Social workers guide individuals and communities to help people deal with problems in their lives. Working in specialty areas like children and families, schools, healthcare, and substance abuse, social workers assist people through crises and provide resources to those who are struggling.

While a bachelor's degree tends to be the minimum requirement for entry-level positions and direct caseworkers, master's degree programs focus on specialty areas and prepare students to work as clinical social workers. By pursuing a master's in social work online, students open the door to plentiful opportunities in a rewarding field.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), demand for social workers will rise, with a projected 11% increase in jobs between 2018 and 2028, much faster than the average for other occupations. With a master's in social work, graduates have the opportunity to pursue additional career options in a growing field.

Keep reading to learn more about what to expect from an online MSW program.

Best Online Master's in Social Work Programs

Columbia University in the City of New York

At Columbia's School of Social Work, students from all over the world can earn an online MSW. No other Ivy League school offers a similar online MSW program. Students living in the New York City area can complete the program in a flexible hybrid format, choosing which courses to take online or on campus.

Columbia University's Online Master of Social Work


  • Concentrations: The master's in social work online program at Columbia offers three concentrations: advanced clinical social work practice, policy practice, and social enterprise administration. Only on-campus students can complete the program's fourth concentration: advanced generalist practice and programming.
  • Credits and Courses: The 60-credit curriculum includes core coursework in human behavior and the social environment, social work research, and social welfare policy. In the second year, courses vary depending on which concentration students select.
  • How Long Does It Take?: Online students can study full or part time. A full-time student can typically graduate in two years, while a part-time student needs 3-4 years to earn their degree.
  • Field Education: Each student can spend a total of 1,200 hours working at placement sites (e.g., schools, hospitals, and clinics). Columbia partners with more than 300 field education sites throughout the U.S.
  • Transfer Credits: A transfer student may apply up to 30 credits toward their Columbia master's degree.
  • Online Student Support: Students can benefit from nine valuable online student support services, including IT support, academic advising, and a writing center.
  • Cost: The program costs $48,780 for all students, regardless of residency.
  • Admission Requirements: Columbia requires each applicant to provide proof of a bachelor's degree, three reference letters, and essays.
  • Accreditation: Columbia University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). Columbia's online MSW is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

University of Southern California

The online master of social work program at USC offers online students the same rigorous curriculum that their on-campus peers receive. The program fully prepares students for clinical social work licensure in California, as well as admission to USC's doctor of social work program.

University of Southern California's Online Master of Social Work


  • Concentrations: The online MSW program features three concentrations: adult mental health and wellness, children and families, and social change and innovation.
  • Credits and Courses: Each concentration uses a unique 60-credit curriculum with different core and elective courses. Adult mental health and wellness students can take coursework in policy in integrated care and crisis intervention.
  • How Long Does It Take?: Columbia offers a four-semester full-time program and a six-semester part-time program. An incoming student who possesses a bachelor's degree in social work can complete a one-year accelerated program.
  • Field Education: Like other programs on this ranking, USC's MSW allows students to complete field education experiences in their home communities.
  • Transfer Credits: USC accepts up to 12 transfer credits. Transfer credits must reflect a minimum 3.0 GPA.
  • Online Student Support: Online students can access the USC virtual library at any time of day. Other academic support services include tutoring and a writing center. Professors offer virtual office hours where they can interact with students one on one.
  • Cost: USC uses three tuition tiers: $111,240 for the full-time program, $115,680 for the part-time program, and $71,336 for the accelerated program.
  • Admission Requirements: Each applicant must submit undergraduate transcripts, a statement of purpose, and 2-3 recommendations letters.
  • Accreditation: University of Southern California is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). USC's online MSW is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

Florida State University

At FSU's College of Social Work, the online MSW program features asynchronous instruction, allowing students to complete coursework and view recorded lectures at any time of day. The program also offers a flexible curriculum designed for part-time students. Finally, this online MSW satisfies Florida's requirements for clinical social work licensure, making FSU an attractive option for prospective in-state students.

Florida State University's Online Master of Social Work


  • Concentrations: FSU does not offer concentrations at this time. However, incoming students who possess bachelor's degrees in social work or who have adequate graduate transfer credit can qualify for the advanced standing program, which requires fewer credits and charges less tuition.
  • Credits and Courses: The 61-credit program includes two weekends that students spend on FSU's Tallahassee campus. Students can take two courses each semester. The curriculum highlights include social work in health settings, family counseling in social work, and physical aspects of aging.
  • How Long Does It Take?: Part-time students can earn their degrees from this master's in social work online program in three years.
  • Field Education: Each enrollee can complete two long-term field placements at different locations in their home community.
  • Transfer Credits: FSU accepts up to 30 transfer credits.
  • Online Student Support: The university boasts 24/7 technical support. Unlike other programs, students can access online professional development courses at no extra cost.
  • Cost: FSU charges $444 per credit for in-state students and $625 per credit for out-of-state students.
  • Admission Requirements: FSU requires each applicant to possess a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA. Students with lower GPAs may apply as long as they also submit GRE or GMAT scores.
  • Accreditation: Florida State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). FSU's online MSW is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

Ohio State University-Main Campus

The online master of social work program at Ohio State features a rigorous curriculum that prepares graduates to advocate for clients and improve their communities. The College of Social Work offers traditional and advanced standing programs. At no point does this master's in social work online program ask students to visit Ohio State's Columbus campus.

Ohio State University's Online Master of Social Work


  • Concentrations: This degree does not offer concentrations. However, online students can select from two emphasis areas: either mental health and substance abuse or child and youth services.
  • Credits and Courses: A traditional student can complete a 63-credit curriculum, while each advanced standing enrollee can earn 43 credits. In class, learners analyze mental evidence in social work practice and professional development best practices.
  • How Long Does It Take?: Full-time students can earn their degrees in two years. A part-time enrollee can select from a three- or four-year track.
  • Field Education: Each student can spend at least 16 hours each week completing field placements in their home community.
  • Transfer Credits: Ohio State Online does not accept transfer credit at this time.
  • Online Student Support: Ohio State Online boasts 10 valuable academic student support services, including academic advising and career counseling.
  • Cost: The master's in social work online program costs $765 per credit for both in- and out-of-state students.
  • Admission Requirements: Colorado residents may not apply. Each applicant's bachelor's degree should reflect at least 10 credits in the social sciences and a minimum 3.0 GPA.
  • Accreditation: Ohio State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Ohio State's online MSW is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

University of South Florida-Main Campus

Unlike other online MSW programs, the online advanced standing master of social work program at USF limits applicants to those who possess academic experience in social work topics. The program does not include any on-campus components.

University of South Florida's Online Master of Social Work


  • Concentrations: The online MSW program does not offer concentrations at this time.
  • Credits and Courses: The curriculum uses a cohort model and a blend of synchronous and asynchronous courses. Synchronous courses hold class meetings twice per week in the evenings. The curriculum highlights include social work practices with individuals, evaluations of clinical practice in diverse settings, and social work practice with groups.
  • How Long Does It Take?: A full-time student can earn their degree in three semesters, while a part-time enrollee typically takes five semesters to graduate.
  • Field Education: Each student can spend at least 20 hours per week working in their field placement.
  • Transfer Credits: As the program uses a cohort model, it does not accept transfer credits.
  • Online Student Support: Before applying, students can sample a free online course and learn how to use Canvas. Online students can access academic and IT support services at any time of day.
  • Cost: In-state students pay $348 per credit, and out-of-state students pay $772 per credit. All online students pay a $30 distance learning fee for each credit.
  • Admission Requirements: Students from all states may apply. Each applicant must submit proof of a bachelor's in social work that reflects a minimum 3.0 GPA, three recommendation letters, and two essays.
  • Accreditation: University of South Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). USF's online MSW is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

Boston University

In the online master of social work program at BU, students can hone a flexible skill set that prepares them to work with clients from multiple racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. All students study part time, allowing them to balance the program's requirements and their personal responsibilities.

Boston University's Online Master of Social Work


  • Concentrations: Each student can complete an optional major in macro or clinical social work practice.
  • Credits and Courses: The program uses synchronous learning with weekly live class sessions. A student in the traditional track must earn 65 credits, while each advanced standing enrollee can earn 43 credits. Both tracks feature coursework in family therapy and cognitive and behavioral treatment.
  • How Long Does It Take?: The traditional track takes nine semesters to complete. A student in the advanced standing track can earn their degree in only six semesters.
  • Field Education: Each student can complete 1-2 intensive internship experiences. Depending on their concentration, each student can spend 1,000-1,200 hours at their internship sites. Enrollees who already work in social work settings can satisfy the program's field education requirement at their jobs.
  • Transfer Credits: BU does not accept transfer credits at this time.
  • Online Student Support: BU works with students individually to help them find appropriate internship placements. Online students can also access online tutoring, library, and disability services.
  • Cost: Each student pays $825 per credit, as well as technology and student services fees.
  • Admission Requirements: Each applicant to the advanced standing track must possess a bachelor's in social work and a 3.0 undergraduate GPA. BU does not enforce a GPA requirement for applicants to the traditional track.
  • Accreditation: Boston University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE). BU's online MSW is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

At U of I, graduate students can earn their master of social work degrees in entirely online or hybrid formats. Enrollees who choose a hybrid program must take on-campus courses once per month. The university begins new cohorts in the fall and spring semesters.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Online Master of Social Work


  • Concentrations: The U of I master's in social work online program features four concentrations: school social work, advocacy, mental health, and youth and family services.
  • Credits and Courses: The traditional track requires 72 credits, and the advanced standing track comprises 44 credits. Courses in both tracks include social welfare in the human environment and social work and the law.
  • How Long Does It Take?: A student in the advanced standing program can graduate in five semesters, while an enrollee in the traditional program can earn their degrees in eight semesters.
  • Field Education: In the advanced standing program, each student spends one semester as an intern at a social work job site in their home community. Each enrollee in the traditional program can complete two, one-semester internships.
  • Transfer Credits: The online MSW program at U of I does not accept transfer credits.
  • Online Student Support: U of I provides its students with extensive technical support services, including detailed guides for Moodle, Compass, and other academic software.
  • Cost: Students pay $26,312, which combines tuition and fees.
  • Admission Requirements: Application requirements include a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA, some work or volunteer experience in a social work setting, three recommendation letters, and a personal statement.
  • Accreditation: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). U of I's online MSW is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

Rutgers University-New Brunswick

The entirely online master of social work in clinical social work program at Rutgers prepares students to become licensed clinical social workers in New Jersey. All courses use asynchronous learning, making Rutgers an attractive option for students working part time or raising families.

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey's Online Master of Social Work


  • Concentrations: Although Rutgers does not offer traditional concentrations, students can enhance their education by earning certificates in violence against women and children.
  • Credits and Courses: Both traditional and advanced standing students follow a set curriculum that includes electives that allow students to customize their degrees. Traditional students can complete coursework in human behavior and diversity, while advanced standing students analyze social welfare policy and clinical social work, among other topics. Each student in the traditional program must earn at least 60 credits.
  • How Long Does It Take?: A student in this part-time master's in social work online program can earn their degree in three years. An advanced standing enrollee can graduate in just four semesters.
  • Field Education: Starting in the third semester, each enrollee can complete two, one-semester internships. A student can spend approximately 12 hours per week at an internship site in their local community.
  • Transfer Credits: Rutgers accepts up to 18 transfer credits.
  • Online Student Support: Rutgers boasts relationships with internship sites throughout the country and actively helps students locate appropriate placements.
  • Cost: As a public university, Rutgers charges in-state students $739 per credit and out-of-state students $1,256 per credit. Distance learning fees apply, as well.
  • Admission Requirements: Each applicant should possess a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA and some social work experience.
  • Accreditation: Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). Rutgers' online MSW is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

University of Central Florida

At UCF's College of Health Professions and Sciences, students in the online MSW program can prepare for careers as licensed clinical social workers in Florida. The university does not offer an advanced standing program, so prospective students who possess bachelor's degrees in social work may want to consider other programs on this ranking.

University of Central Florida's Online Master of Social Work


  • Concentrations: UCF offers one mandatory specialization in clinical social work. A student can personalize their education by taking nine elective credits.
  • Credits and Courses: Each enrollee in this online MSW program must earn 62 credits. Courses last seven weeks, and students can take one course at a time. Learners can complete the program as part of a cohort. In class, students analyze social work research and psychosocial pathology, among other topics.
  • How Long Does It Take?: A student can typically earn their degree in nine semesters.
  • Field Education: Each enrollee can complete two, one-semester field experiences: one in a generalist placement and one in a clinical placement.
  • Transfer Credits: UCF's master's in social work online program does not accept transfer credit.
  • Online Student Support: The program's field coordinator helps online students find appropriate field placements in their home communities. Online students benefit from success coaches and virtual career and tutoring resources.
  • Cost: Both in- and out-of-state students pay $487 per credit.
  • Admission Requirements: Due to reciprocity agreements, Nebraska residents may not apply at this time. Each candidate must submit undergraduate transcripts that reflect a minimum 3.0 GPA, three recommendation letters, and a writing sample.
  • Accreditation: University of Central Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). UCF's online MSW is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

University of Buffalo

The online MSW program (part time) at UB offers both traditional and advanced standing options, making it a perfect option for aspiring social workers from all academic backgrounds. Both programs emphasize how trauma and human rights can play a vital role in the social work profession.

University at Buffalo's Online Master of Social Work


  • Concentrations: The online MSW program at UB does not offer concentrations at this time.
  • Credits and Courses: The traditional track requires 60 credits, while the advanced standing track comprises 35 credits. Students without prior social work education or experience can analyze social welfare policy and theories of human behavior and development. Both tracks feature coursework in academic research.
  • How Long Does It Take?: The traditional track lasts nine semesters, while the advanced standing track takes five semesters. Students can complete the program as part of a cohort.
  • Field Education: In both tracks, students spend two semesters performing field education. Enrollees who already work in social work settings cannot complete field education at their job sites. Each foundation student can spend 1,000 hours at their field placement, while an advanced standing learner can spend 480 hours at their placement.
  • Transfer Credits: UB accepts up to six transfer credits.
  • Online Student Support: Through its Open SUNY software, UB provides online students virtual tutoring, library, and IT resources.
  • Cost: New York state residents pay $745 per credit, while out-of-state and international students pay $1,125 per credit.
  • Admission Requirements: Application requirements include a bachelor's degree and three recommendation letters.
  • Accreditation: University at Buffalo is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). UB's online MSW is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

Appalachian State University

Prospective students who possess bachelor's degrees in social work should consider the master of social work (MSW) program at Appalachian. This hybrid program requires students to attend some classes on the university's Boone, North Carolina, campus. As a result, out-of-state prospective students may want to consider other excellent programs on this ranking.

Appalachian State University's Master of Social Work


  • Concentrations: Students in the master's in social work program can select from two concentration options: either the individual and families or the community and organizational practice.
  • Credits and Courses: A student in the traditional track must earn 60 credits, while an enrollee in the advanced standing track can earn 32 credits. Learners concentrating in the individual and families track can take coursework in advanced social work practice with children and adults. Community and organizational practice students analyze advanced advocacy practice.
  • How Long Does It Take?: An advanced standing student can typically earn their degree in one year. A learner in the traditional track commonly needs two years to graduate.
  • Field Education: Each student can complete two, one-semester practicums at different field sites.
  • Transfer Credits: The MSW program does not accept transfer credit.
  • Online Student Support: Students can access the university's virtual library, as well as online tutoring and career planning services.
  • Cost: North Carolina residents pay $266 per credit. Out-of-state students pay $896 per credit. Additional fees apply.
  • Admission Requirements: Each applicant must submit GRE scores, undergraduate transcripts, and at least two recommendations.
  • Accreditation: Appalachian State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Appalachian's MSW is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

Tulane University of Louisiana

Tulane's online MSW program stands out from others on this ranking, as the university designed the program's curriculum around New Orleans residents' social work needs. However, the knowledge and skills students learn can apply to social work settings throughout the United States.

Tulane University's Online Master of Social Work


  • Concentrations: Although Tulane's master's in social work online program does not offer concentrations, an enrollee can extend their education by earning a certificate in disaster and collective trauma or in mental health, addictions, and the family.
  • Credits and Courses: The 49-credit curriculum features coursework in organizational and community practice, introduction to direct social work practice, and community organization and policy advocacy. The program concludes with a capstone seminar.
  • How Long Does It Take?: A full-time student can graduate in 16 months, while a part-time enrollee may need up to 32 months to earn their degree. Tulane offers a separate advanced standing program that qualified students can complete in just one year.
  • Field Education: Each student can undertake three semester-long practicum experiences. During practicums, enrollees spend at least three days each week at their field education sites. A practicum provides each learner with 948 hours of hands-on experience.
  • Transfer Credits: Tulane does not accept transfer credit for this program.
  • Online Student Support: Through Canvas, students can access academic and IT support services at any time of day.
  • Cost: All students pay $1098 per credit, plus additional fees.
  • Admission Requirements: Application requirements include a resume, a five-page statement of purpose, and two recommendation letters.
  • Accreditation: Tulane University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Tulane's online MSW is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

The University of Alabama

At UA, students in the online MSW program can select from three tracks: traditional, advanced standing, or part time. Its graduates possess many in-demand skills, including the abilities to develop government policies and advocate for their clients effectively. Finally, an online student can earn a dual degree in law or public health.

University of Alabama's Online Master of Social Work


  • Concentrations: UA's master's in social work online program features two concentrations: social work with adults and their families and social work with children, adolescents, and their families.
  • Credits and Courses: The advanced standing track requires 42 credits, while the traditional and part-time track both comprise 60 credits. Students in the traditional and part-time tracks can complete the program as a cohort.
  • How Long Does It Take?: An advanced standing student can earn a degree in three semesters. The traditional program takes five semesters, and a part-time enrollee can graduate in nine semesters.
  • Field Education: All three tracks include two, one-semester field experiences that students can complete in their home communities.
  • Transfer Credits: UA accepts up to 12 transfer credits.
  • Online Student Support: UA boasts a student services office specifically for its online students. Support services include assistance for admission and financial aid.
  • Cost: Both in- and out-of-state students pay $420 per credit, along with other applicable fees.
  • Admission Requirements: Each applicant must possess a minimum 3.0 GPA and submit two recommendation letters. Candidates with 2.5-2.99 GPAs may apply as long as they submit GRE or MAT scores.
  • Accreditation: University of Alabama is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). UA's online MSW is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

Case Western Reserve University

At CWRU's Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, students can earn their social work master's degrees entirely online. With synchronous courses, students can learn from professors and interact with peers in real time.

Case Western Reserve University's Online Master of Social Work


  • Concentrations: Online students have three concentration options: community practice for social change; mental health with adults; and children, youth, and families.
  • Credits and Courses: A student with traditional enrollment can complete a 60-credit master's in social work online program. An advanced standing student can earn 36 credits. The curriculum varies depending on which concentration students select. The mental health with adults track includes coursework in mental health policy and service delivery.
  • How Long Does It Take?: Advanced standing students can complete their education in 18 months, while most traditional students need 2-3 years to earn their degrees.
  • Field Education: CWRU boasts field education placements around the country. Each enrollee can attain over 1,000 hours of hands-on experience.
  • Transfer Credits: Each transfer student may apply up to 30 outside credits toward their CWRU social work degree.
  • Online Student Support: CWRU uses Zoom Video Communications to facilitate online learning. Online learners can access all of the university's academic and career planning resources at any time.
  • Cost: Part-time students pay $1,517 per credit, while full-time students pay $22,750 per semester. Online students must also pay an online graduate student fee for each credit they attempt.
  • Admission Requirements: Each applicant must submit two essays, a resume, undergraduate transcripts, and three recommendation letters.
  • Accreditation: Case Western Reserve University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). CWRU's online MSW is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

Michigan State University

The master of social work program at MSU features traditional and advanced standing options. Academically ambitious students can earn a dual degree in either public health or law.

Michigan State University's Online Master of Social Work


  • Concentrations: Students in the online MSW program can choose from two concentrations: clinical practice and organization or community leadership. Each enrollee can also enhance their education by earning a certificate in one of nine areas, including addiction students, combat veterans, or social work in healthcare.
  • Credits and Courses: Each student in the traditional track must earn 57 credits, while an advanced standing enrollee must earn 38 credits. Unique coursework includes perspectives in human development and child and adolescent policy.
  • How Long Does It Take?: A traditional, part-time learner can earn their degree in three years. An advanced standing student can graduate in just two years.
  • Field Education: Each degree-seeker spends at least 15 hours each week working at field sites. Program advisors work closely with students to find appropriate placements in students' home communities.
  • Transfer Credits: MSU does not accept transfer credit at this time.
  • Online Student Support: At MSU, online student support services include career counseling, academic tutoring, and a writing center.
  • Cost: Michigan residents pay $756 per credit, while out-of-state students pay $1,485 per credit.
  • Admission Requirements: Each applicant to the traditional program should possess a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA, while an advanced standing candidate's undergraduate transcripts should reflect a minimum 3.25 GPA. Other application requirements include a statement of purpose and three recommendation letters.
  • Accreditation: Michigan State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). MSU's online MSW is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

Indiana University-Bloomington

IU's hybrid master of social work program uses a cohort learning model and prepares students for careers in government, healthcare, and education. The university offers both traditional and advanced standing cohorts. These students qualify for the same scholarship opportunities as their on-campus peers.

Indiana University Bloomington's Master of Social Work


  • Concentrations: Each learner can complete a focus area in mental health and addiction.
  • Credits and Courses: Students in the traditional track can complete foundation courses in social policy analysis and research before starting the concentration curriculum. These enrollees each earn 60 credits, while their advanced standing peers each earn 41 credits.
  • How Long Does It Take?: A learner in the traditional track can earn their degree in 3-4 years, depending on whether they study full or part time. Each advanced standing enrollee can graduate in 18-24 months.
  • Field Education: Each degree-seeker can complete at least three semester-long practicum experiences at a job site in their local community.
  • Transfer Credits: IU's online MSW program considers transfer credit on a case-by-case basis and does not cap the number of hours that students may transfer.
  • Online Student Support: IU offers multiple resources for online students, including admissions, financial aid, academic, and career planning support services.
  • Cost: Indiana residents who study full time pay $10,080 in tuition and fees each year. Out-of-state and international students pay $30,642. Additional costs (e.g., textbooks) apply, as well.
  • Admission Requirements: IU uses rolling admission. Application requirements include three recommendation letters, a resume, academic transcripts, and a writing sample.
  • Accreditation: Indiana University Bloomington is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). IU's MSW is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

Fordham University

The online master of social work program at Fordham uses a cohort learning model. The university boasts both traditional and advanced standing cohorts.

Fordham University's Online Master of Social Work


  • Concentrations: Instead of offering traditional concentrations or specializations, Fordham uses a specialized curriculum that emphasizes four in-demand focus areas: individuals and families, organizations and community, evaluation, and individuals and families.
  • Credits and Courses: Each student in the traditional program must earn 66 credits, while an advanced standing learner can earn 33 credits.
  • How Long Does It Take?: Both the traditional and advanced standing tracks offer full- and part-time options. An advanced standing student can earn a degree in 8-16 months, while a traditional enrollee can graduate in 16-32 months.
  • Field Education: Each learner can complete 2-4 field placements during the online MSW program. During this time, each enrollee spends 16-21 hours per week at their field education sites.
  • Transfer Credits: Fordham considers transfer credit on a case-by-case basis.
  • Online Student Support: Fordham offers many valuable online student support services, including dedicated academic advisors and 24/7 IT support.
  • Cost: The program costs $62,634 for traditional students and $31,317 for advanced standing students.
  • Admission Requirements: Application requirements include undergraduate transcripts, an essay, and at least one recommendation letter. Unlike other schools, Fordham does not use undergraduate GPA cutoffs.
  • Accreditation: Fordham University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). Fordham's online MSW is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

University of Denver

The online MSW program at DU prepares students to work as policy analysts, wellness counselors, and evaluators, among many other fulfilling careers. The university works with field placements throughout the U.S. to ensure that all students can gain valuable hands-on experience.

University of Denver's Online Master of Social Work


  • Concentrations: Students can concentrate in either mental health and trauma or health and wellness.
  • Credits and Courses: A student in the traditional program must earn 90 credits, while an advanced standing student must earn 60 credits. Traditional track students can take a foundation curriculum that emphasizes clinical social work skills and social work theory and practice. Advanced standing students can take specialized coursework in evidence for practice, among other topics.
  • How Long Does It Take?: The traditional track takes four years to complete. The advanced standing track requires only two years.
  • Field Education: An enrollee in the traditional program can complete two year-long internships that include 12-15 hours a week at field education sites. Each advanced standing student can complete a one-year internship.
  • Transfer Credits: DU does not accept transfer credit.
  • Online Student Support: The Online Campus at DU allows students to schedule private office hours with professors and easily keep up to date with all assignments and due dates.
  • Cost: A student in the traditional program pays $88,920 for the degree, while an advanced standing student pays $59,280.
  • Admission Requirements: Each applicant should possess a minimum 2.5 undergraduate GPA. Application materials include a career goals statement, two recommendation letters, and a resume.
  • Accreditation: University of Denver is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). DU's online MSW is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

University of Houston

The online MSW program at UH offers tremendous flexibility for students who work or have other responsibilities. Like their on-campus peers, online students can participate in additional training opportunities by interning at the Austin legislature, Child Welfare Education Project, Trauma Education Program, or Global Leaders of Behavioral Health Education.

University of Houston's Online Master of Social Work


  • Concentrations: Students can select one of four concentrations: health and behavioral health; social work practice with Latinos; political social work; or individualized -- a specialization that allows students to create a custom curriculum that meets their career goals.
  • Credits and Courses: A student in the traditional track must earn 63 credits. The program's first 11 credits include foundation classes followed by the first practicum experience. Each advanced standing enrollee takes 38 credits. All students complete the program as part of a cohort.
  • How Long Does It Take?: Learners in the traditional track can earn their degrees in three years, and advanced standing students can graduate in just two years.
  • Field Education: Each student must complete at least 900 hours of field education. An enrollee in the traditional program can perform four semester-long field education experiences, while an advanced standing student must complete two.
  • Transfer Credits: The master's in social work online program at UH accepts up to six outside credits.
  • Online Student Support: Online students receive the same support services as their on-campus peers, including a virtual library, writing center, and IT support.
  • Cost: In-state students pay $449 per credit, and out-of-state students pay $971 per credit.
  • Admission Requirements: Application requirements include three recommendation letters, a personal narrative statement, and a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA.
  • Accreditation: University of Houston is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). UH's online MSW is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

Temple University

Prospective students choose Temple's online master of social work program for its emphasis on economic and social justice. Also, with full- and part-time options, students from all backgrounds can advance their education on their schedules. An academically ambitious student can combine this program with a master's in public health.

Temple University's Master of Social Work


  • Concentrations: Concentration options include clinical practice with individuals and families and macro practice in organizations, communities, and policy arenas. Each student can complement their concentration with a specialization in children and families, health and mental health, or an individualized specialization that students create with their advisor's help.
  • Credits and Courses: The regular-entry program involves 60 credits, while each student in the advanced standing program earns 34.5 credits. The foundation curriculum emphasizes public policy, social justice, and research methodology.
  • How Long Does It Take?: A regular-entry student can graduate in 2-3 years, while an advanced standing enrollee can earn their degree in 12-18 months.
  • Field Education: Each regular-entry learner can spend at least 1,000 hours at field education sites. Temple boasts relationships with over 500 social work organizations throughout the United States.
  • Transfer Credits: An incoming transfer student may apply up to 12 outside credits toward their master's in social work online degree.
  • Online Student Support: Online students can benefit from Temple's academic resource center, writing center, and disability services, among other academic and counseling support.
  • Cost: Both in- and out-of-state students pay $975 per credit.
  • Admission Requirements: Each applicant to the regular-entry program must possess a bachelor's degree that reflects a minimum 3.0 GPA. An advanced standing candidate should have a minimum 3.25 undergraduate GPA. Application materials include three recommendation letters and a goals statement.
  • Accreditation: Temple University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). Temple's online MSW is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

University of Arkansas

Prospective students who already possess bachelor's in social work degrees should consider UA's online advanced standing master of social work program. The program uses a cohort learning model and features unique activities wherein students can form professional relationships. The program prepares graduates for careers and doctoral study.

University of Arkansas's Online Master of Social Work


  • Concentrations: This program does not offer concentrations or specializations.
  • Credits and Courses: Each student can earn 39 credits. Although most coursework takes place asynchronously, learners meet as a cohort once per week in the evening.
  • How Long Does It Take?: An enrollee in this social work online program can earn their degree in only 12 months.
  • Field Education: Each degree-seeker can complete a year-long internship and spend at least 22 hours per week at their field education site. With approval, students can complete internships at their job sites.
  • Transfer Credits: This program does not accept transfer credit.
  • Online Student Support: UA supports online students by extending in-state tuition rates, as well as providing online student orientation and scholarship opportunities exclusive to online students.
  • Cost: UA charges $431 per credit.
  • Admission Requirements: Each applicant must possess a bachelor's in social work. Undergraduate transcripts should reflect a minimum 3.0 GPA. Candidates must also submit three professional references, a personal statement, and an example of academic research in the social work field. UA may ask some applicants to perform interviews. Finally, Colorado and North Carolina residents may not apply.
  • Accreditation: University of Arkansas is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). UA's online MSW is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

California State University-San Bernardino

CSUSB's Pathway Distance Education Program allows students from all over the country to earn online master's in social work degrees. CSUSB does not offer an advanced standing option.

California State University, San Bernardino's Online Master of Social Work


  • Concentrations: CSUSB boasts nine concentration options, including homelessness, child abuse, and poverty and public welfare.
  • Credits and Courses: Each student can earn 90 credits, 52 in foundation courses and 38 in the specialization. Foundation coursework includes human behavior and society. In the third year, each degree-seeker can select a master's thesis or research project for their capstone experience.
  • How Long Does It Take?: Each learner can typically graduate from this online MSW program in three years.
  • Field Education: Students begin field education in the program's second year. CSUSB partners with social work organizations throughout California to ensure that students receive excellent hands-on experience. Over three consecutive semesters, each enrollee can spend 12-16 hours per week at field education sites.
  • Transfer Credits: A transfer student may apply three outside credits toward their degree.
  • Online Student Support: Through the School of Social Work, students can explore job placements throughout Southern California.
  • Cost: Online students pay $36,000 in tuition and fees.
  • Admission Requirements: Each applicant should possess a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA and at least one year's work experience in a social work setting. Other application materials include three recommendation letters. International prospective students cannot apply at this time.
  • Accreditation: California State University, San Bernardino is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). CSUSB's online MSW is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

University of South Dakota

South Dakota residents considering careers in social work should research the online master of social work at USD. This program features a unique curriculum aligned to South Dakotans' most pressing social work needs. This online MSW program includes traditional and advanced standing tracks, as well.

University of South Dakota's Online Master of Social Work

  • Concentrations: USD does not offer concentrations in its master's in social work online program.
  • Credits and Courses: Each advanced standing student must earn 36 credits, while an enrollee in the traditional program can earn 60 credits. The traditional curriculum features coursework in social policy analysis and mental health assessment. Advanced standing students analyze diversity and social justice, among other subjects.
  • How Long Does It Take?: A learner in the traditional track can graduate in two years, while an advanced standing student can earn their degree in 18 months.
  • Field Education: A traditional or advanced standing student can complete four semester-long field educational experiences.
  • Transfer Credits: Each incoming student can transfer up to 12 outside credits toward their USD graduate degree.
  • Online Student Support: Online students can benefit from over a dozen unique student support resources, including disability services, veterans resources, and a writing center.
  • Cost: USD charges all online graduate students $466 per credit. Additional costs and fees apply.
  • Admission Requirements: Each applicant must submit undergraduate transcripts, a 3-5 page academic essay, a statement of purpose, and three recommendation letters. Each candidate should possess a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA.
  • Accreditation: University of South Dakota is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). USD's online MSW is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

California State University-Northridge

At CSUN's Tseng College, students can earn their online master of social work degrees in either a full-time or accelerated format. This online MSW program boasts a unique curriculum that attracts students who plan to work in urban settings. Finally, the program caters to learners who possess no prior social work education or experience.

California State University, Northridge's Online Master of Social Work


  • Concentrations: The online MSW program at CSUN does not offer concentrations or specializations.
  • Credits and Courses: The 60-credit curriculum features coursework in generalist social work theory and practice, foundations of field education, and social welfare. The program uses a mix of synchronous and asynchronous instruction. In synchronous courses, students can attend weekly virtual course sessions in the evenings.
  • How Long Does It Take?: A student in the full-time track can graduate in three years, while an enrollee in the accelerated track can earn their degree in just two years.
  • Field Education: CSUN works closely with students to find appropriate field education sites. In two semester-long practicums, each learner can gain 700 hours of hands-on experience.
  • Transfer Credits: CSUN does not accept transfer credit at this time.
  • Online Student Support: Online academic advisors work with students individually to help them choose courses and plan for their future careers. All online learners can also complete a two-week introduction to online learning seminar before starting academic coursework.
  • Cost: The program's tuition comes to $45,120 for in- and out-of-state students. Additional fees and costs apply, as well.
  • Admission Requirements: Each applicant must submit three recommendation letters and official undergraduate transcripts. CSUN requires a minimum 2.5 undergraduate GPA, but a competitive applicant possesses a 3.0 undergraduate GPA or higher.
  • Accreditation: California State University, Northridge is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). CSUN's online MSW is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

Sacred Heart University

Both advanced standing and general track prospective students should consider the online master of social work program at SHU. This program qualifies graduates for clinical social work license in Connecticut, which may not transfer to all states. SHU graduates commonly go on to work as community advocates, play therapists, and educators, among other fulfilling careers.

Sacred Heart University's Online Master of Social Work


  • Concentrations: Students can concentrate in either direct clinical practice or direct community practice. The two concentrations' curriculums overlap to provide students with a holistic educational experience.
  • Credits and Courses: The advanced standing track requires 30 credits, while the general track requires 60 credits. The curriculum features coursework in social justice, social welfare policy, and social welfare as a social institution. All courses last 14 weeks.
  • How Long Does It Take?: A student in the advanced standing track can earn their degree in just 20 months. General track enrollees commonly graduate in three years.
  • Field Education: Each student can complete at least 1,100 hours of field education.
  • Transfer Credits: SHU does not accept transfer credit.
  • Online Student Support: Throughout the program, learners can interact one-on-one with professors and access the university's many support services, including tutoring and career planning.
  • Cost: The online MSW program at SHU costs $795 per credit. Students pay additional placement, assessment, library, and registration fees.
  • Admission Requirements: Each applicant must possess a bachelor's degree that reflects a minimum 2.7 GPA and submit two recommendation letters. The university interviews advanced standing track applicants.
  • Accreditation: Sacred Heart University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE). SHU's online MSW is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

What to Expect From an Online Master's in Social Work Program

Accreditation

Students considering online MSW programs should make sure to choose a program that is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). A CSWE-accredited degree is crucial to obtaining proper social work licensure; social workers must pass an Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) examination, and ASWB does not allow people to sit for exams unless they hold a degree from CSWE-accredited programs. Without CSWE accreditation (and therefore ASWB exam scores), the job pool for social workers diminishes significantly.

Curriculum in an Online Master's in Social Work

Students pursuing a master's in social work online can expect curricula that covers topics such as advocacy, administration, community action, human behavior, social welfare policy and services, and social work practice. Social workers who hold a master's degree graduate with the skills to intervene in crisis situations, advocate for clients, understand local, regional, and national social policy, and become leaders in the field.

While exact courses and titles vary by program, students can expect courses like:

  • Social welfare policy, which familiarizes students with social welfare policies and programs, potentially emphasizing the development and maintenance of these programs.

  • Theories of human behavior and development, which covers current approaches to social work through theories on human development, including learning, cognitive, and ecological theories.

  • Interventions courses, which cover the basics of evidence-based social work practice. Students learn to connect with clients to build trust, make assessments, set goals, and implement solutions.

  • Diversity courses, which examine issues of race, class, gender, age, ability, and sexual orientation, and how bias can influence access to community resources.

In addition to courses, students in online MSW programs can expect to engage in fieldwork assignments, often spread throughout the duration of the degree. Early fieldwork might come in the form of assigned practicum placements, and advanced fieldwork may have more flexibility depending on the particular program.

Many programs do not require students to complete a thesis project. In place of a thesis, some programs may offer final courses with professional development themes focusing on the tenets of long-term practice. Some online MSW programs may require students to attend occasional in-person seminars on campus.

Students already holding a BSW may qualify to enter an online MSW program with advanced standing, expediting their studies.

Master's in Social Work Concentrations

Students pursuing a master's of social work online can choose an area of specialization, often through advanced electives during their second year of study. These specializations add an area of emphasis that gives the holder additional knowledge, allowing them to focus their career in a specific direction.

  • Child and Family Wellbeing

    Social workers who concentrate on children and families assess home situations and intervene if abuse is occurring. They may also help families access crucial services such as welfare benefits or food stamps. They may work in adoption agencies, public and private child welfare agencies, and youth development programs.

  • Healthcare

    Healthcare social workers work with patients to help them understand their illness, match them with relevant support groups and other resources, and support families as they care for a sick relative. Healthcare social workers may work in hospitals, mental health facilities, or family service agencies.

  • Schools

    School social workers help students succeed academically by working with teachers and families to develop strategies to overcome negative behavior such as bullying. They may work in elementary and secondary schools and special education placement offices.

Online Master's in Social Work Careers

There are a variety of career paths for graduates of online MSW programs. Work environments may include schools, government or private agencies, hospitals, and community centers. Here are a few of the options MSW graduates can expect to encounter:

Clinical Mental Health Counselor

Clinical mental health counselors work in settings such as mental health centers, prisons, and juvenile detention facilities. They treat patients for conditions like depression, anxiety, and suicidal impulses. The interpersonal and crisis intervention taught in online MSW programs prepares graduates to excel as clinical mental health counselors, who cannot practice without a master's degree.

Median Annual Salary: $44,630

Child Welfare

Child welfare social workers assess home situations, remove children in cases of abuse or neglect, offer resources to families with financial struggles, and support children and families through the foster care system. Online MSW programs train students to recognize these situations, safely intervene, and utilize government and community services.

Median Annual Salary: $49,470

Medical and Public Health

Medical and public health social workers support patients and advocate for their needs in hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities. They help patients to understand diagnoses and treatment, counsel them when necessary, and aid transitions both in and out of the home. With a master's degree in social work, graduates enter the field with a firm understanding of their role and available resources, as well as the skills to help their patients.

Median Annual Salary: $58,470

Certification and Licensure Requirements

Specific social work licensure requirements vary by state, and the terms certification and licensing may be used interchangeably, depending on the location. However, there is a distinction between certified social workers (CSW) and licensed clinical social workers (LCSW).

Certification

Generally, CSWs provide nonclinical support by implementing and running community programs, influencing policy, and providing administrative support for clients who need assistance navigating various systems. They may also practice some direct counseling. In contrast, LCSWs focus on direct practice, counseling clients in specialties like child and family, trauma and interpersonal violence, mental health and addictions, and aging.

Social workers in nonclinical positions may be required to pass one of the ASWB examinations: the licensed bachelor of social work examination (LBSW) for those just starting out; the licensed master of social work examination (LMSW) for those who want to extend their practice and qualify for management positions; and the licensed master of social work-advanced generalist (LMSW-AG), which in most states is the highest license available to nonclinical social workers.

Some states require social workers to hold a master's degree to obtain CSW status, though others require only a bachelor's degree from a CSWE-accredited program. The ASWB requires graduates taking the LBSW to hold a bachelor's degree. Applicants to the LMSW and LMSW-AG must hold a master's degree.

Licensure

LCSWs help clients directly in a diverse range of settings, including hospitals, mental health facilities, schools, human services, and private practice. Some states require social workers to be licensed for clinical work to move into private practice. Licensed clinical social workers may treat clients directly in individual settings, family therapy, or group therapy.

Because clinical social workers can diagnose mental health conditions and administer psychotherapy, it is important that they secure proper licensure to practice. Social workers approach counseling from a bird's-eye perspective, considering a patient's environment, including societal pressures, as well as individual mental and emotional health.

LCSWs must hold a master's degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited program. They must also complete two to three years of supervised clinical social work, depending on state requirements, and pass the LCSW examination administered by the ASWB. Some locations may have additional requirements, such as state board examinations.

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