Obtaining an online bachelor’s degree in social work has never been easier. Getting an online degree is a great way to prepare for a social work career. (See the “careers” section below for a partial list of jobs available to graduates of a social work bachelor’s program.)
The actual opportunities available may vary from state-to-state due to licensing requirements within each state.
An online bachelor’s degree in social work is often considered the first step for those interested in a life in social work.
Online bachelor’s degree in social work programs
The following is a sampling of just a few bachelor’s degree programs in social work currently offered. The intention is to show a representative range of the different programs around the nation, and some of the prominent features of these programs. For a more comprehensive list of online social work bachelor’s degree programs, please refer to the last section of this page.
- Rutgers University – Online Bachelor’s of Arts degrees in social work from Rutgers are available from Newark and Camden campuses. Admission requires an associate’s degree in social work. The school’s social work programs have a focus on urban social work, and are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). A minor is required to complete the social work major, and must be declared by the student. Graduating students are eligible and can apply for certification by the New Jersey Board of Social Work Examiners.
- Southern New Hampshire University – SNHU offers a Bachelor of Arts in Human Services in an online format. It features 24/7 online access to courses and self-paced study. Commencing students can start at the beginning of any of the school’s multiple study terms.
- University of Cincinnati – UC’s BSW program is designed for students with associates degrees in social work. Certain introductory social work courses must also have been completed, but the school offers free online courses that will satisfy this requirement. The program is accredited by CSWE.
- University of Arkansas – UA has offered a BSW program since 1940, which makes it one of the oldest programs in the country. It is accredited by CSWE. The school requires applicants to have completed nine foundational courses including introduction to social work, psychology, sociology, government, policy, communications, and composition.
- Ursuline College – The BSW program at Ursuline is accredited by CSWE and the Ohio Department of Higher Education. The school offers both online and in-person course options. Graduates are also eligible for advanced placement in master’s degree in social work programs due to the inclusion of 15 credit hours of graduate-level coursework in the BSW program.
- Walden University – Walden’s BSW program is accredited by CSWE. There five optional areas of focus available to students.
Online bachelor’s degree in social work courses
Social work bachelor’s degree programs generally offer introductory coursework exposing students to the full breadth of the field. These will generally include human behavioral science, social work research methodologies, basic statistics as it applies to social work, and public policy.
Examples of these types of foundational courses offered by many schools include the following:
- Human behavior in the social environment
- Social welfare policy
- Generalist social work practice
- Mental health perspectives in social work
- Substance abuse counseling
- Case management
- Basic pharmacology
- Social work research
- Professional issues of social workers
Beyond these core classes, students can choose among available specialized coursework in a myriad of defined disciplines. These specialty courses will vary from school to school, so be sure to research availability before applying. Many schools also provide courses designed to prepare students for seeking advanced degrees in social work.
As social work generally requires heavy contact with the people requiring services, a critical component of a degree program in social work is practicums. Also called internships or clinicals, most schools offering online bachelor’s degrees in social work require at least 400 hours of this style of field work. This helps expose students to the workings of social agencies and gain valuable experience working with the public.
Five steps for choosing an online bachelor’s degree in social work program
- Application/admission requirements – Admission requirements for social work bachelor’s degree programs vary from school to school. Some schools require students to enter their program with particular proficiencies and/or prior studies. And some will require one or more placement exams and/or aptitude test scores. Be sure to determine what these requirements are before committing to a school to minimize the amount of extra work that may be necessary.
- Transferring credit hours – The ability to transfer credit hours from one school to another is a significant benefit for most students. For those currently entered in other programs of study and seeking to transfer to a new school and/or change majors to social work, the ability to receive credit for coursework already completed could be a key factor in considering which social work program is best for them. Be sure to consult with faculty and admissions officers at any potential schools before making a final decision.
- Availability of specialized courses for preferred area of expertise – Social work bachelor’s degree programs generally offer a core of required courses providing introductions to various aspects of the overall field. But there are a number of disparate specialties within the field, including such disciplines as child welfare, substance abuse, elder care, and family services. For students entering a degree program with a particular specialty in mind, it is important to choose a school offering ample coursework within that specialty.
- Tuition and scholarships – Tuition charged by any given school is, of course, a key consideration for prospective students. However, don’t be turned off by high tuition without first researching all available tuition assistance options offered through each potential school being considered. Financial aid can often offset most or all tuition at even more expensive schools for some qualified students.
- School reputation – As with any higher education degree program, the school’s reputation among potential employers can play a huge role in how successful a post-graduate career can be. To maximize the return from the time and financial cost of a degree, choose a school that is well respected within a particular field.
What to look for in online bachelor’s degree in social work programs
Choosing the right school is, of course, a critical first step on the road to a bachelor’s degree in social work.
- Program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). There are currently 529 online and campus-based baccalaureate programs with CSWE accreditation.
- Admission requirements present minimal additional coursework or exams
- Cost of degree program
- Graduation rates and post-degree employment success of past students
- Employer tuition reimbursement offers available to offset tuition
- Scholarships, grants and other available financial aid
Financial assistance for bachelor’s degrees in social work
The need for social workers in the US is great and growing at a strong pace. Organizations around the country recognize this need and many are providing financial incentives to entice students to study social work and dedicate their careers to helping people in need. Some examples of scholarships now on offer include the following:
- Consuelo W. Gosnell Memorial Scholarship
- Allied Healthcare Scholarship Program
- National Association of Black Social Workers
- Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund
- The John A. Hartford Foundation
- The Ron Brown Scholar Program
- William Randolph Hearst Endowed Fellowship
This is by no means an exhaustive list of social work financial aid options. There are more than a few other similar scholarship programs available with a variety of directives, including geographic and course of study limitations. Social work scholarships and grants may also be available from individual schools. Always check with the college’s financial assistance office to explore all options.
Bachelor’s degree in social work careers
The term social work encompasses a fairly broad spectrum of activities providing guidance and assistance to people of all types and ages. Individuals, families, and communities across the US are in need of many varieties of help.
Child welfare programs such as adoption and foster care, family counseling and aid, military personnel and families, prisoners and ex-convicts and their families, the elderly, and those suffering from mental illness and/or substance addiction are just some of the places and applications for which social workers are needed.
A bachelor’s degree in social work will present graduates with a wide range of career options to assist such people under the social work umbrella.
Depending on the university, undergraduate programs lead to a bachelor’s in social work (BSW), a bachelor of science in social work (BSSW), or a bachelor of art in social work (BASW).
These are essentially the same degrees with different names. In addition to a degree, each state has requirements for licensure of social workers.
Licenses are required for social workers to partake in certain occupations that fall under the broad social work umbrella. The job functions covered vary by state.
Also, some states provide licensure for bachelor’s degree holders wishing to partake in certain occupations, while others require a master’s degree in social work before candidates can enroll in a licensing program and be awarded a license.
Check with your favorite state or states for exact requirements and career paths permitted. Also, consult with the state chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW).
The following list presents just a small sampling of the potential career paths available to those possessing a bachelor’s degree in social work.
- Residential counselor
- Community outreach worker
- Group home worker
- Case manager
- Juvenile court liaison
- Probation officer
- Adoption agency administrator
- Rehabilitation specialist
Earning potential of a bachelor’s degree in social work
A bachelor’s degree in social work opens up a number of job possibilities.
With so many career options available, it is difficult to pin down a specific salary range for the profession. However, finding a job should not be a problem. Demand for qualified social workers is expanding more quickly than most other job categories, particularly in the physical and mental health disciplines.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for all social workers in 2018 was $49,470 while the median hourly wage was $23.79. But this is simply a nationwide average of all jobs falling under the social work definition. Utilizing the above-mentioned career paths as a guide, we can get an idea of what specific jobs might pay, according to payscale.com.
- Residential counselor $13.52/hour
- Community outreach coordinator $42,000/year
- Group home supervisor $14.19/hour
- Case manager $40,000/year
- Probation officer $43,000/year
- Rehabilitation counselor $45,000/year
Future prospects for social work employment
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that employment of social workers will grow by about 11 percent by 2028.
This growth rate is well above the expected rate of increase in the general workforce. As with salary information, future demand for social workers will vary widely depending upon the specific discipline within social work, however.
For instance, the BLS expects job opportunities for child, family and school social workers to increase about 7 percent from 2018 through 2028.
Employment for healthcare-related social workers, on the other hand, is projected to grow by 17 percent over that same time period. The BLS expects mental health and substance abuse social work jobs to increase by about 18 percent from 2018 to 2028.
Employment prospects are bright for those obtaining the education and licenses required to pursue a career in just about any aspect of social work. And for those specializing in physical and mental health concerns, the future employment picture is extremely positive.
The following list of online degree programs in social work includes up-to-date information.
1.What are the most important factors for students deciding on an online BSW program?
2.What kinds of hands-on or fieldwork experiences are available to your online BSW students?
3.Can students take electives, or customize their online BSW experience?
What are the most important factors for students deciding on an online BSW program?
Students deciding upon an online BSW program should choose one that is accredited. It is also important to investigate cost, as it can vary widely from program to program. Finally, students should consider the format of the classes. There are asynchronous, meaning students can complete work on their own schedule. There are also synchronous sessions, which require students to login to a video conferencing class session at a specific time. Some students may prefer live video sessions that allow them to connect more personally with their professor and classmates, whereas others may need an asynchronous format that is more flexible and meets the needs of their schedule.
What kinds of hands-on or fieldwork experiences are available to your online BSW students?
Our BSW students who are in our online program all complete social work field practicum, in order to meet licensure requirements in the state of Ohio. We also offer our program nationwide, so students from any state can receive their BSW degree through MVNU. Our field experiences are diverse, and we allow BSW students to complete them in their locations, so they do not have to travel great distances to get field experience. Students may be placed in community mental health centers, government agencies like child protective services, foster care and adoption agencies, drug and alcohol treatment centers, nonprofits like the United Way, and in criminal justice settings like juvenile court or county probation offices.
Can students take electives, or customize their online BSW experience?
Our online BSW program follows a standard curriculum, but students do have the opportunity to take electives to customize their online experience. For example, we offer special topics courses, such as a class on stress management and Wellness, as well as a course on the African American experience. We also offer elective courses on chemical dependency counseling that meet the requirements for licensure as a Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant (CDCA) in the state of Ohio. Students can also take a course on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to strengthen their knowledge of mental health diagnoses and prepare them for the Social Work Licensure Exam.
What does it take to be successful as an online BSW student?
Being an online BSW student requires strong time management skills, as well as the ability to stay organized. Online students must also be self-motivated. In the in-person BSW setting, students have regular contact with professors and other classmates via face-to-face class meetings, where they are reminded of upcoming exams and assignments. On the other hand, staying on top of coursework in an online class requires students to take the initiative to login, check the syllabus, and be mindful of assignment due dates with less interaction with professors. Ideally, the professor will be in contact with online students on a regular basis, but many students find that it is more difficult to stay on top of due dates in the online setting. If you are able to balance the demands of work, home life, and school, and take responsibility for ensuring that you do your work each week, without physically being present in a classroom, you can be successful in an online BSW program.
What types of jobs are online BSW graduates finding?
Many of our BSW graduates go on to graduate school and obtain their MSW. I have found that students often go into social work wanting to work in the mental health field as a therapist, which often requires a master’s degree and eventually independent licensure as an LISW (Licensed Independent Social Worker). That being said, graduates do tend to go on to get their MSWs and eventually find work as therapists, whether in community mental health or a private practice. Other graduates who go on to complete the MSW end up working as school social workers. Those who earn the BSW and immediately enter the workforce are finding employment in juvenile detention centers, county probation offices, child welfare agencies, foster care and adoption agencies, addiction treatment centers, nonprofits, and in courts as victims’ advocates. Some also work in mental health agencies as case managers.
If you had to choose one or two books, articles, documentaries, podcasts, etc. to be included on a required reading list for social work students, what would it be?
The documentary “The Florida Project,” which is available on Netflix, is an excellent example of a single mother living in poverty, and her experience coming into contact with Child Protective Services. I highly recommend this for social work students. I also recommend the book, “Tweak” by Nic Sheff, especially for students who are interested in working in the addiction field. It tells the story of overcoming methamphetamine addiction from the first-hand perspective of someone in recovery, it is evident from the book that the author demonstrates many of the signs of a substance use disorder that are required for a diagnosis in the DSM-5.