Many online colleges offer social work degrees. Social workers help groups like veterans, addicts, at risk youth and the under served. If you hope to make an impact, earning a social work degree online may be a perfect start. 

What is an Online Social Work Degree?

A social work degree studies the skills, values and ethics you need to become a social worker. Then also helps you apply concepts in real settings through fieldwork. There are online social work degrees at all levels. Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctorate. These take you through general to expert level clinical practice skills. And, aim to prep you for state licensure.  

A bachelor’s degree in social work is a BSW for short. At this level, you learn basic info and guiding principles. Like how to advocate for clients, manage cases and link people with services. Master’s in social work, or MSW programs deepen your skill levels. They also refine your grasp of a clinical area in line with your career goals. An MSW is also what you need to take the national licensure exam. Doctor of social work programs (DSW) are clinical practice degrees. They differ from the PhD in social work which is a research degree. And, may help you build skills as a leader, academic or clinician. 

Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work

A BSW is an entry point for most social work positions. Most online BSW programs entail 120 credits and take about four years to complete. The goal of a BSW program is to prep you for generalist practice roles (such as casework). And for jobs where you engage with clients (e.g., individuals, families, communities).  

As such, you may learn to assess their needs, link them to services, and track their progress. Accredited BSW programs also entail at least 400 hours of supervised field experience. To get into an online BSW degree program you need a high school diploma or its equal. You also have to meet your college’s standards for GPA.  

On average, it costs $6,518 to pursue a social work degree at a public college. But tuition for private schools average $28,538. That said, some online colleges charge a flat fee that does not depend on residency. 

MS in Social Work

An MSW program is a grad degree. It aims to nurture clinical expertise and prep you to pursue a mandatory state license. You do not need a BSW to pursue an MSW, but you do need a bachelor’s degree. Some online colleges also look for a specific GPA range, references and GRE scores. 

There are two types of MSW programs to respond to students’ levels of education. Traditional and advanced standing. Both may study policy, advocacy, admin and assessment tools. Traditional MSW programs last from two to three years and may entail 60 credits. These often cover general topics in the first year. And, move into more defined clinical classes for the rest. If you earned a BSW, you may be eligible for an advanced standing MSW program. These often entail about 37 credits and take about one year to complete.  

Most accredited MSW programs include at least 900 hours of fieldwork too. But often contain fewer for advanced standing students. Tuition is another variable when it comes to online MSW programs. On average, it may cost $11,617 if you earn your degree at a public college.  

DSW or PhD in Social Work

The Doctor of Social Work (DSW) and PhD in social work are the highest level of degrees in the field. A DSW is for practitioners and a PhD in social work, for academics.cThe reasons to enter a DSW or PhD vary. Many hope to teach, lead, work on policies and research. As such, these programs often feature on campus visits to develop related skill sets. Most people who enter a doctorate program in social work have an MSW and experience. They often need specific grades, references and a strong personal essay. 

A PhD in social work may help you master the skills needed to design and conduct social work research. It often takes about three years and may include supervised teaching. If you want to master the skills of a clinician, a DSW program may be ideal. It is a practitioner degree and usually refines your understanding of behavior. Many programs also prep you to solve problems. Like bullying, child welfare and issues stemming from poverty. You may get a chance to research these areas in depth too.  

What can I do with an Online Social Work Degree?

A social work degree may help you enter or advance your career in social and human services. In these fields, you help others cope with, manage and resolve issues of all kinds. The field of social work spans many areas, settings and kinds of practitioner. As such, there may be jobs for people with all levels of education. Some social workers do start out with a BSW degree. Then with an MSW and two years of supervised practice, may also earn their state clinical license. People who want to teach, research and supervise often pursue a PhD or DSW too. Right now in fact, about 65% of social work teachers have a doctoral degree. 

1. Social Workers 

Most social workers help their clients solve and cope with problems. To do this they need to know how to assess client needs. Then also to respond to tough situations like child abuse or a suicide attempt. Some entry level social work jobs may call for a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW). But most social workers need a master’s degree. They also need two years of supervised work in a clinical setting. This enables a social worker to pursue their state license.  

2. Health Care Social Workers 

As a health care social worker, you work with people who are terminally ill, sick and aging. As such, you often help clients cope with changes in lifestyle, medication and treatment plans.  

3. Clinical Social Workers 

A licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) may diagnose and treat mental, behavioral and emotional issues. Then, may also provide one to one, group, family and couples therapy. Unlike other kinds of social workers, these roles call for a master’s in social work (MSW). You also need a mandatory state license. Not to mention strong assessment and case management skills.  

4. Health Educators and Community Health Workers 

health educator teaches people what behaviors promote wellness. They often liaise with community health workers who understand the people they serve. Then craft programs to address need. If you want to work as a health educator, you need a bachelor’s degree. Some employers also ask that you have the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) credential. Or, that you have a grad degree in an area like public health promotion.  

5. Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors 

Behavioral disorder and substance abuse counselors are also addiction counselors. In their role, they often use the 12 step (AA) approach to help clients recover and cope. Many pros in this field work with specific groups. Like teens, veterans, people with anger issues or suicide impulses. As such, many jobs call for at least a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree and license. 

6. Social and Human Service Assistants  

As support staff, social and human service assistants are case work aides. They work under the watch of social services professionals. Social workers and psychologists, for instance. In this role, they help clients identify and get the benefits and services they need. This calls for an ability to research and willingness to be of service. You may also need at least an associate degree and the skills to handle people in crisis.  

Is a Degree in Social Work worth it?

Social work may provide problem solving skills, opportunity and above average earning potential. Jobs in social work (substance abuse is one) are among the fastest growing in the nation. The demand for health care and social service programs is on the rise. And with it, the need for skilled social workers. As such, the field shows the promise of 11% more jobs by 2028. 

Since this is a norm, some areas forecast even brighter outlooks. Health care social workers face as much as 17% more jobs. And mental health and substance abuse social workers, 17% more opportunity. There is also need for child, family and school social workers. A 7% increase in jobs reflects gov’t budget limits as issues like child abuse prevail. 

Salaries for social workers are another moving part. The average annual salary for social workers was $49,470 in 2018. But as a mid point, some people also earned more than $81,400. Social workers earned most in state, local and private hospitals. Gov’t, ambulatory care, and family services are other top industry settings. Many people with social work degrees work in related fields too. Like health education, counseling and community service. Most employers in these areas look for bachelor’s or master’s prepared workers. And you may need some type of state license depending on the field you choose. 

Social Work Degree Jobs & Salary

Occupation Average Salary Jobs
Social Workers $50,470 707,400
Health Educators $46,910 123,800
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors $46,240 304,500
Network and Computer Systems Administrator $35,060 413,700

Top States for Jobs as a Social Worker

State Jobs Annual Mean Wage
CA 12,210 $71,020
NY 4,910 $67,580
FL 3,880 $51,980
OH 2,870 $53,650
SC 2,770 $45,700

What classes will I take with an Online Social Work Degree?

The classes you take in an online social work degree often follow the guide set by the CSWE. The Council on Social Work Education sets standards for skills, conduct and knowledge. If you plan to become a social worker, you need to earn your degree from a CSWE accredited program. This rule of thumb applies to BSW and MSW programs. But not to DSW and PhD programs as the CSWE does not accredit this level. Another thing that alters your study plan is your degree level. To give you more insight, here are three sample course outlines.  

Bachelor’s Degree Courses 

Most online BSW degree courses aim to prep you for generalist entry level practice. As such they often introduce to the field, its ethics, practices and theories. These topics help you build key client and case management skills. Like how to engage with, assess, intervene and check client progress. Also, to then apply these methods with individuals, families and communities. 

Other classes may help you understand human behavior through the lens of systems theory. You may also learn to apply social work theory to issues across the lifespan. A few other common topics are:

Intro to Fieldwork

Learn the advanced hacking tools used to What you learn in class could be used to help people in the field. You may visit places to meet people and find ways to support them.

Working with Aging Populations

Older people may develop mental and physical problems. You could learn to recognize those problems and help them live better lives.

Violence and the Community

This course looks at how violence affects people in neighborhoods. You may learn about child abuse, drug trafficking, war and other forms of violence.

Social Work Research

You may learn to use science to research social issues. Your own studies could spot problems, offer solutions and help people see things differently.

Bear in mind, you may have general education and elective classes too.  

Graduate Degree Courses 

The classes you take in an online MSW depend on your entry point. Traditional entry which is both broad and deep. Or, advanced standing which omits general courses. Traditional MSW programs are for bachelor’s prepared students from all undergrad majors. As such, it often starts out with the basics of social work. These areas span social welfare policy, behavior theories, and research methods. 

Advanced standing MSW courses stress clinical skills and science. So, you may refine knowledge of practice area. While also learning to apply theory into interventions. Keep in mind, you may also have electives that relate to social work. Play therapy, loss and grief, gender issues and forensics are a few ideas. 

A DSW offers advanced training in a specific area of practice in social work. Most DSW programs entail a form of residency or dissertation that helps form skills too. There are two main areas that a DSW curricula tends to cover. Social work administration and clinical social work. These themes aim to build your ability to problem solve as a leader (director) and expert clinician.  

While a practitioner degree, DSW course work does include research. Not to test theory like a PhD. Rather, to use statistical tools and current ‘best practices’ to address social problems and issues. As such, your courses may stress social welfare policy analysis and advocacy. In the mix, you may also learn to write grant proposals to fund programs to benefit groups with unmet needs. Here are a few other possible topics.

Oppression and the Struggle for Human Rights

The world includes people from many different groups. You could learn to help those who are treated unfairly because of things like race, gender, health and age.

Chemical Dependncy

Using drugs and other substances the wrong way can cause problems. You may learn to recognize and treat those problems to improve people’s lives.

Ethics in Professional Helping

Every person has basic human rights. This course aims to teach how certain factors protect our rights or threaten them.

Human Behavior in the Social Evironment

Study how human behavior affects our daily lives. You may learn the way different groups live side by side with positive and negative results.

Most programs also include research methods, statistics and classes in your chosen area.  

Popular Social Work Concentrations 

To focus on a specific group, clinical issue or interest area, you may need to add a concentration. Here are a few to think about.  

1. Addiction and Substance Abuse 

This area focuses on the many facets of addiction. From root causes and effects of trauma to counseling theories and methods. Side topics may span treatment, recovery and ways to prevent relapse. 

2. Clinical Social Work 

A focus in clinical social work is about the methods to treat and prevent mental illness. You also learn to apply these tactics with individuals, groups and families.  

3. Social Work Administration 

Rather than working with one client, social work admin is about the practice as a whole. You still need to know how to listen to people but may focus more on policy.  

4. Medical Social Work 

In medical social work, courses often cover ways to intervene in crisis. You may also study medical after-care and discharge planning. Some problems also cover mental health issues and aging. 

5. Criminal Justice 

This area aims to provide you with the basic skills to test and treat forensic groups. These groups span sex offenders, substance abusers and victims of crime. You may also learn how to help law enforcement personnel.  

How long does it take to get a Social Work Degree online?

It may take four years of fulltime study to earn a bachelor’s degree in social work online. And, you may reduce this time if you have associate degree credits to transfer in.  

The average fulltime student may complete an MSW degree online in two years, or part time in either three or four years. Some advanced standing MSW programs take one year assuming all your credits transfer.  

It can be another two to three years if you want to earn a DSW degree. But some colleges give up to 8 years. And others offer accelerated options.  

University Level of Degree # of Credits Required Starts Per Year Minimum Months to Complete
University of North Dakota Bachelors 120 2 24
Indiana Wesleyan University Bachelors 120 5 24
Northwestern State University of Louisiana Bachelors 120 2 48
University of Buffalo Masters 60 1 36
Indiana University Masters 60 4 36
University of Southern California Masters 37 2 12
Walden University Doctorate 58 Multiple 30
Kutztown University Doctorate N/A 1 36
SUNY – Albany Doctorate 36 1 36

15 Online Social Work Degrees

Many online colleges offer CSWE accredited social work degrees. Here are 15 schools with online degrees in social work at all levels.  

  1. University of North Dakota 
  2. Indiana Wesleyan University
  3. Northwestern State University of Louisiana
  4. Northern Arizona University
  5. Brandman University
  6. University of Buffalo
  7. Indiana University
  8. University of Southern California
  9. Ohio State University
  10. Tulane University
  11. Walden University
  12. Kutztown University
  13. SUNY at Albany
  14. Capella University
  15. University of Tennessee Knoxville

FIND AN ONLINE SOCIAL WORK DEGREE

Let’s take a closer look at the online social work degrees that these 15 schools have to offer. 

1

University of North Dakota

Bachelor of Science in Social Work 

Fully Online


UND offers an online Bachelor of Science in Social Work (BSSW). It features “live” online classes so you can ask questions in real time. There are also a few campus visits and a 450 hour field placement which you may complete part time. And, while general in nature, it aims to prep you to work in rural settings. You can also pursue a focus in gerontology or clinical dependency. 

Sample courses include:

  • Generalist social work practice 
  • Social work research 
  • Human behavior  

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $15,895
Grad $19,958
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$5,506

Average Net Price:
$15,654

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, recognized student vet organization & member of SOC.

Accredited:
Higher Learning Commission

2

Indiana Wesleyan University

Bachelor of Social Work 

Fully Online


Indiana Wesleyan offers an online BSW program where you learn in real time with a cohort. Their program aims to prep you for generalist entry level practice. And, does so from a Christian lens. Apart from your classes, you also need to complete a 400 hour field placement. 

Sample Courses include:

  • Intro to social work 
  • Social policy 
  • General psychology  

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $9,743
Grad $11,977
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$6,167

Average Net Price:
$21,511

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact & member of SOC.

Accredited:
Higher Learning Commission

3

Northwestern State University of Louisiana

Bachelor of Social Work  

Fully Online


NSU offers an online BSW. It aims to prep you for entry level direct social work and human services jobs.  

Also, if you plan to roll into their MSW program, you may be able to skip about one half of master’s courses. Expect a 432 hour field placement as well as your class work. 

Sample classes include:

  • Social work as a profession 
  • Statistics in social research 
  • Generalist practice with groups

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $19,556
Grad $20,474
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$7,594

Average Net Price:
$12,336

Military Programs:
Credit for military training, dedicated point of contact & member of SOC.

Accredited:
SACSCOC

4

Northern Arizona University

Bachelor of Science in Social Work 

Fully Online


NAU offers an online BSW program that aims to equip you with generalist skills and knowledge. It also focuses on practice with rural and indigenous groups of the Southwest. As such you study poverty and service for the weak and underserved. There is also a field placement and choice of formats. Traditional semester or competency learning.  

Sample courses include:

  • Crisis intervention 
  • Human behavior  
  • Policy  

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $26,516
Grad $20,338
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$9,960

Average Net Price:
$14,236

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, recognized student vet organization & member of SOC.

Accredited:
Higher Learning Commission

5

Brandman University

Bachelor of Arts in Social Work 

Fully Online


Brandman offers an online BA in social work program. It focuses in areas like clinical research and community outreach. You also hone skills through a 400 hour field practice. And, may choose to minor in a focus that lines up with career goals too. There are 8 options including military social work, victim advocacy and at risk youth. 

Courses may include:

  • Social work basics 
  • Human behavior  
  • Diversity and justice 

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $12,440
Grad $12,320
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$6,714

Average Net Price:
$23,781

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact & member of SOC.

Accredited:
WASC Senior College and University Commission

6

University of Buffalo

Master of Social Work 

Fully Online


UOB offers two online MSW programs. One is a traditional, 60 credit program and the other a 35 credit advanced standing. Both root you in evidence based practice. They also focus on trauma informed and human rights points of view. Apart from this, you need to complete a field practice which you can do in your home region. 

Classes may include:

  • Diversity and oppression 
  • Interventions 
  • Evaluation in social work  

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $28,194
Grad $25,920
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$8,714

Average Net Price:
$17,264

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, recognized student vet organization & member of SOC.

Accredited:
MSCHE

7

Indiana University

Master of Social Work (Direct)

Fully Online


IU offers an online MSW (direct) program. It includes basic courses in diversity, human rights and social justice. You also explore fields such as military social work, e-social work, tele-behavioral health and addictions.  

Sample courses include:

  • Community and global theory and practice 
  • Social policy analysis 
  • Clinical theory and practice 

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $36,512
Grad $33,304
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$11,541

Average Net Price:
$13,036

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, recognized student vet organization & member of SOC.

Accredited:
Higher Learning Commission

8

University of Southern California

Advanced Standing Master of Social Work 

Fully Online


USC offers an online advanced standing MSW for BSW prepared students. It may take about one year to complete and comes with a choice of anchor points. Adult Mental Health and Wellness, Children, Youth and Families and Social Change and Innovation. After earning your degree, you may pursue a professional license. You can also look into their traditional online MSW. 

Classes may include:

  • Policy and advocacy 
  • Science of social work 
  • Applied learning – field education 

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $58,195
Grad $47,107
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$39,516

Average Net Price:
$37,521

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, recognized student vet organization & member of SOC.

Accredited:
WASC Senior College and University Commission

9

Ohio State University

Master of Social Work  

Fully Online


Ohio State offers an online traditional MSW as well as an advanced standing option. The program begins each Fall semester and may take two years full time. You can study part time too. And, you will be able to choose from two anchor points. Mental Health and Substance Misuse or Child and Youth Services. You also complete two field placements.  

Classes may include:

  • Evidence in social work 
  • Professional development 
  • Seminar on child and youth services 

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $32,061
Grad $36,009
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$10,456

Average Net Price:
$18,706

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, recognized student vet organization & member of SOC.

Accredited:
Higher Learning Commission

10

Tulane University

Master of Social Work  

Fully Online


Tulane offers an online MSW traditional program with fulltime and part time formats. You can also pursue an advanced standing MSW. The program leans on its New Orleans’ heritage and resilience in facing crisis. To this end, you may add a Disaster and Collective Trauma or Mental Health certificate to your degree. You will also need to complete 948 hours of field-based study.  

Sample classes:

  • Diversity and social justice 
  • Intro to community practice 
  • Theories of human behavior 

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $56,800
Grad $56,958
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$30,904

Average Net Price:
$40,783

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program & dedicated point of contact.

Accredited:
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)

11

Walden University

Doctor of Social Work 

Fully Online


Walden offers an online DSW degree program. It focuses on leadership and social justice and advocacy. At the same time, it nurtures clinical expertise through a choice of anchor points. There are eight areas to chose from including medical social work. Criminal justice, administration, and addictions are a few others. Plus, you have up to eight years to complete the program.  

Learning topics may include:

  • Advanced social work theory and practice 
  • Program and practice evaluation 
  • Clinical seminar  

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $12,150
Grad $12,539
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$3,900

Average Net Price:
N/A

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, recognized student vet organization & member of SOC.

Accredited:
Higher Learning Commission

12

Kutztown University

Doctor of Social Work 

Fully Online


KU offers a hybrid DSW degree program. Students enter as a cohort and pursue their degree on a part time basis over the course of three years. The program also highlights education and inquiry. As such, it features a robust set of research and statistics topics. And, includes supervisory leadership and / or teaching activities. 

Classes may include:

  • Social work leadership 
  • The social work teacher scholar 
  • Intervention research 

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $15,166
Grad $15,620
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$6,154

Average Net Price:
$22,401

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, recognized student vet organization & member of SOC.

Accredited:
MSCHE

13

SUNY at Albany

PhD in Social Welfare 

Fully Online


SUNY at Albany offers an alternative to the DSW, an online PhD in Social Welfare. It aims to prep you for a career in teaching and research as opposed to clinical roles. As such, you may take away quality research skills and an ability to analyze social policy. You also use these skills to input into theory or practice in social welfare via a dissertation. 

Classes may include:

  • Social welfare practice theory 
  • Advanced statistics 
  • Social welfare policy 

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $27,766
Grad $25,193

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$9,284

Average Net Price:
$16,769

Military Programs:
Credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, recognized student vet organization & member of SOC.

Accredited:
MSCHE

14

Capella University

Doctor of Social Work 

Fully Online


Capella offers an online / in person DSW degree program with a leadership focus. You may also develop the ability to advocate for and create public policy. As well as assess how it impacts individuals, families, groups, and the community. 

Sample courses include:

  • Clinical theories of social work practice 
  • Leadership and management 
  • Grant writing and admin 

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $14,540
Grad $15,233
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$3,781

Average Net Price:
$17,368

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact & member of SOC.

Accredited:
Higher Learning Commission

15

University of Tennessee Knoxville

Doctor of Social Work 

Fully Online


UT offers a DSW degree program which features real time online and asynchronous learning. It also comes in an accelerated, three year format. A main focus of the program is evidence based practice. And on helping you build skills in clinical leadership, clinical science, and applied research.  

Classes may include:

  • Neuroscience 
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Trauma focused interventions  

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $31,664
Grad $31,568
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$9,750

Average Net Price:
$21,024

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact & recognized student vet organization.

Accredited:
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)  

*Unemployment Earnings.  Sources for school stats and data include the NCES and IPEDS.