The 20 Best Online Master of Social Work Degree Programs

An online MSW degree allows you to work in everything from government assistance programs to private psychological counseling. The increasingly popular online MSW programs make this degree even more attractive, adding convenience and flexibility to earning an MSW degree.

Online Master in Social Work degree programs include coursework and a clinical practice, typically performed in a student’s local community.

Students can select from full-time and part-time online Master of Social Work programs. Some schools offer accelerated online MSW programs.


Accredited Online Social Work Degree Programs


The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) provides accreditation to programs which meet rigorous standards designed by social work practitioners and educators. The standards make sure social work programs sufficiently prepare students for professional practice. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) recognizes the CSWE as the only accrediting agency for social work education in the United States.

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and social work licensing laws in most states require students to obtain their social work degree from a CSWE-accredited program.

Master’s degrees in Social Work typically help students develop basic and advanced practice skills. The programs typically offer clinical and nonclinical concentrations. The programs offer concentrations such as Policy Practice, Social Enterprise Administration, Children and Families, Human Services Management and Organizational Leadership, Clinical Social Work, and Social Leadership.

Advanced Standing Students
Students with a Bachelor in Social Work degree from a CSWE accredited program may receive advanced standing in a Master of Social Work program. Advanced standing can reduce graduate requirements to one year. The typical Master in Social Work degree program consists of the equivalent of two years of full-time study. Graduates of a BSW degree program do not have to attend the same school to acquire advanced standing status in a MSW program.


Online MSW Programs Field Education Requirements


Field education is an important part of a Master of Social Work program. The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), the accrediting organization for all higher education social work schools in the United States, requires MSW students to complete a generalist field education experience and an advanced field experience. The CSWE requires students complete a minimum of 900 hours of field education. In many MSW programs students complete 300 to 450 hours during their first/general year and complete the remaining hours during their clinical or concentration year.

MSW students typically complete field education concurrently with classes. Students enrolled in a traditional MSW program typically need 900 to 1,200 hours of field education, depending on the school, whereas students in an advanced standing program typically need from 450 to 1,000 hours of field education.

Students gain experience at a health services agency or other locations situated in their area. Students typically choose an agency based on their concentration or area of focus. They work with field instructors on the practical applications of social work. Field instructors need an MSW degree and they usually have at least two years of experience post-graduation.

MSW students gain experience at local locations such as:

  • Community organization
  • Mental health facility
  • Addiction treatment center
  • Charity organization
  • Hospital
  • Correctional facility
  • Medical care facility
  • Family council center

Social Worker License

Every state has adopted Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) licensing examinations. The four levels are master, bachelor, advanced generalist and clinical. Some states use all four exams, whereas some states require only one exam. Individuals interested in becoming a social worker should look for social work license requirements by state.

The National Association of Social Workers’ ACSW certification is not the same as licensing, rather it usually signifies accomplishment. However, some states have indicated they accept the credential as evidence an individual has met their own supervised practice requirements.

(Please see the social worker employment forecast, social worker wages, work settings, and a variety of social worker job titles below the list of schools.)


Online MSW Programs Ranking Guidelines


 
We selected the degree programs based on the quality of the program, types of courses provided, faculty strength, school awards, rankings and reputation, including the reputation for providing online degree programs.

 

The Best Online Master in Social Work Degree Programs

 


1. Columbia University, Columbia School of Social Work (New York, NY) 


Columbia University, a private, Ivy League, research university established in 1754, is the oldest college in the state. The university has about 28,000 students enrolled in programs across 20 schools, including the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the School of General Studies.

The Columbia School of Social Work’s online Master of Social Work degree provides students the knowledge, professional values and skills to promote social justice and human rights. The nationwide program combines real-world practice with academic theory.

The college offers four MSW programs for online students – a full-time Two-Year program, an Extended program, a Reduced Residency program and an Advanced Standing program.

Extended Program students take a reduced course load the first year, allowing them to work at the same time. Extended Program students can take up to four years to earn their degree.

The Reduced Residency program is open to students employed in a human service organization working in direct practice. Students take a reduced course load the first two years, allowing them to continue working. They also complete 900 hours of field education their third year.

Designed for students who hold a bachelor’s degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited program, the Advanced Standing Program allows students to complete the program in one year. Students complete at least 33 credits at Columbia. Advanced Standing students cannot pursue the Law Minor option.

Classes are synchronous, and students must log on at set times.

Online students must complete a week-long group exercise – the Capstone Integrative Project – at the New York City campus during their final year.

All students must enroll full-time during the field education portion of the program.

MSW students can choose from four concentrations – Advanced Generalist Practice & Programming, Policy Practice, Advanced Clinical Social Work Practice, and Social Enterprise Administration.

Students choose from these fields of practice: Aging; Family, Youth & Children’s Services; International Social Welfare and Services to Immigrants and Refugees; World of Work; Contemporary Social Issues; Health, Mental Health & Disabilities, and School-Based and School-Linked Services.

The university offers several dual degrees and minors.

The 60-credit online MSW program includes required courses in social welfare policy and services, human behavior and the social environment, social work practice, and research.

Students complete 1,200 total hours of field education (except Reduced Residency students who complete 900). Field Education Department staff determine students’ first-year placement sites, while chosen concentration and field practice determine the second-year placement.

The program prepares students for the licensed clinical social worker exam.

Columbia University holds accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The Council of Social Work Education provides accreditation to Columbia University’s programs.


2. University of Southern California, School of Social Work (Los Angeles, CA) 


The University of Southern California, a private, nonsectarian research university established in 1880, is the oldest private research university in the state. The university enrolls more than 42,000 students and offers a variety of undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs.

Offered through the School of Social Work, the online Master of Social Work degree program allows students to develop a common base of skills, knowledge and values through issues, theories and practice methods. The program combines web-based learning and hands-on field instruction. The MSW program’s curriculum emphasizes leadership and effective collaboration; early intervention, prevention and wellness; and implications of new neuroscience findings.

Students pursue one of three Departments of Study — Children, Youth and Families; Adults and Aging; or Community, Organization and Business Innovation.

Students also can choose from five concentration options – Families and Children; Mental Health; Social Work and Business in a Global Society; Health; and Community Organization, Planning and Administration.

Students can pursue a sub-concentration in military social work.

The program features asynchronous and synchronous elements.

Students can complete the program on a full-time or part-time basis.

The 60-unit online Master’s in Social Work program includes courses in:

  • Human Behavior and the Social Environment
  • Science of Social Work
  • Social Work Practice with Individuals, Families and Groups
  • Policy and Advocacy in Professional Social Work

Through Virtual Field Practicum and Community-Based Field Placement, MSW students complete more than 1,000 hours of field education both offline and online. The university recommends students do not work full-time while completing field hours.
Each student works with a field placement coordinator who finds placements for the student.

Full-time students can earn their degree in four semesters.

The University of Southern California offers a 37-credit Advanced Standing MSW for students who hold a bachelor’s degree in social work. Full-time students can complete the program in three semesters.

The Western Association of Schools and Colleges provides accreditation to the University of Southern California. The university’s social work programs also hold CSWE accreditation.


3. Case Western Reserve University, Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences (Cleveland, OH) 


Case Western Reserve University, a private university founded in 1826, enrolls more than 10,000 students from around the world. The university offers a host of bachelor, master and doctoral degrees in topics such as accounting, nursing, management and medicine, through nine schools and colleges.

Offered through the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, the online Master of Science in Social Administration program provides graduates with practical knowledge necessary for careers in social work. The program integrates coursework and hands-on field education. The Master in Science in Social Administration degree is equivalent to a Master in Social Work degree.

The university offers two tracks – a Traditional Track for students without a bachelor’s degree in social work and an Advanced Standing Track for students with a BSW.

Students in the Traditional Track complete 60 credits over 8 semesters and typically earn their degree in 2 ½ years.

Students in the Advanced Standing Track with full Advanced Standing status complete 36 credits over six semesters and earn their degree in about two years.

Regardless of the track, Master’s in Social Administration students complete 12 credit hours of field education courses. Program applicants must submit a field education plan.

Once field education begins, students average 10 to 12 hours per week of field education.

MSSA students choose from three concentrations – Direct Practice: Children, Youth and Families, Direct Practice: Adult Mental Health, and Community Practice for Social Change.

Course topics include globalization, poverty and inequality, physical abuse, community-based mental health, drug treatment and public health.

The same faculty teach the university’s on-campus and online courses.

The program features synchronous live sessions.

The university is authorized to operate post-secondary distance education in all 50 U.S. states.

Case Western Reserve University received accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. The university’s social work programs also hold Council on Social Work Education accreditation.


4. Fordham University, Graduate School of Social Service (New York, NY) 


Fordham University, a private, co-educational, non-profit, Jesuit university founded in 1841, enrolls about 15,200 students. The university awards a variety of bachelor, master and doctoral degrees through 10 colleges.

Fordham University offers an online Master of Social Work degree through its Graduate School of Social Service. Open to students in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, the program combines classroom instruction with real-world experience. The program prepares graduates to provide social work services to people, families, groups and communities.

Students can tailor the degree to their personal and professional goals with concentrations in clinical or leadership and macro practice.

The MSW program includes courses in:

  • Human Rights and Social Justice
  • Human Behavior and the Social Environment
  • Social Work Practice in Research
  • Generalist Social Work Practice with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations and Communities
  • Social Policy: Human Rights Policy Analysis, Advocacy and Practice
  • Social Policy: Policy and the Profession

Classes follow an asynchronous format, allowing students flexibility to complete coursework on their schedule.

Students can pursue the degree on a full-time or part-time basis and can complete the program in two to four years.

Fordham offers an Advanced Standing option for transfer students and those with a bachelor’s degree in Social Work from an accredited program and successful field experience. Students following the Advanced Standing plan of study can complete the program in less than two years.

The same faculty teach the online and on-campus courses.

Fordham University hosts a new student orientation at its Manhattan campus, but online students can instead opt to take a virtual orientation.

The Field Instruction Department places students in an agency within their geographical area for the fieldwork portion of the program. Students complete 1,200 hours of field work over two years.

Fordham University received accreditation from the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, the social work programs also hold CSWE accreditation.


5. Rutgers University-New Brunswick, School of Social Work (New Brunswick, NJ) 


Rutgers University – New Brunswick, a public, land-grant university founded in 1766, enrolls about 41,000 students and boasts more than 400,000 alumni worldwide. The flagship campus of Rutgers University, New Brunswick offers more than 100 undergraduate majors and more than 200 graduate programs, including those in communication, public policy and engineering.

Rutgers University’s School of Social Work offers a Master of Social Work online degree which helps students hone their critical-thinking, analytical and problem-solving skills. The curriculum also allows students to develop knowledge of difference and diversity to strengthen families and communities, as well as to advocate for social work and health and human services.
With nationally recognized faculty, research and a network of organizations and alumni, the school of Social Work strives to prepare students to become global leaders in the field.

The 60-credit online Social Work Master’s degree includes the following courses:

  • Social Work Practice
  • Clinical Social Work
  • Methods of Social Work Research
  • Diversity and Oppression
  • Social Welfare Policy and Services
  • Advanced Human Behavior
  • Psychopathology

Students can complete their degree in three years. Students with a bachelor in Social Work degree from a CSWE accredited institution may complete their degree in two years.

Rutgers University’s online MSW classes follow an asynchronous format with scheduled assignments and deadlines.

The Rutgers University School of Social Work also offers a blended online master’s program, featuring courses offered both online and at one of Rutgers University’s three convenient campuses.

Students complete two field placements for a total of 1,125 field hours. Advanced Standing students complete 885 field hours. Faculty members work to match a student’s vision for their social work education and areas of interest with field education placements.

The online MSW program features a concentration in Clinical Social Work. Students in the blended online MSW program may choose a clinical or management and policy specialization. The university also offers study abroad opportunities and a certificate in Violence Against Women and Children (VAWC).

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education provides accreditation to Rutgers. The social work programs received CSWE accreditation.


6. Virginia Commonwealth University, School of Social Work (Richmond, VA) 


Virginia Commonwealth University, a public research university founded in 1838, enrolls more than 31,000 students. The university offers more than 60 bachelor’s degree programs, more than 110 master and doctoral programs as well as three first-professional degree programs and a host of certificate programs.

The university’s distance education Master of Social Work degree features intensive coursework, field experience and research. Through courses in social and economic justice, social policy and human behavior theory, students develop the foundation needed to work in a host of social work settings. The curriculum also helps students hone their critical-thinking and decision-making skills and ethics.

Students can earn their MSW online degree in four years.

Distance education students must attend two in-person Saturday classes per semester at the School of Social Work. They also must attend a first-year in-person orientation.

MSW students choose from concentrations in Clinical Social Work Practice or Social Work Administration, Planning and Policy Practice.

Students also complete two field placements – a foundation placement and a placement based on their specialization and career interests. The university assigns placements in agencies in Virginia or the Washington, D.C. area.

The 60-credit-hour MSW online program includes courses, such as:

  • Social Work and Social Justice
  • Policy, Community and Organizational Practice
  • Human Behavior and the Social Environment
  • Mental, Emotional and Behavioral Disorders
  • Research for Social Work Practice
  • Social Work Practice with Individuals, Families and Groups

The university offers a one-year Advanced Standing program for applicants who hold a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work. The full-time program allows students to complete 42 credit hours over three continuous semesters. They also complete one field
placement.

Virginia Commonwealth University holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The Council on Social Work Education provides accreditation to its social work programs.


7. Boston University, School of Social Work (Boston, MA) 

 
Boston University, a private, nonsectarian, research university founded in 1839, enrolls about 33,000 students. Affiliated with the United Methodist Church, Boston University offers a variety of bachelor, master, doctoral and professional degrees through 18 colleges and schools.

Offered through the School of Social Work, the Master of Social Work online degree program helps students develop the skills and knowledge to address the potentials and needs of people, families, groups, communities and organizations. Designed to further social and economic justice, the curriculum emphasizes ethics, diversity and at-risk populations.

Students can choose from concentrations in Clinical Social Work Practice and Macro Social Work Practice, allowing them to tailor the degree to their personal and professional goals.

The university offers the online program in three tracks – the Traditional MSW, the Human Service Experience, and an Advanced Standing track.

The Traditional Track consists of 65 credits over three years as well as two field internships.

The Human Service Experience Track, open to those with at least two years of supervised human services experience, consists of 65 credits over three years and one 1,000-hour field internship. Students in this track also complete a two-credit capstone course.

Students attend live classroom sessions on Sunday or Monday nights.

The Advanced Standing track, open to applicants who hold a Bachelor’s in Social Work degree from a CSWE-accredited program, consists of 40 to 43 credits and a 1,000-hour field internship.

Students complete their field internships near their geographical area. The college collaborates with students to select field placement locations.

The online MSW degree program is open to U.S. students in all states, except New Hampshire and Maryland.

The online MSW program includes courses in:

  • Social Welfare Policy
  • Human Behavior in the Social Environment
  • Racial Justice & Cultural Intersectionality of Oppression
  • Social Work Research
  • Social Work Ethics
  • Communities and Organizations
  • Clinical Practice with Individuals

The New England Association of Schools and Colleges provides Boston University with accreditation. The Master in Social Work program also received accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education.


8. Indiana University, School of Social Work (Indianapolis, IN) 


Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis, a public research university founded in 1969, enrolls about 30,000 students. Part of the Indiana University and Purdue University systems, the university offers more than 200 programs leading to a variety of undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees.

Indiana University, School of Social Work offers an online Advanced Generalist MSW degree, which prepares graduates for social work practice with people, families, organizations, groups and communities. Students receive a strong liberal arts foundation with an emphasis on ethics and values.

Online students attend an online orientation.

The university offers full-time and part-time options, as well as an accelerated program. Students can take up to five years to complete the program.

The MSW online program features courses with both synchronous and asynchronous elements.

The MSW program consists of 60 credit hours and two field practicum experiences (960 hours of field work).

The School of Social Work offers Advanced Standing status to applicants with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from a CSWE-accredited program. Advanced Standing students complete 39 credit hours and one field practica (240 hours of field work) to earn their MSW.

Students can individualize their advanced year coursework through selecting from a menu of Advanced Interventions and Advanced Topics Analysis courses.

The MSW online program includes the following Advanced Intervention courses:

  • Social Action for Community Change
  • Interventions with Families
  • Interventions with Adults
  • Interventions with Groups
  • Crisis Intervention

The MSW online program provides the following Advanced Topics Analysis courses:

  • Nature and Treatment of Alcohol and Drug Problems
  • Social Services to Children, Youth, & Families
  • Dual disorders
  • Advanced Policy Development & Analysis
  • Community Social Work
  • Administration & Management
  • Mental Health & Disability Social Work
  • Health & Disability Social Work
  • Aging Populations and their Families
  • Assessment and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect

The Higher Learning Commission provides accreditation to Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis. The Council on Social Work Education also provides accreditation to the social work programs.


9. University at Buffalo SUNY, School of Social Work (Buffalo, NY) 


The State University of New York at Buffalo, a public research university founded in 1846, offers more than 300 bachelor and master degree programs as well as 84 doctoral and 10 professional programs through more than a dozen schools and colleges. A member of the State University of New York system, the university is the largest in the SUNY system with more than 29,000 students enrolled.

The University at Buffalo’s School of Social Work offers several Social Work degrees, including an online Master’s in Social Work degree as well as on-campus PhD in Social Welfare and MSW/PhD Social Welfare Dual Degree programs. Rooted in evidence-based practice, the Master’s in Social Work program integrates human rights and trauma-informed perspectives. The curriculum also includes courses in social welfare history and policy, diversity and oppression, and theories of human and organizational behavior and development.

Students can tailor the degree program to their goals and interests with a host of elective course options.

The 60-credit online MSW program includes courses, such as:

  • Theories of Human Behavior and Development
  • Scientific Methods in Social Work
  • Evaluation in Social Work
  • Social Welfare History and Policy
  • Diversity and Oppression
  • Theories of Organizational Behavior and Development
  • Perspectives on Trauma and Human Rights
  • Social Action for Community Change

Students also complete two field placements – for a minimum of 900 hours — in their geographical area.

The university offers an online 35-credit Advanced Standing MSW program for students who hold a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from a CSWE-accredited program. Advanced Standing students complete one 480-hour field placement.

The university offers both the traditional online MSW and Advanced Standing MSW programs on a part-time basis. Students can complete the MSW program in three years and the advanced MSW program in one and a half years.

Online courses feature asynchronous and synchronous elements.

Students who choose to enroll in the MSW/PhD Social Welfare Dual Degree program, first earn their MSW, then move on to advanced analysis and research opportunities of the doctoral program.

Students pursuing a PhD in Social Welfare or the MSW/PhD Social Welfare Dual Degree program must complete a research internship and dissertation.

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education provides accreditation to the University at Buffalo SUNY and the social work programs also hold accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education.


10. Arizona State University, ASU Online, School of Social Work (Phoenix, AZ) 


Arizona State University (ASU), a public, research university founded in 1885, offers more than 800 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, including more than 130 online programs through ASU Online. Among the largest public universities in the nation, ASU enrolls about 98,000 students.

Arizona State University offers an online Master in Social Work degree through ASU School of Social Work and ASU Online. The program helps students develop strong problem-solving skills. The curriculum, focused on Advanced Generalist studies, pairs research evidence with effective service strategies and practices.

The MSW degree program includes courses in organizational and community change; human behavior and research; social policy; and direct practice.

Online MSW students complete a set sequence of courses. The 45-credit-hour to 60-credit-hour program includes two professional seminars and 960 hours of hands-on field education.

Students work with the Field Education Office to find field assignments within their geographical area.

ASU offers several enrollment sessions each year and accelerated 7.5-week courses.

MSW applicants must have completed 240 hours of volunteer and/or work experience in social services during a six-month period in the last five years.

The Higher Learning Commission provides Arizona State University with accreditation. The university’s social work program holds accreditation from the CSWE.


11. University of Tennessee–Knoxville, College of Social Work (Knoxville, TN) 


The University of Tennessee – Knoxville, a public, land-grant, sun-grant university founded in 1794, enrolls about 28,000 students from around the world. The flagship of the University of Tennessee system, the university offers more than 300 degree programs leading to bachelor, master and doctoral degrees through 11 colleges.

The University of Tennessee – Knoxville’s College of Social Work offers an online Master of Science in Social Work degree, which prepares graduates to address the needs of people, families, communities and society. The MSSW degree program combines coursework with hands-on internship experiences. The program prepares graduates for careers in hospitals, non-profit agencies, prisons, community health centers and more.

Students can choose from concentrations in Organizational Leadership or Evidence-Based Interpersonal Practice to tailor the degree to their personal and professional goals.

The same professors teach the university’s on-campus and online programs. Five of the senior professors are invited fellows of prestigious national academies of practice.

Online Master of Science in Social Work students choose from three courses of study – an Online Advanced Standing program, an Online Full-Time program and an Online Extended Study program.

The advanced study program is open to individuals with a BSW or BSSW from a CSWE-accredited program. The program consists of 36 semester hours and a 672-hour field placement. Students can complete the program in 12 to 24 months.
The 60-semester-hour full-time program includes two field placements, for a total of 1,024 field hours. Students can complete the program in two years.

The extended study program, which consists of 60 credit hours and 1,024 field hours, allows students to study part-time and earn their degree in three or four years.

The online MSSW program includes courses, such as:

  • Social Work and Social Welfare Policies and Programs
  • Social, Economic and Political Environments
  • Foundation Research
  • Lifespan and Neurophysiologic Development
  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy
  • Introduction to Social Work Practice
  • Beyond Combat: Military Social Work Practice
  • Culturally Relevant Practice with Diverse Populations
  • Students complete a thesis or comprehensive exam.

The coordinator of field services facilitates student field placements in the students’ geographical area.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools provides University of Tennessee – Knoxville with accreditation. The university’s social work programs also hold CSWE accreditation.


12. University of Louisville, Kent School of Social Work (Louisville, KY) 


The University of Louisville, a public university founded in 1798, enrolls more than 22,000 students from around the world. A member of the Kentucky state university system, the university offers 170 fields of study leading to a host of bachelor, master and doctoral degrees.

The University of Louisville’s Kent School of Social Work offers an online Master of Science in Social Work degree, which prepares students to help make positive changes and promote social justice. The curriculum focuses on health and mental health; community and international practice; and children and families. The MSSW program also helps students develop strong critical-thinking and decision-making skills.

The University of Louisville offers two online MSSW options – the standard 60-credit-hour program and the advanced standing 30-credit-hour program. The advanced standing program is open to applicants who hold a BSW.

Online MSSW students can choose an online specialization – Mental Health, Psychology Oncology, Alcohol and Drug Counseling, Gerontology or Military Social Work.

Students must complete a Practicum Placement of 450 hours per year in their home state. Students collaborate with the Director of Field Education to select possible practicum placements.

The online MSSW program includes courses, such as:

  • Human Behavior and the Social Environment
  • Advanced Social Work Practice
  • Social Justice Practice
  • Issues in Policy and Service Delivery
  • Research Methodology and Design
  • Mental Health
  • Death and Grief
  • Military Social Work

The Online MSSW program is not available to students in Delaware, Iowa, Minnesota, North Carolina or Oregon.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools provides the University of Louisville with accreditation. The Kent School of Social Work’s programs also received CSWE accreditation.


13. Florida State University, College of Social Work (Tallahassee, FL) 


Florida State University, a public, sea-grant, space-grant, research university founded in 1851, enrolls about 41,700 students. A member of the State University System of Florida, the university offers more than 360 programs of study from undergraduate to professional degrees through 16 colleges.

Offered through its College of Social Work, Florida State University’s online Master of Social Work degree prepares students to work with diverse client problems and systems. The part-time program’s curriculum helps students develop the skills needed to assess, diagnose and treat psychosocial problems. Students also learn to work with other human service professionals to help clients.

Florida State University offers two MSW programs – an Advanced Standing program for students who hold a BSW from an accredited program; and a Traditional program.

The university offers the Advanced Standing program in an asynchronous format, while the Traditional program requires four weekends of skills-building sessions. Students attend the sessions within driving distance of the university’s coverage areas.

The university offers the online MSW program in Alabama, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and South Dakota.

The Traditional program consists of 61 credit hours. Students can earn their degree in nine semesters.

The Traditional MSW program includes the following courses:

  • The Social Work Profession
  • Social Welfare Policy and Services
  • Social Work Practice\
  • Introduction to Social Work Research
  • Social Work Practice with Groups and Communities
  • Human Behavior and the Social Environment

The Advanced MSW program consists of 39 credit hours. Students can earn their degree in two years.

The Advanced program includes the following core courses:

  • Psychopathology in Clinical Practice
  • Theories and Practice of Crisis Intervention
  • Evaluation of Social Work Practice
  • Integrative Seminar in Advanced Social Work Practice

All MSW students complete field placement hours; the Office of Field Education works with students to place them in agencies suited to their goals and interests.

MSW students must complete the program in four years.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools provides Florida State University with accreditation. The university’s social work programs also hold CSWE accreditation.


14. Catholic University of America, National Catholic School of Social Service (Washington, D.C.) 


The Catholic University of America, a private, pontifical university of the Catholic Church established in 1887, enrolls about 6,500 students. The university offers a host of undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees.

The online Clinical Master of Social Work degree program prepares graduates for careers in mental health, substance abuse, child welfare and more. Offered through the university’s National Catholic School of Social Work, the online MSW degree program helps students develop the skills needed to maintain and enhance the psychological, spiritual and physical well-being of people, families and groups. The curriculum emphasizes theory in evidence-based practice.

The 54-credit online Clinical Master of Social Work program includes courses, such as:

  • Clinical Social Work with Adults
  • Human Behavior and the Social Environment
  • Social Welfare Policy and Services
  • Psychodynamic Theory and Social Functioning
  • Evaluation of Social Work Practice
  • Diversity in a Multicultural Society
  • Cognitive Behavioral Theory and Social Functioning

Online MSW students complete a field placement; students work with faculty to identify field placement agencies and organizations.

The university offers an Advanced Standing online MSW program for students who hold a Bachelor’s in Social Work degree from a CSWE-accredited program.

The Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools provides the Catholic University of America with accreditation. The Council on Social Work Education also provides accreditation to the university’s social work programs.


15. Simmons College, Simmons School of Social Work (Boston, MA) 


Simmons College, a private women-focused undergraduate college and co-educational graduate school established in 1899, enrolls about 5,000 students. The college offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in topics such as management, nursing and library science.

The Simmons School of Social Work offers an online MSW with a clinical focus. The program helps students develop skills to formulate bio-psycho-social assessments and treatment plans. Students learn to work with community providers and they gain experience in case management and advocacy.

The online MSW students can customize an Individualized Course of Study or choose from four specializations — Child and Family; Mental Health and Addictions; Trauma and Interpersonal Violence; and Health and Aging.

Students who pursue the Individualized Course of Study choose advanced clinical courses based on their professional goals and personal interests.

Simmons students can complete the 65-credit online MSW program on an accelerated, four terms; full-time, six terms; or extended, eight terms, basis.

The college also offers a 37-credit Advanced Standing option for students who hold a BSW from a Council on Social Work Education-accredited program. Advanced Standing students can earn their degree in four terms.

MSW courses include:

  • Social Welfare Policy and Services
  • Social Work Research
  • Social Work Practice
  • Assessment and Diagnosis
  • Dynamics of Racism and Oppression
  • Social Work with Groups
  • Human Behavior in the Social Environment

Students must complete a capstone course and field education.

Students work with a placement team to find internship sites near their communities that also meet their career interests and goals.

Students in the full-time, extended and accelerated MSW programs complete two field education placements.

Simmons College received accreditation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges Inc. The Simmons School of Social Work holds accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education.


16. University of Houston, Graduate College of Social Work (Houston, TX) 


The University of Houston, a public university founded in 1927, is among the largest universities in the state, with about 43,000 students enrolled. The flagship of the University of Houston System, the university offers more than 280 degree programs. University of Houston, located in America’s fourth largest city, is the second most racially/ethnically diverse university in the nation.

The GCSW Master of Social Work online degree prepares students to become diverse leaders in practice and research to address complex challenges and achieve sustainable social, racial, economic, and political justice, locally and globally, through education, innovative research, and community engagement.

The 63-semester-credit-hour online MSW degree provides a strong foundation in social work practice. Students complete a Clinical Concentration and can choose electives tailored to specific interests with the option to earn an additional specialization in Health and Behavioral Health. Students who hold a BSW degree can apply for Advanced Standing status.

Online MSW students are introduced to the social work community via a college-wide summer reading assignment that highlights social justice issues simultaneously building a sense of community among the cohort.

The school utilizes faculty videos, alumni interviews, and synchronous book discussions to emphasize social justice issues locally and globally.

Online students work with a dedicated online field coordinator to match students with opportunities to complete their field hours within their interests.

Primarily asynchronous, the cohort-based online program offers many synchronous elements via web conferencing and live streaming of special events.

Most students earn their degree in two and half to three years.

The 63-semester-credit-hour MSW degree includes the following specializations:

  • Foundations of the Social Work Profession
  • Health & Behavioral Health
  • Social Work Practice with Latinos
  • Political Social Work
  • Individualized

MSW students complete a minimum of 900 hours of field work. Students work with Field Education Office staff to identify agencies for their field hours.

Online students complete a Clinical Concentration. Students can earn a Health and Behavioral Health specialization.

The university offers an Advanced Standing MSW program to students who hold a BSW degree.

The University of Houston does not offer the Online MSW degree to students in Hawaii, California, Utah, Wisconsin, Kentucky, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Delaware, Connecticut or Massachusetts.

The University of Houston holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The social work programs also received CSWE accreditation.


17. Portland State University, School of Social Work (Portland, OR) 


Portland State University, a public, coeducational, non-profit university founded in 1946, enrolls more than 28,000 students. The university offers undergraduate and post-graduate degrees in 240 disciplines, including those in business, education and public affairs.

Offered through the School of Social Work, Portland State University’s Master of Social Work online degree program provides students with the values, knowledge and skills to serve people and families as well as influence social policy.

Through a combination of coursework and field education, the Social Work Master’s degree program prepares graduates for careers in human services administration, community practice, advocacy and policy practice. The program also helps students develop strong leadership and communication skills.

The 78-credit MSW online degree program follows a cohort model and contains synchronous elements.

Courses include:

  • Social Justice in Social Work
  • Societal, Community and Organizational Structures and Processes
  • Human Development Through the Lifespan
  • Social Work Advocacy and Empowerment
  • Skills for the Helping Process – Individuals and Families
  • Practice and Leadership with Communities and Organizations (Advanced Practice)
  • Racial Disparities: Analysis & Action for Social Work
  • Substance Use, Abuse & Addition and Social Work Practice
  • Poverty: Policies and Programs
  • Supervision
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Health Policies
  • Perspectives on Mental Health
  • Trauma Informed Care
  • Fund Development & Grant Writing
  • Anti-Oppressive Practice
  • Community & Organizational Research

Online students complete the Community and Organizational Leadership practice concentration.

Online students must visit the Portland campus for two days each year. Online students must attend a two-day program orientation in year one and a one-day required field orientation in year two on PSU’s campus in Portland, Oregon.

Students complete 500 hours per year of field work; students work with field faculty to identify field placement agencies in their communities.

Students can earn their degree in three years.

The university does not offer an online advanced standing MSW option.

The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities provides accreditation to Portland State University. The School of Social Work’s MSW program received CSWE accreditation.


18. University of Alabama, School of Social Work (Tuscaloosa, AL) 


The University of Alabama, a public, sea-grant, space-grant research university founded in 1820, is among the largest and oldest public universities in the state. The flagship of the University of Alabama System, the university enrolls about 37,600 students across 117 programs of study leading to bachelor, master, doctoral and education specialist degrees.

The University of Alabama offers an online Master of Social Work through its School of Social Work. The curriculum prepares graduates to promote social justice and improve social conditions. The MSW program helps students increase their knowledge of social problems and solutions.

Online MSW students choose from concentrations in Children, Adolescents and their Families; or Adults and their Families.

The MSW program consists of online courses as well as face-to-face skills labs on select Saturdays in Alabama.

The 60-credit-hour MSW program includes courses such as:

  • Social Welfare Policy
  • Social Work Practice with Individuals and Families
  • Social Work Practice with Groups
  • Human Behavior and Social Environments
  • Social Welfare Advanced Policy Analysis
  • Practice in Health Care
  • Family Preservation
  • Crisis Intervention

Students must complete 1,000 clock hours of field practicum.

The university offers a 42-credit-hour Advanced Standing program for applicants who hold a Bachelor’s in Social Work degree from a CSWE-accredited program. Students complete 500 clock hours of field work.

Students must attend orientation sessions and can complete the program on a full-time or part-time basis.

The University of Alabama received accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The social work programs hold CSWE accreditation.


19. University of Missouri, College of Human Environmental Sciences, School of Social Work (Columbia, MO) 


The University of Missouri, a public, land-grant research university founded in 1839, is among the largest universities in the state with more than 32,000 students enrolled. The flagship of the University of Missouri System, the university offers more than 300 degree programs through 19 colleges.

The University of Missouri’s College of Human Environmental Sciences and School of Social Work offers an online Social Work Master’s degree program. Designed for students who hold a Bachelor of Social Work degree, the curriculum builds on students’ undergraduate education and prepares them for leadership opportunities. The program prepares graduates for careers in direct intervention with people, families, groups and communities as well as policy making and advocacy practice in social service organizations.

MSW students choose from concentrations in Policy, Planning and Administration or Advanced Clinical Practice.

The 39-credit-hour advanced standing MSW program includes the following courses:

  • Social Policy and Service Delivery in Social Work
  • Professional Social Work Practice
  • Social Work Skills
  • Foundations of Human Behavior
  • Large Group Therapy
  • Research Design in Social Work
  • Social Justice Seminar

Students complete a 680-clock-hour field practicum.

The part-time program features asynchronous elements with weekly assignments.

The School of Social Work accepts applications for the online Master’s degree in Social Work from students in Missouri, Nebraska, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois and Kansas.

The university offers students without a BSW an off-campus Master of Social Work degree program which combines on-site meetings and online coursework.

The University of Missouri holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. The Council on Social Work Education provides accreditation to the university’s social work programs.


20. Colorado State University, Fort Collins, College of Health & Human Sciences, School of Social Work (Fort Collins, CO) 


Colorado State University, a public, land-grant research university founded in 1870, enrolls about 32,000 students. The flagship university of the Colorado State University System, the school offers 120 areas of study leading to bachelor and master degrees as well as 40 doctoral programs and a professional degree in veterinary medicine.

Offered through the College of Health & Human Services and the School of Social Work, the Master of Social Work online degree features an advanced generalist curriculum. MSW students learn to promote global well-being as well as human rights. The program also helps students develop skills to integrate research into practice and lead client-centered, research-based interventions.

Students must attend a weekend class twice each semester at their cohort’s location in Colorado Springs or Denver.

MSW students can pursue certificates in PreK-12 School Social Worker or Advanced Clinical Behavioral Health to tailor their degree.

Colorado State University offers a 62-credit MSW degree and a 45-credit Advanced Standing degree program. The Advanced Standing program is open to students who hold a bachelor’s degree in social work.

Students can complete the traditional program in three years and the advanced standing program in two years.

The Master’s degree in Social Work includes courses such as:

  • Theoretical Foundations for Social Work
  • Principles and Philosophy of Social Work
  • Social Welfare Policy Analysis
  • Methods of Research
  • Macro-Level Social Work Practice Research
  • Small Client Systems Skills Laboratory

Students must complete a field placement – 945 hours for students in the traditional program and 675 hours for Advanced Standing students. Students complete their field hours in their community.

The Higher Learning Commission provides Colorado State University with accreditation. The social work programs also hold CSWE accreditation.


References

  1. The Best Colleges. (2017). 5 Best Online Master of Social Work Degree Programs for 2017. [online] Available at: http://www.thebestcolleges.org/top-online-social-work-degrees/
  2. The 25 Best Online Master of Social Work Degree Programs | The Best Schools. [online] The Best Schools. Available at: http://www.thebestschools.org/rankings/best-online-master-social-work-degree-programs/.
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