Online Social Work Degree Programs Overview

Can You Get a Social Work Degree Online?

Absolutely, pursuing a social work degree online is not only possible but has become a popular and flexible option for many students. Online social work programs are designed to provide the same rigorous education and training as their on-campus counterparts, with the added convenience of being able to study from anywhere. Here's what you need to know:

Types of Online Social Work Degrees

Online social work programs come in various levels, catering to different career goals and educational backgrounds:

  • Associate's Degrees: An entry-level option that introduces the basics of social work, often used as a stepping stone to a bachelor's degree.
  • Bachelor's Degrees (BSW): Prepares students for entry-level positions in social work and eligibility for state licensure in some cases.
  • Master's Degrees (MSW): Advanced program focusing on clinical practice, research, and leadership roles in social work. Many MSW programs online offer specializations such as mental health, substance abuse, and child welfare.
  • Doctoral Degrees (DSW or PhD): Aimed at those seeking leadership, academic, or high-level policy-making positions within social work. These programs are less commonly found online but are available.


When choosing an online social work program, accreditation is crucial. Programs should be accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) in the United States to ensure they meet professional standards and your degree will be recognized by employers and licensure boards.

Fieldwork Requirements

Even though your coursework can be completed online, social work degrees require fieldwork to gain hands-on experience. Online programs typically arrange for students to complete these practicums or internships at approved locations within their community.

Benefits of an Online Social Work Degree

  • Flexibility: Study on your own schedule, balancing personal, professional, and academic commitments.
  • Accessibility: Ideal for those living in remote areas or who have mobility issues.
  • Diverse Learning Resources: Access to a wide range of digital learning tools and resources.
  • Interaction: Engage with a diverse student body and faculty through forums, video conferences, and online group projects.


  • Self-Discipline: Successful online students often need a higher degree of self-motivation and time management skills.
  • Technology Requirements: Ensure you have a reliable internet connection and the necessary hardware/software to participate in online courses.
  • Networking Opportunities: While online programs offer forums and virtual meetups, some students may miss the face-to-face networking opportunities that traditional programs offer.

In summary, obtaining a social work degree online is a viable path that offers flexibility, accessibility, and a comprehensive education to prepare you for a rewarding career in social work. Just ensure that the program you choose is accredited and meets your career goals.

Is an Online Social Work Degree Worth It?

Deciding whether to pursue an online social work degree involves weighing several factors, including your career goals, learning style, and financial situation. Here's a breakdown of the key considerations to help you determine if an online social work degree is the right path for you.

Flexibility and Convenience

  • Study on Your Schedule: Online programs often offer asynchronous classes, allowing you to complete coursework at times that fit your lifestyle.
  • Balance Work and Study: If you're working or have other commitments, an online degree can provide the flexibility you need to juggle your responsibilities.


  • Learn from Anywhere: With an internet connection, you can access your coursework from anywhere, making this a great option for those living in rural areas or those who travel frequently.
  • Diverse Learning Resources: Online programs typically offer a variety of learning materials, including video lectures, discussion forums, and digital libraries.

Career Opportunities

  • Growing Demand: The field of social work is expected to grow, with increasing opportunities in healthcare, mental health, and child welfare services.
  • Licensure Preparation: Accredited online programs prepare you for licensure exams just as traditional programs do, making them a viable pathway to becoming a licensed social worker.


  • Potentially Lower Total Cost: Online programs can be less expensive than on-campus ones when you factor in saved commuting costs and sometimes lower tuition rates.
  • Financial Aid Availability: Like their on-campus counterparts, accredited online social work programs are often eligible for financial aid, scholarships, and grants.

Networking and Practical Experience

  • Virtual Networking Opportunities: Many online programs offer virtual internships and networking events with professionals in the field.
  • Fieldwork Requirements: Accredited programs include fieldwork components, ensuring you gain practical experience even if your coursework is completed online.

Considering these factors, an online social work degree can be a valuable investment in your future. It offers flexibility, accessibility, and the opportunity to enter a rewarding profession dedicated to helping others. However, success in an online program requires discipline, self-motivation, and effective time management. If these align with your strengths and career goals, an online social work degree could indeed be worth it for you.

Are Online Social Work Degrees Respected?

When considering a career in social work, the path to obtaining your degree is a significant decision. You might be contemplating whether an online social work degree holds the same respect and recognition as its traditional campus-based counterpart. The short answer is yes, online social work degrees are respected, but let's delve into the reasons and factors that contribute to their growing acceptance.

Understanding Accreditation

  • Accreditation is key to ensuring that the online program you choose is recognized and respected. Look for programs accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), which is the standard for social work education in the United States.
  • Accredited programs have met rigorous academic and ethical standards, ensuring that the education provided is of high quality and prepares students for licensure and professional practice.

Shift in Perception

  • The perception of online education has shifted dramatically in recent years. Once viewed with skepticism, online degrees are now acknowledged as valuable and legitimate by employers, especially when they come from accredited institutions.
  • This shift is partly due to the advances in technology that allow for interactive and engaging learning experiences, mirroring or even enhancing the traditional classroom environment.

Quality of Education

  • Many online programs offer curriculums that are identical to those taught on campus, meaning students receive the same comprehensive education, regardless of delivery method.
  • Online programs often provide more flexibility in completing coursework, making higher education more accessible to those with work or family commitments.

Practical Experience

  • Respect for online degrees also comes from the practical experience built into these programs. Many require fieldwork or internships that are completed in person, ensuring students gain hands-on experience in their local communities.
  • This blend of online learning and in-person fieldwork prepares graduates for real-world social work environments, proving their competence and readiness to employers.

Professional Outcomes

  • Graduates from accredited online social work programs are eligible for licensure and employment in the same way as those who graduate from traditional programs.
  • Employers are increasingly focusing on the skills and qualifications of candidates rather than the format of their education. The success and impact of social work professionals coming from online programs further cement their respect and credibility.

In conclusion, the respectability of an online social work degree largely hinges on accreditation, the quality of education, practical experience, and professional outcomes. As long as you choose an accredited program that meets these criteria, you can confidently pursue your degree online, knowing it will be respected in your future career endeavors.

What Types of Social Work Degrees Are Available Online and How Long Do They Take to Complete?

Exploring your options for pursuing a career in social work? You'll be pleased to know that online education offers a variety of social work degrees, catering to different career goals and educational backgrounds. Here's a breakdown of the types of social work degrees available online and the typical time commitment for each.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

  • Duration: Typically 4 years of full-time study
  • Overview: This undergraduate degree provides foundational knowledge in social work theory and practice, preparing you for entry-level positions in the field or for further study at the master's level.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

  • Duration:
    • Full-time: Generally 2 years
    • Advanced Standing Programs (for those with a BSW): Typically 1 year
  • Overview: An MSW degree offers more advanced study in social work, allowing for specialization in areas such as clinical social work, community social work, or policy and administration. It's essential for clinical roles and highly recommended for leadership positions.

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)

  • Duration:
    • Full-time: Approximately 3 to 4 years
    • Part-time: Can extend up to 6 years
  • Overview: Focused on advanced practice leadership, research, and policy analysis, a DSW prepares you for high-level positions in the field, academia, or research. Ideal for those aiming to influence social work practice and policy on a larger scale.

PhD in Social Work

  • Duration:
    • Full-time: Typically 4 to 5 years, including dissertation research
    • Part-time: Varies widely based on dissertation and coursework pace
  • Overview: A PhD in Social Work is research-focused, designed for those interested in scholarly investigation and teaching at the university level. This degree emphasizes developing new knowledge in the field through rigorous research.

Each of these degrees can serve as a pivotal step towards achieving your career goals in social work. Whether you're just starting out or looking to elevate your practice, online programs offer the flexibility to balance your studies with personal and professional commitments.

How to Choose an Online Social Work Degree Program?

Choosing the right online Social Work degree program is crucial for your future career in this rewarding field. Here are some steps and factors to consider to make an informed decision:

Determine Your Educational Needs

  • Understand your career goals: Different roles in social work require different levels of education. Decide if you aim to become a licensed clinical social worker, case manager, or another role within the field.
  • Identify the level of degree you need: Whether it's a Bachelor's of Social Work (BSW), Master's of Social Work (MSW), or even a doctoral degree, understanding the requirements for your desired position will help narrow down your options.


  • Look for programs accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Accreditation ensures the program meets high standards and prepares students for licensure and employment.
  • Verify regional accreditation of the institution offering the program. This type of accreditation impacts transfer credits and financial aid eligibility.

Program Flexibility and Format

  • Assess the flexibility of the program. If you're working or have other commitments, look for programs that offer asynchronous courses, allowing you to complete coursework on your schedule.
  • Consider the delivery format. Some programs may require occasional on-campus attendance or residencies. Ensure you can meet these requirements before enrolling.

Field Education and Practicum Requirements

  • Understand the field education component. Most social work programs require a certain number of hours in a real-world setting. Check how these placements are handled, especially if you live far from the institution.
  • Inquire about support in securing placements. Good programs will assist you in finding suitable field education opportunities near your location.

Faculty and Resources

  • Research the qualifications and experience of faculty members. Faculty with practical experience in social work can provide valuable insights and networking opportunities.
  • Look into the resources available to online students, including library access, writing centers, and tech support. These resources can significantly enhance your learning experience.

Cost and Financial Aid

  • Compare tuition and fees among programs. Don't forget to factor in any additional costs, such as books, software, or travel for any required on-campus sessions.
  • Investigate financial aid options. Many institutions offer scholarships, grants, or work-study programs specifically for social work students.

Student Support and Career Services

  • Evaluate the level of support provided to online students. This includes academic advising, technical support, and mental health services.
  • Check out the career services offered. A strong program will offer career counseling, resume workshops, and networking opportunities specific to the social work field.

By carefully considering these factors, you can choose an online Social Work degree program that not only fits your personal and professional needs but also sets you up for success in this fulfilling profession.

Online Social Work Degree Resources

Major Professional Associations

If you're pursuing an online degree in social work, staying connected with professional associations can greatly benefit your career. These organizations offer resources such as networking opportunities, job boards, continuing education, and the latest industry news. Here are some of the major associations you should consider:

Industry Publications

Staying informed with the latest research, trends, and discussions in social work can significantly impact your studies and future career. These publications are excellent resources for students and professionals alike:

Other Resources

Besides professional associations and publications, several other resources can support your journey in obtaining an online degree in social work. These include:

  • Career.Guide: Your go-to platform for exploring career paths, finding degree programs, and uncovering valuable career advice tailored specifically for social work students.
  • An essential tool for understanding state-specific licensure requirements.
  • Social Work Helper: A digital magazine providing news, information, and resources for social work professionals and students.
  • The International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW): Offers a global perspective on social work, including international policies, ethics, and professional practice guidelines.

Leveraging these resources will not only enhance your academic experience but also prepare you for a successful career in social work. Whether you're looking for the latest research, seeking career advice, or connecting with fellow professionals, these tools are invaluable for anyone in the social work field.

Sign up for our newsletter

Join our newsletter to receive the latest updates and insights in online education. Get exclusive access to in-depth articles, expert advice, and special offers tailored for your educational journey.