2020 Most Affordable Online MSW Programs

2020 Most Affordable MSW Masters Degrees Badge

The schools on this page offer accredited, affordable online Master of Social Work (MSW) degrees. These 24 colleges charge the lowest tuition rates among OnlineU’s ranked programs. For example, Saint Leo University Online, ranked #1, offers an online Master of Social Work: Advanced Clinical Practice for $5,610 per year. Applicants to an MSW program will need to hold a bachelor’s degree. The degree can be in any field, though earning a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) can decrease the time needed to earn the MSW. On this page, we've included answers to frequently asked questions about affordable online MSW programs.

You can read more about our ranked schools below or browse our rankings of the most affordable online master's programs. View our methodology or learn more about OnlineU.

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Rank School Annual Tuition
# 1 #1 $5,610
# 2 #2 $7,720
# 3 #3 $9,594
# 4 #4 $9,600
# 5 #5 $9,616
# 6 #6 $10,500
# 7 #7 $10,605
# 8 #8 $10,920
# 9 #9 $11,490
# 10 #10 $11,985
# 11 (tie) #11 (tie) $12,000
# 11 (tie) #11 (tie) $12,000
# 13 #13 $13,080
# 14 #14 $13,140
# 15 #15 $13,243
# 16 #16 $13,672
# 17 #17 $14,625
# 18 #18 $14,630
# 19 #19 $14,666
# 20 #20 $15,110
# 21 #21 $15,960
# 22 #22 $16,227
# 23 #23 $16,326
# 24 #24 $16,680
Find an Online Degree:
OnlineU is supported by advertising. Schools that compensate us advertise via school search results and featured placements. This does not influence our college rankings or our content.
  • Annual Tuition: $5,610
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Total Graduate Enrollment: 3,146
  • Example Classes: Advanced Clinical Practice with Couples and Families; Ethical Foundations in Social Work Practice; Psychopathology; Social Work Practice in the Military; Substance Abuse Assessment and Intervention

Saint Leo University's online Master of Social Work is a 62-credit program that includes foundational and advanced coursework. Students also have the opportunity to gain real-world experience through clinical internships and a residency. The program follows a cohort model but can be completed on a part-time or full-time schedule. There is also an option for students who have completed a BSW in the past five years to attend as an “advanced standing” student, which requires 32 credits and excludes foundational courses.

Classes include live discussions, lectures, and interactive assignments and are delivered through the Desire2Learn learning management system. Students also use the D2L platform to submit papers, take quizzes, and check grades. Students have the flexibility to log in from any location with internet access. However, classes have set times (usually in the evenings and on weekends) and require regular attendance. Academic advising and career development services are available to distance learners. There are also financial aid opportunities and tuition benefits for veterans and active military members.

The MSW program is available to students with a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution and at least a 3.0 GPA. Approximately 60 days before the term begins, prospective students should submit an online application, two letters of recommendation, a personal statement of goals, academic transcripts, and GRE scores.

Online Master's Degrees

  • Master of Social Work - Advanced Clinical Practice (2 Year)
  • Master of Social Work - Advanced Standing Program
  • Master of Social Work: Advanced Clinical Practice (3 Year)
  • Annual Tuition: $7,720
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Total Graduate Enrollment: 7,359
  • Example Classes: DSM V and Psychopathology: A Social Work Perspective; Large Group Theory; Research Methods in Social Work; Social Policy and Service Delivery in Social Work; Strategies of Clinical Social Work Intervention

The online Master of Social Work at the University of Missouri offers concentrations in Policy, Planning, and Administration, or Advanced Clinical Practice. The curriculum consists of 21 credits of foundational coursework, 30 credits of concentration coursework, and 9 credits of elective coursework. Students with a bachelor’s in social work are considered “advanced standing.” These students need just six elective credits and are not required to take foundational coursework. Students in both tracks gain hands-on experience through two practicum requirements.

There are no campus visits required. Students access their coursework through the Canvas learning management system. Students also use Canvas to communicate with their instructors and classmates, organize class readings and assignments, and check grades. Courses may be synchronous or asynchronous, but students generally work independently. Resources such as IT support, counseling, tutoring, academic advising, and career services are provided to distance learners. Financial aid and benefits for military personnel are also available.

Prospective students must have a bachelor’s degree with at least a 3.0 GPA and reside in Missouri or a contiguous state. There is one program start date and two application deadlines; one for the traditional track and one for the advanced standing track. Prospective students should submit an online application, a resume, three letters of recommendation, a personal statement, academic transcripts, and a field evaluation (if applying for advanced standing).

Online Master's Degrees

  • Master of Social Work
  • Master of Social Work - Advanced Clinical Practice
  • Master of Social Work - Advanced Clinical Practice (Advanced Standing)
  • Master of Social Work - Policy, Planning and Administration
  • Master of Social Work - Policy, Planning and Administration (Advanced Standing)
  • Annual Tuition: $9,594
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Total Graduate Enrollment: 5,709
  • Example Classes: Child Mental Health: Promotion, Prevention, and Treatment; Contemporary Issues in Aging; End of Life Care; Professional Identity and Social Justice; Social Policy Analysis, Advocacy, and Deliberation; Social Work in Vietnam and Cambodia

West Virginia University’s (WVU) online Master of Social Work aims to prepare graduates for careers as mental health and rehabilitation counselors, healthcare social workers, or social and community services managers. The 3-year traditional track requires 60 credits of coursework on a part-time schedule, while the advanced standing track requires 36 credits over two years. In addition to coursework, students participate in 600 to 900 hours of field placement and conduct two student-led studies. Although not required, there is an option to complete a thesis or dissertation.

Online education is delivered asynchronously through the WVU eCampus, an extension of the Blackboard learning management system. Students use this platform to submit assignments, check grades, participate in discussion forums, and send emails. There are financial aid options, including scholarships, graduate assistantships, and merit-based awards. Veterans can also receive funding or use their GI Bill. Student success is supported by tutoring, mental health counseling, IT assistance, and virtual library access.

Prospective students must have a bachelor’s degree and at least a 2.75 GPA. The advanced standing track is available to applicants who earned their undergraduate degrees in social work. Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis. An online application, a resume, three letters of recommendation, a personal essay, and all previous academic transcripts are required. Those applying for the advanced standing track must also submit a hypothetical case study.

Online Master's Degrees

  • Master of Social Work - Advanced Standing
  • Master of Social Work - Regular Standing
  • Annual Tuition: $9,600
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: MSCHE
  • Total Graduate Enrollment: 14,215
  • Example Classes: Clinical Assessment and Diagnosis; Diversity and Oppression; Human Behavior and the Social Environment

Online Master's Degrees

  • Master of Social Work
  • Master of Social Work in Clinical Social Work - Advanced Standing
  • Annual Tuition: $9,616
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Total Graduate Enrollment: 3,328
  • Example Classes: Advanced Generalist Practice with Individuals; Advanced Generalist Practice with Treatment Groups; Advanced Generalist Tools for Policy; Human Behavior in the Social Environment; Social Policy

Online Master's Degrees

  • Master of Social Work - Distance Concentration
  • Master of Social Work - Distance Foundation
  • Annual Tuition: $10,500
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Total Graduate Enrollment: 5,088
  • Example Classes: Evidence Based Practice in Schools; Family Assessment and Intervention; Philanthropy Public Policy and Community Change; Psychotherapy with Adults; Social Welfare and Social Work; Solution-Focused Brief Therapy Techniques

Online Master's Degrees

  • MSW - Bilingual Spanish
  • Annual Tuition: $10,605
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Total Graduate Enrollment: 2,426
  • Example Classes: Advanced Psycho-Social Approaches for Rural Practice; Cultural Competency in Social Work Practice; Integrated Social Work Practice with Families; Rural Community Organization and Development; Rural Social Welfare Policy; Social Work in Diverse Rural Areas

Online Master's Degrees

  • Master of Social Work
  • Master of Social Work - Advanced Standing
  • Annual Tuition: $10,920
  • School Type: For-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Total Graduate Enrollment: 10,465
  • Example Classes: Advanced Social Work Practice in Mental Health; Ethics and Diversity in Social Work; Forensic Clinical Social Work Practice; Leadership in Social Work Practice; Professional Practice with Individuals and Families; Social work in Interdisciplinary Settings

Online Master's Degrees

  • Master of Social Work
  • Master of Social Work - Advanced Generalist
  • Master of Social Work - Generalist Track
  • Annual Tuition: $11,490
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Total Graduate Enrollment: 2,800
  • Example Classes: Assessment and Differential Diagnosis; Diversity and Oppression; Social Welfare Policies and Services; Social Work Research Methods; Statistics for Social Work
  • Annual Tuition: $11,985
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Total Graduate Enrollment: 2,602
  • Example Classes: Death and Dying; Family and Child Welfare Policy; International Social Work and Social Welfare; Practice with the Elderly; Professional and Systems Responses to Child Maltreatment; Social Work Practice with Hispanic Families

Online Master's Degrees

  • Master of Social Work
  • Annual Tuition: $12,000
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Total Graduate Enrollment: 1,985
  • Example Classes: Medical Social Work; Reading Content and Reading Methods for School Social Workers; Social Work Perspectives on Psychopathology; Social Work Practice with the Exceptional Child; Social Work with Vulnerable Children and Families; Spirituality, Meaning Making, and Faith-Based Practice

Online Master's Degrees

  • Dual Master of Business Administration/Master of Social Work
  • Dual Master of Business Administration/Master of Social Work (Advanced Standing)
  • Dual Master of Public Administration/Master of Social Work
  • Dual Master of Public Administration/Master of Social Work (Advanced Standing)
  • Master of Social Work
  • Master of Social Work - Faith-Based Social Work
  • Annual Tuition: $12,000
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: WSCUC
  • Total Graduate Enrollment: 2,271
  • Example Classes: Advanced Macro Practice; Advanced Micro Practice; Human Behavior and the Social Environment; Public Child Welfare; Social Work Research II

Online Master's Degrees

  • Master of Social Work
  • Annual Tuition: $13,080
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: MSCHE
  • Total Graduate Enrollment: 9,896
  • Example Classes: Diversity and Oppression; Perspectives on Trauma and Human Rights; Scientific Methods in Social Work; Social Welfare Policy and History; Theories of Organizational Behavior and Development

Online Master's Degrees

  • Master of Social Work - Advanced Standing (Part-Time)
  • Master of Social Work - Traditional (Part-Time)
  • Annual Tuition: $13,140
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: MSCHE
  • Total Graduate Enrollment: 378
  • Example Classes: Administration, Management & Supervision; Advanced Generalist Practice I: Engagement & Assessment with Individuals, Families & Treatment Groups; Advanced Generalist Practice II: Engagement & Assessment with Communities & Organizations; Practice & Program Evaluation for the Advanced Practitioner; Theories of Personality & Adult Psychopathology

Online Master's Degrees

  • Master of Social Work
  • Annual Tuition: $13,243
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Total Graduate Enrollment: 4,225
  • Example Classes: Evaluative Research; Organizations and Communities; Social Work Across the Lifespan

Online Master's Degrees

  • Master of Social Work Advanced Standing Program
  • Master of Social Work Advanced Standing Program - Advanced Practice with Adults and Families
  • Master of Social Work Advanced Standing Program - Advanced Practice with Children, Youth, and Families
  • Annual Tuition: $13,672
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Total Graduate Enrollment: 4,457
  • Example Classes: Advanced Assessment, Leadership, and Supervision in Social Service Organizations; Advanced Program Planning and Grant-Based Resource Development; Helping Troops Transition Back to their Families and Communities: The Invisible Wounds of War; Human Behavior in Local and Global Social Environments; Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Aging; Social Work Intervention in Child Abuse & Neglect

Online Master's Degrees

  • Master of Social Work - Advanced Practice Leadership (Advanced Standing Track)
  • Master of Social Work - Advanced Practice Leadership (Foundation Track)
  • Annual Tuition: $14,625
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: MSCHE
  • Total Graduate Enrollment: 10,256
  • Example Classes: Groups, Communities and Organizations; Individuals and Families; Practice of Social Service Delivery; Social Welfare Policies and Services; Societal Responses to Aging

Online Master's Degrees

  • Master of Social Work
  • Master of Social Work - Children and Families Specialization
  • Master of Social Work - Clinical Practice with Individuals and Families Concentration
  • Master of Social Work - Health and Mental Health Specialization
  • Master of Social Work - Individualized
  • Master of Social Work - Macro Practice in Organizations, Communities and Policy Arenas Concentration
  • Annual Tuition: $14,630
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Total Graduate Enrollment: 6,079
  • Example Classes: Beyond Combat: Military Social Work; Culturally Relevant Practice with Diverse Populations; Evidence-based Policy and Practice with Families; Leadership Skills and Knowledge for Advanced Social Work Practice; Systematic Planning and Evaluation for Interpersonal Practice; Trauma Treatment with Adults

Online Master's Degrees

  • Master of Science in Social Work
  • Master of Science in Social Work - Evidenced-Based Interpersonal Practice (Advanced Standing Program)
  • Master of Science in Social Work - Evidenced-Based Interpersonal Practice (Extended Study Program)
  • Master of Science in Social Work - Evidenced-Based Interpersonal Practice (Full Time Program)
  • Master of Science in Social Work - Organizational Leadership (Advanced Standing Program)
  • Master of Science in Social Work - Organizational Leadership (Extended Study Program)
  • Annual Tuition: $14,666
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Total Graduate Enrollment: 3,966
  • Example Classes: Accountability and Evaluation in Macro Practice; Advanced Macro Assessment; Child Welfare; Social Work Practice Latinos; Social Work with Diverse Populations; Spirituality and Social Work

Online Master's Degrees

  • Master of Science in Social Work - Administration and Community Practice (Advanced Standing)
  • Master of Science in Social Work - Direct Practice with Latino Individuals, Families, and Groups (Advanced Standing)
  • Master of Science in Social Work 63-hour
  • Annual Tuition: $15,110
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Total Graduate Enrollment: 9,654
  • Example Classes: Child Welfare Services; Clinical Practice with Military and Veteran Families or Groups; Clinical Social Work Practice with Substance Addictions; Interventions with Older Adults and Their Families; Medications in Social Work Practice; Social Work in Health Settings

Online Master's Degrees

  • Social Work - Part-Time Advanced Standing, MSW
  • Social Work, MSW
  • Annual Tuition: $15,960
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Total Graduate Enrollment: 21,361
  • Example Classes: Cognitive Behavior Therapy Across the Lifespan; Community Participation Strategies; Ecological Approach to Practice with Children, Youth and Families; Policy Practice; Program Planning in Social Services; Social Work Administration

Online Master's Degrees

  • MSW Master of Social Work
  • Annual Tuition: $16,227
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Total Graduate Enrollment: 1,003
  • Example Classes: Community Organization and Development; Cultural Competence in Social Work Practice; Social Welfare Policy; Social Work Administration and Supervision; Social Work Clinical Assessment and Intervention

Online Master's Degrees

  • Master of Social Work (Advanced Standing)
  • Master of Social Work (Non-Advanced Standing)
  • Annual Tuition: $16,326
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Total Graduate Enrollment: 1,730
  • Example Classes: Evaluation of Social Work Practice with Hispanic Children and Families; Hispanics in the U.S.: Policy and Programs; Psychopathology; Social Work Practice with Hispanic Elders

Online Master's Degrees

  • Master of Social Work - Advanced Standing
  • Master of Social Work - Foundation Program
  • Master of Social Work
  • Annual Tuition: $16,680
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: WSCUC
  • Total Graduate Enrollment: 653
  • Example Classes: Advanced Practice and Indigenous and Rural Communities; Child and Family Welfare; Clinical Social Work Practice; Wellness and Sustainability

Online Master's Degrees

  • Master of Social Work

Frequently Asked Questions About Affordable Online MSW Degrees

What type of licensure is required to practice social work?

Some social workers require licenses certifying that they’ve been tested on the knowledge and skills needed to practice in the field. Licensure (sometimes called “registration”) varies by state and by the type of social work practiced. All states require clinical social workers to hold licenses because these practitioners provide important mental health services. To qualify for clinical licensure, an individual must have a master’s in social work (MSW) degree and at least two years of post-degree fieldwork experience. Other types of social workers — such as those in administration, justice and corrections, advocacy, and schools — may not need licensure. Students should check the requirements for their jurisdiction on the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) website. This organization administers licensing exams throughout the U.S. and Canada.


Can I get hired with an online master’s in social work?

Yes. A 2018 survey conducted by a joint group of professional societies found that more nurses who earned their MSW online found satisfactory jobs when compared to on-campus students (52% and 43%, respectively). The most important consideration in any school search is accreditation, which certifies that an institution’s degree programs meet independent quality standards. The stigma around online degrees has also eroded. Respected universities have long since entered the online space, and many on-campus students take at least some online courses. In fact, 30% of all MSW degree programs deliver at least 90% of coursework online, although MSW programs generally require students to complete an in-person field practicum.


What are the benefits of earning a master’s degree in social work?

According to the National Association of Social Workers, MSW graduates earn an average of $13,000 more a year than graduates of social work programs at the bachelor’s level. An MSW is also increasingly important for job security. In the same 2017 survey of social work graduates, only 8.2% of BSWs said they weren’t enrolled or planning to enroll in an MSW program. This indicates that an MSW is increasingly necessary in order to stay competitive in the job market. However, there are jobs available that don’t require a master’s degree — including in advocacy, environmental health, and children and family services — so an MSW is not necessary for all career paths in the field.


What factors should I consider in finding an affordable program?

Tuition is the biggest factor when it comes to affordability. Public schools generally charge lower tuition to in-state students on campus, and online students usually pay this in-state rate regardless of where they live. According to research conducted by our sister site, some private schools charge less for online programs than for the identical campus versions. Schools also charge fees on top of tuition. For example, additional fees specific to online learning include technology charges, equipment rental, and physical or ebook purchase or rental.

Financial aid is another key factor in affordability, especially needs- or merit-based scholarships or grants. These programs lower the amount you’ll need to borrow, which reduces future debt (student loans require repayment with interest). It’s also important to consider the long-term benefit of earning an MSW. It may be worthwhile to incur more debt in a costlier degree program if the average salaries of its graduates are significantly higher. This balance is referred to as return on investment.


What other factors should I consider in my program besides affordability?

Prospective students should ensure that all programs of interest are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), which seeks to maintain high-quality social work education in the United States. They should also consider their preferred program design: hybrid course delivery versus fully online, synchronous (live) coursework versus asynchronous (on their own time), and so on. Some programs may allow for different specializations or offer especially appealing field placements. Schools vary in their level of academic and career support for online students, so reviews of online programs may provide additional useful insights.