Online Social Work Programs in Illinois

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Prairie State is home to 77,480 community and social services professionals. Child, family, and school social workers comprise the largest group in this industry with 12,420 professionals working in Illinois. Employers in the state also employ 3,130 mental health and substance abuse social workers, 5,430 healthcare social workers, and 4,940 social workers in other specialties.

This resource outlines the education, examination, and renewal requirements for Illinois social work licensure.

Social Work Programs by Degree Level


Online Bachelor's in Social Work Programs

Online Master's in Social Work Programs


Education and Licensure Requirements for Social Workers in Illinois

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) manages social work licensure. Professionals can earn one of two licenses: licensed social worker (LSW) or licensed clinical social worker (LCSW).

Education Requirements

LSW and LCSW candidates in Illinois must hold a graduate degree from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). The IDFPR makes exceptions to this rule for foreign-educated applicants who attend schools with substantially similar curricula as CSWE-accredited programs. After graduation, LCSW candidates must complete supervised clinical hours. Applicants with doctoral degrees need 2,000 hours of post-graduate experience, while those with master's degrees need 3,000 hours.

Exam Application Process and Requirements

LSW applicants must pass the master's test through the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB), while LCSW candidates must pass the clinical ASWB exam. All Illinois social work licensure candidates must graduate from qualifying programs and submit applications to the IDFPR before sitting for the exam. Once the IDFPR approves the application, candidates register for the appropriate exam through Pearson Vue. LSW candidates pay a $230 registration fee and LCSW applicants pay $260.

Applicants can schedule their computerized ASWB exams throughout the year. Pearson Vue maintains several testing centers throughout Illinois. When graduates pass the exam, they request that the ASWB sends the results to the IDFPR. The ASWB sends diagnostic information to candidates who do not pass the exam and does not submit the results to the IDFPR.

Continuing Education and Licensure Renewal

Illinois social work licenses expire on November 30 of each odd-numbered year. During their first renewal cycles after initial licensure, social workers do not need to gain any continuing education credits, but they must complete renewal applications. After that point, professionals should earn 30 hours of continuing education credits during each renewal cycle. These hours must include at least three credits from ethics courses.

Candidates must complete at least half of their continuing education credits through in-person learning. Professionals should keep records of their continuing education for at least five years. However, they only need to send proof if they apply for renewal late or if the IDFPR selects them for audits.


Why Choose an Online Social Work Program in Illinois?

Online learning offers a convenient and affordable way to earn a degree. The flexibility of online learning means that many students can work while pursuing their degree, which allows them to save money and boost their resumes. Some employers also help cover the cost of school. Online students can typically save money on expenses that on-campus students incur, such as housing and commuting.

Ranking Methodology

Here is our list of online social work degree programs in Illinois as reported by the National Center for Education Statistics. We cover online bachelor's in social work, online master's in social work, and online doctorate in social work programs. All programs are regionally and CSWE accredited, and all are available entirely online.


Online Social Work Programs in Illinois

Aurora University

Based in Aurora, Illinois, AU offers educational programs at campuses in northern Illinois, southern Wisconsin, and online. AU first opened its doors as a seminary in Mendota, Illinois, in 1893 and moved to its current location soon after. In 1992, AU entered an affiliation agreement with George Williams College in Geneva Lake, Wisconsin, and the two institutions merged eight years later.

Currently, AU provides undergraduate and graduate programs through five academic schools, including its School of Social Work. The School of Social Work offers an online bachelor's and master's degree in social work, both designed to accommodate adult learners.


AU's Online Bachelor of Social Work

  • Concentrations: The online BSW emphasizes general education and foundational social work coursework as a generalist degree.
  • Credits and Courses: The BSW at AU includes 120 hours of coursework, 40 of which come from social work classes. Students can complete core courses in social work with groups, human behavior in the social environment, social work with communities, and individual and family social work. The program also includes an integrative seminar in social work, research, and field instruction requirements.
  • Completion Time: Learners can complete the program in 2-4 years.
  • Field Education: Each student must complete a minimum of 15 hours each week during their final two semesters, for a total of 450 field instruction hours.
  • Exam Preparation: AU's BSW prepares students to take the Illinois state social work license exam.
  • Transfer Policies: Each student can transfer up to 68 credits from a two-year institution and 90 credits from a four-year college or university into the BSW program.
  • Online Student Support: AU provides students access to some course content through an open education resource in place of traditional textbooks.
  • Cost: $425/credit
  • Admission Requirements: For general admission, each learner must demonstrate at least two years of work experience, military service, or other relevant adult responsibilities. A student must also submit documentation of at least 15 semester hours of previous undergraduate coursework with a minimum 2.0 GPA. For admission to the School of Social Work, each applicant needs a minimum 2.5 GPA and 60 credits of general education coursework. Additional application materials include a statement of career goals, a statement of purpose, and commitment to the National Association of Social Workers code of ethics.

AU's Online Master of Social Work

  • Concentrations: AU's online MSW program includes specializations in faith-based social work, forensics, healthcare, leadership administration, and school social work.
  • Credits and Courses: The online MSW at AU includes 60 credits. Each student can complete 27 hours of foundational coursework in social welfare policy and institutions, theories of human development, social work practice, and research methods. The curriculum includes 33 credits of advanced classes in clinical theory, knowledge, and application. Students can also complete specialization classes based on their personal and professional goals while completing at least two field placements.
  • Completion Time: Students can complete AU's online MSW in less than three years.
  • Field Education: AU's MSW includes 1,050 hours of required field instruction. Learners participate in foundation, advanced, and specialization field instructions throughout the program.
  • Transfer Policies: Students may transfer graduate-level credit earned from a regionally accredited institution with a "B" or better into the MSW program. AU does not accept experiential credit into the MSW program.
  • Online Student Support: AU provides online learners with open educational resources as alternatives for some textbooks.
  • Cost: $600/credit
  • Admission Requirements: Each applicant must submit documentation of a minimum 3.0 GPA from a bachelor's degree. Graduates of AU's BSW program receive admission as advanced standing students, as do students with an accredited BSW degree. Additional application materials include a resume, personal statement, and two letters of recommendation.

Aurora University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Aurora University's online social work programs are CSWE-accredited.

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Loyola University - Chicago

With more than 17,000 students, Loyola provides undergraduate and graduate programs across four campuses and online. From its main location in Chicago, Illinois, Loyola is the largest Jesuit university in the United States. Founded in 1870, Loyola continues to carry out its Catholic mission, influsing Roman Catholic tradition, faith and reason, and Ignatian heritage into its academic programs and campus community.

Loyola's thirteen schools and colleges, including the School of Social Work, remain dedicated to excellence in scholarship and service while upholding the Jesuit values of the institution. Loyola's online master of social work degree trains students for advanced practice roles in clinical, human service, and educational settings.


Loyola's Online Master of Social Work

  • Concentrations: The MSW at Loyola includes two tracks, one in clinical social work and one in social work leadership and development. The clinical specialization emphasizes health, children and families, school social work, and mental health while the leadership and development curriculum focuses on administration, grant-writing, management, and program development.
  • Credits and Courses: Loyola's MSW includes 60 credits. Foundational courses include human behavior in the social environment, social work with individuals and families, and social welfare research methods. Advanced classes provide students opportunities to focus on aspects of social work practice that meet their personal and professional goals along the clinical or leadership and development degree track.
  • Completion Time: Full-time students can complete the online MSW in two years, while part-time learners earn their MSW in four years.
  • Field Education: Every MSW student must complete two internships for a total of 1,200 field education hours. The first internship includes 480 hours, while the second is 720 hours.
  • Other Requirements: Students can enroll in integrative field seminars as they complete both of their internships.
  • Exam Preparation: Loyola's MSW meets the education requirements for licensed social worker and licensed clinical social worker credentials in Illinois.
  • Online Student Support: Online students receive access to licensure, career development, and advising resources through the School of Social Work's website. Additional resources include tech support, library tools, advising, and access to the writing center.
  • Cost: $1,007/credit
  • Admission Requirements: Each applicant must submit official transcripts, two or three letters of recommendation, a resume, and a statement of purpose for consideration. Learners do not need to submit GRE or MAT scores.

Loyola University Chicago is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Loyola University Chicago's online social work programs are CSWE-accredited.

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University of Illinois at Chicago

With origins as a private health college, UIC became affiliated with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1896. UIC was incorporated into the University of Illinois in 1913 and currently serves more than 30,000 students through 15 academic colleges.

As the largest institution of higher learning in the Chicago area, UIC provides learners with almost 300 degree and certificate programs, including a hybrid post-master of social work professional educator license, school social worker endorsement program. Offered through UIC's Jane Addams College of Social Work, learners can earn advanced knowledge of policies and services to assist at-risk populations in educational settings.


UIC's Hybrid Post-Master of Social Work Professional Educator License, School Worker Endorsement Program

  • Concentrations: The hybrid non-degree program trains students holding MSW degrees to become licensed school social workers.
  • Credits and Courses: UIC's post-MSW learners explore online courses in special studies in school social work practice and working with exceptional learners. Each student can complete two field instruction placements.
  • Completion Time: Enrollees can complete the post-master of social work non-degree program in one year.
  • Field Education: Through two field instruction placements, each student must participate in a minimum of 400 contact hours.
  • Exam Preparation: The post-MSW professional educator license, school social worker endorsement program prepares students for licensure as a school social worker in the state of Illinois.
  • Online Student Support: Online learners have access to UIC's library, counseling, advising, and technical resources.
  • Cost: $518/credit
  • Admission Requirements: Each applicant must hold a CSWE-accredited MSW with a minimum 3.0 GPA for consideration. Additional application materials include a copy of Illinois Licensure Testing System Test of Academic Proficiency results, two letters of recommendation, a resume, and a personal statement.

The University of Illinois at Chicago is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The University of Illinois at Chicago's online social work programs are CSWE-accredited.

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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Founded in 1867 as a land-grant institution, the U of I took on its current moniker in 1885. Located in Champaign and Urbana, Illinois, the U of I hosts more than 47,000 learners each year. Through 15 colleges and instructional units, students at the U of I enjoy access to more than 20 area studies libraries, six cultural centers, and over 10,000 works of art at the institution's Krannert Art Museum and Kinkead Pavilion.

The U of I offers a hybrid master of social work program (MSW) that includes online and face-to-face components, including field placements and weekend coursework. The university also offers a fully online leadership and social change MSW degree.


U of I's Online and Hybrid Masters of Social Work

  • Concentrations: The hybrid advanced clinical MSW at the U of I includes concentrations in advocacy, youth and family services, healthcare, mental health, and school social work. The online MSW in leadership and social change degree emphasizes management, grant writing, and policy advocacy.
  • Credits and Courses: Both the online and hybrid advanced standing MSWs include 44 credits while traditional degrees incorporate 72 credits of foundation and advanced coursework. Students in the advanced clinical program study clinical assessment and interviewing, human behavior and the social environment, and research methods alongside social work policy and law. The leadership and social change curriculum focuses on social welfare planning, social work practice methods for generalists, and managing human service organizations. The online and hybrid programs also include field practicum and integrative seminar requirements.
  • Completion Time: Learners can complete traditional MSW programs in eight semesters. Advanced standing students can earn their MSW in five semesters.
  • Field Education: Each student in the traditional program advanced clinical and leadership and social change must participate in two internships for a minimum of 960 hours. Their advanced standing counterparts must each complete one 500-hour field practicum as part of the MSW program.
  • Transfer Policies: With departmental approval, a graduate student may transfer up to 12 credits into a program. Coursework must be from within the previous five years and have minimum "B" grades.
  • Online Student Support: The U of I provides online learners with access to computer and technical support, learning management system guidance, student academic resource tool pages, and library materials.
  • Cost: $588/credit
  • Admission Requirements: To apply, learners do not need to submit GRE or MAT scores. Admission materials include evidence of a minimum 3.0 GPA from a bachelor's degree, evidence of personal qualifications for a career in social work, experience working in human services, and transcripts reflecting at least 20 hours of social and behavioral, humanities, and biological science coursework. An applicant with a bachelor's degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited program can receive advanced standing admission.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's online social work programs are CSWE-accredited.

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