Most Affordable Online Bachelor's in Social Work Programs

As overall tuition costs continue to rise, many learners take advantage of convenient and affordable distance education opportunities, including online social work bachelor's degrees. Online programs can offer faster paths to degree completion, often at lower costs. According to U.S. News and World Report, the total tuition for online BSW programs costs an average of $48,000-$53,000, significantly less than tuition for on-campus programs.

After earning an online BSW degree, graduates can pursue a variety of careers. Many become licensed social workers, while others pursue opportunities in related fields such as healthcare, counseling, and case management. Most entry-level careers are available to professionals with a bachelor's degree in social work. Some roles — such as clinical social worker — may require further education and training.

This guide provides information to help prospective students choose from affordable online BSW programs. The sections below explore benefits associated with this degree and provide resources for students researching accredited online social work bachelor's programs, including school rankings, potential career paths, and possible financial aid opportunities.


Covered in This Article:

Ranking Methodology

Using National Center for Education Statistics data, we've ranked the following online BSW programs on affordability (75%) and academic excellence (25%). Therefore, this is not just the cheapest online social work bachelor's degree programs — these are affordable online BSW programs that maintain high standards for academic excellence.

Most Affordable Online Bachelor's in Social Work Programs

1. Appalachian State University

Located in Boone, North Carolina, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses within the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate programs to over 19,000 students each year, including a bachelor of social work (BSW) that prepares students for entry-level careers in the social work profession.

A hybrid program, Appalachian's BSW features some online components. Students must transfer at least 60 credits into the BSW program, earning a total of 120 credits for their degree. Program requirements include interdisciplinary classes in natural, behavioral, and social sciences with coursework on social welfare politics, programs, and issues; social work research; and social work practice. Learners also complete a team research project across two semesters and a field education requirement.

Appalachian State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Appalachian State University's online BSW program is CSWE accredited.


2. University of Utah

Founded in 1850, the U is Utah's flagship institution and offers nearly 200 undergraduate and graduate programs. The U hosts learners on its main campus in Salt Lake City, at locations in St. George and Sandy, and online. The U's online programs include a bachelor of social work that learners can complete in 3-4 semesters.

All prerequisite and BSW core classes at the U are available online. Students take 48 credits of core courses in topics including applied social work statistics, social diversity and cultural understanding, and social welfare policy and services. The synchronous curriculum emphasizes social work research and writing to prepare students for a social work practicum that they complete at the end of the program.

The University of Utah is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). The University of Utah's online BSW program is CSWE accredited.


3. Eastern New Mexico University

As a federally designated Hispanic-serving institution, ENMU maintains membership in the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. ENMU provides its more than 6,000 students with a 17-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.

The online bachelor of social work at ENMU prepares learners to work as social work professionals in healthcare, human services, criminal justice, and nonprofit settings. The 120-credit degree includes 57 credits of social work coursework that explores social work practice, human behavior in the social environment, and social work research. Students participate in two social work field placements, gaining 480 hours of practical experience.

Eastern New Mexico University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Eastern New Mexico University's online BSW program is CSWE accredited.


4. Northwestern State University of Louisiana

Founded in 1884, NSU started as a teachers college but now provides more than 50 academic programs. In addition to campuses in Alexandria, Leesville, and Shreveport, NSU partners with sites in Bossier City and Marksville to meet the needs of more than 11,000 learners.

NSU offers an online bachelor of social work that combines 120 credits of classroom learning with general practice field instruction. Learners study social work values and ethics, economies and social work, and statistical social research while exploring generalist social work practice with individuals, groups, and communities. The curriculum prepares students to enter the social work profession or pursue graduate study.

Northwestern State University of Louisiana is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Northwestern State University of Louisiana's online BSW program is CSWE accredited.


5. Metropolitan State University of Denver

Located on the Auraria Campus in Denver, Colorado, MSU Denver shares its urban space with the University of Colorado Denver and the Community College of Denver. Established in 1963, MSU Denver now serves over 21,000 students annually.

The online bachelor of science in social work at MSU Denver provides students with the foundational knowledge and skills needed to work with underserved populations and affect social change. The curriculum includes asynchronous and synchronous activities, including 120 credits of coursework and a 480-hour practical field placement. Required social work classes include generalist practice, social work experience and communication, philosophy of social work, and social welfare policy.

Metropolitan State University of Denver is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Metropolitan State University of Denver's online BSW program is CSWE accredited.


6. California State University, Chico

Chico State — the second-oldest institution within the California State University System — opened its doors in 1889 to less than 100 students. Now hosting over 17,000 learners, Chico State offers undergraduate and graduate programming through 11 academic schools and colleges.

Chico State offers a hybrid bachelor of social work degree completion program to residents of northern California. This program includes online coursework and face-to-face requirements that take place during 2-3 weekends each semester. Students can complete an accelerated, two-year degree or a part-time, three-year program.

Students enrolled in the BSW completion program at Chico State must earn a total of 120 credits, and learners often transfer 60-70 credits into the program. Core classes focus on community social work practice, social work methods, and social welfare policy and programs. Students also complete two social work practica.

California State University, Chico is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Colleges and Schools (WACS). California State University, Chico's online BSW program is CSWE accredited.


7. Wayne State University

WSU — in Detroit, Michigan — offers more than 27,000 students over 350 undergraduate and graduate programs. WSU began as a college of medicine in 1868. Through the consolidation of several teachers, junior, and legal colleges in Detroit, WSU transitioned into a comprehensive four-year university in 1934.

The School of Social at WSU work offers an online bachelor of social work degree completion program. Learners must transfer at least 60 credits into the program. Core classes in social work research, practice, policy, and services prepare students to complete 460 hours of field practice requirements during the final two semesters of the program.

Wayne State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Wayne State University's online BSW program is CSWE accredited.


8. University of North Dakota

Founded six years before North Dakota became a state, UND traces its origins to 1883. Now home to more than 17,000 students, the university sits on a 550-acre campus and offers more than 225 academic programs.

UND offers an online bachelor of science in social work that learners can complete in 2-4 years. The curriculum includes 120 credits, although transfer students may enter the program with an associate degree or previous coursework to meet general education requirements.

Major coursework in human behavior and the social environment, generalist social work practice, and social policy prepare students for careers working with children, families, communities, and organizations in diverse settings. Students also complete two field education requirements, applying classroom knowledge and skills in a practical setting.

The University of North Dakota is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The University of North Dakota's online BSW program is CSWE accredited.


9. Southern Arkansas University

Established in 1909, SAU offers over 80 academic programs through five colleges and schools. Founded as an agricultural school, SAU later became a junior college and transitioned into a four-year institution in 1951. SAU currently serves more than 4,000 learners from its main Magnolia campus and online.

The hybrid bachelor of social work program at SAU includes 120-122 credits. Students complete 35 credits of general education classes alongside 55 credits of major coursework. Other requirements include 20-21 credits of social science, information technology, cultural diversity, and foreign language courses.

Major classes focus on cultural diversity, social work practice, ethics, and statistical research. Learners participate in three field education requirements while enrolled in field practicum seminars. Upon completion of the program, students are eligible for social work licensure in several states, including Arkansas.

The University of Southern Arkansas is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The University of Southern Arkansas' online BSW program is CSWE accredited.


10. Brescia University

Founded by the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph in 1925, Brescia began as a women's junior college. In 1950, Brescia became a four-year, coeducational institution. Brescia offers undergraduate and graduate programs that blend educational excellence with the Ursuline tradition.

The online bachelor of social work at Brescia includes 42 credits of major coursework. Learners with 86 general education transfer credits can complete the degree in two years. Social work classes in social work practice, social welfare policy, and human behavior and the social environment prepare students for two field placements. Students complete a total of 450 practicum hours.

Brescia offers five start dates each year for its online BSW. The program builds knowledge and skills applicable to social work careers in criminal justice, education, and social services. It also prepares students for graduate school.

Brescia University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Brescia University's online BSW program is CSWE accredited.


11. University of Nebraska at Kearney

Formed out of the merger of two teachers colleges in 1921, UNK joined the University of Nebraska System in 1991. UNK offers almost 170 academic programs through four colleges. The university educates nearly 7,000 students each year and boasts a 19-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.

Online programs at UNK include a bachelor of science in social work. Learners complete 120 credits of general education, elective, and major courses. Thirty-six credits of required classes cover topics like diversity and social justice, social policy and programs, and social work practice.

Elective topics, such as aging services, child welfare, and school social work, allow students to take courses that align with their personal interests and professional goals. Learners also complete two field placements and a senior social work seminar.

The University of Nebraska at Kearney is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The University of Nebraska at Kearney's online BSW program is CSWE accredited.


12. Bemidji State University

Home to only 38 learners when it opened its doors in 1919, BSU now offers academic programs to over 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students. From its main campus in northern Minnesota and online, BSU offers students unique programs in aquatic biology, exhibit design, and wilderness management and outdoor recreation planning.

Hybrid programs at BSU include a bachelor of social work that learners complete mostly online with monthly Saturday visits to campus. Graduates of BSU's BSW program are eligible to sit for Minnesota's social work licensure exam.

The curriculum includes 69 credits of social work requirements. Students study in a cohort, completing classes on topics like generalist practice, social statistics, and family dynamics and intervention. Through a field experience course and a 480-hour internship, students gain practical knowledge at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels.

Bemidji State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Bemidji State University's online BSW program is CSWE accredited.


13. University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Founded as Blount College in 1794, UT Knoxville was designated as one of Tennessee's land-grant universities in 1869. Since the establishment of the University of Tennessee System in 1968, UT Knoxville has served as the flagship institution of the state. With 11 academic colleges, the university offers over 900 programs of study, including an online social work degree.

UT Knoxville's online bachelor of science in social work is a degree completion program. Participants take 60 credits over the course of five semesters. Designed for students with associate degrees or at least 60 transferable credits of previous college coursework, the online program features synchronous and asynchronous classroom activities and a required field placement. Required classes in social work practice, human behavior and social environment, and understanding diversity accompany elective options like forensic social work, child welfare, and substance abuse in social work practice.

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). The University of Tennessee, Knoxville's online BSW program is CSWE accredited.


14. Albany State University

Founded in 1903, ASU is the largest historically Black college and university in the University System of Georgia. ASU merged with Darton State College in 2017 and now hosts more than 6,000 students on two campuses in Albany, at six additional education centers throughout Georgia, and online.

The hybrid bachelor of social work program at ASU features 42-44 credits of online core coursework. Learners then take on-campus major classes in topics including human behavior and the social environment, social work practice, and social work policy before participating in required field instruction.

Albany State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Albany State University's online BSW program is CSWE accredited.


15. Northern Arizona University

With a main campus in Flagstaff, almost 30 statewide locations, and online offerings, NAU serves more than 31,000 students annually. Founded in 1899, NAU transitioned from a teachers college into a four-year institution in 1927. It currently offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate programs.

NAU's online bachelor of social work emphasizes social work practice with rural and indigenous populations in the American Southwest. Students complete 120 credits, including 75 credits of major coursework. Learners study social justice and diversity in social work, social policy and legislation, and generalist social work practice before completing two field placements during the final year of the program. The program also includes a capstone seminar. Graduates are eligible for social work licensure.

Northern Arizona University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Northern Arizona University's online BSW program is CSWE accredited.


16. Troy University

Formed through the consolidation of four Troy State University campuses in 2005, Troy traces its origins to 1887. The school currently serves over 18,000 students annually through more than 70 undergraduate and graduate programs.

Troy's online bachelor of social work prepares students for Alabama licensure. Learners gain the knowledge and skills needed to work in healthcare, counseling, education, and criminal justice settings.

Students complete 120 credits, including 54 credits of major and professional classes. Learners study social work research, communication skills, social work with individuals and groups, and social policy planning before completing a 400-hour social work practicum.

Troy University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Troy University's online BSW program is CSWE accredited.


17. Western New Mexico University

WNMU — based in Silver City — began as a teacher training institution in 1893. Located on 83 acres near the Gila National Forest, WNMU took its current name in 1963. Now home to more than 3,500 students, WNMU offers undergraduate and graduate programs in more than 70 fields of study.

WNMU's online bachelor of social work provides learners with the knowledge and skills needed to work as social work generalists in healthcare, government, nonprofit, and education settings. The curriculum comprises 120 credits, including 44 credits of social work core requirements. Students study diversity, writing, and technology as they relate to social work alongside classes in social work practice and research. The program also features a 450-hour practicum.

Western New Mexico University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Western New Mexico University's online BSW program is CSWE accredited.


18. Touro University Worldwide

As part of the Touro College and University System, TUW traces its origins to 2008. Dedicated to Judaic traditions and values, TUW offers online programs to meet the needs of adult learners, professionals, and underserved populations.

TUW's online bachelor of arts in social work emphasizes the knowledge and skills needed to serve diverse populations. Students complete 120 credits of online coursework and a field placement. Fifty-one credits of major and core requirements prepare learners to work in schools, counseling centers, and social service agencies.

The online social work bachelor's degree at TUW embraces the case study method, familiarizing students with human behavior as it relates to the social environment, social welfare policy and services, and social and economic justice. Students also explore social work ethical standards and learn valuable social work research competencies.

Touro University Worldwide is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).


19. Huntington University

Based in northeast Indiana, HU is a member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. Chartered by the Church of the United Brethren in Christ in 1897, HU now provides more than 70 undergraduate and graduate programs.

HU's online programs are designed for adult learners and include a bachelor of science in social work. The program combines Christian values with generalist social work knowledge and skills. Through five-week online classes, learners gain competencies in 10 core areas, including ethical and professional behavior, social work policy practice, and social work intervention. During the final semester of the program, students complete a 480-hour practicum.

HU awards transfer credit for previous college coursework and professional and military training on an individual basis.

Huntington University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Huntington University's online BSW program is CSWE accredited.


20. Aurora University

From campuses in Aurora, Illinois, and Williams Bay, Wisconsin, AU holds distinction as an institution that crosses state borders. AU educates roughly 5,500 undergraduate and graduate students through six academic colleges.

The online bachelor social work at AU includes 120 credits. Students take 40 credits of core social work classes on topics like social work with groups, social welfare institutions and policies, and human behavior in the social environment. The program also includes two field instruction requirements.

Students can transfer in up to 68 credits from a two-year institution or 90 credits from a four-year institution. Applicants need at least two years of work experience and at least 15 credits of previous college coursework earned with a minimum 2.0 GPA.

Aurora University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Aurora University's online BSW program is CSWE accredited.


21. Brandman University

Brandman was formed in 1958 to provide educational programs to learners at the El Toro Air Force Base in Irvine, California. The school currently features more than 25 campuses in California and Washington and hosts over 11,000 students through more than 50 undergraduate and graduate programs.

Brandman offers an online bachelor of arts in social work that includes 120 credits. Students complete 42 credits of social work core classes in social work practice, social work research, and human behavior and the social environment. The curriculum also features three social work practica, comprising a total of 400 hours.

Students interested in Brandman's social work bachelor's degree need to transfer at least 12 undergraduate credits into the program. Brandman offers transfer credits for military service and training, as well.

Brandman University is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Colleges and Schools (WACS). Brandman University's online BSW program is CSWE accredited.


22. King University

Affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, King opened its doors as a Christian college in Bristol, Tennessee, in 1867. The university currently offers more than 80 undergraduate programs, in addition to professional and graduate offerings. King's online programs include a bachelor of social work that blends Christian thought and faith with social work theory and practice.

The online BSW at King includes 30 credits of common experience and general education coursework alongside 52 social work credits. Social work classes emphasize generalist practice, writing for social workers, and human diversity and ethics, while providing learners with competencies in social work practice. The 124-credit degree also includes an integrative practice requirement. Students may transfer up to 76 credits into the program.

King University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). King University's online BSW program is CSWE accredited.


23. Spring Arbor University

Grounded in a mission it refers to as "The Concept," SAU provides educational programs that blend liberal arts, a commitment to Jesus Christ, and participation in the contemporary world. Founded in 1873, SAU provides more than 3,000 students with undergraduate and graduate programs in over 70 fields of study.

The online bachelor of social work at SAU prepares students to work in human services, education, healthcare, and church settings. Students complete classes in racial and ethnic relations, social work practice, and social welfare policies to prepare for a required internship. Michigan residents may add a child welfare endorsement to their degree.

Spring Arbor University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Spring Arbor University's online BSW program is CSWE accredited.


24. Campbellsville University

Located in Campbellsville, Kentucky, CU also serves learners at locations throughout the state; at an instructional site in Costa Mesa, California; and online. Founded as a Baptist institution in 1906, CU offers educational programs based on Christian service and scholastic excellence to more than 4,000 learners annually.

The online bachelor of social work at CU prepares students to work as social work professionals or pursue graduate study. Learners explore a curriculum that emphasizes generalist social work practice, completing 45 credits of social work core classes on topics such as social work policy and planning and social work statistics and research methods. The program also includes a field placement requirement that learners complete across one or two semesters.

Campbellsville University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Campbellsville University's online BSW program is CSWE accredited.


25. Union Institute and University

Formed as the Union for Higher Research and Experimentation in Higher Education in Plainfield, Vermont, in 1964, Union opened undergraduate centers in California and Florida during the 1980s. Currently, Union is based in Cincinnati, Ohio, and offers undergraduate and graduate programs to meet the needs of adult learners.

Students may transfer up to 90 credits into Union's 120-credit online bachelor of social work program. Core classes in ethical and multicultural issues in social work, research methods, and generalist practice accompany courses in social welfare policy and analysis. The curriculum also includes two social work practica and a field integrative seminar. Learners participate in at least 400 hours of supervised field education.

Union's BSW emphasizes social justice and change, preparing students to serve as leaders within the generalist social work profession.

Union Institute and University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Union Institute and University s online BSW program is CSWE accredited.


Why Should I Get a Bachelor's in Social Work?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 16% increase in social work positions from 2016-2026, a rate much faster than the national average for all occupations. While job growth varies depending on specialization, many social workers benefit from the increasing demand for healthcare and social services professionals. Graduates of online BSW programs enter a thriving yet competitive field.

Earning an online social work bachelor's degree is the first major step toward obtaining a position in the field. An undergraduate social work degree provides learners with a working knowledge of the discipline and helps students develop a broad set of transferable skills that many employers look for in job candidates. Generally, a bachelor's in social work is a worthwhile investment that can lead to a variety of specializations and career opportunities.

There are many types of social workers, and each position requires the knowledge and skills from a BSW degree online. Many social work graduates pursue the occupations below.


Careers for BSW Graduates

  • Social Worker
    These professionals help people manage everyday problems and may diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional problems. Social workers must obtain a professional license from the state in which they practice. They typically work full time in clinics, hospitals, nonprofits, and other social agencies.

  • Social Services Case Manager
    Case managers must possess exceptional interpersonal skills. They work with enrolled clients or patients to manage and implement social and healthcare plans. These professionals work to achieve goals outlined by patients and their providers. Most case managers work within various social and health services facilities.

  • Substance Abuse or Behavioral Disorder Counselor
    These counselors work with individuals suffering from addiction or behavioral health issues. They provide advice, diagnose destructive habits, and design treatment plans to help clients live more fully. These counselors must obtain state licensure and often work full time within various healthcare and social service contexts.

  • Social and Community Service Manager
    Professionals in this field develop, coordinate, and supervise various social and community service programs. These managers are responsible for all administrative aspects of these programs and often analyze data to determine and improve program effectiveness. They typically work full time for government agencies, nonprofits, and other social service providers.

  • Probation Officer or Correctional Treatment Specialist
    These social work professionals support law offenders through rehabilitation and reentry to society. These specialists often work with correctional officers and other law enforcement officials to determine the needs of their clients and to develop plans to help offenders achieve social autonomy.

  • Health Educator or Community Health Worker
    These professionals educate groups and communities about issues related to individual and social health. They identify behaviors that promote overall wellness and work with groups to develop health-improvement plans. These professionals typically work in hospitals, clinical settings, and community health centers.


Sources: PayScale, Bureau of Labor Statistics


Scholarships for Online Social Work Students

Scholarships are the most popular and effective way to reduce the cost of earning a BSW online. Prospective learners should research scholarship opportunities specific to their individual circumstances. Many awards are available to social work degree seekers, including the opportunities below.

Carl A. Scott Book Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Sponsored in part by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), this award supports two learners who demonstrate commitment to equity and social justice. Applicants must attend a CSWE-accredited school and have a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA.

Amount: $500

Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund

Who Can Apply: Each year, the Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund offers awards to students involved in movements for social and economic justice. Eligible applicants must provide proof of enrollment, two letters of recommendation, and a 1,000-word personal statement.

Amount: Varies (up to $15,000)

Senior Planning Social Work and Eldercare Award

Who Can Apply: This award supports social work students planning to work in senior and elder care. Applicants must provide proof of enrollment and must have completed 90 or fewer credits. Candidates must submit an application essay.

Amount: $900

Leopold Schepp Foundation Scholarships

Who Can Apply: Designed to assist learners committed to volunteerism and social change, these awards support individuals with high character, academic excellence, and demonstrated financial need. Undergraduate applicants must be younger than 30 and undergo an in-person interview.

Amount: Varies

A Place for Mom Senior Wisdom Scholarship

Who Can Apply: These scholarships support social work learners interested in the fields of aging and gerontology. Applicants must be permanent U.S. or Canadian residents. Candidates must submit either an essay of 400-700 words or a brief video addressing questions outlined in the application.

Amount: $2,000

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