A social work degree at the bachelor's level allows you to compete for entry-level, non-clinical roles in myriad professional settings.
Whether you hope to work as a case management aide at a children's hospital, a probation officer at a county prison, or a behavioral management aide at a school, a bachelor of social work online can help you achieve that goal.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that roles for social workers will grow 13% between 2019 and 2029 — much faster than the national average for all occupations. Approximately 81,000 new roles should be created during this timeframe.
|#1||University of North Dakota Grand Forks, ND|
|#2||Troy University Troy, AL|
|#3||Misericordia University Dallas, PA|
|#4||Brandman University Irvine, CA|
|#5||Liberty University Lynchburg, VA|
|#6||Angelo State University San Angelo, TX|
|#7||Bemidji State University Bemidji, MN|
|#8||University of Louisville Louisville, KY|
|#9||Aurora University Aurora, IL|
|#10||Huntington University Huntington, IN|
Featured Online Schools
The Best Online Bachelor's in Social Work Programs
A public university founded in 1883, UND offers an online bachelor of science in social work. Students choose from three annual start dates and can finish the 120-credit degree in 2-4 years, depending on transfer credits.
Major courses include an introduction to social work, social policy, and social research. Students may also choose to minor in related academic fields, such as gerontology or chemical dependency.
UND recommends applicants possess a minimum GPA of 2.75 to apply. Students do not need to submit standardized test scores (waived through summer 2022).
First established as a teacher training college in 1887, Troy now boasts over 18,000 students. The school offers an online bachelor of social work.
The 120-credit program includes core requirements such as courses in ethics, diversity, and social policy and planning. Specialized course topics include social work with individuals and families, social work in groups, and a hands-on, 400-hour practicum.
Applicants need a minimum 2.5 cumulative GPA on at least 27-30 undergraduate hours for unconditional departmental admission. Troy requires a minimum GPA of 2.0, a minimum ACT score of 20 (or 1030 RSAT) for unconditional university admission.
Misericordia is a Catholic university established in the tradition of the Sisters of Mercy. It offers an accelerated bachelor of social work designed for adult students.
Students take courses in a half-semester format and complete fieldwork on nights and weekends. Students can finish the program in as few as two years, depending on transfer credits. Course topics include research methods, introduction to social welfare, and social problems.
Applicants must possess a minimum GPA of 2.5, and a minimum SAT score of 930 or ACT score of 18 to qualify for admission. Transfer students must present a 2.0 GPA in previous college courses and 15 transfer credits for eligibility.
Brandman offers an online bachelor of arts in social work. Students can prepare for such careers as child and family social workers, mental health care providers, and gerontologists.
Core course topics include diversity and justice in a global society, social welfare, and social policy. Electives include classes on domestic violence, victim advocacy, and military social work.
Applicants must possess 12 bachelor-level transfer credits (or the equivalent) to qualify for admission. Students must also possess a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0.
Founded in 1971 as a private Christian university, Liberty now boasts a student body of 15,000 annually. Liberty offers an online bachelor of science in social work.
Courses include social work practice with groups and human behavior and the social environment. Students complete fieldwork at an approved location near them. The program offers all coursework online, with one on-campus intensive required.
Applicants may transfer up to 75% of the credits required for the degree. The school also awards credits for military experience. Students must possess a 2.0 cumulative GPA for admission in good standing.
Founded in 1928, ASU offers an online bachelor of social work. Graduates can sit for the licensing exam in the state of Texas.
Students must complete 120 credits and participate in 500 hours of fieldwork. Courses include social work research methods, social work and mental health, and social work and children or families. Students also take courses covering social work and military practice as well as social work in international practice.
Applicants to the program must complete 20 hours of relevant volunteer experience, show 30 credits of previously completed college work, and possess a minimum grade of "C" on the introduction of social work course. Students must also possess a minimum GPA of 2.0 on any courses taken at ASU and a minimum GPA of 2.5 on any previously taken social work courses.
BSU offers programs as part of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system.
BSU's blended learning bachelor of social work happens online with required travel to campus one Saturday per month. Courses include social welfare policy, interpersonal relations, and human behavior in the social environment. Students also complete a 480-hour internship to complete the degree at an approved location selected with an advisor's help.
Students apply to the university first with a minimum ACT score of 21, a top 50% high school class ranking, or a minimum GPA of 2.75 for guaranteed admission. Students then need 30 credits with a minimum GPA of 2.0 to apply to the department.
UofL offers an online bachelor of social work with no campus residency requirements.
Students take courses like social justice practice, issues in policy and service delivery, and an introduction to social work research. An optional drug counseling track opens further career opportunities and includes courses like mental health and special issues in drug and alcohol counseling.
Applicants must possess a minimum GPA of 2.5 and an ACT score of 20 for admission to university lower-division courses. Students must also possess a minimum of 45 transfer credits for upper-division admission.
Founded in 1883, AU offers a private education just 45 minutes from Chicago. AU Online offers a bachelor of social work with an optional child welfare track.
Core social work courses include social welfare institutions and policies, social work research, and a survey of social work. The child welfare track includes courses such as the effects of trauma on children and social work with vulnerable children and families. Students can pursue a child welfare employee license upon graduation.
Applicants must possess at least 60 credits of undergraduate work and a minimum GPA of 2.5 for admission to the department.
A Christian liberal arts college, HU offers an online bachelor of science in social work.
Courses include child welfare, an introduction to addictions, and social work practice. The program includes fieldwork opportunities as well as study abroad terms designed to introduce social work concepts in an international environment. The department also coordinates job shadowing opportunities for students seeking hands-on experience.
The school offers a test-optional application process. The school accepts students on a rolling basis with several start dates per year.
A metropolitan research university serving over 11,000 students, UA Little Rock offers an online bachelor of social work for Arkansas residents.
Students take courses completely online, with a senior-year internship required. Courses include social work and diversity, addictions in social work, statistics for social workers, and an upper-level rhetoric course. Students complete an internship of at least 16 hours per week during the last program year and take field electives in areas like gerontology, psychology, or criminal justice.
Applicants must possess a minimum ACT score of 19 (SAT 1010) or possess a minimum GPA of 2.25 with an ACT score of 15 to apply for admission to the online campus.
NAU offers an online bachelor of social work with no residency requirements.
Students take courses such as crisis intervention, Indigenous populations of the Southwest, and social and economic justice. Each semester students study a different topic in contemporary topics in social justice and must participate for at least six semesters. Students must also complete fieldwork during the last year of the program to graduate.
Applicants must submit SAT or ACT scores for university admission. The school does not specify a GPA minimum for online undergraduate admission.
Founded in 1920 as Marion University, IWU now serves over 3,000 students. The university offers an online bachelor of social work designed to meet the needs of working adults.
The curriculum includes courses like social welfare organization, environment and society, and intergroup relations. Students must also take a social work seminar in preparation for fieldwork assignments that take place at the end of the program.
Applicants must possess 45 transferable credits from an accredited university to qualify for admission. Students first apply as a pre-social work major and then for full admission to the department.
Founded in 1855, Millersville offers 250 scenic acres within easy distance of both Washington D.C. and New York City. The university offers an online bachelor of arts in social work as a degree completion option.
Students take a variety of courses, including social welfare policy, human diversity, and social work welfare and law writing. Students may then choose electives specializing in a social work topic, including aging, alcoholism, and mental health.
Applicants must possess an associate degree or bachelor's credit equivalent with a minimum 2.0 undergraduate GPA.
With roots going back to 1903, UNK offers an online bachelor of science in social work. Students study 100% online with no on-campus residency requirements.
The 120-credit curriculum includes courses such as an introduction to social welfare, diversity and social justice, and social work practice with communities and organizations. Students choose electives such as an introduction to disabilities, child abuse and neglect, and medical social work. Students complete fieldwork to finish the program.
Applicants must possess a cumulative GPA of 3.0 and a minimum ACT score of 20 for assured admission. Students can otherwise apply for admission by review.
Located less than an hour from Tallahassee, TU provides a Christian-inspired education to students. The university offers an online bachelor of social work.
The curriculum includes courses such as social work practice with families, ethical issues in social work, and research and program evaluation. Students complete 400 hours of fieldwork for license eligibility and participate in senior seminars designed to debrief after field placements and discuss contemporary topics in social work.
The school allows students to transfer up to 90 credits toward their degree, including experiential learning credits. Applicants must possess a cumulative GPA of 2.0 to qualify for admission.
Founded in 1845, Limestone provides students with a liberal arts, non-denominational Christian education. The school offers an online bachelor of social work.
Students take courses such as the influence of sexual factors on behavior, practice with culturally diverse populations, and an introduction to social work as a profession. Students must also complete a field placement at the end of the program for hands-on experience.
Applicants must submit ACT or SAT scores (no minimum specified). Transfer students with more than 12 eligible transfer credits or students in military service may apply without test scores.
First established in 1868 as a medical training college, WSU now stands as one of the largest public universities in the U.S. WSU offers an online bachelor of social work.
Courses include social work research methods, social welfare and policy services, and human behavior and the social environment. The program also requires students to complete a 460-hour internship at an approved location during the program's final two semesters.
Applicants must possess at least 60 undergraduate credits from WSU (or eligible transfer credits) and a 2.5 cumulative GPA to apply to the program.
Founded in 1873, SAU offers an online bachelor of social work with a Christian focus. Students take one course per seven-week term, with no campus residency requirements.
The 120-credit program includes courses such as practice with individuals and families and social welfare policies. Students complete fieldwork under the guidance of a faculty mentor. Michigan residents may also complete a child welfare endorsement as part of the program.
Applicants must submit ACT (20) or SAT (940) scores to begin the application process. Transfer students must possess a cumulative GPA of 2.5.
Founded in 1842, MBU offers an online bachelor of social work. Students complete most courses online, with five hybrid courses offered that meet periodically at regional centers around Virginia.
Students take courses such as social and economic justice, populations at risk, and social advocacy. Students also complete a 450-hour field experience during the last spring semester and can join study abroad programs for more hands-on learning.
The school allows students to transfer up to 84 credits toward their degree.
With a history dating back to 1853, WNMU offers an online bachelor of social work. The program offers year-round, rolling admissions into the department.
The curriculum includes courses such as ethics in social work and human services, diversity in social work practice, and social work micro practice. Electives prepare students to work in niche areas such as human trafficking, the military, and child welfare. A field practicum prepares students to practice with hands-on experience.
Applicants must first apply to WNMU and then apply to the program with a 2.5 cumulative GPA.
Founded in 1970 to strengthen the Jewish heritage, TUW offers an online bachelor of arts in social work. Students can complete the program in about 3.5 years.
The fully online coursework includes comparative social work, ethics and social policy, and interviewing and assessment. Electives help focus the degree and include youth at risk, domestic violence, and a military approach to social work.
TUW does not require standardized tests, preferring to review admissions packets holistically. Students complete courses in eight-week terms and can transfer up to 90 credits into the program.
A Christian university founded in 1906, CU offers an online bachelor of social work delivered in eight-week terms. Students can finish in as few as two years, depending on transfer credits.
Students take core courses such as social policy and planning, qualitative statistics and research methods, and human diversity. Electives include faith-based social services and ministries, conflict resolution, and crisis intervention. A fieldwork assignment completes degree requirements.
Students first apply to the school and then to the department. The department requires three letters of reference for eligibility.
Founded in 1925, Brescia offers a bachelor of social work degree. Students can complete the program in as few as two years.
Students complete 42 credits in social work, including social issues in diversity, social work and aging, and ethical considerations in social work. Fieldwork practicums happen at an approved location near the student, and a fieldwork seminar gives students the chance to debrief with other students and faculty.
Applicants must submit SAT or ACT scores. The school does not require students more than three years out of school to submit test scores.
The Sisters of Saint Francis of Dubuque, Iowa, founded Briar Cliff in 1929. The school now offers an online bachelor of social work as a degree completion program. Courses happen 100% online with weekly mentorship meetings.
Students take courses such as community organization, social issues and policy, and history and general method of social work. Students also focus on Christian and Franciscan traditions to explore social work through the lens of faith. A fieldwork practicum rounds out degree requirements.
Applicants must possess a minimum of 62 transferable credits to apply for the program, as well as two letters of recommendation from a pastor or supervisor.
Online Bachelor's in Social Work Programs Ranking Guidelines
We selected the following degree programs based on program quality and range of courses provided, as well as school awards, rankings, and reputation.
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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:
- “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:
- Public or private status
- Acceptance rate
- Retention rate
- Graduation rate
- ACT/SAT requirements
- Cost in-state / out of state
- Undergrad, grad, or both offered
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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 work jobs are primarily concerned with assisting and supporting individuals, groups, and families as they attempt to live healthy and stable lives."
Social work jobs are primarily concerned with assisting and supporting individuals, groups, and families as they attempt to live healthy and stable lives. It is also an academic discipline devoted to furthering research in social welfare, oppression, societal change, and human rights.
Social workers with bachelor's degrees provide support to licensed professionals, offering administrative and support services. Professionals must have a master's degree to become licensed and practice therapy, counseling, or case management. Social workers can also develop community programming, collect data on the effectiveness of existing community strategies, and perform administrative functions for health clinics or communtiy centers. Specializations include substance abuse, healthcare, developmental disabilities, and child welfare.
What Is an Online Bachelor's in Social Work Degree?
Pursuing an online bachelor's degree in social work teaches you the foundational skills required for non-clinical roles in the field. Bachelor of social work students learn about research methods, serving diverse populations, social work ethics, and how to administer social work across the lifespan. Aside from coursework, learners often participate in a semester-long internship to gain practical skills such as assessing clients, developing treatment plans, and making appropriate referrals for additional services.
The typical online bachelor of social work student has a passion for helping others. Some pursue a master's in social work immediately after graduating from online bachelor's programs so they can offer therapeutic services. Others wait until they've worked in an entry-level role for a few years. Doctorate-level students usually work in research or teaching at the postsecondary level.
Continuing Education in Social Work
How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Bachelor's in Social Work?
The average online social work degree at the bachelor's level requires four years of full-time study, though there are options for students who seek an alternate schedule. Part-time learners typically spend six years enrolled, while students in accelerated programs can often graduate in 2-3 years.
Other factors affecting the length of an online bachelor of social work program include internships and whether the program delivers coursework synchronously or asynchronously.
What Will I Learn in an Online Bachelor of Social Work Program?
A typical online bachelor's degree in social work curriculum often includes the following courses.
- Diversity and Multiculturalism: All social workers assist clients from diverse backgrounds. To ensure each client feels comfortable and confident, social workers must have a nuanced understanding of human diversity and historic oppression. This class surveys social justice issues as they relate to a variety of populations. Learners examine theories and frameworks dedicated to creating equitable spaces for all people, regardless of how they identify.
- Community Organization: Rather than focusing on one-on-one work with clients, this class takes a macro approach, exploring how to effectively engage with entire communities. Students learn how to identify common issues at the community and organizational levels, build relationships with important stakeholders, and develop appropriate programs to meet each community's needs.
- Social Work Practice With Individuals and Families: This class provides students with practical and concrete tools for their everyday work. Students develop the interpersonal and communication skills required to work with clients of myriad backgrounds while also learning how to effectively conduct interviews and interventions, engage clients in appropriate ways, identify problem areas, and develop treatment plans.
- Human Behavior in the Social Environment: Countless social, psychological, and physiological changes happen across the lifespan, making it important for social workers to understand how those changes affect client health. This course covers developmental milestones; how issues such as trauma, grief, and other intense emotions affect behavior; and how to provide effective treatments based on tests and assessments.
- Social Welfare Policy: This class covers the history of social welfare policy, including current issues and trends affecting social workers. Students evaluate the effectiveness of previous service models and identify areas of weakness. They also learn how social welfare policy impacts major issues today, touching on mental health, eldercare, income maintenance, and correctional programs.
Social Work Jobs
Graduates of online social work degrees at the bachelor's level can choose from many different meaningful career paths, including those covered below.
|Median Salary: $50,090||Projected Job Growth: 22%|
These professionals work with individuals, couples, families, and other groups across the lifespan to provide professional therapeutic care. They may offer one-on-one or group counseling, focusing on topics like conflict resolution, trauma, relational issues, or grief. Individuals hoping to work as mental health counselors or marriage and family therapists must earn a master's degree and complete supervised experience requirements before seeking licensure.
|Median Salary: $53,020||Projected Job Growth: 3%|
These professionals work with individuals convicted of crimes who are in custody, awaiting trial, imprisoned, or out on probation or parole. They conduct interviews; identify, develop, and implement appropriate rehabilitation programs; connect their clients with necessary resources; and provide counseling. Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists must maintain detailed records in case their observations or findings are required at a later date. They typically need bachelor's degrees.
|Median Salary: $65,320||Projected Job Growth: 13%|
These professionals oversee programming and services devoted to helping improve social and community engagement. They often hold community meetings to identify necessary services, ascertain the effectiveness of ongoing programs, and stay in touch with those whom they serve. Much of their work revolves around improving programming through data collection and analysis, managing community service providers, and ensuring all administrative functions — including grant proposals — are operating appropriately.
|Median Salary: $49,470||Projected Job Growth: 11%|
Social workers provide meaningful services focused on making their clients' lives better. Social workers with a bachelor's degree mostly serve in supervised support roles, while those with master's degrees can provide clinical services such as counseling, therapy, and case management. Common responsibilities include making referrals, assessing client needs, working with individuals going through significant life transitions, helping those in crisis find security, and staying in touch with clients to ensure they have access to necessary services.
|Median Salary: $44,630||Projected Job Growth: 22%|
These professionals often have a bachelor's degree, though some positions can be obtained with only a high school education. They work with clients as they navigate substance abuse and behavioral disorders, working in community health clinics, prisons, rehabilitation facilities, or counseling offices to provide mental health evaluations, treatment plans, and access to necessary resources. While they cannot provide therapeutic services, they can help individuals gain access to programming. They may also lead informational sessions or outreach programs.
Social Work Professional Associations
There are many professional organizations that offer social workers networking opportunities, continuing education options, and leadership roles.
Frequently Asked Questions
Social work focuses on providing help to those who need it. Social workers help clients with counseling, education, emotional support, and health referrals.
As of 2018, median pay for social workers was $49,470. The top 10% of earners made over $81,400 in 2018.
The best online college for social work for you is the one that matches your academic abilities, professional interests, lifestyle requirements, and academic needs.
While you need a master of social work to qualify for licensed or clinical roles, a bachelor of social work qualifies you for entry-level support positions.
Most programs are a bachelor of social work (BSW degree), so they are not art or science degrees. However, some schools offer a bachelor of art in social work.
Full-time learners typically need four years to graduate from bachelor's programs.
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