For students who want a broader education in the field of social work or for social workers who want to work in clinical settings, a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree may be worth considering over other social work degree types. While the workload will be heavier and the objectives more challenging, you may find that the benefit of a more intimate level of education and the reward of a more diverse pool of career options is worth the extra time spent in school.

2024 - Best Online MSW Programs in US

Discovering the ideal Master of Social Work (MSW) program involves weighing various crucial factors. At, our rankings for the Best Online MSW Programs in the US are meticulously curated, emphasizing essential aspects such as completion rates, affordability, institutional competitiveness, program diversity, and faculty expertise. Our methodology delves deep into each program's ability to foster student success, considering factors like cost of living, the breadth of offered programs, and the seasoned experience of faculty members. For a comprehensive understanding of our ranking process, explore our methodology page here.


Liberty University

Lynchburg, VA

Liberty University's Master of Social Work programs are designed to equip students with advanced skills for diverse social work practice. With a strong foundation in behavioral sciences and a focus on Christian values, this program prepares graduates for impactful careers in various social work settings.


Adelphi University

Garden City, NY

Embark on a transformative journey with Adelphi University's Online Master of Social Work program. Designed for those passionate about effecting positive change, this flexible program blends evidence-based practices with a commitment to social justice. Gain the skills to empower individuals and communities while embracing the convenience of online learning.


Miami University

Oxford, OH

Miami University's Graduate Program in Social Work strives to combine innovation and tradition in a dynamic learning environment. Focusing on advancing social justice and community well-being, this program empowers students with interdisciplinary perspectives and hands-on experiences. Students are prepared to lead impactful change in diverse social work settings.


Saint Ambrose University

Davenport, IA

Explore the Master of Social Work program at St. Ambrose University, renowned for its emphasis on advanced clinical practice and social justice advocacy. With specialized tracks in healthcare and school social work, students gain hands-on experience through internships and benefit from personalized mentorship. Prepare to make a lasting impact in diverse communities.


Virginia Commonwealth University

Richmond, VA

Virginia Commonwealth University's Online Master of Social Work program blends excellence with convenience. This program emphasizes trauma-informed care and evidence-based interventions. With specialized tracks in advanced clinical practice and social work administration, students benefit from a curriculum tailored to their career goals, all accessible online.


Loyola University Chicago

Chicago, IL

Loyola University Chicago's Online Master of Social Work program is designed for aspiring social work professionals seeking flexibility and excellence. Focusing on trauma-informed practice and social justice advocacy, students gain hands-on experience through field placements and benefit from personalized mentorship. Prepare to make a meaningful impact in diverse communities.


George Mason University

Fairfax, VA

George Mason University's Master of Social Work program, a transformative journey towards social change. With a focus on advanced clinical practice and policy advocacy, students engage in interdisciplinary learning and gain practical experience through field placements. Prepare to address complex social issues and make a meaningful impact in diverse communities.


University of Michigan

Ann Arbor, MI

University of Michigan's Online Master of Social Work program was built on a foundation of innovation and social responsibility. This program offers a unique fusion of academic depth and adaptability. Through evidence-based practice and tailored field experiences, prepare to ignite change and serve communities with impact.


Regis College

Weston, MA

Regis College's Online Master of Social Work program is committed to social justice and advocacy; this program offers a dynamic curriculum tailored for working professionals. With personalized support and field placements, prepare to drive change and empower individuals and communities.


West Chester University

West Chester, PA

West Chester University's Graduate Program in Social Work is a beacon of excellence in social work education. Committed to social justice and community empowerment, this program offers specialized tracks in clinical and macro practice. Prepare to become a compassionate leader and advocate for change in diverse social work settings.

Can I Get an MSW Degree Online?

Education options in social work are constantly evolving. In the past ten years, many schools have introduced online options for those who want to build networks and distribute resources in their communities.

When considering online options for any degree program, ensuring the program is accredited is essential. This is especially important for Master of Social Work degree programs. Not every online social work program will be accredited, and students who graduate from non-accredited programs will not be eligible for licensing. An accredited social work program typically has a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) stamp on the website.

Another important thing to consider is whether the program offers options for online students to complete their clinical requirements. Look for the words “fully online” or “100% online”. If a program is offered “partially” online or in a hybrid format, this typically means that online students will have some clinical requirements on-campus or in the town or city where the school operates. If the program is offered entirely online, this usually means that students can complete clinical requirements within their own community.

Social Work Degrees at Every Level

Interested in a social work education? There's a degree for that! Check out the available campus-based and online social work degree options to get started.

BSW Degree

MSW Degree

Advanced-Standing MSW Degree

DSW & Ph.D. in Social Work Degrees

All Social Work Degrees

College student enrolled in a social work degree program at library with laptop

What Can I Expect in an Online MSW Program?

As opposed to a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work (BSW), an MSW provides students with an additional two-year curriculum that offers courses such as:

  • Social Work Theory and Practice
  • Human Behavior and the Social Environment
  • Social Welfare Policy and Advocacy
  • Research Methods
  • Clinical Interventions

These courses provide a generous context framework and prepare students for practice in social work settings. Online classes will be conducted over Zoom or a related telecommunication platform and deliver coursework through student portals or email. When taking exams, proctoring software will typically be downloaded to monitor your computer activity, and your webcam will be used to ensure that only the approved materials are being used to take the exam.

Discover How to Become a Social Worker.

MSW Admission Requirements

Admission requirements for Master of Social Work degree programs typically include a bachelor’s degree in a related field from an accredited institution, preferably a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW), though some programs may accept students with diverse academic backgrounds. Applicants will also be required to submit:

  • Transcripts demonstrating strong academic performance
  • Minimum GPA
  • Letters of recommendation
  • A statement of purpose
  • A resume detailing volunteer and work commitments
  • SAT or ACT scores (sometimes replaced with an essay)
  • Medical exam with immunization records

Many programs also require applicants to complete an interview as part of the admissions process. This allows the admissions committee to assess the applicant’s fit for the program and commitment to the social work profession. MSW admission requirements aim to identify candidates with a strong academic foundation, relevant experience, and a genuine passion for social justice and community service.

MSW Internship/Capstone Project

Most MSW degree programs require students to complete an internship or capstone project as part of their curriculum. These experiences are designed to allow students to apply their knowledge and skills in a real-world setting under the supervision of experienced social workers. Internships, often referred to as “field placements,” typically involve working in a social service agency, healthcare facility, or other community organization, where students engage with clients, conduct assessments, develop intervention plans, and participate in case management under the guidance of a professional licensed social worker.

Capstone projects, on the other hand, may involve research, program evaluation, or the development and implementation of a social work program or initiative. Both internships and capstone projects are intended to enhance students’ understanding of social work practice, further develop their skills, and prepare them for professional roles in the field.

MSW Program Length

While a Master of Social Work degree will typically take around two years to complete (after graduation from a BSW program), this can vary greatly when the program is conducted online. Self-paced MSW programs are available, which could allow students to complete their MSW in as little as a year and a half or as long as four years. Clinical options will also contribute to the length of time it takes to complete an MSW. While some clinical requirements can be completed more efficiently, others require more time to complete and will delay graduation considerably. Overall, around 60 total credits are required in an MSW program.

Those looking to complete their Master of Social Work program even more quickly can consider enrolling in an Advanced-Standing MSW degree program. These programs are open to those who have already completed a BSW degree with a GPA of at least 3.5. The accelerated curriculum of an Advanced-Standing MSW program can be completed in as little as one year.

MSW Program Cost

The cost of a Master of Social Work degree program can vary widely depending on several factors. On average, tuition for an MSW program can range from $25,000 to $75,000 or more for the entire program. Factors that can impact the cost include the type of institution (public vs. private), whether the program is in-state or out-of-state, and whether the student is enrolled full-time or part-time. In addition to tuition, students should also consider other costs such as books, supplies, transportation, and living expenses. Some students may also incur costs related to field placement or internship requirements. However, many schools offer financial aid, scholarships, and other forms of assistance to help offset the cost of tuition.

Licensing & Practice as an MSW Graduate

As an MSW graduate, obtaining a social work license is crucial to practicing professionally. Licensure requirements vary by state but generally include completing an accredited MSW program, accumulating a certain number of supervised clinical hours, and passing a licensing exam, such as the one offered by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB). Some states also require additional exams or background checks. Once licensed, MSW graduates can practice social work independently, diagnose mental health conditions, and provide therapy. MSW graduates must familiarize themselves with the specific licensure requirements in the state where they plan to practice, as these can vary significantly.

MSW Degree Specialties

Most social work degrees come with the option of choosing a particular focus or specialty. Because students with an MSW can be licensed to enter clinical settings, many MSW specialties reflect this unique ability. Some standard MSW specialty options can lead to social work careers such as:

As a social worker employed in a clinical setting, you may provide therapeutic and treatment services to individuals and families in need, providing a bridge between the community and essential resources that community members might not otherwise receive.

Tara Moretti, LMHC
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