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The Top 20 Online Masters in Social Work Programs

top-online-mswOnline master’s in social work degree programs are a way for busy professionals to earn graduate level credentials while continue to function in their current jobs. Those who pursue social work have a strong desire to help improve the lives in people in their communities.

Featured Online Masters in Social Work Programs

The modern day social worker functions as a liaison between assisting organizations that help people deal with issues in their families and relationships. They mediate life obstacles brought on by disabilities, unemployment, housing, health issues, domestic abuse, social injustice, and substance abuse. For many states, MSW credentials are required to practice clinical social work.

This year we’ve decided to revise our rankings focusing on three components of online MSW programs: flexibility, affordability, and academic reputation. Check out our methodology and rankings below.

Methodology For Ranking Online Masters in Social Work Programs:

  • Affordability: the estimated average cost of attendance for all students (in and out of state).
  • Academic Reputation: the ranking of the parent institution according to US News.
  • Flexibility: schools with greater flexibility in terms of pacing, specializations, and program types rewarded.

1. University of Tennessee – Knoxville (tie)

Online Master of Science in Social Work Degree Program

Tennessee Knoxville Online Master of Science in Social Work Degree ProgramThe University of Tennessee at Knoxville offers a fully online MSW with three courses of study, including an advanced standing program (taking 12-24 months to complete), an online full time program (taking two years to complete), and an extended study program (taking 3-4 years to complete). Program concentrations including evidence based interpersonal practice (EBIP), and management, leadership and community practice (MLCP) are available. As well as certificates in gerontology, school social work, trauma, and veterinary social work are also available. The online programs are taught by the same professors who teach the traditional M.S. in Social Work program, and the online program is held to the same standards. Total average estimated tuition for the program is $41,652, making it the 14th most affordable program surveyed. Currently the University of Tennessee is ranked as the 106th best national university by US News.

1. University of Louisville (tie)

M.S. in Social Work Degree Program Online

Louisville M.S. in Social Work Degree Program OnlineThe University of Louisville offers a fully online M.S. in Social Work including a 60-credit hour standard program, and a 30-credit hour advanced standing program. Students may specialize in a number of topics including psychosocial, oncology, mental health, alcohol and drug counseling, military social work, or gerontology. University of Louisville’s traditional MSW program is the top ranked program in Kentucky, and one of the top 28 public university programs in the country according to US News. The online program closely mirrors its traditional counterpart. Estimated average total program cost is currently $39,600, making the program the 11th most affordable of those surveyed. Currently the University of Louisville is the 161st ranked national university according to US News.

1. University of North Dakota (tie)

Online Master of Social Work Degree Program

North Dakota Online Master of Social Work Degree ProgramThe University of North Dakota offers two fully online MSW programs, including an MSW for BSW students (requiring 36 credits), and an MSW for non-BSW students (requiring 60 credit hours). Live classes are held in the evening and on the weekend for working professionals, and the program is a great value, with in-state tuition rates applying to all students, regardless of location. Currently the estimated average total cost of the program is $17,856 (the most affordable of all programs surveyed). The University of North Dakota is currently ranked 168th among national universities by US News.

4. Texas State – San Marcos

Master of Social Work Degree Program Online

Texas State Master of Social Work Degree Program OnlineTexas State University at San Marcos offers a fully online MSW with a specialization in administrative leadership, as well as a hybrid program mixing administrative leadership with direct practice. Both an advanced standing track (requiring 36 credits) and a traditional track (requiring 62 hours) are available, both of which can be taken on a full-time or part-time basis. It should be noted that Texas State University San Marcos does not accept students from every state, and so students should consult with the university before applying. Currently Texas State University San Marcos’ program is the 6th most affordable program surveyed, with an average estimate cost of $28,187. Texas State University San Marcos is currently ranked the 50th best regional university in the west by US News.

5. Fordham University (tie)

Online Master of Social Work Degree Program

Fordham Online Master of Social Work Degree ProgramFordham University offers a fully online MSW with a traditional path (requiring 66 credits), and an advanced track program (requiring 33 credits). Both programs may be completed on a part-time basis, with programs following a cohort model with eight-week classes. The estimated average total cost of the online MSW is $56,694, making the program the 24th most affordable of those surveyed. Currently, Fordham University is the 58th ranked national university according to US News.

5. University of Southern California (tie)

Online Master of Social Work Degree Program

USC Online Master of Social Work Degree ProgramThe University of Southern California offers a fully online MSW with more specializations than any other program in the nation. The program may be completed on a full-time or part-time basis, and is available in a traditional track (60 credits) and an advanced standing track (35 credits). Along with the 5 available concentrations, 3 sub-concentrations may be added to further specialize and enabling 15 potential courses of study. The sub-concentrations include military social work, older adults, and school settings. The University of Southern California is currently the 25th ranked national university according to US News. The estimated total cost of attendance is $91,041, making the program the costliest surveyed.

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7. University of New Hampshire

Master of Social Work Degree Program Online

New Hampshire Master of Social Work Degree Program OnlineThe University of New Hampshire offers a fully online MSW and is available with an advanced generalist concentration. Though additional electives are available in health and mental health, addictions and substance abuse, youth and families, and disabilities. Currently there is only a full-time non-advanced standing program requiring 62 credits, and taking 28-29 months to complete. Total estimated tuition for the program is $48,825, making the program the 19th most affordable of those surveyed. University of New Hampshire is currently the 99th ranked national university according to US News.

8. University of Alabama

Master of Social Work Degree Program Online

Alabama Master of Social Work Degree Program OnlineThe University of Alabama offers fully online MSW program with a traditional track (requiring 60 credits), and an advanced standing option (requiring 42 credits). A concentration in services to children, adolescents, and their families is available. Currently the estimated average program cost is $40,620, making the program the 12th most affordable surveyed. The University of Alabama is currently the 88th ranked national university by US News.

9. Our Lady of the Lake University

Online Master of Social Work Degree Program

Our Lady of the Lake Online Master of Social Work Degree ProgramOur Lady of the Lake University offers a fully online MSW program available through a traditional track (requiring 54 credits to graduate), and an advanced standing track (requiring 31 credits to graduate). Our Lady of the Lake University offers a unique perspective, as one of the few MSW programs in the nation with an emphasis on serving Hispanic communities. The programs are constructed for working adults, with material presented asynchronously. Average estimated program cost is $41,040, making the program the 13th most affordable surveyed. Currently Our Lady of the Lake University is a ranked not placed national university according to US News.

10. University of Texas – Arlington

Online MSW Degree Program

Texas Arlington MSW Degree Program OnlineThe University of Texas at Arlington offers a fully online MSW with a traditional track (requiring 61 credits), and an advanced standing track (requiring 38 credits). Besides a general track, direct practice with children and families is emphasized. The estimated average cost of attendance is $27,300, with tuition for in-state students substantially lower, making the program the fourth most affordable in our rankings. Currently the University of Texas at Arlington is a ranked not placed national university according to US News.

11. Indiana University (tie)

Master of Social Work Online Degree Program

Indiana Master of Social Work Online Degree ProgramIndiana University offers a MSW that is fully online save a three day in-person orientation. Though all cohorts advance at the same pace, there are two tracks, including the traditional track (60 credit hours), and the track for students receiving a bachelors in social work within the last 5 years and accepted with advanced standing (45 credit hours and a practicum). Courses are taken in 11 week intervals with two-week breaks in between. The program has an advanced generalist focus. Currently Indiana University is the 76th ranked national university according to US News, and a good value with an estimated total program cost of $335,070 (the 9th most affordable program surveyed).

11. Saint Leo University (tie)

Master of Social Work Degree Program Online

Saint Leo Master of Social Work Degree Program OnlineSaint Leo University offers a fully online MSW in both a traditional track (requiring 62 credits), and an advanced standing track (requiring 32 credits). The program has an advanced generalist concentration, as well as an advanced clinical practice concentration. The estimated average cost of attendance is $27,468, making the program the 5th most affordable surveyed. Currently Saint Leo University is the 65th ranked southern University according to US News.

13. Humboldt State University (tie)

Online MSW Degree Program

Humboldt Online MSW Degree ProgramHumboldt State University offers a fully online MSW program with an advanced generalist emphasis, and a focus on rural and Native American communities. The program may be taken as a 3.5 year part-time program, or a 2 year part-time advanced standing program, or full-time programs that may be completed in as little as a year. The estimated average cost of attendance is $30,060, making the program the 7th most affordable of those surveyed. Humboldt State University is currently the 56 ranked regional university in the western region according to US News.

13. The Catholic University of America (tie)

Online MSW Degree Program

Catholic University Online MSW Degree ProgramThe Catholic University of America offers a fully online MSW program with a clinical social work focus, small class sizes (typically capped at 25 students), and a 95% pass rate on the licensed graduate social work exam on graduates’ first try. The estimated average total cost of attendance is $47,700, making the program the 17th most affordable of programs surveyed. The Catholic university of America is currently the 116 ranked national university according to US News.

15. Boston University

Online Master of Social Work Degree Program

Boston Online Master of Social Work Degree ProgramBoston University offers a fully online MSW program with a concentration in clinical social work practice. The program may be taken on a full-time or part-time basis, and requires one to two internships depending on the prior experience of the student. Boston University offers significant field placement support through this process, and is often able to place students in the location that they prefer for field work/internships. The estimated total cost of attendance is currently $45,825, making the program the 15th most affordable surveyed. Boston University is the 42nd ranked national university according to US News.

16. Rutgers University (tie)

Master of Social Work Degree Program Online

Rutgers Master of Social Work Degree Program OnlineRutgers University offers a fully online MSW program that is designed to be completed in three years, and utilizes asynchronous course format. Field placement is required to complete the program and starts during the summer of the first year. Program start points are available in the fall, spring, and summer, and admissions are rolling. The estimated total program cost is $72,000, making the program the 26th most expensive surveyed. Rutgers University is currently the 70th ranked national university according to US News.

16. Western New Mexico University (tie)

Online MSW Degree Program

Western New Mexico Online MSW Degree ProgramWestern New Mexico University offers a fully online MSW program with both advanced-standing (for BSW graduates within the last 8 years), and non-advanced standing formats. The program is designed primarily for preparing future rural practitioners. The estimated average total cost of attendance is $26,751, making the program the third most affordable of those surveyed. Currently Western New Mexico University is an unranked regional university in the western region according to US News.

18. Edinboro University

Master of Social Work Degree Program Online

Edinboro University Master of Social Work Degree Program OnlineEdinboro University offers a fully online accelerated MSW that can is available as a non-advanced standing track (60 credit hours) or through an advanced-standing track (39 credit hours). No credit may be received, however, for work or life experience. A large number of field experience hours must be completed as part of both program tracks, including 900 hours over four semesters for the non-advanced standing track, and 500 hours over 2 semesters for the advanced-standing track. The estimated total cost of attendance is currently $32,940, making the program the 8th most affordable of those surveyed. Edinboro University is the 135th ranked regional university in the northern region according to US News.

19. University of New England (tie)

Online MSW Degree Program

University of New England Online MSW Degree ProgramThe University of New England offers a fully online MSW program that can be completed at a full-time or part-time track and offers clinical social work and advanced generalist concentrations. If you’ve completed your BSW in the last few years, you may qualify for the advanced standing track. For both tracks courses are presented asynchronously, with no set login times. The estimated total cost of attendance is $56,195, making the program the 22nd most affordable surveyed. The University of New England is the 79th ranked regional university in the northern region according to US News.

19. California State Northridge (tie)

Online MSW Degree Program

Cal State Northridge Online MSW Degree ProgramCalifornia State University at Northridge offers a two-year full time and fully online MSW program. Students are expected to take two eight-week courses at a time, as well as complete continuous 16-week field education classes. All courses are asynchronous, meaning you can log on whenever to complete them. There is one synchronous field education class per week, however. While the program is intensive, and the full time nature of the program won’t appeal to everyone, it is a good value, with the second lowest estimated total cost of attendance of schools we surveyed ($19,284). Currently California State University Northridge is the 68th ranked university in the western region according to US News.

This concludes our list of the top master’s in social work degree programs online.