United States Hybrid MSW Programs | Distance Online MSW Programs

Hybrid MSW programs may make a second degree accessible if you are interested in potentially advancing a current career in social work. Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, social workers with master’s degrees have earned a 25% wage premium over social workers with bachelor’s degrees as recently as 2013.[i] Several graduate schools for social work offer hybrid MSW programs which may be referred to as blended learning, distance learning or partially online. For current professionals, ready to pursue a masters in social work degree, this often uniquely formatted programming option combines in classroom and web-based learning.

Hybrid MSW Programs

Essentials of Hybrid MSW Degree Programs

Some hybrid MSW programs might take two years of full-time study to complete, others may take three years of part-time study to complete. That said, some programs allow graduates their BSW to earn their master’s degree in one year. Prospective master of social work students are typically required to:

  • Have earned a Bachelor of Social Work from a CSWE-accredited college; or
  • Have earned a Bachelor Degree (e.g. Bachelors in Psychology), and possibly to, 
  • Fulfill university-specific requirements (e.g. minimum GPA, letters of recommendation, statement of purpose, official transcripts)

FACT: Per DATA USA, 24,576 Master’s degrees in social work were awarded in 2014[ii]

What Are Hybrid MSW Programs?

Hybrid MSW Programs are masters in social work degree programs that are formatted for working professionals and students who may be looking for more flexibility in their schedules. Though hybrid MSW Degree Programs vary in structure depending on the university, they are mostly defined by variations on the theme of neither being fully on campus nor fully online. Sometimes you may find different terminology associated with a hybrid masters of social work program. These might range from:

  • ‘campus MSW programs’ (where there are satellite campuses),
  • ‘online MSW programs’ (where there are on-campus requirements),
  • ‘hybrid/blended learning MSW programs’ (on-campus and online instruction)
  • ‘distance learning MSW programs.’

For certain, as there is no “one” way to interpret what a graduate school means by this type of program option, you may have to do some investigating and make comparisons.

Structure of Hybrid MSW Programs: Blended, Distance, Online

Social work graduate schools may frame their hybrid MSW programs using any of the above language, though two main formats stand out:

  1. Hybrid-blended MSW Programs
  2. Hybrid-distance MSW Programs

Hybrid-Blended MSW Degree Programs

A hybrid-blended masters of social work program may be an online program that incorporates on-campus visits. Classes may be regularly scheduled; for instance, one evening per week, every third weekend, or twice a semester (two weekends per semester). Alternatively, it may mean that students complete their courses online, after which they take the on-campus courses, which may be offered as summer intensives. Of course, within each school this may vary too.

Hybrid-Distance MSW Degree Programs

A hybrid-distance masters of social work degree may be a variation of a campus program where the MSW program is taught at a main university location that has satellite schools in other areas. Students may meet at their local school, receiving information in real time via large television screen or video conferencing. This type of program is typically interactive; each student may have a microphone and be able to participate in discussion and ask questions. Sometimes there are also local classes which are taught onsite that students must attend, but these may be as above (weekends, evenings).

What Courses Might Social Workers Take?

Social workers help people solve and cope with a variety of issues. Within the broad category of all social workers, clinical social workers also learn to diagnose and treat mental, behavioral and emotional issues.[iii] Broadly speaking, some of the topics MSW students might study could include:[iv]

  • Social Work practices geared to a specific social work special topic or area
  • How to collaborate with other health care professionals
  • How to interview patients
  • Therapeutic intervention and counseling strategies
  • Counseling for parents and families
  • Rehabilitation counseling
  • How to keep accurate records
  • How to create referral networks

How Does The Field Experience Component Work in Hybrid MSW Programs?

In addition to coursework that might prepare students with clinical assessment and therapeutic intervention strategies, there is a fieldwork (internship, supervised practicum) component to hybrid MSW programs. Field education enables a student to receive mentoring as he or she gains work experience at a social services agency under supervision. Usually this component is taken concurrently with classes and students have placements during their initial and concentration years.

Students who enter a hybrid MSW degree program in their second year tend to have fewer required hours of field education to graduate which is why they are called “advanced standing students”. That said, the number of required field placement hours might vary, and the breakdown of the hours may vary depending on whether you are a full-time or part-time student. Usually there is a field coordinator and program director who plays a support role. He or she might help you to find the agency or organization that best matches your educational goals.

Take-Away: You might look into the internship possibilities at various graduate schools for social work to see if one stands out to you.

After Graduation: Potential Next Steps for MSW Graduates

After graduating from a blended online MSW program, students are typically prepared and eligible to sit for the Licensed Social Worker (LSW) exam. Contact the Association of Social Work Boards to determine your state’s licensing requirements. Some may choose to continue their education with either a Doctor of Social Work (DSW) or a Ph.D. in Social Work. Earning an MSW degree, students may wish to pursue a specialty within the types of social workers in the profession, such as[v]:

  • Child and Family Care Social Workers
  • Clinical Social Workers
  • School Social Workers
  • Hospice and Palliative Care Social Worker
  • Medical Social Worker

Find Accredited Hybrid Master of Social Work Programs

As the specialized program accreditor, the CSWE- Council on Social Work Education, does evaluate all MSW programs with the same criteria regardless of how the learning is delivered.[vi] There are presently 250 accredited master of social work programs.[vii]

Take the Next Step

Hybrid MSW programs offer the collaborative and interactive component of a residential program combined with some of the aspects of web-based learning systems. This potentially convenient format may make your academic goals more accessible. Review our sponsored program listings, then request info from prospective graduate schools to stay in the know about next enrollment deadlines. Take the next step in your social work education today!


sources[i] bls.gov/careeroutlook/2015/article/should-i-get-a-masters-degree.htm#Healthcare and social service |[ii] datausa.io/profile/cip/440701/ |[iii] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm |[iv] nces.ed.gov/ipeds/cipcode/CIPDetail.aspx?y=55&cipid=88811 |[v] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm |[vi] cswe.org/Accreditation/Information/OnlineandDistanceEducation.aspx|[vii] cswe.org/Accreditation.aspx |

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