The 25 top accredited online masters of social work degree programs prepare social workers for advanced practice in many areas and career advancement. 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 master’s degree while working and juggling family life. Online education is often more affordable than campus programs. Furthermore, online is less expensive because room and board, transportation, and childcare costs are expenses graduate students already pay. Therefore, with an online degree, you can maximize your degree’s return on your time and financial investment very quickly.
SWDC’s Top 5 Accredited Online MSW Programs are:
- University at Buffalo
- Columbia University
- Rutgers University
- University of Arkansas
- Indiana University
Read on for full profiles of all the top 25!
Methodology: How We Ranked the Best Accredited Online MSW Programs
The editors at Social Work Degree Center want aspiring social workers and career-focused professionals to get the most out of their degrees. That’s why we focused our research on fully accredited, reputable social work programs offering excellent online options. Programs are ranked by tuition rate, student satisfaction, and potential salary.
1. University at Buffalo (SUNY)
The University at Buffalo’s School of Social Work offers an online Masters of Social Work degree program (MSW) that is one of the Empire State’s best online MSW programs available. The University at Buffalo’s MSW program has CSWE accreditation. Additionally, the university offers two online MSW options. First, there is a 60 credit traditional track. However, there is also a 35-credit advanced-standing MSW degree program. Both MSW programs integrate human rights with trauma-informed perspectives.
The University at Buffalo (UB) is a member school of the state’s university system. Established by Milliard Fillmore in 1846, the University at Buffalo has grown from a small medical school to a comprehensive research school with more than 32,300 students.
Highlight: The University at Buffalo holds the distinction of having the largest endowment and student enrollment of all SUNY schools.
2. Columbia University
Columbia University’s School of Social Work offers an online Masters of Social Work degree program that ranks first among the best online MSW programs. In addition, Columbia’s program is also the only Ivy League school to make the top five MSW online programs. Furthermore, students enrolled in Columbia University’s MSW degree have three online concentrations from which to choose. Students can focus on social enterprise administration, policy practice, or also advanced clinical practice.
Columbia University is one of the oldest schools in the nation. It started as King’s College in the mid 18th century. Additionally, Columbia University now operates as an ivy league school with more than 33,400 students attending classes each year.
Highlight: Columbia University started to compete with nearby Princeton University by King George II.
3. Rutgers University
The Social Work School at Rutgers University offers an online Masters of Social Work degree (MSW) Program that includes an additional Violence Against Women and Children certificate. This program is among New Jersey’s best online MSW programs. The Rutgers MSW program offers a traditional track. However, it also has an advanced standing path for those with a baccalaureate-level social work degree from a CSWE accredited school. Advanced standing students complete this Master of Social Work degree in only four semesters.
Rutgers University is officially a land-grant school that is the state’s flagship institution of higher education. Established as a private school in 176, it became a public school in 1825. Rutgers is the largest school in New Jersey.
Highlight: Rutgers also operates as a sea and space-grant higher learning institution with more than 68,700 students studying only and across its NJ campuses.
Degree: MSW – add Violence Against Women and Children certificate
4. University of Arkansas
The University of Arkansas’s School of Social Work, in combination with the Fulbright Arts/Sciences College (UArk Online), offers an advanced standing MSW Program. Furthermore, the UArk program is among the best online masters of social work programs in Arkansas. Applicants to the University of Arkansas must already possess a Bachelor of Social Work degree and enroll as full-time students. Degree candidates can complete this MSW program with the completion of 39 graduate semester credits- in only one year.
The University of Arkansas started in the early 1870s under the Morrill Act. So, it was the first university in the state. Additionally, the University of Arkansas is also the state’s flagship campus, with more than 500 acres on its Fayetteville campus. More than 27,550 students attend classes each year.
Highlight: The University of Arkansas is also a space-grant school with an endowment that exceeds $1.2 billion as of 2020.
Degree: Advanced Standing MSW
5. Indiana University
Indiana University offers an online Masters of Social Work degree (MSW) Program that is among the most innovative programs. These CSWE accredited best MSW programs online from Indiana University in core coursework of Core of diversity, human rights & social justice, social policy analysis, research, and generalist theory & practice, to name a few. Students can opt for concentrations that include addictions, military social work, foundations of e-social work, and tele-behavioral health, to name a few.
Indiana University opened in 1820. Today, the school operates a variety of campuses and regional learning centers across the Hoosier state. Across the entire university, IU has a student enrollment that exceeds 100,000 students each year.
Highlight: Famous alumni of Indiana University include Suzanne Collins, Mark Cubin, Kevin Kline, Isiah Thomas, and Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist Ernie Pyle, to name a few.
6. Florida State University
Florida State University’s College of Social Work offers a Master of Social Work degree (MSW) Program that is among the Sunshine State’s best online MSW programs. This online master of social work from FSU offers two academic tracks to the degree’s completion. FSU’s best MSW programs online have received accreditation by the CSWE and ranked as a best-value education by Kiplinger. BSW degree holders can complete the program in two years, while non-BSW holders need three years to earn the MSW from Florida State.
Florida State University is a research school that opened in the early 1850s. Florida State University is a senior member school of the Sunshine State’s state university system. FSU is also a sea and space-grant school with a student enrollment that exceeds 41,450 students.
Highlight: US News & World Report recognizes Florida State University among the top twenty universities in the national category.
Degree: MSW 2 year or 3 year
7. University of South Florida
The University of South Florida’s College of Behavioral & Community Science offers a Master of Social Work degree (MSW) Program for advanced standing social workers. The University of South Florida’s best MSW programs online are available to both full and part-time MSW students. Additionally, the University of South Florida’s best online MSW programs has received accreditation from the CSWE. Applicants to USF’s MSW online degree program must hold a Bachelor of Science in Social Work (BSW) to be eligible for admission.
The University of South Florida is a multiple-campus university that opened in the mid-1850s. The multiple campuses are home to more than 50,750 undergraduate and graduate students each year.
Highlight: The University of South Florida has fourteen colleges and schools that offer more than 175 academic and certificate programs online and on-campus.
Degree: MSW – Advanced Standing
8. University of Houston
The University of Houston’s Graduate Social Work School offers an online Masters of Social Work degree (MSW) Program that is among the best online MSW programs. These best MSW programs online require degree candidates to complete at least 900 hours of clinical fieldwork to meet UH’s graduation criteria. Classes for this Master of Social Work online degree plan include the policy in a social environment, human diversity & development, advanced social policy analysis, confronting oppression & injustice, and evaluation of practice, plus the required field practicum, among others.
The University of Houston (U of H) opened in 1927 and now operates as a multiple-campus school with more than 45,000 students. The University of Houston has a student enrollment that is the third-largest in the Lone Star State.
Highlight: The University of Houston started as a junior school and operated from a local high school campus at night.
9. Arizona State University
Students can complete the Arizona State University Masters of Social Work degree entirely online. ASU’s best online MSW programs require degree candidates to complete at least 20 classes for a total of 60 graduate degree units to graduate. These best MSW programs online have received CSWE accreditation and include classes as follows – macro human behavior and the. Social environment, social policy & services, diversity & oppression in a social work contact, and a professional experience, to name a few.
Arizona State began when Arizona was a territory in the mid-1880s. It was originally a school to train teachers in the Arizona Territory. ASU maintains multiple campuses in the Phoenix and Tempe areas that serve nearly 145,000 students online and on-campus.
Highlight: The university has seventeen colleges and schools offering hundreds of academic and certificate programs.
Degree: MSW – Advanced Generalist
10. University of Southern California (USC)
The Peck Social Work School within the University of Southern California offers two of California’s best online Masters of Social Work degree (MSW) programs, with its traditional or advanced standing academic track options. Additionally, USC’s MSW program online has accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education. And, it prepares grads to become LCSWs – a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. The advanced standing MSW program requires 37-semester units, while the traditional MSW program offered online requires 60 graduate semester units to meet USC’s graduation criteria.
Founded in the 19th century (1880), the University of Southern California (Southern Cal) is the oldest university dedicated to research in California. More than 48,150 undergraduate and graduate students attend classes online and on campus.
Highlight: The University of Southern California has one of the earliest nodes that led to the invention of the Domain Name System.
Degree: MSW Traditional or Advanced Standing
11. Case Western Reserve University
Case Western Reserve University offers an online Masters of Social Work degree that is CSWE accredited and among the best online MSW programs in Ohio. CWRU’s best MSW programs online offer students two academic tracks – an advanced standing and a traditional sixty-credit semester credit MSW program. Additionally, Case Western Reserve University’s Master of Social Work degrees offer three academic paths of study – community practice for social change, children, youth & families, and mental health with adults.
Case Western Reserve University began with the merger of two existing schools nearby to one another. Founded in 1826, more than 11,650 undergraduate and graduate students attend classes offer on the Cleveland campus and online.
Highlight: US News ranks the university among the top 50 national universities.
12. University of Central Florida
The University of Central Florida offers an online Master of Social Work degree (MSW) Program that US News ranks among the most innovative in the marketplace. The University of Central Florida’s best MSW programs online require students to complete 62 graduate credit units with seven-week terms throughout for the traditional track. The advanced standing track requires 32-semester units. Additionally, UCF’s Master of Social Work program offered online has full accreditation from the CSWE.
The University of Central Florida is a member of the state’s university system that started in the mid-1960s by an act of the state legislature. The University of Central Florida’s campus and online platform is home to nearly 72,000 undergraduate and graduate students each year.
Highlight: The University of Central Florida is heavily connected to the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral on Florida’s nearby Space Coast.
13. Louisiana State University
Louisiana State University offers an online Masters of Social Work degree (MSW) Program that ranks among Louisiana’s best for advanced standing social work professionals. Students can also opt for LSU’s best MSW programs online with a traditional track requiring sixty graduate semester units. Classes for Louisiana State University’s online MSW program include human behavior and the social environment, social work research, differential diagnosis, community, and agency contexts, plus an intensive practicum, among many others.
Louisiana State University was founded under the Morrill Act as a land grant school in 1860 as a seminary of learning and military academy. Additionally, Louisiana State University is a space and sea-grant school with a student enrollment that nears 35,000 undergraduate and graduate students.
Highlight: The Baton Rouge campus is the flagship school of the state’s university system.
Degree: MSW Advanced Standing – 12 months
14. University of New Hampshire
The University of New Hampshire offers a Master of Social Work degree (MSW) Program that is considered among New England’s best online MSW programs. Degree candidates enrolled in the University of New Hampshire’s best MSW programs online who complete two classes per academic term can complete UNH’s degree in only twenty-eight months. Elective coursework includes options in addictions, children, youth & families, disabilities, or health/mental health. Field placements can complete their dual internships in the field in their local community.
The University of New Hampshire (New Hampshire) was chartered under the provisions of the Morrill Land Act in the mid 1860s. UNH operates dual campuses across more than 2,500 rural acres that serve about 12,200 undergraduate and graduate students.
Highlight: The University of New Hampshire’s total enrollment makes it the largest of all state university schools.
Degree: MSW 2 internships
15. University of Nevada, Reno
The University of Nevada, Reno offers dual tracks towards a Master of Social Work degree (MSW) Program that is CSWE accredited and ranked among the best online MSW programs according to socialworkguide.org. These best MSW programs online from the University of Nevada include a 62-credit unit traditional Master of Social Work track or a 32 credit unit advanced standing track for students who already hold their BSW degree. Traditional students can complete the program in 32 months, whereas advanced standing students can finish in as few as fifteen months.
The University of Nevada was established in the early 1880s under the Morrill Land Grant College Act in Elko. The University of Nevada operates the state’s only medical school with a network of facilities extending across much of rural Nevada.
Highlight: The University of Nevada is home to one of the most powerful lasers found on any education campus in the nation.
16. University of Texas at Arlington
The University of Texas at Arlington offers a Master of Social Work degree (MSW) Program that can be completed 100% online with an accelerated option. The University of Texas’s best online MSW programs arranges students in Cohorts throughout. Degree candidates enrolled in UT’s best MSW programs online can select from aging, child/family, mental health substance abuse, or community & administrative practice concentration. The online Master of Social Work programs are offered with three start dates each calendar year.
The University of Texas (UTA) was founded as a public institution of higher education in the mid-1890s. It was first a member of the Texas A&M system but is now a UT member school with nearly 44,000 students each year.
Highlight: The student enrollment at the Arlington campus of the University of Texas is recognized to be the state’s fourth-largest.
Degree: MSW – Cohort – Accelerated or Online
17. University of North Dakota
The University of North Dakota offers two of North Dakota’s best online MSW programs with a 60-credit traditional foundation track or a 36 credit advanced standing track. These affordable, best MSW programs online have received accreditation from the CSWE and have been accredited for nearly three decades. Classes for those students enrolled in UND’s Master of Social Work programs include social policy, human behavior in the social environment, an advanced generalist with individuals, and a field practicum, among others.
The University of North Dakota was founded prior to North Dakota becoming a state – in the mid-1880s. The University of North Dakota’s student enrollment online and on-campus exceeded 13,550 undergraduate and graduate students.
Highlight: The University of North Dakota is recognized to be the state of North Dakota’s oldest institution of higher learning.
Degree: MSW – Online or Distance Foundations
18. University of Tennessee at Knoxville
The University of Tennessee offers an MS in Social Work degree (MSSW) Program that is considered among the most innovative and best online MSW programs that have received CSWE accreditation. These best MSW programs online offer the following academic concentrations – organizational leadership or evidenced-based interpersonal practice. Field placements can be done in the student’s local community with school approval. Additionally, UT’s Master of Social Work program is offered in a full-time or extended study capacity.
Established as Blount College in the 18th century (1794) two years before Tennessee became a state, the University of Tennessee now operates a land-grant, public university with more than 30,440 undergraduate and graduate students.
Highlight: Of all secular higher learning institutions that sit west of the Eastern Continental Divide, UT is among the oldest.
19. Texas State University
Texas State University offers a Master of Social Work degree (MSW) Program that ranks among the Lone Star State’s best online MSW programs. TSU’s CSWE-accredited best MSW programs online offer two academic tracks, a foundational Master of Social Work degree and an advanced standing MSW degree for students who already possess a BSW degree at application. Classes for Texas State University’s online Master of Social Work program include human behavior and family social environments, social welfare policy, advanced intervention with families/groups, program planning & grant-based resources, plus a foundation field placement, to name a few.
Texas State University is a research university that was founded in 1899. Texas State University’s San Marcos campus is now the largest campus in Lone Star State’s university system.
Highlight: Texas State University’s student enrolment exceeds 38K, which makes it the 5th largest in the state.
20. Temple University
Temple University’s Public Health College offers two of Pennsylvania’s best online MSW programs with its Master of Social Work academic tracks that include a traditional (60 credit) track or an advanced standing (34.5 credit) track. Programs offered by Temple University’s Public Health College are CEPH accredited. Temple University’s best MSW programs online also offer a dual degree program option of Master of Social Work with a Master of Public Health Degree academic track. The online program does require a 3-day residency at Temple’s Philadelphia campus.
Temple University is a research school that was founded in 1884 by a Baptist minister. Temple University is now a comprehensive space-grant school with nearly 40,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students each year.
Highlight: Temple University’s police force is recognized as the largest of any university across the nation.
21. Baylor University
Baylor University offers a Master of Social Work degree (MSW) Program that is considered among Texas’s best online MSW programs. Graduates of Baylor University’s best MSW programs online enter the workforce in hospitals, nonprofit organizations, school systems, or correctional facilities, to name a few. Students can enter Baylor University’s Master of Social Work online programs as either a traditional (60 credit), foundational student, or a Master of Social Work student with advanced standing (32 credit). Degree candidates can select a clinical practice or a community practice social work specialization. Advanced standing full-time students can complete the degree in one year, with full-time traditional track students needing two years (on average) or in as few as sixteen months for accelerated students.
Baylor University was established by the Baptist General Convention of Texas in the mid-1840s. The school’s campus along the Brazos River is home to nearly 20,000 students.
Highlight: Baylor University’s law school is among some of the programs that are considered nationally ranked.
22. Boston University
Boston University’s Social Work School offers three of Boston’s best online Masters of Social Work degree (MSW) Programs with three academic specialist tracks. Students enrolled in BU’s best MSW programs online include a traditional, 65-credit traditional track, s 40 – 43 credit advanced standing track, and a human service experience (65 credit) track. Boston University’s graduate social work programs offer students a macro social work practice or clinical major.
Boston University started in Newbury, Vermont, in the late 1830s by the United Methodist Church. The school moved to its current Back Bay Boston location several decades later. Nearly 35,000 students attend classes online and on BU’s multiple campuses across Bean Town.
Highlight: Boston University is one of the city’s largest employers.
Degree: MSW 3 tracks
23. Fordham University
Fordham University’s Graduate Social Work School offers three of New York’s best online MSW programs offering a traditional/foundational track, an accelerated track, and an advanced standing MSW track, according to US News & World Report. Additionally, Fordham University’s best MSW programs online have received accreditation from the CSWE. Students enrolled in Fordham University’s online MSW program offers four social work focus areas from which to choose – evaluation, individuals/families, policy practice/advocacy, and organizations and community.
Fordham University began as St. Johns College in the early 1840s. The school took its name from the Bronx neighborhood in which it resides. As a Roman Catholic university, Fordham serves more than 16,550 students each year.
Highlight: Fordham University’s alumni include Geraldine Ferraro, John Mitchell, and a multitude of successful businessmen like Burberry’s CEI and Wellington Mara – the NY Giants Football team owner, among others.
Degree: MSW Tradition, Accelerated, or Advanced Standing
24. California State University, San Bernardino
California State University, San Bernardino’s School of Social Work offers an MSW program through its pathway distance education program. This degree is among the most innovative and best online MSW programs. Additionally, students can complete San Bernardino’s best online MSW program in three years. Classes for this graduate degree program in social work from Cal State include social work from a global perspective, human behavior in the social environment, public child welfare, and alcohol & drug abuse, to name a few.
California State University – San Bernardino is a multiple-campus public university that started in the mid-1960s. California State University – San Bernardino operates as a space-grant and sun-grant school with a student enrollment of more than 19,350 students.
Highlight: California State University – San Bernardino offers more than 225 academic programs at the bachelor, master’s, and doctoral levels.
Degree: MSWPathway Distance Education
25. California State University Northridge
California State University, Northridge offers one of the Golden State’s best online MSW programs with its Master of Social Work degree (MSW) Program, also ranked as the best value social work program. The Northridge MSW program online includes coursework in classes like human behavior, assessment and diagnostic formulation, family crisis, and also trauma & grief. Additionally, students study social work in multicultural contexts, social work practice in urban families, plus an advanced practice field placement.
CSU Northridge started in the late 1950s as San Fernando Valley State College. It now operates as a member of the state’s university system, with the second-largest enrollment of undergraduate students of all member schools.
Highlight: California State University’s Northridge campus is one of the top film schools in the nation and across the globe.
Can I Trust an Accredited Online Master’s of Social Work Degree Program?
Earning an MSW (Masters in Social Work) is no easy feat, but like most things worth the effort, the results are worth the work. An MSW opens doors, opportunities, and places those who earn this coveted degree in rarified air. It is also more challenging than most might imagine, as many who pursue accredited MSW programs are also working professionals.
Balancing the time to study, test, and write in addition to a typically more-than-full workload can be daunting. That also leads many to ask, are online MSW programs good, because they present an excellent avenue to earn that Masters. In addition, some online programs have a specific focus like an online MSW for LCSWs.
This is where the value of an accredited social work program online is recognized, and it is also the answer to the question, are online MSW programs good? The answer is yes if they are accredited MSW programs. Be careful though of the word affiliation and accreditation. There are plenty of good online MSW degree programs that have accreditation.
What Can I Do with an Online MSW?
There are many opportunities and Masters in Social Work jobs for those who have earned their degrees. What do those opportunities look like, or to put it more directly, what can I do with a Masters in Social Work you ask? Great question, and here are a few of those amazing masters in social work careers that fall under the category of Masters in Social Work jobs:
- Mental health social work
- Clinical therapist
- Hospice social worker
- Addictions counselor
- Gerontological social worker
What can I do with a Master’s in Social Work is a good question and the good news is there are many answers too. Moreover, the sample of a few of the many opportunities listed above shows that the roles and opportunities opened up with these credentials are important ones. Furthermore, a Master’s in Social Work career focuses on the service of helping to improve and better the lives of others and our communities.
In addition to opening these types of doors, Masters in Social Work jobs open up the chance for us to make a difference. Remember, this is rarified air.
How Much Can I Make with an Online MSW?
Based on reports from the U.S. Labor Department, “the median annual wage for social workers was $51,760 in May 2020.” On average, those social workers with an MSW make about $9000 more annually, although pinning down reliable numbers for Masters in Social Work Salary can be a bit more difficult. This is likely in large part due to the range of positions and pay, including social worker benefits and salary.
A Master’s in Social Work salary is certainly considerable, regardless of how much it may vary based on location, responsibilities, and other factors. Social work salary typically increases for those who have earned an MSW to go along with the esteem and respect that is inherent to holding a Master’s degree. Additionally, most graduates with an MSW have earnings of the median social work salary approaching $45,900.
Do I Need the GRE for an Accredited Online MSW Degree Program?
It might be a term thrown around or that you heard in researching online MSW programs. However, what is the GRE exactly, and more importantly, do you need the GRE to qualify for an online MSW program. This test predates the age of technology and that has left a little room for debate now concerning the necessity, need, and use of the GRE for online schooling.
Simply put, the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) is a standardized test used for years by many graduate schools for admissions. The good news is, that while many online MSW programs do require this testing, there are online MSW programs no GRE required available too.
The only caveat here, as it was before, is to be certain to verify the school or program’s accreditation record. Yes, there are good online MSW programs, and yes there are options for online MSW programs no GRE required. Now, the question is, are you ready to roll up your sleeves and get to work. Good luck in all of your future academic endeavors.
Accredited Online MSW Degree Programs
The difference between online MSW degree programs accredited by recognized governing authorities (such as the National Association of Social Workers NASW) and those that aren’t is the value of your MSW degree. So, don’t waste your effort, your hard work, and your time. Finding accredited social work programs online is not only a good option but also the only one that counts.