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Best Online Master’s in Social Work (MSW) Programs of 2022

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Best Online Master’s in Social Work Programs of 2022

Social workers with a master’s degree can take on leadership roles, such as directing service departments and managing child welfare offices. Take a look at our favorite online master’s programs.

An online master’s degree in social work takes two years of full-time study and prepares students to serve their communities in times of great challenge. While some social workers apply their skills to counseling individuals and couples, others use their experience to advocate for changes in the welfare system. Social workers may also obtain post-secondary teaching positions or conduct research aimed at creating equality for all.

After several years of professional experience, social workers can take on managerial tasks, run youth support offices, or manage social services.

A positive career outlook can be another motivating factor for these students. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects job growth of 8% for social workers between 2019 and 2029. These professionals earn an average salary of $51,760.

In addition, some related occupations, such as rehabilitation counselors, school and career counselors, as well as marriage and family therapists, offer even higher growth rates and projected earnings.

What to Expect from an Online MSW Program?

An online master’s degree in social work typically requires 48 to 60 credits and provides students with advanced knowledge of clinical practice, human behavior, and social policy. Master’s students build on their prior training and experience by taking courses in leadership and development, social advocacy, organizational theory, and clinical intervention strategies.

“It’s very rewarding to be able to apply what you learn and have a group environment to share and process it.”

The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) states that graduates of MSW programs must have at least 900 hours of supervised field instruction. This field experience allows students to apply their advanced theoretical knowledge to social work practice in supervised settings. Degree candidates learn to incorporate the skills and concepts they learned in the classroom to work with real clients.

Sue English, CADC, LCSW, MSW explains that “the practical and programming classes along with the internship work were beneficial. It was very gratifying to be able to apply what was learned and to have a group environment to share and process.”

Additionally, students may choose to focus their studies on the micro, mezzo, or macro level of social work. The micro level focuses on helping people, the mezzo level involves working with groups and organizations, and the macro level aims to solve large-scale social work problems.

Once students understand the level of social work that interests them most, they can choose the concentration that best suits their career goals. Although each program varies in its specific offerings, common RSU concentrations include the following:

  • Direct/clinical practice social work
  • Administrative and community development
  • Advanced generalist
  • Chemical/addiction dependence
  • Specialist in child psychiatry
  • Medical social work
  • Trauma specialist

What Courses Will I Take in an Online Master’s Degree in Social Work?

Social Welfare Policy

This course examines the history and purpose of wellness, and the role and evolution of government in wellness policy. Students examine current welfare issues and the underlying values ​​that support different perspectives, and learn to identify the strengths and weaknesses of our current welfare system at different levels.

Clinical Social Work Interventions

In this course, students apply theoretical concepts and intervention strategies to practice experiences with different patient populations in supervised settings. The course addresses ethical standards in social work, emphasizes the use of evidence-based practices, and covers the importance of cultural competence and sensitivity in a clinical setting. Additionally, students will review and practice concrete clinical skills in the classroom and during their field placements to master theoretical concepts.

Poverty and Inequality

With an emphasis on recent historical trends, this course examines how poverty is defined and measured in the United States. Students examine the philosophical, economic, and political underpinnings of the country’s welfare system, learn about current welfare policy controversies, and discuss different perspectives on poverty and inequality.

Human Behavior in the Social Environment

This course explores theories about how people and communities develop, behave, and interact. Applicants study life development from conception to old age and explore how social influence affects community development and outcomes.

Social Work Research

Social work research courses provide an overview of qualitative and quantitative research methods, causality, measurement, and sampling. Students examine key research concepts such as hypothesis formulation, research design, and data collection while examining the ethics of social work research in relation to informed consent, confidentiality, and cultural sensitivity.

What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Masters in Social Work?

Although every school is different, most online MSW programs require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree in social work or a related subject from an accredited institution. Graduate admissions departments typically look for a GPA of 2.5 or higher and related work or volunteer experience in addition to the requirements listed below.

Test Results

MSW programs that require GRE scores typically aim for a combined verbal and quantitative score of 1000. Some programs may grant probationary admission to students who are 800 or above. However, many online MSW programs do not require standardized test scores.

Letter of Recommendation

MSW programs often require applicants to submit letters of recommendation from current and former professors and employers. These letters exhibit qualities and characteristics that transcripts and test scores alone cannot reveal. Applicants should request these letters 2 to 3 months in advance.

Resume

Many MSW programs require two or more years of relevant work experience. Your resume should include any work experience, as well as any volunteer or internship experience related to social work. Applicants typically include a brief job description, start and end dates, and reference contact information.

Essays

Applicants are usually required to make personal statements or declarations of intent. While statements of intent represent academic accomplishments and career goals, personal statements often include individual motivations and specific accomplishments and challenges.

Official Transcripts

Almost all MSW programs require students to submit official transcripts from their elementary school. These transcripts can also be helpful in determining the allocation of eligible credits from previous courses.

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What Can I Do With an Online Masters in Social Work?

Career Prospect

While the BLS forecasts 13% job growth for social workers from 2019 to 2029, some related industries offer even better career prospects. For example, healthcare social worker employment is expected to increase by 14% between 2019 and 2020, while mental health and addiction social worker employment is projected to increase by 17%.

“There is something that will pique your interest in this vast field.”

As our society places more emphasis on mental health, clinician employment is likely to increase. Some of the largest employers of social workers are individual and family services, local government, and community health services.

According to Sue English, CADC, LCSW, MSW: “Whether you want to work in a hospital, work with the gerontology community, support students in the school system, advocate for government agencies, or provide resources to vulnerable populations, there’s something that ignites yours interests in this broad field”.

Career Paths

Social Worker

Social workers help individuals, groups, and families deal with difficult and stressful life events and resolve underlying mental health issues. They work in clinics, hospitals, correctional facilities, and schools, connecting clients with outreach programs and community services. Clinical social workers can also diagnose behavioral and emotional problems and provide talk therapy and counseling on an outpatient basis.

Average annual salary: $51,760

Addiction, Behavioral and Mental Health Social Worker

These professionals work with clients or patients struggling with substance abuse issues, behavioral disorders, and general mental health issues. After a thorough evaluation, these consultants develop comprehensive treatment plans, assess progress, and set goals.

Average annual salary: $47,660

School Social Worker, Guidance Counselor, or Advisor

Academic and career counselors help students with a variety of issues, including maintaining grades, choosing courses, planning for college, and organizing for life after graduation. They frequently conduct aptitude and personality tests to guide students toward careers that match their strengths.

Average annual salary: $58,120

Child, Family or School Social Workers

These social workers work to help children and their families deal with issues such as school adjustment, poverty, substance abuse, unemployment, and mental health. They counsel students with behavior problems, consult with parents and teachers, develop comprehensive treatment plans, assess progress, and set goals for patients.

Average annual salary: $48,430

Medical-Social Assistant

Health social workers provide support to patients and families facing difficult health diagnoses, such as chronic or terminal illnesses. They often counsel patients and their families about their medical options, monitor patients’ mental and emotional health, and provide individual and group counseling services.

Average annual salary: $57,630

Continuous Education

Following the master’s degree in social work, graduates can further their knowledge with a doctorate. Master’s graduates seeking advanced clinical positions can choose to pursue a doctorate in social work, while those interested in careers in teaching and research can enroll in a doctorate in social work.

Both tracks typically last 3 to 5 years and are considered a degree in the field of social work.

Licenses and Certifications

All 50 states and the District of Columbia require social workers to complete a CSWE-accredited program and pass a licensing exam. However, the additional requirements vary widely by state. For more information on the requirements of each state licensing agency, students can visit the Association of Boards of Social Work website.

Although each state is different, students should expect to pass an exam and complete a certain number of clinical or practical hours. Depending on the federal state, there are several professional licenses available to students after completing a bachelor’s or master’s degree in social work, including:

  • Licensed baccalaureate of social work (bachelor’s level)
  • Licensed master of social work (master’s level)
  • Licensed master social worker – advanced generalist (master’s level)
  • Licensed clinical social worker (master’s level)
  • Licensed social worker – administration (master’s level or higher)

How to Choose an Online Master’s Degree in Social Work?

Costs

Many factors affect college costs, including degree level, location, and type of institution. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average annual cost of a bachelor’s degree from a public institution was $12,171 in the 2018-2019 school year, while the average cost from a private institution was $19,314.

Program Format

Flexibility can be the key to earning a master’s degree, especially for working professionals. For this reason, many online programs offer synchronous and asynchronous course formats, as well as full-time and part-time program options.

Students looking for maximum flexibility can opt for part-time asynchronous programs that allow them to connect when it suits them without fixed meeting times or a full class load. Accelerated formats may also be available for students who can handle a large course load.

Location

Although location is critical for students wishing to pursue programs on campus, online students should not overlook a prospective institution’s physical location. Prospective MSW students should consider whether their chosen program will require on-campus visits or clinical requirements and whether they can meet those requirements at a location closer to home if travel is not an option.

Accreditation

Finding an institution with the appropriate accreditation is one of the most important factors to consider when looking for MSW programs. Accreditation not only affects a student’s ability to transfer credit, but can also determine whether a graduate is eligible for a professional license. MSW students should ensure that their school is regionally accredited and that their program has been accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.

Student Support

Prospective MSW students should look for schools that offer student resources such as student career centers, tutoring programs, and alumni networking opportunities. Online students may find these services particularly beneficial as they can help connect students to their campus and to their fellow students.

2022 Best Accredited Online MSW Programs

How We Rate Schools

We believe that a college education is one of the most important investments you can make. We aim to help you navigate the college selection process by providing you with a transparent, inclusive and relevant school ranking.

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Our rankings are based on a few guiding principles and use the latest available statistical data from trusted sources. We hope our approach helps you find the best school for you.

#1 Online College in New York

Yeshiva University

School Information

Location: New York, New York

Admission Rate: 55%

Graduation Rate: 82%

Institution Type: Private

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 12%

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Average Cost per Credit

In State | $1,085

Out of State | $1,085

Credits to Graduate: 30-60

Program Information

Program Accreditation | Council on Social Work Education

Based in New York, YU offers a customizable online Master of Social Work (MSW). Students in the general stream explore the practical and clinical aspects of social work. Coursework focuses on ethics and cultural responsiveness.

Students can personalize the title with one of two areas of interest. These options include integrated certification in gerontology and palliative care or the Certified Substance Abuse Counselor designation. The field work is carried out personally by the students.

Registrants with a Council on Social Work Education-accredited bachelor’s degree in social work are eligible for enhanced status. An average grade of at least 3.0 is required for admission.

Learn more about this program

#2 Online College in California

Northcentral University

School Information

Location: La Jolla, California

Institution Type: Private

Accreditation: Yes

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Average Cost per Credit

In State | $739

Out of State | $739

Credits to Graduate: 36-60

Program Information

Program Accreditation | Council on Social Work Education

NCU’s online MS in Social Work offers courses for both newcomers to social work and experienced students. The generalist branch provides basic training in social work and communication practices. Students with a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree take advanced courses in the Advanced Generalist Stream.

The program complements online courses with in-person exercises. During practice, participants learn to work with individuals, groups and communities. Admission requires a BSW or bachelor’s degree in a related field, e.g. Psychology.

Learn more about this program

#3 Online College in Massachusetts

Boston University

School Information

Location: Boston, Massachusetts

Admission Rate: 19%

Graduation Rate: 88%

Institution Type: Private

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 10%

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Average Cost per Credit

In State | $910

Out of State | $910

Credits to Graduate: 40-65

Program Information

Program Accreditation | Council on Social Work Education

BU offers a Masters in Social Work with three majors: advanced, traditional standing, and human service experience (HSE). Students can customize a part-time Master of Social Work (MSW) program with macro or clinical specializations.

The program includes lectures with simulations, interactive animations and weekly live classroom sessions. Registrants complete between 1,000 and 2,000 hours of on-the-job training. Students can complete this online master’s degree in social work in 6 to 9 semesters. An average grade of at least 3.0 is required for admission. Students taking the HSE track must have at least two years of human or social services experience.

Learn more about this program

#4 Online College in Louisiana

Tulane University of Louisiana

School Information

Location: New Orleans, Louisiana

Admission Rate: 13%

Graduation Rate: 86%

Institution Type: Private

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 12%

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Average Cost per Credit

In State | $1,180

Out of State | $1,180

Credits to Graduate: 48-60

Program Information

Program Accreditation | Council on Social Work Education

Tulane offers an online Master of Social Work (MSW) for working students. The school has more than 100 years of experience in training social workers in New Orleans and beyond. Participants can customize the MSW with an optional certificate in Disaster and Community Trauma or Mental Health, Addiction and Family.

Students complete approximately 900 hours of field training. Students enrolled with a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree are granted extended status and can complete their studies in 12 months. Admission requires a BSW or Bachelor’s degree in a liberal arts field.

Learn more about this program

#5 Online College in Ohio

Case Western Reserve University

School Information

Location: Cleveland, Ohio

Admission Rate: 27%

Graduation Rate: 84%

Institution Type: Private

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 8%

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Average Cost per Credit

In State | $1,590

Out of State | $1,590

Credits to Graduate: 60 – Traditional Track

Program Information

Program Accreditation | Council on Social Work Education

CWRU runs one of the best social work schools in the country. The online Master of Social Work (MSW) meets the educational requirements for admission in all 50 states. Students choose the traditional or advanced degree.

Students can customize the level by choosing one of three concentrations. Options include children, youth and families; adult mental health; and community practice for social change. Students with a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) can apply for up to 21 credits for this online Master of Social Work.

All recruiters develop clinical skills with 500 to 900 hours of field training. Students attend live online classes with approximately 15 classmates. Admission requires a BSW or Bachelor’s degree and a minimum GPA of 2.7.

Learn more about this program

#6 Online College in California

California State University-Northridge

School Information

Location: Northridge, California

Admission Rate: 59%

Graduation Rate: 55%

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 55%

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Average Cost per Credit

In State | $752

Out of State | $752

Credits to Graduate: 60-63 credits

Program Information

Program Accreditation | Council on Social Work Education

CSUN’s online Master of Social Work (MSW) uses a cohort model. Registrants learn to work with clients on an individual/family basis; group/community; and social/political level. MSW topics include human behavior and the social environment, and general social work theory and practice. On-the-job training provides students with hands-on experience.

To top it off, participants complete an individual or group project. Students can complete the MSW in 2 to 3 years. Admission requires a bachelor’s degree with a liberal arts background and a minimum GPA of 3.0.

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Learn more about this program

#7 Online College in New York

Fordham University

School Information

Location: Bronx, New York

Admission Rate: 46%

Graduation Rate: 83%

Institution Type: Private

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 12%

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Average Cost per Credit

In State | $963

Out of State | $963

Credits to Graduate: 33-66

Program Information

Program Accreditation | Council on Social Work Education

Fordham runs one of the largest social work schools in the country. The online Master of Social Work trains students to work with clients from diverse communities. The program offers traditional and advanced routes.

Students can choose from several practice areas, including individuals and families, as well as organizations and communities. Applicants complete 1 to 2 internships in the field.

Students can enroll full time or part time. Admission to this master’s of social work requires a bachelor’s degree in social work or a bachelor’s degree and an essay.

Learn more about this program

#8 Online College in Florida

University of South Florida

School Information

Location: Tampa, Florida

Admission Rate: 48%

Graduation Rate: 75%

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 55%

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Average Cost per Credit

In State | $348

Out of State | $431

Credits to Graduate: 35-60

Program Information

Program Accreditation | Council on Social Work Education

USF’s online Master of Social Work prepares enrollers for a variety of social work careers. Students learn skills to work with individuals, families, and small groups. Inexperienced students take foundation courses and build a social work practice.

Students with a Council on Social Work Education-accredited Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree receive advanced status and complete an accelerated program. All registrants complete field trials.

A final project concludes the program. Students can complete the course full-time or part-time. Admission requires a BSW or a bachelor’s degree with humanities courses.

Learn more about this program

#9 Online College in Florida

University of Central Florida

School Information

Location: Orlando, Florida

Admission Rate: 44%

Graduation Rate: 72%

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 59%

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Average Cost per Credit

In State | $288

Out of State | $288

Credits to Graduate: 62 – Traditional Track

Program Information

Program Accreditation | Council on Social Work Education

One of the largest virtual universities in the country, UCF offers an online Master of Social Work (MSW) with traditional and advanced degree programs. The degree prepares advanced generalists and clinical social workers.

Students learn the skills required to work as licensed professionals. Students with a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree can take the advanced course. The course load depends on the transfer credits of the students.

All registrants do internships in community organizations. Students can complete the MSW full-time or part-time. Admission requires a bachelor’s degree or a BSW.

Learn more about this program

#10 Online College in California

University of Southern California

School Information

Location: Los Angeles, California

Admission Rate: 11%

Graduation Rate: 92%

Institution Type: Private

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 17%

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Average Cost per Credit

In State | $1,995/unit

Out of State | $1,995/unit

Credits to Graduate: 37-60

Program Information

Program Accreditation | Council on Social Work Education

USC, one of the elite universities in the country, offers an accredited Master of Social Work (MSW) degree online. The MSW offers a traditional curriculum for students with no experience. The advanced program requires a Council on Social Work Education-accredited bachelor’s degree in social work.

All students learn evidence-based practices and interventions. The MSW offers several areas of focus, including social change and adult mental health. Registrants gain hands-on experience with over 1,000 hours of on-the-job training.

Students can complete the MSW full-time or part-time in 12 to 24 months. Admission requires a bachelor’s degree and a minimum GPA of 3.0.

Learn more about this program

Frequently Asked Questions About Social Work Masters Programs

Is a Masters in Social Work worth it?

A master’s degree in social work can be invaluable for students who want to advance their careers in social work and make a positive impact on their communities. Earning this degree provides students with the skills to play a meaningful role in supporting others in the fields of education, health care, and social services.

What Can I Do With a Masters in Social Work?

Master’s degrees in social work can open doors to rewarding roles in a variety of fields aimed at improving social well-being and quality of life. Graduates can find jobs in schools as counselors, in private practice as marriage and family therapists, and in medical institutions as health social workers.

Is There a Need for Social Workers?

The BLS projects social worker employment growth of 13% from 2019 to 2029, a rate much faster than the average for all occupations. BLS predicts greatest need for child, family and school social workers; health social workers; and mental health and addiction social workers.

How Much Money Can I Make With an MSW?

How much money MSW graduates earn depends on the chosen specialty, location and work experience. According to the BLS, the top 10% of social workers earn more than $85,820 per year, while the bottom 10% earn less than $33,020. Some of the most lucrative industries for social work include local government, community health care, and state government.

What Are The Highest Paying Jobs With A Masters In Social Work?

Graduates from MSW programs with significant work experience are more likely to occupy the highest-paying positions in that field. According to PayScale, the top 10% of social service managers earn an average annual salary of $85,000. The BLS reports that the top 10% of school and career counselors and counselors earn an average annual salary of more than $97,910.

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