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Best Online Degrees in: Social Work

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Editor's Picks: Online Schools for Social Work

The University of Iowa receives this award for its affordable and high-quality education. According to, the 30-year return on investment for the school is 8.6%. That number increased to 9.8% when you factor in financial aid, which 59% of students receive. The school's education is also praised by several leading publications, ranking on U.S. News & World Report' s list of the top national universities and Kiplinger's list of the best value public colleges, which only consists of 100 schools. Additionally, the school's social work program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, the national association for social work education in the U.S.

Career Support
This award goes to the University of Iowa because of the amount of resources available online through its career center. Students can find resources on planning their major and career, interview tips, and video seminars on job-search skills such as resume writing, interviewing, and networking. They can also search the school's online recruiting system for jobs, internships, volunteer opportunities, and possible mentors.

Financial Support
Brescia University receives this award for its generous financial aid offerings. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 98% of full-time beginning undergraduate students received financial aid. Ninety-seven percent of students receive grant or scholarship aid, with the average award $14,253. Overall, 82% of students received grant or scholarship aid.

Technology Support
This award goes to the University of Iowa, noted as one of the best online bachelor's degree programs for student services and technology by U.S. News & World Report. These programs include live streaming video. Students can also request technical assistance via phone, live chat, or email.

Student Engagement
The University of Iowa receives this distinction, notes as one of the best online bachelor's programs for student engagement and assessment by U.S. News & World Report. Students can connect via social media, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and the school's student life blog. Additionally, faculty track the amount of times students log in, encouraging student engagement on a regular basis.

Disability Support
Humboldt State University receives this award for the range of disability services the school provides. These services include exam accommodations, such as extended test time, and disability management advisement.

Library and Research Support
Brescia University wins this recognition due to its online-friendly library resources. Distance learners can access the school's databases and electronic books, take an online for-credit library skills class to learn how to efficiently use the library's resources, and find additional online tutorials on skills such as finding and using e-books and citing materials. When they're still stuck, they can contact a library via text, email, or by calling.

Learning Support
This award goes to the University of Iowa, where online students can receive some of the same academic support as their on-campus counterparts. These resources include writing tutoring, available via live online chat, an academic advisor to help with course scheduling, registration, and academic difficulties, and access to skills development programs, such as Skillsoft and

Faculty Credentials
This distinction goes to the University of Iowa, which is one of the best schools in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report, based on the strength its faculty, among other factors. The school's social work program is also accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, the national association for social work education in the U.S., which speaks to the high-quality of its program. Additionally, the school provides its faculty with opportunities for additional skills development and training through its Career Development Advising Service.

Faculty Accessibility
The University of Iowa receives this award for its manageable class sizes and faculty availability. The student-to-faculty ratio is 16 to 1, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, with a smaller class size helping instructors with their students. Additionally, students can expect a response from their online instructors within 48 hours and for them to hold weekly office hours, according to U.S. News & World Report, which ranks the school among the best online bachelor's degree programs in the country for faculty and student engagement.

Alumni Engagement
When students graduate from the University of Iowa, their connection to the school doesn't have to end. Through the Alumni Association, students can take advantage of career resource, attend Lifelong Learning programs, connect and network with their fellow alumni through regional clubs, and serve as mentors to current Iowa students.

Explore a Bachelor's Degree in Social Work

It takes a special, caring person to devote their time to helping others work through and resolve social and personal problems and improve their lives. If you're one of these people, you may want to consider earning an online bachelor's degree in social work and turning your compassion into a career. In most cases, you may be able to earn your bachelor's degree in about four years, though this can vary. Factors such as the requirements of your particular program, how many transferable credits you can apply to your degree, whether you are a full-time or part-time student, and your ability to pass each class and not have to repeat any of them will affect the amount of time it takes you to complete the program and earn your degree.

Class Curriculum

The curriculum of a social work bachelor's degree program is designed to equip you with the knowledge and ability needed to recognize who needs help, learn what kind of help they need, and make sure they get the help they need. Each program will differ, but here are some of the common, foundational courses found in most social work degree programs:

  • Social Welfare. In this course, you will learn about the history and structure of social services and institutions, the various human services that are available, and problems that can hinder meeting social welfare needs. You will also learn about the factors and provisions affecting social welfare, such as politics, the economy, and public opinion.
  • Diversity and Social Work. This course will allow you to understand and appreciate cultural diversity in general, and how it applies to social work. You will learn about sensitivities related to gender and ethnicity and how they affect social work practice.
  • Human Behavior and Social Environment. This course will focus on how human behavior is affected by the social environment and how this knowledge can be used to improve an individual's well-being. You will learn about the impact that family, groups, diversity, oppression, communities, organizations, and discrimination have on human behavior.

As a social work major, many of your assignments will involve studying topics such as legal aspects of social work, types of human services, how to evaluate welfare programs, juvenile delinquency, and conflict resolution. You may also have to apply your knowledge and work through scenarios requiring you to assess an individual and their situation, and then determine the methods and services they need. Many programs require students to gain real-world experience by volunteering and interning at human services organizations and events.

Building a Career

Once you earn your bachelor's degree in social work, you should know how to identify people needing help, assess them to determine what they need and the best methods to help them, and find ways to improve their situations and lives. You should also know how to intervene in a conflict or crisis, help people find the services they need and the organizations that can provide them, and evaluate these organizations and the services they provide to make sure they are legitimate and helpful. Many people use their degree to begin a career as a direct-service social worker, which requires a bachelor's degree for most entry-level positions. Others use it toward a master's degree and pursue a career as a clinical social worker, diagnosing and treating disorders affecting people's behavior, emotions, and mental state. Clinical social workers are required to have a master's degree and obtain licensure from their state.

Earning your degree in social work doesn't guarantee employment, though it does make you eligible for positions in a growing field. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 25% increase in employment for social workers through the year 2020, which is considerably faster job growth than most other occupations. Also, according to the BLS, social workers earn an average income of $42,480 a year. However, a social worker's wages vary depending on several factors, including the area of social work one works in, such as substance abuse, family, or school social work. Other factors include one's location, employer, and amount of experience.