The Most Affordable Online Schools for a BSW

Written by: Staff
Last updated: February 2, 2021

Social work graduates can expect a flourishing job market throughout the next decade. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an overall 13% increase in social work positions between 2019-2029. Most of these roles require at least a bachelor's degree in social work. A BSW degree also serves as the first step to earning a master of social work (MSW), which is required for state licensure and advanced positions.

A bachelor's degree in social work can take up to four years to complete. Graduates are prepared for employment in a variety of settings, from hospitals and nursing homes to community health and government agencies. Popular career options include caseworkers, human services specialists, and rehabilitation assistants

Distance learning offers an affordable way to acquire the necessary education to enter the social work arena. Students enrolled in online programs save time and money working from home instead of commuting to campus. Non-traditional students can also maintain their family or job responsibilities while pursuing an online BSW degree.

Featured Online BSW Programs

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The Most Affordable Online Schools for a BSW

1. Eastern Washington University

Established in 1882 as the Benjamin P. Cheney Academy and renamed Eastern Washington University in 1977, this public institution serves a student body of over 12,000 through six colleges and schools. 

The School of Social Work offers a bachelor of arts in social work (BASW) that combines in-person and online instruction. Fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, the 76-credit BASW curriculum trains students in core social work areas, including human behavior in the social environment, microsystemic practice theories, and diversity and social work.

Undergraduate social work students fulfill their field placements in various agencies and community organizations throughout the state. Practicum seminars, conducted during the final year of study, integrate the knowledge and skills gained through coursework with practical experience in social work settings.

EWU charges the lowest in-state tuition of all public institutions in the state and awards over $5.5 million in scholarships annually.

2. University of North Dakota

North Dakota's oldest and largest university, this state-sponsored institution enrolls over 13,600 students in more than 250 programs. Recognized for its affordability, UND tuition falls $4,000 below the national average relative to other four-year institutions.

The 120-credit bachelor of science in social work is available on campus and online. Learners complete 72 credits in the social work field, including 36 credits in upper-division courses numbered 300 and above. The BSSW is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and typically takes four years to complete. However, students who have previously earned transfer credits may graduate in as few as two years.

The curriculum trains students in generalist social work practice with a particular focus on serving vulnerable populations and rural communities. The online option offers virtual classes in real time, enabling students to interact directly with instructors. The program admits students once per year as a cohort, taking classes together in a fixed schedule.

3. University of Louisville

A public university located in Kentucky's largest city, UofL grants undergraduate and graduate degrees in 12 colleges and schools. The Kent School of Social Work offers an online BSW degree that prepares graduates for entry-level practice and provides the academic foundation for graduate study in social work.

Fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, this 120-credit BSW program consists of 60 credits in general education and supporting requirements and 60 credits in social work core courses and electives. Degree-seekers who pursue the optional drug and alcohol counseling track complete a practicum in a substance use treatment setting.

Developed for working professionals, UofL's online BSW admits students with up to 60 credits from a community college and up to 90 credits from a regionally accredited four-year college or university. Kentucky residents and out-of-state students enjoy the same affordable tuition rate. Active duty military personnel receive a substantial tuition discount.

4. Wayne State University

Wayne State University administers over 250 programs at its main campus in Detroit, Michigan, satellite sites throughout the state, and online. The university's online BSW holds accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education through the Where Online Works (WOW) program. The WOW online BSW degree provides flexible options for students who need to accommodate work or family commitments with their educational responsibilities. 

The 120-credit degree consists of general education core and elective courses, and 51 credits in five curricular areas that prepare students for generalist practice:

  • Human behavior and the social environment
  • Research methods
  • Social work practice
  • Social welfare policy and services
  • Field education

Students complete all coursework online, except for a two-semester internship that requires in-person field placements. Distance learners in the WOW program receive considerable support, from technology help to academic and practicum assistance from their advisors. Students can also access online writing support, mentoring, and tutoring.

5. Northern Arizona University

Established in Flagstaff in 1899, NAU boasts over 30 years of experience in online education. The online bachelor's degree in social work prepares graduates for generalist practice serving diverse, vulnerable, and underserved populations, with a special focus on rural and indigenous populations of the southwest United States. The BSW curriculum emphasizes human rights and social and economic justice, prioritizing coursework that addresses poverty, structural racism, and oppression.

Fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, the 120-credit bachelor's degree in social work consists of general education classes in liberal studies, diversity, junior-level writing, and a capstone experience, along with required social work major courses. The BSW major requires 75 credits, including the field placement. The university lets students transfer up to 90 credits from regionally accredited schools. However, 30 credits must be completed through NAU, including at least 18 credits of upper-division coursework.

6. Troy University

This public university in southeastern Alabama enrolls over 18,000 students in traditional and online undergraduate and graduate programs. For the last 50 years, Troy Online has offered flexible and convenient options that meet the needs of working adults, military members, and individuals who desire flexibility. One of Troy's 103 fully online programs, the university's bachelor's degree in social work, holds accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education.

The BSW requires 120 credits presented in nine-week sessions. The curriculum includes courses in social work research, diversity, and social policy and planning that help prepare students for generalist social work practice. While candidates may declare their social work major as early as their freshman year, formal admission into the professional program generally takes place in the first semester of junior year.

The university maintains a strong commitment to military-affiliated and veteran students as they transition to college, offering support services through the TROY for Troops Centers, including a virtual center for distance learners.

7. Millersville University of Pennsylvania

One of 14 universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, Millersville offers over 100 campus-based and online programs. The School of Social Work has developed an online degree completion program that leads to a bachelor of arts in social work. 

The BASW is intended for students who have already earned their associate degree or at least 60 transferable college credits in social services or a related field. The degree requires a total of 120 credits, including transfer credits. The social work major requires 45 credits in core courses, and 15 credits in social work electives, open electives, and general education courses.

Most courses are presented in a convenient asynchronous format. However, distance learners should expect to attend some scheduled Zoom sessions or other face-to-face online meetings. Students may complete field placements and service learning near their homes. The generalist social work curriculum also allows degree-seekers to pursue specialized interests in areas like aging, alcoholism, mental health, and women's issues.

8. Bemidji State University

Bemidji State University enrolls more than 5,000 students in undergraduate and graduate programs at its northern Minnesota campus and online. Housed within the College of Individual and Community Health, the social work department offers a mostly online BSW degree that prepares graduates for generalist social work practice.

Students typically apply sometime during their sophomore year after completing at least 30 credits of liberal arts coursework. The 69-credit social work major uses a cohort-based blended delivery format known as the Social Work Integrated Model (SWIM). SWIM students take 2-3 online classes each semester and attend in-person sessions on campus one Saturday each month. After completing four semesters of coursework, degree seekers may complete the required field placement in their home communities in one semester full time or over two semesters part time.

Distance learners pay in-state Minnesota tuition rates regardless of where they live. The School of Social Work also offers scholarship opportunities.

9. Liberty University

This evangelical Christian university serves around 100,000 students, most of whom are enrolled online. Liberty's bachelor of science in social work degree is available at the main campus in Lynchburg, Virginia, and online. The program prepares candidates for generalist social work practice with a curriculum that highlights assessments, intervention strategies, and counseling techniques. 

The 120-credit BSSW is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and takes approximately 3.5 years to complete. Students entering the program may transfer up to 75% of the total required credits from previously attended schools. Distance learners can access course materials at their convenience. Students must attend one on-campus intensive session and may complete their field placement requirements near their place of residence. 

Liberty appeals to students seeking an affordable bachelor of social work degree. The university has frozen tuition rates for the past six years and provides electronic textbooks free of charge for all undergraduate courses.

10. University of Nebraska at Kearney

Part of the University of Nebraska state system since 1991, UNK offers 170 majors, 22 preprofessional programs, and 27 graduate programs. Focusing primarily on the undergraduate experience, UNK's online degrees feature the same quality curricula as the university's campus-based programs.

The online social work comprehensive is a bachelor of science degree that prepares students for evidence-based social work practice with diverse and marginalized populations. The program trains graduates for entry-level positions in public and private agencies. Coursework provides a strong academic foundation for graduate study.

Accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, the 120-credit degree consists of general studies requirements, electives, and major courses. The 48-credit major introduces key social work concepts and practices in social policy and programs, diversity and social justice, and fundamentals of research. Students may choose specialized elective courses in areas, such as disabilities, mental health issues, child welfare, and violence across the lifespan.

11. Huntington University

The Church of the United Brethren in Christ founded Indiana-based HU in 1897. The university confers undergraduate and graduate degrees grounded in Christian principles and a liberal arts tradition. HU offers a bachelor of science degree in social work that holds full accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education.

The online program features five-week, fully online courses that enable students to continue working or caring for families while earning a degree. Full-time students may complete the online coursework in 3.5 years, followed by a 480-hour field placement in their final semester. Built around the theme of "Globally Aware/Locally Active," the social work curriculum encourages local community service while fostering intercultural competency skills during a required immersion experience.

Distance learners benefit from affordable per-credit online tuition rates and opportunities for need- and merit-based financial aid. As a Yellow Ribbon university, HU provides considerable support for veterans, active-duty service members, and their families.

12. Angelo State University

One of four institutions in the Texas State University system, ASU enrolls more than 10,000 students in over 100 majors and concentrations. ASU's bachelor of social work program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and allows students to complete the degree on campus or online. The 120-credit program formally admits students after they have completed pre-social work requirements which include at least 30 credits of college work and 20 hours of volunteer experience.

The BSW trains candidates for social work practice within a biopsychosocial model. This curriculum model exposes degree-seekers to:

  • Biopsychosocial theories of human behavior
  • Assessment and evaluation methods
  • Social work policy
  • Micro- and macro-level intervention skills. 

In the fall of their senior year, distance learners complete 500 hours of field education over the fall and spring semesters.

BSW graduates enter a variety of entry-level social work positions, gain advanced standing for graduate study, and qualify to sit for the Texas State Board of Social Work Licensing Examination.

13. Misericordia University

Pennsylvania-based Misericordia was founded by the Sisters of Mercy and holds affiliation with the Catholic Church. The university offers liberal arts, preprofessional, and professional programs. Since opening in 1924, Misericordia has provided educational opportunities and support designed for students juggling work and family obligations. The school's bachelor of social work accelerated degree program appeals to working professionals and others seeking flexibility and convenience.

The 121-credit BSW uses a hybrid format that combines in-person and virtual sessions. The structured cohort model schedules courses sequentially in half-semester sessions, enabling students to complete the degree in two years. Distance learners attend 2-3 on-campus meetings for each course, completing the rest of the class online through the Blackboard learning management platform.

The BSW prepares graduates to sit for the Pennsylvania licensing exam and pursue entry-level social work positions. Candidates may also pursue concentrations or certificates in gerontology and addictions counseling.

14. Aurora University

This private university offers undergraduate and graduate programs at its locations in Aurora, Illinois; Woodstock, Illinois; and Williams Bay, Wisconsin, in addition to several online options. AU's online bachelor of social work degree prepares graduates for entry-level social work practice with diverse populations in a variety of settings. 

The Council on Social Work Education-accredited program requires 120 total credits, including 40 credits in the social work major. The program offers convenient year-round eight-week sessions designed to fit the needs of working professionals. Distance learners can complete the BSW in 2-4 years.

Committed to student-centered, affordable education. AU charges one of the lowest tuition rates in Illinois. The generous transfer policy accepts up to 68 credits from a two-year institution or 90 credits from four-year institutions. AU's online programs, including the BSW, have adopted the use of digital open education resources, available to students free of charge in place of costly traditional textbooks.

15. Spring Arbor University

Founded in 1873 as a seminary for elementary and secondary students in Spring Arbor, Michigan, SAU has evolved into a private Christian university offering over 70 undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs. SAU has developed distinctive online programs designed to meet the needs of working individuals.

The bachelor of social work degree reflects the university's Christian-centered mission, preparing students to enter social work practice serving diverse and at-risk client populations challenged by social and economic injustices and discrimination. Accredited by the Council of Social Work Education, the online curriculum includes courses in areas, such as racial and ethnic relations, social welfare policies, and social work practice with individuals and families, along with a 400-credit field internship.

SAU offers distance learners a wide array of resources and services, including technical support and advising. Each student works with a faculty member who serves as a personal program mentor to help navigate upper-division coursework and field placements.

Applying to an Affordable Online Bachelor in Social Work Program

Like most baccalaureate degrees, admission to a BSW degree requires a high school diploma or GED and a cumulative minimum 2.5-3.0 GPA. Applicants must submit official transcripts, two or more letters of reference, and a personal essay that describes their interest in the field and their professional goals. Some schools may ask for SAT or ACT scores.

Because entrance requirements vary by school, prospective students should always check with the admissions representative at their intended program. Online BSW programs sometimes award credits for prior learning, work experiences, or test results that show mastery in a core subject area. Whether accepted into a traditional or online BSW degree, students must complete on-site supervised practicum hours, required for the licensed bachelor of social work certification.

Frequently Asked Questions About Getting Your BSW

  • What can you do with a bachelor's degree in social work?

    Although many social work positions require an MSW and a clinical license, BSW graduates can find several positions immediately following graduation. Bachelor's degree-holders enter fulfilling careers in human services and nonprofit agencies, healthcare organizations, correctional facilities, community centers, and schools. Social workers assist diverse populations coping with various life challenges including domestic violence, homelessness, and substance abuse.

  • What is accreditation and why is it important?

    The process of accreditation, administered by regional accrediting agencies, ensures that schools meet recognized academic standards. Attending a regionally accredited institution grants students access to federal financial aid, eases the transfer of credits, and ensures the quality of conferred degrees to prospective employers and graduate programs. In addition to regional accreditation, the best BSW degrees hold programmatic accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education, which is required for state licensure and specializations.

  • Is a bachelor's in social work worth it?

    While social workers may not earn the highest salaries, they assume essential roles and responsibilities in the helping professions, and empower people to improve their situation in life. As the need for healthcare and mental health services continues to expand across the U.S., a bachelor's degree in social work provides the training for a growing number of personally and professionally fulfilling careers.

  • What is the highest paid type of social worker?

    The BLS reports the median annual wage for all social workers as $50,470 but salaries vary significantly by employer, educational level, and years of experience. The top earners, who make a median annual salary of $61,280, include those classified by the BLS as "other social workers" in private practice and local or state government. This is followed by healthcare social workers who earn a median income of $56,750.