A Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree is an excellent choice for individuals passionate about positively impacting their communities. This degree pathway provides a solid foundation in social work principles and practices, preparing students for entry-level positions in various fields such as child welfare, healthcare, and community organizations. If you want to become a social worker to help others, advocate for social change, and improve the well-being of individuals and communities, pursuing a social work degree as a BSW may be the perfect pathway for you.

Can I Get a BSW Degree Online?

Absolutely! Online BSW programs have existed for many years but have become more popular since the Covid-19 pandemic. While many options exist, it’s always wise to consider an accredited program. Accreditation will allow you to become licensed and is routinely inspected by the accrediting body to ensure that the information delivered meets all of the necessary federal and state requirements. The US’s main social work accrediting body is the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

The second most important thing to look for is in-person requirements. While a program may be advertised as an online program, there may be unforeseen in-person requirements that students must fulfill, such as clinicals (though these are mostly reserved for MSW students). Check for terms like “100% online” or “fully online.” When in doubt, most schools welcome prospective students to talk to department heads for questions concerning the curriculum. If the program requires limited in-person participation instead of being fully online, take a look at online programs in your state. If accepted as an in-state student, you will also likely save on tuition costs.

Social Work Degrees at Every Level

Interested in a social work education? There's a degree for that! Check out the available campus-based and online social work degree options to get started.

BSW Degree

MSW Degree

Advanced-Standing MSW Degree

DSW & Ph.D. in Social Work Degrees

All Social Work Degrees

College student enrolled in a social work degree program at library with laptop

What Can I Expect in an Online BSW Program?

In an online Bachelor of Social Work program, you can expect a comprehensive curriculum that covers foundational principles, theories, and practical skills necessary for a career in social work. Coursework typically includes subjects such as:

  • Social welfare policy
  • Human behavior and the social environment
  • Research methods
  • Diversity and cultural competence
  • Social work practice methods

Through a combination of readings, lectures, discussions, and assignments, you will explore various theoretical frameworks and learn how to apply them to real-world scenarios. Above all, online BSW programs often offer flexibility in scheduling, allowing students to balance coursework with other commitments such as work or family responsibilities.

One significant aspect of an online BSW program is the integration of field education, which provides opportunities for hands-on experience in social work settings. Internships or practicums allow students to apply classroom knowledge to practice, develop professional skills, and gain insight into the challenges and rewards of working in the field. For online students, many of these opportunities can be taken advantage of in their own communities.

Online BSW Degree Admission Requirements

Admission requirements for BSW degrees vary depending on the institution offering the program. However, there are common criteria that applicants can expect to encounter across most universities and colleges. Typically, prospective students are required to have:

  • A high school diploma or GED
  • Transcripts that meet the minimum GPA requirements
  • SAT or ACT scores
  • A written essay or statement of purpose
  • Medical records

Many BSW programs assess applicants based on their academic qualifications, personal qualities, commitment to social justice, and relevant experiences, such as volunteer work or internships in social service settings. Letters of recommendation, personal statements, and interviews may also be part of the application process, allowing candidates to articulate their motivation for pursuing a career in social work and their suitability for the program. Some institutions may have specific prerequisites or coursework requirements, such as prior completion of certain social science or psychology courses.

BSW Program Length

A BSW degree typically takes four years to complete, although program length can vary depending on factors such as enrollment status and credit transfers. Approximately 120 credit hours will be required. Many online BSWs allow students to complete the program part-time or at their own pace, which can considerably increase or decrease the length of time.

BSW Program Cost

The cost of a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) program can vary widely depending on factors such as the type of institution (public or private), the school’s location, and whether the student is an in-state or out-of-state resident. On average, tuition for a BSW program at a public institution can range from $7,000 to $20,000 per year for in-state residents and $15,000 to $30,000 per year for out-of-state residents. Tuition at private institutions is typically higher, ranging from $20,000 to $50,000 per year.

Additionally, students should budget for additional costs such as books, supplies, and fees, which can add several thousand dollars to the program’s overall cost.

Licensing & Practice as a BSW Graduate

Check your state’s social work licensing board for more information on what type of licensing and/or practice you can pursue as a BSW graduate. Each state has different guidelines on what education level is needed for certain social work roles. Some states allow BSW graduates to practice under supervision. Still, in many states, you must go on to earn a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree at minimum for licensed clinical roles and to work independently.

BSW Degree Specialties

Behind just about every sector is an opportunity for social workers to bring a humane and specialized approach to operations, management, or service. When we think about social workers, we usually associate them with community-oriented settings such as homeless shelters or social services. But in reality, there is a wide range of social work career specializations, including:

While BSW degrees don’t tend to offer formal specializations, research the curriculum of programs you are considering to make sure the coursework addresses areas you might be interested in. You can also opt for any available electives that may deepen your knowledge in a specialty area. To specialize further, consider continuing your education with a Master of Social Work (MSW) or even a Doctorate of Social Work (DSW).

The other great thing about completing a BSW is that it will put you in a great position to enroll in an Advanced-Standing MSW degree program if you wish to pursue more education in the social work space. Advanced-Standing MSW programs can be completed in about half the time of a traditional MSW, but you must complete a BSW with a GPA of at least 3.5 to be eligible for this accelerated option.

Tara Moretti, LMHC
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