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Best Online Master's in Social Work (MSW)
Top Online Degree Programs 2021

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If you are looking at the best online masters in social work programs, chances are you have already achieved your bachelor’s in social work or related fields. Great job! You have probably already decided what specialization you are interested in deepening on your career journey. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of social work is projected to only expand. The outlook is that there will be something to the tune of a 13 percent increase in positions between 2019 and 2029. Achieving a master’s degree in the field, often referred to as an MSW, will give you the chance to gain a leadership role in this career pathway. There are many places to go with this, which can include the more traditional social work careers that are on-the-ground or a macro approach that looks closely at statistics and numbers.

As far as programs go, this is where you want to specialize. In other words, take on an academic path that will lead you towards your particular interests and goals. If you are interested in working with substance abuse and addiction, you probably want to pick a program with that emphasis. Online learning can give you the chance to work in the field, maybe in a job you already have, at the same time as achieving your education. We have ranked the top 25 best masters in social work programs for you according to the following metric:

  • Cost
  • Reputation
  • Student Success Rate

1

Columbia University in the City of New York
New York, NY

To kick off our list we begin with an oldie but goody, Columbia University has a Master of Science in Social work program that has a long history. Columbia’s online program is run by the leading faculty members of the department. One of the things that makes this program one of the best masters in social work, is the fact that students will get placed in a field office in the nearest major city. The rigorous coursework in this program prepares students for the complex work of social work. Graduates of this program must complete a progressive sequence of courses; promoting social and economic justice, evaluating practice outcomes, and human behavior and the social environment. All the MSW students are required to complete 18 credits from field education which represents 1200 fieldwork hours. This is the prized advanced feature of this degree. The fieldwork is broken up into two parts of 600 hours each the generalist level and the advanced specialist level. Students will begin with what is called a foundation year than their advanced year. 

Degree: MS in Social Work

2

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Champaign, IL

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign offers a Master in Social Work with a choice of two concentrations including leadership and social change or Advanced Clinical. The Advanced Clinical concentration has several specializations including mental Health, health care, child youth d family services, and schools. This program is a 9 to 14 course plus internship to complete the requirements for the degree. To qualify for entry into this program students must have earned a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university in the last 7 years. Although social work is a complex and at times an unforgiving profession this graduate program prepares students for the rigorous nature of their future careers. For students who do not have a bachelor’s degree in social work can still obtain a master’s in social work by taking all 14 of the required courses and a two-semester internship. The entire course of study for this program is 100% online. 

Degree: Master in Social Work

3

University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA

The University of Southern California offers a Master in Social Work that is given entirely online. This is considered one of the best online masters in social work. Students can qualify for the traditional program (60 credit units) or the advanced program for students who have a bachelors in social work (38 credit units). The key to success in this course of study is choosing an academic department; Adult Mental Health and Wellness, Children, Youth and Families, and Social Change and Innovation. There are some optional tracks to choose from, military social work and school social work. Students will complete 1000 hours of field education, through the virtual field practice as well as in-person through community-based field placement. Students pursuing this course of study will find the flexibility needed to successfully complete the program. Graduates will be able to customize their curriculum, with a leading faculty and receive intensive preparation. Upon completion of the curriculum, students will work in several areas of society according to their chosen discipline.  

Degree: Masters in Social Work

4

Case Western Reserve University
Cleveland, OH

Case Western Reserve University’s Master of Science in Social Administration program earns a high rank on our list of best online masters in social work, for its asynchronous virtual classroom. It is considered one of the best online masters in social work. Dedicated radical learning is the core mission of this program, students will attend live online classes of no more than 15 students. The faculty pride themselves on producing the future of change agents and social work leaders, through a collaborative learning process all offered online. Another exciting aspect of this program is the complementary LinkedIn account including on-demand learning courses and networking opportunities. The case offers three pathways of study: Children youth and families, Mental health, and community practice for social change. Each pathway of study has an advanced and traditional track available. As a most master in social work programs fieldwork is a huge part of the program. The case only requires 500 field hours for students accepted into the advanced track program. Students get the chance to fast track their learning and get to impact their communities soon than most social work graduates. 

Degree: MS in Social Administration

5

Ohio State University-Main Campus
Columbus, OH

Ohio State University master of social work program boasts a long history dating back to 1923, this long-standing degree is the oldest continuously accredited social work program and is considered one of the best online masters in social work. The entire course of study is online. This program offers a flexible option for students to achieve and prepare for advanced social work practice. There are three core platforms for completing this degree, foundation curriculum, advanced practice, and extensive field practice experience. Graduates of this program will learn skills to enter the field of direct practitioners, administrators, evaluators, and analysts, in a variety of private and government agencies. Entry into the school requires a minimum of a 3.0 GPA to be accepted. The university’s online program information is developed by the same faculty of the in-person program so students choosing an online route will not miss a beat. 

Degree: Masters in Social Work

6

Boston University
Boston, MA

Boston University is in the heart of a major city where social work and community leaders attempt to effect change year to year. Their online master of social work program does just that to fill the need for the growing demand for social workers. Although this program mirrors a number of other similar masters programs. This one stands out for its advanced track option. This track is only available to applicants with a bachelors in social work. They can complete their master’s course in only six semesters and a single field internship. The other track option include; traditional 65 credit and humans service experience, a 65 credit track for graduates with a bachelors that includes a minimum of two year of study in human services. This program prides itself on taking a research-based approach to educate future social workers about how to implement change in the communities they work in. Thus, it is considered one of the best online masters in social work. 

Degree: Masters in Social Work

7

Florida State University
Tallahassee, FL

Florida State University’s master in social work offers an entirely online experience to students looking to advance their career in social work. As one of the best online masters in social work, this program is for individuals passionate about becoming change agents in their lifetime. Potential students can apply without a bachelors in social work, GRE and graduate in 3 years. With a curriculum curated for the working professional student have the option to attend full-time or part-time depending on their schedule. Field placements lean towards a clinical licensure track, as the entire course of study is built around graduates looking to become licensed upon graduation. Although online FSU does require two mandatory visits to campus for a skill-building session, they are only scheduled on weekends. To graduate completion of the entire 61 credits, including two social work field placements. Applicants must hold a minimum of a 3.0 GPA for acceptance into the program. 

Degree: Masters in Social Work

8

Indiana University-Bloomington
Bloomington, IN

Indiana University offers a master of social work that attempts to defy the traditional ideas of this course of study. Join the innovators as social work is not for the faint of heart, yet understanding how to prepare students to enter into the workforce is something this program prides itself on. It is considered one of the best online masters in social work. With clear simple concentrations, this course of study will prepare graduates to take a clinical approach to human service. Future graduates build off their bachelors by starting off with foundational courses; diversity, human rights, generalist theory, and practice to name a few. Then before moving into the practicum students will tackle their concentration with courses like clinical theory and practice, executive leadership, and social policy and service.  The intention of this program is to train professionals that can use theory-based to deepen their knowledge of the underlying theory behind the key practices of social work. 

Degree: Masters in Social Work

9

University of Iowa
Iowa City, IA

The University of Iowa offers a Master in Social Work degree every 2 years, to small cohorts of students from Iowa and its bordering states. The UI curriculum focuses on diversity, social justice, and organizational/community leadership. A variety of electives and practicum placements offer flexibility for students to prepare for a number of fields of practice, such as Aging and Longevity, Resilience and Trauma, Mental Health, or School Social Work. Their strong emphasis on individualized mentoring and student cohort cohesion results in outstanding student success rates, and their licensure test pass rates are among the highest in the nation.

Degree: Masters in Social Work

10

Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI

Michigan State University’s master in social work program offers two tracks clinical social work and organization and community leadership. This is considered one of the best online masters in social work. The online format of this degree allows students to work on advancing their careers in social work while still working. Another notable aspect of this program is it meets all requirements for licensing, according to the federal regulations. It is the full-time mission of the faculty to prepare students for direct practice with individuals; clinical social work. With courses in theory, practice methods, and intensive field experiences graduates will be ready to impact their communities. For students pursuing a master’s degree, cost is a huge factor, MSU offers their program with that in mind, as the cost of this program is priced competitively. Working online with courses MSU opens the door for students to work with an intensive design studio format that explores critical pedagogy and social work. 

Degree: Master in Social Work

11

Louisiana State University -Baton Rouge

Louisiana State University offers a master’s in social work entirely online. LSU provides students with a comprehensive master’s in social work. Completion of the program requires students to fulfill all 60 hours of coursework including two internships. This is the traditional option they also offer an advanced option in which students can transfer in 27credits towards their degree, to qualify for the advanced track student must have completed a bachelor’s in social work in the last 5 years. As this is an advanced degree student must have a 3.0 GPA to be accepted into the program. Some students thrive in a thesis program and some don’t. You can choose with this program, a thesis is encouraged but not required to graduate. Graduates will thrive in a multiple format program, students will have the choice of full-time part-time, and online. It is advised that students complete their internship concurrently with their course work so as to apply first hand the knowledge they are expanding on in class. This is considered one of the best online masters in social work. 

Degree: Master in Social Work

12

University of Missouri

The University of Missouri’s Master in Social Work offers an online program with a mission to break the mold. UM’s social work program prides itself on the grassroots work in education for social work. As one of the best online masters in social work, their program is geared towards creating leaders to promote social and economic justice. University of Missouri is a land grant institution, with a mission to effect change in the greater communities that are affected by oppressive institutions. This is a 60 credit two year program, offered on a flexibly online platform, so students can continue to work in their field. The entire course of study focuses on instilling the mission, of teaching students how to effectively use outreach and economic development policies. It’s important to know that the online program is restricted to residents of the Missouri and states contiguous to Missouri. Potential students require a prerequisite course prior to admission. 

Degree: Master in Social Work

13

University of Arkansas
Fayetteville, AR

The Master of Social Work offered by the University of Arkansas is an online advanced standing social work program. This is a GRE-exempt program; only students that have graduated with a bachelor in social work degree from an accredited university can participate in this best online masters in social work. The entire course of study in this program is 39 credit hours, with only a full-time option available. This program is curated for the working professional, social workers with a master’s degree can earn 25 percent more than with a bachelor’s. This is a fully online degree with no on-campus visits. It focuses on creating and building leaders in social work. Students attend a field seminar live online through a virtual classroom. An interesting aspect of this program is students work in cohorts, so as to offer support and future networking opportunities. An internship is required and will be set up and monitored by the university. 

Degree: Master in Social Work

14

University of Kansas
Lawrence, KS

The University of Kansas has a Master in Social Work offered by the school of social welfare is one of the only programs in the state. This program is grounded in offering a diverse and equitable experience to students looking to earn an advanced degree in social work. This is considered one of the best online masters in social work. The department of social welfare holds several events each year centered around the social work student to empower resilience and support. As this is a hybrid course of study students will be partnered with organizations in the Kansas and Western Missouri area for internships and field practice hours required to complete the program. An exceptional aspect of this program is the integrated health scholars program for students in the MSW program to gain a leg up by exposing them to the educational opportunity to work within a health care seeking exploring skills related to substance abuse, and mental health. This program has two concentration offerings, clinical social work practice or social work macro practice. 

Degree: Master in Social Work

15

Tulane University of Louisiana
New Orleans, LA

Tulane University master in social work offers a chance for students to engage in a program centered around thinking innovatively to solve the age-old problems of societal institutions’ negative effect on the community. Through an entirely online format, this 60 credit Master’s program becomes available to working professionals to become supervisors and leaders in the field they are passionate about. The online option is also open to students that do not have a bachelor’s in social work but want to use their skills to become change agents communities all over the country seek. With full-time and part-time options for the completion of the program individuals can choose to study at a pace they are comfortable with. Their mission is centered around clinical community courses of study based on relationship-centered practices. To graduate students must complete the required 984 hours of fieldwork, TU will assign you to organizational partners in your town. 

Degree: Master in Social Work

16

George Mason University
Fairfax, VA

George Mason University has a Master in social work program that is offered entirely online. This is considered one of the best online masters in social work. This offering is very new as GMU received its accreditation in 2002, this is an opportunity for students looking to work with updated and innovative new thinkers. This program was curated for the mind of tomorrow and not rooted in the policies of the past. Courses are offered in a sequence and must be taken in an 8-week schedule format. The field practicum is a chance for students to use the critical aspects of their course work in the field, a mandatory 1052 hours is required. Once students have completed a standard first year of generalist study they dive into their specialization. The specialization includes Children, Youth, Families or Adults, and Healthy Aging. An exciting option is a dual degree offered, MSW students can apply to accompany their degree with an MS in Conflict Analysis and Resolution. 

Degree: Master in Social Work

17

Temple University
Philadelphia, PA

Temple University offers a Master in Social Work with a low student to faculty ratio, which is a benefit to online learning. This is considered one of the best online masters in social work. This online program offers only one format, part-time. This is a truly professional program for potential change agents interested in obtaining a masters in social work. It is important to note that this program does require a residency in Philadelphia between the first and second year. This program offers asynchronous learning, allowing you to set your own pace for the completion of discussion boards and assignments. Students take courses via live stream with the faculty at Temple. Through fieldwork advisors students will complete their field work in their own communities of interest. Although online this program’s mission is to instill that the root of social work is problem-solving through a collaborative effort. Group meetings are scheduled throughout the program to re-enforce that concept. Graduate completion requires students to pass 60 credits of course study and offer two concentrations; clinical and macro practice. 

Degree: Master in Social Work

18

University of Houston
Houston, TX

University of Houston’s master of social work online is offering students a chance to level up at their own pace. This is considered one of the best online masters in social work. Structured classes within a cohort allow students to progress through the program within that group. This educational process exposes students to innovative technology to maintain connections so as to build relationships and support. MSW students are required to complete 900 hours of fieldwork. Online students work with field advisors to help place you with eligible organizations where you reside. Concentrations include clinical and macro practice and licensing for graduates of this program. Students will become leaders in the field while confronting oppression and injustice, advanced social policy community development, and the dynamics of leadership. Laying the groundwork of how to be effective in a time when social work professionals are in demand, is the key mission of this advanced degree of study.

Degree: Master in Social Work

19

University of Denver
Denver, CO

The master in social work offered online at the University of Denver prepares social workers as justice seekers, from an entirely online platform. This is considered one of the best online masters in social work. There are two tracks available: advanced and traditional. The difference is that to become qualified for acceptance into the advanced track student must have a bachelor in social work. While getting a social work master degree is a step up, understanding the specialization is the key to become a leader in this field. With a choice from mental health trauma and Health equity and wellness as choices of concentration within this online program, students with a passion for change will gain the skills necessary to impact suffering communities. Field internships are a major aspect of completion. It’s the way to see how students will practice  900 hours split between students, foundation and concentration year. A national network of organizations has partnered with communities that provide clinical and community interventions. 

Degree: Master in Social Work

20

University of Alabama at Birmingham
Birmingham, AL

The University of Alabama offers a master in social work hybrid program with a history that dates back to the civil rights movement. Joining this historical community is the foundation of the program. This is considered one of the best online masters in social work. Students will get to work in the communities and work under the auspicious achievement of social justice fighters and game-changers. The entire course of study consists of 60 credit hours with a choice of two concentrations, children, adolescents, and their families or adults and their families. This partial online program involves online course work, field placement, and an in-person skills lab. The perks of this program resound highly on the online coursework and the multiple degree options available to students. In-person labs are the backbone of any social program coupled with field hours students are saturated in the benefits of hands-on learning. 

Degree: Master in Social Work

21

The University of Tennessee-Knoxville
Knoxville, TN

The University of Tennessee offers a Master of Science in social work with an option to use their distance education format. What makes this program stand out are the concentration options, evidence-based interpersonal practice, and organizational leadership. Unlike some of the other schools on this list, UT offers a leadership-focused degree in social work, this degree focuses on maintaining and restoring social function. The reality is the current policies are here and changing them may take longer than people have, so we need leaders that can maintain and restore the current systems and policies we have to work with. Graduate completion requires all 60 credit hours to be complete prior to graduation. This is considered one of the best online masters in social work. Unless students have an advanced standing they only need 37 credits. This program is a thesis required to graduate. Transfer students that have taken the equivalent of a first-year master’s degree can qualify for transfer once accepted into the program. 

Degree: MS in Social Work

22

Wayne State University
Detroit, MI

Wayne State University offers a master in social work program that is delivered entirely online. This is considered one of the best online masters in social work. With full-time and part-time options for students interested in becoming social work practitioners. WSU has a degree that challenges students to create change by serving their communities. There are two pathway options: innovation in community, policy, and leadership, as well as Interpersonal Practice. Graduates must complete the required course of study, 60 credits to graduate. The degree is split up between two years, the foundation year and the core curriculum. This best online degree in social work has a core mission of providing an exceptional learning environment by tailoring the experience to student individual needs. Faculty have an open door policy so students feel listened to throughout their study. As in most master of social work programs, the field work is where students will get a chance to leave the classroom and experience how theory becomes practice. 

Degree: Master in Social Work

23

Fordham University
Bronx, NY

Fordham University has a Master in social Work program offered by the Graduate school of social work that is available entirely online. This is considered one of the best online masters in social work. This is a cohort program focused on future innovation in the practice of social work. The exceptional aspects of this program are rooted in the vast number of concentrations available to the students. Along with a driving force for change this program is dedicated to shaping the future leaders of social and community systems. Students will choose from individual families, organizations, and communities, evaluation, policy practice, and advocacy. While choosing a concentration is super important the groundwork of this program, so is the fieldwork. As an online program in social work, Fordham University has connected with organizations all over the country to match their students with field positions. This is a transformative time for most master students. After graduation students will qualify to hold positions at a number of organizations, government agencies, schools, and military and veteran affairs clinics. 

Degree: Master in Social Work

24

University of Maine
Orono, ME

The University of Maine has a Master in Social Work for individuals interested in pursuing an advanced level in their career. This program is offered as a blended program with a two-day a week residency required for graduation. This is considered one of the best online masters in social work. The internship hours required in this degree are 400 hours for year one and 500 hours for year two. As this is a cohort program, students can apply now for admission in the fall of 2021, the student acceptance will move through the program with their cohort. Another aspect of this degree is that students can decide the pace of their completion, with 2 years, 3 years and 4-year plans of study mapped out by the department. Completion of the entire 63 credits of course study is required for graduation. Understanding the full scope of the theory and practice of social work has been the mission of this program. 

Degree: Master in Social Work

25

Catholic University of America
Washington, DC

The Catholic University of America offers a master in social work and it is considered one of the best online masters in social work. It offers an intimate learning experience for students interested in an advanced career in social work. Each Master’s program has a niche that makes its department noteworthy. In this case, using an evidence-based approach to understand the theories and the application of those theories is the way CUA makes a mark in social work education. This is a learn at your own pace online program, students will have 24/7 access to their course work, there is no specific time required sessions for class. Complete your degree in two years or sooner with an advanced track. The field experience as an online student will be similar to being on-campus, however, you get to place with an organization in a city near your location. Social work faculty have extensive training securing positions for students all over the country. There is a strong emphasis on social justice, it is the banner of which the social worker mission stands, it is no different here. 

Degree: Master in Social Work

Why Should I Get My Social Work Master’s Online?

We have created a comprehensive list of 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 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. Students all over the country have decided to set their sights on the field of social work. The hard part: 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, with program requirements changing from university to university. Online 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 a program is whether the curriculum will meet the requirements for licensing. There are also the concentrations, some programs offer mostly a clinical social work concentration, whereas others have programs that have a health care concentration, 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 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. 

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