Best Online Bachelor's in Social Work (BSW) Programs

By the OnlineU team | Updated 10/19/2021
Quick Facts
Accreditation: CSWE
Average Tuition: $27,491
Alumni Salary: $32,730

Social workers are needed in a variety of settings, including in hospitals, schools, and nursing homes. They play an integral part in their communities to help identify and solve issues and improve the lives of those around them. Social workers meet with clients to identify needs, assess situations, and help individuals work through challenges in their lives. They often act as client advocates, helping to connect people with resources. Social workers may also respond to crises and work with family or friends to create targeted treatment plans. Graduates who are employed in their field of study as social workers — one of the potential careers for graduates of this program — make a median wage of $51,760 a year and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the need for these professionals will grow by 12% over the next decade. Read on for information about accreditation and licensure, along with answers to frequently asked questions about the field.

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Online Bachelor's in Social Work with the Highest Return on Investment

2021 Best Online Colleges Offering Bachelor's Degrees in Social Work Badge

The following list features the top online bachelor's in social work programs based on their return on investment. We calculated each program's ROI by subtracting student debt from projected 10-year alumni salaries to estimate how profitable the degree may be in the future. The University of North Dakota tops this list with an estimated ROI of $376,900 and annual tuition of $11,198.

ROI amounts are based on data reported by the U.S. Department of Education. Tuitions are manually researched in order to determine tuition amounts specific to online degrees. Read our methodology for more details.

RankSchool Annual Tuition Median Starting Salary Median Debt 10-year ROI
# 1 #1 University of North Dakota $11,198 $39,639 $25,000 $376,900
# 2 #2 University of Utah $29,844 $35,701 $14,758 $349,200
# 3 #3 Angelo State University $17,785 $35,213 $18,591 $339,400
# 4 #4 Arizona State University $18,030 $35,274 $19,295 $339,100
# 5 #5 University of Massachusetts Global $15,000 $36,560 $31,390 $337,300
# 6 #6 Metropolitan State University of Denver $22,510 $34,793 $20,475 $332,700
# 7 #7 Briar Cliff University $12,865 $33,993 $22,000 $322,600
# 8 #8 Northern Arizona University $13,650 $33,423 $19,037 $320,400
# 9 #9 Tennessee State University $15,930 $34,298 $27,750 $318,500
# 10 #10 Wichita State University $9,760 $32,925 $19,500 $314,700
# 11 #11 Spring Arbor University Online $18,197 $33,637 $27,000 $312,700
# 12 #12 Mary Baldwin University $13,800 $33,077 $26,000 $308,100
# 13 #13 Eastern Kentucky University $12,270 $32,569 $22,869 $306,800
# 14 #14 Aurora University $12,750 $32,658 $25,000 $305,100
# 15 #15 University of Louisville $14,970 $31,236 $18,728 $298,300
# 16 #16 University of Cincinnati $10,970 $31,799 $27,000 $293,700
# 17 #17 University of Nebraska at Kearney $12,930 $31,133 $22,500 $292,500
# 18 #18 Campbellsville University $11,970 $30,771 $21,500 $290,000
# 19 #19 Humboldt State University $18,414 $30,554 $21,729 $287,500
# 20 #20 Millersville University of Pennsylvania $19,290 $30,672 $23,000 $287,100
# 21 #21 Brescia University $15,250 $31,886 $35,500 $284,100
# 22 #22 Indiana Wesleyan University Online $12,780 $30,891 $28,333 $282,700
# 23 #23 The University of Montana $12,632 $30,186 $25,500 $279,000
# 24 #24 The University of Tennessee - Knoxville $13,590 $29,141 $18,500 $277,000

Best Bachelor's Degrees in Social Work Rankings Details

#1

University of North Dakota

Grand Forks (ND)
  • 10-Year ROI: $376,900
  • Median Salary: $39,639
  • Annual Tuition: $11,198
  • Median Debt: $25,000

The University of North Dakota's (UND) online Bachelor of Science in Social Work program can be completed in two to four years. Taught from a social justice perspective, the curriculum includes conceptual courses on human behavior and social policy, as well as hands-on courses in research and social work practices supervised by licensed field instructors. Coursework is designed... to prepare students for state certification exams. Social work students can expand on their professional development by joining the Student Social Work Association or Phi Alpha, the social workers' honor society.

UND instructors deliver asynchronous courses, including readings, assignments, and class discussions, through the Blackboard system. The school welcomes transfer credits from accredited institutions, and about one-third of incoming undergraduates are transfer students. Online students may be eligible for financial aid or tuition discounts, as are active military personnel, veterans, and their dependents. In addition to receiving benefits, members of the UND alumni association support current students through the Angel Fund and Open Door Scholarship.

All applications should be submitted online. Prospective students have two online course options: the traditional, semester-based academic calendar or the accelerated Self-Paced Enroll Anytime option. Those who prefer the typical semester schedule should submit their application materials by June 15, October 15, or March 15, depending on their preferred start date.

Cost per Credit: $361
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 124
Graduation Rate: 61%
Acceptance Rate: 83%
Financial Aid Recipients: 92%
Average SAT Scores: 1010 - 1250
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,851

#2

University of Utah

Salt Lake City (UT)
  • 10-Year ROI: $349,200
  • Median Salary: $35,701
  • Annual Tuition: $29,844
  • Median Debt: $14,758

At the University of Utah's College of Social Work, the online Bachelor of Social Work program prepares students to become professional social workers with a focus on social justice and building supportive relationships with marginalized communities. Lower-division students must complete nearly all of their general education and pre-major courses with a grade of C or better before... submitting a separate application to be admitted into this program. Topics covered in the curriculum include human behavior, social policy, child abuse, and social diversity. The program also requires several courses in social work practice, a research course, and two semesters of practicum field experience. Most social work majors complete the program in three to four semesters of full-time study.

Online students use the Canvas system to access course materials, participate in group projects, engage in class discussions, complete peer reviews, and submit assignments. Distance learners, veterans, military spouses, and their dependents may be eligible for financial aid.

Admitted students can begin their studies in the fall or spring semester. The online application deadline is April 1 for the fall semester and October 1 for the spring semester. Academic advising, counseling, tutoring, online library resources, and career coaching are among the services available to online students.

School Type: Non-Profit
Graduation Rate: 58%
Acceptance Rate: 66%
Financial Aid Recipients: 85%
Average SAT Scores: 1143 - 1380
Accreditation: NWCCU
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,071

#3

Angelo State University

San Angelo (TX)
  • 10-Year ROI: $339,400
  • Median Salary: $35,213
  • Annual Tuition: $17,785
  • Median Debt: $18,591

The online Bachelor of Social Work degree at Angelo State University (ASU), taught through the Archer College of Health and Human Services, is designed to prepare students for licensure as Licensed Baccalaureate Social Workers. Graduates will be prepared to work with people of all age groups, as well as organizations and communities. The curriculum focuses on generalist social work... practice and requires fieldwork to graduate. ASU's ecological perspective helps students make the connection between individuals and their environment.

ASU uses the Blackboard learning management system to deliver online coursework. Distance learners may be eligible for many types of financial aid, including school funding through the Carr Academic Scholarship program. At ASU, 45% of students receive a Carr Scholarship, and 88% of students receive some type of funding. As a military-friendly institution, ASU also provides tuition assistance and other benefits to military personnel. Under the Hazelwood Act, qualified veterans and their dependents may be eligible for up to 150 hours of tuition exemption. Members of the alumni association are entitled to a number of discounts, programs, and other benefits.

Program courses are delivered in eight-week sessions, allowing newly enrolled students to start with the next available session. Prospective students can apply online at any time.

Cost per Credit: $593
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 40%
Acceptance Rate: 74%
Financial Aid Recipients: 94%
Average SAT Scores: 930 - 1120
Accreditation: SACS COC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 308

#4

Arizona State University

Tempe (AZ) (and 4 others)
  • 10-Year ROI: $339,100
  • Median Salary: $35,274
  • Annual Tuition: $18,030
  • Median Debt: $19,295

Arizona State University (ASU) offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Community Advocacy and Social Policy degree on a full- or part-time basis. The 120-credit program focuses on two core areas: diversity and oppressed populations, and social problems and interventions. The curriculum, which includes an internship and a capstone course, is designed to prepare students for graduate... school, not to meet social worker licensing requirements. Courses are delivered over a series of 20 short terms and include social economics, ethics, social services, and biology. Online students have the option of studying abroad, which may include an internship.

Online students use Canvas to access their asynchronous courses and can complete a one-week tutorial on using the system before starting classes. Several different scholarships and financial aid options are available to online students, including active military and veteran students. ASU alumni can utilize a range of services, such as career counseling and continuing education courses. The school has been designated a “top-tier” recruiting and hiring institution by more than 50 of the country’s top corporations.

Three enrollment periods throughout the year enable incoming students to apply online at any point and begin with the next available session. Enrollees have virtual access to the library, career services, online tutoring, and a 24/7 IT help desk.

School Type: Non-Profit
Graduation Rate: 54%
Acceptance Rate: 76%
Financial Aid Recipients: 96%
Average SAT Scores: 1091 - 1301
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 33,410

#5

University of Massachusetts Global

Multiple Locations
  • 10-Year ROI: $337,300
  • Median Salary: $36,560
  • Annual Tuition: $15,000
  • Median Debt: $31,390

The online Bachelor of Arts in Social Work degree at Brandman University can be taken on a full- or part-time basis and requires the completion of 120 credits. Courses are taught by full-time practitioners in the field and focus on human behavior, social policy, and clinical practices. Designed to provide real-world experience and applicable skills, the program also includes three... practicums, contributing to a required total of 400 supervised, on-site field practice hours.

At Brandman, students use the Blackboard system to access their coursework asynchronously. Online students are eligible for various forms of external financial aid, and Brandman graduates have a student loan default rate of 5.2%, which is significantly lower than the national average of 9.7%. Active military members and veterans can take advantage of a number of support programs, including Yellow Ribbon tuition discounts. Brandman is also home to an active alumni association. Members have access to many resources, including continuing education courses, career services, and networking and volunteer opportunities.

Interested students can submit their applications through the Brandman University website. Once enrolled, students may utilize services such as academic advising and employment resources.

Cost per Credit: $500
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 60%
Acceptance Rate: 68%
Financial Aid Recipients: 89%
Accreditation: WSCUC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 10,090

#6

Metropolitan State University of Denver

Denver (CO)
  • 10-Year ROI: $332,700
  • Median Salary: $34,793
  • Annual Tuition: $22,510
  • Median Debt: $20,475

Metropolitan State University (MSU) of Denver's online Bachelor of Science in Social Work degree requires students to complete 120 credits, 60 of which will be in social work. To graduate, students must complete 480 hours of field experience over two semesters by working at a community agency under a professional social worker's supervision. Students have access to student groups,... including the Student Association of Social Workers, Phi Alpha honor society, and Building Allies of Diversity, where they can connect with their peers.

Distance learners use Canvas and other online tools to access both asynchronous and synchronous coursework. MSU online students may be eligible for financial aid, including a range of scholarships provided by the university or the MSU Denver Foundation, and approximately 46% of all MSU students receive grants or scholarships. Active military service members, veterans, and their dependents may also be eligible for in-state tuition and other benefits. Graduates who join the alumni association will be entitled to a range of benefits, discounts, and services.

Prospective students should apply online and prepare to start with the fall semester. Tutoring, writing assistance, academic advising, and career development, including the LinkedIn library of professional development tutorials, are some of the many resources available to online students.

School Type: Non-Profit
Graduation Rate: 28%
Acceptance Rate: 64%
Financial Aid Recipients: 70%
Average SAT Scores: 890 - 1110
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,587

#7

Briar Cliff University

Sioux City (IA)
  • 10-Year ROI: $322,600
  • Median Salary: $33,993
  • Annual Tuition: $12,865
  • Median Debt: $22,000

Briar Cliff University offers an online Bachelor of Social Work degree-completion program. To be eligible, transfer students must have completed at least 77 credits or an associate degree at another accredited institution. The 124-credit program follows a specific sequence of courses and is designed to be completed in two years of full-time study, including one 10-week summer term.... To build applicable skills and gain real-world experience, students are required to complete a 450-hour field internship and meet with their mentors weekly. In keeping with the school's Catholic heritage, there is a required course in Christian and Franciscan Traditions. Students may also want to opt for the study abroad program in Guatemala.

Asynchronous coursework is delivered through the Brightspace learning management system. Social work majors also use online video conferencing to meet with field advisors when taking practice courses. Incoming students may transfer in up to 90 credits from previous college attendance. Briar Cliff is a Yellow Ribbon school, offering tuition assistance and other benefits for veterans and their dependents, as well as reduced rates for active military members.

Briar Cliff accepts online applications throughout the year. Accepted students can start with the next available fall or spring semester. Academic peer mentoring, counseling, and career development are some of the services offered to distance learners.

Cost per Credit: $415
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 124
Graduation Rate: 40%
Financial Aid Recipients: 72%
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 162

#8

Northern Arizona University

Flagstaff (AZ)
  • 10-Year ROI: $320,400
  • Median Salary: $33,423
  • Annual Tuition: $13,650
  • Median Debt: $19,037

Northern Arizona University (NAU) offers an online Bachelor of Social Work program designed to prepare students to become licensed generalist social workers in many states. In addition to courses in statistics and research methods, social work majors take classes in human behavior, social policy, generalist practice, and crisis intervention. Fieldwork experience is required to complete... the 120-credit degree.

Online students use the Blackboard Learn system to access course materials, submit homework assignments, and participate in class discussions and group projects. Transfer students may bring in up to 90 credits but must complete at least 30 credits through the school. NAU offers a wide range of financial aid types, such as scholarships, merit-based discounts for first-year students, employee tuition reimbursement, and school-sponsored assistance, including the University Grant. Financial aid may also be available to students who want to participate in any of NAU's study abroad programs.

The Bachelor of Social Work degree is one of NAU's traditional online programs, offered on a semester-based course schedule. After applying online, accepted students may start with the next available semester. Students have access to 24/7 IT support, peer academic coaching, online tutoring, and digital library resources.

Cost per Credit: $455
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 57%
Acceptance Rate: 81%
Financial Aid Recipients: 95%
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 4,346

#9

Tennessee State University

Nashville (TN)
  • 10-Year ROI: $318,500
  • Median Salary: $34,298
  • Annual Tuition: $15,930
  • Median Debt: $27,750

Tennessee State University's (TSU) online Bachelor of Science in Social Work prepares students for entry-level generalist practice by providing the necessary training for certification and licensure in social work, particularly in urban settings. The curriculum covers topics such as human behavior, crisis intervention, social justice, and ethics. Coursework introduces students to... common social work methods and practices. Social work majors can start building their network of colleagues prior to graduating by joining the Social Work Club or the Phi Alpha honor society.

At TSU, students use the eLearn learning management system to access coursework. Incoming adult undergraduates may take a prior learning assessment to obtain as many transfer credits as possible for earlier college, military, and work experience. The Dr. Hollace L. Brooks Scholarship and the Dr. Roderic Burton Scholarship are just two of the scholarships, grants, and other forms of financial aid available to social work students. TSU has been designated as a Certified Vets Campus by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and as a Yellow Ribbon school, which means veterans and their spouses may be eligible for benefits such as tuition assistance.

Prospective students can apply online through the TSU website or the Common Black College Application. Enrollees will gain access to services such as online tutoring and academic advising.

Cost per Credit: $531
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 32%
Financial Aid Recipients: 91%
Accreditation: SACS COC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 200

#10

Wichita State University

Wichita (KS)
  • 10-Year ROI: $314,700
  • Median Salary: $32,925
  • Annual Tuition: $9,760
  • Median Debt: $19,500

The online Bachelor of General Studies degree at Wichita State University (WSU) offers a concentration in social work. The curriculum combines 94 credits in the liberal arts and sciences with 33 credit hours in social work, allowing for some customization. The program is designed to provide a foundation in social work practice while building critical thinking and communication skills.... Graduates of the program may pursue career opportunities in various fields or choose to advance their studies by enrolling in a graduate degree program.

Students use the Blackboard learning management system to engage with class materials, participate in classroom discussions, watch video lectures, and take quizzes. Those seeking financial aid can use WSU’s ScholarshipUniverse app to find scholarships, grants, and loans. Each year, the school gives out more than $100 million in aid. Military service members, veterans, and undocumented students may also be eligible for financial assistance.

To apply to this social work degree program, prospective students must submit an online application. Support services for distance learners include advising, writing assistance, math assistance, virtual library access, and general tutoring.

Cost per Credit: $325
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 50%
Acceptance Rate: 94%
Financial Aid Recipients: 89%
Average SAT Scores: 1030 - 1270
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 2,272

#11

Spring Arbor University Online

Spring Arbor (MI)
  • 10-Year ROI: $312,700
  • Median Salary: $33,637
  • Annual Tuition: $18,197
  • Median Debt: $27,000

The online Bachelor of Social Work program at Spring Arbor University, a Christian liberal arts college, is designed to teach core principles and concepts and build applicable skills through practice. The curriculum includes courses on such topics as racial and ethnic relations, social welfare policies, and social work practice with individuals and families. The program also prepares... qualified Michigan residents to earn a Child Welfare Endorsement.

At Spring Arbor, asynchronous courses are delivered through the Blackboard system. Students use the system to engage with online course materials, submit homework assignments, and collaborate with fellow students and teachers. Online students, including active military service members and veterans, may be eligible for a variety of external financial aid programs. Some students may also be eligible for tuition reimbursement through their employers.

Students can apply online at any time. Course sessions vary in length, from six to 15 weeks. Every enrolled online student is assigned a program mentor and a student success coach, who can assist with personal and professional development, help set career goals, and offer guidance in maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Students also gain access to job postings and career guidance through the Office of Career Development.

Cost per Credit: $587
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 124
Graduation Rate: 59%
Acceptance Rate: 67%
Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
Average SAT Scores: 980 - 1215
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 203

#12

Mary Baldwin University

Staunton (VA)
  • 10-Year ROI: $308,100
  • Median Salary: $33,077
  • Annual Tuition: $13,800
  • Median Debt: $26,000

The online Bachelor of Social Work program at Mary Baldwin University (MBU) is available only to Virginia residents. Students complete most of their coursework online, with the exception of five to seven on-site meetings per semester. The program also requires a 450-hour practicum in the final semester, and MBU's field directors must be able to visit each student's project site... to assess the student's progress. The program's objective is to provide graduates with the foundation they need for generalist practice, including the knowledge and practical skills required to become agents of change in their communities and society at large. Social work students may decide to enhance their learning experience by earning entry into the Phi Alpha honor society, joining the Social Work Club, or participating in international fieldwork opportunities.

MBU uses the Blackboard learning management system to deliver online coursework. Transfer students may bring in up to 84 credits from accredited colleges. Online students are eligible for a range of financial aid types, including loans, grants, and scholarships, such as the MBU Online Merit Scholarship. As a Yellow Ribbon school, MBU also offers tuition assistance and other benefits for veterans.

The school accepts applicants on a rolling basis, so prospective students can submit an online application at any time for a fall start date.

Cost per Credit: $460
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 38%
Acceptance Rate: 95%
Financial Aid Recipients: 99%
Average SAT Scores: 940 - 1120
Accreditation: SACS COC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 584

#13

Eastern Kentucky University

Richmond (KY)
  • 10-Year ROI: $306,800
  • Median Salary: $32,569
  • Annual Tuition: $12,270
  • Median Debt: $22,869

Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) offers an online Bachelor of Social Work program. Students take courses in accelerated six- and eight-week terms and can choose to study either part-time or full-time. The 120-credit degree program prepares graduates for careers working with adults and children affected by issues such as mental health or substance abuse. Social work majors take... courses in social welfare policy, crisis intervention, addiction, human behavior, and research methods. With a focus on real-world application, the degree requires the completion of several practicums.

The Bachelor of Social Work online courses are delivered asynchronously through the Blackboard learning management system. Students use the system to access video presentations, reading assignments, discussion boards, homework, quizzes, and exams. Transfer students may bring in up to 90 credits from regionally accredited schools but must earn at least 30 credits at EKU. Active military students are eligible for tuition discounts, and full-time online students may be eligible for financial aid, including department- and school-sponsored scholarships.

Applications are accepted online on a rolling basis. EKU's program offers six start dates a year, and accepted students can start with the next available session. Virtual tutoring, library resources, and career services are among the student services provided.

Cost per Credit: $409
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 45%
Acceptance Rate: 87%
Financial Aid Recipients: 98%
Average SAT Scores: 990 - 1170
Accreditation: SACS COC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 2,187

#14

Aurora University

Aurora (IL)
  • 10-Year ROI: $305,100
  • Median Salary: $32,658
  • Annual Tuition: $12,750
  • Median Debt: $25,000

The online Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree-completion program at Aurora University provides the foundation needed for a career in social work, with courses taught by faculty with real-world experience. Incoming students—who must have at least 60 general education credits or an associate degree to begin—take courses in human behavior and the social environment, the study of... individuals and families, and social welfare. After earning their BSW and working for two years in the field, graduates are qualified to take state social work license exams (LSW).

Online coursework is hosted on the Moodle learning management system. Through Moodle, digital resources are provided at no additional cost in place of textbooks, and students have access to class materials, grades, and assignments. Online classes are asynchronous and follow an eight-week format. More than 98% of Aurora students receive some type of financial aid, including scholarships, grants, loans, and military benefits.

Online applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Distance learners have access to several resources, including IT help, academic advising, career development assistance, and tutoring.

Cost per Credit: $425
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 54%
Acceptance Rate: 87%
Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
Average SAT Scores: 965 - 1130
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 388

#15

University of Louisville

Louisville (KY)
  • 10-Year ROI: $298,300
  • Median Salary: $31,236
  • Annual Tuition: $14,970
  • Median Debt: $18,728

The 120-credit online Bachelor of Social Work program at the University of Louisville prepares students to enter generalist social work practice. The curriculum, which includes courses in social welfare policy and social work research, emphasizes critical-thinking and management skills. Students must complete hands-on, experiential courses to graduate, including a seminar and lab... course and a 450-hour practicum. Field faculty assist online students in finding and completing appropriate fieldwork.

Students and instructors use Blackboard and video conferencing to conduct classes and engage in collaborative coursework. Transfer students are allowed to bring in up to 60 credits from a community college and up to 90 credits from an accredited university. Within the online program, in-state and out-of-state students pay the same tuition rates. Degree-seeking online students may be eligible for various types of financial aid, including employee tuition reimbursement and scholarships. Active duty military members may also be eligible for tuition discounts, and veterans may qualify for a tuition waiver.

Incoming students with 0-44 credits should submit their online applications by August 1, a full year prior to their intended start date, while transfer students with more than 44 credits can wait until February 1. All accepted students start in the fall term.

Cost per Credit: $499
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 58%
Acceptance Rate: 75%
Financial Aid Recipients: 98%
Average SAT Scores: 1070 - 1290
Accreditation: SACS COC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 460

#16

University of Cincinnati

Cincinnati (OH) (and 1 other)
  • 10-Year ROI: $293,700
  • Median Salary: $31,799
  • Annual Tuition: $10,970
  • Median Debt: $27,000

The University of Cincinnati’s (UC) online Bachelor of Social Work degree-completion program is designed for students who have completed some coursework in social work or a related major. The curriculum blends theoretical knowledge with hands-on experience, and a field director is available to help online students find a suitable project for the two-term senior fieldwork requirement.... The program equips students with the skills they need to earn social work and optional chemical dependency licenses. Prospective students can learn more by taking a free introductory online course that can be transferred into credit hours if they choose to enroll.

Students in the major access their asynchronous courses through Canvas. Financial aid and other forms of tuition assistance are available to online students, including active military service members, veterans, and their dependents. Out-of-state online students pay a slightly higher tuition fee than in-state distance learners. Enrollees have access to the Career Studio, which allows students to use the LinkedIn library of career development tutorials and courses.

UC offers three semesters per year, and application deadlines fall in mid-July, mid-November, and mid-March. Once accepted, all students can take advantage of the school’s writing center, tutoring services, academic advising, UCIT tech support, and library resources.

School Type: Non-Profit
Graduation Rate: 71%
Acceptance Rate: 76%
Financial Aid Recipients: 75%
Average SAT Scores: 1120 - 1350
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 2,455

#17

University of Nebraska at Kearney

Kearney (NE)
  • 10-Year ROI: $292,500
  • Median Salary: $31,133
  • Annual Tuition: $12,930
  • Median Debt: $22,500

The University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK) offers an online Bachelor of Science in Social Work through its eCAMPUS program. The 120-credit degree is designed to prepare students to work with different community members in areas such as public health, mental health, and substance abuse. The degree requires 48 credit hours in social work, including two semesters of fieldwork and... a senior seminar. Students will be able to join the Student Social Work Organization and Phi Alpha honor society to network with their peers.

Online courses at UNK are delivered asynchronously through the Canvas learning management platform, where students are expected to participate via email, live chats, and discussion forums. Once enrolled, students will attend an online orientation. Distance learners may be eligible for various types of financial aid, including loans, grants, and scholarships. UNK distributes about $28 million in grant and scholarship aid annually, with an average award of $9,823 for first-year students.

UNK accepts online applications on a rolling basis, and students can begin their studies with the next available fall or spring semester. Online students can utilize the school’s IT help desk and digital library resources.

Cost per Credit: $431
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 56%
Acceptance Rate: 82%
Financial Aid Recipients: 94%
Average SAT Scores: 990 - 1168
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 487

#18

Campbellsville University

Campbellsville (KY)
  • 10-Year ROI: $290,000
  • Median Salary: $30,771
  • Annual Tuition: $11,970
  • Median Debt: $21,500

Among the online offerings at Campbellsville University, a Christian liberal arts college, is an online Bachelor of Social Work degree. Students must complete a minimum of 30 credits prior to applying to this program. Graduation requires 120 credits, which most students complete in two to four years. Core courses in the program are designed to prepare graduates to approach their... social work clients from an ethical position based on Christian values. Several courses in practice and hands-on fieldwork are required, and students can choose electives on such topics as marriage and family relationships, crisis prevention, addiction, and human trafficking. Select students may also choose to enter the optional Public Child Welfare Certification Program, recognized by the state of Kentucky.

At Campbellsville's Carver School of Social Work, asynchronous courses are delivered in eight-week sessions through the Moodle learning management system. Students will also have numerous opportunities to interact with peers and faculty. Transfer students can bring in up to 72 credits from a regionally accredited institution. Some online students may be eligible for financial aid, and alumni may be eligible for tuition discounts when they continue their education by enrolling in an online program. As a Yellow Ribbon school, Campbellsville also offers tuition assistance for veterans.

Prospective students are encouraged to speak with an enrollment counselor before submitting an online application.

Cost per Credit: $399
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 36%
Acceptance Rate: 69%
Financial Aid Recipients: 94%
Accreditation: SACS COC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 913

#19

Humboldt State University

Arcata (CA)
  • 10-Year ROI: $287,500
  • Median Salary: $30,554
  • Annual Tuition: $18,414
  • Median Debt: $21,729

To earn the online Bachelor of Arts in Social Work degree at Humboldt State University (HSU), enrollees must be California residents while taking program courses. The program prepares students to work in diverse settings, from social services to community organizations, especially those that involve indigenous peoples. Courses follow a particular sequence and are offered only once... a year. Social work majors will study social policy and human behavior and engage in research. The degree also requires on-site fieldwork, which must be completed at one of HSU's partners in northern California. Students video-conference with their academic coaches regularly while fulfilling these requirements.

HSU distance learners use Canvas to access and engage in online course materials and attend weekly synchronous sessions. They are also required to come to campus for an initial orientation and an annual intensive held each January. HSU accepts some transfer credits from previous college coursework and placement exams. Online students are eligible for both external and internal sources of financial aid, and HSU awards a variety of annual scholarships ranging from $500 to $4,000 for a total of more than $600,000 distributed each year. Active military members, veterans, and their families may also be eligible for financial assistance.

Interested students should submit their applications online between October and December for a fall start date.

School Type: Non-Profit
Graduation Rate: 49%
Acceptance Rate: 82%
Financial Aid Recipients: 83%
Average SAT Scores: 970 - 1200
Accreditation: WSCUC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 181

#20

Millersville University of Pennsylvania

Millersville (PA)
  • 10-Year ROI: $287,100
  • Median Salary: $30,672
  • Annual Tuition: $19,290
  • Median Debt: $23,000

Millersville University of Pennsylvania offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Social Work degree-completion program through its School of Social Work. The bachelor's degree requires a total of 120 credits to complete, and incoming transfer students must have earned at least 60 credits or an associate degree to enroll. Most students complete the program within two or three academic... years. To graduate, students will complete 60 hours of service-learning and 450 hours of fieldwork. Some social work majors may decide to enhance their online college experience by participating in an international internship or joining the Social Work Organization/Alliance for Social Change.

Online courses are delivered asynchronously through D2L Brightspace, but some professors may require students to meet in real-time over Zoom throughout the semester. Out-of-state online students will find their tuition costs are only slightly higher than in-state tuition rates. Distance learners may also be eligible for government-sponsored and private loans, grants, and scholarships. The Millersville University Alumni Association sponsors four scholarships for current students.

The application for the social work degree-completion program is available online. Once enrolled, students can take advantage of a number of services, including IT help, tutoring, academic advising, and library resources.

School Type: Non-Profit
Graduation Rate: 56%
Acceptance Rate: 79%
Financial Aid Recipients: 88%
Average SAT Scores: 980 - 1170
Accreditation: MSCHE
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 424

#21

Brescia University

Owensboro (KY)
  • 10-Year ROI: $284,100
  • Median Salary: $31,886
  • Annual Tuition: $15,250
  • Median Debt: $35,500

The online Bachelor of Social Work degree program at Brescia University (BU) requires the completion of 128 credits. The curriculum gives graduates the theoretical knowledge and hands-on social work experience they need to work in a variety of human services agencies, such as child protection, anti-poverty programs, and criminal justice. Courses cover diversity, ethics, and statistics... and include several practice and fieldwork requirements. Grounded in the school's Catholic, liberal arts roots, Brescia's program emphasizes respect for all and servant leadership. Some social work majors may want to take advantage of the school's study abroad programs.

At BU, online courses are offered in accelerated, eight-week sessions through the Moodle learning management system. Full-time students are eligible for all types of financial aid. This includes scholarships endowed by the school and its alumni association, which contribute to the more than $1.8 million BU disburses in student aid annually. BU's alumni association includes more than 5,000 members, many of whom are active in networking events and a mentoring program.

Before submitting an online or mail-in application, prospective students may want to view BU's online course demo. If accepted, students may begin at any of the five start dates available. Enrollees have access to the library and IT help desk.

School Type: Non-Profit
Graduation Rate: 34%
Acceptance Rate: 42%
Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
Average SAT Scores: 1000 - 1260
Accreditation: SACS COC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 345

#22

Indiana Wesleyan University Online

Marion (IN)
  • 10-Year ROI: $282,700
  • Median Salary: $30,891
  • Annual Tuition: $12,780
  • Median Debt: $28,333

Admission into the online Bachelor of Social Work program at Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU), a Christian college, is a two-step process. Students must first complete at least 45 credits of general education and pre-social work courses at a regionally accredited college or an institution accredited by the Association for Biblical Higher Education before applying to the social... work major. Once admitted, students must complete an additional 64 credits in the major, including practice courses, research projects, and fieldwork to gain real-world experience. In keeping with the Wesleyan tradition, the program focuses on service and helps students learn to promote human rights and social, economic, and environmental justice through their practice.

Online students at IWU use the D2L Brightspace system to access course readings, view video presentations, submit homework assignments, and review case studies. Various forms of financial aid are available, including loans, grants, scholarships, and employee tuition reimbursement. IWU also offers military-preferred tuition and other services to military members and veterans.

Students interested in this program can submit their online applications at any time. New sessions begin every six weeks.

Cost per Credit: $426
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 53%
Financial Aid Recipients: 93%
Average SAT Scores: 1020 - 1230
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 6,185

#23

The University of Montana

Missoula (MT)
  • 10-Year ROI: $279,000
  • Median Salary: $30,186
  • Annual Tuition: $12,632
  • Median Debt: $25,500

The University of Montana's (UM) online 2+2 Bachelor of Social Work program is a degree-completion program for Montana residents. The program requires students to attend an initial orientation plus several days of on-site classes each semester at the Missoula campus. Incoming students must complete an associate degree or an equivalent number of prerequisite courses at one of UM's... nine Montana-based partnering colleges. Once admitted, all new students complete the two-year program together as a cohort. The curriculum includes courses in social work practice, social policy, and human behavior, and requires a 450-hour practicum. Graduates have gone on to work as tribal court advocates, addiction counselors, and child and family services agents.

Online students at UM use Moodle to interact with their peers and faculty and complete all course assignments. Social work majors may be eligible for all types of financial aid, including tuition waivers for students who meet certain criteria, such as being a veteran. UM's alumni office helps the 105,000+ graduates stay connected through programs and events.

Because this is a cohort program, all transfer students must submit their online or mail-in applications by April 30 and begin with the fall term. Once accepted, students gain access to the library, career services, academic advising, and writing tutoring.

School Type: Non-Profit
Graduation Rate: 44%
Acceptance Rate: 93%
Financial Aid Recipients: 88%
Average SAT Scores: 1055 - 1245
Accreditation: NWCCU
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 346

#24

The University of Tennessee - Knoxville

Knoxville (TN)
  • 10-Year ROI: $277,000
  • Median Salary: $29,141
  • Annual Tuition: $13,590
  • Median Debt: $18,500

At the University of Tennessee (UT), the College of Social Work offers an online Bachelor of Science in Social Work (BSSW) degree-completion program. Only students who have earned an associate degree with 60 credits from a regionally accredited community college will be admitted. Social work majors prepare for generalist practice by completing required courses, including a fieldwork... practicum, and electives such as crisis intervention, forensic social work, and working with military service members. Once admitted into the program, students with a minimum GPA of 3.5 may opt to join the BSSW Honors Program. This enables students to go on to complete a master's degree in social work with only one additional year of coursework.

Social work courses are delivered through Blackboard, using a combination of asynchronous learning and synchronous video conferencing for collaborative work. Online students are eligible for financial aid, including departmental scholarships and other school-sponsored funding, such as the HOPE Scholarship. The UT College of Social Work also actively recruits and supports veterans, and as a Yellow Ribbon school, offers tuition discounts and other benefits.

Deadlines to submit an online admission application packet are February 15 for the fall term and September 15 for the spring term. Once accepted, students will be able to utilize IT support, the writing center, and the library, among other resources.

Cost per Credit: $453
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 72%
Acceptance Rate: 77%
Financial Aid Recipients: 91%
Average SAT Scores: 1150 - 1330
Accreditation: SACS COC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 112

Online Social Work Degree Overview & Career Information

Many students begin their studies by pursuing an associate degree in pre-social work or human services before transferring to a bachelor's degree program. An associate degree provides introductory information in the field and acquaints students with appropriate counseling techniques, behavioral analyses, and the overall nature of social work. A bachelor's degree in social work, also known as a BSW, helps to prepare students for entry-level positions in the field. Students obtain in-depth knowledge on intervention strategies, industry trends, administrative practices, and coordination policies. Common coursework includes foundations of social work, human behavior and diversity, social welfare policy and services, and research methods. 

Online master's degree programs in social work are commonly referred to as MSWs and are for students who plan on becoming licensed clinical social workers. These programs are research intensive and offer students a chance to gain more hands-on training in the field. Master's students learn how to supervise personnel and perform clinical assessments. Online MSW programs may also enable students to begin internships in their specialty and become eligible for licensure.

Those who desire to work in consulting, research, or postsecondary teaching may choose to earn a doctorate in social work. Students learn how to examine complex issues in social policy and arrange new solutions in public policy. They take classes in data analysis, counseling, and welfare policy. Most programs also heavily focus on clinical psychology. Each PhD candidate must present a dissertation before graduation.

Online Bachelor's Degrees in Social Work

Program Requirements

Online bachelor's degrees in social work require approximately four years of full-time study and 120 units of coursework. Applicants to a BSW program will need a high school diploma or the equivalent, as well as acceptable scores on a college entry-level test, such as the SAT or ACT. Those who have completed an associate degree may be able to complete a bachelor's degree in two years, depending on the program's particular course requirements.

Curriculum

A bachelor's degree in social work will give students a broad understanding of introductory theories in social work, human behavior, sociology, psychology, and history. After the introductory courses, students can expect to take courses such as social issues and diversity, social welfare, research methods, human behavior and the social environment, and preparing for the field. Topics covered by the coursework may include administrative principles and practices, alcohol and drug abuse, communication, crisis intervention, family systems, human growth and development, psychology, social work ethics, social work interventions, social work principles, and working with communities and organizations.

For many distance learning bachelor's programs, students may complete all of their coursework online. The last year of the program typically involves hands-on training under the direction of a professional social worker, however, so students may need to obtain that experience in a local social services setting.

Common careers for bachelor's graduates include child and family social work, healthcare, and school social work. A bachelor's degree is required for many social work positions, but some jobs may require a master's degree. For example, clinical social workers must have a master's degree, pass an exam, and obtain a state license before entering the workforce.

How to Become a Social Worker

To pursue a career in social work, it is necessary to earn an initial degree, often referenced as a Bachelor of Social Work or Social Welfare. This gives graduates a theoretical and practical foundation in social work, accompanied with a given number of supervised practicum hours. Pursuing a master’s degree or doctorate degree opens the door to more advanced positions and allows a social worker to qualify for future licensure. Many social work licenses require a minimum of a MSW plus an exam.

BSW graduates wishing to advance their practice skills and abilities may choose to look into graduate programs while gaining experience in an entry-level position. Depending on state regulations, a Master of Social Work may be required to work in some clinical and administrative fields. A graduate degree in social work focuses on theories and best practices for advanced social work practice. Coursework may include advanced research and evaluation in social work, historical foundations of social work practice, social work for social justice, or advanced micro, mezzo, or macro practice. Students will be able to dive deeper into their preferred focus, and may take coursework centered in concentrations like children, youth, and families, mental health, health, muti-generational practice, community centered integrated practice, or administration and policy.

MSW students and are required to complete fieldwork hours through an internship. Upon completion of a master’s degree, students can become a Licensed Master Social Worker, which allows them to work without supervision.

What Can a Social Worker with a BSW Do?

Those who want to pursue social work jobs typically need to earn a Bachelor of Social Work, or a BSW. Each state has its own guidelines on how much education is required to become a licensed social worker and most have a licensing option for graduates of a BSW program,though licensure is not necessary to find work as a BSW.

With a Bachelor of Social Work, graduates can typically find employment in areas including: children and families, mental health, substance abuse, community-based practice, administration and policy, aging, and healthcare. As en example of roles for BSWs interested in children and families, a social worker with a BSW can provide a wide range of services, such as working with families throughout the adoption and foster care process, offering child protective services, or finding services for pregnant teens.

Social work jobs focused on mental health or substance abuse center around counseling patients and family members, as well as around providing assistance for issues like employment or housing. With a healthcare focus, aspiring social workers can work in a case management, crisis management, or counseling capacity with patients of all ages, in addition to helping family members and caregivers.

Where Can a Social Worker with a BSW Work?

Those who work with children and families often find jobs at state or nonprofit organizationss. Those with a Bachelor of Social Work focused on mental health and substance abuse can find employment in clinics with inpatient services, outpatient services, or both.

Health care social workers can work in private care settings, such as clients’ homes, or in hospitals and long-term care facilities. Public service jobs are also available through local agencies. Other common places of employment include local and international nonprofit organizations, government agencies, schools, legislature and advocacy groups, among others. Entry-level jobs for BSW graduates are diverse and often depend on the student’s interests.

How Much Does a Social Worker With a BSW Make?

Aspiring social workers should consider their potential average salary when determining what specialization to choose and where to work. The average salary for someone who holds a Bachelor of Social Work is $50,000 a year. A variety of factors can impact a graduate’s actual starting salary. One consideration used by hiring entities is the applicant’s work experience. An entry-level applicant with a BSW will probably earn less than someone with several years of experience in the field.

Specialization also matters when determining social workers’ salaries. Private practice employers often pay better than their counterparts at public agencies. Additionally, specific job responsibilities also impact expected pay for graduates.

Continuing Education

Bachelor of Social Work graduates who become licensed social workers typically must adhere to the state’s continuing education requirements in order to maintain an active license. Since the Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW) license is one of the least advanced licenses, BSW graduates typically have the fewest continuing education hours to complete during their renewal period, especially compared to social workers licensed to work in a clinical setting. Once they become licensed, social workers should review their state’s continuing education requirements to make sure they accumulate enough hours before the next renewal period.

Those who wish to qualify for more advanced social work licenses and job opportunities can also continue their education with a more advanced degree. A master’s degree in social work can be completed within one to two years for students who already hold a Bachelor of Social Work.

The Importance of an Accredited Online Social Work Degree

Accreditation is an important aspect that students should take into account when considering enrolling in an online social work degree program at any level. Institutional accreditation is granted by one of six regional accrediting agencies recognized by the US Department of Education. The accreditation process involves a thorough, independent evaluation of all aspects of an undergraduate or graduate degree program. Students who choose an accredited school can feel more confident that they are going to receive a high-quality education and that their degree will be recognized by other academic institutions and potential employers.

The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) is the predominant agency for the programmatic accreditation of social work degrees. The CSWE accredits individual bachelor's and master's social work programs. Along with institutional accreditation, programmatic accreditation from the CSWE indicates that an online degree program meets the national standards for education and social work education speficially. A complete list of accredited social work programs may be found at the CSWE's website'.

While accreditation isn't required, enrolling in an unaccredited program can negatively impact both your academic prospects and your future employment opportunities in the field of social work. In order to apply for student loans or transfer credits to another institution, you must attend an accredited school. For most upper-level social work positions, professionals are required to have a state license, and in order to take a state licensing exam, applicants must have a degree from an accredited bachelor's or master's degree program.

Licensing and Registration Requirements for Social Workers

In the United States, the profession of social work is regulated on the state level, which means that professionals must comply with their particular state's guidelines in order to practice as a social worker. Depending on the state, the process of regulation is referred to as either "registration" or "licensing." The two terms are often used interchangeably. In most states, you will need at least a bachelor's degree in social work to find a job in the field. A master's degree is required for clinical work. There are two distinct types of social workers—direct contact and clinical—and states have different regulations for each.

Direct-contact social workers, such as case managers or mental health assistants, don't provide mental health treatment; rather, they help clients work through everyday problems or achieve a particular goal. For example, they might help a family find low-cost child care or register for food stamps. In most states, direct-service social workers do not need to register or earn a license; they may only need a Bachelor of Social Work degree.

Clinical social workers assess, diagnose, and treat patients facing emotional and mental issues. This process involves an understanding of psychology, interviewing skills, and other counseling procedures. Thus, states require that clinical social workers have a license. In most states, licensed social workers, or LCSWs, must complete an accredited MSW program. Along with the degree, prospective LCWs must also have completed a supervised clinical internship, which usually takes at least one year. Some MSW programs integrate the supervised internship into the program. Along with the internship, most states require that social workers pass an exam before they apply for licensure.

Most US states and some Canadian provinces use the social work licensing exams developed by the Association of Social Work Boards. These exams ensure that candidates are prepared to practice social work at four different competency levels: Bachelor's, Master's, Advanced Generalist, and Clinical. Each ASWB exam has 170 multiple choice questions and a four-hour time limit. To learn more about the specific social work registration guidelines for your state, visit the ASWB website.

Continuing Education for Social Workers

In many cases, social workers can have a significant impact on their clients’ well-being. Because of this responsibility, all US states require that clinical social workers possess a state license. To maintain this license over time, social workers are required to complete continuing education (CE) units. Not all social workers are required to have a state license, and thus, not all have to complete CE units. In many cases, bachelor’s-level direct-contact social workers do not need a license. However, they may be able to elect to earn an elective license for direct-contact work, in which case CE units may be required. All states require master’s-level clinical social workers to have a license, and most require continuing education units.

After a specific number of years, clinical social workers must renew their license with their state licensing board. The length of time between renewal periods varies from state to state. While this process always requires completing paperwork, it also usually requires completing CE units. The exact number of required continuing education credits will vary depending on your jurisdiction. Anywhere from 20 to 50 CE units may be required. All social workers who are unclear about the CE unit requirements in their state should contact their state's social work licensing board.

The type of classes available to any particular social worker is dictated by their licensing board. In some states, social workers may complete CEs in any topic as long as they come from an approved CE provider. Other states require that social workers complete CE units in their particular work area, such as substance abuse. Some states have a number of available topics, such as ethics or domestic violence.

Besides ensuring that the CE units are state approved, you can also look for CE units that are recognized by professional groups, such as the Association of Social Work Boards. Students should look for programs with qualified instructors that spend time interacting with students. A quality CE program will be well organized and have a clear syllabus with objectives outlined for the class. In many states, CE units can be completed online. Check with your board for details on CE requirements where you work. The ASWB has a list of recommended CE units, many of which can be completed online.

It’s the social worker’s job to keep track of their attendance and any other required proof of completion. Before enrolling in a CE program, students should make sure the class can issue the required signed certificate of completion. It is wise for social workers to hold on to the records of attendance for several years after the program, should they need to confirm their completion again.

Types of Social Workers

Social workers play a very important role in the healthcare and general welfare of people from every social stratum. Some of the most common responsibilities include helping clients identify and access useful services that may be available to them and counseling clients with regard to emotional or mental health challenges. Here are a few examples of some of the areas in which social workers specialize:

Child and Family Social Work

Child and family social work is a branch of social work that specializes in the provision of assistance and social services to help children and their families. Quite frequently, this type of social work involves interaction with a child’s school. In fact, many of these social workers may be employed by a school or a school district, or may be assigned to work with certain schools. The primary goal of this occupation is to help the social and psychological functions of children and their families. There is a fair amount of stratification within this line of work. Professionals may specialize in areas via a population segment or by a particular type of setting, and may therefore find their work concentrated in areas such as homelessness, adoption, foster care, domestic violence, or child protection services.

In addition to working for schools, child and family social workers may also be employed by local and state governments, as well as for family or individual service agencies. Oftentimes, these positions are referred to as child welfare social workers, child protective services social workers, or as family services social workers. Within school settings, these professionals operate as a vital source to assist both school personnel and families in helping children maximize the most of their educational process, despite whatever issues may be present. Often, these issues may be related to stress as well as to emotional problems, so child and family social workers frequently interact with a variety of people such as teachers, guardians and parents, and administrative personnel. On some occasions, child and family social workers within school environments may lead classroom workshops about subjects such as conflict resolution. These professionals may also be called upon to assist teachers in dealing with the myriad issues that students go through related to teenage pregnancy, substance abuse, truancy, and general misbehavior.

Medical Social Work

There is a fair amount of similarity that exists between medical social work and public health social work. In many instances, public health social work is responsible for the formulation of the policies that directly affect the care and treatment provided by those engaged in the field of medical social work. It may suitably be asserted, however, that medical social work is involved with more of the actual implementation and facilitation of that policy, although it should be noted that there is a degree of policy determination involved in this field of social work as well.

There are many social workers who specialize in a particular environment or setting. For many medical social workers, those settings are frequently healthcare facilities, including hospitals, inpatient and outpatient care facilities, home health service environments, or nursing care facilities. Professionals working within this branch of social work are responsible for disseminating a variety of support to individuals in need of medical attention (as well as to their families) in a host of vulnerable populations that may be subject to illnesses. There is a fair amount of advisory responsibilities these professionals have to deal with, since they must help family members as well as patients with counseling, and help plan patients' needs once they have been released from hospitals. They also frequently interact with family caregivers and provide instruction to them.

More and more frequently, the target demographic for medical social work is the elderly population, which is largely attributed to increased technology and a higher quality of life that is responsible for people living longer than ever before. For those who are involved with the care of senior citizens and their families, job functions include the assessment, monitoring, and coordination of a plethora of services, such as long-term care, housing, and transportation. Those who specialize with this population group are called gerontological social workers.

Mental Health Social Work

Mental health social work is based upon the assessment and treatment of individuals who are experiencing mental health challenges. In addition to providing therapy, they also make provisions for patients as they readjust to daily living within their surrounding community after leaving inpatient facilities.

There are a couple of different options for the employment environment of mental health social workers. Oftentimes, these professionals may work in inpatient programs where those who are seeking mental health treatment are sequestered in a specific facility away from the public. In such locations the patients actually reside in these facilities for a finite amount of time, which is more than likely determined or approved by a mental health social worker. In such settings, mental health social workers may engage in both group and individual counseling with a particular patient, and also communicate with that person’s family to update them on progress and methods to employ to help that person when he or she goes home again.

In outpatient facilities, clients typically come in for treatment and leave. Although some patients may stay overnight, patients do not typically reside in outpatient facilities. Mental health social workers provide the same sort of intervention in these settings as mentioned in inpatient environments, but they typically have less time to work with a patient for the simple fact that he or she is not present at the facility for as long a time.

Another option for mental health social workers is to conduct their own private practices. In virtually all instances, these professionals must have a master’s degree within this field, as well as pass strict licensing requirements that vary by state. Private practice social workers are directly employed by a particular client and are referred to as clinical social workers. Oftentimes, mental healthcare social workers who have a private practice provide psychotherapy for their patients, which is typically financed either through a healthcare program or from the client. These professionals typically need a substantial network of contacts for referrals in order to help maintain their practice.

Substance Abuse Social Work

Substance abuse social work can be emotionally demanding. It requires individuals to be emotionally mature, sensitive to people and their needs, and to be objective when dealing with them and their particular issues related to drugs, alcohol, and other substances that are foreign to the human body and produce effects upon the psyche. These professionals typically spend the bulk of their time within an office or residential facility, but they may also have to travel to meet with clients or service providers, as well as attend meetings that may be of benefit to a particular case.

The primary objective for substance abuse social workers is to help clients and their families deal with issues related to substance abuse. There are many different means of going about treating such people. Frequently, individuals within substance abuse social work must play a part in some sort of therapeutic solutions for clients, either in an individual or in a group setting. Other options include crisis intervention, outreach, teaching skills for coping with life, and social rehabilitation.

Because of the sensitive nature of such cases, most substance abuse social workers tend to have advanced degrees. In fact, some areas of the country actually mandate that professionals have such degrees in order to practice and treat patients. Since substance abuse social workers (along with mental health social workers) are called clinical social workers, there are also usually licensing requirements that must be met by these employees in order to work within a certain jurisdiction. Although most states have their own respective licensing requirements, it is fairly common for there to be mandates about a minimum level of experience required (usually two years or 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience) before these professionals receive their licenses. It may be beneficial to check with certain states for their particular requirements.

Most employees within this field are employed by public agencies, such as family services, while some are employed by individuals. Substance abuse professionals may also work in outpatient care facilities and provide counseling to help people address their respective habits.

Public Health Social Work

There is a fair amount of administrative responsibilities for those who are employed in public social work health. This largely has to do with the nature of this work, which is primarily concerned with the formulation of policy from a managerial or supervisory perspective that is to be implemented and carried out at a variety of levels of public service. Quite frequently, these individuals are employed by entities such as the government as well as individual and family services agencies. Job positions encompassed within this field include social work administrators, policy makers, and researchers, the majority of which are responsible for the research and fostering of programs that address many issues such as violence, penury, homelessness, and child abuse.

To that end, these social workers typically have a hand in several different types of social work, since public health policy social workers frequently are the ones responsible for coming up with the rules and guidelines that professionals in these other areas need to adhere to. Public health social work may play a significant part of the formulation of governmental policy on various issues related to social work, which may require the analysis and advocacy for different public policy positions within governmental agencies. Additionally, these professionals are involved in the implementation of programs that they help to originate. Depending on what sort of a setting a public health social worker is employed in, he or she may be responsible for such practical job functions as the arrangement of at-home services for individuals in need of care, which may include programs such as Meals on Wheels and other forms of domestic assistance.

Due to the level of management or supervisory responsibility that is inherently a part of public health social work, it is often mandatory for professionals within this field to have master’s degrees. In particular, depending on what specific setting a professional is involved in, he or she will need to have an MSW with a concentration in an area such as administration or social services policy. It also may help to have a voluntary credential from a professional organization such as the National Association of Social Workers.

Frequently Asked Questions About Social Work Degrees

Can I become a social worker without a degree?

While requirements differ from state to state, you will likely need at least a bachelor’s degree to become a social worker. Entry-level positions in similar roles may be available without a degree, however. For example, teacher assistants and paraeducators may be able to find positions with a high school diploma, GED, or associate degree. Positions in nursing or retirement homes, or working with children in preschools and other settings, may also be attainable without a degree.

What is the difference between a clinical social worker and a social worker?

The main difference is that clinical social workers are licensed to diagnose and treat mental health and behavioral disorders, whereas social workers are not. A clinical social worker’s responsibilities more closely align with those of a psychologist or mental health therapist. Social workers without a clinical license often have a bachelor’s in social work, or BSW. They often work at more of a macro level with communities and organizations rather than one-on-one.

Which industries do social workers make the most money in?

Social workers are paid highest in local government positions (excluding education and hospitals) and in outpatient healthcare settings, providing support at non-hospital medical facilities such as rehabilitative and healthcare clinics.

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