Having an online Master of Social Work (MSW) not only opens several career paths, but it also improves skills you may already possess. Graduate work enhances your writing and communication abilities, helps you develop time management and organization, as well as hones your critical thinking and reasoning capabilities. Colleges and universities offering MSW programs will usually have Traditional or Advanced pathways. If you have a BSW, you’ll qualify for the Advanced track and if your degree is in a field other than social work, you’ll be admitted as a Traditional student.
How We Ranked the Best Online Master’s in Social Work Programs
The College Consensus Best Online Masters’s in Social Work Programs 2022 ranking specifically looks at schools that are accredited regionally and reputable. Programs are ranked by three factors that we evenly weighted:
- US News Ranking
- Niche Score
- Grad Reports Score
With these elements in mind, our team looks at college programs according to their record of providing a return on investment. Our ranking of the Best Online Master’s of Social Work Programs shows the best combination of market reputation, educational quality, and rewarding income. We hope there is an online program on this list that inspires you to take the next step.
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An Ivy League school, Columbia University is one of the nation’s oldest (est. 1754) and highly respected universities. The online campus of New York’s Columbia University’s School of Social Work offers a Master of Social Work (MSW) available nationwide. Columbia’s program has five MSW pathways, four specializations, and two practice fields.
One of the most prestigious social work programs in the country, Columbia University’s online degree provides you with 100% online classes taught by an extraordinary faculty in real-time. Depending on your pathway, you can complete your MSW in 1-4 years in specialization choices, including Advanced Generalist Practice and Programming, Advanced Clinical Practice, Social Enterprise Administration, or Policy Practice. Field experiences are part of this degree which you can complete in your home community.
As an online student, you’ll have access to special educational events (via Zoom), meet other students, participate in one of the 30 student caucuses, and conduct research in Columbia’s research centers in various areas.
If you’re looking for a part-time, online MSW program, you’ll want to explore the MSW degree from Boston University. Depending on your interests, you can major in either Clinical Practice or Macro Practice.
Courses are offered in a self-paced format and a weekly live classroom session through the school’s Online Campus Platform. You’ll have your choice of academic tracks in Advanced Standing Track, Traditional Track, and Advanced Standing. Each track has specific admission requirements. This program can be completed in 6-9 consecutive semesters, with classes lasting seven weeks. You’ll participate in one or two internships under a qualified preceptor close to home, depending on your chosen path. If you’re currently working in social work, you may complete your internship where you work under certain conditions.
Online MSW students at BU, you’ll enjoy small class sizes with online lectures, audio and video courses, discussion boards, and weekly live classroom sessions.
Beginning with its founding in 1880, USC has believed in preparing its students for social service. Today, the Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work has expanded that commitment through its hybrid-online MSW program. This is the first online MSW degree in the country.
Depending on your undergraduate status, you can enroll in the school’s Traditional or Advanced Standing tracks. The Traditional Track is designed with a moderate course load and two internships and can be finished in 24 months. An Accelerated Track has a heavier workload with one training that can be completed in one year. A 28-month track for Working Professionals is a hybrid program, requiring two evening classes per week and online coursework.
Field education is an integral part of this curriculum, and the school will work with you to locate a suitable site as close to your home as possible.
Based in Ann Arbor, the University of Michigan School of Social Work supports an online, part-time Master of Social Work.
This distance education program has an Interpersonal Practice in Integrated Health, Mental Health, and Substance Abuse Pathway concentration. The curriculum meets the competency requirements prescribed by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) Commission on Accreditation (COA). With this program, among the courses you’ll take include Engaging Social Justice, Diversity, and Oppression in Social Work, Research Basics for Social Work Practice, Practicing Policy with Current Events, and others. A field experience is also required.
The school has four application statuses: Advanced Standing, Master Track, UM Ann Arbor Sociology, Social Work, or UM-Dearborn Human Services and Social Work.
We are rounding out our top five best online MSW programs with New Jersey’s Rutgers University.
Provided 100% online, you can complete your graduate degree in two or three years in the school’s Traditional or Advanced Standing tracks. Classes are provided in an asynchronous format. Interaction with classmates and faculty is accomplished through discussion threads and other web-based technologies. The curriculum includes studies in social work practice, research methods, diversity, clinical assessment and diagnosis, and more. You’ll begin your field experience during your first year’s third semester. Rutgers has a roster of numerous agencies nationwide to help locate a practicum experience close to your home.
Once admitted, you’ll be eligible to apply for the Certificate Program for Violence Against Women and Children or LISTA: Latina/o/x Initiatives for Service, Training, and Assessment MSW Certificate. These certificate programs offer specialized courses and field placements.
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Fordham University’s Graduate School of Social Work boasts one of the largest social work schools in the country, with its online MSW program offering four practice areas of study for Individuals
and Families, Evaluation, Organizations and Community, and Policy Practice and Advocacy. Depending on your undergraduate degree, two options are available the Traditional Online MSW or the Advanced Standing Online MSW.
You’ll benefit from outstanding support services with this program. You’ll work with an admission advisor to complete your application and determine the best curriculum for you from the start. Once enrolled, you’ll work with your academic advisor, who can help customize your curriculum to best suit your professional goals. You’ll be assigned a placement specialist and a field advisor to find practicum sites close to you.
Fordham’s digital campus is engaging using various techniques, including live online classes, a mobile app, group break-out sessions, face-to-face study sessions, a dashboard, and live technical support when needed.
The online MSW through the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences may be just the program for you if you’re social work career path includes Mental Health With Adults, Community Practice for Social Change, or Children, Youth, and Families.
This program has a leadership focus for those wanting to bring broad social change to their communities. The same faculty who teach on CWRU’s Cleveland teach online Advanced Standing or Traditional MSW students. General curriculum examples include Individual Theory & Practice, Change Agent Intensive, Evaluating Programs and Practice, and Assessing and Engaging Community for Social Change, depending on your track. Classes are specifically designed for each pathway.
The field experience is a significant component of this degree, and the school has over 1,000 practicum sites or will work with you to identify a location close to home. As a working social work professional, you may be able to conduct your field experience where you work.
At its beginning in 1957, Yeshiva University was the only graduate social work program under Jewish auspices. Today, through the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Yeshiva University’s MSW program is available online, live virtual, or on the NYC campus.
Offering Traditional or Advanced Standing options, you’ll have your choice of studies to prepare you to work one-on-one with individuals and families, groups, or policy development and advocacy in communities. You’ll be partnered with a second-year MSW student for help and guidance through the program. Studies include addictions, diversity, human behavior in the social environment, ethics, and eating disorders, among others. The school has a strong network of field experience opportunities throughout the US and Canada, Israel, and other nations.
Acknowledging the shortage of qualified social workers prepared to address the national opioid crisis, the Wurzweiler School of Social Work offers the Credentialed Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor certificate at no additional cost.
Whether you’re a Traditional or Advanced Standing student wanting to take your career to the next level, the iMSW program is ideal for students who work full-time.
The school offers both online and hybrid options in several social work concentrations. Provided entirely online, the Leadership and Social Change (LSC) specialty are developed to prepare you for positions as executive or program director, public service change agent, advocate for diverse populations, and more. This curriculum includes studies in social work practice in groups, families, individuals, mental health policies, research, assessment and interviewing, etc. A field experience is required over two semesters.
This degree can be completed in 16-24 months of full-time enrollment. The School of Social Work has a terrific 90% job placement rate for its MSW graduates.
California’s San Jose State University School of Social Work launched an online/hybrid MSW in Fall 2020, fully accredited by the Council of Social Work Education (CSWE). However, you have to live in California for this program and complete the required internships.
Courses are offered in asynchronous sessions and synchronous (weekday evenings) sessions. Curriculum examples include Advanced Generalist Practice in Substance Abuse, Socially Policy Analysis, Human Behavior in Social Environments, Psychopharmacology for Social Workers, etc. Additionally, policy practice studies are available in child and family welfare, mental health, and health. You’ll be expected to have a minimum of 16 internship hours per week. A culminating experience is required for graduation.
You’ll work with an academic advisor throughout your enrollment, and the online degree program provides the same coursework and competencies as the on-campus program.
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Arizona State University was founded in 1885 when Arizona was still considered a US territory. Since then, ASU has become one of the largest universities by enrollment and has developed a solid national reputation for its 300+ online degree offerings.
ASU School of Social work is excited to announce its fully asynchronous, online MSW degree program beginning in August 2022. You’ll have access to all ASU resources as on-campus students, but you’ll never have to go to campus and can complete your internship in your home community. Courses are offered in real-time via Zoom, allowing you to interact with your professor and other students. The program has four Advanced Direct Practice specializations in Health and Behavioral Health with Adults, Health Behavioral Health-Medical Placements, Children, Youth and Families, and Public Child Welfare. Classes are held in the evening and meet twice a week.
You’ll be licensure eligible in Arizona with this degree and other states.
Tulane University’s School of Social Work has trained social work professionals for 100 years. The online social work degrees span enrollment options for the traditional MSW from full-time to part-time over 16-32 months and Advanced Standing from 12-24 months. The program’s flexibility allows you to customize your studies.
One unique option is the Online Master of Social Work and Master of Science in Disaster Resilience Leadership Dual Degree Program (MSW/MS-DRL) is the first of its kind and concentrates on social work and disaster recovery leadership. This is a five-semester curriculum that prepares you for various professions in leadership areas of emergency preparedness, disaster management, risk and recovery, mitigation of hazards, sustainability, and city planning.
Regardless of your curriculum choice, you’ll be taught by experienced faculty with real-world experience and gain personal, clinical, or group-based skills through an internship.
The School of Social Work at the University of Georgia has launched a new, online MSW to train licensed-eligible social work leaders in Georgia and across the nation.
The UG SSW faculty developed a Micro specialization curriculum to train social work leaders using evidence-based practices. The program uses a cohort model, all coursework is online, and you’ll participate in a field experience. The faculty developed this program recognizing the following social work issues: societal power and oppression, promotion of social justice using evidence-based practice, and advocacy tools while celebrating diversity. The department refers to the curriculum using the acronym, PrOSEAD.
Classes examine topics in advocacy and diversity, communities and organizations, social welfare programs and policies development, human behavior and environment, assessment, etc. The degree culminates with a Social Work Practice Capstone.
Here’s a nationally ranked MSW program offered online by Florida State University and is considered the first online MSW of its type in the country.
You have the Traditional and Advanced standing options with this program. The advanced standing curriculum is designed for the working professional seeking licensure. The Advanced Standing option requires one field placement in your local community. It takes an average of two years to complete this option. The Traditional track requires three years of study and two-weekend campus visits to Tallahassee for team-building skills during the second or third semester. This option requires two field experiences.
The online MSW degree is available nationwide, but the program isn’t available for residents of some Florida counties.
Philadelphia’s Temple University’s College of Public Health MSW program is considered one of the best online programs in the country. You’ll complete one of two formats, depending on your academic history, the Regular Entry or Advanced Standing, both offered online.
The MSW program has two concentrations: Clinical Practice with Individuals and Families and Macro Practice in Organizations, Communities and Policy Arenas. The online program is offered part-time and uses several distance education formats. Courses and instruction are presented in live streaming, live class discussions, chat rooms, and asynchronous online discussion boards formats. There is a three-day, intensive residency on the Philadelphia campus required between your first and second years. You’ll work with advisors to identify a local agency or organization for your field placement that matches your interests and ultimate career goals.
You may also want to explore Temple’s MSW-MPH Dual Degree program.
If you’re looking for a flexible program that works with your schedule, the online MSW from the University of Houston’s Graduate School of Social Work may be for you.
Using the cohort model, this program has specializations in clinical or macro practices, emphasizing leadership, core concepts, evidence-based practices, theories, and practice foundations. Courses in political justice, including economic and social, emphasize critical thinking skills and serve as the foundation for this program. Classes are taught by full-time GSSW faculty and adjunct faculty, and with a low student-teacher ratio, you’ll receive individualized attention and support.
Field experiences are part of the curriculum, and working with the Field Education Office staff; you’ll identify a local field placement location to match your interests. You’ll complete 900 hours of field work and will begin your field work in the Spring Semester of your first year.
The Anne and Henry Zarrow School of Social Work at the University of Oklahoma’s online MSW is designed to, as the website says, “Change the World with a Master of Social Work from OU.”
The Traditional or Advance Tracks combine online coursework with field experiences. Faculty for the online MSW have real-world experience in social work practice, research and provide professional mentorship. Courses blend micro and macro skills so you can focus on areas of the most interest to you. Additionally, this program takes a novel and interactive coursework approach with its use of Social Simulations. This portion of the curriculum uses trained actors as social work clients allowing you to practice what you’ve learned in recorded simulated sessions. You’ll then discuss the sessions with faculty to review your work.
If you’re currently working in a social service agency or organization, you may qualify for OU’s Employment-based Practicum Placement (EBPP) and will want to talk with the Field Education Coordinator on the possiblity.
Two tracks are available for this online MSW from the University of Denver ([email protected]). The university’s Graduate School of Social Work is one of the country’s top-ranked, and this degree is designed to prepare you to effect social change.
You’ll choose between concentrations in Health, Equity, and Wellness or Mental Health and Trauma. This curriculum includes coursework, seminars, and fieldwork. The Traditional Track covers foundational social work courses in social work practice and justice, evidence-based practice, policy and theory, assessment, skill sets, two internships, etc. Your internship will be tailored to your specialty area. Students in the Advanced Standing Track follow much the same curriculum, emphasizing assessment, health perspectives, social work practice models, etc., with one field internship required.
Classes are offered live, online and can be accessed on tablets, computers, or smartphones with the University of Denver app. While you’re enrolled in this program, you’ll have a Student Success Advisor who’ll help you navigate the enrollment and class registration.
If you live in Iowa or a neighboring state and have a bachelor’s degree, you’re eligible to apply for the University of Iowa’s School of Social Work’s online MSW.
This three-year, part-time program uses the cohort model and keeps its class sizes down. With this program, classes meet on Thursday evenings via Zoom conferencing. One of the program goals is to have students create learning communities with students living in the same geographic area. Each community has a local MSW mentor. These communities meet twice a year, and you’ll attend the school’s Summer Institute on the Des Moines campus. Studies cover social work theory, critical thinking regarding practice issues, social justice, as well as field experiences.
The program accepts students every other year, and the next online MSW begins in the Summer of 2024. Regardless of residency, you’ll pay in-state tuition with this program.
If you live near Lansing, you may want to consider the Statewide Blended, MSW at Michigan State University. This part-time program can be completed in three years and meets federal licensing requirements and offers concentrations in Clinical Practice and Organization and Community Leadership (OCL).
The program employs video conferencing, online classes, and face-t0-face instruction. In mid-August, you’ll attend the annual Summer Institute at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center in East Lansing. You’ll attend classes one Saturday per month via Zoom during the fall and spring semesters. Topics for this MSW include studies in policies, generalist social work practice, social welfare, social work theories, clinical assessment, etc. As with other programs, this degree combines course study with field work.
If you’re a working adult, MSU has designed this program to achieve the work-life balance while enhancing your career options.
The online MSW from Adelphi University has a solid 90% employment rate within one year of graduation.
A part-time program, Adelphi University provides a Traditional Track and an accelerated Advanced Standing Track. You’ll study human behavior theory, social work foundations, diversity, professional practice, social work with groups, individuals, organizations, etc. This program also offers general electives in Immigrant and Refugees: Issues and Interventions and Evidence-Based Practice with Serious Mental Illness: Paths to Recovery. “Across the Life” electives provide studies in end-of-life care, social work, healthcare, crisis, and trauma, etc. Adelphi University has partnerships with over 1,000 NY area human service agencies in which you can complete your fieldwork. Don’t worry if you’re out of state, the university will work with you to find appropriate sites in your area.
With this program’s integration of previous exams into your coursework, you’ll get a leg up on the licensure exam.
Offered by the Thompson School of Social Work & Public Health at the University of Hawai’i-Manoa, this hybrid, distance education MSW degree is available statewide.
This program requires the occasional on-campus attendance, online instruction, and HITS, an interactive television modality. There are two curriculum plans with this degree defined as Foundational and Advanced. You’ll study social welfare services and policies, social work practice, research, and field experience with the Foundational curriculum. The Advanced program offers specializations in Child and Family, Health, Gerontology, or Behavioral Mental Health, and practicum experiences. ( Note: not all specializations are available for distance education students).
Students are only admitted for fall semester. This degree qualifies you to apply for licensure in Hawai’i.
The online MSW program at the University of Nevada-Reno is on a mission to develop ethical, social work professionals and practitioners. It is one of a few offering an advanced generalist practice (AGP).
You can apply for either the Traditional MSW or the Advanced Standing degree. All school of social work students take concentration courses in assessment, therapeutic interventions with groups, families, and individuals, multi-dimensional assessment, program and practice evaluation, and practicum experiences. Traditional students will explore social work methods for groups, families, individuals, policy, history of social work, and evidence-based practice. This degree can lead to Nevada licensure in social work.
The University of Nevada-Reno is a research university, and its accredited online MSW programs follows that commitment. This online education is scientifically based and prepares you to work across the many disparate Nevada communities by teaching problem-solving techniques.
Located in Boston, Simmons University was founded in 1899 and is the nation’s first School of Clinical Social Work and prides itself in being a “small university in a college town.” The award-winning faculty teach the online MSW degree, which offers small class sizes, opportunities for research, evidence-based practices, seminars, and research opportunities.
This degree can be earned in 16-32 months and is offered part-time, full-time, and accelerated options. Classes cover assessment and diagnosis, racism and oppression, substance use and abuse, policies, crisis intervention with adolescents and children, cognitive approaches and treatment, etc. The curriculum also requires 1,000 hours of practicum experience.
Simmons University has five cohort start dates each year at their school of social work. Courses are offered in asynchronous and synchronous formats. You’ll have access to study groups and faculty members during their online office hours. Scholarships are available, and you should talk with your admission counselor about how to apply.
Designed to prepare you to affect individual and community change, you can apply as a Traditional or Advanced Standing student, depending on your undergraduate degree. Specialties are offered in either community organizations or clinical practice as a mental health professional. A holistic curriculum blends faith and social work. You’ll study professional practice, social policy, diversity, and complete an internship. The nationally recognized MSW degree is designed to lead to state licensure.
The online MSW has small classes offered live through face-to-face videoconferencing, dashboards, and break-out rooms with your peers and can be accessed through streaming or mobile app.
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Why Should I Get My Social Work Master’s Online?
We have created a comprehensive list of online program schools above for individuals searching for an advanced degree in social work. Although, if you have gotten here you may already have a reason for why you may be considering social work. We have a few reasons you may not have thought about. Do you want to break into the field of social work? But you don’t have a bachelor’s in social work? Getting an online master’s in social work will get you in the door of public and private agencies all over the country. The bureau of labor statistics reports that the profession of social work is projected to grow 13 percent between 2019 and 2029. Another reason to pursue an online master’s degree is the potential salary increase with an advanced degree. Social workers with a bachelor’s degree versus a master’s make almost 20% less, according to site reference.
Getting a master’s in social work can give you the tools to be able to engage a community to enact change. An online master’s can give your mission for change and purpose a place to practice with professionals that are trying to solve the same social issues and injustices that plague their communities. Social work will show its online advanced standing students how to engage for change, whether mental health, wage equality, or racial justice. The profession of social work is a selfless devotion dedicated to serving all those that are in need in the country. This is considered an honored career.
How Do I Choose an Online Social Work Master’s Program?
Choosing the best online master in a social work program is imperative to success. Online students all over the country have decided to set their sights on the field of social work. The hard part for advanced standing students: where to get a degree or not? In the above list, you can see there are some very similar aspects to each program yet some that are very different. When searching for an online program in social work, investigating their field practice and internship resources is key. The bulk of an advanced degree in social work is the field practice hours within community social services, with program requirements changing from university to university.
The Great School Search for Online Students
Online MSW program students have the burden of making sure they will have a residency for which to apply. Some universities have networks into organizations all over the country. Some are limited to the surrounding area of their school location. Another aspect students might want to consider when choosing an online MSW program is whether the curriculum will meet the requirements for licensing. There are also the online MSW program concentrations, some programs offer mostly a clinical social work concentration, whereas others have programs that have a health care concentration, social services emphasis, or even a program that offers a wide range of options for the students to get a wide range of exposure to the ways the theories and practices of social work can be impactful during their career. The main focus of most online MSW programs is to create leaders, to become change agents, and to choose a program that is the first step in becoming a part of the extraordinary leaders in the field of social work.
Getting a Master’s in Social Work
Social work started in the 19th century US when benevolent societies started to address social issues being ignored by the government. These groups worked with the poor living in terrible and unhealthy settings, adult mental health problems, recently emancipated enslaved people, immigrants, widows and orphans, and other groups. New York’s Columbia University, in 1898, developed interventions for those living in poor urban areas that eventually lead the school to begin the first research studies and educational opportunities for training social workers.
If your career goals include having a clinical practice, you’ll want to earn an MSW which will lead to clinical licensure. With an MSW, you’ll be able to identify areas of particular interest to you for a possible clinical specialty as you work alongside a licensed supervisor prior to sitting for the licensure exam. A LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) or a LICSW (Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker) is able to diagnose and treat patients with substance abuse or children or adult mental health issues.
You can earn your Masters of Social Work (MSW) online and typically complete fieldwork in your home community or social services. Once you earn your degree by attending an online MSW program, you’ll be prepared to work closely with individuals, families, communities, groups, and/or social and economic justice organizations.
Employment opportunities for social workers will grow at a faster than average 12% rate between 2020-2030, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with annual salaries ranging from $49,130-$61,190 and a median range of around $50,000.
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