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The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment for social workers will increase by 11% between 2018 and 2028, more than double the average rate of growth for the rest of the economy. In addition, social workers earned a median salary of $50,470 in 2019, roughly $11,000 more per year than the median pay for all other occupations.

While you may qualify for some entry-level roles with just a bachelor's degree, the most lucrative roles often require some form of advanced degree, such as an online master's in social work (MSW) or a social work doctorate. According to the National Association of Social Workers, social workers with a graduate degree can earn about $13,000 more per year than those with just a bachelor's in social work.

What are the best masters in social work (MSW) programs of 2020? Here are our top 10:

Rank School Location
1 University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA
2 Columbia University in the City of New York New York, NY
3 University of South Florida Tampa, FL
4 Boston University Boston, MA
5 University of Central Florida Orlando, FL
6 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL
7 Florida State University Tallahassee, FL
8 University of Denver Denver, CO
9 Rutgers University-New Brunswick New Brunswick, NJ
10 Case Western Reserve University Cleveland, OH

This page provides an overview of social work programs, including a ranking of online MSW programs and additional information on social work careers.

Choosing a Master of Social Work program is an important personal decision. Only you can evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of different schools based on your individual educational needs. The following ranked list of schools offer accredited online Master of Social Work programs and may serve as a helpful starting point in your search for the best MSW program for you.

2020 Best Accredited Online MSW Programs

Many colleges and universities offer online MSW programs, and it can be difficult to know which program is right for you. To assist you in your search, we have compiled this list of the best online MSW programs in the country.

Our ranking includes information like the kind of courses and concentrations offered in these programs, admission requirements, financial aid opportunities, and the type of accreditation that each school or social work program holds. It also indicates whether programs offer their online classes synchronously or asynchronously, making it easier to determine whether you can schedule your coursework around personal or professional obligations.

If you want to learn more about a specific school, try contacting their admissions office directly. Admissions staff can provide more personalized information about whether you qualify for tuition discounts or scholarships, if you need to take certain entrance exams, and what services and support the school provides to students seeking an MSW online.

Rank School Location Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle
1

University of Southern California

Los Angeles, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 92%

The University of Southern California delivers an online master of social work (MSW) that prepares students for careers as licensed clinical social workers. Candidates focus their classes on either adult mental health and wellness or children, youth, and families. They can also pursue a social change and innovation concentration.

MSW students can further personalize their degree plan by picking specializations for military or school social work practice. Learners in the USC program complete 1,000 hours of comprehensive field training and engage in virtual practicums and community-based projects.

Candidates with a bachelor's degree in social work may apply for advanced-standing admission, which allows them to complete a 37-credit curriculum in 12 months. Learners without relevant baccalaureate credentials enroll in the traditional track, which totals 60 credits and spans two years. Neither option requires GRE scores, and USC accepts applications year-round.


Program Overview

Program Name: Online Master of Social Work
School Status: Public
Available Concentrations: Adult mental health and wellness; children, youth, and families; social change and innovation
Tuition: $1,928/unit
Credit Requirements: 60 units
Program Length: 1-2 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Work Experience: Experience in providing service to people preferred

Contact

Phone: (877) 700-4679
Email: sswvac@msw.usc.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

2

Columbia University in the City of New York

New York, NY Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 96%

Columbia University offers an online master of social work program that totals 60 credits. Distance learners pick from seven tracks that include a 12-month plan for advanced-standing students and a five-year track for international candidates.

MSW candidates benefit from a variety of curricular choices that allow them to align coursework and field training with distinct career goals. All students pick from one of four method concentrations. They can also individualize their curriculum by pursuing either an accelerated policy practice or dialectical behavior therapy specialization.

Furthermore, learners can focus their advanced coursework on a patient population (like youth and family) or a field of practice (like mental health and disabilities). Offering one of the best online master's in social work programs in the country, Columbia maintains a holistic admissions process that factors in academic performance and professional experience.


Program Overview

Program Name: Online Master of Social Work
School Status: Private
Available Concentrations: Advanced clinical social work; policy practice; social enterprise administration
Tuition: $1,626/credit
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 1-2 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online or hybrid (online/on campus)
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

Work Experience: Serious commitment to the social work profession demonstrated by internships and life experiences

Contact

Phone: (212) 851-2300
Email: socialwork@columbia.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

3

University of South Florida

Tampa, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 73%

The University of South Florida's online master of social work program helps students develop the professional standards and ethical clinical practices needed to support individuals, families, and communities. This MSW track operates a cohort learning format and candidates take a predetermined sequence of synchronous classes.

Traditional learners complete 60 credits of coursework over eight semesters, while students in advanced standing take on a 35-credit degree plan over three semesters. Course topics include psychopathology; health, illness, and disability; and social welfare policy development and analysis.

To enroll, applicants need a regionally accredited bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Required admissions materials include a resume and two references. Students also need to submit two 500-word essays detailing their passion for social work and a specific problem in the field they want to tackle.


Program Overview

Program Name: Online Master of Social Work
School Status: Public
Tuition: $7,840/year in-state; $15,864/year out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 2.5 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Work Experience: 1 year of work experience (preferred)

Contact

Phone: (813) 974-9416
Email: kaacevedo@usf.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

4

Boston University

Boston, MA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 88%

Boston University offers a flexible online master of social work program that enables students to focus their degree plan on either clinical or macro social work competencies. MSW candidates can further tailor their training through a specialization, with options in behavioral health; children, youth, and families; trauma and violence; organizational leadership; and aging practice and social justice.

BU offers three enrollment options. Applicants with a bachelor's degree in social work can apply for advanced standing, completing 40-43 credits of coursework in three semesters. Candidates with at least two years of human services experience enroll in a separate track, and BU delivers a traditional MSW option for those without relevant undergraduate or work experience. The traditional degree plan totals 65 credits and includes two field experiences.

After completing one of the best online master's in social work programs, BU graduates boast a 93% pass rate for the social work licensing exam.


Program Overview

Program Name: Online Master of Social Work
School Status: Private
Available Concentrations: Clinical social work practice; macro social work practice
Tuition: $35,136/year
Credit Requirements: 65 credits
Program Length: 3 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum for advanced-standing candidates

Contact

Phone: (617) 353-3750
Email: busswad@bu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

5

University of Central Florida

Orlando, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 73%

The University of Central Florida's online master of social work program helps students develop the clinical practice and applied research skills to support underserved and vulnerable populations. Graduates qualify to work as substance abuse counselors, medical grant writers, and child welfare caseworkers. The MSW program holds specialized accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education.

Designed for students without relevant undergraduate training, the UCF curriculum totals 62 credits and covers topics like behavioral health policy and economic and social justice. Candidates engage in clinical practice with individuals, groups, and families. They personalize their degree plan with nine elective credits.

Full-time MSW candidates obtain their credentials in under two years. Part-time learners follow a three-year plan. All UCF graduate students can apply for assistantships that allow them to gain experience as research assistants or college instructors. The university also funds fellowships, which do not include work obligations.


Program Overview

Program Name: Online Master of Social Work
School Status: Public
Tuition: $487/credit
Credit Requirements: 62 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE

Contact

Phone: (407) 823-3474
Email: mswadmissions@ucf.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

6

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Champaign, IL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 84%

Students who enroll in the online master of social work program at the University of Illinois pick from a fully remote degree plan or a hybrid curriculum. In the latter track, learners complete weekend practicums on campus once per month. MSW candidates with advanced standing graduate in five semesters, while traditional students obtain their degrees in eight semesters.

Coursework covers topics like social welfare planning, program evaluation, and advanced research methods. Illinois offers concentrations in leadership/social change and advanced clinical practice. Clinical students can further specialize in either mental health, healthcare, school social work, or children and family services.

Admission requirements include a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA and substantial human services experience. MSW applicants must also demonstrate personal attributes suitable for the social work profession and submit a resume, a personal statement, and three reference letters.


Program Overview

Program Name: Master of Social Work Outreach
School Status: Public
Available Concentration: Leadership and social change; advanced clinical practice
Tuition: $598/credit
Credit Requirements: 72 credits
Program Length: 2.5 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online or hybrid (online/on campus)
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Work Experience: Experience in human services (paid, volunteer, research and/or internship)

Contact

Phone: (217) 333-2261
Email: socialwork@illinois.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

7

Florida State University

Tallahassee, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 83%

Based in Tallahassee, Florida State University offers one of the best online master's in social work programs accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. MSW candidates complete classroom instruction and two field placements, developing the hands-on skills to qualify for professional licensure. Although distance learners take most of their classes remotely, FSU does require two mandatory weekend practicums on campus.

MSW students pick a concentration in social leadership or clinical practice. Regardless of their choice, candidates enjoy a variety of elective options that let them align the curriculum with their individual interests and goals. Students graduate in two or three years depending on their enrollment status.

Applicants submit a resume and three professional recommendations as well as a personal statement that responds to specific essay prompts. FSU does not require distance learners to submit GRE scores.


Program Overview

Program Name: Traditional Online Master of Social Work
School Status: Public
Available Concentrations: Clinical social work; social leadership
Tuition: $444/credit in-state; $1,076/credit out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 61 credits
Program Length: 2-3 years

Delivery

Format: Hybrid (online/on-campus)
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact

Phone: (850) 644-4751
Email: msw@csw.fsu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

8

University of Denver

Denver, CO Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 77%

The University of Denver offers one of the best online master's in social work programs in the United States. MSW candidates complete a 60- or 90-credit curriculum depending on the relevancy of their undergraduate training and graduate in 18 or 21 months, respectively. DU's MSW holds accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education.

The degree plan contains courses like power, privilege, and oppression; evidence of practice; and cognitive behavior therapies. Depending on their concentration, students take advanced classes in health and wellness or mental health and trauma. All candidates complete field internships with one of the university's 250 community partners.

MSW candidates can begin their degree work at four points each year. Applicants need at least a 2.5 undergraduate GPA, though DU strongly prefers applicants with a 3.0 GPA or higher. Admissions materials include an up-to-date resume, two recommendation letters, and a statement of career goals.


Program Overview

Program Name: Online Master of Social Work
School Status: Private
Available Concentrations: Mental health and trauma; health and wellness
Tuition: $984/credit
Credit Requirements: 90 quarter credits
Program Length: 18-21 months

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.5 minimum

Contact

Phone: (855) 219-5995
Email: admission@onlinemsw.du.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

9

Rutgers University-New Brunswick

New Brunswick, NJ Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 80%

As a premier public research institution, Rutgers University delivers an innovative online master of social work for students with and without relevant bachelor's credentials. Traditional candidates complete 60 credits of coursework over three years, while learners with advanced standing may graduate in as little as four semesters.

This online MSW operates asynchronous classes, and coursework includes social welfare policy and services, diversity and oppression, and clinical assessment and diagnosis. Field placement starts the second semester of the first year and continues until graduation. Distance learners can expand their skill development by coupling their master's with a graduate certificate regarding violence against women and children.

Rutgers offers a fixed tuition price that ignores residency status. Applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA and a strong academic foundation in statistics. They submit three recommendation letters, a personal statement, and a current resume.


Program Overview

Program Name: Online Master of Social Work
School Status: Public
Available Concentrations: Clinical social work
Tuition: $900/credit
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 3 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Work Experience: Social work experience (preferred)

Contact

Phone: (848) 932-7520
Email: Admissions@ssw.rutgers.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

10

Case Western Reserve University

Cleveland, OH Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 85%

Located in Cleveland, Ohio, Case Western Reserve University delivers a fully online master of social work program through the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences. Distance learners take live and asynchronous classes through the Zoom platform. Although CWRU does not require campus visits, MSW candidates need to complete field training with an organization in their community.

The 60-credit degree plan enables students to pick from three paths of study. Depending on their selection, learners take classes like mental health policy and service delivery, needs assessment and program evaluation, and family system intervention. Beyond the classroom, candidates can access the support of an alumni network that spans all 50 U.S. states and over 40 countries.

To qualify for advanced standing, applicants must have earned a BSW from a CSWE-accredited institution within the last seven years and have a minimum 3.0 GPA for social work related coursework. All prospective students submit a resume, three professional recommendations, and a two-part essay.


Program Overview

Program Name: Online Social Work at CWRU
School Status: Private
Available Concentrations: Children, Youth and Families; Community Practice for Social Change; Mental Health with Adults
Tuition: $23,250/semester
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 1.5-2.5 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Contact

Phone: (216) 368-1655
Email: mandelschool@case.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

11

Fordham University

Bronx, NY Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 83%

Fordham University delivers a high-quality online master of social work through Blackboard. Traditional students can earn their credentials in as little as 16 months when enrolling full time. Candidates with a bachelor's degree in social work qualify for advanced standing and can graduate in eight months.

MSW candidates strengthen their skills through laboratory practice and classroom discussion. Learners focus their degree plan on one of four concentrations, like policy practice and advocacy. Offering one of the best online master's in social work programs, Fordham partners with social services organizations across the country, allowing students to work with faculty-approved agencies in their communities.

Applicants submit a current resume and at least one recommendation letter, as well as a three- to five-page essay discussing a current social issue they are passionate about. The Fordham MSW maintains programmatic accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education.


Program Overview

Program Name: Online Master of Social Work
School Status: Private
Available Concentrations: Individuals and families; organizations and community; evaluation; policy practice and advocacy
Tuition: $949/credit
Credit Requirements: 66 credits
Program Length: 16 months

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.6 minimum

Contact

Phone: (833) 681-2234
Email: admissions@onlinemsw.fordham.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

12

University of Buffalo

Buffalo, NY Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 76%

The University of Buffalo offers a nationally ranked online master of social work program that emphasizes trauma-informed and human rights perspectives in clinical practice, applied research, and community advocacy. Traditional candidates enroll in a 60-credit track to graduate in three years. Students with advanced standing complete 35 credits and earn their degree in 18 months.

Course topics include social welfare policy and history, diversity and oppression, and theories of human behavior and development. MSW candidates develop advanced intervention skills by completing field experiences. They can individualize their degree plan through two electives and a professional development seminar.

Prospective students must complete 24 credits of designated liberal arts coursework as part of their undergraduate education. Application materials include three recommendation letters and all official academic transcripts. Candidates also submit a personal statement responding to specific essay prompts.


Program Overview

Program Name: Online Master of Social Work
School Status: Public
Tuition: $7,950/semester in-state; $12,515/semester out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 1.5-3 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum required for advanced-standing candidates; 3.0 minimum for traditional students (preferred)

Contact

Phone: (716) 645-3381
Email: swinfo@buffalo.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

13

Ohio State University

Columbus, OH Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 84%

As a premier public research institution, the Ohio State University provides one of the best online master's in social work programs in the nation. MSW students develop an advanced skill set that enables them to support communities through policy reform, administrative practice, and direct services. Learners also learn how to engage with and advocate for their communities.

The program does not require campus residencies, which allows candidates to earn their credentials entirely online through asynchronous classes powered by Canvas. On top of core classes, the MSW curriculum offers two areas of emphasis. Students also complete 672 hours of advanced field placement.

Full-time traditional students graduate in two years. Learners with a social work bachelor's and a minimum 3.0 GPA enroll with advanced standing, which allows them to graduate in three semesters. OSU funds generous scholarships specifically for MSW candidates.


Program Overview

Program Name: Online Master of Social Work
School Status: Public
Available Concentrations: Mental health and substance misuse; child and youth services
Tuition: $765/credit
Credit Requirements: 63 credits
Program Length: 1-2 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact

Phone: (614) 292-6288
Email: zahller.5@osu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

14

University of Houston

Houston, TX Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 59%

The University of Houston's master of social work has maintained full accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education since 1970. Distance learners can obtain their MSW in three years as part of a fully online, cohort-based program. Alternatively, they may pursue hybrid education, combining flexible asynchronous classes with campus-based instruction.

The 63-credit curriculum includes classes like dynamics of leadership, human diversity and development, and confronting oppression and injustice. Students focus on either clinical or macro social work and further individualize their degree plans by picking one of four optional specializations. The program also requires 900 hours of fieldwork.

UH accepts applications on a rolling basis. Students with relevant undergraduate credentials and/or work experience qualify for advanced standing, which earns them a 25-credit waiver. The College of Social Work offers a variety of awards, like the C.F. Reibenstein Endowment Scholarships for part-time students.


Program Overview

Program Name: Online Master of Social Work
School Status: Public
Available Concentrations: Clinical social work practice; macro social work practice (with optional specializations in political social work, health and behavioral health, and social work practice with Latinos)
Tuition: $376/credit in-state; $898/credit out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 63 credits
Program Length: 1-2 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact

Phone: (713) 743-8075
Email: Anjohnson12@uh.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

15

Tulane University of Louisiana

New Orleans, LA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 85%

Drawing inspiration from New Orleans's activist community and the city's resilience in the face of Hurricane Katrina, Tulane University offers an online master of social work that emphasizes relationship-centered clinical practice. Traditional candidates who enroll full time graduate in 16 months. Learners with advanced-standing status can obtain their credentials in under one year.

The 60-credit MSW curriculum covers topics like applied social statistics, leadership and evidence-informed practice, and historical and current policy approaches to social welfare. The program requires candidates to attend a four-day summer residency that centers on program and clinical evaluation. Students also complete 948 hours of field education.

Applicants should possess a bachelor of arts or science in a liberal arts field. Providing one of the best online master's in social work programs, Tulane prefers candidates with strong undergraduate academic performance during their junior and senior years and relevant employer references. All candidates submit a five-page statement of purpose.


Program Overview

Program Name: Online Master of Social Work
School Status: Private
Tuition: $1,098/credit
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 12-16 months

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum; 3.3 minimum for advanced-standing candidates

Contact

Phone: (800) 631-8234
Email: msw@tulane.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

16

California State University-San Bernardino

San Bernardino, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 57%

California State University-San Bernardino powers distance education with Blackboard, offering a fully online master of social work program. Designed for working professionals, this MSW track spans three years and requires a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA. Prospective learners also need to complete prerequisite coursework in areas like human physiology and social research methods.

Through a 60-credit curriculum, MSW candidates learn to facilitate interprofessional and interagency collaboration. They also develop macro-practice strategies to act as change agents in complex situations. CSUSB requires students to complete three sequential fieldwork experiences that reinforce core curricular areas.

In their final year, learners focus their research and field training on a personalized concentration. They can examine a social issue like domestic violence or a field of practice such as mental health or correctional services. MSW students may also pursue a client-based concentration, working to support rural communities or immigrants and refugees.


Program Overview

Program Name: Online Master of Social Work
School Status: Public
Available Concentrations: Self-designed concencentration emphasizing a social issue, client population, or field of practice
Tuition: $2,392/semester
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 3 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Work Experience: 1 year of paid experience and/or applicable internship or volunteer service in the field of social work

Contact

Phone: (909) 537-5501
Email: socialwork@csusb.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

17

California State University-Northridge

Northridge, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 54%

California State University-Northridge delivers an innovative online master of social work program through the Tseng College. MSW candidates pick from two- or three-year degree plans. On top of asynchronous coursework powered by Blackboard, students engage in live online classes once per week to collaborate with peers and instructors.

The degree plan totals 60 credits and holds accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education. Coursework includes urban social policy and advocacy, human behavior and social environments, and clinical practice in multicultural contexts. The MSW program places students in field practicums within an hour of their home.

To enroll, students need a regionally accredited bachelor's degree with a minimum 2.5 GPA. Competitive applicants should display a GPA of 3.0 or higher and relevant postbaccalaureate work experience. Nearly 91% of MSW students land a new job or promotion soon after graduation.


Program Overview

Program Name: Online Master of Social Work
School Status: Public
Tuition: $752/credit
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 2-3 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.5 minimum

Contact

Phone: (818) 677-2504
Email: exl@csun.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

18

San Jose State University

San Jose, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 65%

San Jose State University offers a flexible online/hybrid master of social work program to California residents. Students take asynchronous classes through the Canvas platform. At the same time, they complete in-person field experiences with agencies in their communities. This MSW program operates a part-time degree plan that enables learners to graduate in two years.

MSW candidates take core classes like social policy, applied research practices, and human-social behavior theory. Depending on their concentration, students complete advanced coursework in health and mental health or children, youth, and families. The program culminates with an independent research project.

MSW applicants must display a strong liberal arts undergraduate background. They also need social work experience, particularly with ethnic minorities or other marginalized groups. Application materials include a personal statement, an academic writing sample, and three recommendations.


Program Overview

Program Name: Online/Hybrid Master of Social Work
School Status: Public
Available Concentrations: Children, youth, and families; health and mental health
Tuition: $7,176/year
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: Hybrid (online/on campus)
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.5 minimum
Work Experience: Significant volunteer, internship, and/or paid work experience with marginalized, oppressed, or disadvantaged groups

Contact

Phone: (408) 924-5800
Email: socialwork@sjsu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

19

Simmons University

Boston, MA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 80%

Located in Boston, Simmons University offers an online master of social work that focuses on multicultural perspectives and social justice values. Students engage in an advanced clinical curriculum that prepares them for direct practice in a variety of healthcare and human services settings. MSW candidates may earn their credentials in as little as 16 months or as many as 32 months.

As part of their foundational training, distance learners cultivate an understanding of theoretical frameworks and practice methods and take advanced classes in their chosen concentration. Simmons requires MSW candidates to complete at least 1,000 hours of field education with one of over 300 partnering organizations.

Applicants need a regionally accredited bachelor's degree and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Students with an undergraduate social work degree qualify for advanced-standing status. Delivering one of the best online master's in social work programs, Simmons considers all prospective learners for the generous Dean's and Future Leader Scholarships.


Program Overview

Program Name: Accelerated Online Master of Social Work
School Status: Private
Available Concentrations: Child and family; trauma and interpersonal violence; mental health and addictions; health and aging
Tuition: $1,080/credit
Credit Requirements: 65 credits
Program Length: 12-16 months

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Work Experience: 1 year of relevant work experience

Contact

Phone: (855) 523-7779
Email: admissions@socialwork.simmons.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

20

The University of Alabama

Tuscaloosa, AL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 72%

The University of Alabama is headquartered in Tuscaloosa and facilitates remote learning opportunities through Blackboard. Offerings include an online master of social work program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. Traditional students who enroll full time complete the MSW program in two years, while candidates with advanced standing can graduate in three semesters.

The curriculum includes classes like research informed practice, clinical practice with families, and advanced social welfare policy analysis. Students take specialty coursework in one of two concentrations. They also complete 500 or 1,000 hours of field education, depending on their enrollment standing.

MSW applicants need a regionally accredited bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. In addition to an affordable tuition rate, distance learners enjoy ample scholarship opportunities. The university offers awards specifically for returning students and working professionals.


Program Overview

Program Name: Online Master of Social Work
School Status: Public
Available Concentrations: Children, adolescents, and their families; adults and their families
Tuition: $420/credit
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 1.5-2 years

Delivery

Format: Hybrid (online/on campus)
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact

Phone: (205) 348-5020
Email: alstewart4@ua.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

21

Michigan State University

East Lansing, MI Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 80%

Michigan State University offers a comprehensive online master of social work program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) that comes with two concentrations. After completing their generalist training, MSW candidates take advanced classes centered on either clinical social work or organization and community leadership. Students typically graduate within three years.

Coursework covers topics like social work research methods, clinical assessment and diagnosis, and policy practice and advocacy. Students also learn to evaluate social work programs and practices with regards to patient demographics and community needs. Additionally, the 57-credit degree plan requires 960 hours of field education.

To enroll in the blended program, applicants must live within 50 miles of the Michigan border but 30 miles away from both the Flint and East Lansing MSU campuses. Students qualify for advanced standing if they earned a CSWE-accredited bachelor of social work within the past six years.


Program Overview

Program Name: Statewide Blended Master of Social Work
School Status: Public
Available Concentrations: Clinical social work; organization and community leadership
Tuition: $786/credit in-state; $1,544/credit out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 57 credits
Program Length: 2-3 years

Delivery

Format: Hybrid (online/on campus)
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum; 3.25 minimum for advanced-standing candidates

Contact

Phone: (517) 353-8622
Email: swgradoffice@ssc.msu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

22

The University of Texas at Arlington

Arlington, TX Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 49%

The University of Texas at Arlington serves more than 42,000 students annually, many of whom earn their degrees remotely. The school's academic catalog includes an online master of social work program that operates accelerated eight-week classes within a cohort learning format. Traditional MSW candidates may graduate in 26 months, while students with advanced standing can obtain their credentials in 12 months.

In lieu of a fully remote degree plan, MSW students can pursue a hybrid curriculum that mixes asynchronous classes with campus-based instruction. Courses include diverse populations; stress, crisis, and coping; and human behavior and social environment. Candidates pursue specialized training in one of three areas.

Applicants submit GRE scores, three recommendation letters, and a two- to three-page narrative essay. Providing one of the best online master's in social work programs, UTA offers distinct tuition waivers and scholarships for military students.


Program Overview

Program Name: Fully Online Master of Social Work
School Status: Public
Available Concentrations: Direct practice with children and families; direct practice in mental health and substance abuse; direct practice in aging
Tuition: $1,597/credit in-state; $2,851/credit out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 61 credits
Program Length: 12-26 months

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum (preferred)
Standardized Tests: GRE for candidates with a 2.7-2.99 GPA

Contact

Phone: (817) 272-5209
Email: santeed@uta.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

23

Indiana University-Bloomington

Bloomington, IN Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 78%

Indiana University-Bloomington delivers an online master of social work program that enables students with relevant bachelor's credentials to graduate in under one year. Traditional candidates can obtain their degree in as little as two years but may take up to five to accommodate professional and family obligations. IU's program holds accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education.

The MSW program offers an advanced generalist curriculum with a focus on certain areas of social work. Core classes include clinical theory and practice; diversity, human rights, and social justice; and assessment in mental health and addictions. Graduates are prepared to occupy leadership positions within hospitals, schools, and employee assistance programs.

Prospective students need a regionally accredited bachelor's degree. IU accepts applications year-round. Learners can transfer up to three credits toward their MSW.


Program Overview

Program Name: Online Master of Social Work
School Status: Public
Available Concentrations: Mental health and addictions
Tuition: $585/credit in-state; $716/credit out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 1-2 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Contact

Phone: (812) 855-4427
Email: iusswcom@iu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

24

The University of Tennessee-Knoxville

Knoxville, TN Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 73%

The University of Tennessee-Knoxville offers an online master of social work that focuses on changing global contexts and the needs of high-risk populations. The degree plan totals 60 credits, which traditional students can complete in under two years. UTK powers distance education with the Canvas and Zoom platforms.

MSW candidates take classes like lifespan and neurophysiological development, trauma theory, and motivational interviewing. They also pursue a concentration in either evidenced-based interpersonal practice or organizational leadership. While distance learners do not need to visit campus, they must complete an on-site internship with a social services agency in their area.

UTK prefers that three-fourths of an applicant's undergraduate coursework center on the humanities and social sciences. The university offers advanced-standing status to candidates with baccalaureate credentials in social work and a minimum 3.0 GPA. These learners typically graduate in 12 months.


Program Overview

Program Name: Online Master of Science in Social Work
School Status: Public
Available Concentrations: Evidence-based interpersonal practice; organizational leadership
Tuition: $12,556/year in-state; $13,906/year out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 1-2 years

Delivery

Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.7 minimum; 3.0 minimum for advanced-standing candidates.

Contact

Phone: (865) 974-2809
Email: kmcclern@utk.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

25

Saint Louis University

Saint Louis, MO Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 77%

Offering one of the best online master's in social work programs, Saint Louis University teaches students to address the health and economic challenges faced by vulnerable populations. MSW graduates can work for nonprofit agencies, mental health and treatment centers, and community justice centers. SLU's MSW program holds accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education.

The curriculum totals 57 credits, with scheduling options for part-time and full-time students. Beyond core classes, learners take advanced courses in one of three concentrations. Options include applied behavior analysis, which prepares candidates for professional board certification.

Prospective students submit a resume and three recommendation letters (two from academic sources and one from a professional reference). They also need to provide a goal statement and complete an interview. SLU offers general graduate assistantships as well as the Doerr Fellowship for Equity and Inclusion specifically for social work students.


Program Overview

Program Name: Online Master of Social Work
School Status: Private
Available Concentrations: Applied behavior analysis; clinical; community and organization
Tuition: $990/credit
Credit Requirements: 57 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Delivery

Format: Hybrid (online/on campus)
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum

Contact

Phone: (314) 977-2752
Email: socialwork@slu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

Should I Get a Master's in Social Work?

This page offers a wealth of resources for students hoping to earn an online master's degree in social work, including information on admission standards, curricula, and licensure requirements in each state.


Social Work Careers

Students who graduate from online and accredited master of social work programs enjoy a wide variety of professional opportunities. This page will help you better understand the many career paths available within the field of social work.

ARE ONLINE MSW PROGRAMS ACCREDITED?

The Council on Social Work Education is the only accrediting body for online MSW programs. The council accredits many schools. Read more here..

HOW LONG DOES AN MSW ONLINE TAKE TO COMPLETE?

The amount of time it takes to earn an online MSW varies by school. Some schools offer accelerated programs that students can complete in one year, while others use a synchronous cohort format that can take up to four years. Read more here..

CAN YOU GET YOUR MASTER'S IN SOCIAL WORK ONLINE?

There are many MSW programs available online. Some programs are taught through a cohort format, while others are designed for asynchronous learners. Read more here..

HOW TO GET A DEGREE IN SOCIAL WORK ONLINE

Common MSW prerequisites include a bachelor's degree and one or more years of field experience. For more accurate information, students should check an individual school's application requirements. Read more here..

WHERE CAN I GET A DEGREE IN SOCIAL WORK ONLINE?

Many colleges have online schools that offer online social work programs. For more accurate information, students should check if their chosen school offers this degree. Read more here..

Choosing a Program

WILL AN ONLINE MSW PROGRAM PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED?

An MSW degree opens the door to many different careers, depending on a student's area of specialization. According to CSWE, some of the most popular degree concentrations for MSW students include clinical practice for children and families, mental health, administration, and community development. Other specialization options focus on areas like trauma, disabilities, and veteran services.

WILL AN ONLINE MSW PROGRAM WORK WITH MY SCHEDULE?

MSW online programs provide a convenient, flexible alternative to brick-and-mortar learning. Students can access course materials, complete assignments, take exams, and communicate with their professors on their own time and from the comfort of their homes. Current software also allows learners 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 duties or full-time employment — can contact faculty to arrange internships or practicum experiences.

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

The majority of online MSW programs feature extensive hands-on learning components as part of the curricula. Some students fulfill these requirements 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 devote at least 15 hours per week for at least two semesters. The best programs work with students to find practicum and internship options that closely match their career goals.

WILL IT GET ME THE JOB?

An MSW can serve as an important step toward a rewarding career in social work — but the work does not end there. In addition to a master's degree, job candidates must complete at least two years of post-graduate employment in order to qualify for many social work positions. Additionally, states hold 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 by providing career counseling, one-on-one adviser meetings, and other support services and resources.

Choosing a master's program represents an important personal decision. You should evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of different schools based on your individual educational needs and goals. The following ranked list of schools — all of which offer masters in social work degrees — can serve as a helpful starting point in your search for finding the best online MSW programs.

Accreditation for Online MSW Programs

A school's accreditation status may affect a student's ability to transfer credits, continue their graduate study at another institution, and find a job. Regional and national accreditation serve as seals of approval, indicating that a program meets certain academic standards. Regionally accredited colleges undergo evaluation by agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Alternatively, national accreditation is given by CHEA-approved agencies. Nationally accredited schools typically focus on technical, vocational, or distance education; hold religious affiliations; or operate as for-profit institutions. Requirements for national accreditation also tend to be less standardized. Regional accreditation is more popular and more important for students interested in earning an MSW. For social work programs, CSWE stands as the only field-specific accrediting agency.

Online MSW programs accredited by CSWE rank as the best programs in the field, and the CSWE's Commission on Accreditation serves as the only accrediting agency for social work education that holds recognition from CHEA. CSWE-accredited programs must pass a stringent evaluation process, ensuring that they meet professional preparation standards and provide students with an education that adequately prepares them to join the workforce.

CSWE members include faculty, students, practitioners, programs, and agencies in the field of social work education. In addition to its accrediting work, CSWE offers a list of accredited online MSW programs, training opportunities, and a regularly published academic journal. These resources help accomplish CSWE's mission to lead a professional workforce capable of improving the well-being of individuals, families, and the community at large.

  • Avoid Degree Mills: Degree mills operate as questionable institutions that promise quick and easy degrees with little effort on the part of students. CSWE accreditation ensures the legitimacy of an online MSW program.
  • Signal of Quality to Employers: As part of the screening process, employers look for signs that a job candidate qualifies for a position. Online accredited MSW programs let employers know your training meets professional standards for the workplace.
  • Standard Curriculum: A standard curriculum consists of a set of coursework that all programs typically require. Although no standard curriculum exists for online MSW programs, CSWE accreditation ensures that a program teaches specific core competencies related to social work.
  • Meets Licensing Requirements: Social work careers often require individuals to earn professional licensure. CSWE-accredited online MSW programs meet the education and training requirements set by most states for social work licenses, allowing students to obtain their license after graduation.
  • Is up to Policy Standards: Quality social work programs adhere to the educational policy and accreditation standards promoted by the Commission on Educational Policy. If a program receives accreditation from CSWE, you can rest assured that it meets these standards.

What Else Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Social Work Program?

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.

LICENSES A MASTER'S IN SOCIAL WORK PREPARES STUDENTS TO PURSUE

  • LCSW

    Licensed clinical social workers provide professional services to clients in a clinical setting. Requirements for this license differ from state to state but usually include an MSW, a passing score on a standard exam, and at least two years of supervised professional experience.

  • LMSW

    Licensed master social workers handle case management, provide consultations, work with public organizations, and focus on administrative work rather than clinical work. State requirements vary but generally include an MSW, a passing score on a standard exam, and a minimum number of post-graduate work hours.

  • Licensed Master Social Work - Advanced Generalist

    In some states, this credential serves as the highest level of licensure for nonclinical social workers. To earn this credential, social workers must first graduate from an accredited MSW program, pass an Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) advanced generalist exam, and complete any additional state requirements. They must then document two years of supervised experience working as a nonclinical social worker.

  • Licensed Advanced Practice Social Worker

    Similar to the advanced generalist licensure, this credential serves as the highest qualification a nonclinical social worker can receive in select states. Candidates must complete an accredited MSW program, pass their advanced generalist ASWB exam, and complete at least 3,000 hours of supervised experience.

Concentrations Offered For an Online Master's Degree in Social Work

Students in online MSW programs can often pursue a concentration. Concentrations allow learners to customize and narrow their education to focus on a specific subject in the field. In addition to more thoroughly preparing students to work with specific populations — such as families or the elderly — choosing a concentration can also help graduates stand out from their peers while looking for work.

Concentration Description Careers This Concentration Prepares For
Healthcare Social Work Students pursuing this concentration study the cultural and social aspects of health and illness, health beliefs and behavior, and the impact of illness on patients and their families. Social workers in clinics and hospitals
Social Policy and Advocacy Participants investigate the history, development, and philosophy of the social welfare system in the U.S., studying poverty, hunger, oppression, disability, homelessness, and unemployment. Leadership positions as professional community organizers, policy analysts, lobbyists, and legislative advocacy staff
Gerontology and Aging In addition to exploring the psychology of aging, this concentration addresses how to care for the elderly. Students learn to identify, coordinate, and connect clients with appropriate physical, emotional, and mental health services. Social workers in clinics, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, eldercare facilities, and hospices
Clinical Social Work This concentration prepares graduates to serve in clinical social work settings, diagnosing and treating mental, behavioral, and physical health disorders. Students explore various mental health issues and disorders, such as bipolar disorders, eating disorders, and substance abuse disorders. Social workers in hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation centers, eldercare facilities, schools, and private practice settings
Family Social Work Graduates pursuing this concentration prepare to work with couples or families suffering from various conflicts or difficulties, such as divorce, separation, job loss, abuse, adoption, physical or mental illness, and death. Classes may also cover working with more specific groups, such as military families, couples, or children. Social workers in private practice, community centers, rehabilitation centers, adoption agencies, VA clinics, eldercare facilities, and government agencies
Forensic Social Work This concentration teaches students how to provide social work services in the context of the law and legal systems. Students learn to serve adult or juvenile clients and defendants in the criminal justice system, working with people involved in legal disputes related to child abuse, spousal abuse, custody issues, and child neglect. Social workers in children and family agencies, the court system, mental health facilities, prisons, correctional facilities, juvenile detention centers, and rehabilitation clinics

CURRICULUM FOR AN ONLINE MASTER'S DEGREE IN SOCIAL WORK

Although advanced classes and concentrations vary from program to program, students complete many of the same foundational courses in accredited online MSW programs, including the classes listed below.

  • Diversity and Social Justice: This course covers multiculturalism, social justice, and human diversity, improving the ability of students to sensitively work with individuals and groups who typically suffer from oppression. The skills gained in this course prepare students for careers as community outreach workers.
  • Psychopathology: Coursework in this class 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: In this course, students explore historical and contemporary social policy trends and their impact on individuals, families, and communities. Using theoretical frameworks, learners examine specific social policies, such as those related to child welfare, disability support, and human rights.
  • Social Work with Diverse Populations: Participants in this class learn to successfully and appropriately work with diverse communities. Students read about various power structures related to gender, race, sexual orientation, religious background, and class, as well as how these power structures affect intervention. Coursework also encourages students to examine and discuss their own identities.
  • Child Welfare: In this class, students investigate various child welfare services, including adoption, foster care, and child protection. In addition to learning how to assess children and families for signs of maltreatment, learners cover case planning; models of treatment; and issues related to mental health, substance abuse, legal issues, and disabilities.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO EARN A MASTER'S IN SOCIAL WORK ONLINE?

MSW online programs vary in length and typically require students to complete approximately 60 credits. At some schools, students who already hold a bachelor of social work (BSW) may qualify for advanced standing, allowing them to earn an MSW in less time by waiving some foundational courses. With advanced standing, students may only need to earn 30 credits to complete their MSW online program. Part-time students may take 2-4 years to earn the same number of credits as full-time learners.

Some schools use individually paced programming, while others feature a cohort learning format. In a cohort, students begin the program at the same time, progress through classes together, and graduate as a group. Potential advantages of the cohort model while pursuing a master's in social work online include a fixed schedule, more opportunities for teamwork, and guaranteed enrollment in classes.

Employment Outlook for Master Social Work Graduates

A recent survey by CSWE uncovered a significant 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 also fared much better financially compared to students who only hold an undergraduate degree.

JOB PLACEMENT: BACHELOR'S VS. MASTER'S

Earning an advanced degree requires a significant commitment of time, energy, and money; however, this investment usually pays off in the long run. Online MSW programs qualify graduates for a greater number of jobs, many of which boast higher pay. For those interested in pursuing clinical social work, a master's degree serves as an important step because all states require clinical social workers to hold at least an MSW. Social workers who want to find positions at substance abuse clinics, mental health facilities, or schools should plan on earning a master's degree.

Alternatively, individuals interested in nonclinical social work jobs, such as case management or eldercare, may only need a BSW. For these social workers, earning a master's degree — even from one of the cheapest online MSW programs — may feel unnecessary. However, regardless of an individual's career path, earning an MSW degree online tends to lead to higher average pay. Anyone hoping to advance their career or earning potential should consider earning an MSW.

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

Degree Level Median Salary for Entry-Level Median Salary for Mid-Career Median Salary for Experienced Median Salary for Late Career
BSW $35,237 $40,237 $42,355 $48,834
MSW $43,392 $47,676 $53,408 $60,440

Source: PayScale

According to the data above, an entry-level social worker with an MSW can expect to earn around $7,000 more than someone with a BSW during the first couple of years. After 10 years of professional experience, social workers with an MSW outearn their BSW-holding counterparts by about $8,000.

Pursuing an MSW benefits many individuals planning to dedicate their careers to social work. However, financial reasons often prevent students from returning to school after earning a bachelor's degree. Many of these individuals represent prime candidates for master's in social work online programs. The virtual format allows them to advance their education and complete coursework while continuing to work a part- or full-time job.

CAREER OPPORTUNITIES

When it comes to career opportunities, completing an online MSW program can provide graduates with more choices. Because most states require social workers to hold a master's degree and all states require clinical social workers to earn a graduate diploma, an MSW serves as an important qualification to secure a good social work job. Healthcare facilities, government agencies, and schools typically hire graduates of master's in social work programs.

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 mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and addiction. They may also work with their clients to explore treatment options. In addition to individuals, these workers often provide therapy for couples, families, and groups. Clinical social workers may maintain a private practice or collaborate with others in a group practice setting.

Medical Social Workers — Medical social workers provide a general support system for clients in hospitals or other clinical settings. They help complete administrative tasks; interview patients to create a medical history; and guide clients through decision making related to their care, finances, and emotional health. They may also help with basic but essential tasks like transportation to and from care centers.

Substance Abuse Counselors — Substance abuse counselors help people struggling with drug or alcohol addiction. In addition to providing individual or group counseling services, they evaluate clients and create individualized recovery plans. As part of these plan, counselors connect clients with outside resources, such as medical providers and therapists, food stamp programs, and unemployment services.

Social Service Specialists — These professionals perform many functions for social service organizations. They may work with children, the elderly, or those with disabilities, helping clients access the services they need. Social service specialists may evaluate and connect clients with outside services, explain eligibility requirements, provide therapy, conduct health screenings, and organize workshops and drug prevention programs.

Position Median Annual Salary
Child and Family Social Worker $41,520
Clinical Social Workers $56,350
Medical Social Worker $54,210
Substance Abuse Counselor $39,500
Social Service Specialist $35,730

Source: PayScale

PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

Recent graduates of online MSW programs and seasoned professional alike should consider joining a professional organization. Most of these organizations offer members benefits that include access to print and digital publications, discounts on insurance, licensure exam prep, training courses, and continuing education opportunities. Professional organizations also help recent graduates find jobs — members typically enjoy access to career centers, job boards, and networking opportunities like conferences and workshops.

Continuing Education

License Renewal

In order to keep practicing legally, social workers in all states must renew their state licensure regularly. Although these requirements vary from state to state, social workers typically need to renew their license every two years and complete a minimum number of continuing education hours during that time.

In California, for example, social workers must finish 18 hours of continuing education during their first two years of practice; after these first two years, social workers must then complete at least 36 hours of continuing education every two years to renew their license.

Additionally, some states require that a certain number continuing education hours relate to law and ethics, or, depending on the type of license, topics like HIV/AIDs, marriage and family therapy, child abuse assessment and reporting, or alcoholism and substance dependency. Social workers can usually renew their licenses online or with a paper-based application.

Doctorate Degree in Social Work

Social workers interested in pursuing academic, research, or high-level social work positions should consider earning a doctorate degree in social work. Two types of doctorates exist in this field: a Ph.D. in social work and a doctor of social work (D.S.W.). Although sometimes similar, these degrees often differ in that a Ph.D. prepares social workers to enter research or teaching positions, while a D.S.W. prepares graduates to assume high-level practice, applied research, or administrative positions. Most schools offer one degree or the other.

D.S.W. graduates enter careers as senior social workers, human services directors, nonprofit executives, and clinical directors, while those who hold a Ph.D. in social work qualify to work as university professors and researchers. A doctorate in social work can also lead to higher pay. Those who hold a Ph.D. in social work earn an average annual salary of $68,000.

Social Work Certifications

Becoming certified can help graduates of online MSW programs qualify for more prestigious and higher-paying positions. Additionally, earning certification allows social workers to better tailor their expertise to whichever subfield of social work best matches their career goals, helping professionals improve their practice and make an even greater difference in the lives of their clients. The list below describes popular certifications offered by NASW.

Certified Social Work Case Manager

Case managers help their clients navigate the social services system. This certification recognizes case managers dedicated to providing a particularly high standard of care. To earn this certification, social workers must hold a bachelor's degree or higher, possess a state license or a passing score on the ASWB exam, and complete at least three years of paid work providing case management services.

Qualified Clinical Social Worker

This certification recognizes clinical social workers who demonstrate expertise in "the art and science of 'being with people' in their struggles," and who meet national standards related to professional quality. Applicants must hold an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program, complete 30 contact hours of post-degree continuing professional education specific to clinical social work, demonstrate three years of experience working in mental health assessment and treatment, and hold an active license.

Certified School Social Work Specialist

This certification acknowledges school social workers who stand as experts in their field. To qualify, social workers must possess an MSW from an accredited program; demonstrate two years of school social work experience; and hold either a master's-level licensure or an exam-based certification, registration, or licensure supplied through their state office.

Certified Social Worker in Health Care

Social workers who work in healthcare settings and provide quality social work services can apply for this certification. Applicants must hold a master's degree and two years of professional experience working with people who suffer from a physical or medical ailment. Applicants must also possess state licensure or a state-issued certification, licensure, or registration.

Social Worker in Gerontology

Gerontology social workers help the aging and elderly. Applicants for this certification must hold a BSW from an accredited program, three years of relevant professional experience, 20 contact hours of continuing education or proof of an academic concentration in gerontology, and a form of qualifying licensure.

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 by the U.S. government. Additionally, many nonprofit organizations and companies offer private grants and scholarships. Check out the collection of resources below to learn more about financial aid options.

AN OVERVIEW OF FINANCIAL AID

Approximately two-thirds of today's college students rely on loans to fund their education, and many overlooked financing options exist that you can use to reduce your student debt.

UNDERSTANDING THE FAFSA

Completing the FAFSA represents a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on this process and answers 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, although this 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 a more 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 targeting women.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR SINGLE PARENTS

Online college programs represent flexible and affordable options for single parents 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

U.S. military personnel can access millions of dollars in financial aid, but much of this goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.