The 20 Best Master’s in Social Work Online for 2019

top-online-msw

By BCR Staff
September 2018

To earn a master’s in social work online from one of the schools in this list allows holders to work in a variety of settings and with a variety of different people. Students can work in hospitals, clinics, nonprofits, and government institutions. They might work with individuals with disabilities, the elderly, people groups, families, or schoolchildren. Whichever path they choose, those who hold an MSW enjoy the qualifications that make them experts at finding, analysing, and solving any number of complex, socially related issues. According to Payscale, the average annual salary for someone with an MSW is $51,000 per year. Lastly, those interested in receiving an education but unsure about whether can afford the time or the cost should consider the value of an online education. Not only are online programs typically cheaper than on-campus programs, but they also afford distance learners with the flexibility in scheduling needed to, for example, continue taking care of their children or maintain their job.

Featured Online Masters in Social Work Programs

In this ranking, our editors examine our picks of the top 20 Online Master’s for Social Work programs. For more generalized information regarding distance learning visit our ranking of the top online colleges.

Rating and Ranking Methodology

Tuition Points:

  • Under $30,000–1 point
  • Under $25,000–2 points
  • Under $20,000–3 points
  • Under $15,000–4 points
  • Under $12,500–5 points
  • Under $10,000–6 points

US News and World Report Recognition as a Top Online School for Graduate Degrees in Social Work:

  • Top 200—1 points
  • Top 150—2 points
  • Top 100—3 points
  • Top 75—4 points
  • Top 50—5 points
  • Top 25—6 points

Customization Options:

  • Format Customizations (e.g. Hybrid/Online, Full-time/Part-Time, Accelerated, Degree Completion, etc.) 1 Point Per Customization Option
  • Content Customizations (e.g. Minors, Concentrations, Specializations, etc.) 1 Point Per Customization Option (5-point cap)
  • Wow Factor: 1 point awarded for each unique feature or program that “wowed” us

Ranking the Top Master’s Degrees in Social Work Online:

To compile this ranking, our editors began with an initial pool of over 40 online Master’s Degrees in Social work programs offered by colleges and universities across the US. We then narrowed the pool to include only those schools that ranked in the top 175 (according to US News & World Report for online graduate programs in social work) and below $35,000 (out-of-state) tuition per year, unless otherwise stated. Finally, we applied the rating and ranking methodology above, and the result was the ranking you see below of the top 20 online programs for a Master’s degree in Social Work online. We used affordability to break any ties, listing the more affordable program higher in the ranking. For more general information regarding online study, visit our ranking of the top online colleges.

#20 Indiana University

Master of Social Work Online

Website
Points: 5

Indiana University’s master’s in social work online prepares graduates for work in a variety of positions, including working with families and with communities. Students must complete a number of requirements prior to graduation, including foundational courses, concentration courses, electives, and special practice areas in social work. Examples of concentration courses include community and global theory and practice and assessment in mental health and addictions. Examples of special practice area classes include social policy and services and practice evaluation. The admissions office requires that students hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited, post-secondary institution of higher learning.

#19 University of Central Florida

Online Master of Social Work

Website
Points: 5

Graduates of the master’s in social work online at the University of Central Florida (UCF) go on to work as medical social workers, researchers, case managers, and more. The program holds accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), and students take seven-week-long classes each semester. The program caters to part-time students who may or may not hold a BSW, or bachelor of social work. Students in need of an online, flexible schedule can choose the program at UCF to ensure that they can receive their education without sacrificing time away from their families or their jobs.

#18 Our Lady of the Lake

Master of Social Work Online

Website
Points: 7

Our Lady of the Lake’s master’s in social work online sees graduates enter the field as child , family, and school social workers; healthcare social workers, and generalist social workers. Students take classes such as evaluation of social work practice with hispanic children and families, theories and perspectives: hispanic children and families, social work practice with hispanics, and hispanics in the U.S.: policy and programs. To apply, prospective students must submit the online application and processing fee. Admission requirements include a minimum 2.50 cumulative undergraduate GPA and a bachelor’s degree from a college or university that holds accreditation.

#17 Florida State University

Online MSW Degree

Website
Points: 8

The master’s in social work online at Florida State University offers an option to those with and those without a bachelor’s in social work. Those in possession of the BSW take an average of two years to complete the program and are expected to complete one field placement course. The program consists of 39 credit hours that students complete in 16-week semesters. Those not in possession of the BSW typically complete the degree in three years and are required to complete two field placement courses. The program consists of 61 credit hours that students also complete in 16-week semesters. Summer courses in both programs last between 12 and 13 weeks.

#16 Widener University

Master of Social Work Online

Website
Points: 8

The renown faculty at Widener University’s master’s in social work online expect students to complete 64 total credits for program completion, 23 in advanced coursework and 35 in core coursework. To graduate, students must complete field work courses in which they take their classroom learning and apply it in a hands-on context. As an online program, however, students are encouraged to schedule coursework around their other obligations. Students study topics covering multiple areas, including methods of social work research, clinical social work practice with families, social work in prisons and community reintegration, and children and families at risk.

#15 California State Northridge

Online Master of Social Work

Website
Points: 8

California State Northridge’s master’s in social work online requires the completion of coursework in topics such as psychosocial assessment and diagnostic formulation, human behavior and social environment, generalist social work theory and practice, and social work practice in multicultural contexts. In order to gain admission into the program, prospective students must be in possession of a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution. While the program will consider GPA scores in the 2.5 range, competitive scores reach the 3.0 mark or higher. Individuals who speak English as a second language must submit their TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE scores.

#14 University of New Hampshire

MSW Online

Website
Points: 9

Students in the University of New Hampshire’s master’s in social work online must complete a total of 62 credit hours over the course of about 28-29 months in order to graduate. The program includes two local internships that enable students to put into practice what they learn in the classroom. The program offers specializations in health and mental health; addictions and substance abuse; children, youth, and families, and disabilities. They take classes such as human behavior and the social environment; the history of social welfare; and race, culture, and oppression. Graduates of the program go on to work in a number of social work environments.

#13 Portland State University

Master of Social Work Online

Website
Points: 9

The master’s in social work online at Portland State University aims to enable graduates to effectively lead social organizations such as clinics and community organizations and to know how to analyse problems and creatively provide solutions to them at the community level. Students can take the advanced standing option or the two, three, or four-year option to complete the program. Students study a variety of topics, such as social work with children, youth, and families; clinical social work practice; and health across the lifespan. Admission to the program varies according to which track student’s choose; in general, however, students need to hold a bachelor’s degree.

#12 University of Arkansas

Online Master of Social Work

Website
Points: 9

A master’s in social work online from the University of Arkansas prepares graduates for fieldwork in a variety of different social programs. For admission, students must hold a bachelor’s in social work; students do not, however, need to turn in their GRE scores. The school only offers the program fully online on a full-time basis. The program consists of 39 total credits, takes one year to complete, and holds accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education. Students need to complete internship requirements prior to graduation, but they may do so at places local to home. This degree can prepare graduates for further graduate work in social studies at the Ph.D. level.

#11 University of New England

Master of Social Work Online

Website
Points: 10

The University of New England was the first school to offer a master’s in social work online. The program began offering this degree to solve the problem of students missing out on an education either because they could not take time away from caring for their children or they could not sacrifice their work schedule. Students take any number of courses, including advanced social work practice with families, administration and supervision, program development and community practice, and integrating clinical and community practice frameworks. Fees associated with the program include tuition, a malpractice insurance fee, an application fee, a registration fee, and a technology fee.

#10 Texas State University at San Marcos

Online MSW Degree

Website
Points: 10

Texas State University at San Marcos provides this master’s in social work online to students seeking a Council on Social Work Education-accredited program. Students cover a variety of social work topics, including social work intervention in drug addiction and abuse, human behavior in individual and family social environments, social welfare policy and services, and human behavior in local and global social environments. Students can choose either the online advanced standing option for those already in possession of a bachelor’s in social work or the online traditional program for those not in possession of a bachelor’s in social work.

#9 University at Buffalo

Master of Social Work Online

Website
Points: 11

The University at Buffalo offers a 60-credit master’s in social work online through courses such as theories of human behavior and development, evaluation in social work, theories of organizational behavior and development, and scientific methods in social work. Students typically take about three years to complete the program. The program boasts accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education, or CSWE. The program also prides itself on its trauma and human rights focus, as it recognizes that a lot of the social work profession deals heavily in helping those with a troubled history of violence and offenses against their human dignity.

#8 Temple University

Online Master of Social Work

Website
Points: 12


The CSWE-accredited master’s in social work online at Temple University includes an asynchronous learning format that allows students to complete coursework any time convenient for them. Students can also live stream with professors and peers to discuss class topics. The program encourages those with busy family and work lives to consider the program and boasts a low student-to-faculty ratio that ensures each student gets to know their professors. Students applying to the online program can enter the program in either the fall or spring semester; they must hold at least a bachelor’s degree with a liberal arts focus and possess at least a 3.0 GPA.

#7 Fordham University

Online Master of Social Work

Website
Points: 13

Students interested in the master’s in social work online at Fordham University should apply before the March or June deadline. They may opt for either the traditional, 24-month track or the advanced standing track that allows learners to skip foundational coursework in favor of advanced coursework. Learners can also choose the accelerated 16-month accelerated traditional MSW or the part-time, 32-month part-time traditional track. Students may concentrate in one of four areas: evaluation, individuals and families, policy practice and advocacy, or organizations and community. Graduates go on to work in behavioral health facilities, nonprofit organizations, and community-based organizations.

#6 The University of Tennessee

Master of Science in Social Work Online

Website
Points: 11

The University of Tennessee offers its master’s in social work online to students already in possession of a bachelor’s degree hoping to enter the social work space with advanced credentials. Students who attend the program full-time complete 60 credits in about two years of study. The program offers classes such as neurophysiology for social work practice, introduction to direct social work practice, beyond combat: military social work practice, and trauma theory and practice. To attend, students must hold a bachelor’s degree with a liberal arts focus in at least four of these fields: philosophy, literature, or the arts; sociology or anthropology, psychology; economics or mathematics; or government, political science, or history.

#5 Louisiana State University Online

Online Master of Social Work

Website
Points: 13

To gain admission to the master’s in social work online at Louisiana State University Online, students must hold a bachelor’s degree with a cumulative 3.0 GPA. They must also demonstrate a clear interest in helping those with emotional instability and submit three letters of recommendation, preferably from college instructors or supervisors. Students can take classes such as differential diagnosis, community and agency contexts in direct practice, and diversity and oppression. Prior to graduating, students must complete practicum courses that take what they learn in the classroom and apply it to real-world contexts. The program takes about two years to complete on a full-time basis.

#4 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Master of Social Work Online

Website
Points: 15

The master’s in social work online at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign offers multiple concentrations, including children, youth, and family services; health care; mental health; and school social work. Students study topics such as diversity: identities and issues, social work and disability studies, international perspectives, and current topics in social work. The social work and disability studies course explores the nature of inclusion within a society, and students learn how to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities through public programs. Admission to the program requires the possession of a bachelor’s degree from a university or college that holds accreditation.

#3 The University of Louisville

Master of Science in Social Work

Website
Points: 15

Those interested in earning a master’s in social work online from The University of Louisville graduate with the credentials necessary to enter careers such as substance abuse counselor, youth counselor, and research program manager. The program offers courses that cover a variety of topics, including human behavior and the social environment; issues in policy and service delivery; and social welfare institutions, policies, and services. Students coming from another country interested in the program need to meet three criteria for admission: they must not need help with speaking English, they must have a qualified supervisor lined up, and they must complete practicums at the Kent School of Social Work.

#2 University of Texas Arlington

Online MSW Degree

Website
Points: 15


The University of Texas Arlington offers its master’s in social work online to students in need of a flexible educational option. Curriculum in the program includes applied social work practice, research and evaluation, human behavior and the social environment, and community and administrative practice. Prospective students interested in applying to the program need to include their GRE scores, three letters of recommendation — two of which need to come from professors if they graduated in the last two years — and a two to three page essay discussing the micro and macro aspects of social work practice. Students who speak English as a second language also need to include their TOEFL scores.

#1 Colorado State University

Master of Social Work Online

Website
Points: 15

A master’s in social work online from Colorado State University allows graduates to take on positions such as hospice social worker, child care counselor, and medical and mental health social worker. The program offers coursework that covers topics such as generalist practice -small client systems, advanced practice with communities, and small client systems: theory and practice. Those hoping to enter the program in advanced standing must already hold a bachelor of social work degree (BSW); students in the three-year traditional plan, however, do not need to hold their BSW prior to program entrance. Prospective students must provide three letters of recommendation from former professors or employers.

This concludes our ranking of the Top Online Master’s in Social Work. Thanks for checking us out!

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