Earning a Master of Social Work degree opens opportunities for promotion into advanced practice and supervisory roles. Employers may even require a MSW for entry-level positions, especially in clinical and school social work. Online MSW programs are ideal for furthering your mastery of social welfare practices and following your own pace. Generalist social workers often pursue their online masters degree while working and juggling family life. Online education is often more affordable because room and board, transportation, and childcare costs are all expense graduate students generally already pay. That means you can maximize your degree’s return on your time and financial investment very quickly, as most graduates with an MSW have earnings of the median social work salary approaching $45,900.
In this article, we’ll rank The Top 15 Accredited Online Masters of Social Work Programs of 2016 to help you find the best school to meet your financial, educational, and personal situation.
We began by reviewing the 245 masters programs in social work accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). We found over 60 MSW degrees with online learning components. Programs that weren’t available 100 percent online, except for field practicum, were eliminated. Next, we used the U.S. News and World Report rankings to judge the merit of each program. Only national universities with a stellar top-tier reputation were chosen. For affordability, we researched tuition costs on the NCES College Navigator tool. We noted average graduate tuition per year for in-state and out-of-state residents. Any colleges costing over $32,000 were cut. Other factors considered were awards, internships, Advanced Standing options, and course flexibility.
Now is an excellent time to attend graduate school for social work. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that jobs in social work will grow faster-than-average by 12 percent through 2024. Claiming one of these 74,800 new openings is easier when you list a MSW and state licensure on your resume. Enroll in any of these Top 15 Accredited Online Masters of Social Work programs to further your career improving society and changing lives.
1. Rutgers University
Chartered in 1766, Rutgers University has a long legacy for high-quality public education and is ranked 72nd nationally by the U.S. News. Their Online MSW in Clinical Social Work is CSWE-accredited to provide robust advancement training in an asynchronous format. The program is typically three years, but the Advanced Standing track takes just four semesters. Students benefit from 1,125 practicum hours at field placements in their hometowns.
Tuition: $16,272 (in-state) or $27,648 (out-of-state)
Go here for more about Rutger’s Online Master of Social Work program.
2. Fordham University
Ranked 66th nationally by the U.S. News, Fordham University is a private, Catholic research institution located in New York City. The Graduate School offers an Online Master of Social Work with full-time and part-time asynchronous options. Within the 66-credit curriculum, online learners can concentrate in Clinical Social Work or Leadership and Macro Practice. There’s an accelerated one-year option for BSW graduates. Field placements are arranged across New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
Go here for more about Fordham University’s Online Master of Social Work program.
3. University of Buffalo-SUNY
Serving over 29,900 students, the University of Buffalo-SUNY is New York’s largest public college with “very high research activity.” The U.S. News recognized UB for having the 27th best social work programs nationwide, including the Part-Time Online MSW. Featuring 60 credits, this CSWE-accredited program prepares advanced generalists with trauma-informed and human rights perspectives. Online asynchronous courses begin every Fall. Graduation requires at least one 480-hour field placement.
Tuition: $10,870 (in-state) or $22,210 (out-of-state)
Go here for more about the SUNY University of Buffalo’s Online Master of Social Work program.
4. Florida State University
Located in Tallahassee, Florida State University is a premier research institution endowed for nearly $625 million to deliver on-campus and online programs, including an Online MSW. The U.S. News crowned FSU as America’s 96th best national university. This part-time program is split into Traditional and Advanced Standing paths. Ranging from 39 to 61 credits, the curriculum has a Clinical Concentration to qualify master’s practitioners for the ASWB exam.
Tuition: $9,684 (in-state) or $24,116 (out-of-state)
Go here for more about Florida State University’s Online Master of Social Work program.
5. University of Tennessee – Knoxville
The University of Tennessee – Knoxville is ranked 103rd nationally by the U.S. News for providing revered, accredited education. Within the College of Social Work, students can pursue the Online Master of Science in Social Work. It recently won the TACHE’s Innovative Credit Programming Award. MSSW students finish the 60-credit degree in two years full-time or four years part-time. The 672-hour internship is arranged within reasonable driving distance.
Tuition: $10,618 (in-state) or $28,806 (out-of-state)
Go here for more about The University of Tennessee’s Online Master of Social Work program.
6. University of New Hampshire
Enrolling around 15,300 students, the University of New Hampshire is a flagship public land-grant institution recognized by the U.S. News for America’s 103rd best social work degrees. The Online Master of Social Work has a 62-credit advanced generalist curriculum. Students finish the CSWE-accredited program asynchronously in 28 months. Electives can specialize in Mental Health, Substance Abuse, Children and Families, or Disabilities. Two field internships are included at local community agencies.
Tuition: $13,500 (in-state) or $26,460 (out-of-state)
Go here for more about The University of New Hampshire’s Online Master of Social Work program.
7. Louisiana State University
Louisiana State University is an esteemed public sea-grant institution in Baton Rouge that’s ranked 129th nationally by the U.S. News. LSU grants an MSW Online program with six flexible start dates to prepare graduates for social work leadership. The 60-credit asynchronous curriculum has a thesis or non-thesis option. Field education requires at least 960 internship hours. Advanced Standing students with a BSW graduate in 12 months.
Tuition: $8,827 (in-state) or $26,236 (out-of-state)
Go here for more about Louisiana State University’s Online Master of Social Work program.
8. Arizona State University
As the country’s largest public school, Arizona State University educates over 82,000 students from Tempe, Phoenix, Mesa, and online. It’s acclaimed for the 32nd best social work programs according to the U.S. News. The Master of Social Work is available online with an Advanced Generalist concentration. Emphasis is placed on serving diverse Southwest communities in the Borderlands. The 60-credit curriculum models CSWE standards with online flexibility.
Tuition: $10,610 (in-state) or $22,580 (out-of-state)
Go here for more about Arizona State University’s Online Master of Social Work program.
9. University of Louisville
Established in 1798, the University of Louisville is a preeminent metropolitan research institution ranked 168th nationally by the U.S. News. The Kent School of Social Work is CSWE-accredited for a 100 percent Online MSSW. Students are empowered to advocate for social justice in the 60-credit Standard or 30-credit Advanced Standing program. Five specializations are given in Military Social Work, Gerontology, Alcohol and Drug Counseling, Mental Health, and Psychosocial Oncology.
Tuition: $11,664 (in-state) or $24,274 (out-of-state)
Go here for more about The University of Louisville’s Online Masters of Social Work program.
10. University of Maine
The University of Maine is a flagship public RU/H university in Orono serving over 10,900 students yearly as America’s 168th best college. New cohorts are admitted each Fall for the Online MSW Program. The traditional 63-credit curriculum uses a generalist perspective to prepare students for Maine LMSW licensure. The 12-month Advanced Standing option is offered to accredited BSW holders. Asynchronous online classes are supplemented with 900 hours of field practicum.
Tuition: $7,524 (in-state) or $23,940 (out-of-state)
Go here for more about The University of Maine’s Online Master of Social Work program.
11. Indiana University
Since 2012, the Indiana University system has delivered the MSW Direct fully online with CSWE accreditation using 16-week semesters. IU is lauded by the U.S. News for the nation’s 27th best social work programs. Students complete the MSW in a cohort, lock-step progression with online coursework on Canvas. Full-time students complete the 60-credit program in six semesters. Just one three-day orientation is required in Indianapolis.
Tuition: $8,136 (in-state) or $22,985 (out-of-state)
Go here for more about Indiana University’s Online Master of Social Work program.
12. Widener University
Nestled in Chester, Pennsylvania, Widener University is a private, doctoral-granting institution ranked 187th nationally by the U.S. News. The Online MSW Program at Widener is accredited to prepare graduates for taking the LSW exam. Within the 64-credit curriculum, students study evidence-based clinical practices with an emphasis on trauma and mental health. Online courses can be finished in three semesters with no on-campus requirements. There’s also a hybrid MSW/MEd in Human Sexuality Studies program.
Go here for more about Widener University’s Online Master of Social Work program.
13. University of Texas – Arlington
The University of Texas-Arlington is a top-tier public school located in the DFW Metroplex with the country’s 38th best social work degrees according to the U.S. News. Texas residents can pursue the Online MSW Cohort program. Starting in Fall 2016, the 61-credit curriculum will have full-time and part-time plans. Students select from two web-based specialty areas: Children and Families or Mental Health and Substance Abuse. Micro and macro practicum placements are included.
Tuition: $6,959 (in-state only)
Go here for more about The University of Texas’s Online Master of Social Work program.
14. Portland State University
In a tie for America’s 38th top social work programs, Portland State University is a top-tier, non-profit college educating over 28,200 students. PDX’s School of Social Work provides the Pacific Northwest’s only MSW Online Option. The accredited, three-year program focuses on the practice and leadership of communities and organizations. Online courses use the D2L system in convenient 11-week modules. Working students can satisfy field practicum hours with their employer.
Tuition: $12,816 (in-state) or $20,016 (out-of-state)
Go here for more about Portland State University’s Online Master of Social Work program.
15. Our Lady of the Lake University
Founded on Roman Catholic values in 1895, Our Lady of the Lake University is a private, faith-based institution in San Antonio. The U.S. News recognized OLLU for the country’s 141st best MSW program. It has also earned the CSWE’s Presidential Award for Excellence. The online 57-credit degree builds a time-tested foundation in general social work practices. Special emphasis is placed on the skills for serving Hispanic populations.
Go here for more about Our Lady of the Lake University’s Online Master of Social Work program.