Social workers are employed in many settings, from public welfare agencies to health organizations to schools and research institutions to community programs. They are involved in counseling, managing human services, analyzing social welfare policy, community organization and development, teaching, client advocacy, social and political research, and other pursuits.

Why Study at Iowa

Iowa’s School of Social Work has a tradition of innovation in social work education, research, public service, and activism. Its undergraduate program will prepare you for social work practice with individuals, families, small groups, organizations, and communities and give you a foundation for graduate education in social work and for lifelong learning. It also will prepare you for active engagement with issues of social justice, oppression, and social welfare at local, state, regional, national, and global levels. 

About 90 undergraduates major in social work. You'll study with students from diverse backgrounds and cultural perspectives. You'll also have access to a high level of faculty expertise due to the school's location at a major research university.

As a social work student, you may choose to participate in one of several service-learning opportunities, in which you'll apply social work knowledge, skills, and values as you encounter people who live in dramatically different environments, come from very different cultures and, in some cases, speak a different language. Service-learning programs complement classroom instruction and have included trips to cities in the United States, Mexico, and India. 

Course Work

Course work for students in the Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree program in social work includes:

  • Social Justice and Social Welfare in the United States or Introduction to Social Work
  • Field Experience Seminar
  • Field Experience
  • Seven or more additional social work courses
  • Human Biology
  • Introduction to American Politics
  • Elementary Psychology
  • Introduction to Sociology Principles
  • Two elective social work courses and two electives in an approved area such as aging studies, anthropology, business, critical cultural competence, economics, education, psychology, or sociology. Or, students may elect to take six additional elective credits in social work, for a total of 12 elective hours in social work. 

You may complement this major by earning one of the university's many certificates. The Certificate in Aging and Longevity Studies and the Certificate in Critical Cultural Competence are administered by the School of Social Work.

See Social Work in the UI General Catalog to learn more about the major and graduating with honors.

Minor in Social Work

See Social Work in the UI General Catalog.

Admission Requirements

Students interested in this major need to meet the requirements for admission to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. 

Admission to the social work major is competitive; you must apply and be admitted. As an entering first-year student, you'll declare a social work interest as your major for advising assignments and course selection. 

To apply to the degree program, you will need to have a cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA) of at least 2.50, and you must earn a grade of C or higher in Social Justice and Social Welfare in the United States or Introduction to Social Work, or a comparable course approved by the School of Social Work. You also must submit a completed application form and a personal statement. If your GPA is lower than 2.50, you still may be considered if you demonstrate potential in other areas.

To learn more about admission, contact the School of Social Work.

Admission Requirements Tabs

Student Opportunities

In addition to more than 500 Student Organizations, Iowa students choose from multiple Study Abroad Programs and Undergraduate Research Opportunities.

The school sponsors the annual Latinx Conference, which explores the changing demographics and dynamics of Iowa’s Latino community and the responsiveness of policymakers, business leaders, and community-based organizations to the fastest growing population in the state. 

The annual Creative Writing Seminar for Social Workers is designed for social work educators and practitioners who are interested in using creative writing as a professional tool.

The Student Social Work Association provides the school with committee representatives and organizes service-oriented and social events.

Faculty, Facilities, and Resources

The National Resource Center for Family Centered Practice is located at the School of Social Work. The center specializes in child welfare, community action, mental health, juvenile justice, job training programs, county extension, and Head Start. It provides technical assistance, staff training, research and evaluation, and library research on family-based programs and issues to public and private human service agencies in states, counties, and communities across the United States.

Des Moines BA Program

This program is designed for students who have earned their associate degree or are transferring with two years of completed undergraduate course work. The program begins each fall, is sequenced, and can be completed in two years full-time or in three years on a part-time basis. 

All social work courses are currently taught in the classrooms at the John and Mary Pappajohn Education Center on Grand Avenue in downtown Des Moines. Other requirements are offered online or through a combination of classroom and online methods. Students do not need to travel to the main UI campus in Iowa City for any courses, although that is an option for those who are interested. 

Fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, the program is administered by the School of Social Work in cooperation with the Division of Continuing Education.


Iowa graduates have job placement rates ranging from 86-100 percent, depending on their area of study, and our Pomerantz Career Center offers multiple resources to help students find internships and jobs.

The social work major will prepare you for employment in social service areas such as public welfare, child welfare, mental health, elderly services, group services, and corrections. Many graduates continue with advanced study in social work or related physical and mental health professions.


The Office of Admissions and the Office of Student Financial Aid are great resources for students seeking scholarships.

The School of Social Work offers several scholarships to its students based on academics, community service, research, and diversity. The $4,000 Jean H. Winter and Robin Odem Award is presented to a junior in social work who is an Iowa resident. The H. Wayne and Donna J. Johnson Award for Social Work Undergraduate Students provides a $500 scholarship.

Application Process

Application Process Tabs

Apply to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences declaring an interest in social work as your major in order to receive specialized advising.


Social Work (BA)
Social Work
Online/Off-campus Program(s)
Des Moines BA Program
Honors Courses
Four-Year Graduation Plan
Competitive Admission
Program admits 40 students per year