The Best Online Master’s in Social Work Programs

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Looking to advance your career in social work and boost your earning potential with an online master of social work (MSW) degree? 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.

The BLS projects that job opportunities for accredited social workers will grow by about 12% in the next decade.

WILL AN ONLINE MSW 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 AN ONLINE MSW 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 % Enrolled Online Location Description
1 Columbia University in the City of New York 82.38 3/5 1% New York, NY

A member of the prestigious Ivy League located in New York City, Columbia functions as one of the most prominent institutions of higher education in the world. The university offers an MSW online through its School of Social Work, encouraging students to “make waves, move mountains, [and] change lives.” The master's in social work online program boasts flexibility, allowing distance learners to complete field placements locally. Degree candidates engage with peers and faculty virtually through synchronous classes using Adobe Connect and access course content using the Canvas Learning Management System (LMS).

Distance learners can access all aspects of the program – orientation, coursework, and the final capstone project – entirely online, but students may also choose to visit the campus. Columbia provides four program options for its online master's of social work: a two-year program, an advanced standing program, a reduced-residency program, and an extended program. Students in either the full-time two year or advanced standing program typically enroll in three or four courses each term, spending two days a week on classroom learning and three days on field education placement. Part-time enrollees in either the extended or reduced-residency program generally complete two classes each term during their first year and two to four courses per term during the remaining two years of their studies. Each course requires around two hours of study and participation per week.

Degree candidates earning Columbia's online master's in social work must select one of two available concentrations: advanced clinical practice, or management and social enterprise. The program also features two fields of practice: family, youth, & children's services; and health, mental health, & disabilities. For fieldwork during the first year, the university places students in an agency or organization local to their area. Candidates' second-year placement depends on their chosen specialization and their field of practice. Learners can complete their capstone project either in person or online, or they may choose to write a thesis.

Columbia calculates tuition by the number of credits in which students enroll and charges a learning resource fee. The online MSW program requires prospective students to submit applications by early spring for fall enrollment. Admission requirements include a resume, essays, letters of reference, and transcripts.


Program Overview
Department: School of Social Work
Program name: MSW
Available concentrations: Advanced clinical practice, management and social enterprise
Accrediting body: CSWE
Tuition: $1,446/ credit

Delivery
Format: Online
Instruction style: Synchronous

Program Requirements
Prerequisites: BS or BA with 60 credits in liberal arts
Credit requirements: 60
Field education requirements: 1,200 hours

Program Length
Program options: Full-time
Program length: 2-4 years
Program start dates: Fall

Admission Requirements
Application deadline: April 1

Contact
Department phone: (212) 851-2300
Student services email: swstudentservices@columbia.edu
Social media accounts: Facebook; Twitter

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2 University of Southern California 80.99 4/5 13% Los Angeles, CA

USC delivers an accredited online master's of social work (MSW) that prepares learners for careers in family counseling, mental health, community advocacy, and other related fields. The curriculum for the online program, available for both part-time and full-time learners, mirrors that of the on-campus degree, requiring students to choose from three available specializations: adults and healthy aging; community, organization, and business innovation; and children, youth, and families. Courses include instruction in social work fundamentals and more than 1,000 hours of field education that allow for real-world application of the curriculum's core concepts. These hours include a virtual field practicum where live actors portray clients in real-world clinical situations, in addition to a field placement where degree candidates complete hands-on training with actual clients.

USC's MSW online emphasizes attention to early intervention, prevention, and wellness; new findings in neuroscience; and core competencies, like evidence-based practices. No matter which concentration they choose, distance learners can complete specialized courses in four, six, or eight semesters. Sample concentration courses include research and evaluation and policy for social work with adults and older adults; social work practice with adolescents, young adults, and their families; and policy advocacy & social change. Available electives cover topics like clinical practice with the military family, social work in juvenile justice settings, and social work practice with transitional youth.

Prospective distance learners with a bachelor’s in social work may qualify for advanced standing, which permits them to complete the program by earning 37 credits, typically in 12 months if they enroll full-time. USC does not require GRE scores for admission. Additionally, the university dedicates attention to servicemembers and their families by allowing them to earn their master's of social work online regardless of where they may be stationed. In addition, USC's online MSW program includes coursework that examines military culture and its challenges, like posttraumatic stress disorder.


Program Overview
Department: School of Social Work
Program name: MSW
Available concentrations: Adults and healthy aging; children, youth, and families; community, organization; and business innovation
Accrediting body: CSWE
Tuition: $1,733/ credit

Delivery
Format: Online
Instruction style: Synchronous

Program Requirements
Credit requirements: traditional 60
Field education requirements: virtual field placement, onsite community placement 16-20 hours

Program Length
Program options: Part-time
Program length: 2-4 years
Program start dates: Rolling

Admission Requirements
Application deadline: Rolling
GPA: 3.0

Contact
Department phone: (877) 700-4679
Department email: sswvac@msw.usc.edu
Social media accounts: Facebook; Twitter

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3 Case Western Reserve University 69.93 4/5 2% Cleveland, OH

The first institution in the U.S. to offer a social work degree, CWRU's School of Applied Social Sciences offers an MSW online in the form of a master's of science in social administration (MSSA). Featuring flexibility and convenience, the program boasts a rigorous curriculum and expert faculty. Employers, state licensing boards, and the Council of Social Work Education recognize an MSSA as equivalent to an MSW.

Comprehensive and interdisciplinary, the MSSA combines practice, policy, research, theory, advocacy and real-world learning to prepare students for a career in social work. Degree candidates select from two concentrations: community practice for social change, which focuses on skills necessary to effect large-scale social change through a range of course topics such as poverty and inequality, and direct practice, wherein students learn to work closely with individuals, families, and groups to provide needed services and support. Learners on the direct practice track must choose from two available sub-specializations: children, youth, and families; and mental health with adults. Synchronous classes meet for two hours, once each week.

CWRU requires degree candidates to begin field education early in their studies to allow for long-term assignments. Additionally, prospective students must submit a field study proposal as part of the application process. Learners with a bachelor’s degree in social work typically enter the program with advanced standing, meaning they only need to complete 36 credit hours to earn their degree. The university also permits students to transfer up to 24 credit hours toward the online social work master's requirements. Though admission requirements include a resume, personal essays, and three letters of recommendation, applicants to the MSSA program do not need to pay an application fee. CWRU automatically considers all applicants for scholarships. With start dates in spring, summer, and fall, the master's in social work online requires prospective students to submit applications by November, March, and June, respectively.


Program Overview
Department: School of Applied Social Sciences
Program name: Master of Science in Social Administration
Available concentrations: Community practice for social change; direct practice in children, youth, and families or mental health with adults
Accrediting body: CSWE
Tuition: $1,419/ credit

Delivery
Format: Online
Instruction style: Synchronous

Program Requirements
Credit requirements: 60 credits
Field education requirements: 1,050 hours

Program Length
Program options: Full-time
Program length: 2-4 years
Program start dates: Spring, summer, fall

Admission Requirements
Application deadline: March, June, November
GPA: Minimum 3.0

Contact
Department phone: (216) 368-1655
Department email: mandelschool@case.edu
Social media accounts: Facebook; Twitter

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4 Boston University 69.46 5/5 8% Boston, MA

BU delivers an online master's of social work (MSW) as a part-time degree program through its School of Social Work. Distance learners opt for either the clinical practice track, which addresses work with individuals, families, and groups, or the macro practice track, which focuses on change within large systems (like communities). Students on either course can select among three options for earning their master's degree: a traditional format, an advanced standing track, and the human services experience track.

Degree candidates can complete the traditional MSW track, earning 65 credits, in nine consecutive semesters. In addition, students on this path must complete two field internships that total 1,200 hours of experiential learning. Alternatively, the advanced standing track draws learners who have completed an undergraduate social work program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. These students can earn their master's of social work online by completing 40-43 credits and a 1,000-hour field internship. Finally, degree candidates on the human service experience track must have previously held a supervisory role in human services for at least two years. These students can finish the online master's in social work's requirements in nine semesters, completing 65 credits and a 1,000-hour field internship. All learners, regardless of their chosen track, must complete the program within six years of enrollment.

Learners in this master's in social work online program do not need to attend any sessions on campus. Students enroll in sequential, seven-week courses that they can complete entirely online in an asynchronous format. Field internships, which degree candidates can complete within their local community, require a certain number of hours of participation each week.

Admission to BU's program requires an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or above, and those with a liberal arts background that includes classes in behavioral and social sciences receive preference. In addition, applicants may be required to participate in an interview through either the telephone or Skype. Distance learners residing in Maryland, New Hampshire, and certain U.S. territories cannot enroll in BU's online master's in social work.


Program Overview
Department: School of Social Work
Program name: MSW
Available concentrations: clinical practice, macro practice
Accrediting body: CSWE
Tuition: $785/ credit

Delivery
Format: Online
Instruction style: Asynchronous

Program Requirements
Credit requirements: 65 credits
Field education requirements: 1-2 internships depending on prior work experience

Program Length
Program options: Part-time
Program length: 9 semesters
Program start dates: September, January, May

Admission Requirements
Application deadline: Rolling
GPA: Minimum 3.0
Work experience: 2 years in human services for HSE track

Contact
Department phone: (617) 353-3750
Department email: busswad@bu.edu
Social media accounts: Facebook; Twitter

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5 University of Central Florida 68.84 3/5 51% Orlando, FL

UCF's master's of social work (MSW) online prepares students to advocate for vulnerable populations and make a positive difference in their community. Graduates leave the program not only equipped to meet the needs of diverse groups facing challenges such as homelessness, substance abuse addiction, and mental health issues, but also prepared to safeguard their best interests.

The school delivers its MSW online degree program to part-time students over nine semesters. The curriculum caters to learners who did not earn a bachelor’s degree in social work and those who did so more than five years ago. Each course lasts for seven weeks, and students typically enroll in one class each term. Those with a bachelor’s degree in social work may enter the program with advanced standing, which allows them to earn their degree in just four semesters, still with just one course per term.

Classes covers topics such as child protection, military and veterans’ assistance, and community development. Coursework focuses on evidence-based techniques for practice and intervention by coupling theory and application. Expert faculty and field instructors help facilitate learners’ progress in the self-paced program. Students in UCF's online social work master's program must complete 1,000 hours of fieldwork. This experiential learning opportunity allows degree candidates to apply their newly acquired knowledge in a real-world setting. Program graduates find professional success in a variety of roles, including child welfare worker, substance abuse counselor, clinical practitioner, and mental health social worker. Additionally, the school's online MSW features a concentration in behavioral health, preparing learners for careers in behavioral therapy and research.

Applicants do not need to submit GRE scores. Admission requirements include a minimum 2.0 GPA for all college coursework, an official transcript from each prior institution of higher learning, and a nonrefundable $30 application fee. All distance learners earning their MSW online through UCF pay the same tuition rates, regardless of residency status.


Program Overview
Department: College of Health and Public Affairs
Program name: MSW
Available concentrations: Behavioral health
Accrediting body: CSWE
Tuition: $487/ credit

Delivery
Format: Online
Instruction style: Asynchronous

Program Requirements
Credit requirements: 62 credits
Field education requirements: 1,000 hours

Program Length
Program options: Part-time
Program length: 9 semesters
Program start dates: Fall, spring, summer

Admission Requirements
Application deadline: Rolling
GPA: Minimum 3.0

Contact
Department phone: (407) 823-0171
School email: hpainfo@mail.ucf.edu
Social media accounts: Facebook; Twitter

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6 Fordham University 64.60 5/5 4% Bronx, NY

Located in New York, Fordham's Graduate School of Social Service offers an online master's of social work (MSW) degree. Featuring flexibility and convenience, the school's MSW online program couples extensive classroom instruction with hands-on learning opportunities through local fieldwork. Only learners residing in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut can earn this degree from Fordham. The program includes part-time and full-time asynchronous options, with classes lasting for eight weeks each. The university allows students to enroll in a maximum of four courses each fall and spring, and limits summer sessions to two courses. Full-time students typically earn their degree within 2-2 ½ years, while part-time candidates usually finish the program within 3-4 years. Those with advanced standing can earn their MSW in 12-18 months.

Students must select from two available concentrations: clinical work, and leadership and macro practice. The clinical concentration equips degree candidates to deliver services and interventions on behalf of individuals, families, groups, and communities. The track includes classes in topics such as children, youth, and families; clinical assessment and diagnosis; and policy practice and human rights advocacy. Students who choose to concentrate their studies in leadership and macro practice demonstrate special interest in leading and managing a human services organization. The track requires coursework similar to that for the clinical concentration, in addition to classes in leadership.

Distance learners can access all content in Fordham’s online MSW program entirely online, and can complete mandatory fieldwork at locations throughout the tri-state area. The school's 18-credit field instruction course lasts for two years, requiring students to earn a total of 1,200 hours through weekly fieldwork practica and 20 two-hour seminars. Degree candidates work in hospitals, schools, and other community agencies. In addition, learners can earn a certificate in alcohol and substance abuse counseling if they complete the 350 educational hours necessary to earn the Credentialed Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor-Trainee (CASA-T) designation.


Program Overview
Department: Graduate School of Social Service
Program name: MSW
Available concentrations: Clinical, leadership and macro practice, research
Accrediting body: CSWE
Tuition: $907/ credit

Delivery
Format: online, hybrid
Instruction style: Asynchronous

Program Requirements
Prerequisites: 18 credits in liberal arts
Credit requirements: 66 credits
Field education requirements: weekly practicum, 20 integrative seminars over 4 semesters

Program Length
Program options: Part-time or full-time
Program length: 2-4 years
Program start dates: Fall, spring

Admission Requirements
Application deadline: Feb. 1, Nov. 1

Contact
Department phone: (212) 636-6600
Department email: krund@fordham.edu
Social media accounts: Facebook; Twitter

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7 University of Denver 64.02 4/5 15% Denver, CO

UD's online master's of social work (MSW) does not include any on-campus participation requirements, allowing learners to balance family and career with academic pursuits. Featuring a concentration in mental health and trauma, the program generally takes two years and three months, or nine quarters, to complete. The first four quarters include coursework in fundamentals of social work, emphasizing familiarity with intervention skills and techniques. To fulfill the concentration requirements, degree candidates subsequently complete five quarters that build on the intervention coursework while focusing on cognitive approaches, trauma-informed care, suicide risk assessment, and substance abuse. Online learners must participate in up to four hours of live class sessions each week, but can select time slots that work best with their schedule. Courses cover a range of topics, including human behavior in the social environment, assessment of mental health across the lifespan, and disproportionality and disparity across systems.

Students must also complete field internships, where they work collaboratively with a field placement specialist who aims to tailor internships to personal interests and professional goals. To be eligible for graduation, degree candidates must complete two field internships: one during their first year that focuses on the values and skills necessary for success in the profession, and another during their second year that focuses in depth on mental health and trauma. For their first internship, students must devote 12 hours each week; the second internship requires a bigger commitment of 15 hours each week.

Services available to distance learners at UD include registration support, interview coaching, and resume prep. Only residents of the U.S. can enroll in the school's online social work master's program. Applicants must submit transcripts from prior institutions, two letters of recommendation (one academic and one professional), a resume, and an essay on career goals. Additionally, the university requires a nonrefundable application fee of $65. UD accepts students into the program every quarter.


Program Overview
Department: Graduate School of Social Work
Program name: MSW
Available concentrations: Mental health and trauma
Accrediting body: CSWE
Tuition: $1,320/ credit

Delivery
Format: online
Instruction style: Synchronous

Program Requirements
Credit requirements: 90 credits
Field education requirements: 2 internships

Program Length
Program options: Full-time
Program length: 2 years
Program start dates: Quarterly

Admission Requirements
Application deadline: Rolling

Contact
Department phone: (303) 871-2886
Admissions email: gssw-admission@du.edu
Social media accounts: Facebook; Twitter

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8 University at Buffalo 62.98 3/5 12% Buffalo, NY

UB delivers an MSW online as a part-time program that features ease and convenience. Requiring degree candidates to complete 60 credits, the curriculum promotes in-depth skill and knowledge acquisition through an evidence-based approach to instruction. Online courses include both synchronous and asynchronous components, and students may find that some classes in their specific interest areas necessitate travel to campus. The school's program welcomes all learners, regardless of their undergraduate major. Courses cover fundamentals of social work, including the history of social welfare, theories of human behavior, and topics in diversity and oppression. In addition, the program dedicates attention to trauma and human rights issues, advanced interventions, professional development, and topic analysis.

All degree candidates must participate in field placements, which serve as training opportunities that allow them to more deeply explore their interests and passions. While distance learners can access coursework online, they must complete fieldwork in person, in their local community. Students work with the university’s Office of Field Education to determine the best agency, organization, or site for their particular interests and needs. To graduate, degree candidates must complete two placements – a foundation placement and an advanced placement – each lasting two semesters and requiring 15 hours each week. In total, students must complete 420 hours for the foundation placement and 480 for the advanced placement.

Learners who enter this online master's in social work program after earning a bachelor’s of social work degree qualify for advanced standing and need only complete 35 credits to earn their degree. Advanced standing students engage in advanced research and seminar classes. Additionally, these candidates do not need to complete the 420 hours for a foundation field placement. To qualify for admission, prospective students must submit three letters of recommendation (academic or professional) and a nonrefundable $75 fee with their online application.


Program Overview
Department: School of Social Work
Program name: MSW
Accrediting body: CSWE
Tuition: In-state $706/ credit; out-of-state $1,091/ credit

Delivery
Format: Online
Instruction style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Program Requirements
Prerequisites: 24 credits in liberal arts
Credit requirements: 60 credits
Field education requirements: 900 hours over 2 semesters

Program Length
Program options: Part-time
Program length: 3 years
Program start dates: Fall

Admission Requirements
Application deadline: Feb. 1, Sept. 15
GPA: Minimum 3.0

Contact
Department phone: (716) 645-3456
School email: swinfo@buffalo.edu
Social media accounts: Facebook; Twitter

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9 Ohio State University 62.94 3/5 17% Columbus, OH

OSU offers an MSW online Advanced Standing Alternative Program (ASAP) catering to students who earned a bachelor’s degree in social work within the past five years. Full-time learners can complete the program within one year, while part-time students typically take two years. With a concentration in mental health and substance abuse, coursework also focuses on child and youth services. Students can access all course content entirely online.

Expert faculty lead all classes in OSU's master's of social work online program, interacting with students through synchronous sessions. Foundation courses address topics like evidence in social work practice, while courses in the mental health and substance abuse emphasis include integrative seminars focusing on those topics. All learners must complete advanced practice methods courses, which provide instruction in topics like social work with adults and families, pharmacology, and supervision and human resources management.

Distance learners enjoy access to the same support services as their campus-based peers, including academic advising, technical help, career counseling, and military and veterans services. The university accepts applications for its MSW online on a rolling basis and does not require GRE scores from most prospective students. However, applicants must have at least a 3.0 GPA in their undergraduate studies, and must have earned a grade of "B" or better in all social work courses. Additionally, prospective students must submit official transcripts and evidence of experience in social work, either through undergraduate field placements or paid employment. Online applicants should also submit three letters of recommendation, one of which should come from a distance learning professor.

Colorado has authorized the program on a limited basis, and students living in Iowa and Puerto Rico currently cannot earn their online MSW through OSU. The university charges distance learners living out of state only slightly more than it does students residing in Ohio. OSU also provides a variety of financial aid opportunities, including long-term loans and short term tuition assistance.


Program Overview
Department: College of Social Work
Program name: MSW Advanced Standing Alternative Program
Available concentrations: Mental health and substance abuse, child and youth services
Accrediting body: CSWE
Tuition: In-state: $6,548/ semester; out-of-state: $16,772/ semester

Delivery
Format: Online
Instruction style: Synchronous

Program Requirements
Prerequisites: BSW within 5 years of application

Program Length
Program options: Part-time or full-time
Program length: 1-2 years
Program start dates: Fall, spring, summer

Admission Requirements
Application deadline: Rolling
GPA: 3.0
Work experience: Required

Contact
Department phone: (614) 292-2972
Department email: msw@osu.edu
Social media accounts: Facebook; Twitter

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10 Rutgers University-New Brunswick 61.22 3/5 22% New Brunswick, NJ

Established in 1766, RU serves nearly 60,000 students as the eighth-oldest institution of higher learning in the country. A fully online degree program, RU's master's of social work (MSW) features start dates in the fall, spring, and summer semesters. Students can earn their degree in as little as two years, dependent upon undergraduate work and course load. Degree candidates who do not qualify for advanced standing typically finish the program within three years.

Foundation courses for this online master's in social work include human behavior and the social environment, psychopathology, and diversity and oppression. Degree candidates then progress to the advanced curriculum, which includes studies in research methods and social welfare policy. In addition to classroom learning, students in RU's online MSW program must complete fieldwork. In earning the required 1,125 field hours, learners must complete 450 during the first three semesters. Graduates find professional success working in medical and public health, child welfare, and correctional social work.

Students may also specialize their degree by pursuing a certificate in violence against women and children. This subprogram instructs candidates on effective responses to such violence and recovery resources for victims. Learners working toward this certification can integrate required coursework into their MSW online program without adding any extra semesters. Additionally, students can request field placement at a related agency or organization.

RU offers its MSW online through one of the country’s largest schools of social work. The university provides a variety of services to distance learners, including job placement assistance and student advisers. Additionally, executive coaches guide students through the program, from enrollment to graduation. Admission requires a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university with transcripts that demonstrate at least a 3.0 GPA. Applicants must also submit a personal statement, and should demonstrate a liberal arts background. The university does not require prospective students to submit GRE scores.


Program Overview
Department: School of Social Work
Program name: MSW
Available concentrations: Clinical social work, management and policy
Accrediting body: CSWE
Tuition: $900/ credit

Delivery
Format: Online, hybrid
Instruction style: Asynchronous

Program Requirements
Credit requirements: 60 credits
Field education requirements: 2 placements across 7 semesters

Program Length
Program options: Full-time
Program length: 3 years
Program start dates: Fall, spring, summer

Admission Requirements
Application deadline: Rolling
GPA: Minimum 3.0

Contact
Department phone: (848) 932-7520
Department email: rschwartz@ssw.rutgers.edu
Social media accounts: Facebook; Twitter

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11 The University of Alabama 60.31 4/5 26% Tuscaloosa, AL

Dating back to 1965, UA's master's of social work (MSW) prepares students to make a difference in the lives of others. As distance learners progress through the curriculum, they develop an in-depth understanding of social problems, learn how they can improve social conditions, and acquire the skills needed to promote social justice. The standard program requires 60 credit hours in addition to 1,000 hours of field education, while students with advanced standing (a bachelor's in social work) need only complete 42 credit hours and 500 hours of experiential learning. The former typically takes two years for full-time students, while the latter generally requires only three full-time semesters. All learners must participate in an in-person orientation and complete two full days of field education per week beginning in the spring semester.

Primarily available online using the Blackboard LMS, UA's online MSW program also includes in-person skills labs at locations across Alabama on Saturday mornings. Students can choose from two available concentrations: children, adolescents, and their families; and adults and their families. Those on the former track study child welfare and mental health settings as they prepare for leadership roles in child welfare, substance abuse treatment, and family services. Students who choose the adults and their families concentration focus on geriatric and mental health topics.

Prospective students should submit applications by February 1 and September 1 to take advantage of priority consideration for the summer and spring terms, respectively. Admission requirements for UA's online master's in social work include a minimum GPA of 3.0 for the last 60 hours of coursework toward a completed degree. Students seeking advanced standing must also have earned at least a "B" average in social work courses. Graduate distance learners at UA all pay the same tuition rates, regardless of whether or not they live in Alabama. The university also offers a range of financial aid opportunities, including scholarships and grants.


Program Overview
Department: School of Social Work
Program name: MSW
Available concentrations: Children, adolescents and their families; adults and their families
Accrediting body: CSWE
Tuition: $367/ credit

Delivery
Format: Hybrid
Instruction style: Asynchronous

Program Requirements
Credit requirements: 60 credits
Field education requirements: 1,000 hours

Program Length
Program options: Part-time or full-time
Program length: 2 years
Program start dates: Fall

Admission Requirements
Application deadline: February 1

Contact
Department phone: (205) 348-5272
Student services email: studentservices@sw.ua.edu
Social media accounts: Facebook; Twitter

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12 Louisiana State University 59.55 3/5 15% Baton Rouge, LA

LSU delivers a master's of social work (MSW) as an online program that covers topics like substance abuse treatment, child welfare practices, and treatment for geriatrics. The program requires 60 credit hours and two years to complete for full-time students, but advanced standing learners who already have a bachelor's degree in the field can earn their master's degree in just one year by completing only 30 credit hours. The curriculum's first year introduces students to foundations in social work through classwork in policy, history, human behavior, and research. The advanced phase of the program includes instruction in direct practice and advanced social policy. LSU structures courses in seven-week terms.

All students seeking their online master's of social work through LSU must maintain at least a 3.0 GPA and complete either a thesis or a capstone experience as an exit requirement. The former option requires candidates to submit a topic for approval by the thesis committee chair by the end of their first year. After approval, students enroll in a thesis research course wherein they complete six credit hours over two semesters. Learners who opt for the non-thesis approach take a comprehensive exam, submit a portfolio of work they completed throughout the program, and complete an integrative seminar.

Distance learners earning their MSW online receive the same support services as do campus-based students. LSU assigns each learner an enrollment specialist who aids in the registration and application processes and helps answer questions about financial aid. In addition, online students enjoy access to personalized advising services, the school’s library and bookstore, and career planning support.

Applicants should have an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or above along with undergraduate coursework in introductory statistics. Other admission requirements include a letter of intent, a current resume, and three letters of recommendation. Currently, international students cannot enroll in LSU's online MSW program.


Program Overview
Department: School of Social Work
Program name: MSW
Accrediting body: Council on Social Work Education
Tuition: $509/ credit

Delivery
Format: Online
Instruction style: Asynchronous

Program Requirements
Credit requirements: 60 credits
Field education requirements: Internship

Program Length
Program options: Part-time or full-time
Program length: 2-4 years

Admission Requirements
Application deadline: Rolling
GPA: Minimum 3.0

Contact
Department phone: (225) 578-5875
Department email: dchiass@lsu.edu
Social media accounts: Facebook; Twitter

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13 The University of Tennessee-Knoxville 58.16 3/5 24% Knoxville, TN

Through its College of Social Work, UT offers an online master's of science in social work (MSSW) that features both rigorous curricula and affordability. Students may enroll in one of three tracks: an advanced standing program (for those who earned a bachelor's degree in social work with a minimum GPA of 3.0) available full-time or part-time, a standard full-time program, and a part-time extended study program. Candidates with advanced standing need only complete 36 semester hours of coursework and 672 hours of fieldwork to earn their degree, which full-time students typically do in one year; part-time advanced standing students can finish the program in 18-24 months. Standard standing candidates must complete 60 semester hours of coursework (in addition to fieldwork) and generally earn their degree within two years. Students in the standard curriculum must complete 352 hours of generalist field education during their first year, and 672 hours in their concentration during their second.

UT's online extended study program caters to part-time learners who need more flexibility to fulfill their degree requirements. Students on this track enroll in six credit hours per semester, typically earning their degree in three or four years. In addition, these candidates must complete two field placements for the same total number of hours as the online full-time students.

No matter the track, UT's online master's in social work offers two concentrations: evidence-based interpersonal practice, and organizational leadership. All classes feature both asynchronous and synchronous components. Students can complete field placements locally.

Applicants seeking advanced standing must have an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or above. All other candidates need a minimum 2.7 GPA in undergraduate work. Other admission requirements include a nonrefundable $60 application fee, official transcripts, a professional statement, and three reference evaluations. Prospective students should submit their online application for this online MSW by February 1. The advanced standing program begins during the summer semester, while the two non-advanced tracks begin in the fall.


Program Overview
Department: College of Social Work
Program name: MS in Social Work
Available concentrations: Evidence based interpersonal practice, organizational leadership
Accrediting body: CSWE
Tuition: In-state: $6,417/ semester; out-of-state: $15,626/ semester

Delivery
Format: Online
Instruction style: Asynchronous and synchronous

Program Requirements
Credit requirements: 60 credits
Field education requirements: 1,024 hours

Program Length
Program options: Part-time or full-time
Program length: 2-4 years
Program start dates: Fall

Admission Requirements
Application deadline: February 1
GPA: Minimum 2.7

Contact
Department phone: (615) 256-1885
Department email: sckeiser@utk.edu
Social media accounts: Facebook; Twitter

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14 University of Northern Iowa 57.48 3/5 21% Cedar Falls, IA

UNI delivers a range of online degrees, including a master's of social work (MSW) that readies students to meet the needs of underserved populations — particularly those in rural settings. Courses cover topics like social work research, practice with families, grant writing, and community collaboration. The majority of classes meet online during evening hours using interactive video, but some may require hands-on participation either on campus or at regional meetings. Additionally, UNI assigns each student an academic adviser to guide them through the program from enrollment to graduation.

The university's Trauma Informed Care (TIC) concentration serves as a unique way for candidates to customize their degree. UNI delivers TIC courses using a cohort format, allowing students to progress through the program with a defined set of peers and facilitating networking opportunities post-graduation. Students may earn their degree on UNI’s foundation track or its advanced standing track. Graduates typically pass the Licensed Master's of Social Work (LMSW) Exam and find professional success at mental health facilities, domestic violence shelters, schools, and substance abuse organizations.

UNI permits students to transfer applicable credits earned from another college or university toward their online master's of social work. All distance learners pay the same tuition rate, regardless of their residency status. To be eligible for financial aid, distance learners must enroll at least half-time and meet certain academic progress standards. Additionally, the university provides a variety of resources for online students, including enrollment assistance, technical support, and its library's print and electronic collections. The university also offers study abroad opportunities for students in its distance education programs. Prospective students should have a minimum GPA of 3.0 in all undergraduate coursework. Applicants for this online social work master's do not need to submit GRE scores, but can do so if they have a low undergraduate GPA. UNI also considers professional experience, a professional statement, and references in making admission decisions.


Program Overview
Department: College of Social and Behavioral Sciences
Program name: MSW
Available concentrations: Trauma-informed practice
Accrediting body: CSWE
Tuition: $486/ credit

Delivery
Format: Online
Instruction style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Program Requirements
Credit requirements: 60 credits
Field education requirements: Two-semester internship

Program Length
Program options: Full-time
Program length: 7 semesters
Program start dates: Fall

Admission Requirements
Application deadline: January 15
GPA: Minimum 3.0

Contact
Department phone: (319) 273-6249
Department email: cynthia.juby@uni.edu
Social media accounts: Facebook; Twitter

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15 California State University-Northridge 56.47 3/5 23% Northridge, CA

California State University, Northridge was founded in 1958 in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley. The school was one of the first American universities to offer an online master’s of social work. CSUN's master’s of social work online degree emphasizes social justice with a focus on multiculturalism, and prepares students to work directly with at-risk populations. Delivered by the CSUN College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, this program can be completed in two years of full-time study. All online coursework is offered through the school's Tseng College, which provides graduate careers and certificate programs designed for midcareer students looking for career advancement.

The majority of online courses are offered asynchronously, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace. However, students are still expected to meet on average once per week for live online class sessions. Live session dates are announced to each cohort about one month before classes begin. The 60-credit program consists of a series of eight-week courses that cover a variety of topics, including human behavior and social environment, social work in multicultural contexts, social welfare policies and services, and family trauma and grief. Students must also complete a capstone project at the end of the program.

All students are paired with a personal program manager immediately after acceptance who will work with them for the duration of program. Students are also guaranteed enrollment in all required courses for their degree. CSUN's small class sizes of seven to eight students are offered on a 16-week schedule, allowing instructors to provide individualized instruction to each student. CSUN is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and the MSW online program is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.


Program Overview
Department: College of Social and Behavioral Sciences
Program name: MSW
Accrediting body: CSWE
Tuition: $737/ credit

Delivery
Format: Online
Instruction style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Program Requirements
Credit requirements: 60 credits
Field education requirements: 16 hours/week

Program Length
Program options: Full-time
Program length: 2 years
Program start dates: Fall

Admission Requirements
Application deadline: January 10
GPA: Minimum 2.5

Contact
Department phone: (818) 677-7630
Department email: msw@csun.edu
Social media accounts: Facebook; Twitter

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16 University of Hawaii at Manoa 55.58 3/5 13% Honolulu, HI

The University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, located in Honolulu, was founded in 1907 and has more than 70,000 alumni in all 50 states and 100 foreign countries. The master's in social work online is offered through the Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work and can be completed in a variety of formats for neighbor island residents (Hawai‘i, Moloka‘i, Kaua‘i, Maui, or Lana‘i) in their respective communities. Courses are facilitated through a combination of interactive television courses, computer-based courses, live courses, field practicum, and other hybrid approaches.

Students of the MSW online program choose one of four concentrations: children and families, behavioral mental health, health, or gerontology. This 57-credit program consists of a foundation level, a concentration level, and four semesters of field practicum experience. Distance learners are required to complete 900 clock hours of field work during the program. Foundation-level students attend their practicum 16 hours per week for 14 weeks for a minimum of 225 hours, which earns three credits per semester. Concentration-level students can increase their practicum hours beyond the minimum requirement per semester with instructor permission.

The school provides students with access to electronic library databases, technology support, and online tutoring services. Classes are held on weeknights and Saturdays and are completed alongside practicum requirements. All students must travel to O'ahu once a year to attend an on-site training and to receive advising and other educational resources. Applicants with a bachelor's degree in social work from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education are eligible for an advanced standing option. An advanced standing allows qualifying students to complete the program in one of two years, instead of the standard three years.


Program Overview
Department: School of Social Work
Program name: MSW
Available concentrations: Children and families, behavioral mental health, health and gerontology
Accrediting body: CSWE
Tuition: $637/ credit

Delivery
Format: Hybrid
Instruction style: Synchronous

Program Requirements
Credit requirements: 57 credits
Field education requirements: 4 practica of 225 hours each

Program Length
Program options: Full-time
Program length: 3 years
Program start dates: Fall, spring, summer

Admission Requirements
Application deadline: February 1
GPA: Minimum 3.0

Contact
Department phone: (808) 956-3833
Department email: sswadmit@hawaii.edu
Social media accounts: Facebook; Twitter

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17 Simmons College 55.32 4/5 21% Boston, MA

Simmons College is a private four-year women's college located in Boston, Massachusetts, that offers coeducational graduate professional programs. The online programs offered by Simmons College are powered by the Strategic Initiatives group, a program designed to develop the best teaching strategies for MSW online learning. Courses are continually adapted to reflect the most advanced technology and online education delivery methods.

The 65-credit online master's degree in social work allows students to create an individualized program of study or choose a concentration in child and family, trauma and interpersonal violence, mental health and addictions, or health and aging. Graduates are prepared for careers in a variety of industries, including child welfare, community mental health, disaster response, juvenile justice, public health, and more. The MSW online can be completed in an accelerated (four terms), full-time (six terms), or extended (eight terms) format. The accelerated program is not offered during March and November of any MSW online program.

Simmons College maintains a national network of field work sites, allowing students to complete this requirement in their own communities. Students enrolled in the extended, full-time, and accelerated MSW online programs complete field education at two placement sites. A student's first placement focuses on foundations of general social work practices and is conducted in two eight-hour days per week over 28 weeks. The second placement focuses on advanced clinical skills and is conducted in three eight-hour days per week over 28 weeks. All courses are taught concurrently with field placements.

Applicants must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university with a minimum GPA of 3.0 to be considered. They are also required to have relevant work or volunteer experience in social work. The Simmons College School of Social Work is accredited through the Council on Social Work Education.


Program Overview
Department: School of Social Work
Program name: MSW
Available concentrations: Child and family, trauma and interpersonal violence, mental health and addictions, health and aging
Accrediting body: CSWE
Tuition: $1,010/ credit

Delivery
Format: Online
Instruction style: Synchronous

Program Requirements
Credit requirements: 65 credits
Field education requirements: 4 clinical practica

Program Length
Program options: Part-time or full-time
Program length: 2-4 years
Program start dates: Rolling

Admission Requirements
Application deadline: Rolling
GPA: Minimum 3.0
Work experience: Required; volunteer experience accepted

Contact
Department phone: (855) 523-7779
Admissions email: admissions@socialwork.simmons.edu
Social media accounts: Facebook; Twitter

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18 Virginia Commonwealth University 54.33 4/5 22% Richmond, VA

The Center for Sport Leadership at Virginia Commonwealth University is committed to creating the most prepared, productive generation of leaders in the sports industry through its innovative online platform. The online program offers a master of education (M.Ed.) in sport leadership to students currently employed in the sports industry and seeking an advanced degree. Provided through the Blackboard Learning System, online courses are held in real time and utilize virtual classrooms. Students can choose to begin courses in the fall, spring, or summer semesters. Core courses include sport marketing, event development, facility management, sport law and media. In addition, students can take electives and independent studies that can be incorporated into your current job. Online students are also included in networking and mentoring opportunities with VCU's extensive alumni network. Before graduating, online students must complete a minimum of 36 credit requirements, including one course on-campus.


Program Overview
Department: School of Social Work
Program name: MSW
Accrediting body: CSWE
Tuition: In-state: $12,779/ year; out-of-state: $24,627/ year

Delivery
Format: Hybrid
Instruction style: Asynchronous

Program Requirements
Credit requirements: 60 credits
Field education requirements: 2 internships

Program Length
Program options: Part-time
Program length: 4 years
Program start dates: Fall

Admission Requirements
Application deadline: January 25

Contact
School phone: (804) 828-1030
School email: sswinfo@vcu.edu
Social media accounts: Facebook; Twitter

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19 Colorado State University-Fort Collins 52.99 3/5 22% Fort Collins, CO

Colorado State University was founded in 1870 in Fort Collins. The school offers a variety of distance learning programs, including an online social work degree. The master’s in social work online program at CSU prepares students for academic and professional success through a robust series of coursework. CSU is a proven leader in training public health employees, with over 80% of students reporting as either employed or pursuing continuing education within six months of graduation.

The 63-credit online master's in social work includes an advanced generalist curriculum that teaches students about critical aspects of the field, including courses that investigate topics that apply to all levels of community intervention. This diverse curriculum emphasizes areas such as the utilization of community resources, theories of human behavior and interactions, military and veteran culture, advocacy, and intervention skills. Students must also complete a two- to three-credit elective course of their choice during their second year.

The traditional academic track can be completed in three years, with the possibility of a two-year completion for advanced-standing students with prior applicable training. To qualify for advanced standing, students must have earned a bachelor's of science in social work during the past seven years. CSU offers five graduate certificates that can be earn alongside the master's in social work in the following areas: advanced clinical behavior health, conflict resolution and mediation, military and veteran culture, nonprofit administration, and PreK–12 school social worker. Graduates of this master's in social work online program have a solid background in a variety of social, as each students is required to complete 1,000 hours in field placements. CSU's School of Social Work is accredited through the Council on Social Work Education and allows graduates to pursue professional licensure.


Program Overview
Department: School of Social Work
Program name: MSW
Available concentrations: Advanced generalist
Accrediting body: CSWE
Tuition: $619/ credit

Delivery
Format: Hybrid
Instruction style: Asynchronous

Program Requirements
Credit requirements: 60 credits
Field education requirements: 945 hours

Program Length
Program options: Part-time
Program length: 3 years

Admission Requirements
Application deadline: Six months prior to start date
GPA: Minimum 3.0
Work experience: 400 hours

Contact
Department phone: (970) 491-6612
School email: sswinfo@colostate.edu
Social media accounts: Facebook; Twitter

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20 Catholic University of America 52.48 5/5 9% Washington, DC

Located in Washington D.C., the Catholic University of America was founded by the Catholic Church in 1887 as a graduate school and research center. The online graduate programs offered at the CUA, including a master's in social work, are designed to help students advance their careers. This program is delivered through the National Catholic School of Social Service and accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

The online master's in social work at CUA is rooted in social justice and seeks to uphold the Catholic tradition of service to others. Coursework covers a variety of topics, including psychopathology, social work practice, clinical social work, welfare policy, and more. The curriculum provides students with a strong foundation in social policy, theory, and hands-on learning through required field experiences. Each student must complete two to three days of field service work per week, for a total of 16-20 hours. These service hours must all last at least four hours each, with one eight-hour shift required each week. During field experiences, students must receive one to one-and-a-half hours of face-to-face supervision each week by licensed clinical social workers. Graduates are prepared to pursue a variety of careers in clinical practice that treat almost any population.

The 54-credit hour degree path is conducted over a series of 18 courses, with a 30-credit advanced-standing option available to qualified students who possess previous social work education and experience. These requirements include: a bachelor's degree in social work from a CSWE accredited program with a cumulative GPA of 3.5 and completion of undergraduate generalist practicum requirements. The curriculum prepares graduates to take the Licensed Graduate Social Work exam, with 95% of graduates from CUA passing the exam on the first attempt.


Program Overview
Department: National Catholic School of Social Service
Program name: MSW
Available concentrations: Clinical practice
Accrediting body: CSWE
Tuition: $940/ credit

Delivery
Format: Online
Instruction style: Asynchronous

Program Requirements
Credit requirements: 54 credits
Field education requirements: 2 internships

Program Length
Program options: Part-time
Program length: 10 semesters
Program start dates: Fall

Admission Requirements
Application deadline: May 31
Work experience: Required; volunteer experience accepted

Contact
Department phone: (202) 319-5472
Department email: raber@cua.edu
Social media accounts: Facebook; Twitter

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21 Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis 51.67 3/5 32% Indianapolis, IN

Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis is a top public research school in Indiana with a proven record of excellence in instruction on public health. IUPUI offers a competitive MSW online program that emphasizes the changing needs of individuals, families, groups, and groups as it relates to social work.

The online social work master's is offered either part-time or full-time and includes 60 credit hours and two practicum experiences. These practicums allow students to apply what they've learned in the classroom to a real-world setting. The first 30 credits of the program are standardized, while the second 30 credits differ from student to student depending on concentration and directed practicum. Graduates are prepared to pursue careers as clinicians, community organizers, group facilitators, and policy analysts.

The program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and has an advanced generalist concentration, which prepares students to work in a variety of social work settings. Students can choose from a wide array of electives include courses such as telebehavioral health practice and military social work. Students can also acquire specialized knowledge in an area of interest or geographic locale through electives. For example, a student could specialize in rural, suburban, or stressed urban communities.

All students in regular standing are required to earn a total of 320 hours in field practicum courses. Certain students may also qualify for advanced standing, an accelerated option that waives 21 credits of requirements from the curriculum. To qualify for advanced standing, applicants must have a bachelor's in social work from an a CSWE accredited program earned within the past five years. The program offers start dates in January, May, and August. Technical requirements include laptop with a camera, microphone, and broadband internet connection.


Program Overview
Department: School of Social Work
Program name: MSW
Available concentrations: Advanced generalist
Accrediting body: CSWE
Tuition: In-state: $541/ credit; out-of-state: $675/ credit

Delivery
Format: Online
Instruction style: Asynchronous

Program Requirements
Prerequisites: 18 hours of social or behavioral sciences
Credit requirements: 60 credits
Field education requirements: Three practica

Program Length
Program options: Part-time or full-time
Program length: 2-3 years
Program start dates: Fall, spring, summer

Admission Requirements
Application deadline: Rolling
GPA: Minimum 3.0

Contact
Department phone: (317) 274-7180
Department email: swdirect@iu.edu
Social media accounts: Facebook; Twitter

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22 University of Missouri-Columbia 51.58 3/5 29% Columbia, MO

Founded in 1839, the University of Missouri was the first university west of the Mississippi River and is the state's largest higher education institution with over 33,000 students. Mizzou offers an online master's in social work that reflects the school's mission to provide a quality education that emphasizes personal responsibility, respect for others, and learning through discovery. The MSW online is available for both regular and advanced-standing students. To qualify for advanced standing, students must have a bachelor's degree in social work that was earned in the past seven years. Students can choose between two concentrations: advanced clinical practice or policy and planning in human services.

This master's of social work online program consists of 60 total credits, including a required field practicum at two approved agencies. A regular course load typically consists of two classes per semester over the course of three years, for a total of nine semesters. The curriculum includes 21 credits of foundation courses, 30 credits of concentration courses, and nine credits of electives. Advanced-standing students enjoy an accelerated 39-credit program that can be completed over the course of two years, including a foundation course of 3 credits, 30 credits of concentration courses, and six credits of electives. Courses cover a variety of topics, including large group therapy, foundations of human behavior, fundamentals of social work administration, and management of a social agency.

Applicants must have completed an approved college-level statistics course with a minimum grade of "C-" to be considered. Mizzou is currently only accepting applications for this program from residents of the following states: Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Illinois. Distance learners residing in these states should qualify for in-state tuition. The program is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and the Council on Social Work Education.


Program Overview
Department: School of Social Work
Program name: MSW
Available concentrations: Clinical Practice; Policy, Planning, and Administration
Accrediting body: CSWE
Tuition: $7,382/ semester

Delivery
Format: Hybrid
Instruction style: Asynchronous

Program Requirements
Credit requirements: 60 credits
Field education requirements: Internship

Program Length
Program options: Part-time
Program length: 3 years
Program start dates: Traditionally in the fall

Admission Requirements
Application deadline: Rolling
GPA: Minimum 3.0

Contact
Department phone: (573) 882-8926
Department email: ssw@missouri.edu
Social media accounts: Facebook; Twitter

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23 University of Louisville 51.09 3/5 17% Louisville, KY

The University of Louisville offers an online master's in social work through the Kent School of Social Work that emphasizes research, outreach, and community engagement. Founded in 1936, the Kent School of Social WOrk offers five distinct online specializations: psychosocial oncology, mental health, alcohol and drug concealing, military social work, or gerontology. The online social work master's prepares students to work with families, mental health, general health and global practices.

UL offers two options for online social work students: a standard program and an advanced standing program. The standard program includes 60 total credits and can be completed in two to three years. The advanced standing program only includes 30 credits and can also be completed over two to three years. Students qualify for advanced standing if they have earned a bachelor's degree in social work from an accredited institution in the past seven years with a minimum GPA of 3.0. This online MSW degree includes a supervised field placement requirement of 16 hours per week, totaling 450 hours per year. This requirement must be completed at an approved social service agency in a student's state of residence.

UL allows students to transfer up to six credits of previous graduate courses from an accredited university if they were earned within three years of their application date. Students interested in working in gerontology, policy-making, or legislative areas can apply for a variety of discipline-specific scholarships. Professional academic advisers are on-hand to help students plan their degrees. This program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and has received regional accreditation from the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.


Program Overview
Department: Kent School of Social Work
Program name: MSW
Available concentrations: Psychosocial oncology, mental health, alcohol and drug counseling, military social work, gerontology
Accrediting body: CSWE
Tuition: $714/ credit

Delivery
Format: Online
Instruction style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Program Requirements
Credit requirements: 60 credits
Field education requirements: 450 hours

Program Length
Program options: Part-time or full-time
Program length: 2-3 years
Program start dates: Fall

Admission Requirements
Application deadline: Rolling
GPA: Minimum 3.0

Contact
Department phone: (502) 852-6402
Department email: msswkent@louisville.edu
Social media accounts: Facebook; Twitter

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24 Salisbury University 50.79 3/5 10% Salisbury, MD

Salisbury University was founded in 1925 as Maryland State Normal School, a two-year institution to train elementary school teachers. Today, the school serves more than 8,000 students each year and offers a variety of distance learning programs, including an online master's in social work degree. The online MSW program at SU is designed to engage students with coursework that fosters personal and professional growth and prepares them for rewarding careers in the public health industry.

The online MSW can be completed as a 62-credit generalist program or a 32-credit specialist program. The generalist curriculum includes 30 credits of foundational courses and a 32-credit concentration. Courses are offered in seven-week blocks throughout the year. Generalist students can complete the program in two years of full-time study or four years part-time, while specialist students can complete the program in as few as 17 months. All students are required to complete a foundational field placement for a total of 16 hours per week. Students are matched with an online field director to help them identify and secure a position.

A field seminar is conducted simultaneously with field placement and features an extensive written component. The instructor of a student's foundation-level field work seminar serves as a liaison from the university's social work program and will visit each student's agency at least once per semester. A field education option is also available for students who want to complete a field placement at an agency where they are already or have been previously employed. Students who wish to explore this option have to submit a proposal to their Director or Site Coordinator. Salisbury University is currently only accepting applications for this program from students who reside in the following states: Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. This program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.


Program Overview
Department: Social Work
Program name: MSW
Accrediting body: CSWE
Tuition: $750/ credit

Delivery
Format: Online
Instruction style: Asynchronous

Program Requirements
Prerequisites: 24 hours in liberal arts
Credit requirements: 62 credits
Field education requirements: One internship across two semesters

Program Length
Program options: Part-time
Program length: 3 years
Program start dates: Fall

Admission Requirements
Application deadline: February 3
GPA: Minimum 3.0
Work experience: Commensurate experience in human services

Contact
Department phone: (410) 543-6305
Department email: socialwork@salisbury.edu
Social media accounts: Facebook; Twitter

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25 The University of Texas at Arlington 50.77 3/5 26% Arlington, TX

UT Arlington offers a fully online master's of social work (MSW) for part-time and full-time learners that boasts respected scholars as instructors. Currently, only Texas residents can enroll in this online MSW program. Applicants must submit official transcripts with their application. Prospective students who earned a bachelor’s degree in social work within the past six years and who maintained at least a 3.0 GPA during the last 60 hours of coursework qualify for advanced standing. Upon acceptance to the program, these candidates can choose to begin their studies in the summer term and need only complete 38 credits to earn their degree. Applicants who do not meet the bachelor's requirements can still gain admission as traditional candidates as long as they maintained at least a 3.0 GPA during their last 60 credits of undergraduate coursework. These students must complete 61 credits to earn their master's degree. UT Arlington also considers applicants who do not meet the above GPA requirements but who submit GRE scores, three letters of recommendation, and a narrative essay.

Learners may choose among three specialty areas for their degree. The mental health and substance abuse concentration includes classes that focus on treatment of addictive behaviors as well as stress and coping. The children and families track covers topics like partner violence and parent and child relationships, while the aging emphasis examines aging policy and social justice in addition to family caregiving. Only advanced standing students can pursue the aging specialty for this master's of social work online.

UT Arlington's MSW online features a high degree of versatility, which allows graduates to embark on a myriad of career paths. Graduates have succeeded working in clinical practice, research, program administration, and consulting. Placing an emphasis on professional success, the university reviews all applications, regardless of standing, for evidence of certain qualities like leadership abilities, motivation, and maturity.


Program Overview
Department: School of Social Work
Program name: MSW
Available concentrations: Direct practice with children and families, direct practice in mental health and substance abuse, direct practice in aging (advanced standing only)
Accrediting body: CSWE
Tuition: $4,294/ semester

Delivery
Format: Online
Instruction style: Asynchronous

Program Requirements
Credit requirements: 61 credits
Field education requirements: 480 hours

Program Length
Program options: Part-time or full-time
Program length: 2-3 years
Program start dates: Fall, spring

Admission Requirements
Application deadline: April 1, June 15, October 15
GPA: Minimum 3.0

Contact
Department phone: (817) 272-3181
Admissions email: sswadmissions@uta.edu
Social media accounts: Facebook; Twitter

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Online MSW programs offer many advantages for students interested in advancing their studies in the field of social work. Earning a master’s in social work online can provide a path toward professional licensure and open doors for career advancement.

CONCENTRATIONS OFFERED FOR AN ONLINE MASTER’S DEGREE IN SOCIAL WORK

Concentration Description Careers This Concentration Prepares For
Healthcare Social Work Studies cultural and social aspects of health and illness, health beliefs and behavior, and the impact of illness on patients and their families. Social work in clinics, hospitals, and other healthcare settings
Social Policy and Advocacy Addresses the history, development, and philosophy of the social welfare system in the United States, including study of poverty, hunger, oppression, disability, homelessness, and unemployment. Leadership positions as professional community organizers, policy analysts, lobbyists, and legislative advocacy staff
Gerontology and Aging Develops assessment, case management, and intervention skills needed to work with elderly populations and their families to maximize coping skills, dignity, independent functioning, and quality of life. Geriatric social work in hospice and palliative care settings, senior centers, and skilled nursing contexts
Clinical Social Work Develops the skills and knowledge necessary for work in first-line treatment with individuals and groups in clinical settings. Topics include assessment, evaluation, practice methodology, and intervention Private psychotherapy practice, counseling, and provision of mental health services in residential or day treatment programs

CURRICULUM FOR AN ONLINE MASTER’S DEGREE IN SOCIAL WORK

While there are differences in curriculum among schools, here are some sample courses commonly offered in MSW online programs.

  • Diversity and Social Justice: Multiculturalism, social justice, and human diversity are explored in this course, often in small-group-discussion formats. The course’s goal is to improve the ability to sensitively work with individuals and groups who are subjected to oppression. The skills gained in this course prepare students for careers as community outreach workers.
  • Psychopathology This course focuses on the evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of mental illness. Students learn to conduct psychosocial assessments, formulate diagnostic impressions in accordance with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and recommend appropriate treatments. These advanced skills prepare students for private practice in clinical settings.
  • Social Policy Analysis and Practice Needs assessment, research, grant writing, and social policy program evaluation are studied in this course. Students focus on improving the field and advocating for change rather than carrying out direct work with individuals or groups. Courses prepare students for careers as social work administrators, researchers, and policy makers.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET A MASTER’S IN SOCIAL WORK ONLINE?

Most MSW online programs vary in length, between one and four years, and require students to complete approximately 60 credit hours. At some schools, students who already hold a BSW may be eligible for advanced standing, which enables completion of the MSW degree in less time by waiving foundation courses. With advanced standing, approximately 30 credit hours of study are required for the MSW online. Part-time students may take two to four years to earn the same number of credits.

Some programs are individually paced, others are taken in a cohort learning format. In a cohort, students begin the program at the same time, progress through coursework together, and graduate as a group. Advantages of the cohort model for the master’s in social work online include a fixed schedule, opportunities for teamwork, and guaranteed enrollment in classes.

Accreditation status may affect transfer credits, acceptance for graduate study, and employability. Regional and national accreditation is a seal of approval indicating that a program has met certain standards. Regionally accredited colleges have been evaluated by agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and have met standards for their home state. National accreditation is given by CHEA-approved agencies, focusing on technical, vocational, and distance education. Schools with national accreditation often have religious affiliations, or are for profit. Requirements for national accreditation are not as standardized as regional accreditation. Regional accreditation is more popular, and more important for students interested in the MSW. For social work programs, the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), which promotes academic excellence in social work education, is the only field-specific accrediting agency.

Matters of accreditation are handled by two organizations: the Department of Education and CHEA. The Department of Education is a government agency that promotes student achievement by facilitating equal access and educational excellence. CHEA is an association of degree-granting colleges and universities that recognizes institutional accrediting organizations, with a focus on quality assurance. Accreditation is an important standard of quality assurance and ongoing quality improvement for academic institutions. A list of all accredited schools is available on the DOE or CHEA website.

When investigating online MSW programs, it’s important to inquire as to whether the school has been accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. The council is recognized by CHEA as the sole accrediting agency for social work education in the United States. Applicants for social work licensure must have obtained their degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited program. Even with an excellent academic record, graduates of non-CSWE accredited online MSW programs are not eligible for state licensure and may be unable to find employment.

CERTIFICATIONS AND LICENSES A MASTER’S IN SOCIAL WORK PREPARES STUDENTS FOR

LCSW: Licensed clinical social workers provide professional services for clients in a clinical setting. Requirements for this license differ from state to state; an MSW degree, a passing score on a standard exam, and two years of supervised professional experience are typically required.

LMSW: Licensed master social workers handle case management, consultation, work with public organizations, and administrative work rather than clinical work. State requirements vary, but generally an MSW degree, a passing score on a standard exam, and a minimum number of post-graduate work hours are required.

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

Social Work Job Placement: Bachelor's v 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 Association 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.
  • Clinical 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.

Financing Your Online Master’s Degree

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 totaling 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.

Best Online MSW Programs of 2016
Rank School Location
1 Case Western Reserve University Cleveland, OH
2 Fordham University Bronx, NY
3 California State University Long Beach, CA
4 Catholic University of America Washington, DC
5 The University of Tennessee - Knoxville Knoxville, TN
6 Lousiana State University Baton Rouge, LA
7 University of Hawaii at Manoa Honolulu, HI
8 Virginia Commonwealth University Richmond, VA
9 University of Alabama Tuscaloosa, AL
10 Colorado State University - Colorado Springs Fort Collins, CO
11 Indiana State University - Purdue University - Indianapolis, IN Indianapolis, IN
12 California State University - Northridge Northridge, CA
13 University of New Hampshire Durham, NH
14 University of North Dakota Grand Forks, ND
15 Texas State University San Marcos, TX
16 University of New England Biddeford, ME
17 Our Lady of the Lake University San Antonio, TX
18 Metropolitan State University of Denver Denver, CO
19 Saint Leo University Saint Leo, FL

Best Online MSW Programs 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