Social workers help individuals and groups address everyday problems. Often serving marginalized populations, they work with clients on problems like mental health crises, substance abuse issues, domestic violence, homelessness, and child abuse. Social workers commonly work in government agencies, public schools, community service organizations, and healthcare organizations.
Most social workers enter the field to help others rather than earn a high salary. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that social workers earn an annual median wage of $50,470, and a bachelor’s degree can unlock higher paying positions in the field. The BLS projects careers for social workers to grow 13% from 2019-2029, a rate far above the national average.
This page offers an overview of online bachelor’s degrees in social work, including general admissions requirements, guiding principles, and scholarships for social work majors.
What kind of degree do you need to be a social worker?
Social workers typically hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree in social work. Although, they may also major in related fields such as psychology or education.
What types of jobs can you get with a social work degree?
A social work degree prepares graduates for jobs in various environments, including community organizations, government agencies, and K-12 schools.
What exactly does a social worker do?
Social workers help individuals, families, groups, and communities manage everyday problems and connect to social services. They may assist with problems such as substance abuse issues, homelessness, or domestic violence.
What are the different types of social work?
Social workers perform many roles in different environments. Some may interact directly with clients, while others focus on the organization and administration of services.
What Are the Goals of a Social Work Degree?
A social work program encompasses both theory and practice. It explores the cause of social issues, along with strategies for addressing inequality and strengthening communities. Courses cover various topics in psychology, social justice, and social work practice, with some programs also incorporating administration and public policy elements.
At the undergraduate level, online social work degrees build broad skills applicable to various positions in the field. However, some programs allow students to specialize their degree by focusing on specific aspects of social work, such as schools, substance abuse counseling, or children and families.
Why Get a Social Work Degree?
A bachelor’s degree in social work offers many personal, professional, and academic benefits. This list highlights five common reasons students pursue an online social work degree.
- Increased Career Options
- A bachelor’s in social work serves as the minimum education requirement for many careers in the field, particularly those with potential professional advancement.
- Networking Opportunities
- A social work program puts students in contact with peers and industry professionals. This can lead to internships, job opportunities, and other professional benefits.
- Professional Experience
- Most social work bachelor’s degrees include an experiential learning component, enabling students to gain hands-on experience in a professional social work setting.
- Passion for Social Work
- Nearly all students pursue social work out of a desire to help others and increase social equity.
- Potential for Graduate Study
- Completing a bachelor’s program prepares candidates to enroll in a master’s in social work program, which can lead to further job opportunities.
What is Accreditation and Why Does it Matter?
What Are the Requirements for a Social Work Degree?
While admission requirements vary among social work programs, all colleges require undergraduate applicants to hold either a high school or GED diploma. Applicants may also need to submit standardized test scores, most commonly either the SAT or ACT (these requirements are often waived for applicants who have been out of high school for several years). In some cases, applicants may need to submit a portfolio demonstrating relevant professional or volunteer experience, though this is less common in undergraduate programs.
Once admitted, social work programs may require candidates to complete a capstone project or research-based thesis to graduate.
Professional Organizations for Social Work Students
Social workers depend on professional organizations to share information, build knowledge, connect with other professionals, and stay abreast of developments in their field. Many professional organizations also serve social work students through mentorship opportunities, job and internship listings, and discounted memberships. This section highlights two of the most popular professional organizations for social workers.
National Association of Social Workers
The United States' premier social work organization, NASW offers student memberships to candidates enrolled in any CSWE-accredited bachelor's or master's in social work program. Members benefit from continuing education, legal resources, professional conferences, and trade publications. The organization also hosts local chapters around the country.
School Social Work Association of America
Specifically serving social workers who practice in elementary, middle, and high schools, the SSWAA also offers memberships to social work students. The organization provides professional liability insurance for new social work practitioners, continuing education, professional publications and newsletters, and a robust professional community with many networking opportunities.
Scholarships for Social Work Students
Students have many options to fund their online social work degree, including academic scholarships. These scholarships offer financial assistance that never needs to be repaid, and may serve students of a certain background or those planning a certain career path. This list highlights three popular scholarships for undergraduate social work students.
Who Can Apply: Serving students active in social and economic justice movements, the Davis-Putter scholarship is open to applicants in any field related to social change (including social work). Applicants must demonstrate financial need and submit both a personal statement and recommendation letters.
Amount: Up to $15,000
Who Can Apply: The Phi Alpha Honor Society for Social Work offers the scholarship for students who demonstrate service and leadership. The first-prize scholarship winner also receives an all-expense paid trip to present their work at the Association of Baccalaureate Program Directors conference.
Who Can Apply: The Council on Social Work Education awards this scholarship to students enrolled in the last year of a CSWE-accredited social work bachelor’s or master’s program. Applicants must hold a minimum 3.0 GPA, be enrolled full-time, and demonstrate a commitment to social justice.
Most Affordable Online Social Work Degree Programs 2021
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.
Northern Arizona University
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.
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.
University of Nebraska at Kearney
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.
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.
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.
University of North Dakota
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.
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.
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.
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.