How to Find Social Worker Degrees from the Best Social Work Programs


In-Person & Online Social Work Programs That Get Consistently High Marks

So, you’re interested in helping people as a career. You may be wondering, how do you get started finding online social work degrees or the type of degree you need as a social worker?

A social work major can include a wide variety of fields of social work, such as working with children, working with those in the criminal justice system, geriatric social work, international social work, and many others.

But there are certain foundations you need to begin a career in social work, and it starts with knowing the social work degrees you’ll require. Social worker degrees will provide you with the knowledge, skills, and credentials needed to get a position as a social worker.

There are different types of degrees and many acronyms you’ll need to learn if you want to answer the question, “What degree do I need to be a social worker?”

Some of the social work major acronyms we’ll explain in this article include:

  • BSW
  • MSW
  • LCSW
  • CSWE

best social work degree programs

What can I do with a social work degree?

Have you been wondering what jobs can you get with a social work degree? Have you searched endlessly for “social work programs near me” or “social work schools near me?”

Then we hope that you find this resource helpful, as we’re going to list the best in-person and best online social work programs we’ve found. The schools on our list have been highlighted in more than one “best of” list for social work degrees, and many have landed on several.

How does our list of the best social work programs differ from others?

Well, to start, we do not have any sponsored ads for schools offering social worker degrees, unlike other lists. We also break down the best social work programs into 4 different categories:

  • Best online BSW programs and offline BSW programs
  • Best MSW programs online or offline
  • Best 1-year MSW programs online (also known as advanced standing MSW programs)
  • Best cheapest online MSW programs

You’ll also find answers to commonly asked questions, such as “What is a social work degree?” and “What can I do with a social work degree?”

If you’re interested in studying social work in any capacity, then you should find this article full of resources you can use.


Table of Contents

Keep on scrolling down this page to read each section, or click any link below to go directly to that section.

  1. What Is a Social Work Degree?
  2. What Courses Do You Need to Become a Social Worker?
  3. What Degree Do You Need to Be a Social Worker?
  4. What Is a Social Work Degree?
  5. What Is LCSW? What Degree Do I Need to Be a Social Worker With This Credential?
  6. What Can You Do With a Social Work Degree?
  7. What Jobs Can You Get With a Social Work Degree?
  8. Best Online Social Work Programs & In-Person Programs for Social Work Degrees
  9. Best Schools for On-Campus or Online Social Work Degrees
  10. Best Social Work Programs for a BSW Online or In-Person
  11. What are the Best MSW Programs Online and Near You?
  12. What Are the Best 1 Year MSW Programs Online & Near Me?
  13. Where Can I Find the Cheapest Online MSW Programs?
  14. Conclusion | Best Social Work Degrees for Social Workers
  15. Social Work Assessment Guide FAQs

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What are the best social work degrees? Find out below. Also, contact us if you have any questions or feedback.


What Is a Social Work Degree?

A social work degree is like other college degrees you may get, but it is geared especially towards preparing you for a career in the field of social work.

There are two main types of social worker degrees, which we’ll get into in the sections below. These are:

  • Bachelor’s in Social Work (BSW)
  • Master’s in Social Work (MSW)

You can also go further in studying social work with a Doctoral degree. If you see any schools offering an associate (2-year) social work degree, be wary, as you typically need at least a 4-year bachelor’s in social work if you want to be considered for a job as a social worker.


What Courses Do You Need to Become a Social Worker?

Before you begin looking at social work master’s programs online or in-person social work graduate programs or undergraduate programs, you should know the types of courses are required for a social work major.

What courses do you need to become a social worker?

Studying social work will involve some of the following courses whether you’re in one of the on-campus top MSW programs or accredited online MSW programs. These can vary according to the fields of social work students are studying and the social work degree level:

  • Psychology
  • Introduction to social work
  • Social welfare programs and policy
  • Human behavior and the social environment
  • Social work ethics
  • Social work intervention
  • Clinical social work skills
  • Integrated social work practice for social justice
  • Social policy analysis, advocacy, and practice
  • Mental health, substance use, and trauma
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapies
  • Mental health and health care policy
  • Assessment of mental health across the life span
  • Leadership and supervision skills
Free Ecomap for Social Work

The three standard line types that are used for social work ecomaps are:

            • Solid line: Positive relationship
            • Dashed line: Weak or tenuous relationship
            • Jagged line: Stressful relationship

Read: How to Really Use an Ecomap. Everything You Need to Know 

Download: Free Ecomap Template



Do you have any questions or feedback about this article on social work schools near me? If so, click here to contact us.


What Degree Do You Need to Be a Social Worker?

According to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), you will need at least a bachelor’s in social work (BSW) to be considered for entry-level social work positions.

It’s important to know the difference between social worker degrees so you can plan your education according to the fields of social work that you might be interested in.

What Is a BSW Degree?

A BSW is a bachelor’s degree in social work. This is a 4-year degree, similar to bachelor’s degrees in other disciplines. You may find accelerated online BSW programs or choose to take longer to finish your degree by going to school part-time.

When looking at online social work degrees, the BSW will be the place you begin if you start college knowing you want to be studying social work for a future career.

If you’re wondering, “What degree do I need to be a social worker” it is the BSW as a minimum. According to NASW, completing on-campus or online BSW programs can qualify you for entry-level positions in fields like residential treatment, aging services, and mental health.

What Is MSW?

The next step up from the BSW online or campus degree is the MSW, which would be earned from taking social work master’s programs online or in-person.

A master’s in social work qualifies you for more advanced social work positions, such as one-on-one psychotherapy, supervisory positions, and those jobs that deliver advanced clinical services to clients.

If you’re wondering, “What is MSW degree to my future career prospects?” the answer is that you will qualify for higher pay and for work in areas such as politics on social justice matters and program management.

What Is MSW Course Length?

  • Standard top MSW programs: 2 years
  • Advanced standing MSW programs: 1 year to 18 months

What is MSW Degree? | Advanced Standing

The advanced standing MSW programs are for those that have a BSW degree from an accredited school. Since students have already been studying social work during their first four years of college, they can qualify for the accelerated social work graduate programs.

Students that studied in other fields and did not earn a BSW, but may have instead earned a bachelor’s degree in another area, can still qualify to take on-campus or online social work programs to earn their MSW but would need the full two years.

msw programs near me

MSW programs near me | Top MSW programs

What Can You Do With a Master’s in Social Work That You Can’t With a Bachelor’s in Social Work?

After you answer, “What degree do you need to be a social worker as a minimum,” you should next answer, “What can you do with a master’s in social work that you can’t with a BSW?”

It’s important to know the difference, so you fully understand what you can and can’t do.

What can you do with a social work degree – MSW?

With the MSW social worker degrees, graduates qualify for more positions than the BSW. A bachelor’s degree in social work qualifies candidates for entry-level positions, where the MSW can open the door to supervisory positions and fields of social work where you have more client interaction and decision-making capabilities.

There’s also one other important distinction that we’ll get into in the next section when we discuss LCSW programs.

Those with MSW social work degrees also earn higher pay than those with BSW on-campus or online social work degrees. According to Baylor University, someone in a social work major that completes a master’s degree in social work earns $13,000 more per year on average than those with BSW social worker degrees.


What types of software and assessment tools are used after earning social worker degrees? Check out the AGS Social Worker Assessment Toolkit to find out.


What Is LCSW? What Degree Do I Need to Be a Social Worker With This Credential?

If you’re looking for accredited online MSW programs or researching, “What is MSW course work?” then you’ve likely also asked, “What is LCSW?”

LCSW stands for licensed clinical social worker. This is not one of the social work degrees, rather, it is a specific license that a social worker can earn that allows them to hold higher positions of responsibility in different fields of social work.

To qualify to become an LCSW, you must first complete one of the social work master’s programs online or on-campus. You must have your MSW to become a licensed clinical social worker, thus if you hear about LCSW programs, they’re connected to earning the MSW.

After completing LCSW programs and earning that credential, social workers are licensed to offer diagnoses and counseling services to people suffering from mental, behavioral, or emotional problems.


What Can You Do With a Social Work Degree?

If you’ve been wondering, “What can I do with a social work degree?” the answer is quite a lot. There are multiple types of social workers needed in a wide range of areas from schools to nursing homes to refugee camps, and even in large corporations.

Both in-person and online social work programs and degrees will provide you with the skills needed for accomplishing common social work tasks that are used widely throughout the world. These include:

  • Completing needs assessments for individuals, families, and groups
  • Completing specialty assessments, such as a genogram, ecomap, and GAD-7
  • Coordinating with other agencies to research client history
  • Evaluating client surveys to develop a care/intervention plan
  • Applying proven methods to assist a client and help them improve their situation
  • Matching needs with resources (internal and external)
  • Conducting therapy groups to guide patients toward healing
  • Following up using tactics to evaluate progress
  • And more

Many of the tasks noted above are laid out in detail in the AGS Social Worker Task Checklist. This is part of our Social Work Assessment & Management Software.

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Learn More About the AGS Social Worker’s Toolbox

Social Work Assessments & Case Management Tool

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What jobs can you get with a social work degree? Find out below. And, don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any social work questions.


What Jobs Can You Get With a Social Work Degree?

On-campus and online social work degrees qualify people for a number of social work jobs in government, private industry, non-profits, and public service areas.

To answer the question, “What is a social work degree going to mean for my job prospects?”, we’ve taken a look at Indeed to see what jobs are open to people with a social work major after they’ve completed their schooling.

Here are several that give you a good idea of the types of jobs you can get with social worker degrees:

  • County health & human services social worker ($42,780 – $72,424/year)
  • EAP Care Manager – Remote ($34,348 – $96,796/year)
  • Health system caseworker (salary not listed)
  • Foster Care system social worker ($42,477 – $65,839/year)
  • Crisis intervention social worker (salary not listed)
  • Inpatient case manager – part-time, remote (Up to $53 an hour)
  • School social worker (salary not listed)
  • Licensed telehealth therapist ($75,000 – $90,000/year)

What Can You Do With a Social Work Degree Besides Social Work?

If you complete one of the best MSW programs or BSW programs and decide you want to work in another field, do you have prospects? As much as you’re looking forward to being a social worker when you choose a social work major, it’s natural to wonder, “What can you do with a social work degree besides social work?”

There are several other careers that you can qualify for once you’ve completed accredited online MSW programs, on-campus CSWE accredited MSW programs, or BSW online or offline degrees.

Here are a few of the other jobs that social work graduate programs or undergraduate programs can qualify you for:

  • Probation officer
  • Health and wellness educator
  • Juvenile court liaison
  • Human resources coordinator
  • Community outreach organizer
  • College professor
  • Diversity and inclusion specialists
  • Career or college admissions counselor
  • Public policy advocate

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Best Online Social Work Programs & In-Person Programs for Social Work Degrees

Now that we’ve answered, “What degree do you need to be a social worker?” and what can you do with a master’s in social work?”, we’ll give you some details to help you in your search for “MSW programs near me” and “BSW social work programs near me.”

Due to the pandemic, opportunities to attend the top MSW programs remotely are plentiful, and you’ll find that you don’t have to restrict your search to “social work schools near me” and instead will find that many of the best schools for social work also offer the best online social work programs.

What Are CSWE Accredited MSW Programs?

One of the other acronyms you’ll likely run across when searching “social work programs near me” or “what can I do with a social work degree” is CSWE. This stands for Council on Social Work Education.

CSWE Accredited MSW programs and BSW programs have met the requirements of CSWE’s recognition body, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

When applying for advanced standing MSW programs, one of the typical requirements is that the student has a degree from one of the CSWE accredited on-campus or online BSW programs.


Do you have any questions or feedback regarding this article on “What courses do you need to become a social worker?” or “What is MSW course requirements?”, click here to contact us.


Best Schools for On-Campus or Online Social Work Degrees

Following are the schools we’ve chosen as the best MSW programs, best BSW programs, best 1 year MSW programs online, and best cheapest online MSW programs.

As mentioned, when looking for “MSW programs near me” or “what is a BSW degree school near me,” the definition for “near me” can be anywhere if you do remote learning online.

These social work programs have been recognized by many different ranking organizations for their excellence in several areas.

For pricing, we only included the cost of tuition, not room/board, books/supplies, or other extra expenses. Tuition fees were accessed from each school’s website at the time of this writing and can change at any time.

What can you do with a social work degree besides social work? Contact us if you have any more questions or feedback about  this.


Best Social Work Programs for a BSW Online or In-Person

Here are the top 5 schools for BSW social worker degrees, in alphabetical order.

  • James Madison University
  • Liberty University
    • Online: $390 per credit hour
    • Website
  • Michigan State University
  • University of North Dakota
    • On-campus: $9,017/academic year (resident)
    • On-campus: $13,252/academic year (non-resident)
    • Online: $375.50 per credit hour
    • Website
  • University of Utah
    • Use tuition estimator on the website
    • Website

Contact us if you have any questions or feedback about this best social work programs guide.


What are the Best MSW Programs Online and Near You?

These are the best MSW programs for social work degrees, in alphabetical order.

  • Columbia University
    • On-campus or Online: $26,036/semester
    • Website
  • University of California-Berkeley
    • On-campus: $5,721/semester (resident)
    • On-campus: $11,843/semester (non-resident)
    • Website
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
    • On-campus: $15,671/semester (resident)
    • On-campus: $25,067/semester (non-resident)
    • Online: $12,011 – $19,311/semester
    • Website
  • University of Southern California
Free Genogram for Social Workers
ags geogram template

Read: How to Really Use a Genogram 

Download: Free Genogram Word Template


Contact us if you have any remaining questions about online social work programs.


What Are the Best 1 Year MSW Programs Online & Near Me?

Following are the top advanced standing MSW programs that can be done in one year, in alphabetical order.

  • Columbia University
    • On-campus or online: $26,036/semester
    • Website
  • Fordham University
  • Sacred Heart University
  • University of Kentucky
    • Standard pricing: $700.50 per credit hour
    • Block rate (9+ credit hours): $6,291/semester
    • Website
  • University of Southern California
Free Ecomap for Social Work

The three standard line types that are used for social work ecomaps are:

            • Solid line: Positive relationship
            • Dashed line: Weak or tenuous relationship
            • Jagged line: Stressful relationship

Read: How to Really Use an Ecomap. Everything You Need to Know 

Download: Free Ecomap Template


Contact us if you have any questions or feedback about this social work major guide. Also, if you have questions about the best MSW degree programs, also reach out to us. 


Where Can I Find the Cheapest Online MSW Programs?

Following are the best and cheapest online MSW programs, in alphabetical order.

  • New Mexico State University
  • The University of Alabama
  • University of Kentucky
    • Block rate (9+ credit hours): $6,291/semester
    • Website
  • University of Missouri-Columbia
  • University of North Dakota
    • Online: $375.50 per credit hour
    • Website

Contact us if you have any questions or feedback about this end-to-end social work genogram guide. Also, if you would like a quick demo of any of our social work templates or guides, feel feel to reach out.


Conclusion | Best Social Work Degrees for Social Workers

Whether you’re looking for in-person or online social work degrees, you have some great options to choose from. With most schools now doing online as well as on-campus learning, you can choose your social work major knowing that distance doesn’t have to be a problem.

Online social work programs also offer a more economical option because you don’t have the additional room and board costs. But if you prefer an in-person college experience, there are plenty of great undergraduate and social work graduate programs to choose from around the country.

We wish you the best in your future endeavors in the social work field and hope that our lists of the best MSW programs, best BSW programs, top 1-year MSW social work degrees programs, and cheapest MSW social work programs provide some helpful guidance.


Best Social Work Degrees Guide FAQs

What is a BSW degree?

A BSW degree is a Bachelor of Social Work degree. It is the minimum requirement to be considered a social worker.

What is MSW?

An MSW degree is a Master of Social Work degree. This is the next degree after the BSW (Bachelor of Social Work degree) and it qualifies an individual for more advanced work in their social work career.

What is LCSW?

LCSW stands for licensed clinical social worker. This is not one of the social work degrees, rather, it is a specific license that a social worker can earn that allows them to hold higher positions of responsibility in different fields of social work. To qualify to become an LCSW, you must have a Master of Social Work degree.

What can you do with a social work degree besides social work?

There are several other careers that you can qualify for once you’ve completed a social work degree. Here are a few of the other jobs that social work graduate programs or undergraduate programs can qualify you for:

• Probation officer
• Health and wellness educator
• Juvenile court liaison
• Human resources coordinator
• Community outreach organizer
• College professor
• Diversity and inclusion specialists
• Career or college admissions counselor
• Public policy advocate


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