An online Bachelor’s of Social Work (BSW) degree program prepares students for professional social work practice. Online programs provide students with flexibility and convenience, which can help them balance school requirements with work and family responsibilities. Use this guide to explore everything you need to know about earning your BSW online, from how to choose your program to your options for further study after you graduate.
Why Earn an Online BSW?
You already know that you want to help others—earning your Bachelor’s of Social Work through one of the many accredited online BSW programs can be a great way to get started with a career in advocacy and social justice.
- Career Advancement: Earning a BSW can provide the necessary credentials for entry-level professional roles in social work and related fields. It’s also the first step toward higher-level positions in the field, which often require a Master’s in Social Work (MSW).
- Flexible Learning: One of the biggest advantages of an online BSW program is the flexibility it provides. Whether you’re a working professional, a parent, or simply someone with a busy schedule, online learning allows you to study at your own pace and on your own time. This means you can earn a degree without disrupting your current lifestyle or commitments. Be sure to take a look at program requirements before selecting a school, as some programs require you to occasionally attend classes or lectures on campus.
- Broad Knowledge Base: A BSW provides a comprehensive introduction to the field of social work, including its history, various practice settings, methodologies, and ethical considerations. This knowledge can be useful in a variety of roles within the field.
- Preparation for Graduate Study: If you’re considering pursuing a Master’s in Social Work (MSW) in the future, a BSW will provide you with a strong foundation. Some MSW programs offer “advanced standing” to BSW holders, allowing them to complete the program in a shorter period of time.
Benefits CSWE Accredited BSW Programs
Accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) allows you to rest assured that your degree program offers the latest in social work research and best practices. When you choose a CSWE-accredited program, potential future employers will know that they can trust your degree.
Benefits of choosing a CSWE accredited BSW program include:
- Increased Employment Opportunities: A BSW can open the door to a range of career opportunities in social work and related fields, including positions in healthcare, child welfare, mental health services, community development, and more.
- Skill Development: Through the BSW curriculum, students develop critical skills such as problem-solving, effective communication, empathy, and cultural competency. These skills are valuable in many professional contexts, beyond just social work.
- Competitive Edge: Having a BSW can give you a competitive edge in the job market. Employers often prefer candidates with a BSW for social work positions, as the degree indicates that the candidate has received a comprehensive education in the field and is prepared for professional practice.
- Licensure Preparation: Earning a BSW from a CSWE-accredited program is a critical step toward becoming a licensed social worker. Licensure can enhance your professional credibility and open the door to more job opportunities.
- Personal Satisfaction: Many people are drawn to social work because they have a passion for helping others. Earning a BSW can provide personal satisfaction by equipping you with the tools and knowledge necessary to make a positive impact in your community.
CSWE Accredited Online BSW Programs
Looking for the right online education program to earn your BSW? These CSWE accredited BSW programs will help you get your career started right.
Ball State University
- Location: Muncie, Indiana
- Delivery: Blended (classes require students to complete some work online while also attending classes on campus)
- Tuition (2023): $10,440 for Indiana residents and $27,924 for out-of-state students
Ball State University’s online Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) program is committed to enhancing the quality of life of people by educating students for beginning professional employment in social services and for graduate education. The program is campus and community-based and requires the mastery of professional practice competencies needed to shape solutions for social problems. The tuition fees for 2023 are $10,440 for Indiana residents and $27,924 for out-of-state students. All SOCW courses at the 300- and 400- levels must be completed at Ball State University. Exceptions may be made for students transferring from accredited social work programs.
Cal Poly Humboldt
- Location: Arcata, California
- Delivery: Online (but students must live in California)
- Tuition (2022): $7,858
Cal Poly Humboldt’s Bachelor of Arts in Social Work program is designed to prepare students for beginning generalist social work practice responsive to the challenges and resources present in rural areas. Undergraduates develop an ability to analyze and critically evaluate research studies and apply the findings to everyday practice. The program is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). However, it’s important to note that students in the online program must live in the state of California while they are in the social work program. The tuition and fees for 2022 were $7,858 per year.
Delaware State University
- Location: Dover, Delaware
- Delivery: Online
- Tuition: $11,460 per year (assuming 13–15 credits taken per semester)
The BSW program at Delaware State University prepares students to interact with people in their communities while understanding the contexts that can shape each individual’s experience. A focus on cultural diversity prepares students to work with Delaware’s increasingly diverse population. Students graduate ready to advocate for those who often go unheard at the local, national, and global levels.
Eastern Kentucky University
- Location: Richmond, Kentucky
- Delivery: Online
- Tuition: $25,260 per year
This fully online program prepares students to enter the world of social work. At Eastern Kentucky University, students in the BSW program learn how to take the theory they’re learning and apply it to the real world, developing the actionable skills necessary to make a difference in the lives of vulnerable people. Students in EKU’s online programs also have access to the school’s valuable Online Office of Academic and Career Services to help them jump-start their careers.
Idaho State University
- Location: Pocatello, Idaho
- Delivery: Online
- Tuition: $8,356 per year for Idaho residents, $27,466 for non-residents
Idaho State offers a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work degree that prepares students to take on a career in social work. Students who complete the BASW program at ISU graduate with the skills necessary to help their communities become empowered while working to advance human rights.
- Location: Fayetteville, North Carolina
- Delivery: online
- Tuition: $15,411 per year
Perfect for students who are returning to school, the BSW program at Methodist University accepts up to 93 transfer credit hours. Eight-week terms mean that new classes are constantly starting, making it easy for students to dive into completing their degree.
University of Michigan-Flint
- Location: Flint, Michigan
- Delivery: Online
- Tuition: $12,384 per year for Michigan residents, $13,668 for non-residents
The online BSW degree program at the University of Michigan-Flint prepares students to promote social justice and help their clients live well. Students in this degree program get the experience they need both to support their careers and to pass Michigan’s state licensure exam.
Missouri State University
- Location: Springfield, Missouri
- Delivery: Online
- Tuition: $3,348 per year (Program only accepts students from Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, and Oklahoma)
Missouri State University’s online BSW program prepares students to serve their communities as leaders who fight for the empowerment of others. The program combines traditional classroom learning with field experience, allowing students to get the practical application that they need while they’re working through an online program. Students graduate prepared to work in a variety of sectors, including healthcare, criminal justice, and behavioral health.
New Mexico State University
- Location: Las Cruces, New Mexico
- Delivery: Online
- Tuition: $4,745 per year
As of August 2023, New Mexico State University is offering a fully online BSW degree program to both New Mexico residents and non-residents. The program prepares students to work with residents of the American Southwest, placing an emphasis on the importance of cultural diversity in the area. Students in the program study both theory and application and graduate ready to take on a career in social work.
Is an Online Bachelor of Social Work Worth It?
Deciding whether to pursue an online Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) depends on your career goals, personal circumstances, and financial situation. Here are a few key factors to consider:
Accessibility and Flexibility
Online BSW programs provide an opportunity for those who may not be able to attend traditional, on-campus programs due to other commitments, such as work or family responsibilities. Online learning offers the flexibility to study at your own pace and in your own time. This means you can earn a degree without disrupting your current lifestyle or commitments. As we mentioned, be sure to check out the individual schedules for programs you’re considering. Some may offer fully asynchronous classes (which do not require you to be online at a certain time), while others may offer synchronous classes (which require you to be online at predetermined times). Some mostly-online programs also require you to come to campus from time to time.
While tuition for online programs can be comparable to in-person programs, online students may save in other areas such as commuting, housing, and meal costs associated with campus-based programs. Additionally, many online programs offer part-time options, which allow students to continue working while earning their degrees.
Preparation for the Field
Online BSW programs provide a comprehensive education in social work, preparing students for a variety of roles in the field. The curriculum typically includes courses in social welfare policy, human behavior, research methods, and ethics. Most programs also require a fieldwork component, which provides valuable hands-on experience.
Path to Licensure and Further Education
A BSW from a CSWE-accredited program is a critical step toward becoming a licensed social worker. Furthermore, if you’re considering pursuing a Master’s in Social Work (MSW) in the future, a BSW will provide you with a strong foundation. Some MSW programs offer “advanced standing” to BSW holders, allowing them to complete the program in a shorter period of time.
Career Opportunities and Advancement
A BSW can open the door to a range of career opportunities in social work and related fields, including positions in healthcare, child welfare, mental health services, and community development. Having a BSW can also give you a competitive edge in the job market, as employers often prefer candidates with a BSW for social work positions.
Finally, many people are drawn to social work because they have a passion for helping others. Earning a BSW can provide personal satisfaction by equipping you with the tools and knowledge necessary to make a positive impact in your community. An online BSW can indeed be worth it for those seeking a flexible and accessible route to a rewarding career in social work.
What Will You Study in a CSWE Accredited Online BSW Program?
In a CSWE-accredited online BSW program, students will delve into a comprehensive curriculum that is specifically designed to equip them with a wide range of skills and knowledge that they will need to excel in the field of social work.
The core curriculum typically involves a blend of courses in social work theory, research methods, and practice, among others. Students learn how to apply social work principles to various contexts, from individuals and families to communities and organizations. The curriculum includes courses that cover topics such as:
- Human Behavior and the Social Environment
- Social Welfare Policy
- Research Methods in Social Work
- Social Work Practice with Individuals and Families
- Social Work Practice with Groups
- Social Work Practice with Communities and Organizations
Field education forms a significant part of the BSW program. It provides students with the opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge in real-world settings under the supervision of experienced practitioners. This experiential learning can take place in various settings, such as schools, hospitals, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies. If you’re interested in working in a particular facet of social work, you’ll likely be able to tailor your experience—for example, if you’re interested in working with older adults, field experiences in nursing homes may be helpful for your career.
Specializations and Electives
Many programs offer the opportunity for students to pursue specializations or electives in areas of interest. These can range from child and family social work, health and mental health, LGBTQ+ issues, substance abuse, school social work, to gerontology, among others.
It’s important to note that the specific curriculum can vary from one program to another. Students are advised to review the course offerings of their chosen program to understand its unique curriculum.
How Long Does it Take to Earn a BSW Degree Online?
The length of time it takes to earn a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree online can vary based on several factors, including the specific structure of the program, the student’s prior educational background, and whether the student is studying full-time or part-time.
For full-time students, a traditional BSW program generally takes four years to complete. This timeline is based on the standard undergraduate degree structure, which requires the completion of approximately 120-130 credit hours. The first two years typically focus on general education courses, while the latter half of the program is more focused on social work-specific courses and field education.
For those who choose to study part-time, the timeline can extend to six years or more. This extended time frame allows students to balance their studies with other commitments, such as work or family responsibilities. If you choose to study part-time, be sure to talk to an academic advisor about whether time limits exist for the completion of your degree.
Advanced Standing and Transfer Credits
In some cases, students may be able to reduce the time it takes to earn their BSW through advanced standing or transfer credits. Advanced standing is typically offered to students who have completed an associate degree in social work or related fields from an accredited institution. This can potentially cut the length of the BSW program in half, allowing students to complete their degree in just two years.
Similarly, transfer credits for previous relevant coursework can also expedite degree completion. Policies regarding transfer credits vary by institution, so students should check with their chosen school for specific details.
Some schools offer accelerated BSW programs that allow students to complete their degrees in less time than a traditional program. These intensive programs often involve a heavier course load each term and may require summer coursework. Accelerated programs can be an excellent option for students who wish to enter the workforce as quickly as possible.
While these are general estimates, the actual length of your online BSW program may vary. Prospective students should reach out to their specific program of interest to get the most accurate timeline for degree completion.
How Much Does an Online BSW Cost?
The cost of an online Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) program can vary greatly depending on a range of factors. These include the type of institution (public vs private), resident status (in-state vs out-of-state), and the specific characteristics of the program itself.
Public vs Private Institutions
Typically, public universities are less expensive than private ones, especially for in-state students. For example, the tuition for the online BSW program at a public university like Florida State University is $5,656 for Florida residents and $18,786 for out-of-state students.
On the other hand, private universities generally have a higher tuition rate, but they often provide significant financial aid opportunities that can help offset the cost.
In-State vs Out-of-State Tuition
In many cases, public universities offer lower tuition rates for in-state students compared to those from out-of-state. However, some online programs offer a flat tuition rate for all online students, regardless of their residency status.
The cost of an online BSW program can also be influenced by the specific features of the program, such as the length of the program, the number of required credit hours, and whether the program includes any on-campus residencies or field placements that might incur additional costs.
Besides tuition, students should also consider other costs associated with their education. These can include books and supplies, technology fees (especially relevant for online programs), application fees, and potential travel or accommodation costs for any on-campus requirements.
Financial Aid and Scholarships
Most institutions offer a range of financial aid options to help students afford their education. This can include federal financial aid, scholarships, grants, work-study programs, and student loans. Additionally, some schools may offer specific scholarships for social work students.
While the cost of an online BSW program can vary widely, it is important for prospective students to thoroughly research and understand all the potential costs associated with their chosen program. It’s also crucial to explore all available options for financial aid and scholarships that can help offset these costs.
Graduate Educational Opportunities for Bachelor of Social Work Degree Holders
After earning a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work (BSW), many graduates choose to further their education. Advanced degrees can provide deeper knowledge, develop specialized skills, and potentially open doors to higher-level job opportunities in social work. Here are a few of the advanced education options available.
One of the most common next steps for BSW graduates is to pursue a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. The MSW degree typically takes two years to complete and provides more specialized knowledge and training in social work. It can lead to licensure as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) or other advanced social work credentials. It also allows graduates to work in specialized fields of social work such as mental health, healthcare, school social work, and others.
For students who wish to continue their studies remotely, online MSW degree programs provide a flexible option. These programs allow students to learn from anywhere and often at their own pace, making it possible to balance work, family, and other responsibilities while furthering their education.
Advanced Standing MSW
For those who already hold a BSW, an Advanced Standing MSW program can be a great option. These programs recognize the coursework and fieldwork already completed during a BSW program and allow students to earn their MSW in a shorter time frame, often within one year. Like standard MSW programs, advanced standing programs are available in both traditional and online formats.
For BSW graduates interested in research, teaching at the university level, or holding a high-level administrative role, a doctoral degree in social work could be a good fit. Doctoral programs in social work typically focus on advanced research methods, social policy, and theory.
Remember, the best advanced education option depends on your career goals, personal interests, and life circumstances. It’s important to explore all options and consult with academic advisors or professionals in the field to make an informed decision.
What Can You Do With an Online BSW Degree?
A Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree can open up a broad range of career paths in various fields. It provides a strong foundation in social work principles, ethics, and practice, preparing graduates for entry-level positions in the field. Here are some potential career paths for BSW degree holders.
Social Services Case Manager
Social services case managers work with clients to evaluate their needs and develop a plan to meet those needs. This can involve coordinating services, advocating for clients, and monitoring progress. They work in various settings, including government agencies, non-profit organizations, and healthcare facilities.
Child, Family, and School Social Workers
These professionals work with children and families to resolve problems and improve their well-being. They may work in schools to address issues like truancy, misbehavior, and teenage pregnancy. In other settings, they might help families navigate the social services system or intervene in situations of child abuse or neglect.
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers
Mental health and substance abuse social workers provide support and services to individuals dealing with mental health issues or addiction. They may provide counseling, crisis intervention, and access to resources like rehabilitation programs.
Community Outreach Worker
Community outreach workers serve as a bridge between communities and the resources and services they need. They may organize events, provide education, and advocate for community needs.
Probation officers work with individuals who have been convicted of crimes but are serving probation rather than jail time. They monitor their clients to ensure they comply with the terms of their probation and help them access services like job training or substance abuse counseling.
Healthcare Social Worker
Healthcare social workers help patients navigate the healthcare system. They may provide counseling and emotional support, coordinate care, and connect patients with resources to help them manage their health conditions.
Nonprofit Organization Director
With additional experience, BSW graduates may move into leadership roles within social service organizations. As directors, they could be responsible for overseeing programs, managing staff, and fundraising.
It’s important to note that while a BSW prepares graduates for entry-level roles, some positions may require a Master of Social Work (MSW) or state licensure, which typically requires both an MSW and supervised professional experience. However, an online BSW program can be a great first step on the path to these opportunities.
What Jobs for BSW Degree Holders Have the Highest Salaries?
The highest-paying jobs for BSW degree holders are typically in the healthcare sector or government. For example, healthcare social workers, who help patients navigate the healthcare system and cope with diagnoses, can earn a median annual wage of approximately $56,750, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Social workers in government agencies can also earn high salaries, particularly with experience.
Online BSW Salary & Job Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for social workers was $50,390 in May 2021. Jobs for social workers are expected to grow 9% from 2021 to 2031, faster than the average for all occupations. This job growth is due in part to increased demand for healthcare and social services.
Will I need to Conduct Field Work for my BSW?
Yes, field work, also known as a practicum or internship, is a critical component of BSW programs. It provides students with the opportunity to apply what they have learned in a real-world setting under the supervision of experienced professionals. Most BSW programs require at least 400 hours of field work.
Licensure Opportunities with an Online BSW
Graduating from a CSWE-accredited BSW program is the first step toward becoming a licensed social worker. After graduation, individuals must pass their state’s licensure exam to become a Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW). Some states have additional licensure opportunities for BSW graduates, such as becoming a Licensed Social Worker (LSW) or a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) with additional education and experience.
Online BSW Scholarships
There are many scholarships available specifically for social work students. These can come from various sources including universities themselves, non-profit organizations, and foundations.
- National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Foundation Scholarship: These scholarships are available to NASW members who are enrolled in an accredited BSW program.
- The Consuelo W. Gosnell Memorial MSW Scholarship: This scholarship is awarded to master’s degree candidates in social work who have demonstrated a commitment to working with, or who have a special affinity with, American Indian/Alaska Native and Hispanic/Latino populations.
- The Verne LaMarr Lyons Memorial MSW Scholarship: This scholarship is awarded to master’s degree candidates in social work who demonstrate an interest in or have experience with health/mental health practice and have a commitment to working in African American communities.
- Pisacano Scholars Leadership program: Although this scholarship is primarily for medical students, students pursuing other health-related fields, including social work, are also considered.
- The Leopold Schepp Foundation Scholarships: This Foundation awards scholarships to full-time undergraduate and graduate students based on both character and need.
- Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund: This Fund provides scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students who are active in social justice movements.
- Horatio Alger National Career & Technical Scholarship Program: This program provides scholarships for students who have faced and overcome great obstacles in their lives and who wish to pursue a career or technical education.
- Cirkled In Scholarship: This scholarship is a cash scholarship you can apply to any educational need, from tuition to books or even a car.
- Point Foundation Scholarships: The Point Foundation offers scholarships for underprivileged LGBTQ students.
Remember to contact the financial aid office of your school or your academic advisor to learn more about scholarships specific to your school and field of study.