As the most populous state in the U.S., California’s MSW programs reflect the rich diversity of its communities and embody a commitment to addressing pressing social issues through rigorous education, practical experience, and a dedication to fostering compassionate leadership. Read on to explore the distinctive features, academic excellence, and professional opportunities offered by MSW programs across California, shedding light on the vibrant landscape that shapes the next generation of social work practitioners and scholars.

2024 - Best MSW Programs in California

Discover the top Master of Social Work (MSW) programs in California with's comprehensive rankings. Our curated list showcases the best institutions in the state, highlighting factors such as program quality, faculty expertise, and student satisfaction. Whether you're seeking a program focused on clinical practice, community advocacy, or specialized areas within social work, our rankings provide valuable insights to guide your decision. With California's diverse communities and evolving social challenges, selecting the right MSW program is crucial for your career success. Explore our rankings to find the perfect fit for your academic and professional aspirations. To gain a thorough grasp of our ranking methodology, delve into our methodology page here.


California State University-San Marcos

San Marcos, CA

California State University San Marcos' (CSUSM) Social Work program offers both traditional on-campus and online formats. With a focus on clinical practice and social change, students engage in hands-on field experiences and coursework tailored to their career goals. Prepare for impactful careers in social work with CSUSM's comprehensive curriculum.


California Baptist University

Riverside, CA

California Baptist University's Master of Social Work (MSW) program is designed to equip students with the knowledge and skills necessary for impactful social work practice. With a focus on evidence-based interventions and compassionate service, CBU's MSW program prepares graduates for diverse roles in clinical, community, and organizational settings.


California State University-San Bernardino

San Bernardino, CA

California State University, San Bernardino's (CSUSB) Master of Social Work (MSW) program offers flexible options such as full-time, part-time, on-campus, and online formats. Specialized tracks include clinical social work and generalist practice, preparing students for impactful careers in diverse social work settings through rigorous coursework and field education.


Alliant International University-San Diego

San Diego, CA

Alliant International University's Master of Social Work (MSW) program offers various specialized tracks such as clinical, community, and macro practice. Students can tailor their education to suit their career goals with flexible scheduling options and both on-campus and online formats. Prepare for impactful careers in social work with Alliant's comprehensive curriculum and hands-on training.


California State University-Stanislaus

Turlock, CA

California State University, Stanislaus' (CSU Stanislaus) dynamic Master of Social Work (MSW) program offers concentrations in Clinical Practice and Leadership and Management. With flexible scheduling options and a supportive learning environment, students gain hands-on experience and specialized training to excel in various social work roles. Prepare for a fulfilling career in social work with CSU Stanislaus.

MSW Degree Program Requirements/Eligibility in California

California Traditional MSW Admissions Requirements

Traditional MSW programs are typically for students who already have a bachelor’s degree in another field (other than social work) and are looking to switch fields. You can expect an average of 60 credits and a two-year timeline for graduation. To apply to traditional MSW programs, you’ll need the following things for your application:

  • Bachelor’s degree, typically in psychology or a related area, from a regionally accredited institution
  • Minimum GPA requirement (typically around 3.0)
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal statement or essay
  • Resume or CV outlining relevant experience
  • Completion of prerequisite courses (such as psychology, sociology, or human services)
  • GRE scores (some programs may waive this requirement)
  • Interview (some programs may require an interview as part of the application process)
  • Background check and/or fingerprinting

California Advanced-Standing MSW Admissions Requirements

You may be interested in the Advanced Standing MSW option if you already have a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree. This option allows students to complete their MSW in half the time and for half the cost. In addition to the application requirements just mentioned, you’ll also need to submit transcripts showing that you’ve maintained a 3.5 GPA.

Here are a few Advanced Standing MSW options in California:

RELATED: Learn more about Social Work Salaries

California MSW Program Tuition and Costs

Realistically speaking, the cost of an MSW program’s tuition is often a deciding factor in their choice of school. California’s MSW programs range drastically in tuition, with an average cost of $52,053. However, you can find options that are way below the average price by looking at state schools (if you’re a California resident) or online programs, which tend to be cheaper. Here are a few options to consider:

SchoolTuition (per credit hour)Total CreditsTotal Tuition
California State University, LA$239.20 (Resident)
$635.20 (Nonresident)
60$14,352 (Resident)
$38,112 (Nonresident)
University of Southern California$1,495.9060$89,754
California Polytechnic State University$510 (Online)
$417.50 (Resident)
$638.90 (Nonresident)
60$30,600 (Online)
$25,050 (Resident)
$38,334 (Nonresident)

Are Online MSW Programs in California as Good as Campus-Based?

Online MSW programs are becoming more and more popular. Take a look at the table below to find out the various pros and cons of these types of programs.

Traditional MSW vs. Online MSW Programs in California

Traditional MSW ProgramsOnline MSW Programs
FormatIn-person classesOnline classes with some in-person requirements
FlexibilityLimited scheduling optionsMore flexibility in scheduling, often part-time options
LocationGeographically limitedAccessible from anywhere with internet connectivity
Learning EnvironmentClassroom-basedVirtual classroom, discussion boards, and online resources
NetworkingLocal networking opportunitiesNetworking with students and professionals from diverse locations
CostTuition, commuting, and relocation expensesGenerally lower tuition and flexibility to continue working
Hands-on ExperienceField placements and internshipsVirtual or field placements and internships arranged in the student's local area

Important tip: Make sure that all MSW programs you apply to are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). This will ensure that you meet all California licensure requirements.

Learn more about Social Work Degree Options:

Getting Your California Social Work License

California has unique licensure requirements that may differ from other states. Find out more about how you can get your social work license in California.

Popular Social Work Careers

Discover the specializations available to you within social work. These social work careers can help you work with diverse populations in a variety of environments.

Social worker talking to clients in their home.

School Social Worker

School social workers provide counseling, support, and advocacy for students facing social, emotional, or behavioral challenges. They collaborate with teachers, parents, and other professionals to develop student success strategies, provide crisis intervention, and facilitate support groups.

Healthcare Social Worker

Healthcare social workers assess patients' social, emotional, and practical needs. They provide counseling and support, coordinate care with healthcare providers, advocate for patients' rights, and connect patients and their families with community resources to ensure holistic and comprehensive care.

Court Social Worker

Court social workers assess the needs of individuals involved in court cases. They develop intervention plans, provide counseling and support, monitor progress in court-ordered programs, collaborate with legal professionals, and advocate for clients' best interests in legal proceedings.

List of MSW Degree Programs in California

Arcata, CA

Master's Programs
1 Harpst Street
Arcata, CA 95521-8299
(707) 826-3011

Azusa, CA

Master's Programs
901 E Alosta
Azusa, CA 91702-7000
(626) 969-3434

Bakersfield, CA

Master's Programs
9001 Stockdale Hwy
Bakersfield, CA 93311-1099
(661) 654-2782

Carson, CA

Master's Programs
1000 E Victoria St
Carson, CA 90747-0005
(310) 243-3696

Chico, CA

Master's Programs
First and Normal Sts
Chico, CA 95929-0150
(530) 898-6116

Fresno, CA

Master's Programs
5241 N Maple Ave
Fresno, CA 93740
(559) 278-4240

Fullerton, CA

Master's Programs
800 N State College Blvd
Fullerton, CA 92831-3599
(657) 278-2593

Irvine, CA

Master's Programs
16355 Laguna Canyon Road
Irvine, CA 92618
(949) 341-9800

La Jolla, CA

Master's Programs
11255 North Torrey Pines Road
La Jolla, CA 92037-1011
(800) 628-8648

Los Angeles, CA

Master's Programs
5151 State University Dr
Los Angeles, CA 90032-8506
(323) 343-3000

Master's Programs
University Park
Los Angeles, CA 90089
(213) 740-2311

Northridge, CA

Master's Programs
18111 Nordhoff St
Northridge, CA 91330
(818) 677-1200

Riverside, CA

8432 Magnolia Ave
Riverside, CA 92504-3297
(877) 228-3615

Sacramento, CA

Master's Programs
6000 J St
Sacramento, CA 95819-2694
(916) 278-6011

San Bernardino, CA

5500 University Parkway
San Bernardino, CA 92407-2393
(909) 537-5000

San Diego, CA

Master's Programs
10455 Pomerado Road
San Diego, CA 92131
(858) 635-4000

Master's Programs
5500 Campanile Dr
San Diego, CA 92182-0001
(619) 594-5200

San Francisco, CA

Master's Programs
1600 Holloway Ave
San Francisco, CA 94132
(415) 338-1111

San Jose, CA

San Marcos, CA

Seaside, CA

Turlock, CA

Master's Programs
One University Circle
Turlock, CA 95382-0299
(209) 667-3122

Are we missing your school's program or need to update information listed? Please contact us so we can make the necessary changes.

Tara Moretti, LMHC
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