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

By the OnlineU team | Updated 1/12/2022
Quick Facts
Accreditation: CSWE
Average Tuition: $27,472
Alumni Salary: $32,580

An online bachelor's degree in social work immerses students in lessons on social policy and caring intervention. A social work degree might qualify graduates for several careers in community and social service so they can help improve the lives of at-risk individuals and families in their community. Many colleges offer online social work bachelor's degrees that allow students to start down this path. Below, we've ranked the top online bachelor's programs in social work according to return on investment, a calculation of salary versus debt.

Read on for information about common courses, possible career paths, and 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

Overview of Online Bachelor's Degrees in Social Work

Faculty design bachelor's degrees in social work to introduce students to the fundamental knowledge and practices of the discipline. Most programs aim to create generalists who can work for government agencies, non-profits, healthcare employers, or correctional facilities. Programs usually take 120 credit hours and about four years of full-time study to complete. Some schools offer part-time degrees that let enrollees study at a slower pace as they balance other responsibilities.

Because online education is more popular than ever, many schools provide social work bachelor's degrees through distance learning platforms. Online learners usually take asynchronous classes with no set meeting times. They can sign in to a learning management platform at their convenience to submit assignments, watch recorded lectures, and discuss topics with classmates. Degree programs in social work culminate in an internship or practicum, where students can gain up to 400 hours of supervised real-world experience. Even online students need to complete their practicum hours in an approved field setting.


A bachelor's degree in social work can go by three names: A Bachelor’s of Social Work (BSW) is the most common, but you can also acquire an online degree in social work through a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) or a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.). The differences among these tend to be minor, and all three degree types have received accreditation. Many social workers and professional associations refer to all undergraduate social work degrees as BSWs, regardless of what they're actually called.


The Importance of Accreditation

To earn institutional accreditation, a college must pass a thorough, independent evaluation of its curricula, faculty, and services. Schools can earn either national or regional accreditation, with regional being the most prestigious. Students who choose a regionally accredited school can receive federal financial aid and transfer credits to a college or graduate school with the same type of accreditation.

At the program level, the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredits social work degrees. This group certifies the educational quality and comprehensiveness of individual degrees and runs a searchable database of accredited programs, including those with online delivery formats.

Graduates typically need a CSWE-accredited degree to earn social worker licenses. Graduating from an unaccredited program can negatively impact a person's future academic prospects and employment opportunities in the field. These graduates would be unable to enroll in a Master of Social Work (MSW) transfer program because the college wouldn't recognize their undergraduate credits, and they wouldn't be allowed to take a state licensing exam. Most employers will not hire an unlicensed social worker. Graduates typically need a CSWE-accredited degree to earn social worker licenses.

Admission Requirements

Social work departments often have separate admissions processes from their respective colleges. In other words, applicants must be accepted to a school before applying to join a bachelor's program in social work. Requirements vary by college, but the examples below are some common items requested with a degree application:

  • A high school diploma or equivalent, often with a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5
  • A record of volunteer experience demonstrating the applicant's dedication to helping others
  • Prerequisite coursework that typically includes introductory classes in sociology, psychology, and social work, with grades of C or above
  • A personal statement testifying to the student's interest in the field
  • Two letters of recommendation

Curriculum and Common Courses for an Online Bachelor's in Social Work

Undergraduates in social work take courses on human psychology and behavior, social policy, research methods, and cultural sensitivity. The curriculum’s goal is to prepare graduates for a career helping a diverse range of clients solve or mitigate ongoing problems, such as those brought on by family issues, drug or alcohol dependency, injury, or mental health.

Depending on their online social work program, bachelor's students may be able to add a concentration to their degree, such as children and adolescents, medical social work, or public health. However, most bachelor's degree programs in social work feature a core group of classes that meet CSWE standards. We've shared a few of these courses below.

Human Social Behavior

This survey course typically comes early on in an enrollee's studies. Enrollees study the psychology of group formation and leadership, the dynamics of various social units, and communication within and across cultures. Some colleges offer a Human Social Behavior course sequence that moves through the lifespan, from infancy to adulthood.

Intervention Practices

One of the key job functions in social work is finding and implementing solutions to clients' problems, which is the main theme of this course. Faculty generally promote the strengths approach to interventions, which focuses on people's positive characteristics and plays down their weaknesses. Individual lessons discuss how to tailor interventions for different issues, individuals, and groups.

Research Methods and Practices

Future social workers need to know which solutions have proven most helpful in certain situations. They learn how to analyze and design research projects and find value in statistics while avoiding potential pitfalls. Students carry out a term-length research project and may even present it to the class.

Social Welfare Policy

This course covers the history of organizational and governmental efforts to improve citizens' lives, including current state and federal social policies in the U.S. Professors emphasize the durability of institutions, bureaucratic norms and processes, and social workers' legal and ethical responsibilities.

Substance Use and Addiction

Students learn how they can identify and intervene to mitigate harmful addictive behaviors. Professors emphasize a team-based approach to treatment that includes addiction counselors, physicians, and families. They also cover the neurophysiological effects of various substances and the harmful impacts that substance use disorder can have on families and other social groups.

Unsure about pursuing a degree in social work? Consider exploring other online bachelor's programs.

Licensure and Certification Requirements

Bachelor's-qualified social workers may still need to earn a license in order to practice, but the requirements differ by state. The Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) has a search tool on its website that provides links to helpful information about each state's licensing board. The ASWB also administers licensing exams for interested alumni.

Whether they're licensed or not, bachelor's graduates can only work as direct-service or macro social workers who help clients work through everyday problems or achieve a particular goal. They might find low-cost childcare for a single parent, monitor a child's progress at a new school, or help register a family for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. On the other hand, students interested in clinical social work must get an MSW degree and pass a clinical licensing exam. With these credentials, they can work in mental health assessment, diagnosis, and treatment.

Careers with an Online Bachelor's in Social Work

The goal of earning a social work degree is to help caring, community-minded individuals develop the competence and attributes they need to support others. During their studies, students work to develop their aptitude with organization, advocacy, and data-driven research while practicing empathy and cultural sensitivity. Social work graduates can pursue a range of opportunities within the field as well as other careers in community service. Read on for several examples of jobs that alumni can land once they earn a bachelor's degree in social work.

Direct-service social worker
Median Annual Salary: $40,500
Job Growth Rate: 12%

A variety of employers hire macro social workers. One-third of all social workers take jobs with charitable non-profits serving children, low-income families, and people with substance use issues. Healthcare employers are also popular because medical and public health social workers are increasingly needed to serve the country's aging population and coordinate public health initiatives.

Social and community service manager
Median Annual Salary: $69,600
Job Growth Rate: 15%

These workers organize and promote social service programs, initiatives, and projects for their employers. Community service managers can work at non-profit organizations, businesses with charitable interests, or government agencies, and their initiatives can range from career mentorship for unhoused people to fundraisers for mental health clinics.

Health education specialist
Median Annual Salary: $56,500
Job Growth Rate: 17%

Government bureaus, hospitals, and non-profits hire health education specialists to promote community well-being. They create educational materials, speak to groups about health topics, and collect data on their community's needs so they can advocate for improvements more authoritatively. The fast growth in these jobs is partly driven by health organizations learning lessons from COVID-19.

Medical and health services manager
Median Annual Salary: $104,280
Job Growth Rate: 32%

Social work alumni can secure administrative work at hospitals and clinical care facilities. A degree concentration in medical social work or public health might bolster their chances of getting these types of jobs. Although medical and health services managers are the highest-paid employees on this list, the median wage may be skewed by the fact that many hold master's degrees in fields like healthcare administration.

Interested in learning about employment outcomes for alumni of online programs? OnlineU studied ten popular online colleges across the country and found strong career results.

Continuing Education

Social work is a constantly evolving field, with new research and emerging advocacy in response to legal and policy changes. To maintain a license, social workers must document a certain number of continuing education (CE) hours during a set period. Even unlicensed social workers might be required to complete CE by their employers or the professional groups they belong to, all of which have an interest in maintaining high standards for the field.



To maintain a license, social workers must document a certain number of continuing education (CE) hours during a set period.

Qualifying CE can include graduate-level college courses, seminars by licensed practitioners, or online modules offered by professional organizations. Social workers may need to travel to some CE events but might be able to access training modules and lectures at home. Social workers who want a further credential can pursue an MSW, which often leads to improved job prospects and higher wages. Students who want to be professors and researchers might choose a doctoral degree in social work.

Professional Associations

In the social work field, professional organizations united by this common vocation strive to increase public understanding of their work and advance the discipline. Once members pay their dues to join an organization, they generally have access to the group's networking events, job boards, and proprietary research and surveys. Many employers prefer to hire candidates who belong to at least one major professional group.

The largest organization for social workers is the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), which provides career resources to its members, along with CE modules and legal/ethics advice. Many NASW members join additional, more specialized groups, including the organizations below.

This group seeks to increase Black representation in the social work profession. Individuals can join local chapters and contribute to one of the association's committees, which work on issues that include health and aging, disaster preparedness, and family preservation in Black communities.

Medical and health professionals might consider joining this organization, which offers career postings, annual conferences, and frequent articles of interest to healthcare social workers. Members can also apply for a mentoring program that pairs them with experienced professionals who can give career advice.

This group features many local chapters and gives advice on how to create a chapter in any state. Members can access professional development services that include conferences and CE materials. They highlight school social workers who make media appearances, especially those who advocate for the group's policy preferences.

Is an Online BSW Program Worth It?

A bachelor's degree is a major commitment of time, money, and effort, so it's natural to wonder whether the outcome will be worth the cost. No answer suits everybody's financial, family, and work circumstances. Some social work alumni have fulfilling careers in the field while others have had difficulty finding satisfying jobs. You might consider the following factors as you weigh the decision to enroll.

Potential Benefits

  • A bachelor's in social work is a potentially versatile degree. According to CSWE's most recent survey of bachelor's degree graduates, alumni in this field have discussed the ease of switching between client populations and the fact that employers in other social service and community care fields appreciate their skills and dedication.
  • Most community and social service occupations are growing faster than the average rate. The BLS expects this field to expand 12% by 2030 for a gain of 346,900 jobs.
  • One-quarter of bachelor's graduates in social work are Black, and 17% identify as Hispanic or Latino, according to the CSWE survey. These numbers are higher than the respective percentages of employees from these groups in the U.S. workforce. People with diverse backgrounds are better represented in this sector than in many other health services fields, which is especially important because social workers should reflect the socioeconomic diversity of the country to gain their clients' trust and understand their cultural context.

Potential Drawbacks

  • BSW graduates often have difficulty finding jobs as social workers. According to the CSWE survey cited above, only 59% of bachelor's-level respondents found a job within a year of graduating, and nearly one-third of those jobs were in fields other than social work.
  • Social workers without master's degrees tend to earn incomes that are on the lower end of the field. In the same CSWE survey, 82% of BSW alumni reported wages under the $40,500 median for social workers. This indicates that social workers without master's degrees tend to earn incomes that are on the lower end of the field.
  • Online learning usually results in fewer chances to network and less social interaction, debate, and discussion.

Online learning is not for everyone, but it's worth noting that there are no special benefits or drawbacks to studying social work online compared to other subjects. Many students enjoy the convenience of asynchronous classwork, but others thrive in a traditional classroom setting. Although distance learners have fewer options for networking, they still have opportunities to meet people during their clinical placement in the later stages of the degree.

Frequently Asked Questions About Social Work Degrees

Can I Complete a Social Work Degree Online?

Yes, colleges offer fully online social work degrees at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels.

How Long Does It Take to Earn a BSW?

Colleges design most programs to take four years of full-time study. In reality, most undergraduates take more than four years to finish, though this is unspecific to social work or any other major. Some schools offer degree-completion programs that can take two years, but these require an established base of completed coursework, such as an associate degree.

Can I Become a Social Worker Without a Degree?

No, you need at least a bachelor's degree to become a social worker. You may be able to find an entry-level position in another social service role, such as community health worker or teacher assistant.

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

An accredited social work degree can qualify you for entry-level roles as a direct-service social worker, along with a number of jobs in social services and community health.

What Are the Highest Paying Jobs I Can Get With a Bachelor's in Social Work?

You may find work as a medical and health services manager, a profession with a median salary of $104,280. However, many people in this field have advanced degrees in healthcare administration, so a bachelor's in social work isn't likely to help you access the top of the pay scale. Graduates employed as social workers earn the highest wages in local government, followed by ambulatory healthcare services.

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