Earning a master’s degree in social work, or MSW, gives you a degree with great versatility. You may work in fields from government assistance programs to local social services offices to even psychological counseling.
And now, many MSW programs are offered online, so this makes getting your graduate degree in social work even more attractive. As with traditional, campus-based programs, online MSW programs include a clinical component where you work in social work for one or two semesters. However, you can do this clinical work in your local area, so it is possible to continue to work full time and earn your master’s degree.
Featured Online MSW Programs
If you are seriously interested in earning this online degree, below are five of the best online MSW programs to consider:
#1 University School of Southern California
The School of Social Work at USC was one of the very first top research universities to offer the MSW program online. It is available around the US through the university’s Virtual Academic Center. It will engage students in all types of web-based learning activities, as well as hands-on field instruction where the student lives. It is taught by some of the best teachers and leaders in the field of social work, and the online program has the same academic rigor as the on campus program. It is a synchronous as well as asynchronous program, in that there are some parts where the student must be online at an exact time, and also other parts which can be done on the student’s own schedule. Overall, MSW students here enjoy a highly stimulating academic experience without ever coming to campus
Tuition costs for all students in this MSW program is $23,781 for the entire two years.
#2 Florida State University
Florida State University was one of the pioneers in online MSW education, and was one of the first in the US. Students who do not have a bachelor’s degree in social work can earn their degree online in two years. Coursework is largely asynchronous, but the program also does require students to attend campus for four weekends during the two years. These intense weekend sessions are available in locations that are within driving distance of one of three campuses, including Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Gainesville and Panama City. The MSW program with a clinical concentration offers you the chance to prepare for advanced, clinical social work practice, with many types of clients in many community settings.
Tuition costs for all students in this MSW program is $479 per credit in state, and $1077 out of state.
#3 Boston University
For almost 100 years, Boston University School of Social Work has been strongly committed to education that increases social and economic justice, while empowering groups that have been oppressed in the past. The online Master of Social Work program gives a whole new generation of social workers the chance to earn their online degree from a university that is internationally recognized. Boston University also is one of the most highly respected private research universities in the US. The online program at BU is part time, and offers a concentration in clinical social work practice. It is made for highly motivated students who want to expand their social work skills and knowledge, advance professionally and be eligible for licensure.
Tuition costs for all students in this MSW program at Boston University is $705 per credit hour.
#4 Indiana University
The online, Advanced Generalist MSW at Indiana University prepares the student to become highly skilled in many social worker roles with single people, families, groups and communities, all within highly diverse systems and settings. Graduates of this master’s program are able to work as highly effective clinicians, supervisors, community organizers, advocates and policy analysts. There also are several electives available that allow the student to gain specialized knowledge in many different areas of social work. Whatever electives the student selects, she will be able to practice in rural, suburban and stressed urban areas. The online program is the same in intensity and quality as the on campus program
Tuition costs for all students in this MSW program at Indiana University is $37,500 in state and $45,500 out of state.
#5 University of Louisville
The Kent School of Social Work at the University of Louisville has been a leader in the social work field since 1936. And now, its highly regarded MSW is offered completely online. This university is strongly committed to teaching the most educated and talented social workers, the goal being to promote social justice and to bring positive change to the field of social work. After graduation, students obtain a much deeper and complex understanding of this growing field, This well rounded education allows the student to critically evaluate and contemplate the course material and use it in many areas of social work. Skills and knowledge in this program focus on families and children, health and mental health, and community and international practice.
Tuition costs for all students in this MSW program at the University of Louisville is $693 per semester.
Attending any one of these five well regarded, online MSW programs will be sure propel your social work career to the highest level.
Selection Criteria for MSW Programs Ideal for Public Health Workers
The quality of any social work degree program rests on the academic standards of the department that offers it. The qualifications of the faculty, the research and reference resources available, the subjects covered in the curriculum, the standards for administrative support and evaluation… these are all aspects of your degree program that you really want to know are nailed down.
That’s why accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) is a crucial criteria behind the schools on this list. As the specialty accreditation agency for public health programs recognized by the U.S. Department of Education since 1974, CSWE evaluates MSW programs according to the unique demands and core competencies required.
Although the CSWE accreditation process covers the basic skills and qualifications that a public health program must require of faculty, there’s plenty of room above that baseline for schools to distinguish themselves. We sought out programs who have faculty with genuine on-the-ground experience and expertise in the field who are active in making important contributions both academically and in the real world.
Even though cost was not our primary consideration in developing this top picks list, it’s always something to look at when considering what school to pick for a master of social work degree. So while we chose only schools that are the very best in the field, we let you know what the costs will look like so you can choose something that is not only excellent, but affordable.
The top schools in public health don’t hide their light under a bushel; usually we’re not the only ones who have figured out they belong on lists like this. We consider the opinions of other popular third-party rankings, such as those from The Princeton Review, U.S. News & World Report, or the Economist. Chances are good that a school we’ve found at the top of the spectrum has also been well-reviewed by one or more of them.
Just like public health practice, social work is a hands-on business, and a credible MSW program should give you the opportunity to go out and experience the gritty realities on the ground working with the kind of populations you will be dealing with professionally. This kind of experience is critical for the kind of practical, well-rounded graduates that the field demands, and some schools do a better job of planning, supporting, and placing students in experiential positions than others. The programs on this list are all at the top of their game when it comes to putting you into relevant, realistic, and well-supported placements where you can learn from practicing professionals while dealing with real-world problems in social work.
When looking at online programs, there is a whole set of considerations that we apply beyond the basics required of any public health program. Is the remote program synchronous or asynchronous? Do you have the same access to faculty as on campus students? What kind of technical support is offered? How do experiential learning requirements and research opportunities fit in? These are all aspect that we consider before deciding what programs truly fit into the top online choices in MSW degrees today.
All schools shown here have been contacted and informed of their inclusion on this list. Schools that do not wish to be featured are immediately removed. School names are the registered trademarks of their original owners. The use of any trade name or trademark does not imply any association with the school.