low-income families. They help clients secure housing and apply for benefits such as food stamps. They may stage interventions when children are neglected or abused. Some of these social workers also help coordinate adoptions and foster care placements.
- Median Annual Salary: $44,380
- Projected Growth Rate: 14%
Healthcare Social Worker: These workers adjust patients' treatment plans based on medical diagnoses. They help clients transition from hospital to home, find patient support groups, and coordinate care plans with physician input. Some healthcare social workers specialize in assisting certain patient groups, such as the elderly.
- Median Annual Salary: $54,870
- Projected Growth Rate: 20%
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker: These professionals help clients confront mental illness and addiction. They facilitate recovery by connecting clients to treatment resources, support groups, and counselors.
- Median Annual Salary: $43,250
- Projected Growth Rate: 19%
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Accreditation for Online Bachelor’s in Social Work Degrees
Before enrolling in an online social work program, students should verify the school’s accreditation status. Accreditation is a comprehensive evaluation process that most colleges and universities undergo voluntarily. For BSW seekers to qualify for federal financial aid, they must pursue an online degree in social work through an accredited school. Additionally, students cannot transfer credits from unaccredited schools.
Regional and national accreditors assess institutions' academic quality and rigor according to rigid standards. Six regional organizations accredit U.S. colleges and universities. Academically oriented, nonprofit institutions usually possess regional accreditation. These schools must meet a higher standard than nationally accredited programs and therefore do not accept their transfer credits.
National accreditation, on the other hand, is most common among for-profit schools that offer vocational and technical training. Ten national accreditors exist in the U.S. Among these is the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, which evaluates online programs.
Social Work Professional Organizations
Professional associations can be a valuable resource for BSW students and graduates. These organizations host training programs, national conferences, and networking events. Many also provide members with research access and job search assistance. Associations sometimes offer discounted membership rates to students and early-career social workers.
Students pursuing a social work degree online may join one of the organizations listed below.
- National Association of Social Workers: NASW supports ongoing professional growth for social workers and advocates sensible social policies. It offers training through webinars, podcasts, and conferences. Members participate in specialty practice sections. NASW recognizes high-achieving social workers through professional credentialing. Students and early-career professionals may receive a membership discount.
- National Association of Black Social Workers: Founded during the civil rights movement, NABSW advances social justice and human development worldwide. Members access publication archives, recommend policy changes through standing committees, solve global problems through specialized task forces, and attend international conferences. NABSW’s online career center helps black social workers find employment.
- School Social Work Association of America: SSWAA posits that school social work is integral to students' social, emotional, and academic success. It promotes evidenced-based practices, provides online professional development opportunities, and maintains international partnerships. Members attend annual conferences, access school social work research, and promote the field through SSWAA materials.