Accredited accelerated bachelor of social work (BSW) programs enable students to earn their undergraduate social work degree in a condensed time frame. These programs are also known as degree completion programs as they help transfer students earn their BSW more rapidly than if they started from scratch.In this guide
- BSW completion program
- BSW/MSW programs
- Accelerated programs advantages
- BSW program overview
- Degree program cost
Another type of accelerated BSW program combines an accelerated BSW program with an accelerated MSW program. These programs are different from advanced standing MSW programs in that they accelerate earning the BSW and MSW, rather than just the MSW.
BSW degree completion programs
Most accelerated BSW programs are degree completion programs. This means that students enter the program with prior college credit or an associate degree. The number of credits needed to transfer into an accelerated BSW program ranges from as few as 15 to as many as 60.
There are several accelerated BSW programs in the country including at Misericordia University (PA), Lasalle University (PA), King University (TN), Keuka College (NY), Roberts Wesleyan College (NY), University of Saint Joseph (CT), and Goshen College (IN).
Accelerated BSW programs enable students to complete their undergraduate degree in social work in as little as 15 months; but the amount of time it takes to finish a program depends on the number of college credits, or the type of associate degree, students already have. Accelerated BSW programs are especially welcoming to students with a related associate degrees such as in human services
In some programs, students can earn transfer credits in other ways. Several programs, for example, allow students to earn transfer credits by taking standardized subject area tests. Others allow students to earn transfer credits for relevant life experience such as working with vulnerable populations or overcoming their own mental health challenges, poverty, and/or oppression.
Some accelerated BSW programs are geared toward students who already have an undergraduate degree. These programs enable students to earn a second undergraduate degree in social work at an accelerated rate.
Potential students must carefully research and ask questions about the requirements of accelerated BSW programs they are interested in to make sure they qualify for admission.
Accelerated BSW/MSW degree programs
A second option for obtaining an accelerated BSW degree is to complete an accelerated BSW/MSW program. This is not an advanced standing program, but rather a program that shortens the time it takes to earn a BSW and an MSW.
One example of this type of program is offered by Simmons University (MA) where students can complete the BSW program in three years and the MSW program in one year.
Advantages of an accelerated BSW program
Accelerated BSW programs are mainly designed for non-traditional college students who may be older and/or work full-time. They are designed to be flexible in terms of when courses are offered, when a student may begin their studies (e.g., they don’t have to start in the fall), and the length of the program.
Many older or working students cannot enroll in college full time, take classes during the day, be on campus, or complete college on a traditional two semester a year schedule, therefore the accelerated program is a great opportunity for them.
Accelerated BSW programs are also helpful for students with credits in a different major or who attend college at a school without a BSW program. These students may have decided in their sophomore year to pursue a BSW and social work. An accelerated program will help them transition into their new major as seamlessly as possible. If their prior credits are not science or liberal arts oriented, they may have to take several liberal arts or other foundational undergraduate courses before moving into BSW coursework.
Students coming into a transfer accelerated BSW program may earn their degree in as little as 15 months. This is less than the two years it would take them to finish their degree in a traditional college program. The condensed time frame enables older or working students to graduate more quickly and start earning more. Also having the opportunity to take classes at night or on weekends helps them balance work, family, and school responsibilities.
BSW program overview
Many accelerated BSW programs allow students to enroll at any point in the year.
Students are part of a cohort completing their BSW on an accelerated basis. Some accelerated BSW students may be integrated into traditional BSW program cohorts in the fall. Mode of course delivery varies, but classes are almost always offered at convenient times for working students. Courses may be offered in person, in a hybrid format combining online and in person classes, or fully online. Online only programs tend to take less time to complete.
Course delivery and length
Courses in an accelerated program may be considerably shorter than the standard 15-weeks. In fact, some online programs offer courses that are only five or six weeks long. These online programs follow a two session per semester calendar, and generally have a two-session summer semester.
Although the online courses are rigorous, students may be able to take as many as six courses per semester. These abbreviated courses are not easy, however, as they require many hours of online asynchronous coursework and may not include live weekly class meetings. For those who want to meet their instructor and cohort in person, a hybrid program may be more suitable.
A fully online program can be more convenient for students who cannot travel to campus and have caregiving or job responsibilities. Strong communities are often formed within online programs.
Accelerated BSW students are required to complete the same total credit hours as traditional full-time BSW students. If entering an accelerated program with an associates degree in human services, counseling, or a closely related field, or more credits than are required to transfer, students can finish their degree in less time.
One-hundred twenty total credit hours are typically needed to earn a BSW degree. Students will need to enter most accelerated programs with anywhere between 15 and 60 credit hours, depending on specific program requirements.
The curriculum for an accelerated BSW program is the same as the curriculum for the traditional BSW program; however, if a student transfers with an associate degree in human services, for example, they can begin their studies at a more advanced level. For example, these students may not have to take human behavior and the social environment or a research course since they probably took similar courses in their associate program.
Many BSW programs require first and second year students to complete liberal arts courses. If students are not transferring into the accelerated BSW program with many liberal arts credits, they may have to complete several foundational liberal arts courses before moving into foundational social work courses. Liberal arts requirements often include psychology or sociology courses, government courses, courses on race or gender and inequality, biology, and international studies courses.
Foundational BSW courses include human behavior and the social environment, social policy, research generalist practice, assessment, group practice, and integrative fieldwork seminar.
Students will be able to take electives of interest to them in by the final year of the program once their foundational liberal arts and BSW program course requirements have been fulfilled. Electives can focus on gender inequality, gerontology, grief and loss, mental health policy, social work practice theory, and many other specialized areas that align with students’ interests and career goals. Students may also take advanced policy, research, or clinical courses.
Some accelerated BSW programs require a capstone project or thesis. This is a project or paper that can focus on a student’s real-life experience working with clients during a field work placement. For a capstone paper or project students often write about client assessment and treatment, working with diverse groups of clients, and/or analyze data they have collected. A capstone paper may also focus on a particular social policy impacting their clients at their field work placement. The capstone paper integrates learning from throughout the previous three years and allows students to show off their analytical and writing skills.
BSW students typically complete between 400 to 600 hours of field work, depending on the program. Field work is complete at an agency where ideally students will do work they are interested in and that helps prepare them for generalist practice.
Students interested in research and policy will have some field work options as well. Accelerated program placements typically allow students to complete their fieldwork in the evening or on weekends. Online students will complete field work in their local community.
Students applying to an accelerated BSW program will need to meet the same minimum requirements as traditional BSW students. They will need a required minimum high school GPA, or if applying as a transfer student, they will need a minimum required undergraduate GPA. They may also need to take the SATs, but not all accelerated programs require standardized tests. Select accelerated BSW programs require some work experience as well.
Students transferring into an accelerated BSW program will need to submit a copy of their undergraduate or community college transcript. Other admissions materials are standard such as a written statement of why you are interested in the program, letters of recommendation, and a resume. Some accelerated BSW programs require an interview with the program director so they can get to know you and your interests and goals. Students should become familiar with admissions requirements and required materials well in advance of the application deadline (i.e., at least 6 months prior).
Cost of an accelerated BSW program
Most accelerated programs offer discounted tuition to students in their accelerated BSW program. Accelerated BSW students could end up paying as little as $16,000 to complete their degree if they can transfer an optimal number of credits.
Some BSW programs do require accelerated students to pay the same tuition rate as traditional students. Accelerated programs typically offer students the same financial aid opportunities as traditional college students.
With a BSW you can begin your social work career in an entry level position (unless you have social service-related work experience) where you learn more about clinical or policy practice. The extent to which you work one on one with clients depends on your level of licensure and experience. BSW graduates typically engage in generalist, rather than advanced, practice. If they want to work on more complex, or a broader range, of cases more quickly BSW graduates may consider obtaining an MSW. BSW graduates work in child welfare agencies, community mental health, advocacy organizations, group homes, nonprofits, and as case managers.
Accelerated BSW programs are degree completion programs, meaning that students enter a program with some college credits or an associate degree. Depending on how many credits you are transferring, earning the BSW can take anywhere between one to two years. To graduate in the shortest time possible, accelerated students generally take classes during the summer semester. Online accelerated BSW programs can be completed more quickly than traditional semester programs, but intensive six-to-eight-week courses can be quite time consuming.
Many accelerated BSW programs strongly prefer students to enter with a two-year degree in human services or another related field. Most programs, however, will accept any type of college credits and even allow you to earn transfer credits by taking certain tests or writing about your lived experience receiving or disseminating social services. Some programs require as few as 12 to 15 course credits to transfer.
Yes, like any BSW graduate you have a good chance of being admitted into an advanced standing MSW program. There are few programs, however, that provide an accelerated BSW/MSW program.
It is definitely worth looking into if you already have some college credits or an associate degree in a related discipline and know you want to be a social worker. Even if you do not have relevant course credits an accelerated program will help you earn your BSW faster than starting over at a new school. Accelerated programs are generally geared toward working adults who need a flexible schedule. Make sure you ask a lot of questions before deciding to apply to a particular accelerated program to make sure you qualify.