Most Affordable Online Master's in Social Work Programs
If you already have a bachelor's in social work, you may be familiar with the credentials required to practice in certain capacities. If you are considering a graduate degree in social work, it may seem daunting to obtain one while working full time. However, affordable online MSW programs allow working professionals to earn graduate credentials, often without stepping foot on campus. Depending on which affordable master's in social work online program you choose, tuition costs vary, but tuition for online programs is often more affordable than on-campus options.
This guide includes a ranked list of affordable online MSW programs, as well as other useful information. Programs are ranked mostly based on the net price of the degree, and partially based on how many scholarship and fellowship awards are available. All of the schools included in this ranking are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.
Most Affordable Online Master's in Social Work Programs
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
One of the state's newest colleges, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley serves students on campuses throughout the Valley. UTRGV also offers several undergraduate and graduate degrees online using traditional 16-week semesters and accelerated seven-week terms. The master of science in social work - administration and community practice prepares social workers for work in a leadership capacity that provides improved services to the Latino community.
The 12-month, 33-credit degree plan includes study of child welfare, social work with diverse populations, social work practice with Latinos, and advanced policy and analysis. Two practicums totalling 500 hours in an approved setting provide hands-on preparation for community practice. With tuition at $440 per credit and courses delivered using seven-week terms, the degree remains one of the most affordable online MSW programs in the nation. The degree prepares learners to sit for Licensed Master Social Worker exams. Admission requires transcripts from all colleges and a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Arizona State University-Tempe
Arizona State University-Tempe’s virtual arm enrolls thousands of students. It offers one of the most affordable master's in social work online programs with its 60-credit program. The degree prepares social workers for practice with individuals, families, and communities. Learners find practical solutions to social challenges and promote social justice.
Students study areas such as child welfare, community practice, administration, and health and behavioral health. The advanced generalist concentration immerses students in culturally competent practices and evidence-based strategies that effect change. Students identify internship sites within their geographic region and complete 960 hours of field education. Faculty deliver the MSW using seven-week terms that facilitate an accelerated graduation timeline. Sun Devils studying online benefit from comprehensive support services such as tutoring and success coaches. Students pay $7,220 for 10 credits. Admission requires a minimum 3.0 GPA and the GRE or MAT.
California State University-San Bernardino
California State University-San Bernardino offers programs to over 20,000 students. CSUSB maintains a virtual presence with several fully online and hybrid options, including a three-year master of social work. The fully online degree includes a series of foundational courses in micro and macro practice, human behavior in the social environment, and social work research.
In the final year, students choose a concentration related to a client population, social issue, or field of practice. Those choosing a social issue may specialize in homelessness, substance abuse, child abuse, or domestic violence. Participants apply classroom assignments to, and conduct research on, their chosen specialization. They engage in fieldwork broken down into three components: a field practicum, field events, and a seminar. With tuition at $1,390 for 0-6 units for residents (or an additional $264 per unit for nonresidents), the MSW remains one of the most affordable master's in social work online. Admission requires a minimum 3.0 GPA.
University of South Florida-Main Campus
The University of South Florida consists of 14 colleges and enrolls more than 50,000 students. USF’s virtual options include an advanced-standing master of social work that trains clinical social workers to meet the region’s growing needs.
Faculty use a cohort model to deliver a sequenced course of study, and learners attend classes through Webcam once a week. The degree provides both full-time and part-time enrollment options. Students study topics such as psychopathology; health, illness, and disability; and social work practices with individuals, couples, and families. During an intense 900-hour internship, students apply theoretical concepts to real-world cases involving agency clients. Full-time students complete the program in two years, while part-time student do so in four years. One of the most affordable online MSW programs, the degree costs $350 per credit for residents and $430 for nonresidents. Admission requires a minimum 3.0 GPA and prerequisite courses.
Utah Valley University
Utah Valley University enrolls 37,000 students in 198 degree options. Online degrees include the master of social work, a hybrid program with a significant online component. Students attend face-to-face classes every Friday over a two-year period. The 60-credit curriculum includes a study of addictions; human behavior and the social environment; social welfare policy and analysis; and social work practice with individuals, families, and groups.
In the second year, students learn how to apply learned principles within particular groups, such as Latinos or Pacific Islanders. They complete 15-16 hours of field practicums each week over the course of two years. One of the most affordable online MSW programs in the U.S., resident students pay $280 per credit and nonresident students pay $863 per credit. Admission requires a minimum 3.0 GPA and prerequisite social work courses.
California State University-Northridge
California State University-Northridge provides 38,000 students with several online degrees, including a 60-unit master of social work. The program uses a cohort model to prepare social workers for work with at-risk and vulnerable populations. Faculty deliver the degree over two years in a fully online format; students convene online for live sessions one night each week.
In addition to being one of the most affordable online MSW programs in the U.S., the program offers unique studies in human behavior and social environment, psychosocial assessment and diagnostic formulation, and social work theory and practice. Learners engage in 16 hours of field work each week throughout the program, and students receive ongoing support from a program manager and a supportive learning community. They also benefit from affordable tuition rates: $750 per unit for online students regardless of in-state or out-of-state residency. Admission requires a minimum 2.5 GPA.
California State University-Stanislaus
California State University-Stanislaus enrolls 9,000 learners, including graduate students in 15 master's programs. The 60-unit master of social work offers a hybrid curriculum that students complete in 24 months. Learners develop core social work competencies through a curriculum that emphasizes working with individuals and communities who advance social justice.
The curriculum includes study of human behavior, social work practice, policy, and research. During both years of graduate study, learners engage in a full-time field internship during the summer. Participants remain employed by taking two online classes per term -- with in‐person requirements one Saturday each month. The MSW remains one of the most affordable master's in social work online by offering competitive tuition. The entire program costs $35,000. Admission requires a minimum 2.5 during the last 60 credits of undergraduate work; it does not, however, require GRE scores.
Marshall University serves approximately 13,000 students at 10 locations in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio. The school's eLearning options include the master of social work. Learners access courses through real-time distance learning broadcasts.
Students choose one of two available degree levels. In the 60-credit generalist program, students study human behavior, psychopathology, policy, and research. Alternatively, the 30-credit advanced standing curriculum includes study of psychopathology, integrated healthcare, clinical social work practice, and specialized topics such as family and community violence in rural communities. All students engage in field practicum experiences varying in scope. Tuition for the master's in social work online remains competitive at $4,220 per semester for residents and $10,180 for nonresidents. Admission requires a minimum 3.0 GPA, prerequisite courses, and no GRE.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The nation's first public college, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill provides students with a world-class education. UNC at Chapel Hill enrolls 30,000 students who study in classrooms with a 13:1 student-to-faculty ratio. The three-year master of social work requires students to take two courses each term through distance education; participants complete the degree in the third year as full-time students attending face-to-face classes in Chapel Hill.
The curriculum includes a 29-credit generalist curriculum that focuses on human behavior and the social environment, social work practice, social policy, institutionalized discrimination, and research. Students take 33 additional credits to specialize in one of two concentrations: direct practice or community, management, and policy practice. The degree remains one of the most affordable accredited online MSW programs in the U.S. Residents pay $650 per credit and nonresidents pay $1480 per credit. Admission requires a review of school transcripts and competitive scores on the GRE.
New Mexico State University-Main Campus
New Mexico State University operates five campuses and enrolls 15,000 students. NMSU offers several programs through distance learning, including its hybrid master of social work. Faculty deliver some courses online and other courses on campus at the school’s Albuquerque Center. The curriculum offers both a 60-credit regular and a 36-credit advanced standing program.
Generalists acquire a common core of professional knowledge and practice methods; they then apply them during 950 hours of field work. Advanced standing students study interventions used to help individuals, families, and groups. Students complete the master's degree in social work online on a full-time or part-time basis. With tuition at $250 per credit for residents and $320 for nonresidents, the degree remains one of the most affordable accredited master's of social work programs online. Admission to the advanced-standing program requires a bachelor's degree from a Council on Social Work Education-accredited program.
Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College
Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College offers 235 fields of study. LSU Online administers several degrees, including a 60-credit master of social work. Students in the MSW assist individuals, groups, and communities managing a variety challenges, such as child abuse or addictions. The first year covers foundational coursework that cultivates students' social work practice. Students also study human behavior, diversity and oppression, and public policy.
During year two, faculty immerse students in the study of advanced direct practice, advanced social policy, and contexts for direct practice. Learners apply knowledge to real-world contexts during a series of practicums. They take either an exam or complete a thesis to exit the program. Students with a BSW complete the degree in as few as 12 months. With tuition at $540 per credit, this MSW remains one of the most affordable online MSW programs in the U.S. Admission requires a minimum 3.0 GPA and school transcripts.
Metropolitan State University of Denver
Metropolitan State University of Denver offers several master's degrees, including the master of social work. Faculty deliver the curriculum in small class sizes in either a hybrid or fully online format. The curriculum employs an integrative practice model rooted in social justice. Students choose between a 60-credit regular and a 36-credit advanced standing program.
While the core curriculum for each track varies, both programs offer students the opportunity to specialize in areas such as children and families, mental health, or leadership and management. Both programs require extensive field practicums at an agency. The online master's in social work specifically enrolls Coloradans, with out-of-state residents admitted on a limited basis. MSU Denver notes that the degree serves as the most affordable MSW in the state: $1,360 for three credits for residents and $1,910 for nonresidents. Admission to the advanced standing program requires a bachelor's degree accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.
University of Hawaii at Mānoa
The largest and oldest of the University of Hawaii's 10 campuses, UH Mānoa oversees hundreds of degree-granting programs. The master of social work serves islanders on Hawaii, Kauai, Lanai, Molokai, and Maui through a distance-learning format that requires visits once a year to Oahu for on-site training.
The MSW's three-year curriculum includes study of social work practice with individuals, families, and groups; social welfare policy and services; and policies, programs, and services on aging. Learners holding a BSW enroll in the advanced standing option, which offers a one-year or two-year plan of study. Distance education students receive hands-on experience through four semesters of practicum. In-state residents pursuing this degree pay $650 per credit and nonresidents pay $1,550. Admission requires a minimum 3.0 GPA and a liberal arts background.
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte oversees a comprehensive portfolio of degrees, including 140 graduate programs. The school's virtual college offers flexible and affordable programs. The master of social work trains professionals versed in addressing social challenges in urban areas. The MSW offers great flexibility with three plans of study, including one that students complete in three years using a hybrid format.
Faculty deliver the 62-credit curriculum with a blend of asynchronous online courses and face-to-face sessions at UNC Charlotte. The curriculum includes study of social work practice with different populations; social work, social justice, and diversity; and advanced interpersonal practice with groups. In year three, students use electives in the master's in social work online to focus on particular areas of interest. Students engage in practicums at one of 150 partnering urban and rural agencies. In addition to competitive tuition for all, some MSW learners interested in working with underserved populations benefit from full-ride scholarships. Admission requires a minimum 3.0 GPA and the GRE.
Brescia University provides a liberal arts education to approximately 1,000 students on a campus in Owensboro, Kentucky. The Catholic school's online degrees provide students with accelerated learning options at an affordable price. The 60-credit master of social work prepares generalists to practice therapy, use evidence-based interventions, and take on leadership roles within organizations. Learners study human behavior in the social environment; practice with individuals, families, and groups; and social welfare and policy practice. The MSW also offers a one-year, 30-credit advanced standing curriculum for learners with an accredited BSW.
Students in the regular program complete 900 hours of field work; those in the advanced standing program complete 500 hours. The degree remains one of the most affordable online MSW programs in the U.S. by offering a $600 per-credit tuition rate for all. Admission requires a minimum 3.0 GPA and no GRE.
Tennessee State University
Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University consists of eight schools and colleges that offer programs on two campuses. The master of social work accommodates the needs of working professionals with a blended curriculum of on-campus evening sessions and online courses.
The 60-credit curriculum includes study of social work practices, human behavior and the social environment, and social welfare policy and services. Concentration courses delve into the higher levels of practice, social work policy, and research. Learners prepare for direct practice with clients through 900 hours of field experience. The school’s MSW stands as one of the most affordable accredited master's of social work programs online. Students enjoy flexibility through full-time and part-time enrollment options. Admission requires a minimum cumulative 2.75 GPA and GRE scores; applicants pursuing advanced standing admission need a minimum 3.0 GPA and an accredited BSW.
University of Iowa
The oldest college in the state, the University of Iowa enrolls 33,000 students. The school serves learners unable to attend classes on campus with several distance learning options. The part-time master of social work prepares learners for advanced practice and leadership roles in a variety of settings. The online curriculum emphasizes social change and family systems. The degree offers both a 60-credit regular and 48-credit advanced standing option.
Coursework includes study of human behavior in the social environment; social work practice with individuals, families, and groups; and discrimination, oppression, and diversity. The programs requires that students complete practicum experiences in their communities. The program enrolls students who live in Iowa or bordering states. Learners take evening classes using real-time video conferencing and supplemental asynchronous courses. A number of scholarship programs help students pay tuition, making the degree one of the nation's most affordable master's in social work online. Admission requires a minimum 3.0 GPA and no GRE.
Austin Peay State University
Austin Peay State University offers 62 majors on the school's main campus in Clarksville. The school partners with two other institutions to provide students with a hybrid master of social work. The 60-credit curriculum includes study of social work practices, social welfare policy and services, and human behavior and the social environment.
Learners with a BSW enroll in the 30-credit advanced standing option. Electives prepare students to help clients with challenges including trauma and mental health. All learners participate in 900 hours of field experience in preparation for direct practice with clients. Students interested in child welfare participate in a program sponsored by the Tennessee Department of Children's services, which offers scholarships and a stipend of $2,000 per semester. One of the most affordable accredited master's of social work programs online, the MSW requires a minimum cumulative 2.75 GPA and the GRE for admission.
University of Central Florida
UCF's 66,000 students enroll in more than 200 programs administered by 13 colleges. A robust eLearning portfolio gives distance learners access to a 62-credit master of social work that prepares social workers to work with clients battling challenges such as addiction, homelessness, and mental health issues.
Faculty design the degree either for learners without a BSW or for those with an outdated BSW. The nine-semester MSW accommodates nontraditional learners with a part-time curriculum that requires one class per term. Learners study topics including social work practice, social welfare policies and services, human behavior in the social environment, and how to work with diverse populations. Students with a BSW complete an advanced standing option in four semesters. Learners complete 400 hours of generalist field education and 600 hours of clinical field education. The degree ranks as one of the most affordable master's degrees in social work online with tuition set at $490 per credit. Admission requires school transcripts and the GRE.
Texas State University
Texas State University offers several degrees on campuses in San Marcos and Round Rock. An online version of the school's master of social work provides both part-time and full-time enrollment options. Faculty use a cohort model to prepare social workers with a 62-credit track for those without a BSW and a 36-credit advanced standing track for those with a BSW.
Learners in the master's in social work online study topics such as social welfare policy and services, social work intervention in drug addiction and abuse, and human behavior in individual and family social environments. Students develop competencies such as effective communication skills through a series of social work practice courses. The MSW offers students unique electives that cover topics such as hip hop and social justice and adventure therapy. Students complete a semester-long field practicum at an agency in Central Texas. In addition to affordable tuition, MSW students benefit from several scholarship opportunities. Admission requires a minimum 3.0 GPA and no GRE.
Wayne State University
Wayne State University enrolls 27,000 students in the heart of Detroit. The school's eLearning options include the 60-credit master of social work. Faculty design the degree to train professionals able to serve diverse populations, especially the vulnerable or oppressed. The hybrid curriculum includes foundational courses covering topics such as social work theory and practice, human behavior in the social environment, and research methods in social work.
During the foundation year, students declare a concentration: either interpersonal practice or innovation in community, policy, and leadership. Faculty require students to take courses within their concentration and complete practicum hours. Some students pursuing this degree benefit from Wayne Together Collaborative field education opportunities; they participate in field placements focused on child welfare, take relevant coursework, and receive a $10,000 stipend for tuition. Admission requires a minimum 2.75 GPA and prerequisite courses
Eastern Washington University
Eastern Washington University enrolls 12,000 students who study both online and on campus in Cheney. The school's 45 graduate programs include the 90-credit master of social work, a hybrid program that students complete in three years on a part-time basis. Faculty deliver most of the courses online, with face-to-face meetings required three weekends per quarter at the Riverpoint campus. Learners explore social work courses that prepare them for practice in both rural and urban settings.
Learners in the master's degree in social work online study topics such as social welfare and policy, human development in contemporary environments, and foundations of professional social work. The final year of study includes coursework that covers evidence-based treatments, program development, and organizational and policy analysis. Students apply competencies in real-world contexts during 1,032 hours of practicum at a social services agency. They benefit from the lowest in-state tuition of any public college in the state at $560 per credit ($1,300 per credit for nonresidents). Admission requires a minimum 3.0 GPA; there is no GRE requirement.
West Texas A & M University
West Texas A & M University enrolls 10,000 students on a 176-acre residential campus in Canyon. The school's hybrid master of science in social work prepares advanced generalists versed in theoretical perspectives that enable them to develop interventions at various levels of practice. The two-year degree focuses on helping clients in communities throughout the Texas panhandle.
Learners study social work micro practice, social policy and planning, and human behavior in the social environment. The second year improves learners' skills through the study of direct practice with individuals, families, and groups. The 900-hour field practicum focuses on serving rural communities surrounding WTAMU. MSW students enjoy competitive tuition and access to scholarship opportunities, making the degree one of the most affordable online MSW programs. Admission requires that students possess a minimum 3.0 GPA and a social work degree accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.
San Jose State University
A metropolitan college, San Jose State University offers 145 areas of study and 108 concentrations. The 60-unit master of social work focuses on the preparation of professionals able to work with disenfranchised or marginalized communities.
Students study topics such as transcultural generalist practice, human behavior and the social environment, and transcultural multisystems practice. They develop transcultural practice skills through practicum experiences totaling 16 hours a week. Faculty deliver the curriculum using a mix of asynchronous courses and synchronous sessions scheduled on weekday evenings. Students enroll part-time, completing the online master's in social work in two years. Students pay competitive tuition rates at $2,080 for 1-6 units for residents; nonresidents pay an additional $395 per unit. Admission requires a minimum 2.5 GPA and social work experience.
University of Louisville
The University of Louisville consists of 12 schools and colleges and enrolls 22,000 students on campus and online. The fully online master of science in social work trains practitioners able to act as change agents promoting social justice in various communities. Faculty offer a 60-credit regular program for learners with non-BSW degrees. The 30-credit advanced standing curriculum enrolls students with an accredited BSW.
Each track offers a different curriculum plan, but students may specialize in mental health, gerontology, psychosocial oncology, military social work, or alcohol and drug counseling. Students complete 900 hours of practicum experience in their state. With tuition at $710 for all students, the MSSW remains one of the most affordable master's in social work online. The program enrolls students in spring, summer, and fall. Admission requires a minimum 2.75 GPA and no GRE; advanced standing applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Why Should I Get a Master's in Social Work?
To practice as a clinical social worker, you need at least a master's degree in the field. The master's in social work is the terminal degree in the field, though some people choose to pursue doctoral degrees and advanced credentials. You can work as a social worker with a bachelor's degree, although those with a graduate degree enjoy more lucrative career opportunities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that social work jobs will grow by 16% in the coming years, a rate much higher than the economy as a whole.
Many social work master's programs online are more affordable than their on-campus counterparts, since students do not have the cost of commuting or room and board. In many cases, out-of-state students can also pay in-state tuition if they study online. Degree seekers interested in pursuing a career in social work can select from many affordable and accredited online MSW programs.
Careers for MSW Graduates
- Social Worker: Social workers help connect those in need with important social resources such as welfare. They may also work in clinical settings, conducting individual therapy, depending on their education and license.
- Mental Health Therapist: Many social workers with a clinical license (requiring at least a master's degree) work as mental health therapists. These therapists may work with individuals or groups to identify and work through emotional issues and help clients develop healthier coping mechanisms.
- Child and Family Social Worker: These professionals work with clients under 18 and their families, helping ensure the well-being, safety, and health of at-risk young people by monitoring their home life and providing their families with important resources.
- School Social Worker: School social workers generally must hold at least a master's degree in social work. They work in school settings to identify at-risk students, help them meet academic goals, and foster emotional well-being.
- Healthcare Social Worker: These social workers may practice in hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities, helping identify at-risk patients and connecting them with community resources. They may also help patients transition safely from hospital to home.
- Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker: Mental health and substance abuse counselors work in clinical capacities to facilitate recovery and wellness for clients, sometimes within rehabilitation settings. Mental health professionals often must hold at least a master's in social work and the appropriate license to practice.
- Social Work Supervisor: Social work supervisors often hold at least a graduate degree and a special credential in their specific field area in order to supervise other social workers. They may oversee cases taken on by the social workers they supervise, and step in where needed to assist. They may also handle administrative duties.
- Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW): Licensed clinical social workers must hold a master's degree in the field, and may work in a variety of roles and settings. Some of these clinicians work as therapists and treat clients individually while others may work in a community setting, connecting clients to welfare resources.
- Medical Social Worker: These professionals often work in hospitals to oversee patients and identify those who may be at-risk or may need social assistance or support. They commonly hold a master's degree in social work, and may also hold special credentials.
Average Salary by Career
|Child and Family Social Worker||$40,064|
|School Social Worker||$48,287|
|Healthcare Social Worker||$56,810|
|Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker||$47,830|
|Social Work Supervisor||$53,555|
|Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)||$55,521|
|Medical Social Worker||$51,306|
Scholarships for Online Social Work Students
Even while researching the most affordable online MSW programs, funding your graduate education may seem challenging. However, many scholarships and grants are available. While some are available to students at any level of study in any major, the scholarships below are ideal for students pursuing their master's degree in social work online.
Consuelo W. Gosnell Memorial MSW Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Applicants must be a member of the National Association of Social Workers Foundation. They must also be accepted to or currently in a CSWE-accredited program, including social work master's programs online. Applicants must have a strong interest in working specifically with American Indian/Alaska Native and Hispanic/Latino populations.
Verne LaMarr Lyons Memorial MSW Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Students currently enrolled in or accepted into master's in social work online or on-campus program may apply. The applicant must have a special interest in working with African-American communities.
Carl A. Scott Book Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Students earning their master's degree in social work online or on-campus in a CSWE-accredited program may apply. The applicant must show a strong interest in social justice and equity.
Social Work HEALS: Social Work Healthcare Education and Leadership Scholars
Who Can Apply: Current students in on-campus or online master's in social work programs may apply. This program is designed to create a specific cohort of scholars who will work together over a period of time. Fellowships and funding for students at the BSW and MSW levels are available.
Pi Gamma Mu Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Members of a chapter of Pi Gamma Mu may apply for this graduate scholarship to pursue a degree in social sciences, including students in accredited master's of social work programs online. Multiple funds of varying amounts are available.
Roothbert Fund Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Any student enrolled in an accredited master's of social work program online can apply for this scholarship. Preference is given to applicants who have motivations and roots in spirituality and religion.