Online Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work Programs

A bachelor’s degree in social work can help lay the foundation for a career in social work and future studies. Find out about different BSW programs, what you will learn as a social work major and prospective career paths for BSW graduates.

Earn Your Bachelor’s in Social Work Online With Simmons University

Women with 17+ prior college credits or an associate degree: Complete your Bachelor of Social Work in a supportive women’s online BSW program.

  • Empowering women to become leaders for 100+ years
  • Up to 96 transfer credits accepted, plus credit for life experience
  • Degree programs are designed for working professionals and can be completed part time


What’s a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work? 

A Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) is an undergraduate degree focused on the human services field. A BSW is the most common requirement for an entry-level administrative role in social work and helps prepare students for roles as caseworkers or mental health assistants. Students in undergraduate social work programs learn about human behavior, social welfare policy and ethics. 

Whether you study on-campus or complete an online bachelor’s degree in social work, social work curriculum aims to provide a foundation to perform general social work duties. Core classes are combined with electives or concentration courses that may provide more information about specialties and niches in the industry. 

The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredits Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) and Master of Social Work (MSW) programs, ensuring they meet specific academic standards.

Most bachelor’s in social work degree programs take four years to complete with full-time study. Students are typically required to complete 120 credit hours to graduate.

Curriculum for Bachelor’s in Social Work 

While social work programs can vary by school, some coursework must be covered in all social work bachelor’s degree programs. The International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW), a global organization that helps set educational standards for the field, groups some of these core classes as either social work in context or social work in practice. 

Social work in context refers to the broader knowledge that is required to understand social work, such as the political, socio-legal, cultural and historical forces that have shaped social work. Classes in this category could cover the following topics:

  • Human behavior
  • Social perspectives in government
  • Diversity and oppression

Social work in practice refers to the actual skills and competencies required to deliver social work interventions effectively and ethically. Classes in this category could have titles like:

  • Foundations of social work practice
  • Ethics in social work practice

Both on-campus and online social work classes will likely combine these two categories of courses with general undergraduate classes in math, science and writing. Additionally, students will likely need to take elective courses, which can be in related areas. 

BSW programs also require a practicum, fieldwork or an internship that provides students with real-life experience. 

Online Bachelor’s in Social Work Admission Requirements 

The application requirements for BSW programs vary from school to school. In most cases, candidates will need to have a high school diploma or GED equivalent. They may also need to meet a minimum GPA. Here are some other common social work degree requirements: 

  • Completed application
  • High school, university or college transcripts
  • Recommendation letters
  • Resume
  • Standardized test scores
  • Personal essay

Some universities only accept formal enrollment into their Bachelor of Social Work programs once students have met minimum social work degree requirements. These requirements typically involve the completion of a certain number of credits. The number of credits required may vary by university.

BSW Scholarships

Bachelor’s in social work students have options when looking for social work scholarships or financial aid. Candidates may apply for general scholarships and financial aid. Additionally, there may be degree-specific scholarships specifically focused on assisting social work students.

The Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund, for example, offers grants to students who are “actively working for peace and justice.” The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation awards between 55 and 65 scholarships to students pursuing a career in public service each year.

What Can You Do With a BSW? 

You may be wondering: What can you do with a BSW? The most obvious answer is: Start a career in social work. If a graduate wants to pursue clinical work, a BSW could open the door to Master of Social Work (MSW) programs. An MSW is required for clinical social work.

Outside of social work, a BSW can help prepare students for a variety of roles or different paths of study. Graduates may consider master’s degrees in other social sciences like psychology, public administration, education or counseling

Bachelor’s in Social Work Careers

Students can pursue a number of careers with a social work degree. In most cases, candidates who hold a bachelor’s in social work qualify for entry-level administrative or direct-service positions like caseworkers or mental health assistants. BSW jobs may not hold the title of “social work” or even advertise specifically for a social work degree, but may ask for a human services education, which includes social work. 

It is also possible to work in the social work field with only a bachelor’s in social work and a license. These individuals are called bachelor’s social workers. However, to become a licensed clinical social worker or pursue a career in counseling, you will have to complete a master’s degree.

Advanced Social Work Degrees Online

Another common step for online social work degree graduates is considering graduate school and other types of social work degrees. A bachelor’s in social work lays the foundation for a career in social work. Although it is not required to pursue a master’s in social work, it may be beneficial.

Students in master’s in social work programs develop clinical assessment and management skills which prepare them to work in a clinical setting or specialty area. Advanced standing MSW programs allow BSW graduates to obtain their master’s degree faster. There are also PhD or doctoral programs in social work, which may allow students to further their education and career options even more. 

Prepare for a Lifetime of Leadership with Simmons’ Online Undergraduate Programs

Women with 17+ prior college credits or an associate degree: Discover an innovative online bachelor’s program designed specifically for women and built on Simmons University’s 100+ year history of empowering women.

  • Empowering women to become leaders for 100+ years 
  • Up to 96 transfer credits accepted, plus credit for life experience 
  • Degree programs are designed for working professionals and can be completed part time


Bachelor’s in Social Work FAQs

Considering a BSW degree online or on campus can bring up questions. We’ve answered some common concerns about BSW programs and careers.

How long does it take to earn a BSW online?

In many cases, a BSW online will follow the same curriculum and interact with the same faculty as an on-campus program. These programs can be completed in about four years with full-time study, though accelerated programs may be available. All BSW programs, including online programs, require a field-work component, which could also extend the time to completion.

Is an on-campus or online social work degree better?

Both on-campus and online BSW programs have benefits and drawbacks. Online programs offer flexibility but may require more self-motivation and the ability to work independently. On-campus programs may offer more structure but could cost more if you consider the costs of commuting and paying fees to use the campus facilities. 

Is social work an easy major? 

It takes plenty of research, time and commitment to earn a bachelor’s degree in social work online or on-campus. Most programs involve courses that cover subjects from biology to microeconomics, psychology to research, and statistics. Because of this, students may find some components easier than others, depending on their individual strengths and preferences.

How much do social workers make?

The median salary for social workers was $50,390 in May 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That means half of the people working as social workers earned less than that amount, while half earned more. The 10% of people who earned the least earned less than $36,520. The top 10% earned more than $82,840. This number includes social workers with advanced degrees in addition to BSW salaries. 

Last updated in February 2022