2020 Most Affordable Online MSW Programs

By the OnlineU team | Updated 4/14/2021
2020 Most Affordable MSW Masters Degrees Badge
By the OnlineU team | Updated 4/14/2021

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 provide information about earning an online MSW degree, career options for graduates, and whether this degree will be worth it for you.

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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All tuition numbers were manually collected and verified
Rank School Annual Tuition
# 1 #1 Saint Leo University Online $5,610
# 2 #2 University of Missouri $7,720
# 3 #3 West Virginia University $9,594
# 4 #4 Rutgers University $9,600
# 5 #5 University of North Dakota $9,616
# 6 #6 Loyola University Chicago $10,500
# 7 #7 Western Kentucky University $10,605
# 8 #8 Northcentral University $10,920
# 9 #9 University of Arkansas at Little Rock $11,490
# 10 #10 New Mexico State University $11,985
# 11 (tie) #11 (tie) Aurora University $12,000
# 11 (tie) #11 (tie) California State University-San Bernardino $12,000
# 13 #13 University at Buffalo $13,080
# 14 #14 Delaware State University $13,140
# 15 #15 University of Memphis $13,243
# 16 #16 Texas State University $13,672
# 17 #17 Temple University $14,625
# 18 #18 The University of Tennessee - Knoxville $14,630
# 19 #19 The University of Texas - Rio Grande Valley $14,666
# 20 #20 University of Central Florida $15,110
# 21 #21 Arizona State University $15,960
# 22 #22 Western New Mexico University $16,227
# 23 #23 Our Lady of the Lake University $16,326
# 24 #24 Humboldt State University $16,680
#1
#1
Annual Tuition: $5,610
Annual Tuition: $5,610
Annual Tuition: $5,610

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 Degrees: 3
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Graduation Rate: 51%
  • Acceptance Rate: 58%
  • Average SATs: 960 -1150
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 4,889
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 2,329
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (352) 588-8200

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

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)
#2
#2

University of Missouri

Columbia (MO)
Annual Tuition: $7,720
Annual Tuition: $7,720
Annual Tuition: $7,720

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 Degrees: 5
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 85%
  • Graduation Rate: 69%
  • Acceptance Rate: 78%
  • Average SATs: 1090 -1290
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 679
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 2,236
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (573) 882-2121

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

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)
#3
#3

West Virginia University

Morgantown (WV)
Annual Tuition: $9,594
Annual Tuition: $9,594
Annual Tuition: $9,594

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 Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 89%
  • Graduation Rate: 59%
  • Acceptance Rate: 72%
  • Average SATs: 1050 -1240
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,158
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,419
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (304) 293-0111

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

Online Master's Degrees

  • Master of Social Work - Advanced Standing
  • Master of Social Work - Regular Standing
#4
#4

Rutgers University

New Brunswick (NJ)
Annual Tuition: $9,600
Annual Tuition: $9,600
Annual Tuition: $9,600
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 69%
  • Graduation Rate: 80%
  • Acceptance Rate: 58%
  • Average SATs: 1190 -1410
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 347
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 2,154
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: MSCHE
  • Phone #: (732) 932-1766

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
#5
#5

University of North Dakota

Grand Forks (ND)
Annual Tuition: $9,616
Annual Tuition: $9,616
Annual Tuition: $9,616
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 90%
  • Graduation Rate: 55%
  • Acceptance Rate: 83%
  • Average SATs: 980 -1230
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,867
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,664
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (800) 225-5863

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
#6
#6
Annual Tuition: $10,500
Annual Tuition: $10,500
Annual Tuition: $10,500
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 98%
  • Graduation Rate: 74%
  • Acceptance Rate: 71%
  • Average SATs: 1120 -1310
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 282
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 854
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (773) 274-3000

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
#7
#7

Western Kentucky University

Bowling Green (KY)
Annual Tuition: $10,605
Annual Tuition: $10,605
Annual Tuition: $10,605
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 96%
  • Graduation Rate: 45%
  • Acceptance Rate: 95%
  • Average SATs: 980 -1190
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 2,383
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,192
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (270) 745-0111

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
#8
#8

Northcentral University

Prescott Valley (AZ)
Annual Tuition: $10,920
Annual Tuition: $10,920
Annual Tuition: $10,920
  • Online Degrees: 3
  • Graduation Rate: 0%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 70
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 10,465
  • School Type: For-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (888) 327-2877

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
#9
#9
Annual Tuition: $11,490
Annual Tuition: $11,490
Annual Tuition: $11,490
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 97%
  • Graduation Rate: 39%
  • Acceptance Rate: 75%
  • Average SATs: 950 -1190
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,579
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 759
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (501) 569-3000

Example Classes: Assessment and Differential Diagnosis, Diversity and Oppression, Social Welfare Policies and Services, Social Work Research Methods, Statistics for Social Work

#10
#10

New Mexico State University

Las Cruces (NM)
Annual Tuition: $11,985
Annual Tuition: $11,985
Annual Tuition: $11,985
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 99%
  • Graduation Rate: 47%
  • Acceptance Rate: 64%
  • Average SATs: 940 -1160
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 951
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 651
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (575) 646-0111

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
#11
#11

Aurora University

Aurora (IL)
Annual Tuition: $12,000
Annual Tuition: $12,000
Annual Tuition: $12,000
  • Online Degrees: 16
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Graduation Rate: 54%
  • Acceptance Rate: 87%
  • Average SATs: 970 -1150
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 365
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 517
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (630) 892-6431

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
#11
#11
Annual Tuition: $12,000
Annual Tuition: $12,000
Annual Tuition: $12,000
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 93%
  • Graduation Rate: 57%
  • Acceptance Rate: 57%
  • Average SATs: 910 -1080
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 212
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 397
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: WSCUC
  • Phone #: (909) 537-5000

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
#13
#13

University at Buffalo

Buffalo (NY)
Annual Tuition: $13,080
Annual Tuition: $13,080
Annual Tuition: $13,080
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 83%
  • Graduation Rate: 75%
  • Acceptance Rate: 57%
  • Average SATs: 1160 -1330
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 152
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 951
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: MSCHE
  • Phone #: (716) 645-2000

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)
#14
#14
Annual Tuition: $13,140
Annual Tuition: $13,140
Annual Tuition: $13,140
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 99%
  • Graduation Rate: 40%
  • Acceptance Rate: 45%
  • Average SATs: 840 -1010
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 5
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 0
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: MSCHE
  • Phone #: (302) 857-6060

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
#15
#15

University of Memphis

Memphis (TN)
Annual Tuition: $13,243
Annual Tuition: $13,243
Annual Tuition: $13,243
  • Online Degrees: 3
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 98%
  • Graduation Rate: 48%
  • Acceptance Rate: 85%
  • Average SATs: 970 -1210
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,871
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,196
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (901) 678-2000

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
#16
#16

Texas State University

San Marcos (TX)
Annual Tuition: $13,672
Annual Tuition: $13,672
Annual Tuition: $13,672
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 82%
  • Graduation Rate: 55%
  • Acceptance Rate: 73%
  • Average SATs: 1010 -1180
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 656
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 720
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (512) 245-2111

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)
#17
#17

Temple University

Philadelphia (PA)
Annual Tuition: $14,625
Annual Tuition: $14,625
Annual Tuition: $14,625
  • Online Degrees: 9
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 90%
  • Graduation Rate: 73%
  • Acceptance Rate: 57%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 489
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,195
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: MSCHE
  • Phone #: (215) 204-7000

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
#18
#18
Annual Tuition: $14,630
Annual Tuition: $14,630
Annual Tuition: $14,630
  • Online Degrees: 7
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 94%
  • Graduation Rate: 73%
  • Acceptance Rate: 77%
  • Average SATs: 1150 -1330
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 110
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 819
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (865) 974-1000

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)
#19
#19
Annual Tuition: $14,666
Annual Tuition: $14,666
Annual Tuition: $14,666
  • Online Degrees: 3
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 93%
  • Graduation Rate: 48%
  • Acceptance Rate: 80%
  • Average SATs: 950 -1120
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,256
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,224
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (956) 665-2011

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
#20
#20

University of Central Florida

Orlando (FL) (and 7 others)
Annual Tuition: $15,110
Annual Tuition: $15,110
Annual Tuition: $15,110
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 90%
  • Graduation Rate: 72%
  • Acceptance Rate: 50%
  • Average SATs: 1160 -1340
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 7,194
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 3,075
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC

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
#21
#21

Arizona State University

Tempe (AZ) (and 4 others)
Annual Tuition: $15,960
Annual Tuition: $15,960
Annual Tuition: $15,960
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 94%
  • Graduation Rate: 66%
  • Acceptance Rate: 76%
  • Average SATs: 1091 -1298
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 28,353
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 9,021
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC

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
#22
#22
Annual Tuition: $16,227
Annual Tuition: $16,227
Annual Tuition: $16,227
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 96%
  • Graduation Rate: 26%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 535
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 686
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (505) 538-6336

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)
#23
#23
Annual Tuition: $16,326
Annual Tuition: $16,326
Annual Tuition: $16,326
  • Online Degrees: 3
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 99%
  • Graduation Rate: 37%
  • Acceptance Rate: 91%
  • Average SATs: 910 -1080
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 39
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,053
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (210) 434-6711

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
#24
#24
Annual Tuition: $16,680
Annual Tuition: $16,680
Annual Tuition: $16,680
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 86%
  • Graduation Rate: 52%
  • Acceptance Rate: 82%
  • Average SATs: 970 -1170
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 174
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 126
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: WSCUC
  • Phone #: (707) 826-3011

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

Can You Get a Master's in Social Work Online?

Yes. Many accredited schools offer online Master's of Social Work (MSW) programs that prepare students to assume higher-level roles in the field, such as in advanced generalist practice and clinical social work. These online programs give students more options and greater flexibility in achieving their career goals, while still enabling them to fulfill all of the educational requirements for becoming a social work professional. As long as they're enrolled in accredited programs, online MSW students complete coursework, collaborate with peers, engage in fieldwork and practicums, and prepare for licensure, just as their on-campus counterparts do.

When choosing an online program, prospective students should 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 also vary in their level of academic and career support for online students, so reviews of online programs may provide additional useful insights.

Is It Hard to Get Into an MSW Program?

Some programs are more selective than others, but many admissions officers are looking for similar qualities in applicants. Each school will need to see proof of a bachelor's degree, but the degree doesn't necessarily have to be in social work. Applicants who do have a BSW can apply for a school's advanced-standing program if it offers one, which allows students to complete their MSW coursework faster. Many schools either require or prefer that their master's students earned a minimum GPA of 3.0 as undergraduates; advanced-standing applicants will need to prove a certain GPA in their previous social work courses.

Most programs require applicants to submit letters of recommendation and at least one personal essay or statement of intent. Social work departments want to admit students who think critically about social problems and how to solve them, and these documents can go a long way toward proving a student's commitment to the discipline. Prior jobs in social work can provide real-world examples of this commitment that applicants can draw from — although work experience usually isn't required for acceptance, about 79% of MSW graduates had some professional experience before their graduate studies.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online MSW?

Students can usually graduate after two years of full-time study or four years of part-time study. Many schools offer an advanced-standing option for applicants who've earned a BSW within the last eight years (to ensure that their social work knowledge is up to date). Advanced standing can sometimes cut the time to degree by half. For example, Saint Leo University Online allows advanced-standing enrollees to bypass the foundational courses of the first year, so these students can earn their degree in one year of intensive full-time coursework. The less time a student spends enrolled, the less tuition they'll have to pay.

MSW Quick Facts
  • Average Duration: 2 years

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.

Accreditation

Accreditation is one of the most important factors to consider when determining which college or university to attend. To earn accreditation, schools are evaluated by one of six authorized, independent accrediting agencies or by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, which are themselves approved by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Through this process, schools are evaluated in a multi-year process and proven to meet or exceed recognized quality standards in order to be accredited.

Students interested in earning online master's in social work degrees may also want to look for programs that have been accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). In most states, graduating from a CSWE-accredited MSW program is a requirement for obtaining a license to practice. Most schools list their program accreditations on the MSW program pages of their websites, and prospective students can also check their state licensing board websites for specific accreditation requirements.

In most states, graduating from a CSWE-accredited MSW program is a requirement for obtaining a license to practice.

Types of Online MSW Programs

Different schools offer different types of Master of Social Work (MSW) programs. Some universities simply place an emphasis either on generalist practice or on clinical work. Other schools, however, offer formal concentrations in one of these two subfields or in other subfields, such as global policy, human services, or health care social work.

Advanced Generalist Practice

This emphasis or concentration is a good option for students who intend to work in government- and community-sponsored agencies, assisting various types of clients, such as children or veterans. The curriculum for an MSW in advanced generalist practice gives students the problem-solving skills they need to help assess their clients' needs and develop appropriate treatment plans that involve human services. MSW majors are often required to take multiple experiential courses in generalist practice, as well as courses in human behavior, public policy, and social justice, so that they are well-prepared to apply their knowledge and skills in the workplace. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), median salaries for clinical social workers can range from $47,390 to $61,230, depending on the population a generalist is working with. The projected demand for social workers over the next decade varies from 5% to 12%.

Clinical Social Work

Programs with an emphasis or concentration in clinical social work are intended to prepare MSW graduates to assess, diagnose, and treat people experiencing behavioral, emotional, or mental disorders. Often found working in government or community agencies, hospitals, health care facilities, or private practices, clinical social workers may assist individuals or families. They identify resources and services that may be helpful to their clients. MSW students usually take multiple courses in advanced clinical work to develop necessary skills, such as listening and communicating, using diagnostic tools, and identifying appropriate treatment methods. Data from the BLS states that clinical social workers earn a median annual salary of $61,230 and that the projected demand for clinical social workers is 5%, just above the average for all occupations.

Health Care Social Work

A concentration in health care prepares MSW graduates to work in hospitals and other health care facilities. Health care social workers assist patients who are ill or who've been hospitalized to better understand their illnesses, treatment plans, and options for related services and resources. Online MSW in health care programs typically include many of the same core courses as generalist programs, including research courses and practicums, but they may also include concentration or elective courses in health care social work practice, working with older adults, understanding the life cycle, global health issues and policy, and public health administration and policy. According to the BLS, health care social workers earn a median annual salary of $56,750, and the need for professionals is predicted to grow by 14% over the next decade.

Advanced Standing Track

Another specialty program found at some schools is an MSW with an "advanced standing" track. These programs allow students who have earned bachelor's of social work (BSW) degrees from programs accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) to apply some of their undergraduate credit hours toward the requirements for the MSW. The number of transferable credit hours varies by school, but often falls in the 20-26 range. Students are thus able to complete graduation requirements more quickly, which saves on tuition and allows them to move into the workplace sooner. Although students enrolled in advanced standing programs take fewer courses, they must still fulfill the school's requirement for 900 or more hours of fieldwork.

Field Education

All MSW programs that have been accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) require enrollees to complete a certain number of hours of field education, also known as fieldwork, internships, or practicums. These internships often take place at community agencies, hospitals, and other health care facilities, where students work directly with clients or patients, assessing their needs, helping to develop treatment plans, and performing other common social work functions. Fieldwork gives MSW students the opportunity to gain practical, hands-on experience and challenges them to apply the theoretical knowledge they're learning in the classroom to real-world situations. Because all fieldwork must be completed under the supervision of experienced social workers, students also benefit from learning from other professionals. Students then graduate with valuable work experience to add to their resumes.

The number of required field experience hours varies among programs but averages anywhere from 900 to 1,300 hours, which are sometimes split up over two semesters. For many students, this translates into working 16 to 20 hours a week, although some may work more. Because many practicums require students to work during typical office hours—meaning 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays— some students may find it challenging to hold down other jobs while completing this requirement for their degree.

Fieldwork is required for online master's of social work programs, just as it is for traditional programs. Many online programs have fieldwork coordinators who assist distance learning students in locating appropriate, supervised opportunities at facilities near their homes. As much as possible, coordinators help students find fieldwork that supports their long-term career goals. For example, if a student plans to become a health care social worker, the field coordinator will assist the student in finding a placement at a hospital or nursing home near the student's location, if possible.

Many online programs have fieldwork coordinators who assist distance learning students in locating appropriate, supervised opportunities at facilities near their homes.

Courses in Online MSW Programs

Students pursuing master's in social work (MSW) degrees can usually customize their programs somewhat by choosing electives such as family therapy, gerontology, substance abuse and addiction, and child therapy. They will also be required to take foundational online classes in some of the following subjects, although specific courses may go by different names depending on the school:

  • Assessment and diagnosis: This skills-based course helps students learn to use various assessment tools to determine the mental health status of their clients. In the process, students discuss ethical considerations and recognize the impact of influences such as culture on how we diagnose behaviors.
  • Community practice: While some areas of social work focus on individuals and families, community practice, also referred to as macro practice, looks at communities and larger populations. Students explore the factors that influence a social system's health, and learn various means and methods of instituting social change within communities.
  • Generalist practice: This broad and complex subject is often split up over two or more courses within an MSW program. Students learn foundational skills in working with individuals, families, and larger groups, which can include establishing trust to obtain information from clients, formulating an assessment of clients' needs, and developing treatment plans, including required services and intervention, if needed.
  • Human behavior: A course in human behavior pulls together concepts from psychology, biology, and sociology to explain and predict how individuals interact with one another. Coursework typically covers a number of theories, and students learn how these theories can be applied to social work practice and therapy.
  • Human services: Closely related to generalist practice, this course explores the many types of public and private services available, especially in the areas of health, housing, and education. With the goal of becoming leaders and advocates, students develop skills in researching and working with agencies, organizations, and facilities that provide such services.
  • Research and statistics: At the master's level, students are expected to utilize ethical quantitative and qualitative research methods to inform their practice. Coursework may include the development and implementation of a social work-related research project, including the analysis and interpretation of statistical data.
  • Social justice: A common thread that runs through most MSW programs is social justice, the idea that all people deserve equal rights and opportunities. A specific course on social justice covers relevant themes, such as health care, housing and food insecurity, income inequality, and racism, as they relate to generalist social work practice.
  • Social work policy: This course looks at public policies, regulations, and laws, and how they can be implemented or changed to improve economic and social issues. Coursework provides an overview of the evolution of public policy in the U.S., and teaches students how to analyze policy at all levels of government.

Affordable Online MSW Programs

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 our research, 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.

Funding an Online MSW

Many states, universities, and organizations want to encourage students to go into public service, which is why there are scholarships, grants, and loan forgiveness programs available expressly for MSW students enrolled in both online and on-campus programs. The best place to begin a search for funding is through the financial aid office of the college or university you plan to attend. Most students start the application process by submitting a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. Once the FAFSA form is reviewed by the federal government, the school will then provide an offer detailing the types of financial aid that are available, including any school-sponsored scholarships, grants, or fellowships for social work students.

Prospective students may also want to investigate outside financial support. For example, there are a number of individual states that offer financial assistance programs for master's of social work students, such as the New York State Licensed Social Worker Loan Forgiveness Program, the Nevada Maintain the Social Worker in School Program, and the Maryland Workforce Shortage Student Assistance Grant Program.

There are also many professional social worker organizations, community service organizations, and related non-profit organizations that offer scholarships and grants specifically for MSW majors, including the Council on Social Work Education, the National Association of Social Workers, and the National Association of Black Social Workers.

Some of the many additional social work scholarship and grant programs to consider include:

Careers for Online MSW Graduates

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.

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).

What Career Opportunities Are Available For MSW Graduates?

According to the Council on Social Work Education (CWSE), large numbers of MSW graduates work with children and families in nonprofit or charity organizations, outpatient clinics, and government agencies from the local to federal levels. Jobs in this sector include case workers who deal with children in vulnerable situations, school social workers who help students succeed academically, and adoption specialists who connect families with children who need homes.

A large segment of MSW graduates pursue clinical social work licensure in their state of practice. These professionals work in a variety of settings to assess and treat mental and behavioral problems in their clients. They design treatment plans using a person-in-environment perspective, understanding that it's impossible to divorce each individual from the social and physical context around them. Finally, other social workers specialize in substance abuse, justice and corrections, occupational assistance, advocacy, and policy.

In the CWSE survey cited above, almost 80% of MSW graduates were confident that the job market contained either many jobs or some jobs. This tracks with BLS data on job growth in the field, which is estimated at a healthy 13% through 2029. Growth is expected to be highest for clinical and child and family social workers. Prospective applicants might also be interested in the high level of job satisfaction among MSW graduates: over 90% of the surveyed workers were very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with their current roles.

The following are some examples of careers for online MSW graduates, with salary and job growth data from the BLS:

Child Welfare Social Worker

Child welfare social workers can be found working in government agencies, non-profit organizations, and court systems. Their job is to protect and advocate for children facing neglect and abuse. Child welfare workers provide access to help and services for families, and determine whether it is necessary to remove the child from the home.

  • Median Annual Salary: $48,430
  • Job Growth: 12%

Marriage and Family Counselor

Marriage and family counselors specialize in evaluating, diagnosing, and treating issues common among couples and families. They encourage clients to communicate more openly, develop new behaviors and skills, and make important decisions. Many counselors maintain their own practices, but some work in conjunction with other social workers and psychologists. In all 50 states, marriage and family counselors must be licensed to practice, which requires the completion of a master's degree and 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised experience.

  • Median Annual Salary: $49,610
  • Job Growth: 22%

School Social Worker

School social workers typically work for school districts, addressing the needs of individual students as well as the overall student population. They provide assessment, counseling, and other services designed to help students succeed socially, emotionally, and academically. Treatment may involve interacting with students' families and teachers in order to create a healthy environment for learning and growth. As mental health professionals, school social workers are generally required to be licensed, although the terms vary by state.

  • Median Annual Salary: $48,430
  • Job Growth: 12%

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Licensed clinical social workers are trained to evaluate, diagnose, and develop treatment plans for people who have mental, emotional, or behavioral disorders. They often bring in other services and resources to address the needs of their clients. Job opportunities for licensed clinical social workers can be found in private practices, hospitals and other health facilities, and governmental or community-run agencies. All of these positions require licensure, the terms of which vary by state.

  • Median Annual Salary: $61,230
  • Job Growth: 17%

Geriatric Social Worker

Geriatric social workers coordinate care and services for older adults. Working in hospitals, health care facilities, or agencies, they identify clients' needs and work with them and their families to find services that meet those needs. Services may include physical and emotional therapy, in-home care, and meal provision. Social workers may choose to pursue voluntary certification in working with senior populations.

  • Median Annual Salary: $56,570
  • Job Growth: 14%

Is an Online MSW Worth It?

Pursuing a master's degree can be a significant investment of time, energy, and money. There are also 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. Yet, there are several important advantages to getting a master's degree in social work, especially online, that may make it worth it for some students:

  • MSW holders become eligible for positions within the social work field that require a higher-level degree, such as clinical social workers, health care social workers, and advanced general practitioners.
  • These positions typically offer higher salaries. Data from the National Association of Social Workers confirms that professionals with master's degrees earn an average of $13,000 more per year than bachelor's degree holders.
  • An MSW is also increasingly important for job security. In a 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.
  • Adding online options to the mix of potential MSW programs enables prospective students to find the program that best fits their goals and budget without relocating.
  • Attending graduate school online allows students to build professional networks that extend far beyond their immediate region, which might be useful for job searches in the future.

Given the many positive aspects of earning an online MSW, including the possibility of earning an additional $390,000 over the course of a 30-year career, the return on investment can be substantial. However, the decision to earn this degree is personal. It should be based on a careful evaluation of the potential benefits and drawbacks (such as time constraints and stress) as viewed in the light of a student's unique objectives and resources.