Most Affordable Online Social Work Degrees

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Most Affordable Online Social Work Degrees

Online Social Work Programs

An online bachelors in social work prepares graduates for work in schools, hospitals, or government agencies. It is also a step toward a masters (MSW) program.

These professionals may specialize in a particular area or population. For example, school social workers help students overcome social challenges, while healthcare social workers help patients make decisions about their health.

An online social work degree offers a flexible route to career advancement. Earning a social work degree online gives students the flexibility to balance their studies with personal and professional obligations. Online learning also lets students attend top programs in the country without relocating.

Choosing an affordable social work degree can help students enter the profession without incurring high levels of debt. In addition, students seeking an affordable social work degree can apply for scholarships to decrease the cost of their degree.

Our list ranks the most affordable social work programs at the bachelor’s level to help prospective students identify the best program for their needs. This page also introduces common social work courses, admission requirements, and scholarship opportunities.

Top 10 Most Affordable Online Social Work Degrees 2020

Online Social Work Degree Overview

A bachelor’s degree in social work prepares graduates for roles such as case manager, family service worker, and community outreach specialist. During an online bachelor’s in social work degree, learners take courses on topics like social work practice, case management, and social welfare policy. Most social work programs also incorporate a field placement, giving students hands-on experience in the field. Online learners can typically complete this requirement at an approved local site. 

A bachelor’s degree in social work meets the minimum educational requirement for many social work jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), social workers earned a median annual salary of $50,470 in 2019 and benefit from much faster-than-average job growth projections.

Social work majors with a focus on health can work as health educators or community health workers. A bachelor’s in social work can also lead to roles like social or community services manager. The BLS projects both of these positions to experience strong job growth between 2018 and 2028.

Graduates with a bachelor’s in social work degree can increase their earning potential and advance their careers by earning a master’s degree in social work. In fact, some social work positions require a master’s degree, such as clinical social worker.

Online Social Work Degree Courses

Introduction to Social Work

In this course, students examine the field of social work from a broad perspective. They learn about social services, contemporary problems in society, social welfare organizations, and vulnerable populations. Course topics may also include social work professions, research methods, and core social work skills.

Students also learn about generalist social work practice and methods for interacting with individuals, groups, and communities. In many programs, students must pass this introductory course before applying to the social work major.

Social Change

Classes on social change explore programs and services that support communities and vulnerable populations. Students learn about social development and its role in addressing social problems. The course also trains students in program development and management, including how to measure community needs and evaluate program success.

In addition, the class examines the history and success of social programs, including programs that fail to achieve their goals. Students examine case studies and complete team-based projects to strengthen their knowledge and skills.

Social Work Statistics

Social work professionals often draw on statistics to analyze the effectiveness of interventions and identify community needs. In this course, learners study foundational statistics topics, including probability theory, interval estimation, and hypothesis testing. They also explore the application of statistical methods to conduct social work research.

Coursework builds the analytical skills necessary to evaluate research, such as determining the reliability of a survey or critiquing the methods applied in a research project. After completing the course, undergraduates can design and conduct research projects and critically evaluate social work research.

Social Work Practice

This course provides an overview of generalist social work practice. Students learn about intervention for individuals and groups, the ethical principles of social work, and the role of social work practice in organizations and communities. Coursework also explores values-based social work principles and systems theory.

Additionally, students learn how to develop professional relationships and create appropriate boundaries between personal beliefs and social work practice. Depending on the class, students may also participate in experiential training.

Case Management

This course examines case management practice, including client assessment, the planning process, and service delivery coordination. The course also covers team-based approaches to patient care.

In addition to studying case management, students evaluate outcomes of client care. Additional topics may include social work roles, advocacy, record keeping, and theoretical models. The class prepares graduates for careers as case managers.

Social Work Degree Requirements

Applicants to online bachelor’s in social work programs need a high school diploma or equivalent. They must also typically submit SAT or ACT scores. However, students with prior college experience can often waive standardized test score requirements. Many colleges also request letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and other supporting materials.

After gaining admission to the school, undergraduates must also apply to the social work program. Many programs set course prerequisites, such as lower-division social work classes or courses in a social science field, like psychology or sociology. Students may also need to meet a minimum GPA to declare a social work major.

Social Work Scholarships

Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund

This award supports students who actively contribute to social and economic justice movements. Applicants must submit transcripts and a personal statement explaining their activities and involvement with progressive social movements. The statement should also describe long-range goals and concerns, explaining the connection between the student’s college study and social change movements.

The committee also requests two letters of recommendation and documentation showing financial need, such as records of the cost of college and the student’s living expenses. Recipients receive up to $15,000 per year to support their education.

Carl A. Scott Memorial Fund

Established by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), this award provides two $500 book scholarships each year. Applicants should be in their final year of study of a bachelor’s in social work degree at a CSWE-accredited program.

Students must demonstrate full-time enrollment with a minimum 3.0 GPA and a commitment to promoting equity and social justice. The award encourages submissions from minority racial or ethnic groups. Students can receive the scholarship only once.

NABSW Scholarships

Offered by the National Association of Black Social Workers, this scholarship funds a full-time undergraduate student. Applicants must submit a statement of purpose that outlines their professional interests, future social work aspirations, and previous social work experiences. In addition, applicants submit two letters of recommendation and academic transcripts.

NABSW offers two scholarships: the Cenie “Jomo” Williams Tuition Scholarship provides $1,500, while the Office of Student Affairs Community Leadership Tuition Scholarship grants $1,000. Applicants need active membership in NABSW to qualify.

Alma Adams Scholarship

This scholarship supports students committed to ending tobacco use and raising awareness of the harmful impact of tobacco through community service and the creative arts. The scholarship committee evaluates applicants based on their community service record.

Applicants must attend an accredited college or university and demonstrate a commitment to ending tobacco use through health communications and outreach.

Social Work Skills

Social workers bring many skills to their roles, including strong emotional intelligence, compassion, and interpersonal skills. In working with vulnerable populations, social work professionals must show empathy and patience. They also rely on problem-solving and decision-making abilities to help clients access services and develop creative solutions to problems.

During an online social work degree, students strengthen their communication and organizational abilities through assignments and projects. They also learn about social services organizations and build case management skills through coursework. These hard skills help social workers succeed in the workplace. Many social work programs also incorporate an internship or practicum to build career-ready skills.

Most Affordable Online Social Work Degrees

  1. The University of Tennessee-Knoxville

    Knoxville, TN

    Founded in 1794, UT Knoxville now serves nearly 30,000 students. To meet the needs of its large student body, the university offers more than 900 programs, including an online social work degree.

    UT Knoxville's social work program accepts applicants with at least 60 college credits. The university also prefers applicants who complete the Tennessee Transfer Pathway in Social Work. During the program, online learners gain practical skills through field experience. The program includes both synchronous and asynchronous courses. The curriculum covers interviewing skills, case management with military personnel and veterans, professional ethics, and trauma-informed care.

    UT Knoxville's College of Social Work also offers a dual program that enables students to earn both a bachelor's and master's in social work within five years.

    UT Knoxville is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  2. Northwestern State University of Louisiana

    Natchitoches, LA

    Established in 1884, NSU operates its central campus in Natchitoches. In addition to in-person classes, NSU offers more than 40 online degrees, including an affordable online social work degree.

    NSU's social work degree offers a generalist education that can apply to several different careers. Courses focus on developing skills and knowledge in social work interviewing, research, and policy. All students must complete fieldwork before graduating. NSU's bachelor's curriculum covers about half of the university's master's coursework, making it easy for learners to pursue graduate education. The program offers in-state tuition to all students, including out-of-state learners.

    NSU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  3. Indiana Wesleyan University-National & Global

    Marion, IN

    Founded in 1920, IWU is a private, Christian school located on a 300-acre campus in Marion, Indiana. The university's catalog includes 80 bachelor's degrees and several master's programs.

    IWU's online social work degree meets the needs of working students interested in a Christ-centered education. The program provides the opportunity to interact with classmates and faculty through research case studies and discussions. The program also includes society labs that offer field trips for undergraduates. Fieldwork at the end of the program gives students hands-on social work experience. Program graduates can apply for advanced standing in IWU's master's in social work.

    Applicants typically hold 45 transfer credits from a regionally accredited college. The university offers up to 40 college credits from relevant work or life experience.

    IWU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  4. Eastern New Mexico University

    Portales, NM

    ENMU offers two-year and four-year degrees from its three campuses across the Land of Enchantment. ENMU serves over 5,500 students through 60 undergraduate and graduate degrees.

    ENMU's 120-credit online social work degree allows online learners to interact through Mediasite and Blackboard. Program coursework includes labs, lectures, and assignments. In their senior year, all students in the program complete an internship in their own communities.

    Students gain a broad understanding of social work policy, research, skills, and theory. Required courses include social welfare policy, working with the aging population, mental health, and chemical dependency.

    ENMU's affordable social work degree prepares graduates to work in child welfare, mental health services, hospice care, corrections, and courts. The program supports distance learners through a student manual, tutoring, an online writing center, and online databases at ENMU's Golden Library.

    ENMU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  5. Misericordia University

    Dallas, PA

    Founded by the Religious Sisters of Mercy in 1924, Misericordia is committed to providing personalized education from its 123-acre campus in Dallas, Pennsylvania. To that end, the college maintains an 11-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.

    Misericordia's 121-credit online social work degree offers an accelerated path that allows working professionals to graduate in two years. The program prepares students for state licensure. Graduates can also qualify for advanced standing in a master's in the social work program.

    Required courses include introduction to psychology, American national government, cultural minorities, and basic statistics. Each course lasts seven weeks. Each student must also complete a practicum in their local community. The program accepts students year-round. Learners officially join their cohort in the fall semester.

    Misericordia is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  6. Mary Baldwin University

    Staunton, VA

    MBU opened its doors in 1842 as a college for women. Today, the private college also serves working students through more than 30 distance-learning programs.

    MBU's online social work degree allows learners to benefit from the support of a cohort without ever traveling to campus. However, online learners must complete the program's required 450-hour field experience in Virginia. The curriculum prepares students for generalist practice with courses in child welfare services, aging, policy, research, and interviewing. All learners complete a concentration in medical or school social work.

    Students engage with MBU's Social Work Club and Phi Alpha Honor Society. Learners can also find international fieldwork opportunities in Haiti or Honduras. MBU accepts up to 84 transfer credits, which can help social work students graduate in less than four years.

    MBU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  7. Huntington University

    Huntington, IN

    A private, Christian university, HU offers seven online degrees and one certification, including an affordable social work degree. The program allows learners to take one five-week course at a time.

    The program's curriculum includes required courses such as social policy, introduction to addictions, human behavior, and social environment. All students complete an internship in their senior year. The program delivers all coursework asynchronously. Graduates can pursue state licensure in social work or enroll in HU's master of counseling program. Applicants can transfer credits received from regionally accredited colleges and earn prior credit learning credits after completing an assessment.

    HU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  8. Limestone College

    Gaffney, SC

    Limestone College, a private Christian school that opened in 1845 to provide degrees to women, now offers a wide selection of online and evening degrees. Students can take classes in person at Limestone's Gaffney, South Carolina, campus or through the university's virtual campus, which launched in 1996.

    Limestone's online social work degree provides students with the knowledge and skills to work in health, family and children's services, gerontology, and academia. Required courses include social welfare programs and policy, human behavior, practice with culturally diverse populations, and social work intervention. All students must complete a 400-hour fieldwork practicum, which typically requires students to work 3-4 days a week. Each course lasts eight weeks.

    Limestone is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  9. Union Institute & University

    Cincinnati, OH

    Founded in 1964 in Cincinnati, Ohio, Union delivers a private education geared toward working students. Union features online and hybrid degrees with flexible distance-learning programs.

    Union's affordable social work degree prepares students for generalist practice through fully online courses and fieldwork. The program's curriculum consists of 120 credits. Students gain a professional foundation through courses in policy, multicultural social work, ethical standards, and research. All students must complete a 400-hour practicum in their local area. Program graduates find work in aging and long-term care, child welfare, healthcare, addiction, and criminal justice.

    Prospective students can apply for free. The university maintains transfer agreements with colleges such as Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana, Chatfield College in Ohio, and American River College in California.

    Union is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  10. University of North Dakota

    Grand Forks, ND

    UND serves over 13,500 students through more than 250 programs. UND offers coursework on its 521-acre campus in Grand Forks and online.

    UND's 120-credit online social work degree allows students to graduate within 2-4 years. Required courses include social work research and social policy. The program also includes a 450-hour field practicum, which students complete in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and eastern Montana. The program delivers all online coursework synchronously. After earning their social work degree online, graduates can apply for licensure and find work in child welfare, corrections, schools, and gerontology.

    Learners can complete minors in gerontology and chemical dependency. UND's social work students can join the university's Student Social Work Association.

    UND is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

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