The 19 Best Online Master’s in Social Work Programs

Looking to advance your career in social work and boost your earning potential with an online master of social work (MSW) degree? The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment opportunities for social workers will grow by about 12% between 2014 and 2024, and candidates can distinguish themselves in the job market by earning a graduate degree in this dynamic field. Online master’s in social work programs are designed to build on the knowledge and skills you’ve gained as an undergraduate. Some MSW students follow a degree track that prepares them to work directly with the public in a clinical or nonclinical setting, while others focus more on community mobilization and social advocacy. In addition to classroom studies, most MSW programs also carry onsite practicum or internship requirements.

WILL THIS PROGRAM PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED?

An MSW degree opens the door to different career paths, depending on a student’s area of specialization. According to the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) — the only accrediting body for advanced social degrees in the U.S. — some of the top degree concentrations for MSW students include clinical practice for children and families, mental health, administration, and community development. Other specialization options may focus on areas like trauma, disabilities, and veteran services.

WILL THIS PROGRAM WORK WITH MY SCHEDULE?

MSW online programs are a convenient, flexible alternative to brick-and-mortar learning. Students are able to access course materials, complete assignments, take exams, and communicate with their professors on their own time and from the comfort of their home computer. Current software also allows them to study on the go using a laptop, tablet, smartphone, or other portable device with Internet capabilities. Students with other important commitments– such as childcare or full-time employment — may also contact their professor in order to arrange internships or practicum courses around their schedule.

ARE THERE INTERNSHIPS AVAILABLE FOR REAL WORK EXPERIENCE WHILE YOU EARN YOUR DEGREE?

The vast majority of MSW programs online feature extensive hands-on learning as part of the degree curriculum. Some students fulfill this requirement by completing a set number of onsite hours as part of a practicum course, while others sign up for workplace-based internships. In either case, students should plan to devote at least 15-20 hours per week for two or more semesters of their master’s program. The best programs feature professors and faculty members who will work with students to explore practicum and internship options that closely match their career goals.

WILL IT GET ME THE JOB?

An MSW represents a crucial step towards a rewarding career in social work — but the work does not end there. In addition to the master’s degree, job candidates must complete at least two years of post-graduate employment in order to qualify for most social work positions. Additionally, all 50 states have specific licensure and/or certification requirements for most clinical and nonclinical social workers. The top-ranked online MSW programs help students prepare for these post-education demands through career counseling, one-on-one advisor meetings, and other support services and resources.

Choosing a master’s program is an important personal decision. Only you can evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of different target schools based on your individual educational needs. The following ranked list of schools that offer masters in social work degrees may serve as a helpful starting point in your search for the best online MSW programs.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Enrollment Rate Location Description
1

Case Western Reserve University

 5/515.4%Cleveland, OH

campus_Case_Western_Reserve_University

The Master of Science in Social Services Administration (MSSA) at Case Western Reserve University is offered wholly online. Students may choose to specialize in either Community Practice for Social Change, Direct Practice Children, Youth and Families or Direct Practice Mental Health/Adults.

  • Students from any state may apply to this program; please note, however, that New Hampshire prohibits licensure without in-state residency and that Case Western does not accept applications from Alabama residents.
  • The traditional MSSA track requires 60 credit hours and can be completed in two years.
  • Students who already hold the Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) may apply for the Advanced Standing program, allowing them to complete 45 credit hours over three full-time semesters.
  • MSSA online degree candidates who attend classes full-time, maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA and demonstrate paid or volunteer experience in social work may be eligible for scholarships administered by Case Western Reserve University.

All courses are taught online, but students are expected to meet field hour requirements in person. Beyond the online classrooms, email services and discussion boards, is an amazing, in-house IT support team that is at the disposal of all students, whether they are enrolled full-time online or are only auditing a few courses in their MSW curriculum.

  • Case Western's online interface runs on a Blackboard network, one of the leading providers of online education management worldwide.
  • Field education may be arranged at one of 350 partnering facilities and must be conducted during regular business hours.
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2

Fordham University

 5/511.47%Bronx, NY

campus_Fordham_University

Fordham University’s online MSW program is available entirely online for students who choose a clinical concentration. Applicants holding a BSW from an accredited university, or who have completed the first year of a master’s program, will be considered for the 18 month Advanced Standing program. The standard program, designed for part-time study, totals 66 credit hours and can be completed in 3.5 years.

  • Fordham’s online MSW program accepts students residing in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey.
  • All students must maintain a 3.0 cumulative GPA to continue their studies.
  • Financial aid in the form of graduate assistantships may be available to a limited number of students.

Most master's in social work online classes are asynchronous, meaning students access course materials on their own schedules. Occasionally an instructor may specify a time for a mandatory synchronous lecture. A hybrid degree option is also available, combining attendance at brick-and-mortar classes on Long Island with online coursework and face-to-face fieldwork.

  • All classes are taught online via Blackboard and Tk20, though field instruction is expected to be conducted in person.
  • Students in their second year of study will be placed in facilities convenient to home for field hours, conducted concurrently with online classes.
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3

California State University – Long Beach

 2/521.33%Long Beach, CA

campus_California_State_University_Long_Beach

LBSU offers a three-year online master’s in social work (MSW) distance education program with a concentration in child and family wellbeing. The online MSW program consists of 60 semester units of coursework and 1,000 hours of field internship, which are completed in the fall and spring semesters and during two summer sessions.

The program is delivered through interactive television (ITV) on Saturdays along with in-person visits by LBSU faculty. To be eligible, program applicants must have graduated with a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school no later than spring 2016. The applicant must have a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 2.5 or higher, and have completed an approved prerequisite course in elementary statistics with a letter grade of “C” or better.

Students pursuing a master’s in social work online are required to engage in fieldwork arranged locally with a community agency during the second and third academic years of the program. Stipends are available to public child welfare employees.

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4

Catholic University of America

 5/517.69%Washington, DC

campus_Catholic_University_of_America

The Catholic University of America's National Catholic School of Social Service (NCSSS) offers an online Master of Social Work (MSW) with a concentration in clinical practice. Graduates of this program are prepared for all facets of clinical practice: individuals, couples, families and groups. Despite the online delivery model, campus faculty serve as mentors to all students in the program.

  • This degree requires 60 credit hours of coursework, evenly divided among foundational and professional subject matter.
  • A BSW is not required for admission, but paid or volunteer experience in social work will be viewed favorably.
  • Residents from most states may apply.

All classes are delivered via Catholic's own proprietary distance learning format, and students may access course materials on their own schedules. Field seminars are expected to be conducted in person; every effort will be made to arrange field service hours close to the student’s home.

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5

The University of Tennessee – Knoxville

 3/540.68%Knoxville, TN

campus_University_of_Tennessee_Knoxville

The College of Social Work at the University of Tennessee Knoxville offers a Master of Science in Social Work (MSSW) via online classes. Degree candidates have three options: the online Advanced Standing program for students with a BSW from an accredited college (length: 12 to 24 months); the online Full-Time program for students with a BSW (length: 2 years); and the online Extended Study program for BSW holders (length: 3-4 years).

  • Students with degrees in related fields or from a non-accredited BSW program are ineligible.
  • Residents of any state may apply.

All classes are taught by the same faculty responsible for teaching the traditional classroom-based MSSW. Every program option requires in-person fieldwork, which will be arranged within a reasonable distance of the students’ home.

  • Coursework is delivered via the Blackboard learning management system.
  • Classes are both asynchronous and synchronous, meaning students enjoy flexibility in choosing study hours in some classes, while being required to log in at specified times for others.
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6

Louisiana State University

 2/544.51%Baton Rouge, LA

Louisiana State University offers graduate students an online MSW program. Advanced standing students who hold a BSW finish in two years, while candidates in the standard program complete degree requirements over four years. Going forward, the online MSW program will be available as a full-time study program that wraps up in two years; though some states may be restricted, candidates may generally live anywhere in the U.S. The new full-time study model is projected to launch in fall 2015.

  • The program is comprised of 30 hours of foundational coursework and 30 hours of advanced coursework.
  • Advanced Standing students are only required to take advanced coursework in pursuit of the MSW.
  • All classes are delivered online, with the exception of an extensive internship requirement that must be met in person.
  • Courses must be taken in sequence, and students may not register for more than 15 credit hours per term.
  • All cohorts begin in the fall semester.

Classes are wholly online, though students are encouraged to attend an on-campus orientation session at the beginning of the program. Thereafter, contact with advisement and admissions professionals may take place via Skype. If you would like to receive more information including application deadlines once the program is approved, please email Denise Chiasson at dchiass@lsu.edu.

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7

University of Hawaii at Manoa

 2/531.14%Honolulu, HI

The University of Hawaii offers an MSW through distance education for Hawaii residents on the islands of Hawai’i, Moloka’i, Kaua’i, Maui and Lana’i. The curriculum totals 57 credit hours over a 3-year period of study. Coursework covers fundamentals in social work skills, advanced practice knowledge and practical skills application.

  • Students are not required to have a BSW, any liberal arts degree will be accepted.
  • Registration begins in the fall.
  • Only two cohorts may simultaneously attend classes in this 3-year program; consequently, new students are only accepted twice in each 3-year period.

Classes are delivered in a hybrid format that combines asynchronous online content, traditional brick-and-mortar classrooms and interactive TV. The exception to this is the programs 4-semester field practicum requirement, which must be conducted in-person at an approved local facility.

  • Attendance at the main campus in Manoa is required once per year.
  • Orientation sessions are offered on several islands at the beginning of each cohort.
  • Most classes are on weeknights, though some may be on Saturdays.

For additional information, please contact the Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work MSW Admissions Office at sswadmit@hawaii.edu.

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8

Virginia Commonwealth University

 3/534.06%Richmond, VA

Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Social Work offers the MSW graduate degree via a hybrid-distance learning option. Students complete 60 credit hours over a period of 4 years of part-time study, including summers. All cohorts begin in August.

  • The BSW is not required for this online MSW option.
  • Job experience is also not necessary, but may be viewed favorably.
  • Students admitted to the distance education program may not transfer to another program format.

All coursework in this option is a mix of online courses and traditional, face-to-face instruction. The curriculum is identical to that of the University’s on-campus MSW degree program. Due to the demands of class and concurrent fieldwork, full-time employment is discouraged.

  • Classes are asynchronous, allowing students to access online content according to personal schedules.
  • Students are required to be on campus two Saturdays per semester, in addition to an orientation at the program’s beginning.
  • The program’s fieldwork requirement must be conducted in person at an approved community agency in Virginia or the metro area of Washington, DC.
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9

University of Alabama

 2/539.63%Tuscaloosa, AL

The online MSW program at the University of Alabama requires candidates to select a specialization in either Children, Adolescents and Their Families, which will prepare candidates for work in child welfare and mental health settings, or Adults and Their Families, which readies graduates to care for patients in geriatric and adult mental health care facilities. The first four semesters (summer, fall, spring and summer) are comprised of foundational courses, while the final year focuses on the student’s chosen concentration.

  • Cohorts begin twice per year, in January and late May/early June.
  • For admission, undergraduate transcripts must reflect no more than one C in social work core classes and a 3.0 GPA in professional foundation and education courses. Candidates who lack prerequisites may take bridge courses prior to beginning their graduate studies.
  • Students holding a non-social work undergraduate degree may apply for the standard MSW program that requires 60 credit hours over two years of full-time study.
  • Students who possess a BSW may enter the Advanced Standing program, comprised of 42 credit hours over two semesters of full-time study.

All classes are online, with the exception of a mandatory orientation at the program’s beginning and fieldwork at the end. Student work schedules are expected to be arranged to accommodate the field education requirement. Field placements must be approved by faculty and, in some cases, may be completed at the student’s place of employment.

  • Online master's in social work classes are conducted via Blackboard.
  • Some courses require skills labs, offered on select Saturdays at locations throughout Alabama.
  • Exams must be taken either on campus, at an approved two or four-year college, or via the ProctorU online testing service.
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10

Colorado State University – Fort Collins

 1/532.48%Fort Collins, CO

The MSW degree is available to aspiring social workers through Colorado State University's School of Social Work. This part-time program is designed to be completed in three years, including summers. Coursework totaling 62 credit hours is evenly divided among foundational study and advanced professional study. Cohorts begin once per year, in January. CSU offers two cohorts and each location accepts new students every 3 years. In-person sessions are held in both Colorado Springs and Denver, based on the cohort location.

  • The next Colorado Springs cohort begins January 2018, with an application deadline of June 1, 2017.
  • A 4-year bachelor’s degree in any subject may qualify a candidate for admission, though some program entrants may be required to take prerequisite classes.
  • Regardless of major, students must demonstrate a minimum GPA of 3.0 for undergraduate work.
  • Paid or volunteer work in the field totaling 400 hours is required for consideration.

Students attend hybrid classes comprised of online and face-to-face experiences. The majority of course content is delivered via distance learning, but attendance on campus in Colorado Springs is expected twice per semester.

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11

Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis

 2/543.36%Indianapolis, IN

The Indiana University School of Social Work offers aspiring social work professionals the MSW Direct program. This wholly online graduate degree program delivers an advanced degree in social work with an advanced generalist concentration. Graduates of this program are qualified to fill roles as policy analysts, community organizers, advocates, managers, clinicians and group facilitators.

  • Candidates who have already earned a BSW can complete the MSW with 45 credit hours of instruction.
  • Students who hold undergraduate degrees in other fields are required to take 60 credit hours of classes.
  • Most students finish this program in three years. Due to the time constraints this program demands, full-time work is discouraged.
  • There are no cohorts; instead, students may start at any time and are allowed five years to complete the degree requirements.
  • Students in any state are welcome to apply.

Students are only required to appear on campus for a 3-day orientation at the beginning of the program. The exception to online learning is the clinical practicum experience, which must be arranged at a facility within reasonable distance of the student’s residence. In some cases, field work may be arranged at a student’s place of employment.

  • Coursework is delivered entirely online via Oncourse and Adobe Direct platforms.
  • Classes are a blend of asynchronous and synchronous, meaning some content is accessed at the student's convenience, while other content requires real-time attendance.
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12

California State University – Northridge

 1/531.31%Northridge, CA

The Northridge campus of the California State University educational system offers an MSW degree program designed for working professionals. Aspiring social workers may opt for a 3-year, part-time campus-based track or a 2-year, full-time wholly online track. Curricula for both of these options is identical.

  • A BSW is not required for candidacy, but an undergraduate degree in a related field will be viewed favorably.
  • Students must demonstrate either a 3.0 GPA or an acceptable GRE score.
  • Applications are welcomed from residents of the San Fernando Valley and greater Los Angeles.
  • New cohorts begin each fall.

All student requirements can be met online, with the exception of field placements. Field placements must be conducted during regular business hours and at an approved partner agency that does not employ the student.

  • Courses totaling 60 credit hours are delivered sequentially in 8-week segments.
  • Classes are asynchronous; students can therefore schedule study time at their convenience.
  • While CSUN's MSW is a 60-unit degree, students who participate in off-campus cohorts may be required to complete additional units to meet the specific Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) fieldwork requirements for each cohort/location.
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13

University of New Hampshire

 3/521.89%Durham, NH

The Department of Social Work at the University of New Hampshire offers a fully online MSW program for qualified candidates. This program provides a graduate degree with a concentration in advanced generalist studies. Graduates are prepared to work with individuals, couples, families and groups in any social work setting. This program can be completed in 29 months of part-time study. Cohorts begin twice per year.

  • Students from any state are welcome to apply; it’s important to note, however, that New Hampshire state licensure rules mandate a residency requirement.
  • Students with unrelated bachelor’s degrees may be asked to take prerequisite courses before beginning the program.
  • All entrants must demonstrate a 3.0 GPA from undergraduate work.
  • Social Work related paid or volunteer work experience is not required, but viewed favorably.

Classes are entirely online and delivered via Blackboard, Tegrity and Skype; there are no on-campus requirements. The fieldwork requirement must be met in-person, but can be arranged at a facility convenient to the student’s home.

  • The 62 hours of total coursework is mostly provided in an asynchronous format, allowing students to access online content at their convenience; however, some instructors require that students log in at prescribed times.
  • Classes are sequential and taught in 8-week increments.
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14

University of North Dakota

 2/547.75%Grand Forks, ND

Aspiring social workers can earn an MSW degree with a concentration in advanced generalist studies at the University of North Dakota. This wholly online program is offered to advanced standing students who have completed one year of graduate studies or the BSW, as well as to standard students desiring a graduate degree in the field. Traditional standing students earn 60 credit hours over at least 3 years of part-time study; advanced standing candidates must complete 36 credit hours over 2 years of part-time study.

  • Students must demonstrate a 3.0 GPA from all undergraduate and graduate work prior to admission.
  • Advanced standing students must hold a BSW from an accredited institution.
  • Students may apply from any state, and out-of-state fees do not apply.

The curriculum in this program does not differ from that of the on-campus MSW. Students are required to attend on-campus intensive seminars 5 or 6 days per year in addition to their online courses. Advanced standing cohorts begin in the summer, and traditional standing students in the spring.

  • All online courses are synchronous and delivered via Blackboard, meaning students log in to live web classes at specified times on evenings and weekends.
  • Fieldwork must be conducted in-person and may be completed near the student’s home.
  • Online tutoring is available free of charge through SMARTHINKING.
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15

Texas State University

 2/541.41%San Marcos, TX

The MSW program at Texas State is offered both online and in a traditional classroom setting. Curricula, syllabi and course materials are identical for both programs. The Advanced Track is designed for students holding a BSW from an accredited university. The Foundation Track is for candidates who hold undergraduate degrees in other fields and lack fundamental knowledge of social work skills.

  • Students from any state in the U.S. may apply.
  • Because the demands of the program are intense, full-time employment outside the program is discouraged.
  • The online program is available to both the Advanced and Foundation Tracks on a part-time basis and can be finished in two years or four years respectively.

All classes are conducted online, with the exception of the field practicum requirement. Every effort is made to place students in fieldwork positions within a reasonable distance from home. In some cases, fieldwork may occur at a student’s place of employment.

  • Coursework is asynchronous, meaning students can access content whenever it’s convenient.
  • Online students are welcome at campus orientation sessions, but attendance is not mandatory as online orientation sessions are offered.
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16

University of New England

 5/515.57%Biddeford, ME

The Online MSW program at the University of New England was one of the first graduate degree programs in this field to be offered wholly online. Candidates already in possession of a BSW may qualify for the Advanced Standing track, while students with degrees in other subjects and without social work experience qualify for the Traditional track.

  • Students from any state in the country are welcome to apply.
  • Admission is rolling and students may begin at any term.
  • All candidate in this MSW program can choose between wither a Clinical or Macro Studies concentrations.

Classes are entirely online, with asynchronous scheduling, meaning students can develop a study schedule that fits their lifestyle. The only exception to this is the degree’s field placement requirement, which must be performed in-person.

  • With approval, fieldwork can be arranged near a student's residences.
  • Students may progress through coursework as easily as one course at a time.
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17

Our Lady of the Lake University

 1/513.32%San Antonio, TX

The online master's in social work program at OLLU in Texas is designed for people already in the field of social work or those entering it. The program offers two tracks of study: the 30-credit-hour MSW concentration for students who already hold a bachelor’s in social work, and the 57-credit-hour MSW foundation curriculum for those who don’t. Each track can be completed in 2-2.5 years and 3-3.5 years, respectively.

The coursework includes field education and social work research that teaches students foundational theories. OLLU’s MSW program focuses on the unique needs of the Hispanic community in the United States, and integrates a pedagogical component that specifically addresses them. That component includes a course analyzing theories and perspectives on Hispanic child and family development, a course on the culture, engagement, assessment, interventions and evaluation when working with the Hispanic community, and more.

Our Lady of the Lake University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The MSW program has an additional accreditation through the Council on Social Work Education.

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18

Metropolitan State University of Denver

 2/547.54%Denver, CO

MSU Denver’s online master of social work program emphasizes small class sizes, a diverse faculty with broad expertise, academic rigor and professionally-challenging field placements at an affordable tuition rate. Students can apply for the fully online MSW Program or the mixed/traditional program which offers a flexible combination of on-campus day, night, weekend, hybrid and online course offerings. The program combines academic, research and field experience.

Applicants who hold a bachelor’s degree that is not in social work must complete the full, two-year (60 semester hours) MSW program, including required prerequisites. Those with a bachelor’s degree in social work from an accredited program within the last six years may qualify for the advanced standing, one-year (30 semester hours) MSW program.

Students pursuing a master’s in social work online can choose between two concentrations: the individuals and families concentration, which covers the skills required to work as advanced clinical social workers, or the macro practice concentration, which teaches knowledge and skills necessary to make systemic changes. Graduates can complete additional state requirements to earn the Licensed Social Worker credential. MSU Denver graduates boast a 100% pass rate on the exam.

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19

Saint Leo University

 3/524.68%Saint Leo, FL

The online master's in social work program at Saint Leo is a synchronous, full-time program with an advanced clinical practice concentration. This concentration requires 63 credits and is available as either a two-year, full-time program or a three-year, part-time program. The first year includes 30 credit hours of foundation curriculum, and the second year focuses on the concentration and requires 32 credit hours. Students attend weekly evening classes delivered through webcam, and must be available for daytime internship hours. They must also attend one weekend seminar on the campus during the summer.

Graduates are prepared for advanced clinical social work serving populations including the elderly, military personnel, the workforce, and people who experience discrimination and oppression. Coursework covers topics including issues facing military service members and their families, and evidence-based social work research methods. This online master’s in social work program is only available to students who are residents in either Florida, Georgia or Virginia.

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How Many Years is a Masters Degree in Social Work?
1 to 2 years of full-time study (including practicum or internships)
Program Costs
Tuition: $14,000 – $37,000
Concentrations
Clinical or Direct Practice, Advanced Generalist, Community Development, Public Policy, Children and Family Welfare, Mental Health, Administrative Leadership
Accreditation
The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)

A recent survey by the Council on Social Work Education uncovered a staggering difference in the job placement rates of candidates with a BSW and those with an MSW. As shown in the table below, master’s graduates fared much better across different areas of the social work sector than their undergraduate counterparts.

JOB PLACEMENT: BACHELOR’S VS. MASTER’S

Source: Council on Social Work Education

Licensure requirements are the primary reason for this disparity. Although the criteria for obtaining a social work license will vary by state, most clinical and nonclinical social workers must complete a two-year master’s program (as well as two or more years of post-graduate employment) in order to sit for the licensure exam. However, even non-licensed social workers can expand their job opportunities with an advanced degree. Hiring managers are tasked with finding the most qualified candidates for any position — and in most cases, applicants who have earned an MSW from a top-ranked degree program will lead the pack.

EARNING A LIVING

In addition to job prospects, earning power represents another key difference between the two degree levels. Social work is a rewarding profession, but this field is not known for high salaries — and today’s aspiring social workers are urged to maximize their potential earnings with an advanced degree. Below we have outlined the different salary expectations for BSW- and MSW-holders over the course of their respective careers.

BACHELOR’S VS. MASTER’S IN SOCIAL WORK SALARY

Degree Level Median Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years) Median Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 years) Median Salary for Experienced Employees (10-20 Years) Median Salary for Late Career Employees (20+ years)
BSW $33,270 $37,258 $40,399 $39,564
MSW $40,877 $45,490 $50,358 $54,906

Source: PayScale

According to the data above, an entry-level social worker with an MSW can expect to earn around $7,000 more than a BSW-holder during the first five years of his or her career. After 10 years of professional experience, social workers with MSWs outearn their BSW counterparts by $10,000 to $15,000 per year.

Pursuing an MSW is essential for anyone who plans to dedicate their career to social work. However, financial reasons often prevent students from returning to school after earning a bachelor’s degree. These individuals are prime candidates for master’s in social work online programs. The virtual format allows them to advance in their education and complete one to two years of coursework while continuing to work a part- or full-time job.

CAREER OPPORTUNITIES

BLS projects that the number of jobs for social workers will climb by 12% between 2014 and 2024 — a difference of nearly 75,000 new positions. Below we’ll explore some of the most common career pathways for social workers with an MSW degree.

Healthcare Social Workers — These professionals work with hospital patients and their families to ensure all parties understand diagnoses, treatment options, and associated medical costs. They also assist clients during their transition back to their normal lives once treatment has finished, and may help them track down follow-up physicians, support groups, and other community services.

Child and Family Social Workers — These social workers aid vulnerable families and help ensure that children live in safe, healthy environments conducive to positive growth and development. They often help individual households obtain food stamps and other financial support services, and may facilitate the removal of children from neglectful or harmful homes.

Clinical Social Workers — As licensed clinical professionals, these social workers often diagnose patients for mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, and addiction; they may also work with their clients to explore treatment options. In addition to individual clients, they often provide therapy for couples, families, and groups. These professionals may maintain a private practice or collaborate with other social workers in a group practice setting.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers — These professionals assist people dealing with addictions to alcohol, drugs, gambling, and other potentially destructive habits. They often put their clients in touch with support groups and treatment programs in order to expedite the recovery process. Licensed clinical social workers often fill roles in this field.

Social worker compensation will vary depending on an individual’s academic background, professional experience, and the location of their workplace. To give you a general idea of your earning potential as a social worker, the table below features nationwide data from the BLS.

Position Median Annual Salary Projected Growth Rate
Healthcare Social Worker $52,380 19%
Child & Family Social Worker $42,350 6%
Mental Health & Substance Abuse Social Worker $42,170 19%
Social Workers, all other $58,560 -4%

Professional Organizations

Making professional connections and learning about different approaches to social work are crucial to your success. Professional organizations offer a great entry point for students who want to learn more about their chosen career path. Below you’ll find three of the country’s most prominent organizations established for professional social workers. These organizations host networking events, provide online trainings, maintain active job boards, and offer other services for career-ready college graduates. Resources like these often prove invaluable as you complete your MSW degree requirements and prepare to enter the job market.

  • National Associaton of Social Workers (NASW): Considered the world’s largest professional organization for social workers, the NASW today boasts roughly 130,000 members. The NASW website includes links to several peer-reviewed academic journals, an online career center and an extensive blog with archived posts dating back to 2007.
  • Cinical Social Work Association: Formerly the Clinical Social Work Federation, the CSWA was launched in 2006 to address professional needs and provide support to clinical social workers on an individual level. The organization’s website features online resources related to legislation and clinical practice, as well as a job board for employment seekers.
  • School Social Work Association of America: The SSWAA is an organization dedicated to university professors, faculty members and students working in the field of social work. Student resources include an online career center, training opportunities and a tutorial for the social worker licensure exam.
Best Online MSW Degrees of 2015
Rank School Location
1 University of Alabama Tuscaloosa, AL
2 Case Western Reserve University Cleveland, OH
3 Fordham University Bronx, NY
4 University of Tennessee Knoxville, TN
5 Lousiana State University - Agricultural & Mechanical College Baton Rouge, LA
6 Catholic University of America Washington, DC
7 University of North Dakota Grand Forks, ND
8 Virginia Commonwealth University Richmond, VA
9 Colorado State University Fort Collins CO
10 University of New Hampshire Durham NH
11 Texas State University San Marcos, TX
12 California State University - Northridge Northridge, CA
13 University of Hawaii at Manoa Honolulu, HI
14 Indiana University-Purdue University - Indianapolis Indianapolis IN
15 University of New England Biddeford, ME

Despite the relative affordability of online programs, most students still need financial assistance. Students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to learn more about loans, grants, and other opportunities offered through the U.S. government. Additionally, private grants and scholarships are widely available through nonprofit organizations, companies, and other sources. Check out our collection of resources below to learn more about financial aid options.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR EDUCATION MAJORS

Our list of scholarships and grants specifically aimed at education majors includes 43 individual rewards totalling more than $170,000 in financial aid. Browse our database to learn more about accessing free money to pay for your online teaching master’s degree.

AN OVERVIEW OF FINANCIAL AID

Approximately two-thirds of today’s college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.

UNDERSTANDING THE FAFSA

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.

FINANCIAL AID FOR ONLINE COLLEGE STUDENTS

Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you’ll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn’t always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR WOMEN

Online programs can provide an affordable and flexible option for women trying to balance the demands of work, family, and earning their degree. We’ve curated a list of valuable scholarships specifically for women.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR SINGLE PARENTS

Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family’s financial future. We’ve compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.

FINANCIAL AID FOR VETERANS AND ACTIVE MILITARY

Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.

Methodology

The methodology behind our rankings is grounded in statistical data and a few consistently applied guiding principles. Our 2017 rankings reflect the most recent data compiled from IPEDS and the College Navigator, both of which are hosted by the National Center for Education Statistics. Our goal is to objectively assess relative quality based on academic outcomes, affordability, and the breadth and depth of online learning opportunities. The following criteria was used to make these assessments:

Minimum Requirements

  • Each school must be an accredited public or private, not-for-profit institution.
  • Must offer an online master’s in Master’s in Social Work degree program
  • Must submit an annual report to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Ranking Factors

All eligible institutions are ranked on a 100 point scale. A perfect score of 100 is earned by ranking #1 for all ranking factors.

ACADEMIC QUALITY – 50% OF TOTAL SCORE

  • Admissions Rate – 25%
  • Enrollment Rates – 15%
  • Retention Rate – 15%
  • 6-Year Graduation Rate – 25%
  • Number of Master’s in Master’s in Social Work Graduates – 20%

AFFORDABILITY – 25% OF TOTAL SCORE

  • Average Net Price – 40%
  • Percentage of Enrolled Students Taking Federal Loans – 20%
  • Loan Default Rate – 40%

ONLINE PROGRAMMING – 25% OF TOTAL SCORE

  • Percentage of Graduate Programs Offered Online – 40%
  • Graduate School Enrollment – 40%
  • Percentage of Programs Offered at the Graduate level – 20%