Bachelor’s degree in social work programs

HomeBachelor’s degree in social work programs

A Bachelor’s of Social Work (BSW) is an excellent degree course as it is one of the most useful and flexible degrees you can obtain in the human services field. Whether you plan to join the workforce straight out of university or continue your education to an advanced degree, a BSW opens the doors to many entry-level social work careers and is a great way to get started in the human services sector.

The requirements to enroll in a BSW program

The academic requirements for enrolling in a BSW program will depend on the school you choose. You will need to fulfill the school’s general requirements plus any prerequisites to the program. These might include community service hours, a personal essay, sociology or psychology classes, and letters of recommendation. Candidates generally need a high school diploma or GED equivalent and a GPA that meets their prospective school’s requirements. Some schools may also require SAT or ACT scores.

Careers and further study possibilities with a BSW degree

Social workers often have to combine an office job with fieldwork, where they visit people’s homes, schools, hospitals, community centers, and various local authorities and organizations and engage with the problems that exist in the community.

Entry-level and non-clinical jobs are available for graduates of online bachelor’s in social work programs.

Precise salary data is not published by degree level, but the BLS showed an average salary for 2 positions where a bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement, (national median as reported in 2019):

  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Counselors – $46,200
  • Social and community service managers – $64,150

However, salary potential depends on many factors, including geographic location, professional experience, and education.

If you want to become a clinical social worker, which requires a master’s degree, your BSW may make you eligible for Advanced Standing, which allows you to complete your MSW within 1 academic year.

A study commissioned by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) found that earning an MSW boosts pay on average by $15,000 annually over what you could expect with a BSW. 

Jobs and salary levels for BSW graduates

Salaries for individuals with a BSW can vary by a significant margin based on location, industry, and experience.

Below are some sample careers and salaries for individuals with a BSW

Child, family, and school social workers help children, youths, their parents and guardians. They often deal with child welfare and other family-related issues including abuse, serious mental, or physical illness. They may arrange adoptions, secure foster homes for abandoned or abused children, and support struggling parents.

In schools, these social workers are involved in addressing such problems as teenage pregnancy, truancy, misbehavior, and bullying.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the mean wage for child, family, and school social workers was $51,030 in May 2019, while those working exclusively in elementary and secondary schools earned an average annual wage of $63,810.

Health educators use data to plan, implement, and monitor health education programs that encourage individuals, families, and their communities to maximize and maintain healthy lifestyles. They also train community health workers, collect data, and discuss health issues with various groups in the community. Health educators work in a variety of settings such as schools, hospitals, government agencies, doctors’ offices, and non-profit organizations.

To be a health educator you need at least a bachelor’s degree. Many employers require the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) credential.

  • Median annual salary (May 2019): $46,910
  • Projected growth rate (2019-29): 13%

Healthcare social workers assist individuals, families, and groups who are dealing with chronic, acute, or terminal illnesses. They also help patients who have been discharged from hospitals and care facilities by coordinating care services. Some healthcare social workers pursue a particular field such as gerontology.

Healthcare social workers work in a variety of environments, including hospitals, nursing homes, family services agencies, and local government agencies.

According to the BLS, in May 2019, healthcare social workers earned a mean annual wage of $58,470.

Social and community service managers implement and supervise programs and organizations that support public well-being. They also need to compile statistics and other data to assess the effectiveness their programs have on their target community.

They tend to work in for a variety of organizations, including non-profit organizations, for-profit social service companies, and government agencies. Some of these organizations focus on working with a particular demographic, such as children, the homeless, older adults, or veterans.

Social and community service managers typically need at least a bachelor’s degree and work experience. You might be able to use the fieldwork requirement of your BSW program to meet this requirement.

  • Median annual salary (May 2019): $67,150
  • Projected growth rate (2019-29): 17%

Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors provide therapy, rehabilitation, and intervention for people who suffer from alcoholism, drug addiction, or other mental or behavioral problems.

They tend to work both inpatient and outpatient facilities, such as mental health centers, community health centers, prisons, and private practice.

Although educational requirements can vary, most positions require as a minimum a bachelor’s degree, and some states also require counselors to be licensed in addition to their degree. Licensing usually involves passing an exam.

  • Median annual salary (May 2019): $46,200
  • Projected growth rate (2019-29): 25%

Social science research assistants help scientists and researchers conduct surveys and analysis. This could range from using data about the entire population to individual observation in the community. They help prepare findings for publication and assist in laboratory analysis, quality control, or data management.

A bachelor’s degree in Social Work is necessary to become a social science research assistant.

Social science research assistants might work for government agencies, scientific research organizations, or colleges. As of May 2018, the BLS reports that social science research assistants make a mean annual wage of $50,420.

Correctional treatment specialists assist in the rehabilitation of law offenders in custody, on probation or parole. They develop rehabilitation plans for probationers and parolees to follow; this can include vocational counseling, substance abuse counseling, housing assistance, and other help with the aim of preventing repeat offenses. They also work with inmates, parole officers, and staff of other agencies to develop parole and release plans.

As well as having a BSW, you will need to complete an on-the-job training program, after which you may have to pass a certification test.

  • Median annual salary (May 2019): $54,290
  • Projected growth rate (2019-29): 4%

Information about BSW licenses and certifications

BSW graduates may need to be licensed to work in certain social work positions or states. You can gain 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 2 years. Those interested in clinical social work practice will need an MSW to become licensed.

Subjects studied for a BSW degree

Your BSW coursework will cover a wide range of themes and combine theoretical classes and lectures with practical experience conducted in various social organizations, institutions, care facilities, etc. during your fieldwork component. You will study how large social issues can affect individuals and how human development and behavior can be affected by external factors. You will also learn about social assistance programs and examine how they can improve lives and communities.

Core classes in a BSW program

Your individual program will vary but typical core social work classes cover:

Social welfare

Human behavior


Ethnicity and race

Community social structures

Drug and alcohol addiction

Diversity and diverse populations

Social welfare programs in the U.S.

Social work case management practice

Popular minors

As a student you can choose a minor that will be useful to your social work career. Some popular minors include:


As the United States has a large Spanish-speaking population, you will be able to work with disadvantaged members of these communities.


The study of social life and social change and the causes and consequences of human behavior can give you an insight that enriches your social work practice.


You can utilize an understanding of the human mind and conduct to help your work with a psychology minor.

Political Science

Government agencies fund many social outreach programs and many social workers are employed in the public sector. An understanding of how policies are made can help your career.

The BSW internship requirement

Yes.All accredited BSW programs must include at least 400 hours of supervised fieldwork. This practical experience is a prerequisite to graduate with a social work degree. If you have a particular field of social work that you are interested in, it is a good idea to check with colleges to make sure their course has fieldwork in those areas. This will give you an opportunity to experience working in that field to really see if it is an area you want to work in later.

The cost of BSW degrees

The cost of a bachelor’s degree in Social Work (BSW) varies depending upon the type of institution you attend. According to the National Center for Education Statistics for 2018-19, the average annual cost for a 4-year public institution runs around $9,212 per year for in-state tuition. Boarding and fees add an additional $11,386 making a total per year of $20,598.

Those seeking degrees can also pursue online options. The online program suits those students who are employed while studying as it provides the opportunity to complete coursework at the learner’s own pace. You will find online BSW degree courses are generally less expensive than a campus course.

Online and on-campus programs are normally composed of the same course content and are taught by the same lecturers. There are also courses available that are a mixture of online and campus teaching.

The most important thing, whether the school you select is a traditional classroom or an online program, is that you attend an accredited school. This may allow you to apply for financial aid and ensure that you can be licensed to work. Additionally, it gives you the opportunity to fast-track on a Master’s of Social Work (MSW) program if you want to continue your education.

The length of courses

The bachelor’s of Social Work (BSW) degree is a 4-year, full-time undergraduate degree. Typically, the first 2 years are composed of liberal arts courses and the final 2 years concentrate on social work classes in human development, policy/law, research, and practice. Programs accredited by the Council on Social Work Education require that BSW students must complete a minimum of 400 supervised fieldwork or internship hours in order to graduate and be eligible to apply for a social worker license. Accredited BSW programs often allow students who are studying for a master’s of Social Work degree to complete the degree in a shorter amount of time.

Accreditation of BSW degrees

When you are deciding which course to take one of the most vital things is to make sure that the program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). This organization ensures that all accredited courses are taught by suitably qualified teachers and that programs have the necessary components to enable students to become capable professional social workers. If a course is not accredited, it may mean that you will not be capable of being licensed by your state, and in many states that means you cannot work.

There are several professional organizations for social workers. Some will only grant memberships to clinical social workers at the MSW level, but others have membership options for BSW social workers. Some of the main organizations include:

National Association of Social Workers (NASW)

The NASW focuses on supporting the professional development of its members, and advancing professional standards of practice, campaigning for progressive social policies.

Clinical Social Work Association (CSWA)

The Clinical Social Work Association (CSWA) is a national individual membership association focused on supplying services, products, professional support for Clinical Social Workers.

The Network for Social Work Management (NSWM)

The NSWM is focused on helping managers to become effective humanistic leaders in a variety of sectors: public, private, non-profit and for-profit organizations, hospitals, universities, management consulting firms, bureaus, and agencies. It also makes available training, resources, and networking opportunities for members

Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)

The CSWE is the organization that accredits BSW programs. It also encourages professionalism and academic excellence in social work education. Membership is open to both individuals and accredited degree programs. The association also hosts an annual conference and regular networking events.

School Social Work Association of America (SSWAA)

The SSWAA primarily functions as an advocacy group to promote the profession and to enhance the social and emotional growth and academic outcomes of all students nationally and globally. Members receive many benefits, including liability insurance and access to the SSWAA digital library.

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