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Cheapest Social Work Degree

Online social work programs prepare aspiring social workers for the profession. Social workers typically need at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college. Applicants need a high school or GED diploma. Some schools also require standardized test scores and recommendation letters.

An undergraduate social work degree features a mix of general education and major classes. Online social work programs may require classes in social work research, human diversity and ethical issues, and family and group practice. Graduates who do not pursue a master’s may work as probation officers, behavioral management aides, or community outreach workers.

Our ranking lists the most affordable online social work programs. Keep reading to learn about costs, common classes, and how to become a social worker.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Social Work

What jobs can I get with a degree in social work?

Licensed professionals work in different settings, like hospitals or schools. They train for these roles by selecting a specialization in their online social work degree.

What are some social work specializations?

Social work degrees may offer specializations like medical or hospice social work. Requirements include completing supervised work experience and taking upper-division electives.

Do social workers need a license?

Many social work professions require a license. Licensure requirements vary by state but may include a specific degree, supervised work experience, and passing an exam.

Do I need more than a bachelor’s degree to work as a social worker?

Many social workers need a master’s in social work to qualify for a state-issued license. These on-campus and online degrees in social work take full-time students two years to complete.

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Why Get a Degree in Social Work?

Social workers help people achieve a better quality of life. Their work also impacts communities positively. Social workers earn more than the typical U.S. worker. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for these workers to grow 12% from 2020-2030, which is faster than average.

An online format helps recent high school graduates and adults returning to school. Online social work degrees let students attend an out-of-state college without relocating. This advantage can help learners save money. Other benefits may include an asynchronous curriculum.

How Much Does a Social Work Degree Cost?

Students researching online social work programs should compare their cost of attendance by adding up fees, tuition, textbooks, and other expenses. College costs an average of $35,330 per year, according to EducationData.org. Learners attending public, in-state schools typically pay the most affordable tuition.

Many colleges offering a degree in social work offer institutional scholarships and grants. The latter requires FAFSA results. The federal government also uses the FAFSA to award grants and low-interest loans. Degree-seekers submit the FAFSA annually to remain eligible. Online social work students can also apply for private scholarships to help pay for their degree.

Additional Online Student Fees

Students pursuing an online social work degree should budget for extra expenses. For example, many schools charge technology fees to cover online learning delivery. Schools may also charge graduation fees.

Learners pursuing licensure may move into a master’s in social work program, which requires a major investment. Master’s degree-holders must then pay for a state-issued license. Prospective students should check a state’s board of licensure website for the latest fee schedules.

How Much Do Social Work Majors Make?

Social workers earn a median $51,760 annually, according to the BLS. This salary exceeds what the typical U.S. worker makes by about $10,000. However, workers with only a bachelor’s may earn less. The lowest-paid social workers earn $33,020 or less.

Many factors influence salary, including professionals’ employer and geographic location. Local governments and ambulatory healthcare services pay more than the national median.

Earning a master’s degree and a license helps graduates qualify for better-paying positions. Some experienced licensed social workers earn more than $85,820. These workers can find the best-paying jobs by relocating. Social workers in Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Washington earn more than their peers in other states.

Courses in Social Work

Online social work programs require major classes, general education classes, and electives. The major curriculum may feature classes in writing for social workers, social welfare policy, and integrative practice.

Some programs offer enough elective credits to let students complete a minor or second major. Degree-seekers can work with an academic advisor to customize the curriculum to fit their academic and career goals.

See below for some common classes in online social work programs. Consider this list a sample curriculum. Graduation requirements and academic experiences vary among online schools. Prospective enrollees should compare social work degrees closely and contact admissions counselors to find the right program.

  • Writing for Social Workers

    Social workers with a bachelor’s need advanced writing skills. This class emphasizes scholarly writing fundamentals, research strategies, and effective paraphrasing. Other class topics include the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Publication Manual. Students use what they learn in this class to write in APA style throughout their bachelor’s program. The class also prepares learners for graduate-level classes’ writing assignments.
  • Social Welfare Policy

    This class requires students to analyze how social welfare policy evolved throughout U.S. history. Assigned readings cover social work movements, milestones, and challenges. These and other topics help learners understand social workers’ roles and responsibilities. Additional learning outcomes include using historical context to evaluate modern social work trends.
  • Integrative Policy

    Many online social work programs require integrative practice or a similar capstone class. Students split their time between a field practicum and a virtual classroom. The 400-hour practicum requires learners to work under a licensed social worker with at least two years of experience. Degree-seekers leave the practicum with in-demand professionalism, interpersonal, and analytical skills.

How to Become a Social Worker

Licensed social workers need more than a bachelor’s to practice. Aspiring professionals must earn a master’s from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. This organization accredits only the best programs preparing learners for a career. Other requirements include a state-issued license. Licensure candidates with a master’s take exams and pay a fee.

Licensed social workers’ responsibilities vary by specialization. School social workers typically work out of a district office and visit schools. Healthcare social workers usually work in a hospital or other clinical setting. Typical job responsibilities include interviewing clients, providing advice, and recommending additional social services.

Most Affordable Online Social Work Programs 2021

  1. University of Louisville
    Location

    Louisville, KY

    Tuition

    $17098

    Located in Louisville, Kentucky, UofL offers an online bachelor of social work. The program prepares students to analyze complex social issues and implement interventions. Students can opt into a drug and alcohol counseling track as a specialization.

    The 120-credit program includes social work core courses such as human behavior and social environment, social justice practice, and issues in policy and service delivery. Students take a supervised practicum in an approved human services organization with a concurrent seminar to break down events and problem solve. The drug and alcohol counseling track offers courses like motivation and change and special issues in drug and alcohol counseling.

    Students may transfer up to 60 credits toward their degree, with a minimum GPA of 2.5. First-year applicants must possess a minimum GPA of 2.5 and a minimum ACT score of 20 to qualify for admission. 

    UofL is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on College. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education.

  2. Northern Arizona University
    Location

    Flagstaff, AZ

    Tuition

    $14882

    Located in Flagstaff, NAU offers an online bachelor of social work. The program focuses on social work within the Indigenous and rural populations in the Southwest.

    The 120-credit curriculum includes contemporary topics in social work, human behavior and the social environment, and crisis intervention. Students also take behavioral science courses from five different topic tracks, including ethnicity, gender, social and economic justice, and human biology. The culmination of the degree includes 12 credits of fieldwork for hands-on experience.

    Students need to send ACT or SAT scores, and they must have a minimum 3.0 GPA to apply for automatic admission. Students missing one or more of these requirements can apply for case-by-base admission. Transfer students need a minimum GPA of 2.0 to qualify for admission.

    NAU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education.

  3. Troy University
    Location

    Troy, AL

    Tuition

    $12114

    Located in Troy, Alabama, Troy offers an online bachelor of social work. In addition to the online coursework, students must also visit human services agencies, attend political events, and interview current social workers as part of the program.

    The 120-credit program includes courses in social policy and planning, social work with organizations and communities, and human behavior and the social environment. Students participate in a social work seminar in preparation for practicum courses. The seminar prepares students for social work realities before conducting 200 hours of fieldwork at an approved agency. 

    First-time applicants must possess a minimum GPA of 2.0 and submit a minimum ACT score of 20 or SAT score of 1030 for unconditional admission. Students may meet either of those two requirements for conditional admission. Transfer students need a minimum GPA of 2.0 in undergraduate coursework (minimum 12 credits). 

    Troy is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education.

  4. University of Nebraska at Kearney
    Location

    Kearney, NE

    Tuition

    $15975

    Based in Kearney, UNK offers a bachelor of science in social work. Graduates meet Nebraska social work certification requirements.

    The 120-credit curriculum includes courses like human service ethics and experience, introduction to social welfare, and fundamentals of research in social welfare. Students may also take courses specializing in different focus areas, such as aging services, violence across lifespans, and introduction to mental health issues. Students take two field placements, gaining hands-on experience with experts in the field.

    Applicants must possess a minimum GPA of 3.0 and a minimum ACT score of 20 or SAT score of 1040 for unconditional admission. Otherwise, students may apply for admission by review. Transfer students need a minimum GPA of 2.0

    UNK is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education.

  5. Angelo State University
    Location

    San Angelo, TX

    Tuition

    $11558

    Located in San Angelo, Texas, ASU offers an online bachelor of social work. Students begin with the pre-social work program to gain foundational knowledge before transitioning to the main program.

    The 120-credit curriculum includes foundational courses such as introduction to social work, social work with groups, and social work research methods. Students can also choose to study abroad and must complete a capstone project as the culmination of the degree. Motivated students may also complete an independent study -- either a directed reading or a research topic. Students complete the degree with a field practicum.

    The school follows a test-optional admissions process, but students may send scores to bolster an application. Students graduate in the top 25% of their class or possess a 2.5 minimum GPA to qualify for admission. 

    ASU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education.

  6. Bemidji State University
    Location

    Bemidji, MN

    Tuition

    $14814

    Located in Bemidji, Minnesota, BSU offers an online bachelor of social work. Students must travel to campus one Saturday per month for face-to-face dialog and hands-on projects.

    Students study in cohorts of 20 students, focusing on 2-3 courses per semester. The 120-credit curriculum includes course topics such as human behavior in the social environment, interpersonal relations, and family practice. Students end their degree program with a 480-hour internship, demonstrating skills mastery and problem-solving.

    The school requires a minimum ACT score of 21 (or SAT equivalent) or a top 50% high school ranking for program eligibility. Students must first complete at least 30 hours of undergraduate general education work before applying to the program. The school requires a 2.0 GPA in undergraduate work and a 2.5 GPA in three social work prerequisites to declare the major.

    BSU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education.

  7. University of North Dakota
    Location

    Grand Forks, ND

    Tuition

    $15374

    Located in Grand Forks, UND offers an online bachelor of science in social work. Students can also pursue two academic minors, including gerontology or chemical dependency.

    The 120-credit program includes courses such as generalist social work practice with individuals and families, social policy, and human behavior in the social environment. Students participate in a semester-long field placement at an approved human services institution for hands-on experience and feedback from faculty and mentors. The curriculum also includes social work research designed to introduce best practices for students hoping to complete research initiatives in higher education or local communities.

    The school recommends but does not require a minimum GPA of 2.75 for a competitive application. UND offers a test-optional admissions process but encourages students to send SAT or ACT scores for scholarships.

    UND is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education.

  8. Wayne State University
    Location

    Detroit, MI

    Tuition

    $14366

    Located in the heart of Detroit, Michigan, WSU offers an online bachelor of science in social work. Before entering the 120-credit program, students must complete 15 credits of prerequisites, including American government, human biology, and an introduction to psychology. 

    Students then take social work core courses, including human behavior and the social environment, social work practice, and social welfare policy and service. Students must also complete a 480-hour fieldwork assignment at an approved location local to the student. Fieldwork allows students to demonstrate mastery of vital skills and receive hands-on guidance from faculty and mentors.

    Students must first apply to WSU by submitting SAT scores (no required minimum). Students must then complete or transfer at least 60 undergraduate credits with a minimum GPA of 2.5 to declare a major in social work.

    Wayne State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education.

  9. Huntington University
    Location

    Huntington, IN

    A private Christian college located in Huntington, Indiana, HU offers an online bachelor of social work. Students explore social work through the lens of Christianity one night a week online during each five-week term.

    The 120-credit curriculum offers such courses as introduction to social work, child welfare, and introduction to addictions. Students shadow courses to watch the curriculum principles applied in action and to prepare for an internship at the end of the degree. The 400-hour internship experience allows students to practice critical thinking and develop a social work practice under the guidance of faculty and mentors in their internship setting. Students may also opt into a cross-cultural immersion experience.

    The school follows a test-optional admissions approach, allowing students to submit two letters of recommendation in place of SAT or ACT scores. HU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education.

  10. Liberty University
    Location

    Lynchburg, VA

    Based in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty offers a bachelor of science in social work. The school provides students with required electronic textbooks for free, which helps students save money.

    The 120-credit program includes such courses as social work practice with individuals and families, social work with groups, and human behavior and the social environment. Students also complete a junior field experience, spending one day a week at an approved facility for 14 weeks. Students complete a senior fieldwork assignment totaling 500 hours at an approved facility at the end of the degree.

    Students can transfer in up to 75% of the required credits from other learning institutions and previous military experience or education. Liberty is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education.

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