Why This Matters

  • WORK IN ONE OF 11 AREAS OF SPECIALIZATION

    Social workers work with many populations, including children, families, the elderly, and those with mental health issues. They may work in schools, hospitals, community agencies, or private practices.

  • OVERALL DEMAND INCREASING BY 16% BY 2026

    Job growth in social work is increasing at a faster-than-average pace. The highest demand is for social workers specializing in healthcare (up 20%) and mental health and substance abuse issues (up 19%).

  • EARN $15,720 MORE ANNUALLY WITH A DEGREE

    Social and human services assistants, who only need a high school diploma, earn a median annual salary of $33,750. Earning a degree prepares you to be a full-fledged social worker, and earn a median salary of $49,470 per year.

Our Research

Our list includes Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Social Work. Your current education level will determine what type of program you are seeking. A BSW is the minimum level of education needed for social work employment. However, an MSW is required to obtain certain licenses and work in certain settings.

All of our listed programs have regional accreditation. Many are also accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). A degree from a CSWE-accredited program may be a requirement for licensure in your state.

The coursework for all our ranked programs can be completed online, although they do have in-person field experience requirements.

Once we narrowed our list of social work degrees, we evaluated each program’s reputation, flexibility, and cost. Using this information, we calculated the Intelligent Score of each degree on a scale from 0 to 100. Our top picks for the best online degrees in social work are respected, affordable, and customizable.(For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.)

  • 85 hours to write this article
  • 82 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 303 education programs we compared

The Top 60 Online Social Work Degrees

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What You Should Know About This Degree

As social work is a human services field, learning how to work with people is a key component of your education. Therefore, even if coursework for programs can be fully completed online, all accredited social work programs have hands-on learning components, such as internships. When researching programs, find out what their expectations are for field experiences, and make sure you can fit this element of the program into your schedule and lifestyle.

Licensure is another major consideration for social workers. In order to be considered a clinical social worker, you must have a master’s degree and a state-issued license. Licensure regulations vary by state, and may affect where and how you earn your degree. At the exploratory stage, it’s important to research what the licensure requirements are in your state, and check with your programs of interest to make sure you will be eligible for licensure if you earn your degree at their institution.

While a BSW is the minimum level of education needed for social work employment, more job opportunities are available to those with an MSW, including the ability to run a private practice. If you’re considering going into social work at the undergraduate level, it’s worth remembering that earning an advanced degree will likely be necessary to further your career.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching online Social Work programs:

  • Does this program offer the specialization I want? Specialization in an area like healthcare, substance abuse, or educational settings is often required at the Master’s level, so it’s important to make sure the program you’re reviewing offers the concentration you are seeking.
  • Does this program have an advanced track? Many MSW programs offer “traditional” and “advanced” tracks. Traditional tracks are aimed at those who do not have a BSW, and need to complete foundational coursework before moving on to advanced training. These programs usually take additional time to complete. Individuals who already have a BSW can enroll in an advanced track program, which are less credits and take less time to complete.

Once you’ve selected the programs that interest you, research their application requirements and admissions procedures. This information is typically available on the program’s website. You can also contact the program directly if you have any questions.

Financing your graduate education is another important consideration. Research what scholarships and financial aid options are available to you. If you are currently employed, you can also check with your employer to see if they offer tuition reimbursement.