- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2016-17, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- Choose the Social Work Profession, National Association of Social Workers, Accessed January 2018, https://www.socialworkers.org/Careers/Career-Center/Explore-Social-Work/Choose-the-Social-Work-Profession
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Social Workers, Accessed January 2018, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm
- School of Social Work, Rhode Island College, Accessed January 2018, http://www.ric.edu/socialwork/Pages/default.aspx
- School of Social Work, Arizona State University, Accessed January 2018, https://socialwork.asu.edu/
- School of Social Work, Eastern Washington University, Accessed January 2018, https://www.ewu.edu/css/programs/social-work
- School of Social Work, Leadership and Youth Advocacy, Wheelock College, Accessed January 2018, https://www.wheelock.edu/academics/schools-and-programs/school-of-social-work-leadership-and-youth-advocacy
- School of Social Work, Aurora University, Accessed January 2018, https://www.aurora.edu/academics/colleges-schools/social-work/index.html#.Wmsm2qinGM-
- School of Social Work, California State University, Los Angeles, Accessed January 2018, http://www.calstatela.edu/hhs/sw
- Social Work, Murray State University, Accessed January 2018, http://www.murraystate.edu/academics/CollegesDepartments/CollegeOfEducationandHumanServices/coehsacademicunits/CLHS/SocialWork/index.aspx
- School of Social Work, Seventh Adventist University, Accessed January 2018, http://www.southern.edu/academics/academic-sites/socialwork/
- Social Work Department, Oglala Lakota College, Accessed January 2018, http://www.olc.edu/departments/social_work.htm
- Department of Social Work, Savannah State University, Accessed January 2018, https://www.savannahstate.edu/class/social-work/
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Firefighters, Accessed January 2018, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/firefighters.htm
- Scholarships, Boston University, Accessed January 2018, http://www.bu.edu/ssw/admissions/msw/msw-financial-aid/scholarships/
- Cash Prizes for Social Work Graduate Students, Accessed January 2018, http://students.acswa.org/scholarships/
- NASW Foundation Fellowship, Scholarship and Research Awards, NASW Foundation, Accessed January 2018, http://www.naswfoundation.org/fellowships.asp
- Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of Wintergreen Orchard House, a division of Carnegie Communications. Copyright © 2017-18 by Wintergreen Orchard House. All rights reserved.
Social work can best be described as a helping profession. Professionals in the field may work in a variety of environments and with diverse populations, but they share a common goal. Their job is to help people live to their fullest potential. They may do that by counseling students in schools, meeting with clients one-on-one or advocating for positive change in communities.
To become a social worker, people need to have at least a bachelor's degree. However, those who want to provide clinical services, such as counseling, will need a master's degree. Depending on the program, those with a bachelor's degree in the field may be able to earn a master's in social work in as little as one year.
For distance learners, online social work degrees are available at some schools. Both on-campus and online degrees for social work can prepare you for a meaningful career in a dynamic field.
Best Colleges for Social Work Degree Programs 2018-19
To find the best colleges for social work degree programs, Schools.com analyzed data related to program prominence, student support and accessibility. Using that methodology, the following schools rise to the top.
Located in the Mount Pleasant section of Providence, Rhode Island College was founded in 1854 as a teacher's college. One hundred years later, the school transformed to offer more comprehensive education programs. Today, it educates about 9,000 students both on-campus and online.
The School of Social Work at RIC offers the only Master of Social Work (MSW) in the state. It is also the only publicly funded social work program in Rhode Island. In addition to the MSW, the school offers a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) as well as several certificate options.
Rhode Island College ranks high for the prominence of its program and its low student-faculty ratio. Beyond resources within the School of Social Work, students have access to academic advising and even career placement services upon graduation.
It isn't just this list on which Arizona State University ranks high. The school and its programs make regular appearances on national college rankings such as those published by U.S. News & World Report. While its main campus is in Tempe, ASU's downtown Phoenix location houses the School of Social Work.
The school notes it has one of the largest and most diverse social work programs in the world. It offers both a BSW and MSW as well as graduate certificates. Students looking for online social work degrees can enroll in the ASU online MSW program.
Arizona State University ranks 12th overall for the prominence of its social work department. It also has the second best graduation rate among the schools on this list.
Developed as a public, regional university in Washington State, Eastern Washington University has its campus in Cheney. Close to Spokane and numerous outdoor recreation opportunities, the school says it's one of the fastest growing public institutions in the state.
The School of Social Work offers a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work (BASW) and a MSW at several locations. While it doesn't have any fully online degrees for social work, a hybrid MSW is available to combine online and traditional courses. EWU also awards certificates and has two dual degree options that allow students to earn a MSW along with either a law degree or a Master of Public Administration.
EWU ranks high for its flexible scheduling options, affordable tuition and student support services.
Wheelock College defines itself as a private college with a public mission. The school was founded in 1888 and specializes in providing degrees to those planning a career in the helping professions of education, social work and children's advocacy. Based in Boston, the college has plans to merge with Boston University in 2018.
The college's School of Social Work, Leadership and Youth Advocacy offers both a BSW and a MSW as well as other degrees related to the field. At both the undergraduate and graduate levels, dual degree options are available.
As one of the best colleges for social work degree programs, Wheelock College ranks sixth overall for the prominence of its program. It provides a variety of services to help students succeed and has the best graduation rate among the schools listed here.
Known to many as AU, Aurora University is located only 40 miles from downtown Chicago and has its campus in Aurora, Illinois. Across its four campus locations, the school educates approximately 5,600 students.
The School of Social Work prides itself on creating a community of learners that benefit from small class sizes and personalized support from faculty members. AU offers BSW, MSW and Doctor of Social Work (DSW) degrees. As for online social work degrees, there is an online degree completion program at the undergraduate level for those who already have some college credit. There is also an online MSW available.
Aurora University ranks fifth overall for the prominence of its program. It's also notable for its academic support, flexible scheduling and graduation rate.
Located in the heart of Los Angeles, Cal State LA is a public university founded in 1947. The school says it's enjoying record growth with more than 28,000 students enrolled. Many of its students are the first in their family to pursue a four-year degree.
The School of Social Work at California State University, Los Angeles awards both BASW and MSW degrees. The school has a particular emphasis on helping students prepare to work in diverse urban communities. To facilitate that, Cal State LA arranges for its students to receive field experience prior to graduation.
Among the university's strengths is its affordable tuition rate. It ranks third among the schools on this list when it comes to low in-state tuition and fees.
Murray State University is a public university in Kentucky and was founded in 1922. While its main campus is in Murray, the university has five regional campuses as well as online learning options. Overall, Murray enrolls more than 10,000 students.
Social work students can earn a BSW at Murray State University. The school's program has been continuously accredited by the Council on Social Work Education since 1974. Students are required to complete an internship prior to graduation to ensure they have the field experience employers may prefer.
With a 15-1 student-faculty ratio, Murray State University is well positioned to offer small classes and a personalized learning environment. The university also rated strongly for its student support services and affordable tuition.
Affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Southern Adventist University can trace its roots to 1892. Over the years, the school has grown and evolved although its core mission to providing excellent Christ-centered education remains unchanged. Its campus is in Collegedale, Tennessee.
The School of Social Work at Southern offers both a BSW and a MSW as well as minors in behavioral science and sociology. The MSW program can be completed in as little as 12 months by those with an undergraduate degree in social work. Those with a bachelor's in a different field can earn their Master of Social Work in two years.
Southern Adventist University offers night and weekend classes, academic advising and career placement services. It also has the third best graduation rate among the schools on this list.
Oglala Lakota College was established with the explicit goal of providing education to the Lakota People. However, the school is open to all and has proven itself to be one of the best colleges for social work degree programs.
At its campus in Kyle, South Dakota, the college's social work department offers a BSW. Students can select a degree emphasis in either the liberal arts or chemical dependency counseling. Oglala Lakota College designed its program with the intent that graduates will not only work in the social work field but also have the skills to move into leadership roles within tribal, state and federal organizations.
With a student-faculty ratio of 9-1, OLC has the smallest ratio of any school on this list. It also has the lowest tuition and fees, ranking 17th overall out of all the schools surveyed.
Nearly 5,000 students are enrolled at Savannah State University. The school is based in Savannah, Georgia and has a history that dates back to 1890.
The Department of Social Work at SSU offers a BSW that builds off a foundation in the liberal arts. There is also a MSW which can be focused on either clinical or social administration practice. At both levels, the department places a particular emphasis on recognizing the African-American legacy in the field while promoting a multi-cultural learning environment.
Among the top schools for social work, Savannah State University ranks second for affordable in-state tuition rate. The institution also has the fourth most prominent program among the schools on this list.
Social Work Degree Programs and Common Career Paths
Most social work students are working toward a career as a social worker. Those filling administrative roles can do so with a Bachelor of Social Work degree. However, anyone who wants to provide clinical services will need a Master of Social Work in order to be licensed by their state for this work.
Career Outlook for Social Work Majors
As understanding and awareness of mental health issues increases, the need for social workers may expand in the coming years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes the job outlook for those specializing in mental illness and substance abuse may be particularly robust.
PROJECTED JOB GROWTH(%)
|Healthcare Social Workers||$58,470||168,190||18.5%|
|Community Health Workers||$43,480||56,130||18.1%|
|Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers||$49,630||116,750||17.9%|
|Social and Human Service Assistants||$35,830||392,300||16.4%|
Financial Aid and Scholarships in Social Work
The NASW Foundation and the ACSWA both run scholarship programs for graduate students. Other awards may be available from state and regional organizations. What's more, many colleges and universities have their own scholarship and financial aid programs that are specifically for those studying in the field. For instance, Boston University has 15 different scholarships available to full-time and part-time MSW students.
Reapplication required for renewal.
Renewable subject to review.
To be included in these rankings, all schools must meet the following initial criteria for the specific subject being ranked.
- Offer an undergraduate degree (either associate or bachelor’s) in that subject.
- Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in the most recent year of IPEDS data available.
Based on those criteria, we ranked all 2-year and 4-year schools in IPEDS that reported data for all of the following points. Ratings are calculated on a 10-point scale, using the weights specified.
- In-state undergraduate tuition & fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Graduation rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Accessibility, based on admissions rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Institutional spending, based on two equally weighted factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Instructional and academic support expenses per full-time enrolled student
- Instructional and academic support spending as a percentage of all expenses
- Student-to-faculty ratio, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Flexibility, based on the following factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Percent of students enrolled fully or partly in distance education
- Whether the school offers programs that can be completed entirely in the evenings and on weekends
- Whether the school offers academic and career counseling
- Whether the school offers job placement services for students who complete their programs
- Whether the school offers any alternative tuition plans, such as a payment plan or guaranteed rate
- Size of program, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded in 2014-15 were in this particular subject, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Related subjects, based on the number of similar topics for programs in relevant CIP codes that are offered at any level, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015