United States Masters in Social Work Online Degrees (MSW)
Why Consider Online MSW Programs?
Online MSW programs are typically designed for working professionals interested in pursuing a Master of Social Work degree without disrupting their lifestyle. Whether you are a current social worker seeking a terminal practice degree or are looking for a career change, earning a masters in social work online may help you fulfill part of the requirements to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) or a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW). In fact, one of the things to keep in mind is that an online masters in social work (MSW) is not easier or of less value just because you take social work courses in a virtual classroom.
Online MSW Programs: Overview
Online MSW programs are offered by traditional graduate schools so your transcript will not necessarily show how you earned your degree and there is no ‘one’ set of standards for what an online MSW looks like. Degree requirements, course format and distance instruction methods vary by school. You might enter an online masters in social work program with either a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) from an accredited program or with a Bachelor degree in human services, Bachelor in counseling psychology or a related field. Specific prerequisites should be identified on a school by school basis.
DID YOU KNOW? When asked about their education level, 57% of clinical social workers responded they had a master’s degree[i]
Advanced Standing Students
For students who have earned their Bachelor of Social Work from a CSWE accredited program, some graduate schools for social work may offer students the opportunity to enter an MSW online program as an “advanced standing student”. What this might mean is that the first year of classes (foundation classes) are waived and the time to degree completion, shorter.
How Long Might It Take to Earn an Online Masters in Social Work?
Students interested in earning an MSW online might have a few options for how much time they commit to their degree. Some online schools for social work may offer both full-time and part-time options, while others may only have one type or the other. This is a criterion you might use to distinguish online one online Master of Social Work from another.
- Full-time MSW Online Programs might take approximately two years to complete for traditional standing students and about one full year for advanced standing students. Advanced standing students have usually entered an online MSW program having graduated with a BSW and thus completed some of the basic courses.
- Part-time MSW Online Programs might take two and a half years to four years for traditional standing students and about one and a half years for advanced standing students.
Online MSW Programs: Potential Curriculum
Students enrolled in online MSW programs take courses, electives, and participate in field internships. Course curriculum is often dependent on a student’s emphasis of study (specialization). This might be either clinical (e.g. clinical social worker) or non-clinical (e.g. social advocacy). All online MSW programs include a field practicum requirement where students typically have to work at a social services of health service agency in their community.
Online MSW Programs: Format Options
When reviewing online MSW programs, take note that distance learning might take on different formats and structures.
- MSW Online Programs (100% online): If a graduate school lists an online social work masters degree program as completely online, this usually describes a program that does not require students to travel to their campus.
- MSW Online Programs (campus requirements): Some schools offer students the opportunity to take most of their courses online except for a few campus visits which are clearly stipulated. These might be anything from a short conference, workshop, evening, week or weekend depending on the school.
How Are MSW Online Programs Structured?
Online MSW programs do vary in their structure and learning delivery. Here are a few potential features to consider in your search;
- Cohort Model: The cohort model is one where the same group of students take a course and proceed through their program together.
- Scheduling: The flexible course scheduling model is one where students choose their courses without the set structure of taking specific courses at set intervals.
- Synchronous Course Delivery: Some online Master of Social Work programs may offer synchronous instruction. This requires students to log in and attend their courses at specific times, and classes are given in real-time. There is a level of participation through technology such as webcams that may simulate an on-campus experience.
- Asynchronous Course Delivery: Some online MSW programs offer asynchronous delivery of courses. Students do not attend classes in real time, rather, are able to log into their course management system when they have the time, although they must still respect assignment deadlines. This type of program offers flexibility to students who are able to make their own schedules.
Who Are Online Social Work Masters Programs For?
Choosing to pursue a masters degree in social work online might be beneficial for graduate students who:
- Are busy gaining real time work experience and don’t want to let it go, but your job hours don’t mesh with the campus schedule.
- Hold a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and have had some human service component and practice.
- Live to far geographically from accredited online MSW programs
- Find the on-campus schedule is impossible to commit to
Potential Next Steps for MSW Graduates
Earning your MSW online may have several potential benefits;
Potential Career Paths: MSW graduates may be prepared for specialist and advanced practice career paths;
- Social and Community Service Managers
- Child and Family Social Workers
- Clinical Social Workers
- School Social Workers
- Healthcare Social Workers
Find CSWE Accredited Online MSW Programs
The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation as the sole accrediting agency in the United States for all social work education including online programs. Choosing an accredited online MSW program helps to ensure the quality and educational standards are verified.
Take the Next Step
Enrolling in an online MSW program may be a great way to earn your graduate degree without leaving the comfort of your own community. Browse our sponsored program listings to find the online Masters of Social Work Program that aligns with your goals. Our on-page navigation makes it easy to request info from prospective online graduate schools, so take your next step now!
sources: [i]onetonline.org/link/summary/21-1023.00 | [ii]bls.gov/ooh/management/social-and-community-service-managers.htm | [iii]bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm
The Catholic University of America
Sacred Heart University
You'll expand the level care and assistance you can provide to vulnerable populations and be a force of positive change in your community when you earn your Master of Social Work (MSW) degree online at Sacred Heart University...
Winthrop University's online Master of Social Work Traditional program prepares students without a social work background to become competent, specialized social workers.
Simmons College’s online Master of Social Work program can be completed in as few as 15 months, and GRE scores are not required.
Our Lady of the Lake University
Our Lady of the Lake University's Worden School of Social Service, offers its acclaimed Master of Social Work degree program entirely online, giving working adults the opportunity to work toward this career-building,service-oriented credential.
With a rich history dating back to 1918, Boston University School of Social Work continues to educate agents of change through our comprehensive graduate program housed at a leading private research university.
Widener University's online Master of Social Work (MSW) is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). It prepares you to improve both your life and the lives of others through clinical social work and social justice.
University of Southern California
The USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work works with selected agencies and organizations across the country that represents the complete range of social services. This provides MSW@USC students the opportunity to apply what they learn i...
Saint Leo University
The Master of Social Work Program mission is to prepare graduate students for professional advanced practice in becoming leaders through the provision of social work services that promote social and economic justice, and human rights locally, nationally a...
Loyola University Chicago
The Online, Bilingual MSW program offers a unique specialization in Health/Mental Health with a sub specialization in Migration Studies. Courses will be taught by bilingual faculty with a majority of the content being delivered and discussed in Spanish.
- Fort Collins, COFort Collins, CO
Colorado State University
Master of Social Work
Advanced Generalist Practice...
University of Louisville
Master of Science in Social Work (MSSW) 100% online for BSW and non-BSW professionals...
Edinboro University of Pennsylvania
MSW graduates are prepared to work in a wide range of practice settings, including family based agencies, mental health care agencies, addiction treatment centers, schools, medical care facilities, psychiatric facilities, rehabilitation facilities...
Miami Christian University
Our goal is not so much the accumulation of credits within an area of study as it is acquiring a skill and proficiency in the area. Jesus trained, or discipled, the twelve and supervised them as they followed His pattern of ministry. We, too, desire to...
Case Western Reserve University
Case Western Reserve University's online Master of Science in Social Administration (MSSA) - Community and Social...
California State University, Northridge
CSUN'ss MSW program gives students the chance to work with at-risk populations and fosters an appreciation of the planned-change process. Its broad curriculum enables students to gain skills and perspective to work at any level.
Valdosta State University
The mission of the Master of Social Work program adds depth to values, knowledge, and skills of the Generalist social worker.
University of Central Florida
The Master of Social Work (MSW) program prepares students for advanced social work practice.
- Shippensburg, PAShippensburg, PA
For full- or part-time students who want to either further their education in social work or join the profession.
Florida State University
The FSU College of Social Work offers a Master of Social Work degree online. If you have graduated from a C.S.W.E.
University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
Master of Science in Social Work - Direct Practice with Latino Individuals, Families, and Groups (Advanced Standing)
The Master of Science in Social Work – Direct Practice with Latino Individuals, Families, and Groups online program teaches evidence-based practices and deepens knowledge of advanced social work practices including therapeutic process, empowerment, and cl...
The online Master of Social Work program at Boston University School of Social Work allows applicants interested in a graduate...