Online Social Work Programs in Tennessee

With major metropolitan areas in need of assistance such as Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee provides a fertile ground for current and future social workers. Although rural areas throughout the state offer a lower percentage of social work jobs in Tennessee than other metropolitan areas, the state still offers plenty of opportunities to professionals who see themselves living in the countryside.

According to a 2017 data set from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Tennessee housed nearly 12,000 total social work jobs. These jobs include positions as healthcare, mental health, substance abuse, and child, family, and school social workers. Child, family, and school social workers accounted for nearly half of the available positions in the field in Tennessee.

Given this landscape, the following guide provides further information about how to become professionally certified to practice in Tennessee.

Social Work Programs by Degree Level


Online Bachelor's in Social Work Programs

Online Master's in Social Work Programs

Online Doctorate in Social Work Programs


Education and Licensure Requirements for Social Workers in Tennessee

The Tennessee Department of Health's Board of Social Work oversees all licensing matters throughout the Volunteer State. The Board of Social Work awards the standard social work licenses, including the Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW), the Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW), the Licensed Advanced Practitioner Social Worker (LAPSW), and the Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW).

Education Requirements

Before earning social work jobs in Tennessee, all candidates must earn a bachelor's degree from a CSWE-accredited program. To earn the entry-level social work certification, the Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker, graduates must submit an application and pass the Association of Social Work Boards' bachelor's-level examination. When they fulfill these two requirements, they can receive their initial Tennessee social work certification.

For clinical practice, candidates must pass the ASWB clinical exam and complete 3,000 hours of clinical work.

Exam Application Process and Requirements

As discussed in the previous section, all candidates for initial social work licensure in Tennessee must have a bachelor's in social work from a CSWE-accredited school to qualify to take the required exam. Before completing this step, candidates must pass a criminal background check and send their transcripts to the ASWB for review. For initial licensure, Tennessee social workers do not need to have any supervised experience, although nearly every CSWE-accredited program includes some type of supervised fieldwork.

Students register for the bachelor's-level examination through the ASWB website. The bachelor's exam costs $230. The exam itself consists of 170 multiple choice questions, with graders scoring only 150 of those questions. As the initial social work licensure requirements in Tennessee mirror those in most other states, transferring initial licensure to or from another state is relatively simple.

Continuing Education and Licensure Renewal

By law, all social workers in Tennessee need to renew their licenses every two years. The fees are $45 for LBSWs and $95 for LMSWs, LAPSWs, and LCSWs.

LBSWS must complete nine hours of continuing education per year: four in social work, three in professional ethics, and two in either category. LMSWs must complete 12 hours of continuing education per year: seven in social work, three in professional ethics, and two in either category. LAPSWs and LCSWs must complete 15 hours of continuing education per year: 10 in social work, three in professional ethics, and two in either category.


Why Choose an Online Social Work Program in Tennessee

Several reasons could explain why a student might wish to complete their social work degree online in Tennessee. Flexibility and convenience top the list. Online students in social work programs can often keep their full time jobs while completing asynchronous coursework for their online programs. Additionally, students raising families also may choose to opt for online coursework so that they can play a larger role in their children's lives. In most cases, online students are also able to complete clinical or supervised requirements at placement sites in their own communities.

Tennessee schools also offer affordable social work programs. Costs for bachelor's and master's programs generally range from $400-$700 per credit, with some schools offering the same rate to in-state and out-of-state students. Once they graduate, social workers enter an employment landscape in Tennessee with approximately 12,000 jobs, with mean annual wages that mirror averages around the nation when adjusted for cost of living.

Ranking Methodology

Here is our list of online social work degree programs in Tennessee 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 Tennessee

King University

Located in Bristol, Tennessee, King University sits on a 135-acre campus near the Smoky Mountains. The school began as a Christian college in 1867, and is now affiliated with the Presbyterian church. King provides undergraduate and graduate programs at more than a dozen instructional locations in Tennessee and Virginia. King and its five academic schools serve almost 3,000 students annually, and infuse Christian faith and values into programs designed to create thoughtful, responsible global citizens. Online degrees — including King's Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) — embrace the institution's overall mission with classes that emphasize Christian thought alongside major classes in social work theory, foundations, and practice.


King's Online Bachelor of Social Work

  • Concentrations: The generalist BSW gives learners interpersonal and leadership skills to succeed in careers throughout social work and human services.
  • Credits and Courses: The 124-credit BSW includes 52 hours of major coursework. Students explore social work research and evaluation, human behavior and the social environment, generalist practice, as well as social welfare policy. They also must complete an integrative practice requirement.
  • Completion Time: Learners can complete major coursework for the BSW at King in as few as 16 months.
  • Field Education: King's BSW program includes 400 hours of field education requirements.
  • Transfer Policies: Students can transfer up to 76 credit hours into the BSW to meet general education and elective coursework requirements.
  • Online Student Support: Online students have access to career path and academic support services, such as news feeds and infographics.
  • Cost: $305/credit
  • Admission Requirements: Admission to the online BSW at King requires a minimum of 45 credits with a minimum 2.2 GPA. Learners submit a formal application, a "plan of study" document, and transcript documentation for consideration.

King University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). King University's online social work programs are CSWE-accredited.

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The University of Tennessee - Knoxville

UT Knoxville was founded in 1794 as the flagship institution within the UT System. Chartered as the first university west of the Appalachian Divide, UT Knoxville sits on 910 acres in Knoxville, Tennessee. UT Knoxville's 11 academic colleges, including its College of Social Work, provide students with more than 900 on-campus and online programs of study. The online Bachelor of Science in Social Work (BSSW) provides learners with a comprehensive curriculum that prepares them for careers as practicing social work professionals. The online Master of Science in Social Work (MSSW) degree includes advanced standing, full time, and extended study options, while the Doctor of Social Work degree (DSW) in clinical practice and leadership emphasizes evidence-based practice, clinical leadership and science, and applied research.


UT Knoxville's Online Bachelor of Science in Social Work

  • Concentrations: The BSSW includes generalist coursework and field education requirements.
  • Credits and Courses: The 120-credit BSSW includes 60 credits of social work and elective coursework. Social work classes include social work practice with individuals, groups, and communities; interviewing skills and helping relationships; and human behavior and the social environment. Students also complete social work electives in areas such as trauma care, forensic social work, and crisis intervention. The curriculum includes an integrative seminar alongside field practicum requirements.
  • Completion Time: With 60 transfer credits or an associate degree, learners complete the BSSW at UT Knoxville in five semesters.
  • Field Education: UT Knoxville's BSSW program includes supervised field practicum placements that total 600 hours.
  • Other Requirements: Students enroll in an integrative seminar while completing their field education requirements.
  • Transfer Policies: Transfer students with an associate degree or 60 credits of previous college coursework may apply to the online BSSW program.
  • Online Student Support: Online students receive technical support, Canvas learning management system information, and access to library, financial aid, and advising resources.
  • Cost: $371/credit in-state; $446/credit out-of-state
  • Admission Requirements: To apply to the online BSSW program at UT Knoxville, learners must earn 60 transfer hours through the Tennessee Reverse Transfer process with an associate degree or previous college coursework. Applicants must also have a cumulative 2.5 or higher GPA with grades of C or higher in introductory social work and social welfare classes. Additional application materials include a personal essay.

UT Knoxville's Online Master of Science in Social Work

  • Concentrations: The MSSW at UT Knoxville includes an advanced standing option for learners with a BSW or BSSW from a CSWE-accredited program. The full- and part-time programs emphasize a generalist curriculum for students with a bachelor's degree in any field. In all degree tracks, students may specialize in evidenced based interpersonal practice or organizational leadership.
  • Credits and Courses: UT Knoxville offers a 37-credit advanced standing MSSW program, as well as a 60-credit full time and extended study degree track. Full-time and extended study students complete generalist classes before advanced and concentration coursework.
  • Completion Time: Learners can complete the advanced standing MSSW program at UT Knoxville in 12-18 months. Full-time MSSW students earn their degree in two years, while part-time extended study learners complete the program in 3-4 years.
  • Field Education: Advanced placement students complete 672 placement hours in one semester. Full-time and extended study students complete 352 generalist placement hours during their first or second year, respectively, with an additional 672 placement hours as part of an advanced study and concentration requirement.
  • Transfer Policies: Students may transfer any coursework equivalent to the first year of the MSSW program with departmental permission. A maximum of six credits from a discipline other than social work may transfer for elective credit.
  • Online Student Support: Online learners have access to the same library, advising, and career development resources as their on-campus counterparts.
  • Cost: $626/credit in-state; $701/credit out-of-state
  • Admission Requirements: Students with a CSWE-accredited BSW or BSSW with a minimum 3.0 GPA enter the program as advanced standing students. Applicants with a bachelor's degree in another discipline with a minimum 2.7 GPA can enroll as full-time or extended study students. To apply, learners submit transcript information, a professional statement, three reference evaluation forms, and a current resume. No GRE or MAT is required.

UT Knoxville's Online Doctor of Social Work Degree in Clinical Practice and Leadership Program

  • Concentrations: The online DSW in clinical practice and leadership program at UT Knoxville is a professional practice degree, and prepares graduates to work with at-risk populations in a variety of clinical social work settings.
  • Credits and Courses: The 48-credit online DSW program includes sequential coursework in neuroscience, psychopathology and psychopharmacology, and clinical research and applied statistics. The curriculum also includes training in trauma focused interventions, individual and group practice, and clinical leadership. During two capstone requirements, students prepare and produce a scholarly paper on a clinical research study and present their findings at an oral defense.
  • Completion Time: UT Knoxville's online DSW program includes four semesters of sequential coursework. Learners must complete all degree requirements within five years of entering the program.
  • Other Requirements: Students complete two capstone requirements to prepare and produce a scholarly paper. They also attend an annual week of on-campus residency each summer of the program, and conclude the degree with a comprehensive exam.
  • Online Student Support: Online students can access special services such as academic advising, writing labs, tutors, research opportunities, and digital libraries.
  • Cost: $626/credit in-state; $701/credit out-of-state
  • Admission Requirements: Applicants must hold an MSSW or an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program and a minimum 3.0 GPA. A minimum of two years of post-MSSW or MSW clinical practice, GRE scores, and professional liability insurance are also required for admission.

The University of Tennessee-Knoxville is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). The University of Tennesse-Knoxville's online social work programs are CSWE-accredited.

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Austin Peay State University

Chartered in 1927, APSU can trace its origins to several educational colleges in Clarksville, Tennessee, as early as 1806. Named for Governor Austin Peay, APSU became a four-year institution in 1939, and currently offers almost 70 undergraduate and graduate programs. With an average class size of 24 students, APSU provides a comprehensive, collaborative educational experience to nearly 11,000 learners each year. The Department of Social Work at APSU facilitates this mission through a Mid-Tennessee Collaborative Master of Social Work (MSW) degree with Middle Tennessee State University and Tennessee State University. The program blends on-campus evening classes with online coursework.

Austin Peay State University's Hybrid Mid-Tennessee Collaborative Master of Social Work (MTC-MSW) Program

  • Concentrations: The MTC-MSW program is an advanced generalist degree. Students may enroll as advanced standing or regular standing learners.
  • Credits and Courses: APSU's 60-credit MTC-MSW program includes 30 credits of foundation generalist perspective classes, and 30 credits of advanced generalist practice courses. Foundation classes include social work research, social justice, and social work policy, while advanced practice courses emphasize social work practice with individuals, families, groups, and empirical social work practice. The program also includes two social work practica. Advanced standing students only complete advanced practice courses and may earn their degree in 1-2 years.
  • Completion Time: Full-time students complete the MTC-MSW in two years, while part-time learners can earn their degree in four years. Full- and part-time advanced standing students complete their requirements in one and two years, respectively.
  • Field Education: The MTC-MSW includes a 400-hour foundation practicum and a 500-hour concentration practicum, for a total of 900 placement hours.
  • Online Student Support: Online students at APSU have access to laptop loan opportunities, D2L videos and assistance, online tutoring, and general technical support.
  • Cost: $550/credit in-state; $1,249/credit out-of-state
  • Admission Requirements: To apply, students must attend APSU as part of the MTC-MSW program. Learners submit transcripts, GRE scores, an essay, and letters of recommendation for consideration. Applicants with a BSW from a CSWE-accredited program with a 3.0 or higher GPA may receive advanced standing status.

Austin Peay State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Austin Peay State University's online social work programs are CSWE-accredited.

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Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, TSU is the largest and only state-funded historically black university in Tennessee. Initially an agricultural and industrial normal school, TSU merged with the University of Tennessee at Nashville in 1979. Located in Nashville, Tennessee, and a member of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, TSU offers more than 70 undergraduate and graduate programs to nearly 9,000 learners. In conjunction with Austin Peay State University and Middle Tennessee University, TSU offers a hybrid Mid-Tennessee Collaborative Master of Social Work (MTC-MSW) Program based in advanced generalist competencies.


TSU's Hybrid Mid-Tennessee Collaborative Master of Social Work (MTC-MSW) Program

  • Concentrations: The MTC-MSW is a generalist degree that incorporates foundational and concentration coursework to enhance theoretical, methodological, and research skills among current and future social work professionals.
  • Credits and Courses: TSU's 60-credit MTC-MSW includes 30 credits of foundation courses, and 30 credits of concentration classes in advanced generalist social work practice. Foundation courses include human behavior and the social environment, social work research, and social justice and equity for multicultural populations. Advanced generalist classes emphasize practice with individuals, groups, and communities, as well as an exploration of social policy and empirical social work practice.
  • Completion Time: Full-time students complete the MTC-MSW in two years, while part-time learners can earn their degree in three years. Advanced standing learners may complete the program in less than two years.
  • Field Education: Students complete two internships during the MTC-MSW program. The foundation internship includes 400 field placement hours, while the advanced specialist concentration internship incorporates 500 hours of field education. Collectively, learners participate in 900 hours of supervised field instruction.
  • Transfer Policies: Graduate students may transfer a maximum of 12 credits from an accredited college or university.
  • Online Student Support: Special services provided to online students at this school include academic advising, writing labs, tutors, research opportunities, and digital libraries.
  • Admission Requirements: Applicants with a BSW with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or above may receive advanced standing status. To apply, students submit transcript information, GRE scores, answers to formal essay questions, and three letters of reference.

Tennessee State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Tennessee State University's online social work programs are CSWE-accredited.

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