A college education is necessary for a career in social work. If you’re eager to get started in the profession, the social work degree program you choose can make a big difference in your career path. Some programs allow students to save a year or more – potentially cutting the time it takes to earn their undergraduate degree in half – through transfer credits, competency-based curricula or accelerated course loads.
Accreditation for the Fastest Social Work Degree Programs
Not all Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree programs are accredited by the Council for Social Work Education (CSWE). Choosing a program that doesn’t have accreditation can be a big mistake. In every state, aspiring social workers must have a degree from an accredited program to be eligible for licensure, CSWE reported. Fortunately, among the more than 500 CSWE-accredited bachelor’s degree programs at the baccalaureate level are several online and on-campus programs that allow for faster completion times. All of the programs listed in this article are accredited by CSWE as of this writing.
Although CSWE accredits programs at the baccalaureate and master’s degree levels, it does not accredit associate’s degrees or doctoral degree programs.
Bachelor’s Degree Completion Programs in Social Work
Although a bachelor’s degree is commonly called a “four-year” degree, it doesn’t have to take four years. If you already have college credit from previous studies – even if you never finished your degree – a degree completion program in social work can make sure you can still apply the coursework you completed to your Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree.
How long it would take you to get your BSW through a degree completion program depends on how much prior college experience you have and on your program’s transfer credits policy. Generally, degree completion programs have some of the most generous transfer credit policies out there. For example, the online social work degree program at Briar Cliff University allows students to transfer as many as 90 credits, or the equivalent of three years of full-time study, from another college.
Some programs are tailored to students with at least 60 college credits, or the equivalent of an associate’s degree. The Online Bachelor of Arts in Social Work (BASW) program from Millersville University and the Bachelor of Social Work Completion program at the University of Saint Joseph in Connecticut are two such programs. Programs of this nature are intended to be completed in two years when students study full-time.
Due to the degree requirements of different programs and schools, students may have 60 credits but not met the requirements for an associate’s degree. Degree completion programs accept the credits whether or not the student has earned a degree.
Competency-Based BSW Programs
When it comes to real-world social work practice, it’s not the courses you took in college that matter, but the concepts and skills you have learned. In recognition of this fact, some colleges offer competency-based BSW degree programs. As opposed to credit-based programs, in which students make progress toward their degrees only as they complete courses slowly, semester by semester, programs with competency-based structures award credit for the knowledge the student has or gains through study outside of a traditional face-to-face or online classroom setting. Walden University’s BSW program and Indiana University Northwest’s BSW program are two of the competency-based programs accredited by the CSWE.
If you have previous work experience in a related field, or if you are willing to work hard and study independently, you can earn credits through assessments in the form of tests, academic papers and other projects to complete a competency-based program faster.
BSW Degrees With Accelerated Formats
You don’t have to have prior college credit or work experience to get your degree quickly. In BSW programs that offer an accelerated format, you just have to be willing to work very hard. Because these programs still require the same rigorous coursework as a traditionally-structured program, you should expect the workload to be intense – but worthwhile.
The hybrid BSW Accelerated Degree Program at Misericordia University in Pennsylvania offers many courses in a half-semester format, so students work through classes faster, and includes summer sessions to complete degree requirements faster. Students can finish this BSW degree program in as little as two years. La Salle University’s accelerated BSW also consists of hybrid courses, with the in-person portions being held at La Salle’s Montgomery County Center in Plymouth Meeting. It takes as little as 15 months to complete this program.
There is a difference between online programs and hybrid programs that incorporate both online and face-to-face studies. The field experience portion of the program must be completed on-site, and students usually must provide their own transportation.