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Best 15 Online MSW Programs in 2021

September 16, 2021 | Staff Writers

Online MSW Programs
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BestValueSchools.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Getting a Master of Social Work degree may be a dream of yours, and it gives you the springboard to bounce into advanced practices. You may be able to take on a supervisory role and enter into social work programs you truly believe in.

Employers often ask for an MSW for entry-level positions. That’s why finding the right program is so important.

Why Choose Online MSW Programs?

Applying for an MSW online is perfect for people who want to commute digitally. Whether you’re working from home now or you want to attend school in a different state without moving, it’s possible to earn your MSW at home. On our site, we can help you get the right degree with our Degree Finder program.

Top 5 Online MSW Programs

Rank School Location
1The University of MaineOrono, Maine
2Indiana UniversityBloomington, Indiana
3University of Tennessee – KnoxvilleKnoxville, Tennessee
4Florida State UniversityTallahassee, Florida
5Louisiana State UniversityBaton Rouge, Louisiana

Online MSW programs vary significantly, so it’s smart to take the time to review each one that you’re interested in, to see its cost and to see how graduates are doing today. The median salary of social workers in 2020 is around $45,900, so you will want to take steps to maximum your degree’s return on investment. Some possible careers available after the completion of the degree include working as clinical social workers at hospitals or as mental health therapists.

We’ve compiled a collection of online MSW programs from around the country. Here, they’re ranked based on their tuition (lower is better) and student-to-teacher ratio (fewer is better).

Best 15 Online MSW Programs

1

The University of Maine

  • Orono, Maine
  • Graduation Rate: 58%

Located in Orono, the University of Maine has over 10,000 students. The online MSW program accepts students in the fall and offers a generalist perspective. The traditional program has a 63-credit curriculum, and there is a 2-year Advanced Standing option for students who already are accredited BSW holders. A total of 900 hours of field practicum are required for graduation. The online Master of Social Work is a blended program with both online classes and in-person meetings. Because faculty are traveling to different placements, this program is only open to residents of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

School Overview

Tuition per credit: $461 (in-state); $576 (out-of-state)
Student-to-teacher ratio: 12 to 1
Visit School Website
2

Indiana University

  • Bloomington, Indiana
  • Graduation Rate: 76%

Using 16-week semesters, the MSW Direct program at Indiana University encourages full-time students to complete the 60-credit program in just six semesters. While the program is completely available online, there is a three-day orientation that has to be completed in person in Indianapolis.

School Overview

Tuition (in-state): $8,136 per academic year
Student-to-teacher ratio: 14 to 1
Visit School Website
3

University of Tennessee – Knoxville

  • Knoxville, Tennessee
  • Graduation Rate: 68%

Located in Knoxville, the University of Tennessee offers the online Master of Science in Social Work. This school won the TACHE’s Innovative Credit Programming Award. That’s important, because it allows students to finish their online programs within two years when they attend full-time.

The program takes four years for part-time students and requires 672 hours of internship.

School Overview

Tuition (in-state): $10,618
Student-to-teacher ratio: 17 to 1
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4

Florida State University

  • Tallahassee, Florida
  • Graduation Rate: 80%

Florida State University has an online MSW that is a part-time program. It offers between 39 and 61 credits. Students can expect to participate in the Clinical Concentration if they want to qualify to take the ASWB exam. Both traditional and Advanced Standing paths are options.

School Overview

Tuition (in-state): $9,684 per academic year
Student-to-teacher ratio: 21 to 1
Visit School Website
5

Louisiana State University

  • Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  • Graduation Rate: 68%

At Louisiana State University, there is a 60-credit asynchronous curriculum with or without a thesis. There are 960 internship hours required, and Advanced Standing students can get a BSW in just 12 months. The program has six flexible start dates.

School Overview

Tuition (in-state): $8,827
Student-to-teacher ratio: 22 to 1
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6

University of Texas Arlington

  • Arlington, Texas
  • Graduation Rate: 57%

The University of Texas Arlington ties with Portland State for the 38th best MSW program in the country. The Online MSW Cohort program starts in the fall and offers a 61-credit curriculum. There are two specialties offered, the Mental Health and Substance Abuse or Children and Families progra

School Overview

Tuition (in-state): $6,959 per academic year
Student-to-teacher ratio: 24 to 1
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7

University of Buffalo-SUNY

  • Buffalo, New York
  • Graduation Rate: 73%

The University of Buffalo-SUNY offers a part-time online MSW. The CSWE-accredited program focuses on a human rights and trauma perspective. The online courses are asynchronous and start in the fall. Graduation does require 480 hours of in-the-field placement.

School Overview

Tuition (in-state): $10,870 per academic year
Student-to-teacher ratio: 14 to 1
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8

Arizona State University

  • Tempe, Arizona
  • Graduation Rate: 67%

Arizona State University is the largest public school in the United States. It offers the 32nd best social work program in the country. The curriculum meets the CSWE standards. The Master of Social Work is available with the Advanced Generalist concentration for all students.

School Overview

Tuition (in-state): $10,610
Student-to-teacher ratio: 21 to 1
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9

University of Louisville

  • Louisville, Kentucky
  • Graduation Rate: 52%

The University of Louisville has a 100-percent online CSWE-accredited MSSW. There are five specialties available including psychosocial oncology, mental health, gerontology, alcohol and drug counseling and military social work. Two programs are available, one 60-credit standard or one 30-credit Advanced Standing program.

School Overview

Tuition (in-state): $11,664 per academic year
Student-to-teacher ratio: 14 to 1
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10

Our Lady of the Lake University

  • San Antonio, Texas
  • Graduation Rate: 40%

Our Lady of the Lake University offers an online MSW program that was ranked the 141st best in the country. It has earned the CSWA’s Presidential Award for Excellence. It requires only 57 credits for completion. This specific program focuses on serving Hispanic communities.

School Overview

Tuition (in-state): $14,796
Student-to-teacher ratio: 12 to 1
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11

University of New Hampshire

  • New Hampshire
  • Graduation Rate: 78%

The University of New Hampshire enrolls over 15,000 students and has a 62-credit advanced generalist curriculum. The CSWE-accredited program can be completed in only 28 months asynchronously. The program offers two field internships at local agencies. Students may appreciate that they can specialize in Substance Abuse, Disabilities, Mental Health or Children and Families.

School Overview

Tuition (in-state): $13,500
Student-to-teacher ratio: 17 to 1
Visit School Website
12

Portland State University

  • Portland, Oregon
  • Graduation Rate: 61%

Portland State University has the 38th best social work program in the country. This school offers the only MSW online option in the Pacific Northwest. The online courses break down into 11-week modules, and field practicum hours may be met through working with employers.

School Overview

Tuition (in-state): $12,816 per academic year
Student-to-teacher ratio: 21 to 1
Visit School Website
13

Rutgers University

  • New Brunswick, New Jersey
  • Graduation Rate: 80%

Rutgers University offers an online MSW in Clinical Social Work. This is CSWE-accredited and an asynchronous program. The Advanced Standing track takes four semesters to complete, so in just two years, you could have your degree.

School Overview

Tuition (100% Online, Per Credit): $900 + $300 Course Fee
Student-to-teacher ratio: 16 to 1
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14

Widener University

  • Chester, Pennsylvania
  • Graduation Rate: 56%

In Chester, Pennsylvania, Widener University offers an online MSW program that is accredited by CSWE. This part-time program focuses on trauma, and there are no requirements that have to be met on campus. The regular admission program requires 64 credits for graduation and may be completed in 10 semesters. An advanced standing option for BSW applicants requires 41 credits for graduation and may be finished in just two years.

School Overview

Tuition (per credit): $898
Student-to-teacher ratio: 13 to 1
Visit School Website
15

Fordham University

  • New York City, New York
  • Graduation Rate: 79%

Fordham University offers an online Master of Social Work through its graduate school. This is available as either a full-time or part-time asynchronous program. An accelerated one-year option is available for BSW graduates, and field placements are possible in New Jersey, Connecticut or New York.

School Overview

Tuition (in-state): $31,248 per academic year
Student-to-teacher ratio: 13 to 1
Visit School Website

Ranking Specifications

In this article, we ranked the schools by looking at the current in-state tuition rates and student-to-teacher ratios. While all attempts have been made to provide accurate information and the most up-to-date information, the rankings you see above are subject to change and cannot be guaranteed.

Want Your School to Be Reviewed?

If you want to have your school added to our list, information corrected or to be reviewed, reach out to us today. We would be happy to have that conversation with you.

Everything you Need to Know About Online MSW Programs

If you are considering getting your master’s degree in social work, you may want to look at the facts first, just as you would before pursuing any other graduate degree. Although this is a very rewarding career field, the degree itself can be quite costly, and you must weigh all the pros and cons before taking on such a huge life-altering decision.

Now ask yourself, do you enjoy helping people? Can you work long hours with a heavy workload? Do you have a passion for improving the lives of others? Are you empathetic yet strong of heart? If you said yes to any of these questions, then a master’s degree in social work may be right for you.

So, what do you need to know before you start applying to schools to get a master’s degree in social work? Before signing on for any long term and expensive commitment, you must find a college that is right for you. Make sure you are choosing one that offers you affordable tuition, works with your busy life, and has the proper accreditations and licensure programs that will allow you to move forward into your career as soon as you complete your classes.

What to Expect from an Online Master’s in Social Work Program

When preparing to higher your education in the social work field you can expect higher licensures and a better career outlook. You can customize your courses to focus on the area that you are most passionate about, making you better qualified for a position in your field. The opportunities are limitless when it comes to careers available to those with a social work master’s degree. However, here are a few specialized areas of education you can choose from when earning your degree.

  • Social Work with Children and Families
  • Military Social Work
  • Social Work in Health Care
  • Advanced Clinical Practice
  • Geriatric Social Worker
  • Adoption Placement Specialist

How long Does it Take to Complete an MSW Program?

After completing an accredited bachelor’s degree program, you can then enter into a two-year master’s program. If you choose to take your classes part-time, it could take even longer. If you do your research and have some extra time to put into your classes, some online schools offer fast-track programs that may get you your degree in 18 months.

Tuition and Financial Aid for Online MSW Programs

The tuition and financial aid options for an online degree vary greatly depending on the school you choose to attend. It averages a range of around $5,600 yearly to nearly $17,000 yearly. The cost of each school depends on the services they provide. You can assume that the higher the tuition. is, the more services the school provides you.

When paying for your master’s degree you have to keep in mind that you are also supporting the college’s programs. Online colleges need to be up to date with their computer software and programs, and they need professors who are educated and have experience in the field, they need to provide online support staff and supplies, the list goes on. 

So, before you choose a school that has a lower tuition rate, check to make sure they have everything you need to be successful available. You will find some schools that offer lower tuition that are not up to par on education. On the other hand, though, some of the schools with higher tuition may be charging you more for services you don’t need.

Now that you have decided which social work program you want to enroll in, it is time to check into financial aid options. As previously stated this can be an expensive degree but there is a lot of financial help out there to cut down your costs.

  • Grants- Although grants are usually only given out to undergraduate students, there are a few ways to apply for grants as a graduate. Federal Pell Grants, state grants, school grants, and personal grants are available to some graduate students. You must apply for all of these options, and they are awarded at the discretion of the distributor.
  • Scholarships- There are many scholarships available today for undergraduates and graduates alike. Many entities award scholarships and the qualifications are awarded based on different qualifications. Some go to students with financial need or those who meet situation-based requirements. Others are awarded for academic or athletic merit. 
  • Work-Study Programs- Work-study programs are federal programs designed to allow students to work in certain jobs to pay for their college education.
  • Loans- Loans taken out from banks or lenders that will pay for your college tuition with a contract that you will pay that money back with interest.

How an Online MSW Program Will Provide You With the Skills You Need

Earning a Masters Degree in Social Work will prepare you for a wider variety of careers in the human service field, than if you only held a bachelor’s degree. It also leads you in the right direction if you are looking to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the future.

Only holding a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work will give you better opportunities than those who don’t have a degree at all, however, you will only have the credentials needed to obtain work in entry-level positions.

Holding a master’s degree will not only help you land a higher-ranked job, but it gives you a better chance of a higher annual salary and work benefits. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an MSW earns  $13,000 annually than a BSW.

Skills Developed in an Online Masters Program

While in a master’s degree program for social work you will develop many skills needed to be successful in any career in this field. You learn leadership skills, child development, welfare, adult development, welfare, ethics, and laws.

All MSW students learn the basics of social work and prepare to enter the field after completing their program. They will leave with an understanding of social work, human behavior, and how to handle working with people suffering through trauma, abuse, or poor family situations.

Once you complete the basic courses for a core understanding of social work, you can then take specialized classes for better insight into a specialized area of the field. These specializations can include specific areas of social work, like child welfare or disabled adult services, or starting your own practice.

Besides the above skills obtained from the program, you will also learn skills like self-discipline, independent learning, and time management from taking these courses online.

Careers in the Social Work Field

  • Child Family and School Social Worker: The average MSW salary in the United States for this position is between 40k and 50k. The highest paying state is Connecticut, at $69,520, and the lowest paying state is Mississippi, at $35,100.
  • Health Care Social Worker: Average annual salary for a Health Care Social Worker in the United States is between $50k and $60K. The highest paying state is Nevada at $82,820 and the lowest paying state is South Dakoda at $43,350.
  • Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker: Average annual salary in the United States in this career is between 55k and 70k. The highest paying state is Hawaii at $81,790 and the lowest paying state is Montana at $43,930.

Other Possible Jobs for People with an MSW

  • Treatment Specialist in the prison system – Average annual salary of $52,290
  • Marriage and Family therapist – Average annual salary of $49,610
  • Health Educator – Average annual salary of $46,910
  • General Social Work – Average annual salary of $50,470

Requirements Needed to be a Licenced Clinical Social Worker

Each state will provide its own set of requirements for you to be qualified to become a Licenced Clinical Social Worker. However, the core requirements are very similar no matter where you reside. In NY State the requirements to become an LCSW are as follows.

  • Be of good moral character
  • Be at least 21 years of age
  • Have a masters degree in social work with at least 12 hours of acceptable clinical coursework
  • Have at least three years of post-MSSW supervised experience in assessment-based treatment planning, diagnosis, and psychotherapy
  • Meet clinical examination requirements
  • Complete training in the identification and reporting of child abuse offered by a New York State approved provider

Each state requires an up-to-date license, and you must renew your license every three years along with completing 30 hours of continuing education courses. These courses are required for license renewal. If you pass the re-registration date, you could lose your license and possibly your job position as you will not be able to work while your license is suspended. 

Working in a job that requires a license in social work without the licenses could result in legal action.

Human Services VS Social Work

Although the knowledge and education needed for both human service work and social work are similar, there are many differences between them. The differences are mainly in schooling and licenses but they come up in the career field as well. Some of the differences to note between the two are listed below.

Licensures and schooling

Obtaining a master’s in Social Work will set you up for a license to be a professional licensed social worker. You can help individuals on a clinical basis, working as a counselor for families and individuals and making treatment plans.

When you obtain a master’s in Human Services you cannot obtain a license, which gives you less opportunity in the clinical field, but this does not mean you will be unable to hold a very important and meaningful career. 

Obtaining a master’s degree in social work will also take a little more time to complete and, on average, will cost more than a master’s degree in Human Services. 

Careers

When tailoring your master’s degree program in social work, you can design a curriculum to specialize in specific areas after completing your first year of foundation social work courses. After doing so, you can get jobs in fields like military social work, clinical social work, social work with children and families, etc.

A master’s degree in human services will give you an education in positions that benefits the community on a less clinical scale. Their careers include but are not limited to criminal justice program planning, community leadership, disaster, and crisis intervention, and global social services.

Both masters degrees are great options for those who have compassion for helping others. These fields require empathy and leadership skills to support people’s mental health. If you are someone who strives to make a difference in the lives of others, you’ll be fulfilled with either degree program, both as a student and later in life.

Take Away

Completing your master’s degree in social work through online universities gives you the flexibility and opportunity to achieve a higher education on your own time. These classes are perfect for prospective students who are busy working adults or for someone who wants to earn their education from a school that is far away from their home. It opens up a world of possibilities for MSW candidates to take advantage of with a social work degree.

Online programs are designed to give you as an MSW student the same education as campus schools without the set schedules and due dates. They’re just as educational as in-person classes, but some cost less as you aren’t using the same amount of resources as you would if you were on campus. Picking an online program that fits your lifestyle and budget is key to being successful in your master’s program. Stick it out, and when you graduate, you’ll be prepared to take on any challenge that waits ahead of you in your career, thanks to your social work degree.

Find the program that’s right for you

Whether you’re trying to start your career or make a big change, we can help you find the perfect school to help you reach your goals.

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BestValueSchools.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
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