Masters In Social Work Online
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that social workers’ employment will rise by 11% between 2018 and 2028, more than double the average rate of growth for the rest of the economy. Additionally, social workers earned a median salary of $65,511 in 2021, roughly $11,000 more than the median pay for all other occupations.
You may qualify for certain entry-level positions with a bachelor’s degree, but most lucrative roles often require some advanced coursework, such as a master’s of social work or a doctorate in social work online. According to the National Association of Social Workers, social workers with a master’s degree in social work are able to earn about $13,000 more per year than those with just a bachelor’s.
Master’s in Social Work Online Programs Overview
A Masters in Social Work Online program is a personal decision, and only you can evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of different programs based on your individual educational needs. We’ve ranked universities that have accredited online master’s of social work degree programs. The list may serve as a helpful entry point when you’re searching for the best program for you.
Top 25 Masters In Social Work Online Programs | DC
1. University of Central Florida
UCF has two low-cost masters in social work online programs that are approved by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
Non-social work bachelor’s degree holders are eligible to enroll in the 62-credit, part-time program, which is delivered in a three-year cohort format. Students with bachelor’s degrees in social work from CSWE-accredited programs are eligible for the 32-credit advanced standing track. This option, which is also available in a part-time cohort format, is completed in 18-24 months.
Both tracks place a premium on diverse client populations, family medicine, and preventive and therapeutic interventions. Students register for one class per term, which lasts seven weeks. A capstone project, a comprehensive exam, and 600 hours of practicum experience are required in addition to online coursework. Distance learners can plan to complete their practicum experiences within an hour’s drive of their homes.
UCF provides online students with online coaches who help them navigate the program and stay on track to graduate.
2. California State University, San Bernardino
For students seeking masters in social work online program, CSUSB’s school of social work offers a pathway distance education program.
For degree seekers who are unable to attend campus-based meetings, the university offers this full-time three-year program that is entirely online.
The Council on Social Work Education-accredited online MSW program prepares graduates for social work licensure in California. Its demanding curriculum, based on an advanced generalist model, includes 48 credits, a capstone project, a comprehensive exam, and two years of precepted fieldwork.
Degree candidates choose specializations in their final year to work with specific client populations, such as the elderly or adolescents; a field of practice, such as mental health or child welfare; or a social issue, such as domestic violence or racism.
3. Arizona State University
ASU’s school of social work, which is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, offers an online master of social work (MSW) program that leads to Arizona licensure.
This program does not have a clinical concentration, but instead focuses on effective and culturally competent practice across system levels, as well as evidence-based change strategies.
Masters in social work online program is 60 credits long and includes courses in administration, behavioral health, community practice, and policy and services for children, youth, and families. Distance learners typically take 20 courses over the course of two years, with each course lasting 7.5 weeks. In addition, the program necessitates 960 hours of field education at two different internship sites. Its Field Education Office in the School of Social Work assists students in finding local placements.
A minimum 3.0 GPA in the last 60 hours of undergraduate work is required for admission to this social work program. An enrolled student who does not meet this requirement may apply for the MSW after completing two graduate-level courses with a grade of “B” or higher.
4. University of Texas at Arlington
UTA offers fully online cohort master of social work (MSW) tracks for students with advanced standing as well as standard track enrollees. Students can complete their degree requirements in less than two years, depending on the path they take.
The competitive advanced standing online program accepts a small number of highly motivated students with bachelor’s degrees in social work. Each fall semester, new cohorts are formed. Classes are held in fast-paced eight-week formats, with the goal of completing a degree in 12 months.
Courses are offered in 16-week sessions in the regular online full-time cohort program. Cohorts typically begin in the fall and spring semesters and complete the degree in 26 months. UTA also has a part-time cohort route to the MSW.
Masters in social work online program includes several concentrations that emphasize direct practice. Students can specialize in client populations such as the elderly, children, and families, as well as mental health, substance abuse, health, and community and administrative practice areas.
This accredited online program only accepts Texas residents, but will accept Texas residents serving in the military or military spouses living outside of the state.
5. New Mexico State University
NMSU, a NASA Space Grant school with a Hispanic student body, provides affordable and accessible educational opportunities.
Masters in social work online program offers coursework in either synchronous or asynchronous mode. The MSW offers four degree paths:
- Regular Full-Time Track: Two years, 60 credits
- Regular Part-Time Track: Three years, 60 credits
- Advanced Standing Full-Time Track: One year, 30 credits
- Advanced Standing Part-Time Track: Two years, 30 credits
Advanced standing students with bachelor’s degrees in social work, as well as regular pathway enrollees with other undergraduate backgrounds, are trained in advanced generalist social work practice with individuals, groups, families, communities, and organizations.
Coursework focuses on multicultural environments, research, social welfare policy, and working with vulnerable populations. The degree requires 950 practicum hours, which include 450 hours of foundation fieldwork over two semesters and 500 hours of advanced generalist practice fieldwork over two semesters.
6. University of South Florida
More than 50,000 students attend USF’s campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee, and online.
The university offers a masters in social work online program to meet the growing demand for skilled clinical practitioners among South Florida residents. The MSW program focuses solely on clinical social work with individuals, families, and small groups.
Distance learners can choose between a full-time track that takes four semesters to complete or an eight-semester part-time track. Applicants to the MSW who have earned a bachelor’s degree in social work from a Council on Social Work Education-accredited institution may enter the 35-credit advanced standing track, which allows them to skip the first semester of foundation courses.
Students who enter the program with no prior experience in social work must complete 60 credits. All degree candidates must complete a sequential instructional sequence, which includes a capstone course in the final semester.
7. University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
UTRGV, which is only 15 miles from the United States’ southern border, has established two online master of social work (MSW) programs that focus on the needs of the border region’s Latino communities.
The masters in social work online program with a concentration in administration and community practice fosters the leadership skills required to strengthen and improve human services in the Latino community. The master of science in direct practice with Latino individuals, families, and groups focuses on the policies and practices that are used to work with at-risk Latino populations.
Graduates in bachelor of social work programs approved by the Council on Social Work Education are eligible for advanced standing in the MSW program. Applicants must have passed an undergraduate statistics course and have a GPA of at least 3.2 in all social work courses.
Distance learners who participate in the advanced standing MSW program take classes in seven-week blocks to complete all degree requirements in one year. Degree candidates must also complete 500 hours of practicum work.
8. Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Rutgers University offers a completely masters in social work online program as a hybrid track that incorporates web-based and academic learning.
Candidates of bachelor’s degrees in social work from programs approved by the Council on School Work Education are eligible for advanced status on all tracks. Students with advanced status will complete their MSW in four semesters.
Regular standing students in the completely online curriculum complete three years of learning in entirely asynchronous courses, allowing distance learners to progress at their own rate. This track includes two field placements, a three-semester generalist experience, and a four-semester advanced clinical placement.
The three-year blended program consists of four initial online semesters, followed by a final year of in-person and online classes. Students in the blended program can choose between clinical social work and management and policy specializations, whereas online learners can only concentrate on clinical practice.
9. Colorado State University
CSU’s masters in social work online program offers students the option of fully online or blended learning.
Applicants with non-social work baccalaureate degrees are eligible to enroll in the 60-credit traditional program, which takes three years to complete. For graduates with a bachelor’s degree in social work, the advanced standing option requires 40 credits, which students typically complete in two years.
The curriculum places a premium on advanced generalist skills in direct services, community and organizational practice, social policy analysis, and social work research. While pursuing their MSWs, degree-seekers can also pursue specialized certifications:
- Advanced clinical behavioral health
- Conflict resolution and mediation
- Military and veteran culture
- Nonprofit administration
- PreK-12 school social worker
If they did not complete them during their undergraduate studies, distance learners must complete several prerequisites. These courses consist of 18 credits in social and natural science, including statistics, and nine credits in any combination of sociology, psychology, economics, anthropology, and history.
10. University of Arkansas
UA’s online advanced standing masters in social work online program mirrors the on-campus curriculum but does not require any in-person course requirements or campus residencies.
This 39-credit accelerated online MSW program only accepts students with bachelor’s degrees in social work from Council on Social Work Education-accredited programs. Each applicant must have a 3.0 GPA in their final 60 credits of their bachelor’s degree program and demonstrate computer literacy through prior coursework.
While the GRE is not required for admission to the program, prospective MSW students must submit three letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and a social needs essay.
Once accepted into the MSW program, distance students progress through the coursework in cohorts, completing all requirements in a one-year sequence, including a thesis, a comprehensive exam, and a mandatory internship requiring 22 hours per week of field experience. Field experiences can be completed by students in their own communities.
11. Temple University
Temple University, founded in 1884 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has grown into a top-tier public research institution with over 500 academic programs.
Its low-cost masters in social work online program offers two online options to students. The 60-credit, standard-entry MSW program requires two years of full-time enrollment or three to four years of part-time enrollment. Prospective students who have earned a bachelor’s degree in social work within the last five years may be eligible for the advanced standing program, which allows them to complete their MSW in 12 months of full-time enrollment or 18 months of part-time enrollment.
The curriculum allows students to specialize in clinical practice or macro practice. All online students must arrange for two internships. A minimum of 400 hours is required for the first field practicum, which is part of the foundation coursework. The second practicum is a 600-hour placement focused on a concentration.
Its public health college has created a dual degree that combines the MSW with a master of public health. The online dual degree program takes 3-5 years to complete.
12. University of HawaiÊ»i at MÄnoa
UH Mnoa, an indigenous-serving institution known for its low tuition, provides a convenient hybrid master of social work (MSW) format.
The distance education MSW program employs a blended instructional format that includes online evening classes, interactive television courses, and face-to-face instruction on occasion. Distance education students must attend annual on-campus meetings in Manoa for advising and specialized training.
Distance learners complete the program in cohorts of no more than 30 students, completing all requirements in three years. In addition to the sequenced coursework, the 57-credit MSW curriculum necessitates 900 hours of field placements spread across four semesters, including a concurrent field integration seminar that integrates knowledge and skills learned in the classroom and the field.
The masters in social work online program is only open to residents of Hawaii. Students will be prepared for the national social work master’s exam, which will lead to state licensure as a clinical social worker.
13. University of Tennessee, Knoxville
The master of science in social work (MSSW) program at UT Knoxville prepares graduates to work with diverse and vulnerable populations in a culturally relevant and ethical manner.
The Council on Social Work Education-accredited MSSW program offers an online format that delivers courses synchronously at scheduled times or asynchronously, allowing students to access material at their leisure.
The program offers three instructional pathways:
- Full-Time Program: 60 credits, two years
- Part-Time Extended Study Program: 60 credits, 3-4 years, hybrid, some required on-campus classes
- Advanced Standing Program: 37 credits, one year full-time, two years part-time, for students who have bachelor of social work degrees
Students in all three pathways have the option of concentrating in clinical practice or macro practice. While pursuing a master’s degree in social work, students can earn certificates in forensic social work, gerontology, school social work licensure, or the emerging field of veterinary social work.
Each full-time and extended study distance learner must complete 1,024 hours of field education. The advanced standing program necessitates 672 hours of study.
14. Texas State University
Texas State, a growing research and Hispanic-serving university, currently enrolls 38,000 students in over 200 academic programs, including a master of social work (MSW) program offered both on campus and online.
The masters in social work online program prepares graduates to provide direct practice and administrative services to a wide range of individuals and families throughout their lives.
Online students can choose between regular and accelerated learning paths. Bachelor’s degree holders who do not have a background in social work can apply for the regular advanced practice leadership track, which takes two years to complete.
This 62-credit option devotes the first year of coursework to fundamental social work knowledge and skills. The curriculum emphasizes specialized practice in the second advanced year.
Students with a bachelor’s degree in social work from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education can enroll directly in the advanced year of the 36-credit advanced practice leadership track. While neither track requires a thesis, students must complete intensive, supervised agency-based field practice experiences.
15. Virginia Commonwealth University
VCU’s school of social work, founded in 1917, has grown into one of the most comprehensive accredited social work programs in the United States. Its online master of social work (MSW) program provides a variety of study options.
Distance learners can enroll in a full-time program that lasts 16 or 24 months, a part-time program that lasts 3-4 years, or an accelerated, one-year, advanced standing track for candidates with bachelor’s degrees in social work.
Each track of the MSW program admits students three times a year. Enrollees attend synchronous evening classes on a set schedule to accommodate working students or those completing field experiences during the day. Distance learners can choose between administrative and clinical practice specializations in the curriculum.
Human rights, diversity, cultural competence, and ethical practice are all reflected in the coursework. Graduates gain the skills and knowledge needed to become licensed clinical practitioners in evidence-based and trauma-informed intervention models.
16. University of Houston
The University of Houston graduate college of social work, which is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, offers two online master of social work (MSW) programs. Non-social work bachelor’s degree holders can enroll in a 63-credit program that takes three years to complete.
For students with bachelor’s degrees in social work, the 38-credit advanced standing option provides an accelerated two-year pathway to degree completion. Clinical and macro practice specializations are available to online students. Clinical practice coursework trains students to provide evidence-based interventions to individuals, couples, families, and communities.
Its macro practice specialization prepares students for leadership roles working with vulnerable populations in urban settings. 900 hours of supervised fieldwork are required for all MSW programs. Local placements are arranged by distance learners in collaboration with field coordinators.
The UH program provides one-of-a-kind opportunities to gain in-depth and distinctive professional experiences outside of the classroom. Students can pursue focused internships and specialized training in areas such as law, child welfare, behavioral health leadership, and trauma education.
17. University of North Dakota
Founded in 1883, six years before North Dakota became a state, UND has a student population of over 13,500 spread across nine academic divisions.
UND, which is nationally recognized for its distance learning programs, offers a low-cost masters in social work online program that charges the same tuition to in-state and out-of-state students. The MSW curriculum is designed for students who work full-time and includes convenient evening live web courses.
Distance learners have a choice between two instructional models. The online distance concentration is designed for students with bachelor’s degrees in social work and takes only one year to complete. This accelerated 36-credit program includes an advanced standing track that allows students to skip foundational coursework. One on-campus visit is required for the online pathway.
Students with non-social work undergraduate degrees are admitted to the second option, a 60-credit online distance track. This program, including the two required campus sessions, may take three or more years to complete. A 500-hour field experience is required for the MSW, which distance learners can complete in their own communities.
18. Fordham University
Fordham University is the oldest Catholic and Jesuit university in the northeastern United States, with nearly 17,000 students enrolled in nine schools. The “future-focused, skills-based” online master of social work (MSW) program at the university offers two distinct degree paths.
The 66-credit-traditional masters in social work online program for students with bachelor’s degrees in fields other than social work includes generalist and advanced direct practice coursework. This degree path can be completed by distance learners in as little as 16 months of full-time enrollment or between 24-32 months of part-time enrollment.
Students who enter the program with a bachelor’s degree in social work or one year of master’s level social work credits are eligible to apply for the advanced standing online MSW. Learners in this 33-credit accelerated program enter directly into advanced direct-practice courses, allowing them to complete their degrees in as little as eight months full time or 16 months part time.
Distance learners in both tracks collaborate with academic advisors to create personalized coursework that focuses on individuals and families, organizations and communities, evaluation, and policy practice and advocacy.
19. Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis
IUPUI, formed by the merger of Indiana University Indianapolis and Purdue University in 1969, offers over 200 degrees, including a top-ranked fully online master of social work (MSW) direct program.
This low-cost MSW program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and offers two options.
Candidates with bachelor’s degrees in fields other than social work are admitted to the regular standing program. This option requires distance learners to complete foundational coursework before concentrating on clinical and community practice.
Students with a bachelor’s degree in social work can enroll in the accelerated advanced standing program, where they will begin their studies in concentration coursework. The clinical and community practice concentration prepares students for professional roles in practice and administration, integrating micro-to-macro services.
The masters in social work online program allows students to earn graduate certificates in e-social work while pursuing their master’s degrees. This certificate, the first of its kind in the country, trains social workers in telebehavioral health practice in order to reach underserved client populations.
20. Boston University
The BU masters in social work online program is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and offers three part-time online learning options.
- 65-Credit Traditional Track: This track is open to applicants with bachelor’s degrees in fields other than social work and lasts three years. Students attend weekly live sessions to participate in online foundation and advanced courses. Each student is required to complete two internships totaling 1,200 hours.
- A 65-Credit Human Service Experience Track: Applicants must have at least two years of full-time human services experience. This path leads to the same degree as the traditional path, but each learner must complete one advanced, 1,000-hour internship.
- A 43-Credit Advanced Standing Track: This pathway is open to students who have earned a bachelor’s degree in social work from an accredited program within the previous six years of entering the MSW program. It consists of six semesters spread over two years. Each student takes online advanced courses and weekly live sessions, as well as one 1,000-hour advanced internship.
Except for the weekly live sessions held on Sunday or Monday evenings, all three tracks deliver courses asynchronously. Degree candidates work their way through the curriculum in a sequential fashion, with classes lasting seven weeks.
21. University of South Dakota
USD’s masters in social work online program prepares graduates to provide clinical and administrative services to diverse communities in South Dakota and the surrounding region.
Students who do not have a baccalaureate in social work must complete a 60-credit regular standing track that includes a foundation and concentration curriculum.
Candidates with a bachelor’s degree in social work from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education are eligible to enroll in the 36-credit advanced standing concentration. Applicants to the online MSW program must meet the following criteria:
- Appropriate bachelor’s degree for regular standing or advanced standing
- A cumulative GPA of 3.0
- Three reference letters
- 3-5-page academic paper and a statement of purpose
- Cover letter and resume
USD joins ten other universities in the Path to Licensure program. Accepted students in this initiative are automatically qualified for the national master’s-level social work exam for clinical practice.
22. Winthrop University
Winthrop University, founded in 1886 in South Carolina, has grown into a comprehensive public institution offering graduate and undergraduate programs in the arts and sciences, education, business administration, and visual and performing arts.
Winthrop University offers a fully masters in social work online program with a focus on empowering practice. This method prepares social workers to deal with the effects of personal, structural, and societal power structures on vulnerable populations.
There are two tracks for the MSW. The traditional 60-credit program option, designed for students with non-social work degrees, takes three years to complete. For bachelor of social work degree holders, the 39-credit advanced standing option allows them to complete all degree requirements in two years or less.
Both tracks deliver courses asynchronously, allowing students to access them at any time of day or night. Field placements are required for all distance learners. Each traditional standing student completes a one-term generalist internship before moving on to a two-term specialized internship placement. Only a two-term specialized internship is required for the advanced standing track.
23. University of Maine
Applicants to UMaine’s masters in social work online program must be residents of Maine, Vermont, or New Hampshire. This low-cost MSW, accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, meets Maine licensure requirements.
Students with accredited bachelor’s degrees in social work can enroll in the 46-credit advanced standing track, which takes two years to complete and includes 500 hours of field placement. Candidates with bachelor’s degrees in fields other than social work can pursue the 63-credit regular-standing track, which typically takes three years and 900 hours of field experience.
Both tracks use a cohort model in which students are assigned to sequential courses and field placements. While most courses run asynchronously with no scheduled meetings, some classes include synchronous components at predetermined times. Students, for example, attend field seminar classes with other members of their cohort. Enrollees must also attend in-person meetings with their cohort at the Orono campus twice a semester.
24. Montclair State University
Montclair State University in New Jersey has a reputation for providing affordable undergraduate and graduate degrees, promoting educational success for students of all ethnic and economic backgrounds.
This orientation is reflected in the masters in social work online program, which prepares graduates for social work practice with a variety of populations, including vulnerable children, adolescents, and their families.
The full-time cohort model is used in the 60-credit MSW program, which is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. During the first year, each distance learner completes coursework in generalist practice and works 15 hours per week in a supervised field placement. In the second year, degree candidates take advanced specialized practice courses with children, youth, and families, as well as a related field experience for 21 hours per week.
For students with a bachelor’s degree in social work, a 33-credit advanced standing option places them directly in advanced specialized practice courses. This track can be completed in three semesters and includes a minimum of 1,000 hours of field experience.
25. University of Alaska Anchorage
The University of Alaska Anchorage has an masters in social work online program that takes two to four years to complete.
This advanced generalist program prepares graduates for a variety of roles and responsibilities in social work settings and practice levels. While the program is available online, students must physically reside in the state in order to enroll.
The curriculum for the program includes a foundation curriculum as well as an advanced generalist practice concentration curriculum. Students study social work practice, policy, human behavior in the social environment, and field research. MSW students must also complete two years of field practicum.
Applicants to the MSW program who have a BSW from an accredited school can apply for advanced placement and complete the program in less than two years. Applicants to the MSW/MPH dual degree program at the school must meet admission requirements for both programs and apply separately to each. A resume, personal statement, writing sample, official transcripts, and three letters of reference are required as part of the application process.
2021 Best Accredited Online Master’s in Social Work Degree Programs
There are many accredited colleges and universities that offer an online MSW program. With so many options available, it can be difficult to determine which programs will be the best fit for your needs. To make your search a little easier, we have compiled this list of the top online MSW programs in the country.
Our rankings include information about the courses and concentrations offered in these programs, admission requirements, financial aid opportunities, and the kind of accreditation each school or social work program possesses. Furthermore, it indicates whether programs offer their online classes synchronously or asynchronously, making it easier to plan around personal or professional commitments.
If you want to learn more about a specific school, contact their admissions office directly. Staff at the admissions office can provide more information about whether you qualify for tuition discounts or scholarships, if you need to take certain entrance exams, and what services and support the school provides to students seeking an MSW degree.
Why Get An MSW?
The short answer: you need a license to practice social work, and you need a social work degree to earn a social work license.
Well, it’s a little more complicated than that, although it’s true that those with an LBSW are indeed social workers. But while it may be easy enough to slap Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) after your name and start hitting the phones as a social worker, there is so much more to be done.
If you’re not sure yet if a master’s is for you, keep in mind that most relatively entry-level jobs for MSW holders don’t generally require a license. They may include helping at a food pantry, working in a hospital social worker office, or volunteering at a charity. So even if the prospect of practicing clinical social work doesn’t excite you, there are plenty of positions out there to consider.
Not so fast there. While the BSW qualifies you to practice social work, it is not considered a Masters in Social Work (MSW) even though it leads to that level of advanced practice. A BSW differs from an MSW in several key aspects: It does not take as long to complete, it is mostly focused on direct client services instead of research, and it may not leave you with the same set of clinical skills and knowledge that are provided by a true MSW degree.
However, we have some fantastic news for you: your BSW allows you to enter an MSW program with advanced standing. This can cut the number of credits required for the MSW degree, as well as the time and money required, in half.
Most social work degree programs require that students hold a bachelor’s degree in a field other than social work in order to earn an MSW. If you do not have a previous Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) or if you don’t have an undergraduate degree at all, then you will probably need to obtain an MSW degree before moving on to a BSW program. You must enroll in a standard MSW program, which typically takes 60 credit hours (two years of full-time study) to complete.
Whatever path you choose, you will need to complete MSW coursework as well as a fieldwork practicum. In most cases, 900 to 1,200 hours of service in a social work setting are required. You should plan on spending two to three full days per week fulfilling this requirement, which usually occurs during the second year of full-time standard MSW study.
When you decide to get an MSW, knowing what you’ll actually be getting can be helpful. Whether you are pursuing a master’s degree in social work to enhance your knowledge, increase your potential for a promotion or jump into a b school for advanced career opportunities, there is a wealth of information available online about the coursework, practicum requirements and related topics.
Is An Online MSW As Valuable As An On-Campus MSW?
“Well, maybe in a few years,” the answer might have been a few years ago. However, the answer is now an unequivocal “yes.” This is why:
- Online delivery has gotten much better recently: Because of increases in bandwidth capacity, online classes—typically hosted in an online conferencing app like Zoom or Adobe Connect—are now completely glitch-free. Similarly, interactive learning and testing apps no longer freeze, crash, fail, or begin smoking. The Internet has caught up to online education.
- Schools have learned from past mistakes: Online educators have had time to see what works and what doesn’t. They have stopped doing what doesn’t work, and are doing more of the things that do.
- More schools are offering online MSW degrees: Online programs are improving more quickly than ever. They have to if they want to stay ahead of the competition. Competition makes quality better and helps accelerate the process of learning from each other’s mistakes.
- As online degrees gain acceptance, more people enroll: As enrollment goes up, online degrees become more accepted, leading to an increase in enrollment. Call it a lovely circle (as opposed to a vicious one), but the end result is the increasing legitimacy of online degrees.
School’s do not differentiate between online and on-campus degrees: all enrolled students receive the same Master of Social Work degree to frame in the office. The only way anyone will know you studied online is if you let them know.
You May Also Like These Online College Rankings
Are Online MSW Programs Accredited?
The only accrediting body for online MSW programs is the Council on Social Work Education. Many schools are accredited by the council.
How Long Does An MSW Online Take To Complete?
The time it takes to earn an online MSW varies among schools. Some offer accelerated programs that can be completed in just one year, while others offer synchronous cohorts that take up to four years.
Can You Get Your Master’s In Social Work Online?
Online MSW programs are available in a variety of formats. Some are taught in a cohort format, while others are designed for asynchronous learning.
How To Get A Degree In Social Work Online
MSW requirements typically include a bachelor’s degree and one or more years of field experience. For more information, students should review an individual school’s application requirements.
Where Can I Get A Degree In Social Work Online?
Colleges offer online social work degrees at many online schools. Students should check if their preferred school offers this degree to receive more accurate information.
Choosing a Program
Will An Online MSW Program Provide Me With The Skills I Need?
The MSW degree is offered by graduate schools of social work accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). A social work degree can be earned online or on campus. Regardless of the school you choose, earning an MSW requires completion of a minimum number of course hours and field education hours.
Will An Online MSW Program Work With My Schedule?
A master’s in social work online program may make more sense for you than a traditional MSW program if you have other obligations and responsibilities that hinder your attendance at a university campus. An online learning environment can provide the same level of quality, education, and support as a traditional MSW program without the added time and cost of commuting to class or living separately during in-person sessions.
Students can also study on the go using laptops, tablets, smartphones, or other portable devices with internet capabilities. If students have other responsibilities – including childcare or full-time employment – they can apply for internships or practicum experiences.
Taking an online MSW program may be ideal for students with high levels of motivation, who are willing to make sacrifices, and/or have family or personal obligations that interfere with a more traditional on-campus MSW program. The fact is: if you want to pursue your Master’s in Social Work on a part-time basis and still achieve a high level of academic success, you can!
Are There Internships Available For Real Work Experience While You Earn Your Degree?
There are several advantages to completing an internship while earning your Master of Social Work degree online. Some MSW courses involve hands-on learning components, so the opportunity to practice these skills among real patients at a clinical site will help you develop proactive problem-solving and critical-thinking skills to help you better serve others in need.
Will It Get Me The Job?
A master’s of social work (MSW) is useful for many things: research, advanced theory and practice, administrative work, and it can serve as an important step toward a rewarding career in social work. But the work does not end there. In addition to a master’s degree, job candidates must complete at least two years of post-graduate employment in order to qualify for many social work positions.
Social workers provide essential services in a variety of settings, and many seek to enhance their career by earning a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. But because there is no uniform licensure or certification process for this field, social workers can face varying licensing requirements depending on the state in which they practice.
Choosing a master’s program represents an important personal decision. You should evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of different schools for social workers based on your individual educational needs and goals. The following ranked list of schools — all of which offer masters in social work degrees — can serve as a helpful starting point in your search for finding the best online MSW programs. School list is arranged alphabetically, then broken down by cost and quality.
Accreditation For Online MSW Programs
The accreditation status of a school may impact a student’s ability to transfer credits, continue their graduate study at another institution, and find a job. Regional and national accreditation serve as seals of approval, indicating that a program meets certain academic standards.
When considering an online Master of Social Work (MSW) program, you should look into the school’s accreditation status. There are multiple types of accreditation for distance learning graduate programs in social work. This article will teach you about the different types of accreditation and how they affect a student’s ability to transfer credits, continue their graduate study at another institution, and find a job.
The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) evaluate, approve and monitor MSW programs in the United States. Both accreditation institutions are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
The national accreditation of master’s programs for social work may not be a consideration amongst those pursuing the degree online. Accreditation for online social work programs tends to be based on regional accreditation. Going forward, students considering an online MSW program should look at regional accreditation standards and find out if schools they are considering are regionally accredited.
When you’re in search of an online program in social work, the accreditation of a program can become an important factor. The Commission on Accreditation is one of the select organizations recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). When comparing different MSW programs, accreditation should certainly be a key consideration. Learn more about choosing a quality online MSW program so you’re certain your choice carries CSWE accreditation.
Online MSW programs belonging to the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) are accredited based on the program’s ability to provide quality practice education to students. The accreditation process can be a powerful influencing factor for prospective students, as potential students may choose to enroll in an online MSW program based on the program’s CSWE accreditation status and reputation.
Members of the CSWE include faculty, students, practitioners, programs, and agencies involved in social work education. In addition to accreditation, CSWE provides a list of accredited online MSW programs, training opportunities, and a quarterly academic journal. These resources contribute to CSWE’s mission of developing a professional workforce capable of enhancing the well-being of individuals, families, and the community as a whole.
Avoid Degree Mills
Degree mills are dubious institutions that promise students quick and easy degrees with little effort on their part. Accreditation by the CSWE ensures the legitimacy of an online MSW program.
Signal of Quality to Employers
Employers look for signs that a job candidate qualifies for a position as part of the screening process. Employers will know that your training meets professional workplace standards if you enroll in an accredited MSW program online.
A standard curriculum is a set of courses that are required by all programs. Although there is no standard curriculum for online MSW programs, CSWE accreditation ensures that a program teaches specific core social work competencies.
Meets Licensing Requirements
Professional licensure is frequently required for social work careers. Most states’ education and training requirements for social work licenses are met by CSWE-accredited online MSW programs, allowing students to obtain their license after graduation.
Is up to Policy Standards
The Commission on Educational Policy promotes educational policy and accreditation standards for quality social work programs. If a program is accredited by CSWE, you can be confident that it meets these requirements.
What Else Can I Expect From An Online Master’s In Social Work Program?
Online MSW programs provide numerous benefits to students interested in furthering their studies in the field of social work. Earning a master’s degree in social work can lead to professional licensure and career advancement.
What Are The Licenses For A Master’s In Social Work Students?
Clinical social workers who are licensed provide professional services to clients in a clinical setting. This license’s requirements vary by state, but typically include an MSW, a passing score on a standard exam, and at least two years of supervised professional experience.
Licensed master social workers manage cases, provide consultations, collaborate with government agencies, and focus on administrative rather than clinical work. State requirements vary, but in general, an MSW, a passing score on a standard exam, and a certain number of post-graduate work hours are required.
LICENSED MASTER SOCIAL WORK – ADVANCED GENERALIST
This credential is the highest level of licensure for nonclinical social workers in some states. To obtain this credential, social workers must first complete an accredited MSW program, pass an advanced generalist exam administered by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB), and meet any additional state requirements. They must then provide proof of two years of supervised experience as a nonclinical social worker.
LICENSED ADVANCED PRACTICE SOCIAL WORKER
This credential, like advanced generalist licensure, is the highest qualification a nonclinical social worker can receive in some states. Candidates must graduate from an accredited MSW program, pass their advanced generalist ASWB exam, and have at least 3,000 hours of supervised experience.
Concentrations Offered For An Online Master’s Degree In Social Work
Students enrolled in online MSW programs frequently have the option of pursuing a concentration. Concentrations enable students to tailor and narrow their education to focus on a specific subject in a field. Aside from better preparing students to work with specific populations, such as families or the elderly, choosing a concentration can help graduates stand out from their peers when looking for work.
|Concentration||Description||Careers This Concentration Prepares For|
|Healthcare Social Work||Students pursuing this concentration study the cultural and social aspects of health and illness, health beliefs and behavior, and the impact of illness on patients and their families.||Social workers in clinics and hospitals|
|Social Policy and Advocacy||Participants investigate the history, development, and philosophy of the social welfare system in the U.S., studying poverty, hunger, oppression, disability, homelessness, and unemployment.||Leadership positions as professional community organizers, policy analysts, lobbyists, and legislative advocacy staff|
|Gerontology and Aging||In addition to exploring the psychology of aging, this concentration addresses how to care for the elderly. Students learn to identify, coordinate, and connect clients with appropriate physical, emotional, and mental health services.||Social workers in clinics, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, eldercare facilities, and hospices|
|Clinical Social Work||This concentration prepares graduates to serve in clinical social work settings, diagnosing and treating mental, behavioral, and physical health disorders. Students explore various mental health issues and disorders, such as bipolar disorders, eating disorders, and substance abuse disorders.||Social workers in hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation centers, eldercare facilities, schools, and private practice settings|
|Family Social Work||Graduates pursuing this concentration prepare to work with couples or families suffering from various conflicts or difficulties, such as divorce, separation, job loss, abuse, adoption, physical or mental illness, and death. Classes may also cover working with more specific groups, such as military families, couples, or children.||Social workers in private practice, community centers, rehabilitation centers, adoption agencies, VA clinics, eldercare facilities, and government agencies|
Curriculum For An Online Master’s Degree In Social Work
Although advanced classes and concentrations vary by program, students in accredited online MSW programs take many of the same foundational courses, including the classes listed below.
Diversity and Social Justice
This course covers multiculturalism, social justice, and human diversity, allowing students to work more sensitively with oppressed individuals and groups. Students will gain skills in this course that will prepare them for careers as community outreach workers.
This class’s coursework focuses on the evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of mental illness. Students learn how to conduct psychosocial assessments, develop diagnostic impressions based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and recommend appropriate treatments. Students will be prepared for private practice in clinical settings with these advanced skills.
Social Policy Analysis and Practice
Students in this course investigate historical and contemporary social policy trends, as well as their impact on individuals, families, and communities. Learners examine specific social policies such as child welfare, disability support, and human rights using theoretical frameworks.
Social Work with Diverse Populations
Participants in this class learn how to work effectively and appropriately with diverse communities. Students learn about gender, race, sexual orientation, religious background, and class power structures, as well as how these power structures influence intervention. Students are also encouraged to examine and discuss their own identities as part of their coursework.
Students in this class research various child welfare services such as adoption, foster care, and child protection. Learners cover case planning, treatment models, and issues related to mental health, substance abuse, legal issues, and disabilities, in addition to learning how to assess children and families for signs of maltreatment.
How Long Does it Take to Earn a Master’s in Social Work Online?
The Master of Social Work (MSW) is a terminal degree that prepares students to provide direct social work services. To earn an online MSW, students typically complete 60 credits of coursework and practice experience under the supervision of a licensed clinical social worker. Students are typically expected to complete their master’s program in one to two academic years, though this time can vary substantially by institution.
The social work academic program at Concordia University of Edmonton, located in Alberta, Canada, provide students the opportunity to earn a Master of Social Work degree online. The MSW program typically require a minimum of 2 years to complete prior to graduation (the time needed may vary depending on the student’s experience and the requirements of the resident province). The coursework and field training aspects are delivered via distance education before students complete an externship in their desired field.
Employment Outlook For Master Social Work Graduates
According to a recent CSWE survey, there is a significant difference in job placement rates between candidates with a BSW and those with an MSW. As shown in the table below, master’s degree holders fared significantly better financially than undergraduate students.
JOB PLACEMENT: BACHELOR’S VS. MASTER’S
Earning an advanced degree is a clear path to more leadership opportunities in the field. Some careers that specifically target master’s degrees also have a higher median salary than bachelor’s-level employees. Overall, an online MSW program can provide you with a solid foundation for the DSW field, and the possibility for increased earning power later on in your career.
For the past several decades, it has been largely assumed that a bachelor’s degree is all that a prospective social worker needs; however, this is no longer the case. Today, almost every state requires a master’s degree to be licensed as an independent social worker or to work at facilities such as a school or clinic. Those who want to find employment at these types of institutions, therefore, should plan on earning a master’s degree.
Social workers without the MSW designation who seek employment in a related field may not need to earn a master’s degree at all. Social work graduates with a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) typically seek jobs as case managers, care managers for the elderly, or in the mental health field.
Depending on your career path, a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree online can lead to higher earnings. An MSW qualification typically leads to higher average pay for some individuals as well.
Individuals interested in nonclinical social work jobs such as case management or eldercare, on the other hand, may only need a BSW. Earning a master’s degree, even from one of the cheapest online MSW programs, may seem unnecessary for these social workers. Earning an MSW degree online, on the other hand, tends to lead to higher average pay regardless of a person’s career path. Anyone looking to advance their career or increase their earning potential should consider getting an MSW.
Bachelor’s Vs. Master’s In Social Work Salary
|Degree Level||Median Salary for Entry-Level||Median Salary for Mid-Career||Median Salary for Experienced||Median Salary for Late Career|
According to the data above, an entry-level social worker with an MSW can expect to earn approximately $7,000 more than someone with a BSW during the first couple of years of employment. After ten years of professional experience, social workers with an MSW earn approximately $8,000 more than their BSW counterparts.
Many people who want to work in social services benefit from getting an MSW. However, financial constraints frequently prevent students from returning to school after completing their bachelor’s degree. Many of these people are ideal candidates for online master’s programs in social work. They can further their education and complete coursework while working a part- or full-time job thanks to the virtual format.
When it comes to career opportunities, graduates who complete an online MSW program may have more options. Because most states require social workers to have a master’s degree and all states require clinical social workers to have a graduate diploma, having an MSW is a valuable qualification for securing a good social work job. Graduates of master’s in social work programs are frequently hired by healthcare facilities, government agencies, and schools.
If you’re a social worker looking to work in the public sector, earning an online master of social work (MSW) from an accredited school might be your ticket to opportunity. With job growth for social workers expected to grow by 22% through 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), securing a good job will likely be no easy task. While this profession may offer you the chance for meaningful work and professional fulfillment, there are many factors to consider when it comes to landing an MSW job.
Child and Family Social Workers
These social workers assist vulnerable families and work to ensure that children grow and develop in safe, healthy environments. They frequently assist individual households in obtaining food stamps and other financial assistance services, and they may facilitate the removal of children from abusive or neglectful homes.
Clinical Social Workers
These social workers, as licensed clinical professionals, frequently diagnose mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, and addiction. They may also collaborate with their clients to investigate treatment options. These workers frequently provide therapy to couples, families, and groups, in addition to individuals. Clinical social workers can work independently or as part of a team in a group practice setting.
Medical Social Workers
Medical social workers offer general support to patients in hospitals and other clinical settings. They assist in the completion of administrative tasks, interview patients in order to create a medical history, and guide clients through decision making regarding their care, finances, and emotional health. They may also assist with basic but necessary tasks such as transportation to and from care facilities.
Substance Abuse Counselors
Substance abuse counselors assist people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol. They assess clients and develop individualized recovery plans in addition to providing individual or group counseling services. Counselors connect clients with outside resources such as medical providers and therapists, food stamp programs, and unemployment services as part of these plans.
Social Service Specialists
These professionals carry out a variety of tasks for social service organizations. They may work with children, the elderly, or people with disabilities, assisting clients in obtaining the services they require. Social service specialists may assess clients and refer them to outside services, explain eligibility requirements, provide therapy, conduct health screenings, and organize workshops and drug prevention programs.
|Position||Median Annual Salary|
|Child and Family Social Worker||$41,520|
|Clinical Social Workers||$56,350|
|Medical Social Worker||$54,210|
|Substance Abuse Counselor||$39,500|
|Social Service Specialist||$35,730|
Since online MSW programs are relatively new to the field of social work, professional organizations in this arena have not been established. However, there are several national organizations that offer online professionals many professional advantages.
Professional organizations are often the first stop for those who have taken or will take a master’s of social work (MSW) degree program. Not only do they provide you with many benefits but they also present a great opportunity to network and build relationships with others like you.
There are numerous benefits of becoming a member of a professional organization for social workers. Active members enjoy access to career centers, job boards, networking opportunities, networking opportunities, and professional development.
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF SOCIAL WORKERS (NASW)
The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is the world’s largest professional organization for social workers, with approximately 120,000 members. The website of the association includes links to several peer-reviewed academic journals, an online career center, and a large blog with archived posts dating back to 2007.
CLINICAL SOCIAL WORK ASSOCIATION
CSWA, formerly known as the Clinical Social Work Federation, was founded in 2006 to address professional needs and provide individual support to clinical social workers. The organization’s website includes legislative and clinical practice resources, as well as a job board for job seekers.
SCHOOL SOCIAL WORK ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA
SSWAA serves university professors, faculty members, and social work students. An online career center, training opportunities, and a tutorial for the social worker licensure exam are among the student resources.
INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF SOCIAL WORKERS
The International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) promotes human rights and social justice around the world by connecting social workers and encouraging international collaboration. As part of its North American chapter, it houses the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and the Canadian Association of Social Workers.
COUNCIL ON SOCIAL WORK EDUCATION
CSWE not only serves as the primary accrediting agency for social work programs in the United States, but it also provides membership benefits to social work students, practitioners, professors, and deans. It has a job board and a career center, as well as educational resources such as bibliographies, lectures, assignments, modules, case studies, and syllabi.