Top 20 Ranking of the Best Online Masters in Social Work Programs (MSW)

onlinemsqacA Master’s in Social Work (also known as MSW) is one of the most advantageous graduate degree options available to students due to the increasing flexibility of employment options. Degree-holders can choose from a variety of careers, including government programs, school counseling, private psychological counseling, and other private agency work upon completion of their training. With the increase in today’s technology, obtaining such a versatile degree is now incredibly simple and affordable. Many universities across the country and beyond are beginning to offer online MSW programs, making the MSW an even more desirable degree for those looking to attend graduate school.

Sponsored Online MSW Programs

  1. Master of Social Work from the University of South California (USC)
  2. MSW with a concentration on Children, Families and Couples from Walden University
  3. MS in Social and Community Services from Capella University

Online MSW programs include a wide range of online coursework, accredited clinical practice and other activities concentrated in a student’s local area. Students participating in an online MSW program can choose to study either full-time or part-time and some schools also offer an accelerated learning option, which often spans a shorter amount of time and can cost less than standard programs. Online courses in general are often the most affordable way to attend the graduate school of your choice and MSW programs are no exception. Recent figures from Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) make social work careers even more appealing. The BLS projects 25 percent job growth for those who hold an MSW degree between 2010 and 2020, making it one of the fastest-growing employment opportunities in the nation. Aside from its projection as stable employment, social workers’ average salary in 2011 was $53,900, according to the BLS.

Below is a list of the 20 Best Online MSW Programs from accredited universities:

1. Boston University

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Boston University’s School of Social Work offers a part-time, online Master’s in Social Work with courses taught by its esteemed faculty. Students have two options for degree completion, following either a Human Service Experience or traditional MSW track of coursework. Courses are taken online while internships and other outside degree work can be completed near the student’s own community. BU’s MSW program is typically completed in about two and a half years. Students pursuing the Human Service Experience emphasis must have at least two prior years of supervised human services experience and requires a 1000 hour internship. The traditional track requires two field internships totaling 1200 hours. Faculty assist students in finding local internships in their own communities. The online MSW program consists of the same components as BU’s on-campus degree program. BU’s School of Social Work tied for rank #16 by U.S. News & World Report in social work and all courses are fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. Tuition for the MSW program at BU is $685 per credit for part time students enrolled for 1/2 to 11 credits plus additional fees.

For more regarding Boston University’s Online MSW program, go here

2. University of Southern California

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USC’s School of Social Work is tied for rank #11 by U.S. News and World Report in social work. Their online MSW program provides flexible start dates, part-time and full-time options and is as academically challenging as their on-campus programs. USC utilizes a “Virtual Academic Center” that allows students to connect with each other as well as their professors via live classrooms and chats and interactive study groups. Internships are arranged by the school to be completed in the student’s local community. Over the course of two years, students cover both the fundamental knowledge (year one) and enter a specialized focus area in their second year. Students can choose from Families and Children; Health; Mental Health; and Community Organization, Planning and Administration. A sub-concentration in Military Social Work and Veteran Services is also available. Tuition is $1,536 per unit rate for students enrolled within 1-14 units and $22,801 for students enrolled within 15-18 units plus additional fees.

For more regarding the University of California’s Online MSW program, go here

3. Northeastern University

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Northeastern University in Boston, MA has been ranked #8 in U.S. News & World Report‘s list of Up-and-Coming-Schools. Their Master of Science in Human Services online degree program prepares students for work in government agencies, nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations. Students in NU’s online MS in Human Services program can customize their curriculum based on their specific area of study: Global Studies, Leadership, or Organizational Communication. This program is also incredibly affordable while lending students the flexibility to work and attend graduate school simultaneously. Students also have the option to attend part-time or full-time and can consequently complete the program in two to three years.

For more regarding Northeastern University’s Online MSW program, go here

4. Fordham University

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Fordham’s Graduate School of Social Service is ranked #11 by U.S. News & World Report in social work and its online MSW program is ranked #1 by BestSchools.org. The online MSW program provides an asynchronous, part-time learning experience in which traditional and advanced-standing students work toward a clinical concentration utilizing both online learning and hands-on field work. The program is typically completed in three years and at the end of the program, graduates are qualified to take their state’s certification or licensing examination. Part of Fordham’s MSW online experience requires students to participate in an integrated seminar that enhances the connection between learning online and live instruction. Online students are required to attend two face-to-face class sessions each year as part of their degree. Tuition to complete an MSW at Fordham is $859 per credit plus additional technology, general, and other fees.
For more regarding Fordham University’s Online MSW Program, go here

5. University of Georgia

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Ranked by the U.S. News & World Report in the top 25 percent of the country’s social work programs, the University of Georgia provides students with numerous learning possibilities and experiences. They provide specializations throughout many areas of social work with six different degree options plus the only online dual degree program in Master of Social Work – Master of Public Health (MSW-MPH). All programs offered by the University of Georgia are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. Additionally, most graduate students have the opportunity to study social work abroad, including places like Ghana and Ireland. Tuition rates for the MSW-MPH program are $12,508 per 12 graduate credit hours.

For more about the University of Georgia’s Online MSW Program, go here

6. University of Louisville

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University of Louisville’s Kent School of Social Work is ranked #1 in Kentucky, in the top 16% of all graduate social work programs in the nation and #3 in the nation according to GraduateSchools.org. Their online MSSW program provides the same instruction as their on-campus program while allowing the flexibility of completion at your own pace. The Kent School of Social Work accepts students without a Bachelor’s in Social Work into its Standard program and students who have already completed their BSW can take the Advanced Standing route. Options, while limited, are also available for international students or students living abroad. The Kent School offers a multitude of scholarships, grants and other financial aid to help offset the cost of the program with graduate course tuition at $660 per credit hour.

For more regarding the University of Louisville’s Online MSW Program, go here

7. University of Tennessee, Knoxville

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UT’s College of Social Work is ranked among the nation’s top programs based on innovation, affordability, and value, according to the GetEducation consumer organization. Their online MSW coursework is taught and managed by the same faculty that teach standard courses on-campus, rendering the online program to the same high standards of the entire school.Students at UTK’s online school can choose from courses that are fully online and some that are online during the week and meet live several weekends throughout the semester. Students have three options for online study: full-time, advanced standing, and extended study. Full-time students complete the curriculum in two years, including approximately 1000 hours of field study. Advanced standing students can be completed both on a full-time and part-time basis, but students must possess a BSW from an accredited institution to be accepted to the program. Extended study students can complete the program on a part-time level, completing the course work and approximately 1000 hours of field study over the course of three to four years. Tuition is $5, 472.00 for in-state graduate students and $14,716.00 for out-of-state graduate students.

For more regarding the University of Tennessee at Knoxville’s Online MSW Program, go here

8. Indiana University

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IU’s online MSW program has just one concentration, “Advanced Generalist,” rendering it incredibly unique. The Advanced Generalist MSW prepares students for all aspects of social work, including individuals, families, groups, organizations and communities in many different areas. Students may select specific areas of study to help customize their coursework, preparing them for a specific career. Online courses run in 11-week quarters four times each year, allowing for flexible start dates; as long as students complete the course work in five years or less, they can be as flexible as they need to be and work at their own pace. All of IU’s online students have the ability to access the university’s expansive library system and are considered “traditional” students even on-campus. Tuition is $17,130 for in-state students and $24,852 for out-of-state students.

For more regarding the Indiana University’s Online MSW Program, go here

9. Texas State University

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Texas State University’s School of Social Work is ranked #148 by U.S. News & World Report in social work. Students can follow a regular or advanced track, differentiated by the type of undergraduate degree, and can attend either full-time or part-time. Part-time students complete the regular track in four years and the advanced track in two years; full-time students complete the regular track in two years and the advanced in one. Students in the advanced standing track can take specialized coursework in the Direct Practice concentration or the Administrative Leadership concentration. Unlike many online programs, TSU’s online MSW program is available to both national and international students and coures are taught by faculty specially trained to teach online. Graduate tuition is $801 per three credit hour course.

For more regarding the Texas State University’s Online MSW Program, go here

10. University of New England

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The University of New England has a long history of dedicated student and faculty volunteers. Their dedication has been able to help staff the Biddeford Free Clinic with medical student volunteers plus prove the school’s ultimate mission: to promote well-being for all. Aligned with the school’s mission, it’s Social Work programs are much different from the other social work schools. It embraces diversity and the acceptance of all people as they are and promotes the well-being of everyone regardless of their economic or social status. Their MSW program was one of the first to go 100 percent online and is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. They also have great financial resources, with over 90 percent of students receiving financial aid each semester and tuition rates beginning at $32,755 (37 credits) for Advanced Standing students and $56,195 (64 credits) for in and out of state students following the Traditional Track.

For more about the University of New England’s Online MSW Program, go here

11. Virginia Commonwealth University

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This university, located in the state of Virginia, offers degrees in Social Work at the Bachelors, Masters, and PhD levels. Founded in 1917, the Monroe Park Campus was first named the Richmond School of Social Economy and would later become one of the state’s leading social work schools. It wasn’t until recently that the University added a distance learning option available for part time students but the program offers superior education paired with a diverse number of concentrations including domestic violence, health concerns, global concerns, and aging. Their mission is to turn students into professional social workers and prepare them for a lifetime of leadership and empowerment. And their tradition is rich is providing the academic excellence required to do just that. As a Tier 1 University, Virginia Commonwealth has been consistently ranked by the U.S. News and World Report within the top 200 Universities Worldwide and maintains a steady hold within the top 100 in the U.S. All social work programs offered through VCU are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and cost. Tuition is $100 per credit hour for part-time graduate students plus additional education related expenses. Tuition for full time, in-state graduate students is $6101.00 and $11,640 for full time, out-of-state graduate students.

For more about Virginia Commonwealth University’s Online MSW Program, go here

12. Rutgers University

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Rutgers University was originally an all-male college when it was founded in 1766 and was named after a Revolutionary War veteran Henry Rutgers. Located in the state of New Jersey, Rutgers grew to accommodate students of both genders. With Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree offerings in Social Work, this program is one of the most affordable online and on-campus. Not only do they offer a traditional on-campus program, they also offer a 100 percent online program as well as a “blended” program, where you attend class partially online. Plus They the full-scale, on campus social work programs at their New Brunswick, Newark, and Camden, combined with their online programs, make Rutgers one of the most accessible MSW programs available. Tuition rates are approximately $20,860 per academic year for out of state students.

For more about Rutgers University’s Online MSW Program, go here

13. Florida State University

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In the days since 1923, when the Territorial Legislature of Florida received official authorization to create what would become the Florida State University, this school has grown to be recognized as one of the most elite research universities in the U.S. It’s tradition of providing students with a unique heritage based upon the highest values: innovation, research, and academic excellence. It’s 100% online MSW program was the first of its kind to offer student centered asynchronous instruction and is available only to students who have completed a BSW from a Council on Social Work Education accredited program. It’s program features instruction necessary to pass the ASWB clinical level exam as well as an evidenced based clinical work experience within community settings to provide graduate candidates with a diversity in clients and means of applying what they learn through coursework. This program is limited to students within specific regions throughout Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Considered a “Budget Ivy School,” the University is ranked in fourth place on USA Today’s and the Princeton Review’s “Best Value Colleges.” Tuition at FSU is affordable with $538.83 for residents and $573.34 for non-residents per credit hour. As a Tier 1 school, the U.S. News and World report listed FSU as 42nd among public schools and within the top 100 of National Universities.

For more about Florida State University’s Online MSW Program, go here

14. University of North Dakota

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When the University of North Dakota held its first classes in 1884, it depended upon it’s core of values, mission to deliver outstanding academic programs, and adherence to the tradition of excellence. As a lead research university, the University’s ability to contribute to the advancement of knowledge based upon impacting society positively serves not only its students, graduates, and faculty but it’s state, country, and the world. UND’s online MSW program provides students with the refined knowledge and skills paired with intensive lab experiences to guarantee participant’s step into the world prepared as an advanced generalist social worker. Courses allow master’s candidates the ability to learn the core concepts and theories in the field of social work as well as gain a detailed understanding of social systems and the role social workers play in society. Students have the option of completing their studies in full or part-time programs accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and rated highly by The Princeton Review, The Best Colleges, GetEducated.com, and TheBestSchools.org. Tuition rates are based upon in-state fees regardless of where a student lives. The cost of completing a MSW program at UND is $507.27 per credit.

For more about the University of North Dakota’s Online MSW Program, go here

15. Colorado State University

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Founded in 1870 as the Agricultural College of Colorado with humble beginnings, this school grew to what would become a world recognized Tier 1 research institution known as Colorado State University. With a present enrollment of 27,000 undergraduate students and a 142 years strong (and counting) history in growth, accomplishment, and innovation, the schools mission is based on improving understanding, augmenting knowledge, and advocating for the well being of humanity. Its full or part time MSW program offers students the chance to participate in a well respected program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and highly ranked by The Times Higher Education, Princeton Review, and Consumer Digest. CSU holds its place as the 60th Top Public University World wide and 134th Best National University on the U.S. News and World Report’s best of 2013 list. It’s outstanding social work program ranked 60th on The Top Graduate Program list for 2009 for it’s flexibility, staff, accreditation, and content. Graduate students may complete the online MSW through distance education programs on a part or full time basis available online or on-campus which caters specifically to the busy schedules of working professionals. Graduates complete courses based in generalist knowledge rooted in the theories of socio-behavior, social work ecosystems, humanism, empowerment, democracy, and problem solving to then obtain a state social work license or continue studies in a PhD program upon completion. Tuition is $549 per credit with additional educational related fees.

For more about Colorado State University’s Online MSW Program, go here

16. Our Lady of the Lake University

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Over 100 years ago the Sisters of the Congregation of Divine Providence and missionaries made history when established a school to help youth in need in Austin, Texas. Those missionaries lay the groundwork to what would evolve to become a Tier 2 coeducational liberal arts and sciences college. Its Catholic based commitment to offering quality education based upon service, innovation, and spiritual, personal, and professional growth. this commitment guarantees students are prepared to succeed as well rounded individuals following graduation. The University’s online MSW programs are the first of its kind within Texas and yield award winning academics distinguished by the Council on Social Work Education Presidential Award for Excellence in Social Work Education. Graduate candidates can partake in part or full time studies within Regular Standing or Advanced Standing programs emphasizing service, diversity, and assisting clients of far ranging economic and social backgrounds. Tuition at OLLU is $760 per hour of study plus added fees and expenses related to technology and education.

For more about Our Lady of the Lake’s Online MSW Program, go here

17. Case Western Reserve University

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An experienced based approach to learning about the arts, humanities, science, and technology has paved the path to worldwide recognition for Case Western Reserve University. Since founding in 1826, CWRU has given students the practical knowledge and work experiences necessary to become successful leaders. As a leader in innovative research, the University has a longstanding history as a top ranking school. Recognized by the U.S. World and News as the 37th Best College of 2013, 65th in Worldwide Universities by The Times Higher Education during 2010, and the 4th Best National University by Washington Monthly in 2013, CWRU is renown for its academic excellence. Its online MSW/MSSA programs offer students a dynamic opportunity to gain knowledge based in practical experiences, the promotion of social justice, and the empowerment of communities through local, national, and international efforts. An engaging, expert faculty and accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission of the North central Association of Colleges and Schools ensures that the programs available through Case Western meets or exceeds the academic standards of similar programs offered through other schools. Plus its Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences
has consistently ranked within the top 10 as the Best Grad Schools of Social Work for delivering a competency based curriculum addressing ethics, cross cultural knowledge, values, service, advocacy, diversity, self-awareness, and leadership. With Traditional or Advanced Standing Tracks, graduate candidates may specialize studies within two concentrations: the Community Practice for Social Change and the Direct Practice for Children, Youth, and Families or the Direct Practice for Mental Health/Adults. Graduates embark upon careers destined to change the lives of their clients applying what they learn through courses and field experiences. Tuition is $38,588 for full time students or $1,608 for part time students participating in up to 11 hours of study.

For more about Case Western Reserve University’s Online MSW Program, go here

18. Walden University

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Walden University is the first fully-online school to offer a full, accredited MSW program. Their MSW program builds on their decades of experience with online graduate coursework and meets the highest standards of education possible for distance learning. Utilizing both technology and case studies, hands-on field experience and residencies, students at WU can choose from three tracks to complete the coursework at their own pace and from a collection of optional “elective clusters” that act similarly to concentrations at other schools. Elective clusters provide the opportunity for students to specialize in on of the following specific areas: Military,; Crisis and Trauma,; Addictions; Children, Families, and Couples; Forensic Populations and Settings; and Medical Social Work. Students can also choose to follow the General Program instead of a more concentrated program of study. Tuition is $500 per credit hour plus technology, residency, and other fees.

For more regarding the Walden University’s Online MSW Program, go here

19. St. Leo University

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St. Leo University is an accredited Catholic university open to students of all faiths. While its full-time, online MSW program is only open to residents of Florida, Georgia and Virginia, the school is considered by the U.S. News & World Report to be among the “Top Universities of the South.” The School of Education and Social Services provides the online MSW degree with an Advanced Clinical Practice concentration. Students are best prepared to serve marginalized populations, the elderly, workers and the military, helping to eliminate feelings of oppression and discrimination. St. Leo’s online program consists of face-to-face weekly class meetings via webcam, a daytime internship and a weekend-long seminar on campus during the summer. The rigorous two-year program is also available to advanced standing students for accelerated learning in one year. Tuition for $422.00 per credit hour.

For more regarding St. Leo University’s Online MSW Program, go here

20. McKinley College

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For over thirty years, McKinley College has risen to meet the changing needs of education by offering distance learning programs. Though this school is relatively young, it’s ability to give busy and non-traditional adult students affordable and flexible access to quality education which doesn’t interfere with their busy schedules. Its mission to deliver student centered course theories, life experiences, and means of augmenting skill through a qualified faculty, service, career focused concepts build knowledge, confidence, and mastery. The online MSW program available through McKinley gives graduate candidates a unique opportunity to test out of some classes via Life Experience Exams and features courses covering multicultural issues, abnormal psychology, behavior modification, child and adult problems, principles of sociology, social problems, and social welfare. Graduates advance to careers making a difference in their clients’ lives and communities by instilling social change. Tuition is based in two options: the Pay-in-Full Now option which is $165 per credit hour or Affordable Tuition Automatic Payment Plan for $175 per credit hour.

For more about McKinley College’s Online MSW Program, go here