Hybrid Social Work Graduate Degree Programs | Distance-Learning MSW-DSW

Many graduate schools offer hybrid social work graduate programs which blend distance learning with face-to-face on-campus coursework. Aside from the potential benefit of ...

scheduling flexibility, earning a hybrid social work graduate degree may help a currently working social worker advance within their field without necessarily giving up their job. Clinical Social Workers are typically required to have earned their master’s degree and accumulated two years of post-master’s experience in a supervised clinical setting[i]. If you are interested in pursuing a graduate social work degree, the hybrid format may be worth considering, especially if it makes your academic goals more accessible.

Hybrid Social Work Graduate Programs

What is a Hybrid Social Work Graduate Degree Program?

Hybrid social work graduate programs might consist of Master of Social Work (MSW), Doctorate of Social Work (DSW) and Ph.D. degrees that a university offers through a variation of distance learning. Not fully on-campus nor fully online, the term ‘hybrid’ may mean different things to each university, but the result is that a student receives some in-person and some web-based learning while pursuing their education. Typically, prospective applicants have completed a bachelor’s degree program such as a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) from a CSWE-accredited undergraduate program or a related degree such as (but not limited to), Bachelor of Science in Psychology. Other requirements should be verified with individual graduate schools.

FACT: Per DATA USA, 24,576 master’s degrees and 363 research doctorate degrees in social work were awarded in the year 2014[ii].

What Might I Learn in a Hybrid Social Work Graduate Program?

The curriculum for a hybrid social work graduate program may be the same as for the school’s traditional programming, whether at the masters or doctorate levels. It also may mean that some courses from the on-site programs are not available or are delivered through a more condensed version. While you should always refer to a graduate school’s own syllabus, course topics for a clinical/ medical social work program are generally designed to prepare individuals for the specialized professional practice of social work in collaboration with other health professionals.[iii]

9 Potential Topics You Might Find in Hybrid Social Work Graduate Programs[iv]:

  1. Psychiatric Case Work
  2. Clinical Interviewing Techniques
  3. Therapeutic Intervention Strategies
  4. Patient Testing & Evaluation
  5. Patient & Family Counseling
  6. Social Rehabilitation
  7. Patient Care Planning
  8. Record-keeping
  9. Support Services Liaison

Potential Structure of Hybrid MSW-DSW Programs

Some distance-learning MSW Master of Social Work and DSW Doctorate of Social Work programs are based on a part-time model, while others may be full-time campus programs that incorporate hybrid courses. It remains up to each school of social work to determine the combination of online and face-to-face instruction it provides, but you may find the structure of a hybrid graduate social work program might take either of two basic formats:

  1. Blended/online hybrid
  2. Hybrid/distance education

Blended Online Hybrid Social Work Graduate Programs

Blended/online hybrid social work graduate programs might involve:

  • Online Courses with a low number of visits to campus: This may mean that most one’s courses are delivered through an online course management system. Classes may meet on campus at regular intervals such as once a week, once a month (weekends) or several times per semester (e.g. weekend intensives)
  • Combination of separated online and on-campus courses: This may mean that students take classes online during the year and have separate residential component during the summer. It may also mean that only certain classes are available online, the rest are only available on campus.
  • Hybrid Courses: This may mean that a course itself is split into two components – asynchronous web-based classes for a specific period combined with regularly scheduled on-campus meetings (e.g. meet every third week, other weeks are online learning).

Hybrid Distance Education Social Work Graduate Programs

Hybrid/distance education social work graduate programs might include a format whereby the actual MSW or DSW programs are held at a principal campus (on-site instruction). Students who participate via distance-learning may have to attend classes at an off-campus location, receiving instruction via interactive video conferencing. Classes may be scheduled weekends, evenings, summers or whatever the university sets up. In this type of scenario, students might look for potential features such as:

  • Teleconferencing (audio/video) which allows student and teacher to interact via technology;
  • Students may have microphones so they may ask questions and participate;
  • Courses that require hands on instruction may be taught in person by local teachers
  • A coordinator might provide in-person support or serve as a liaison between the primary campus and the satellite locations.

Find Accredited Hybrid Social Work Graduate Programs

The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) is responsible for accrediting social work graduate programs. However, the CSWE does not keep a full list of online and distance education programs in its database of accredited programs.[v] They do stipulate that “all accredited programs are subject to the same accreditation standards and review criteria by the Commission on Accreditation regardless of the curriculum delivery.”[vi]

Hybrid Masters of Social Work Programs

Hybrid MSW programs typically require two years to complete full time, although duration varies, and programs may be offered on part-time basis as well. Aside from coursework, there is usually a field education (internship) component. Fieldwork is designed to enable students to gain experience working under supervision, apply what they have learned and benefit from mentorship. The number of hours of fieldwork students are required to complete tends to vary by graduate school. Earning a master’s degree in social work may prepare students to work in their chosen specialty;[vii]such as:[viii]

  • Clinical Social Worker
  • Oncology Social Worker
  • Nephrology Social Worker
  • Renal Social Worker

Hybrid Doctorate Social Work Programs

Hybrid doctoral social work programs might include the Doctor of Social Work (DSW) and the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Social Work. Typically, the DSW is considered a professional doctorate while the PhD, more academic. Most doctoral social work programs require students to have earned an MSW and have work experience[ix]. Many doctoral students pursue teaching and research careers.[x]

Take the Next Step

Search our directory of sponsored programs to find a hybrid social work graduate program that aligns with your interests. You can look specifically for hybrid MSW programs or hybrid DSW and PhD programs. Each graduate school for social work has unique features, so use the on-page “request info” setting to initiate a conversation with prospective providers. It is that easy to take the next step in your education as a social worker.


sources: [i] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm |[ii] datausa.io/profile/cip/440701/[iii] nces.ed.gov/ipeds/cipcode/CIPDetail.aspx?y=55&cipid=88811 |[iv] nces.ed.gov/ipeds/cipcode/CIPDetail.aspx?y=55&cipid=88811[v]/www.cswe.org/Accreditation/Information/OnlineandDistanceEducation.aspx |[vi] www.cswe.org/Accreditation/Information/OnlineandDistanceEducation.aspx |[vii] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm |[viii] onetonline.org/link/summary/21-1022.00#Education[ix] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm[x] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm