Compare Online Master of Social Work (MSW) Programs - CSWE Accredited
A master’s in social work from an accredited online program can set you up for an exciting career change. There are a many career options in social work and with the proper accreditation even more opportunities open up, including licensure and a higher earning potential.
As the demand for social workers is expected to grow by 11% between 2018 and 2028, the flexibility offered by online MSW programs will enable a greater number of prospective students the opportunity to earn this degree. You can pursue a master’s in social work online regardless of where you live or work, and you can expect the same high quality from your online degree as you can from its on-campus counterpart.
This comprehensive list of online schools was curated to provide the most accurate and helpful information on all types of CSWE accredited master's in social work degree programs online. In order to help you find the right MSW program for you, we’ve listed all programs on five different factors, including GRE requirements and campus visit requirements that we know are of particular importance to prospective students in online programs.
Why do we only list CSWE-accredited social work programs?
CSWE-accredited programs have been recognized by the educational community and the public as having satisfactory levels of performance, integrity and quality. With this accreditation, students can be confident that the social work program they are investing in, whether it be in person or online, will be able to prepare them for the next steps in their careers. In fact, most state licensing boards require that social workers earn their degrees through CSWE-accredited degree programs.
Even in states that don’t mandate it, CSWE accreditation can make the licensure process simpler through its standardization of educational criteria. Employers may require or prefer their candidates to hold degrees from CSWE-accredited programs.
1 Additional factor information retrieved from College Navigator - National Center for Education Statistics 2 Arizona State University’s graduation rate and percent of online graduate students numbers were calculated as an average of five different campuses: Downtown Phoenix, Polytechnic, Skysong, Temple, and West.
1 Additional factor information retrieved from College Navigator - National Center for Education Statistics 2 Indiana University’s graduation rate and percent of online graduate students numbers were calculated as an average of eight different campuses: Bloomington, East, Kokomo, Northwest, IUPU Fort Wayne, IUPU Indianapolis, South Bend and Southeast.
Full-time advanced standing MSW programs typically take one and a half to two years to complete online. Part-time MSW programs can take up to two and a half years to complete, but students typically complete the program in two years.
What are the differences between Online and On-Campus MSW programs?
Differences between online and on-campus MSW programs depend on the university. Most of the time, an online program is exactly the same as it’s on-campus counterpart. Online programs are typically more flexible -- a student’s geographic location does not matter and they can complete coursework at their own pace.
Which MSW program is the best?
While searching for the best program, you may be considering a few factors, such as your personal interests, online options, and admissions requirements. We’ve listed some factors that might help you narrow down which program might be best for you.
Which programs don’t require GRE?
Admissions requirements vary depending on the university. Some traditional and advanced standing MSW programs require students provide GRE test scores if a student’s GPA is low. There are also MSW programs that do not require the GRE or any other tests for admission.
What are the GPA requirements for MSW programs?
It depends! GPA requirements for MSW programs may vary depending on the school. Universities typically require a GPA of 3.0 or higher for most programs. However, some programs require at least a 2.5 and if the student’s GPA is lower, the university may request a GRE score.
Can you study for a MSW without a BSW?
Students without a BSW should still apply for a MSW if they meet the university’s requirements. Typically, MSW admissions program requirements include a bachelor's degree from an accredited school along with certain prerequisite courses, minimum GPA, and standard application documents, such as a personal statement, undergraduate transcript, and letters of recommendation.
What are the advantages of a MSW over a BSW?
A BSW prepares students for entry level social work. Professionals with a MSW typically enjoy greater career options and a higher salary on average. Many master’s programs offer opportunities to explore specializations such as substance abuse or public health.
What are the different licenses and certifications for MSWs?
Licensure typically depends on education specialization. Generally, professionals with a master’s can become a Licensed Master of Social Work (LMSW) or become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). MSWs can also earn certifications in hospice and palliative care and as school specialists.
What does a typical MSW curriculum look like?
A typical curriculum has required core courses including foundations of social work, research methods, and human behavior. Students also select electives and request field placement that aligns with their interests. The field work component gives students the opportunity to work in professional settings, such as hospitals and community centers.
What are the MSW concentrations?
Social work is incredibly broad and many professionals specialize in a particular field of interest. Some MSW concentrations include children, youth and family social work, administrative leadership, mental health and adult social work, community social work, and community organization.
Are there any internships available for MSW students?
MSW internships give students hands-on social work experience under the guidance and supervision of an instructor. It’s important to speak with the university’s field education department and ask if the university is partnered with any agencies as well as specific field education requirements for the program you’re interested in.
Is financing available for online MSW programs?
An online program doesn’t have to be a huge financial burden and there are some financing options available. Some employers give prospective students tuition assistance, universities offer scholarships, and there may be other student loan options available. It’s important to research as many options as possible and choose a program with a cost you are comfortable paying.
Who should consider a DSW?
If you currently hold an MSW or a master’s degree in a similar field, you may consider earning a Doctorate of Social Work (DSW). A DSW is an advanced degree that typically focuses on administration or clinical social work. It’s a good option for those interested in pursuing a leadership or management position.
What is CSWE Accreditation?
The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) is a partnership of educational and professional social work institutions, social welfare agencies and private citizens. The CSWE is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation as the sole accrediting agency in the United States for all social work education. CSWE accreditation signals that an undergraduate or graduate social work program satisfactorily meets the council’s standards for student competencies, institutional policies, curricula and more.
Specifically, CSWE accreditation entails:
Parity regardless of delivery: Accredited programs offer coursework that meet the same standards and criteria, regardless of their delivery in person or online.
Practical competency: CSWE-accredited programs have a proven track record of preparing their students to meet the practical challenges of professional social work practice.
Sound policy: Accredited social work programs pursue goals that reinforce the values of the social work profession.
Requisite curriculum: CSWE-accredited programs offer the courses necessary for students to receive adequate social work preparation.
Qualified licensure: Accredited social work programs grant degrees mandated by most state licensing boards for social work licensure.
Proficient employment: CSWE-accredited programs grant degrees required or preferred by employers of social workers.
Best Online MSW Factors
Online Class Type
- Live/Synchronous: Students are able to meet classmates and their professors, virtually, face-to-face, exchange ideas in real time and have live discussions. - Not Live/Asynchronous: classes operate independently of set meeting times. Assignments will have designated due dates but each student is to participate on their own.
Live classes may offer a more realistic mirror of on-campus programs.
Mobile App Accessibility
Online learning is often sought after because of its flexibility. What more can an ideal online MSW program offer if not a mobile application that is offline accessible. This could mean less worry or concern on participation, reading assignments or submitting discussion questions.
Having a mobile app available offline means non-stop learning.
Graduate programs will typically require the completion and passing score on GREs. However, some online graduate social work programs do not require a GRE for admission. We place precedence on these programs for admission processes that require one less step and measurement of future academic achievement.
Leave room for passion in your application with no GRE requirement.
Campus Visit Requirements
You are looking for online social work programs for a reason. Whether it's the flexibility that comes with the coursework or the learning environment. Required campus visits are typically paid for by you, the student, for on-campus courses, workshops or seminars. Programs that do not require on-campus visits allow you to attend top named schools from the comfort of your home or office.
You may find continued flexibility with no campus requirements.
Field Placement Support
Online MSW graduate programs that offer field placement teams to specifically meet the needs of online students across the country take priority in our list over those programs that do not. This service and resulting clinical experience is an integral part of your online master's in social work program for post-graduate licensure and practice. Ensuring that you are placed at a center, hospital or school closest to you can bring more value to your online social work program.
Specialized understanding of your locale and field placements.
The order in which they are organized is determined by the amount of factors that each online MSW program has met: live classes, offline accessible mobile app, no GRE requirement, no campus requirement and a field placement team available for online students. For any online master of social work degree program that meet the same number of factors, the universities are listed alphabetically.
For example, since Boise University's online MSW program has no live classes, required wifi for their mobile application, has no GRE requirement, needs no campus visits and has a team available for their online students, Boise meets three out of five factors.