Online Social Work Programs in Iowa

Social workers in Iowa enjoy strong job prospects due to pressing social welfare issues in both the Des Moines metropolitan area and rural communities. For example, according to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis Reporting System, 8.3 out of 1,000 children in Iowa resided in foster care, as of 2017. This significantly exceeded the national average of 5.8 per 1,000 children.

Social work jobs in Iowa often entail better pay and employment opportunities compared to other states. In the Des Moines-West Des Moines area — one of the state's highest-paying regions — child, family, and school social workers make a mean annual wage of $51,360, surpassing the national mean of $49,760. Additionally, Projections Central projects 14.2% job growth for child, family, and school social workers in the state between 2016 and 2026. This guide covers important information for prospective Iowa social workers, including online social work programs in Iowa and licensure requirements.

Social Work Programs by Degree Level


Online Bachelor's in Social Work Programs

Online Master's in Social Work Programs


Education and Licensure Requirements for Social Workers in Iowa

The Iowa Board of Social Work oversees licensure in the state. The board offers three forms of licensure: social worker - bachelor, social worker - master, and social worker - independent. The state does not require social workers to hold licensure, though licensure typically leads to more employment opportunities and higher salaries.

Education Requirements

All Iowa social workers need a bachelor's degree to practice, regardless of licensure. Social workers interested in licensure need at least a bachelor's degree from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Master and independent candidates need a CSWE-accredited master's degree. All candidates must submit transcripts to the board.

Exam Application Process and Requirements

Individuals interested in earning an Iowa social work license must pass the appropriate Association of Social Work Boards exam. Bachelor candidates must pass the bachelor's-level exam, master candidates must pass the master's-level exam, and independent candidates must pass the clinical exam. Candidates register for the exam through Pearson VUE, which hosts year-round testing centers throughout the state.

The bachelor's and master's exams cost $230, while the clinical exam costs $260. Candidates can take an online practice test through Pearson VUE, which costs $85. After passing the exam, candidates must pay a $120 licensing fee to the board.

Continuing Education and Licensure Renewal

Social work licensees must renew their license every two years, paying a $120 fee. During this two-year period, they must also accumulate at least 27 hours of board-approved continuing education requirements. For independent license holders who work in a supervisory role, three of these hours must take place under the supervision of another social worker. First-time licensees do not need to fulfill continuing education requirements for their first renewal cycle.


Why Choose an Online Social Work Program in Iowa?

Earning a social work degree online offers many advantages. The flexibility of online learning allows students to balance their education with work and family obligations. Fully online social work programs do not require students to relocate or commute, and learners can complete clinical hours at a facility near their home.

Yearly tuition at Iowa schools with social work programs ranges from around $6,000 at Iowa State University to around $50,000 at Grinnell College. However, online programs may offer increased affordability. For example, distance learners typically save on some of the expenses that on-campus students incur, such as housing and commuting costs.

Ranking Methodology

Here is our list of online social work degree programs in Iowa as reported by the National Center for Education Statistics. We cover online bachelor's in social work, online master's in social work, and online doctorate in social work programs. All programs are regionally and CSWE accredited, and all are available entirely online.


Online Social Work Programs in Iowa

Briar Cliff University

Founded as a Franciscan institution in 1930, BCU in Sioux City began as a two-year women's college. The institution began offering four-year degrees in 1937 and admitted men in 1965, transitioning to a coeducational school the following year. BCU currently hosts more than 1,200 students, boasting a 14-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.

BCU remains dedicated to its Catholic heritage, emphasizing patience and perseverance alongside integrity, community service, and academic excellence. As one of BCU's online degree-completion programs, students can earn a bachelor of social work degree comprising 47 credit hours.


BCU's Online Bachelor of Social Work

  • Credits and Courses: BCU's online bachelor of social work includes 47 credit hours of major coursework. To enter the program, learners need 77 transfer credits or an associate degree in social work or human services. Students complete a total of 124 credit hours. Core classes include human behavior and the social environment, social issues and policy, social work practice, and social work research. Learners also complete field work and a field work seminar.
  • Completion Time: Students can complete the online social work degree in two years, including summer classes. Online learners take courses in a sequence.
  • Field Education: The program includes a 450-hour internship requirement that learners can fulfill in their community.
  • Other Requirements: Students enroll in a field work seminar while completing their internship.
  • Transfer Policies: BCU accepts up to 90 credit hours from previous colleges and universities. Students with an associate of applied science can apply 62 transfer credits toward a bachelor's degree.
  • Online Student Support: BCU offers an online orientation to prepare students for an online degree. Orientation materials include policy, procedure, and learning software information.
  • Cost: $415/credit hour.
  • Admission Requirements: Admission to the online social work degree-completion program requires at least 77 credit hours of coursework or an associate degree in the discipline. Applicants submit previous college transcripts for consideration.

Briar Cliff University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Briar Cliff University's online social work programs are CSWE-accredited.

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University of Northern Iowa

Established as the Iowa State Normal School in 1876, UNI in Cedar Falls now offers undergraduate and graduate programs through five academic colleges. UNI offers more than 50 graduate degrees in disciplines, such as education, accounting, business administration, and social work. UNI's online master of social work (MSW) includes a foundation track and an advanced standing option for individuals with a social work background.


UNI's Online Master of Social Work

  • Concentrations: UNI's MSW program includes a foundation track for students with a bachelor's degree in a field other than social work. Learners with a bachelor's degree in social work (BSW) from a CSWE-accredited program can pursue the advanced standing track. UNI's program features a specialization in trauma informed practice.
  • Credits and Courses: Foundation track students complete 60 credit hours, including 26 foundational core credits. The remaining credits include trauma informed classes, advanced practice training, and practicum requirements. Advanced standing learners complete a minimum of 37 credit hours with similar advanced practice and field practicum requirements. Both tracks use a cohort learning model.
  • Completion Time: Advanced standing students can complete the MSW at UNI in two years. Foundation track learners can earn the MSW in two to four years. The distance learning option is only available on a part-time basis.
  • Field Education: MSW students must complete at least 500 hours of field education requirements. Students participate in 15-16 hours each week across two semesters.
  • Other Requirements: Learners enroll in a practicum seminar while completing their field education requirement.
  • Transfer Policies: Graduate transfer students may transfer one-third of the minimum credits required by a UNI graduate program.
  • Online Student Support: Online learners can access tutorials, technical support, financial aid information, and library resources.
  • Cost: $509/credit hour
  • Admission Requirements: For admission to the two-year foundation program, learners must hold a bachelor's degree in any field, while advanced standing students need a BSW from a CSWE-accredited program. Applicants submit a resume, personal statement, three references, and documentation of a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA. Advanced standing learners need a minimum 3.2 undergraduate GPA.

The University of Northern Iowa is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The University of Northern Iowa's online social work programs are CSWE-accredited.

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University of Iowa

Established in 1847, UI is Iowa's oldest institution of higher learning. Initially called the State University of Iowa, UI took its current name in 1964. Located in Iowa City, UI serves almost 33,000 learners through 11 academic colleges. UI is one of the EPA's Green Power Partners, striving to reduce coal consumption among many other sustainability initiatives. UI offers 39 distance learning programs, including an online master of social work (MSW) degree.


UI's Hybrid Online Master of Social Work

  • Concentrations: IU's MSW program offers programs for regular standing and advanced standing learners. Regular standing students hold a bachelor's degree in a field other than social work, while advanced standing students hold a CSWE-accredited bachelor's degree. The hybrid online MSW program at UI includes an integrated concentration for students who seek macro social work roles as supervisors.
  • Credits and Courses: Students in the hybrid online MSW complete the three-year curriculum with a cohort of fellow learners. The curriculum includes 48 or 60 credit hours of coursework alongside advanced concentration courses in integrated practice. Learners must participate in required class meetings one evening a week and complete a practicum throughout the program.
  • Completion Time: The hybrid online MSW option includes sequential coursework students can complete in three years.
  • Field Education: Regular standing students must complete a 200-hour foundation practicum. All students must complete a 700-hour advanced practicum over two semesters.
  • Other Requirements: Students must participate in summer institutes on campus in Iowa City, meet once each semester with students in their region, and enroll in a practicum seminar while completing field education requirements.
  • Exam Preparation: UI's MSW program covers the format and requirements for the ASWB exam.
  • Transfer Policies: Students can transfer up to 10 credit hours into the MSW program.
  • Online Student Support: Students gain access to the National Resource Center for Family Centered Practice, job listing information, and professional development opportunities. Online learners work closely with program faculty and staff, enjoy scholarship and funding opportunities, and receive technical and library support.
  • Cost: $337/credit hour
  • Admission Requirements: To apply to the MSW program, learners need a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0. Learners with a BSW from a CSWE-accredited program receive admission to the advanced standing program, while students with a degree in any other field are admitted to the regular standing track.

The University of Iowa is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The University of Iowa's online social work programs are CSWE-accredited.

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