Social work is a challenging, yet very rewarding profession that helps people and families navigate difficult times in their lives.
The main goal of a social worker is to improve the outcomes for people in difficult situations by acting as a community resource, advocate, and safeguard from further harm.
The social work profession is on the rise with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projecting a 12% growth rate from 2020-2030, faster than average. To become a social worker, you should begin by completing a Bachelor of Social Work.
What is a Bachelor of Social Work?
A social worker can work in a number of different settings including:
- Nursing homes
- Law enforcement
- Local government
A Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) and Bachelor of Arts in Social Work (BASW) provides students with the foundation and general knowledge needed to succeed as a social worker in an entry-level position.
Those that hold a BSW or BASW can also become licensed baccalaureate social workers (LBSW) by passing the Association of Social Work Boards’ bachelor exam (ASWB) which allows you to perform general services in the field typically under the supervision of another licensed social worker.
What Can I Do With a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work?
A BSW or BASW prepares you for an entry-level position while preparing you to take the licensing board exam.
Social workers are highly valued in many industries including mental health, healthcare, community and public health agencies, and government.
Bachelor of Social Work Salaries and Career Outlook
The job outlook for social work is very positive with a projected growth rate of 12% over the next 10 years.
Salary can vary depending on the state you live in, industry, and level of education and licensure. The BLS reports that the average annual salary for a social worker is $51,760.
Entry-level positions open for someone with a bachelor of social work include:
- Group home worker
- Substance abuse counselor
- Mental health worker
- Program coordinator
Social Work Bachelor’s Career Paths
Depending on your interests and professional goals, a degree in social work opens the doors to many paths to career growth opportunities.
While a BSW and BASW can provide a strong foundation and lead to entry-level positions, a master’s degree in social work allows you to immerse yourself in the field and move into more clinical and hands-on roles.
- Median Salary: $51,760
- Career Outlook: +12% (2020-2030)
- Required Education: Bachelor's Degree
Social workers help people cope with life’s challenges and advocate for vulnerable populations.
- Median Salary: $55,690
- Career Outlook: +4% (2020-2030)
- Required Education: Bachelor's Degree
Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists assist law offenders with social services and rehabilitation back into community life.
- Median Salary: $69,600
- Career Outlook: +15% (2020-2030)
- Required Education: Bachelor's Degree
Social and community service managers coordinate programs to support well-being in the public.
- Median Salary: $47,660
- Career Outlook: +23% (2020-2030)
- Required Education: Bachelor's Degree
Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors advise and assist people struggling with alcohol and drug addiction as well as mental and behavioral disorders.
Earning a Bachelor of Social Work
Earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work can be very rewarding and allow you to make a positive impact on many people’s lives.
As with any degree program, obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work can be challenging, financially burdensome, and time-consuming.
Pros and Cons of Bachelor of Social Work Degrees
The social work field is growing and the need for social workers’ services and expertise is in high demand, especially for those that have had negative consequences from the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Diversity of career paths
- Job opportunities available
- Projected growth of the industry
- The opportunity to help people
- Possibility to earn a good income
- Potential stress
- Requirement to work odd hours
- The financial burden of attending school
- The amount of time it takes to obtain a bachelor’s degree
Courses in Bachelor of Social Work Programs
Majoring in psychology exposes you to both the common core classes in the field as well as specialty courses that go more in-depth into a particular area.
You can expect to take general psychology, anthropology, and human biology courses during your program. Courses specific to social work is also required and may include:
- Social Work in Mental Health
- Social Work Practice with Diverse Populations
- Social Welfare and Policy
- Social Work Field Field Exploration
- Chemical Dependency
Skills Learned in a Bachelor of Social Work Program
- Understanding human behavior
- Learn research methods
- Explore social welfare policies
- Delivering social work services
- Hands-on skills
It is important to already have a set of soft skills that will help you succeed as a social worker including:
- Active listening
- Emotional intelligence
- Critical thinking
- Empathy and compassion
How Long Does it Take to Get a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work?
On average, an online Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work usually takes about four years to complete. However, this timeline is dependent on whether you study full-time or part-time, as well as previous education completed.
Bachelor’s degree programs in psychology typically require about 120-semester credits depending on your area of concentration and program modality.
Accelerated programs are also available and allow you to complete the program in as little as one year. However, these programs are fast-paced and rigorous.
Choosing the Best Bachelor of Social Work
There are many paths you can take to earn a bachelor’s in social work including taking classes full-time, part-time, online, in-person, or through a hybrid model.
Choose the program that works best for you by considering your personal circumstances, the reputation and accreditation of the school, and whether or not they offer online opportunities.
10 Best Social Work Schools in the US
By looking at various factors including student outcomes, diversity, and school quality, Universities.com ranks the top schools for each type of degree. For students interested in social work, these are the 10 best schools that offer social work degrees.
- University of Chicago
- University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
- University of California – Berkeley
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- University of Washington – Seattle Campus
- Indiana University – Bloomington
- Syracuse University
- Florida International University
- New York University
- University of Georgia
If you’re looking for other schools that offer online Bachelor’s in social work programs, check out the Find Your Perfect “U” tool. You can search over 6,000 colleges and universities with 11 different filters to find the perfect school for you!
Online vs. On Campus Degrees
Online BSW programs are becoming more abundant, and many schools allow students to complete the degree on a part-time or full-time basis. The biggest benefits of online learning include:
- Flexibility and self-paced learning
- Better time management
- Improved virtual and communication and collaboration
- No commute
- Faster graduation times
- Ability to work from anywhere
However, many students may choose to complete an in-person program for its networking and social aspects.
How Long do Online Courses Take to Complete?
On average, an online Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work usually takes about four years to complete. However, this timeline is dependent on full-time or part-time study, as well as previous education completed.
Online bachelor’s degree programs in psychology typically require about 120 credits depending on your area of concentration and program modality.
Accreditation is critical for any educational institution as it certifies that the school and its curriculum meet the standards and qualifications outlined by the U.S. Department of Education and/or the Council for Higher Education accreditation.
Choosing a school that is accredited is extremely important as it gives degrees credibility and is valued by employers.
Many programs and departments within a school may have a separate accreditation called programmatic accreditation. This accreditation elevates the credibility of the program and shows that the department has designed a program that meets industry standards.
Programmatic accreditation also ensures that students receive the appropriate training and knowledge to be successful in their given fields.
Applying to Bachelor of Social Work Programs
Admissions requirements for a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work program depend on the type of school and program modality desired.
There are many resources available to help you find schools, research financial aid packages, and apply to college programs. For example, the Common App is a one-stop shop for planning your educational future.
Admission Requirements for Bachelor of Social Work Programs
The minimum admission requirements to get into a Bachelor of Social Work program typically include:
- High school diploma or GED
- High school transcripts
- 2-5 letters of recommendation
- Writing sample/essay
- ACT/SAT standardized test scores
Paying for a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work
Deciding to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work is not only a big-time commitment, but it is also a big financial commitment. Tuition costs can vary depending on the school, program, required units, and projects.
There are many avenues of financial assistance available to help with tuition costs including financial aid, scholarships, grants, internships, work-study programs, and corporate reimbursement from your current company.
Bachelor of Social Work Degree Costs
Tuition costs for a bachelor’s degree program depending on if the school is private or public and instate vs. out-of-state residence status. Depending on this criteria, one can expect to pay in the range of $10,000-$35,000 to complete an undergraduate social work program.
Scholarships for Social Work Students
Applying for scholarships is a great way to bring down the financial cost of obtaining a bachelor’s degree.
A few scholarships for students looking to pursue a career in social work include:
- Alice M. Yarnold and Samuel Yarnold Scholarship Trust– $1,000-5,000
- Alma S. Adams Scholarship for Outreach and Health Communications– $5,000
- Carl A. Scott Memorial Fund Book Scholarship– $500
- Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund– Up to $15,000
- A Place for Mom Senior Care Scholarship– $2,000
- Pride Foundation Scholarship– $2,000
Bachelor of Social Work Career Resources
Professional organizations provide social workers with great resources, networking, and access to events to gain expertise in your field. Popular social work organizations include:
- National Association of Social Work
- Society for Social Work and Research
- The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children
- Clinical Social Work Association
- School Social Work Association of America
What kind of jobs can you get with a social work degree?
- There are a variety of different jobs you can pursue with a social work degree including case manager, substance abuse counselor, mental health social worker, healthcare social worker, clinical social worker, child protective services social worker.
Is a social work degree a BA or BS?
- There are programs geared towards either a BS or a BA in social work. A BS is more clinical oriented, while a BA takes a more broadened and liberal arts approach.
Is a bachelor’s in social work worth it?
- Yes. The job outlook for social workers is growing faster than in other occupations. It is also a career that is very rewarding.
Is the social work degree difficult?
- Obtaining a bachelor’s degree is challenging as it takes time, money, and hard work, but the inclusion of online classes in the university setting makes earning a bachelor’s degree easier and more manageable, especially for the working professional and those with family obligations.
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