A fast track social work degree online could help you work in the field sooner than you realize. The demand for skilled social workers has reached an all-time high like never before in the United States. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is expecting social worker employment to grow 13 percent from 2019 to 2029. Social workers do a variety of tasks that specialize in helping the public, whether it be at the individual, family, institutional or public level.
The industry expertise of social workers can be broad. They may help a family apply for government assistance if they need it. They could serve as a hospital advisor for the welfare needs of a patient. They may assist officials in a humanitarian rescue mission. Or, they may provide substance abuse counseling to clients who wish to make a change.
Industries that social workers commonly cross into include:
- Public leadership
- Psychological fields
The flexibility that these areas provide ensures that there is no dull moment when it comes to social work. It always involves looking out for the well being of human society.
Employment Outlook and Salary with an MSW Degree
The growth potential in a social service type career widens significantly with increased education. The more you learn, the greater your earnings and job task opportunities. A Bachelor’s degree in social work might help you land an assistant type position, but a Master’s in Social Work will open the door to getting a license. This is required in the counseling and adoption expertise. More education also allows the potential to earn a higher salary.
Social work jobs, in general, provide a modest income, around a $44,000 to $90,000 annual salary. Social worker jobs that require licensing are typically higher in pay. This makes the MSW degree worthwhile to pursue in the long run. Job growth in the social work sector is anticipated to rise significantly within 10 years, which is higher than other industries on average.
What’s the Difference Between a Fast Track Social Work Degree and a Traditional MSW?
A fast track social work degree online may help students get licensed for the career field in less time than a traditional Masters in Social Work degree. Some fast track programs may graduate students in as little as 12 to 18 months, while a traditional Master’s typically takes four years.
A fast track social work degree online is taught completely online, while a traditional Master’s is on campus. Sometimes field work in your local area is incorporated into the curriculum. An online degree option may be right for you if you’re currently employed or looking for schedule flexibility in your family life.
Online MSW Requirements and the Best Schools to Learn From
A Bachelor’s degree in Social Work is a required prerequisite to apply for a fast track MSW. Students will also need a computer with good access to the internet, a quiet place to study, and strong organizational skills. Self starter and disciplinary skills are other essential tools for completing this degree.
As with any form of social work study, an aptitude for empathy is helpful for students to succeed. If solving challenging problems to improve communities fuels your passion, then social work is a rewarding career experience.
The return investment with a Master’s in Social Work has the potential to rise depending on the tuition and acceptance rates of the school. We curated a list of the top 25 value colleges with MSW programs that included a fast track social work degree online. We included the academic annual tuition cost (lowest is best) and acceptance rate (highest is best) to rank the list below. Here’s what we found in these online MSW programs.
Our Ranking Methodology
The graduate tuition rates are calculated by the academic semester year in-state rate. We defined an academic year as two semesters. All data gathered in the rankings is compiled from the Google Search engine and listed from each online school’s website. Where applicable, the tuition and acceptance rate data is sourced from the specific campus listed above rather than the parent school.
Two areas are scored for each school, which are the tuition rate and acceptance rate. We scored the schools first by tuition and then by acceptance rate. We then added the two scores for each school and multiplied by 3 with a 3/4 emphasis on tuition cost over acceptance rate to get the final rankings as shown.
Why Attend a Fast Track Social Work Program?
There are a number of benefits to a fast track social work degree online. A fast track program could help you to get into the field faster. This type of program may help you to learn what you need to know to get into the field within a shorter amount of time than what it traditionally takes to complete a full master’s in social work program, which is typically two to three years. This may allow students to earn their licenses sooner.
What Can You Do with a Social Work Degree?
Career options for those with a social work degree can be numerous depending on the unique goals and the courses taken. Here are some examples of the types of careers a person may be able to choose.
Marriage and Family Therapist
The BLS shares that marriage and family therapists had a 2021 median pay of $49,880 per year. There’s a 14% increase in demand for those in this position from 2021 to 2031. These individuals work within families and marriages to help people improve relationships, communication, and problems.
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselor
Those who work as a counselor in substance abuse, mental health, or behavioral disorders typically provide one-on-one and group counseling to people struggling with specific areas of concern, including addictions, depression, and other disorders. The BLS reports the 2021 median pay for these professionals was $48,520, and there’s a 22% increase in demand for those in the field from 2021 to 2031.
School and Career Counselors and Advisors
Those who work as school or career counselors and advisors will help students with social skills, planning for the future, and academic needs. They may offer insight and advice on college, too. The BLS shares that those in this field had a median salary of $60,510 in 2021. There is also an expected 10% growth rate in this field from 2021 to 2031.
Other potential careers for a social worker may include:
- Hospital social worker
- Human service specialist
- Community outreach worker
- Probation officer
- Behavioral management aide
- Foster care social worker
Keep in mind that there are also leadership opportunities in some of these fields for those with a master’s degree.
Bachelor’s in Social Work vs MSW
A person interested in working as a social worker may need to obtain a master’s degree. Most states require students to complete their graduate education before they can perform some types of services in the field.
Earning a bachelor’s degree may allow a student to qualify for entry-level positions and some direct-service positions, such as providing overview and case management. Most often, the courses taken at this level focus heavily on generalist courses, a type of first step into the field.
A master’s program focuses on providing more in-depth, skill-based education. It also puts more focus on real-world learning opportunities. With this type of research and a higher level of skill training, people are more readily able to work in the field, providing therapist-level services with proper licensing.
Social Work Average Salary
How much a social worker earns is really depending on the type of work they do, where they work, and their experience. Yet, there are some differences to consider when it comes to education. Remember, too, that many careers require a master’s level of education.
PayScale shares that the median salary for a social worker with a bachelor’s degree was $55,00 per year in 2022.
Those working with a master’s degree may have the ability to earn more. PayScale shares that the median salary in 2022 was $58,000.
How Much Does a Fast Track Social Work Degree Cost?
The cost of some fast track social work degrees is as little as $8,400. One of the reasons many students elect to seek out a social work degree through a fast track program is the potential for a lower cost. Costs differ widely between colleges and programs. Yet, because these programs require less time spent in school, sometimes by half as much, students reduce the overall cost compared to getting a master’s degree through traditional means.
Key Social Work Courses
Take a look at some of the social work courses that could be a part of this educational path.
Human Diversity and Social Justice
This course focuses on the human experience and the effects of diversity within it. How diversity helps to create an identity is also a topic.
Human Behavior and Social Environment
The focus of this course is on human development and the stages of the life cycle. Influences such as spiritual, cultural, psychological, and socioeconomic, and the effects they have on human development are studied.
Social Welfare Policy
This course focuses on understanding the policies of social work practice. This course expects active participation from the students to help create new opportunity systems.
Methods of Social Work Research
This course focuses on the research aspect of social work. In this course, students may learn a number of different research methods as well as how to apply them to the research being conducted and extrapolate the data sought.
Clinical Assessment and Diagnosis
The purpose of this course is to prepare students for clinical work in their field. The course may focus on incorporating human diversity, cultural and spiritual influences, and how they may affect an assessment or diagnosis.
This course focuses on how a person interacts with their environment and how it affects a community as a whole. Some aspects may focus on how to aid a community in better meeting the needs of a more diverse population and how to implement and create changes to make that happen.
Social Work Licensure and Certifications
Social workers are licensed by the state. This means they must complete their education through an accredited educational program and sit for a statewide issued test. Each state sets the rules and requirements for this type of certification. Most often, this is called becoming a Licensed Independent Social Worker.
There are numerous types of specialty credentials and certifications social workers can have depending on the work they do. In leadership positions, this typically includes the Academy of Certified Social Workers and a Diplomate in Clinical Social Work.
Then, there are certifications for various industries, such as:
- Clinical social workers may earn a Qualified Clinical Social Work, Clinical Social Worker in Gerontology, or a Certified Clinical Alcohol, Tobacco & Other Drugs Social Worker designation.
- In health care, earning a Certified Social Worker in Health Care certificate is an option.
- Those that work in education may obtain a certificate for a Certified School Social Work Specialist.
- Certified Children, Youth, and Family Social Work is another area.
Programs differ significantly based on the work the individual hopes to do and the state’s laws.
Scholarships and Grants
Numerous grants and scholarships are available in this field. These are typically funds a student does not have to repay. They require an application and being awarded, and there could be competition for them with limited access.
- James F. Reville Scholarship
- Pride Foundation Social Work Scholarship
- Carl A. Scott Book Scholarship
- Brea Little Moore Memorial Scholarship
- Consuelo W. Gosnell Scholarship
- Delois-Whitaker Tuition Scholarship
- American Fellowships
- American Cancer Society
- Young Scholars Program
- Child Well-Being Research Network
- Amy Adina Schulman Memorial Fund
Have Questions about Your Ranking?
At Best Value Schools, we strive to present accurate school data to the best of our ability. If you work for the following schools above and see something that needs to be corrected, feel free to reach out to us, and we will correct it as needed.
Best 25 Fast Track Social Work Degrees Online
University of Texas-Arlington – MSW Cohort Program (93 points)
UT’s 100% online Maverick School of Social Work provides a meaty curriculum for the student, and a one-year Advanced Standing track. The Cohort program also opens the door to further online concentrations in clinical treatment for youth, elderly, substance abuse, mental illness and more. And with 500 fieldwork hours to garner a student’s belt, that’s a hearty education for a sound social work resume foundation. Combined with the competitive tuition and acceptance rates, it’s no wonder University of Texas-Arlington made it to the top of this list.
Louisiana State University – MSW Online Program (89 points)
This Southern university offers an amazing value for their Master’s in Social Work degree. The U.S. News-recognized program is designed for busy students with diverse demographics in mind. A one-year Advanced Standing track is an available option, as well as 480 hours of internship on the clock. Students receive a rich variety of curriculum that includes diversity, nonprofit management, differential diagnosis and more.
University of Iowa – Online MSW Program (84 points)
The online MSW program at the University of Iowa is nothing short of remarkable. Their 25-student cohort model assists in pairing students in their geographic area with local social work practitioners for a field study experience unlike anywhere else. The school also has a broad spectrum of other degrees in the social work sector, including a Ph.D program.
Indiana University-Bloomington – MSW Online Program (82 points)
Indiana University does not follow a cohort program for their online MSW degree; instead, they deliver what is called “synchronous and asynchronous instruction,” where the instruction is entirely based in the online program with three physical meetings in the whole semester. Advance Standing options are available. Full-Time students typically complete the degree in two years, while Part-Time students spend two.
The University of South Florida – Online Advanced Standing MSW (82 points)
This top-ranking degree program prepares students to work in clinical settings with children, families, and groups and may be completed from all 50 states. Designed with working professionals in mind who are looking to advance their careers in the social work field, the program offers full-time and part-time tracks that are completed in 12 months (3 semesters) and 18 months (5 semesters) respectively. Students participate in a variety of course offerings that include both a synchronous and asynchronous format. One cohort is accepted per year and the deadline to apply is February 15 for a Summer semester start.
University of Alabama (75 points)
The University of Alabama boasts a wide variety of related fields and concentrations in social work on campus, including MAs in Educational Psychology, Master in Public Health, a MA in Rehabilitation Counseling, and a MS in Human Nutrition. The online MSW also provides an enriching experience with 500 hands-on practicum hours in their skills lab in Tuscaloosa. Two concentrations are available for the online degree, which includes Adults and their Families, and Children and Adolescents.
North Carolina State University-Raleigh – Master’s in Youth, Family and Community Sciences (75 points)
While some colleges have only the MSW available online, others take it a step further. NC State springboards their online version as a Master’s in Youth, Family, and Community Sciences. From there, students can further pursue their career through three Graduate Certificate options: Family Life Education and Coaching, Leadership and Volunteer Management, and Youth Development and Leadership.
University of Alaska-Anchorage (72 points)
This school hailing from the Arctic Circle has upgraded their MSW program to online only, allowing further convenience on accessibility. An Advanced Standing option is available that students can customize with certification of Children’s Mental Health or School Social Work Specialization. That’s good news for Alaska, who continues to see a growing need for skilled social workers in the state public school system.
University of Wisconsin-Madison – Part-Time Master of Social Work (67 points)
The Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work offers both Full-Time and Part-Time MSW degrees, with the latter being a mixture of online curriculum and Saturday campus classes. The course is designed for working students in the Madison area seeking to balance their work and education on one plate. Students can choose from four focus studies for their Master’s – Aging, Health, Mental Health, and Child, Youth, and Family Welfare.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – Online MSW Program (63 points)
UNC at Chapel Hill has a comprehensive MSW program online that is as rewarding as the traditional experience. Students work closely with the school to study courses that tailor to their individual interests as well as the core program requirements. Eligibility for an advanced standing program is also available.
George Mason University (61 points)
George Mason University takes on a unique approach from the traditional MSW. Their program emphasizes the social justice angle and branches off into two concentrations. Students can focus their MSW on Adults and Healthy Aging, or Children, Youth and Families. There’s plenty of opportunity for hands-on learning where students can apply what they’ve learned in real-world situations. The best part is that their MSW program went live online since last year, offering professionals the flexibility to study part-time online from anywhere. The online program is part-time with the program being completed in 10 semesters and students taking 2 classes each semester. In other words, students would complete the program in 10 semesters or 3 years and 1 semester.
Arizona State University (59 points)
The Online MSW Program at Arizona State University has all of the benefits you would come to expect: state-of-the-art technology, a tight knit student-faculty community, and curriculum taught by the best experts in the field. But there’s also a great benefit ASU offers that many schools don’t – a BA in Community Advocacy and Social Policy that’s 100 percent online. It’s a great opportunity for students to take advantage of who don’t have a bachelor’s degree yet.
Ohio State University – Master’s of Social Work (55 points)
Ohio State University’s MSW program is available two ways online. Students can take the traditional route, or the Advanced Standing program. While the acceptance rate for this school is lower on this list, their MSW programs are outstanding. OSU’s grad school was ranked 6th in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. That’s certainly something to feel good about.
University of Louisville (51 points)
The online Master of Science in Social Work is a powerful tool in the graduate student’s arsenal. This popular degree can be customized to concentrate in more unusual fields like military social work and psychosocial oncology. Or, it can focus on the usual areas of mental health, gerontology, and drug counseling. Students planning to pursue this program are encouraged to apply early to avoid long wait times.
University of California-Berkeley – Program (49 points)
In addition to a traditional two-year MSW, the University of California Berkeley offers an Advanced Standing track for BSW holders as well as a part-time program for students with family or career obligations. UC Berkeley students can combine their MSW with a degree in law, public health, or public policy, and have the option of pursuing certificates in aging, working with Latinx populations, and school social work.
Temple University (46 points)
At Temple University, the online MSW program is dedicated to the convenience of the online platform. Students work on assignments at their own pace. A great emphasis is placed on faculty helping students with undivided attention, and the small 15-20 class size fosters social bonding with professors and their students. That in itself is a great opportunity for social work, as well as intensive training on campus the program requiring a three-day residency in Philadelphia.
Nazareth College – BS and MSW Programs (44 points)
Nazareth College offers both the B.S. Degree in Social Work and an MSW online, an excellent opportunity for the online student. The school touts that the latter program can be completed in 1-2 years. Some courses are completely online, and some are hybrid. Students can come to one of the three campus in Rochester, Auburn, or Watertown in the New York state at their convenience.
University of Pittsburgh – Program (36 points)
The University of Pittsburgh has been around for more than 200 years and is a reliable institution for their accredited degree programs. In addition to offering traditional on campus MSW options, the school has an online Master of Public Policy and Management, a maverick approach to the public sector side of social work practice. The school also offers dual degree enrollment flexibility.
University of Washington-Seattle – Masters of Public Health Degree (35 points)
While the University of Washington’s MSW program is hosted in their Seattle campus, they do offer an interesting online hybrid alternative. The online Masters of Public Health degree concentrates on tackling public social challenges at large, environmental improvements, biostatistics, and social policy improvement in various types of public organizations. Students take the program mostly online, with three in-person sessions in downtown Seattle.
Syracuse University (23 points)
With the partnership of 2U, Syracuse University’s Falk School of Social Work will be launching their MSW degree curriculum fully online for the first time in the Fall 2021 semester. An Advanced Standing program is also available, cutting the student’s study time down to 24 months in a convenient long distance format. Not much is available on the school website yet, but it’s worth keeping an eye on it for updates that may come up.
The University of Pennsylvania-Philadelphia – Master of Social Work Online Program (21 points)
Not to be confused with similar-named schools in Pennsylvania, the University of Pennsylvania carries abundant online social degree options, including a MS in Social Policy, Ph.D. in Social Welfare, and Doctorate in Clinical Social Work. They even have online Dual Degree Programs that work your social degree program in tandem with a second online degree. The tuition and acceptance rates are decent for an Ivy League school, making this university very accessible in its caliber to students.
Smith College – MSW & Ph.D Programs (16 points)
Smith College’s School of Social Work prides itself in offering some of the best social work degrees available. Though not all of their courses are online, their MSW and Ph.D programs are taught by award-winning professors. Their program curriculums also follow a unique block plan.
Princeton University – Program (14 points)
Princeton’s tuition rate may be pricey, but there’s good reason for it. The Ivy League school’s track record is among the most impressive in the nation. It consistently tops #1 in U.S. News rankings, even among other Ivy League peers. Their acceptance rate has somewhat relaxed from its previous 4% standing in recent years. Students who can manage to get into this school will no doubt be rewarded by the fruits of their labor.
Boston University (11 points)
The School of Social Work at Boston University has an outstanding award-winning reputation. It placed among the Top 15 schools by U.S. News & World report. The online coursework is rigorous, but very rewarding with 1,000 field hours combined with an Advance Standing 40 credit hour or 65 credit hour Human Service Experience program. The acceptance rate is also higher than most Ivy League schools.
University of Chicago – MA in SW Program (4 points)
The University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration offers a sophisticated Master of Arts program in Social Work, Social Policy, and Social Administration. It’s not a typical MSW program, but it has been accredited by the Council on Social Work Education for more than 100 years! The degree itself is not available online. Instead, a number of the program courses are. This degree carries a hefty price tag, but the broad curriculum is designed with career flexibility in mind. If you can get accepted into this school, you could come out with a diamond of a degree.
Our Ranking Methodology
The graduate tuition rates are calculated by the academic semester year in-state rate. We defined an academic year as two semesters. All data gathered in the rankings is compiled from the Google Search engine and listed from each online school’s website. Where applicable, the tuition and acceptance rate data is sourced from the specific campus listed above rather than the parent school. Two areas are scored for each school, which are the tuition rate and acceptance rate. We scored the schools first by tuition, and then by acceptance rate. We then added the two scores for each school and multiplied by 3 with a 3/4 emphasis on tuition cost over acceptance rate to get the final rankings as shown.