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2024’s Best Online BSW Programs (Bachelor of Social Work)

2024’s Best Online BSW Programs (Bachelor of Social Work)

Enrolling in an online BSW program is a flexible way to earn your social work degree and start a career helping others. Explore top-rated programs in this guide, what courses you’ll take, and where this degree can take you.

One of the great things about online BSW programs is that there are so many to choose from. With all the possibilities, narrowing your search can be difficult. To help with this process, we ranked accredited, online bachelor of social work degree programs that provide a high-quality education at an affordable price. 

To help separate the good programs from the great ones, we focused on those offering the most scheduling flexibility and degree customization, meaning students learn not only the exact areas of social work they want but also in the most convenient format. Check out our list below to see who came out on top for 2024, then continue reading to learn even more about what you’ll learn and what you can expect while earning your BSW online.

Top Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Social Work (BSW) for 2024

We have ranked the top schools below. Our Rankings Data comes from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES.) Click the About the Ranking link below for more information about our methodology.


    Base Methodology for OnlineColleges.me’s 2024 Online College Rankings

    1. Create List of Eligible Schools and Programs

    To be eligible for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria based on government data provided by The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

    • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
    • At least one program in the subject area offered partially or fully online.
    1. Assign Weightings

    After creating the list of eligible schools, OnlineColleges.me data scientists assigned weights and ranked schools based on a mix of affordability, support services, and online program availability metrics. Online program availability and overall affordability metrics received the heaviest weightings.

    Online Program Availability

    • Number of online programs in subject area reported by school to the U.S. Department of Education. Because exact numbers change often and can be difficult to verify, we use a range-based scoring system: 0-5 online programs = 1 star; 6-10 = 2 stars; 11-15 = 3 stars; 16-20 = 4 stars; 21+ = 5 stars. In our design, laptop icons = stars.
    • For degree-specific pages, ex: Psychology degrees, we list the current number of online programs available at that school for that degree type, as self-reported by the schools.


    • Cost – Relative cost of attendance compared to peer schools on the list. Based on tuition and fees per academic year.
    • Students w/ Institutional Aid – Percentage of students who receive financial aid from the school itself.

    Support Services

    • Academic Counseling – Existence of this service on campus or online.
    • Career Placement – Existence of this service on campus or online.

    About Our Data

    OnlineColleges.me’s rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Most recent data pull: January of 2024

  • Tuscaloosa, AL
    Public $$$

    The University of Alabama’s Bachelor of Social Work program is a mostly online, CSWE-accredited program that prepares students for future careers as social workers. Most of the classroom education requirements can be completed online. However, there are two types of classes that need to be completed in-person. First, there are the occasional skills labs, which take place during the weekends. Second, there are the field education experiences, where students will complete at least 450 hours of in-person training under the supervision of a practicing social worker. These field experiences can take place in Huntsville, Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, Mobile, or Montgomery.

    Program Highlights:

    Bachelor of Social Work

    • Credits: 120
    • Length: About four years
    • Cost: $385.00/credit
    • Mode: Partially online
    • Accreditation: CSWE
  • Salt Lake City, UT
    Public $$

    The Bachelor of Social Work program from the University of Utah is one of just 16 CSWE-accredited programs that are also online. Even though many of the classes are taught online, students will still have an opportunity for classroom interactions, whether through collaborations on discussion forums or peer review of classmates’ work. Much of the coursework can be completed 100% online, but because this program has been accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, there are some in-person learning requirements. This means students must complete an in-person internship or practicum at an approved location under the supervision of a social worker.

    Program Highlights:

    Bachelor of Social Work

    • Credits: 123
    • Length: About four years
    • Cost: $260.00/credit
    • Mode: Partially online
    • Accreditation: CSWE
  • Kearney, NE
    Public $$

    The Bachelor of Science in Social Work program from the University of Nebraska at Kearney stands out in several ways. The general education credit requirements have been adjusted to make it easier for students to transfer into the social work program and the vast majority of the classes can be completed fully online. The primary in-person training requirements are two field placements. This is where students can engage in hands-on learning under the supervision of social worker at an approved social work location. Completion of the program means graduates will meet the social work licensure requirements for the state of Nebraska.

    Program Highlights:

    Bachelor of Science in Social Work

    • Credits: 120
    • Length: About four years
    • Cost: $6,270.00/year (in-state); $13,650.00/year (out-of-state)
    • Mode: Partially online
    • Accreditation: CSWE
  • Fairbanks, AK
    Public $$

    The Bachelor of Arts in Social Work degree program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks is a hybrid program. Most of the classes can be completed online through synchronous audio-conferences. One reason for using this distance learning format is because it’s similar to how many social workers work with their clients in remote parts of Alaska. The primary in-person requirement is the completion of a 400-hour practicum that’s taken during the student’s senior year. The structure of the program follows a cohort model intended for students who plan on working while in school. The cohort model is also helpful in allowing the mostly rural students to create an educational and professional support network. Even though much of the instruction comes from a university instructor, students will also receive guidance from an Alaska Native Elder.

    Program Highlights:

    BA in Social Work

    • Credits: 120
    • Length: About four years
    • Cost: $289.00/credit
    • Mode: Partially online
    • Accreditation: CSWE
  • Silver City, NM
    Public $

    Western New Mexico University’s Bachelor of Social Work program is designed to prepare graduates for entry-level careers as social work generalists. To best prepare students, the classes are taught by faculty that are licensed social workers with real-world experience. Students can choose to take classes either online or on-campus. Even though online students can take classes remotely, they still have two in-person practicums in separate semesters. Each one will require students to complete at least 225 hours of supervised social work experience. There’s also the opportunity for learning customization with more than a dozen social work electives.

    Program Highlights:

    Bachelor of Social Work

    • Credits: 120
    • Length: About four years
    • Cost: $5,235.90/semester (in-state); $9,379.35/semester (out-of-state)
    • Mode: Partially online
    • Accreditation: CSWE
  • Mount Vernon, OH
    Private not-for-profit $$$$$
  • Flagstaff, AZ
    Public $$$
  • Detroit, MI
    Public $$$
  • Grand Forks, ND
    Public $$
  • Louisville, KY
    Public $$$
  • Springfield, MO
    Public $$
  • Topeka, KS
    Public $$
  • Missoula, MT
    Public $$
  • Cincinnati, OH
    Public $$
  • Lynchburg, VA
    Private not-for-profit $$$
  • Honolulu, HI
    Public $$$
  • Owensboro, KY
    Private not-for-profit $$$$$
  • Natchitoches, LA
    Public $$
  • Troy, AL
    Public $$
  • Livonia, MI
    Private not-for-profit $$$$$
  • Knoxville, TN
    Public $$$
  • Saint Leo, FL
    Private not-for-profit $$$$$
  • Denver, CO
    Public $$
  • Portales, NM
    Public $
  • Bemidji, MN
    Public $$
  • Millersville, PA
    Public $$
  • Waxahachie, TX
    Private not-for-profit $$$$$
  • Irvine, CA
    Private not-for-profit $$$
  • Cincinnati, OH
    Private not-for-profit $$$$
  • Chicago, IL
    Private not-for-profit $$$

Key Things You’ll Learn in an Online BSW Program

If you’re enrolled in an accredited online BSW program, you’ll see many similarities between the classes and academic requirements at your school and those at other bachelor of social work programs. While each school will be slightly different in the approach it takes with its BSW programs, below are common learning outcomes you can expect regardless of which one you choose.

Critical Thinking

Social work is a field that focuses on the individual. Because people are unpredictable and unique, it’s impossible to prepare for every eventuality a social worker will face. That’s why it’s so important to learn critical thinking skills, which make it possible for you to take similar experiences and training from the past and modify them to apply to future challenges.

Because social workers often deal with vulnerable individuals, there are a host of laws, regulations, and professional and ethical rules they must follow. Aspiring social workers learn about specific laws and rules, but the primary focus of this outcome is to teach students a general framework and concepts so they can be more effectively applied to situations not yet encountered or envisioned by law and policymakers.

Awareness of Social, Economic, and Cultural Differences 

One of the most important aspects of an online BSW program is for you to learn to appreciate and understand the different perspectives you’ll encounter throughout your practice. With an increased awareness of the differences you’re likely to be exposed to, you can more effectively adjust your approach to help those in need.

Client Evaluation and Assessment

It might seem like knowing what to do to help someone in need is the most important part of improving their situation. But often, social workers need to be good at identifying related issues and their significance. Therefore, much of the bachelor’s degree in social work curriculum revolves around spotting and assessing issues so you can properly treat and assist clients.

Online BSW Program Coursework

Most accredited online BSW programs cover similar topics. This is not only because the curriculum must meet accreditation standards but also because the bachelor’s degree in social work serves as the linchpin for later social work experiences and concepts. Below is a list of some of the classes you can expect to find in your online BSW program, regardless of which school you decide to attend.

Introduction to Social Welfare

This is a lower-level course that introduces you to the basic principles that form the foundation of social work practice in the United States. Legal, ethical, cultural, and social factors will be covered, including how these elements work together to create the framework in which social workers assist others. You’ll examine how this general practice structure can be applied to organizations, groups, communities, families, and individuals.

Diversity and Ethical Challenges in Social Work Practice

Besides understanding the value of the individual and group differences among clients, you’ll take a detailed look at the ways diversity manifests itself in people, including religious, cultural, political, and economic aspects plus life experiences. The concepts will be examined with an eye toward how they can lead to ethical dilemmas and challenges.

Human Behavior in Society

This introductory class looks at historical and contemporary social work principles and theoretical concepts and examines how they apply to potential clients. This includes looking at the psychological, emotional, and physical traits of an individual. The class also considers how the social work concepts and individual dimensions interact with the environment, including the cultural, political, religious, social, familial, and economic aspects of society.

Crisis Intervention

This class includes learning multiple assessment strategies for identifying a client’s crises and determining what the next step should be to help the client as effectively and efficiently as possible. The class makes use of critical thinking skills and covers the interplay between potential treatment and public policy, ethical, and legal considerations.

Social Work Research

In this course, you’ll learn how to apply research principles and findings to the social work context. The curriculum addresses universal concepts, such as quantitative and qualitative research methods and statistical analysis. Class material covers how to critically and analytically review peer research in addition to learning how to conduct assessments and evaluate clients in a field setting.

Social Work Capstone 

This course represents your final project toward the end of your online BSW program. You’ll demonstrate mastery of what you’ve learned by creating, designing, and carrying out a project that utilizes social work principles and ideas. You will take knowledge from your classroom learning and experiences from your field placements to complete this project and present your findings to peers and instructors.

Field Training

This class is where you apply what you’ve learned in the classroom to the real world. You’ll engage in social work practice under the supervision of a licensed professional at an approved human or community service organization. A special emphasis is placed on your ability to apply core social work concepts to issues and challenges faced by clients. The field training takes place in an internship format.

FAQs About Earning Your Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work Online

Earning a college degree is a big decision. And despite how common online learning is, there are still many aspects of an online BSW program that you may not fully understand. Don’t worry if you still have questions about how these programs work and what you can expect if you enroll . Let’s address some of the most common questions about online bachelor of social work degree programs.

  • Can I earn my bachelor’s degree in social work 100% online?

    If you enroll in an online BSW program that’s been accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), the curriculum will include 400 or more hours of supervised fieldwork. You must complete this work at approved locations that require face-to-face training. These in-person requirements often take place toward the end of your program. 

    Luckily, in many online BSW programs, the classroom requirements can be completed 100% online, from anywhere and at any time. In some online social work programs, a portion of the coursework will need to be completed in person at on-campus skills labs that take place over several weekends throughout the semester.

  • What can I do with a bachelor’s degree in social work?

    Most people who get a BSW degree online become social workers. But that’s not the only career open to you if you get a bachelor’s degree in social work online. Below is a list of potential jobs that include a bachelor’s degree in social work as an eligibility requirement. Just keep in mind that, depending on the state and employer, you may need to meet other requirements as well to qualify.

    • Social worker
    • Social service manager
    • Community service manager
    • Social service assistant
    • Human service assistant 
    • Health education specialist
    • Mental health counselor
    • Behavioral disorder counselor
    • Substance abuse counselor
  • What type of accreditation should an online bachelor’s in social work degree program have?

    When choosing which online BSW program to apply to, check for two types of accreditation. First, make sure the school has institutional accreditation from a national or regional body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Second, confirm that the social work program itself has programmatic accreditation from the CSWE. In many states you can only become a licensed social worker if your BSW program was accredited by the CSWE. 

    Another thing to look out for when choosing a school for your BSW degree is that some programs may be in the process of being accredited by the CSWE. If the school receives accreditation it may apply retroactively to students who have already graduated, but that’s not guaranteed.

  • What does the admissions process look like for online BSW programs?

    The exact admissions process for online BSW programs varies among schools, but it often follows a two-part structure. First, students apply for admission to the school itself. This usually consists of:

    • Completing an online application
    • Paying an application fee
    • Providing official copies of high school or college transcripts

    Other requirements may include providing SAT or ACT standardized test scores and writing a personal statement. Once accepted to the school, students then apply for admission into the social work bachelor’s degree program. This process usually consists of:

    • An online application
    • An interview
    • Answering short essay prompts about the interest, experience, and desire for working in the field
    • Letters of recommendation
    • A resume or curriculum vitae
    • Proof of a minimum GPA
    • Completing one or more foundational social work courses and/or prerequisites
  • How much does an online bachelor’s degree in social work cost?

    How much it costs to complete a bachelor’s degree in social work online program depends on multiple variables. The most obvious is the tuition rate, which varies among schools. For example, tuition at the University of Louisville is $514 per credit, while tuition at the University of Alabama is $385 per credit. 

    If you’re attending a public institution, another variable is whether you’re a resident of that state. This isn’t as important as it used to be, because many programs charge the same tuition rate for all online students. The BSW social work program from Southwest Minnesota State University is a great example of this. However you’ll want to make sure you understand the tuition rate and structure for the school you choose.

    Finally, how many credits you need to graduate will make a huge difference in the cost of your BSW degree. Enrolling as a freshman means you’ll need to complete the 120 or so credits, but if you can enroll as a transfer student you’ll pay much less since you might need to earn only 60 to 90 credits to get your degree.

  • How much time does it take to earn a bachelor’s degree in social work online?

    A bachelor’s degree in social work is like most other bachelor’s degrees in that you’ll typically need 120 or so credits and four years of study. But this time requirement varies widely depending on several factors. One of the biggest is whether you’re enrolled as a full-time or part-time student, with part-time students often taking longer than four years to graduate. 

    Another important factor is your prior college education. If you already have an associate degree, you can expect to shave one to two years off the time it takes to earn your degree. Lastly, there’s the possibility of earning your BSW in an accelerated program, which allows you to take greater course loads and/or classes throughout the year. This makes it possible to graduate in less than four years.

  • What specializations are available for bachelor’s degrees in social work?

    Completing a bachelor’s degree in social work online program means learning the fundamental principles and concepts of social work. As a result, the opportunity to focus on a concentration is relatively limited at the undergraduate level. Most opportunities to specialize exist in a doctoral or master’s level social work program. That being said, a few schools offer their BSW students the chance to focus on a particular area in social work or earn a related minor. A few possibilities include:

    • Gerontology
    • Chemical dependency
    • Drug and alcohol counseling

Is a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work Worth It?

One of the great things about completing an online BSW program is that, in addition to helping others, you get to earn a respectable wage in a profession with growth potential well above the national average. To get a rough idea of what an online bachelor’s degree in social work can offer in terms of compensation and hiring demand, we’ve compiled the following chart.

CareerMedian Annual Earnings
Job Growth
Social workers$50,3909%
Social and human service
Social and community service
Community health workers$48,86012%
Substance abuse, behavioral
disorder, and mental health

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics