Best Bachelor’s in Social Work Degrees

Do you want to join a community of professionals dedicated to making real societal changes? Working with vulnerable people —youth or adults — presents inherent challenges and rewards.

The right social work degrees not only meet industry standards, but they prepare you for the challenges that come with helping people in high-risk areas. As we outline in this guide, a bachelor of social work (BSW) degree is a great choice if you want to get an entry-level position or begin an advanced education.

Explore this page to find out more about how to pick the right social work degree, admission requirements, and your career prospects after graduation.

Featured Online Bachelor’s in Social Work

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Bachelor’s in Social Work Degree Overview

A bachelor’s in social work program is a good start for people who need to learn the fundamental skills to perform an entry-level job in social work, counseling, community outreach, or criminal justice. The four-year degree provides a broad understanding of the society’s systematic issues and the policies and social welfare programs that help people.

Understanding human behavior and theories throughout the life span can provide you with the context needed for a balanced social work practice. Social work degrees also teach you to develop a culturally competent practice to work with diverse individuals and groups.

And the field experiences and service learning courses available in a social work degree let you experience working with people while under the supervision of a licensed professional. You will complete about 125 credits in a social work degree for most programs, which qualifies you for master’s in social work. You need a graduate degree to get clinical licensure.

Key Factors for Selecting a Bachelor’s in Social Work Program

Each bachelor’s in social work degree emphasizes different courses and specializations. Field placements also vary by school, according to its partnerships or location. This all goes to say, do your research and shop around when choosing a social work program.

  • Field Placement: A bachelor’s in social work takes four years to complete, and it includes about 400 hours of field experience. You may spend the fieldwork in criminal justice settings, counseling centers, schools, or senior living facilities.
  • Accreditation: Make sure your social work degree is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. This ensures that you receive the education and fieldwork hours needed to get hired and advance to graduate school.
  • Faculty: Research a social work program’s instructors. Find out about their background, research, and academic focus. This is important because the faculty shapes the curriculum and lesson plans in a social work degree.

The Best Social Work Degrees

The best bachelor’s in social work degrees do not skimp on quality in favor of convenience and affordability.

We use a data-driven methodology to determine the best bachelor’s in social work programs based on four primary factors: academic quality, overall cost, reputation, and accessibility.

1. College of the Ozarks

College of the Ozarks, in Point Lookout, Missouri, offers a bachelor of science in family and social services, with majors in marriage and family or social work. The four-year programs emphasize the impact of Christianity on the helping professions and civic engagement. Both tracks comprise 33 credits and include a supervised internship.

C of O admits 90% of its students based on financial need and provides resources for debt-free graduation. Competitive applicants rank in the top half of their high school class with a minimum 3.0 GPA and a 20 ACT score or 1030 SAT score.

2. University of Central Florida

The University of Central Florida‘s bachelor of social work program prepares generalist social workers to help clients in social services agencies and organizations. Students complete 420 hours of field education at placements with UCF’s community partners in the Orlando, Florida, area. The program features optional certificates and minors in aging studies, children’s services, nonprofit management, and Spanish for social work.

Students typically apply after their second year in college and completion of UCF general education requirements, or an associate degree. Other requirements include a 2.5 GPA and courses in American government; macro- or microeconomics; and biology, psychology, and sociology or social problems.

3. University of Georgia

At the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia, the bachelor of social work (BSW) program focuses on understanding oppression, power, and social justice through evidence-informed practice and advocacy. Learning opportunities include meeting community change-makers, conducting research, and studying social problems abroad. BSW graduates can take advantage of advanced standing or transition to a nonprofit and leadership track through a master’s in social work.

Required field education includes an integrative practicum seminar and a 280-hour internship at an approved social service agency.

Eligible applicants to the BSW program have completed UGA’s introduction to social work course with a B grade and have maintained a 2.0 overall college GPA.

4. University of South Florida

Tampa-based University of South Florida offers a 120-credit bachelor of social work (BSW) that prepares social work generalists for practice or graduate study. The program focuses on understanding various forms of intervention and professional responsibility.

The curriculum includes an integrative seminar, field placement, and coursework in social work practice in mental health and healthcare. Global Pathways certification allows enrollees to apply for scholarships to study abroad in India and Spain.

Admitted students to USF with an overall 2.75 GPA and completed prerequisites can apply to the BSW program. Prerequisites include one course in each of five areas: American government, human biology, economics, psychology, and sociology, plus an introduction to social work.

5. Mississippi College

The bachelor of social work program at Mississippi College, in Clinton, Mississippi, encompasses 130 credits of core general education courses, generalist practice content, and licensure exam preparation.

Coursework covers contemporary social problems, human diversity and social justice, and social welfare policies and programs. The Christian-focused program features a 450-hour internship, small class sizes, and an emphasis on ethical standards, anti-discrimination, and advocacy for social and economic justice.

Rolling admissions requires completion of an application at least two weeks before registration for the semester, high school transcripts, college transcripts, if applicable, and optional ACT, SAT, or CLT test scores.

6. Florida International University

Miami-based Florida International University offers a bachelor’s-level social work degree (BSW) with an optional certificate in child welfare services. The program’s 60 credits of social work courses, internships, and an introduction to public health prepare graduates for generalist practice.

BSW major courses include the social environment and human behavior, social work practice with families and individuals, and an interview techniques lab. Advancement into practicums and field experiences requires students to maintain a 2.75 GPA.

BSW applicants need 60 credits of college coursework or an associate degree, completion of FIU’s core curriculum, major prerequisites with a C grade, and a minimum GPA of 2.75.

7. Hunter College

Part of the City University of New York, Hunter College offers a bachelor of social work degree (BSW) program that emphasizes core skills, including assessment, intervention, and advocacy. Focus areas encompass child welfare and care coordination.

Year one offers coursework that includes human behavior/the social environment, introduction to social work policy, and a social work practice and learning lab. Year two includes focus area courses, integrated seminars, and field practicums.

BSW admission requires full-time enrollment at Hunter, up to 80 transferable credits, completion of an introduction to social work course with a B grade, and a 2.75 GPA.

8. California State University, Long Beach

California State University, Long Beach offers a bachelor of social work degree (BSW) that enrollees begin in their junior year. Prior to entering the program, students complete prerequisites in human biology, psychology, and statistics courses. Junior year classes include an introduction to social welfare and practicum; a social work practicum; and a law, court decisions, and policy practice course. Seniors complete 450 hours of field experience and take generalist social work and research methods courses.

Learners can choose to take daytime or evening classes. Eligibility for admission requires 60 transferable college credits, a 2.5 GPA, and a C in prerequisites. The BSW program admits students in the fall only.

9. University of Texas at Austin

UT Austin, the main campus of the University of Texas System, offers a bachelor of social work (BSW) that blends liberal arts with social justice-focused social work training. Graduates complete 122 credits, 480 hours of field experience, and 60 hours of community service learning. Qualified enrollees with a UT Austin GPA of 3.0 and a 3.5 social work GPA can opt to enter the BSW Honor Program and conduct their own research.

Applicants submit admission materials to UT Texas, including essays, high school transcripts, and college transcripts, if applicable. There is no separate BSW program admission process.

10. Harding University

Located in Searcy, Arkansas, Harding University lists a bachelor’s-level social work degree (BSW) among its behavioral science options. Grounded in Christian and liberal arts perspectives, the program prepares social work generalists to help at-risk populations.

Enrollees complete 60 major credits in human behavior, research methods, social policy, and social work practice. Field placements provide hands-on experience with social service agencies. An optional child welfare training program offers stipends and focused field experience.

Applicants must complete an introduction to social work class before entering the BSW program. Learners with a 3.0 GPA can apply for admission to Harding without submitting test scores.

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Advantages of Earning a Bachelor’s in Social Work

When you earn a bachelor’s in social work degree, you have the opportunity to do rewarding work in many different fields. You do not need a master’s degree to get started in case management, community outreach work, child welfare, criminal justice, policy and advocacy, mental health, residential treatment, or social work.

Social is in demand: Join an in-demand field with career opportunities throughout the nation.

Variety of career choices: This degree offers career diversity. You can work in individual and family services, local government agencies, ambulatory healthcare service, or state government agencies.

Give back and find meaning in your work: Start a worthwhile career and see real change in people’s lives when you become a social worker. As you enter the field for the first time, you can work as a case aide in childcare, coordinate programs as a community organizer, or help people overcome substance use addictions.

How to Apply to a Bachelor’s in Social Work Program

Regardless of your classification as an applicant, you need to meet criteria to apply for a bachelor’s in social work degree and submit a complete application. Your application may require materials like a personal essay, resume, high school or college transcripts, and 2-3 recommendation letters.

Whether you transfer into a social work degree, or apply as a current student, you may need to hold a high school diploma or GED certificate and have a minimum GPA. Programs commonly want you to have at least a 2.75 or 3.0 GPA.

What Can I Do With a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work?

You can complement the generalist social work curriculum by focusing on a specific concentration or specialization. Specializations prepare you for specific social work careers. The opportunity to take a concentration, or specialization, sometimes comes at the undergraduate level, but it mostly comes at the graduate level.

  • Child Welfare: You can protect children from harmful living environments as a child welfare social worker. In this job, you must investigate child abuse and neglect cases.
  • Mental Health: Working in mental health as a social worker lets you help people with mental disorders access treatment. In this role, you help the individual and their families to address their psychosocial needs and stage interventions.
  • School Social Worker: As a school social worker, you screen students and offer family support. This position requires recommending behavioral modification and treatment plans. School social workers also provide crisis support and consultation for students’ treatment plans.
  • Substance Misuse: If you choose a career as a substance misuse counselor, you can work in rehab centers, hospitals, or nursing facilities. Your duties may include managing cases, staging crisis interventions, and addressing substance misuse and mental health treatment needs.

A bachelor’s in social work degree offers career mobility and variety. You can become a generalist social worker after graduation or, as shown in the table below, pursue many other careers. Average salaries are taken from Payscale (March 2023), while median salaries reflect May 2021 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Careers With a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work
Case ManagerAverage: $44,690
Community Outreach WorkerMedian: $74,000
Health EducatorMedian: $48,860
Juvenile Court LiaisonAverage: $38,000
Residential Treatment Social WorkerAverage: $52,000

Average Bachelor’s in Social Work Salary

The BLS projects a 9% job growth for social workers from 2021-2031, a period which should see 74,700 career openings. That said, the demand for each social work position varies by specialty. Employment for child, family, and school social workers should see an 8% growth rate in that decade. And the BLS projects an 11% growth rate for healthcare and mental health social workers.

A bachelor’s in social work degree opens the doors to social work jobs that pay an annual average salary of $43,490, according to Payscale in March 2023. The average social worker, who holds a master’s in social work degree, makes an annual wage of $51,920.

How to Decide if a Bachelor’s in Social Work Is Right for You

Before you dedicate your life to a career in social work, decide if the field is right for you. Social work is not easy and working with vulnerable populations can be as challenging as it is rewarding. As a social worker, you may sometimes find that regardless of your training and best efforts, there may be limitations to the help you can provide.

If you decide that you want to pursue social work, find a program with faculty and curriculum that supports your career goals. For instance, if you have a specialization in mind, consider if that program offers concentrations or fieldwork that would provide you experience in this area.

Also factor in the cost, accessibility, and format of the program, especially if you need to continue working while in school.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bachelor’s in Social Work Programs

How long does it take to become a social worker?

You should plan to spend at least four years to complete a social work degree, if you go to college full time. Earning a master’s in social work degree takes an additional 2-3 years.

What is the best type of degree for social workers?

A graduate degree can help remove any career limitations you may have in social work. A master’s in social work degree allows you to earn more and gain a license. You can become a clinical social worker, school social worker, or mental health counselor with a master’s in social work degree.

Can you earn a social work degree online?

Yes. You can earn a bachelor’s in social work degree completely online —except for the fieldwork, which must be done in person.

Where do social workers work?

Social workers can be found in hospitals, mental health clinics, schools, senior living centers, and prisons. In 2021, there were about 708,100 social workers employed across the country. The most —about 18% —work in individual and family services, according to the BLS.

Note: The ranking list and school descriptions on this page were created and reviewed independently by our Rankings Team.