California offers online and traditional accredited Bachelor of Social Work programs for you to choose from. Each of these degree options can allow students to explore the foundations of the social service field and provide building knowledge that leads to entry-level careers in the field or higher learning through MSW programs in California if you already have your BSW.

Bachelor of Social Work Degrees in California

As a social worker, one of the most important ways you can ensure a sustainable career is by locating yourself near plentiful work opportunities that will reward you for your challenging labor. One of the best places to find this is in the state of California.

California is one of the top employers of social workers in the country in every focus area.

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Indeed, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that California ranks among the top five employers of social workers in the arenas of child, family, and school services, healthcare social services, mental health and addiction services, and all other sectors of social work. This makes California an excellent choice for social workers of all types. (For even more good news about social work careers in the state, take a look at our California social worker salary data below.)

If you don’t yet hold a bachelor’s degree but know that you’d like to become a social worker, your first step toward that goal is obtaining your Bachelor of Social Work (BSW). Fortunately for California residents, there are many excellent options available.

Students preparing to begin their educational journey into the field of social work can start with online accredited BSW programs in the state of California. Accredited programs can provide learners with an optimum learning experience that includes pre-approved topics of study, experience opportunities, and a curriculum that can lead to professional licensure for some.

Whether you decide to pursue your degree through traditional or online means, California has degree options suitable for your needs. In today's society, more and more students are pursuing the convenience of online degrees as a means for developing a balanced schedule for personal or vocational needs.

As you continue to learn more about the state of California's opportunities for online social work programs, you are encouraged to explore CSWE accreditation and how it sets accredited programs apart from those without it. Reliable degree programs in the online environment can provide you with benefits not found in standard educational programs.

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Most Popular California Campus Based Accredited BSW Program

New learners entering into online and accredited BSW programs in California most often choose California State University at Chico for their degree. CSU's 3-year, year-round program can be a great option for learners prepared for an intensive learning experience.

This degree program includes an online curriculum completed in the virtual environment and 2 weekend intensives per semester on campus. All practicum requirements can be completed within the state of California in 1 of 18 designated counties.

One of the biggest advantages of a BSW is that it fast-tracks your social work education, making you eligible for an Advanced Standing (one-year) MSW.

There are no other bachelor’s degrees that allow you to effectively skip over the foundational coursework of an MSW program. While one does not need to hold a BSW to be a candidate for an MSW program, if you are certain that becoming a social worker is the path that’s right for you, a BSW will be your best bet to get a career started quickly.

BSW Degrees and Coursework

Alternative online BSW degree options for California residents include Brandman University and Humboldt State University. Each of these online and accredited BSW options could provide you with a learning experience that caters to your need for flexibility and reliability throughout the process.

Courses in Cultural Diversity and Social Work Basics

The courses that you take during a BSW program can include concepts related to the social welfare system and its emergence, as well as individual studies into cultural diversity and social work practice. The goal of the BSW program is to provide learners with knowledge of social work policy and practice for hands-on work in the field.

Internships Can Give Practical Experience

Most BSW programs may also require that students participate in a practicum or internship experience during their degree experiences. Others, like Brandman University, provide completely online programs with no campus visits required throughout the program.

Incoming students are encouraged to choose programs that are best aligned with their learning styles for the best possible learning experience. If you are the type of person that gains more through in-person contact, Humboldt's program that includes on-campus intensives could be a better choice for you.

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BSW Careers and Salaries

For new learners pursuing an online and accredited BSW programs, the career outlook can be incredibly diverse and include several different professional fields. Many social workers completing their BSW and pursuing entry-level positions in the field can obtain careers for social service agencies as case management professionals.

Social workers at the bachelor’s level can also provide case management services within the health care field, which can include organizing medical services for clients, working with families during difficult decision-making processes, and educating clients on their options and resources while under a physician’s care.

Working in the School System

One great way California social workers can devote their careers to creating positive change is by working within the school system. There are many positions built into the structure of California’s elementary, middle, and high schools that can provide immediate resources to kids and adolescents in need, from behavioral and emotional support to ensuring food security. These are roles that make a deep impact in the lives of students, some of whom come from especially vulnerable backgrounds. Indeed, California public schools are a top employer of social workers in the state, and are an excellent place to look if you are considering a career in the field.

Alternative career options could include providing one-on-one services to children in the school system or even partnering with mental health agencies for service coordination for clients. Skills in the field of social work can allow graduates to exercise their expertise in fields working directly with the public.

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California Social Worker Salary Range and Job Outlook

Beyond boasting some of the highest employment rates in the country, California also offers some of the highest overall salaries for social workers in every sector. (It is prudent to note that the cost of living is significantly higher in the state as well, meaning one should be diligent in estimating expenses before plotting a move.)

The following salary data was reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • Child, family, and school social workers earn a mean annual wage of $64,940
  • Healthcare social workers earn an annual mean wage of $84,960 per year
  • Mental health and substance abuse social workers earn an annual mean wage of $79,450
  • All other social workers in California earn a mean annual wage of $68,540

The job outlook for social workers across the country, meanwhile, is quite positive, with the BLS reporting a projected 9% growth rate of social workers by 2031. If you have been considering becoming a social worker, this should come as an excellent indication that you will be able to launch a successful career.


Do I need to get my BSW in the state of California in order to get my MSW there?

No, but it can be helpful if you are certain that you plan to attend an advanced standing MSW program immediately after, as you will have all of your coursework complete and be thoroughly versed in the specific facets of social services that are unique to the state. It may also be helpful if you intend to receive your MSW from the same institution where you received your BSW.

What jobs can I get with a BSW?

A BSW is not a high enough degree level to qualify you for the position of a full-fledged social worker or an LCSW. However, it can help you obtain entry-level jobs in social service organizations that can provide valuable exposure to the field and direct your studies as you pursue your master’s degree.

Do I need a BSW to apply for an MSW?

No – MSWs are open to anyone who holds a bachelor’s degree. However, a BSW is the only option that allows you to bypass the introductory coursework of a master’s program. This is why it is advised for students who are certain they’d like to become social workers, as it will expedite their educational path and let them start their careers more quickly.

2021 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and employment figures for Social Workers, All other, reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed March 2023.