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Bachelor of Social Work Degree

By Rachel Schneider


A bachelor of social work (BSW) gives students the knowledge and skills to succeed in the social work field. BSW and bachelor of art in social work (BASW) programs generally offer students a broad foundation for generalist social work practice. Degree-seekers learn how to serve individuals, groups, families, and communities, with a focus on underserved or oppressed populations.

What can you do with a bachelor's in social work? A bachelor's degree in social work prepares you for an entry-level position upon graduation and offers an opportunity to become licensed.

In This Article

Admission Requirements

Applicants typically need a high school diploma or GED equivalent and a GPA that meets their prospective school's requirements. Some schools also require SAT or ACT scores. Admission requirements also include a completed application, a copy of high school transcripts, a personal essay, and recommendation letters.

Core Concepts and Coursework

In a BSW program, students learn about human behavior and the lifespan, social welfare policy, research methods, practices for working with individuals and families, and group practice methods. Some programs require learners to complete a practicum, a form of community service that allows students to gain experience in the social work field under the direct supervision of a social worker in a community organization. This direct service may include a seminar for student discussion and theory application.

Examples of BSW degree courses include:

  • Introduction to Social Work
  • Human Behavior and the Lifespan
  • Cultural Diversity and Justice
  • Social Work Case Management Practice
  • Social Welfare Policy I
  • Social Welfare Policy II
  • Social Work Research Methods
  • Research Methods II
  • Social Work Practicum & Seminar I
  • Social Work Practicum & Seminar II

Online Bachelor of Social Work Programs

Degree-seekers who pursue a BSW online can often continue working as they earn their degree. Many institutions offer BSW programs asynchronously, enabling learners to complete their coursework at their own pace and during their own time.

Online and on-campus programs typically feature the same course content and instructors. Students who benefit from face-to-face, hands-on learning might thrive in on-campus settings, while those who need more convenience and flexibility can consider enrolling online.

Jobs with a Bachelor's Degree in Social Work

Individuals with a BSW can explore a variety of career paths. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an 11% job growth for social workers between 2018 and 2028, which is above average for all other fields. Common social work specializations include child, family, and school; healthcare; and mental health and substance abuse.

Psychiatric Social Worker

These social workers often work in inpatient psychiatric treatment centers or hospitals, assessing patients' emotional, interpersonal, social, and environmental needs to develop effective treatment plans.

Child and Family Social Worker

These professionals provide a variety of case management services to support children and their families. Some common services include debt counseling, job placement, addiction treatment, and family therapy.

School Social Worker

These social workers collaborate with parents, teachers, and other support staff to find solutions for students struggling with grades, interpersonal difficulties, or behavior issues.

Community Health Worker

These professionals address health problems at the community level, acting as liaisons between social services and community members. They also provide basic healthcare to the community.

Environmental Health Worker and Administrator

Focused on promoting environmental health and safety in communities, these professionals work in both public education and policy. Most professionals hold a bachelor's degree, although some pursue a master's degree.

Social Work Licensure

Social work degree-holders can pursue several different levels of social work licensure. BSW graduates can often earn licensure by completing a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and passing the Association of Social Work Boards' bachelor's exam. Individuals typically do not need prior work experience to attain this level of licensure.

Once BSW degree-holders are licensed, they must take continuing education courses to renew the license every two years. Those interested in clinical social work practice typically need an MSW to become licensed. Visit our social work licensing guide for more information on licensing.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a bachelor's in social work worth it?

Earning a bachelor's degree in social work prepares students for several career paths. Bachelor's programs also prepare learners to advance their education to a master's program, expanding their career possibilities further.

Can you get a bachelor's in social work online?

Many colleges and universities offer online bachelor's in social work programs. Online students can often focus their degree on a particular type of social work, such as school social work or child and family social work.

How do I get a bachelor's in social work?

Typically, applicants must provide their official high school transcripts, ACT or SAT scores, a completed application, a personal essay, and recommendation letters.

How much does someone with a bachelor's in social work make?

Professionals with a bachelor's in social work earn an average annual salary of $49,000, according to PayScale. Individuals can earn between $37,000 and $76,000 depending on their specialty.

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

BSW jobs allow professionals to focus on different specialties. BSW graduates can work as residential counselors, case managers, or behavioral management aides. Some careers require professionals to obtain licensure. Earning an advanced degree can expand career opportunities.

Can a BSW degree-holder get licensed?

Most states allow BSW graduates to become licensed. Licensing requirements often include completing an accredited program and passing a licensing examination. Typically, candidates interested in clinical social work need a master's degree.