Best Affordable Online MSW Programs


Earning a Master’s degree in Social Work will allow you to provide struggling people with the support, guidance, and resources that will make a meaningful difference in their lives.

Earning a Master’s degree, as opposed to a Bachelor’s degree, allows you to get to the next step of social work, which is in the clinical field. You will have opportunities to help people in clinics or community agencies to find access to the best social services for each situation. It also opens up the world of advising policymakers or organizations at all levels of government. You can advise on services and programs that become necessary to ensure people’s well-being.

If you want to go into private practice, you must become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. A Master’s degree is required to become a Licensed Clinical Social Workers. LCSWs diagnose and treat behavioral, mental, and emotional disorders in their own private practices.

Earning a Master’s degree in Social Work online is a flexible way to start your career out with little to no debt, which is always the goal of any college student and can help you have a financially healthy start in life.

Related Programs That Might Interest You

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Ranking Methodology

The most affordable Masters in Social Work Degree Programs ranking is based on four main data points in four categories:

  • Affordability (average net price)
  • Student Satisfaction (retention rate)
  • Academic Quality (4-year graduation rate)
  • Student Outcome (20-year return on investment per

Each data point is ranked with equal weight. Schools received a weighted overall ranking score for each individual point mentioned above–100 being the highest score possible.

In the case of a tie in scoring, the average net price was the determining factor for which school received the higher rank–the lower the net price, the higher the ranking.

All data was gathered from the National Center for Education Statistics website, College ScorecardPayscale, and school websites.

Most Affordable Online MSW Programs

1. Indiana University Bloomington



Score: 100.0

Average Net Price: $14,351
Retention Rate: 91%
Graduation Rate: 79%
PayScale ROI: $414,000

Indiana University offers a comprehensive online degree program that boasts robust features. Online students receive equal access to professors as their on-campus counterparts. The online Master of Social Work program includes an introductory phase that covers 31 credit hours of general social work education. Following this, students may select from six specialized areas of social work. The online campus, which is one of two Indiana University campuses, offers all social work specialties available within the university. The Indiana University Direct program provides greater flexibility compared to the on-campus program and eliminates the need for students to be grouped into cohorts. Completing either a two-semester practicum or a full-time block practicum is mandatory for all students.

Image Source

2. Arizona State University-Tempe



Score: 99.5

Average Net Price: $11,163
Retention Rate: 86%
Graduation Rate: 66%
PayScale ROI: $451,000

Arizona State's School of Social work is housed under the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions. The college employs prestigious faculty, including an American Psychological Association fellow and National Academy of Public Administration member. Arizona State University's online Master of Social Work offers unique social work courses on topics such as forensic social work, human trafficking, and border issues. Despite the diverse topics available to online students at the University of Arizona's online campus, the program does not offer specialization. All online students will get their social work degree in Advanced Generalist Studies, which is not a clinical specialty. The specialization focuses on community outreach. Online students can choose a full-time or part-time course of study. Students must complete two distinct internships. The School of Social Work Field Education office helps students find internship opportunities in their area that fit the university's requirements.

Image Source

3. University of South Florida



Score: 99.5

Average Net Price: $11,700
Retention Rate: 90%
Graduation Rate: 72%
PayScale ROI: $351,000

The master's program at the University of Florida does not offer other social work specialties besides the one it focuses on. In this program, students participate in a cohort model to establish relationships with their peers and instructors. The program follows a predetermined path of instruction with limited options for electives. Completing a capstone course in the final semester is mandatory for all social work students at the University of Florida. Students who have significant undergraduate experience in social work can enroll in the School of Social Work's advanced standing track and skip the first semester or 15 credit hours of instruction.

Image Source

4. Rutgers University-New Brunswick



Score: 97.5

Average Net Price: $20,379
Retention Rate: 93%
Graduation Rate: 81%
PayScale ROI: $576,000

Rutgers University provides two programs for obtaining a Master of Social Work: a 100% online program and a blended program. The blended program spans three years, comprising two years of online instruction followed by one year of combined in-person and online classes at one of three New Jersey campuses. While blended students may choose to specialize in either clinical social work or management and policy, fully online students are limited to clinical social work. Students interested in the blended program can also earn a certificate in aging and health, violence against women and children, or promoting child and adolescent well-being in addition to their Master of Social Work. On the other hand, fully online students can apply for the violence against women and children certificate program. Additionally, blended students are required to select an area of emphasis in addition to their specialization. Both program tracks necessitate two fieldwork placements: one generalist placement and one advanced placement in the student's area of expertise.

5. Ohio State University



Score: 97.3

Average Net Price: $17,699
Retention Rate: 94%
Graduation Rate: 81%
PayScale ROI: $413,000

Ohio State University's online Master of Social Work program accepts students from any major who have taken at least 10 credit hours of social sciences. Online students can choose areas of emphasis in either mental health and substance misuse or child and youth services. Students interested in pursuing a Ph.D. can take part in an accelerated MSW/Ph.D. track. Students may also pursue dual degrees in Social Work and Public Affairs, Public Health, or City and Regional Planning. The university partners with state child services agencies to offer a unique field placement with a $5000 award upon completion. Applicants to Ohio State's Master of Social Work program have the option to explore an online course demo and take an online learning readiness assessment. In addition to its affordable price tag, students have access to financial counseling and discounts on essential technology.

Image Source

6. University of Southern California



Score: 97.3

Average Net Price: $30,232
Retention Rate: 96%
Graduation Rate: 92%
PayScale ROI: $608,000

The Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work at the University of Southern California provides an online Master of Social Work program. This program has three departments: Adult Mental Health and Wellness, Children, Youth and Families, or Social Change and Innovation. The university offers tutoring services for social work students, an uncommon resource in graduate programs. Additionally, they record their online classes and make them available to students for studying and reviewing. To support online students, the University of Southern California provides a virtual field practicum, where actors play clients and create real-life scenarios for students to practice their skills. This program offers students the chance to gain experience and refine their skills before interacting with actual clients. Students complete 210 hours of online practicum before embarking on 790 hours of in-person field training. Fieldwork accounts for 50% of students' credit hours and necessitates a minimum of 16 hours of weekly attendance at a field placement during normal work hours for three semesters.

Image Source

7. California State University-Northridge



Score: 95.8

Average Net Price: $5,703
Retention Rate: 79%
Graduation Rate: 65%
PayScale ROI: $424,000

Currently, California State University-Northridge offers its Master of Social Work exclusively online. The program, which is part of the university's College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, follows a cohort model, and most of the classes are asynchronous. Students complete the program prepared to serve in a variety of environments, but the program specifically focuses on urban issues. To graduate, students must complete around 1,000 hours of field practicum. Field placements are coordinated through the Field Department; students may not independently arrange a field placement. Occasionally, students may complete their second-year field placement at their place of employment or obtain a paid field position. Although all classes are asynchronous, and each cohort meets once a week, students benefit from building relationships within their cohort. In addition, field classes meet for one hour weekly. Students are guaranteed enrollment in the classes required for graduation and receive extensive academic support from the program manager. The university prioritizes distance learning and ensures that all its faculty are properly trained in online learning platforms.

8. University at Buffalo



Score: 95.5

Average Net Price: $17,469
Retention Rate: 87%
Graduation Rate: 72%
PayScale ROI: $423,000

The University of Buffalo offers its Master of Social Work through its School of Social Work. Their program focuses on trauma-informed care and human rights. In addition to teaching their social work students the principles of trauma-informed care, it even employs trauma-informed instruction in its graduate program. The University offers a trauma counseling certificate. Students participate in two years of field placements, consisting of a minimum of 15 hours a week. Students are advised to avoid moving through the duration of their master's program to ensure they can complete their field placements. The University of Buffalo Campus is located near Native American reservations, and appropriately located students have the option to work with those communities as part of their field placement. Students are occasionally able to complete their field placement in Canada or overseas. The University of Buffalo houses the Buffalo Center for Social Research, which engages students interested in research opportunities.

Image Source

9. University of Central Florida



Score: 94.5

Average Net Price: $15,286
Retention Rate: 89%
Graduation Rate: 72%
PayScale ROI: $329,000

Online, the part-time, 3-year track is the only option available for students who do not qualify for the advanced placement track. The classes run for seven weeks each, with only one class per term. The program uses a cohort model to foster collaboration and professional networking. All their students complete coursework focused on working with diverse client populations, clients with substance use disorders, and families. Professors often offer online office hours. In addition to program administrators and professors, UCF students have access to success coaches, who coordinate resources to keep students on track for graduation. 

Image Source

10. West Virginia University



Score: 93.8

Average Net Price: $11,825
Retention Rate: 79%
Graduation Rate: 59%
Salary After Attending: $425,000

West Virginia University only offers part-time, online Master of Social Work programs. Students may also complete a dual degree in social work and public administration, but the program does not offer specialization. All students specialize in advanced integrated practice, which prepares students to work in a variety of social work settings. Students complete a generalist field placement and an advanced field placement. During their field placements, students participate in professional seminars to help students apply classroom theory to the real world. Students may not initiate contact with potential field placements, but they may propose a field placement for approval if the student is already employed at an organization with potential field opportunities. Students occasionally receive multiple potential advanced field placements and may pick the placement of their choosing.

Image Source

11. Appalachian State University

Score: 92.3

Average Net Price: $13,691
Retention Rate: 88%
Graduation Rate: 72%
PayScale ROI: $218,000

As one of the least expensive online MSW programs, Appalachian State University offers two concentrations for their online Master of Social Work students. The university is a public university in Boone, North Carolina. The program is hybrid, with some in-person instruction required. In-person instruction is taught in the evenings to accommodate student schedules. Students can choose between an Individuals and Families concentration or a Community and Organizational Practice concentration. Students may take courses in another concentration as long as the course complements their primary concentration. Students must complete 960 hours of field education. Appalachian State University requires high academic performance. Students must maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher and may not graduate with three or more C grades. The program director is available for one-on-one meetings with students and acts as students' academic and professional advisor. The University includes students in its internal governance. Master of Social Work students participate in faculty search committees, faculty meetings, and the curriculum committee. The program also sends a representative to the North Carolina chapter of the National Association of Social Work.

12. Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College

Score: 92.3

Average Net Price: $18,181
Retention Rate: 83%
Graduation Rate: 68%
PayScale ROI: $443,000

The part-time program at LSU typically takes between 3.5 to 4 years to finish, which is slightly longer than the average duration of most Master of Social Work programs. Courses are offered throughout the year with brief one or two week intervals between modules. To complete a full-time course load, students must commit at least 15 hours per week to two classes per module. Online students can only specialize in the advanced generalist concentration. Each student is paired with a learner concierge, who provides non-academic assistance throughout the program.

13. University of Nevada-Reno

Score: 91.3

Average Net Price: $14,505
Retention Rate: 81%
Graduation Rate: 62%
PayScale ROI: $380,000

The University of Nevada- Reno's online Master of Social Work degree takes two years to complete, including summers. The university also offers a shorter advanced standing program. The university does not offer specialties because social workers with an advanced generalist concentration graduate with a wider array of career options. Because it is a research university, the University of Nevada-Reno prides itself on promoting evidence-based practices. Social work students at this university have close relationships with their advisors, who students meet with at least once a semester. In addition to helping students fulfill their graduation requirements, they review student's academic strengths, career options, and field placement interests. Already close to the cheapest online MSW programs, the University of Nevada- Reno offers institutional scholarships to its graduate students.

14. Colorado State University-Fort Collins

Score: 90.8

Average Net Price: $18,700
Retention Rate: 84%
Graduation Rate: 68%
PayScale ROI: $402,000

Colorado State University's Master of Social Work program offers online and in-person blended instruction. In-person classes are on weekends to accommodate working students. Students only attend in-person instruction twice each semester and can choose between attending classing in Denver or Colorado Springs. The traditional program takes three years to complete, but advanced standing students can complete the program in only two years. Although the university takes an advanced generalist approach to instruction, they offer six concentrations, which are integrated into field placements. Field placements occur at various human service agencies that accommodate student's educational goals. Master of Social Work students at Colorado State University can pursue Advanced Clinical Behavioral Health or PreK-12 School Social Worker certificates to further their professional credentials. Although applicants do not need a related undergraduate degree, they must have completed relevant coursework and have 400 hours of verifiable work or volunteer experience human services.

15. University of New Hampshire-Main Campus

Score: 90.8

Average Net Price: $24,529
Retention Rate: 86%
Graduation Rate: 79%
PayScale ROI: $375,000

Students at the University of New Hampshire can choose between four specialties, including a disabilities specialty and substance abuse specialty. Students may even create a self-designed specialization if none of the existing specialties match their academic and career goals. For traditional track students, the university admits applicants to their online MSW program three times a year, meaning students have significant flexibility on their start date. Advanced standing students must start in the fall. Social work students are only allowed three elective courses, but two of those elective courses may be taken outside of the Department of Social Work. Students participate in seminars concurrent with their field placements. In-state students pursuing a career in child welfare are eligible to apply for a full-tuition scholarship with a $2500 stipend and additional training resources under the Title IV-E Project. It opens up career opportunities for its recipients.

16. University of Denver

Score: 90.5

Average Net Price: $32,174
Retention Rate: 87%
Graduation Rate: 75%
PayScale ROI: $377,000

The University of Denver accepts applicants without any prior human services or social work experience, as long as the students meet the university's other admissions criteria. Students choose between the Mental Health and Trauma specialization and the Health, Equity, and Wellness specialization. Although the classes are online, the University of Denver encourages students to interact using their online campus. Students participate in group work and can use the online platform to talk between classes. Classes are seminar-style, taught synchronously in small groups to encourage participation. The online platform allows for small group work, interactive quizzes, and polls. Students have access to a 24/7 virtual classroom for studying, socializing, and networking. Online students at the University of Denver receive a WeWork Global Access membership, granting them access to exclusive workspaces and amenities. In addition, students receive a LinkedIn Premium Career membership, which includes career-building resources.

17. The University of Texas at Arlington

Score: 90.0

Average Net Price: $13,200
Retention Rate: 70%
Graduation Rate: 56%
PayScale ROI: $495,000

The University of Texas at Arlington provides the option for students pursuing their Master of Social Work to complete their degree with or without a cohort. Cohort students can choose from three specialty areas: mental health, aging, and children and families. Non-cohort students have access to an additional specialty in health. Cohort students receive priority and are guaranteed enrollment in their classes if they maintain their schedule. Non-cohort students must be flexible in their course selection and regularly meet with academic advisors to ensure they meet degree requirements. The program emphasizes direct practice and is only available to Texas residents, with the exception of military veterans, active-duty military, and military spouses who may encounter challenges finding appropriate field placements.

18. The University of Alabama

Score: 89.0

Average Net Price: $21,973
Retention Rate: 87%
Graduation Rate: 67%
PayScale ROI: $366,000

The University of Alabama offers full-time, part-time, and advanced standing tracks for their Master of Social Work. Students can either concentrate on social work with children, adolescents, and their families, or adults and their families. Also, students may choose an emphasis on program and agency administration along with either concentration. With a Master of Social Work program, the University of Alabama offers dual degrees in Master of Public Health and a JD. Students must apply and be accepted into both programs to qualify for a dual degree. To finance living and education costs, some students receive stipends through the university or their field placement. The university coordinates with the Alabama Department of Human Resources to offer students interested in pursuing child welfare Title IV-E funds. Online students must attend the campus on weekends to participate in advanced course skills labs.

19. University of North Dakota

Score: 87.5

Average Net Price: $15,056
Retention Rate: 80%
Graduation Rate: 52%
PayScale ROI: $378,000

A public research university, the University of North Dakota is located in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Master of Social Work students at the university can choose to complete one of five generalist practice options or complete a social policy concentration. All of the concentrations prepare students for clinical social work. Students should live near the campus, as the program demands students occasionally complete parts of their education on campus. The University of North Dakota offers an addiction counselor training program for graduate students that requires a 25-week long practicum in addition to all other graduation requirements. The university houses a Children and Family Services Training Center that serves students, practitioners, and the community. The center is the primary location for the state's child welfare agency to train. Title IV-E funding is available for students who wish to pursue a career in child welfare. Students may also perform teaching and research assistantships in exchange for a tuition waiver and health insurance.

20. Salisbury University

Score: 87.3

Average Net Price: $18,792
Retention Rate: 84%
Graduation Rate: 68%
PayScale ROI: $319,000

The MSW program at Salisbury University emphasizes clinical practice and requires all students to select a direct practice specialty. Students must apply early to secure their preferred field placements. If suitable for the program and course of study, students are permitted to complete their field placements at their workplace. Maryland students can apply for Title IV-E funding or participate in the Behavioral Health Integration in Pediatric Primary Care (BHIPP) field placement, which offers a stipend, to receive additional financial assistance.

21. University of Northern Iowa

Score: 86.8

Average Net Price: $16,496
Retention Rate: 84%
Graduation Rate: 67%
PayScale ROI: $239,000

They are the only midwestern University to offer a trauma-informed care specialization, emphasizing trauma-informed care in their curriculum. All UNI's social work department faculty are student advisors, and students will have access to their assigned advisors through office hours and appointments. As a substitute for specialization classes, and at the discretion of the department director, students may take classes from the University of Northern Iowa departments outside of social work. The University of Northern Iowa maintains high academic standards. Students may not earn more than one C grade in the MSW program.

22. The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

Score: 86.0

Average Net Price: $3,901
Retention Rate: 80%
Graduation Rate: 50%
PayScale ROI: $230,000

Their program is the cheapest online master's in social work program listed here. The program requires students to specialize in either administration and community practice or direct practice with Latino individuals. Both tracks emphasize interacting with at-risk Latino communities in the Texas-Mexico border region. The university's School of Social work has a unique process to match students with field placements. Masters students attend a field placement fair to learn more about partner agencies and select programs they believe are a good fit.

23. Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis

Score: 86.0

Average Net Price: $12,021
Retention Rate: 75%
Graduation Rate: 49%
PayScale ROI: $347,000

Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis houses the oldest university-affiliated school of social work and offers a 100% online program. Their online students specialize in clinical and community practice. The variety allows students to participate in a cohort model that fits their personal needs. IUPUI offers a wide variety of field placements, including placements in a student's current place of employment. The university's field opportunities include a study abroad practicum for eligible students. Students complete 15 credit hours of electives, choosing between interesting topics like military social work and tele-behavioral health.

24. Texas State University

Score: 86.0

Average Net Price: $15,545
Retention Rate: 78%
Graduation Rate: 62%
PayScale ROI: $342,000

Texas State University's BSW program has been accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. Additionally, students gain practical experience by participating in a supervised field practicum that allows them to work with clients in various settings. The growing demand for social services can be attributed to an aging population, making the BSW program at Texas State an attractive choice for students interested in this field.

Similarly, Texas State University's MSW program is accredited by the CSWE and offers courses in social work theory, practice, and research, along with a supervised field practicum. This program provides students with practical experience and knowledge needed to become successful social workers.
Some common career paths for social workers include:

Program manager

25. Virginia Commonwealth University

Score: 84.5

Average Net Price: $21,655
Retention Rate: 85%
Graduation Rate: 65%
PayScale ROI: $294,000

Virginia Commonwealth University admits students throughout the year so that students can start the program at their convenience. Online students must attend three synchronous classes a semester that takes place after 6 PM to accommodate working students or students completing field placements. The class size averages 25 students per class, enabling professors to give individualized attention to every student. Students may choose between a clinical practice specialization and an administration specialization. In addition, students can get their certificate in aging studies online as part of a dual degree program.

26. Widener University-Main Campus

Score: 84.5

Average Net Price: $30,017
Retention Rate: 81%
Graduation Rate: 55%
PayScale ROI: $411,000

Widener University is a private university in Pennsylvania, and its social work program is housed under its School of Human Service Professions. It does not offer specialization or concentrations, but the curriculum emphasizes using a client-first approach and trauma-informed care. Interested students can complete a dual degree in social work and Human Sexuality or complete one of Widener University's certificates. The university helps students find field placements near their homes. For students close to the physical campus, the university works closely with the community and offers a variety of services, including social work counseling. They help underfunded human services agencies and vulnerable adults and offer internships to social work students at the university.

27. Boise State University

Score: 84.3

Average Net Price: $13,796
Retention Rate: 79%
Graduation Rate: 44%
PayScale ROI: $323,000

Boise State University is a public research university, and its social work program is housed under its College of Health Sciences. It houses the oldest social work program in Idaho. An online Master of Social Work at Boise State offers its students a generalist education with an emphasis on human rights and social justice. Online students complete 600 hours of fieldwork split between two placements. The university offers graduate assistantships and offers scholarships to students with outstanding academic achievement.

28. University of Hawaii at Manoa

Score: 83.3

Average Net Price: $15,307
Retention Rate: 78%
Graduation Rate: 61%
PayScale ROI: $284,000

The University of Hawaii Manoa's Master of Social Work program offers four specialties, including gerontology and behavioral mental health. Students complete 900 hours of field education over four semesters. This includes a simultaneous Field Integration Seminar that will help students synthesize learning experiences from the classroom and the field. Part-time students who cannot complete their foundational courses concurrently with their field education can take classes the summer before beginning. Students can also choose to complete more hours of advanced fieldwork instead of an elective course. The university also offers an independent study course, where students complete research on a topic that the university does not typically cover. Students can choose between completing a thesis or an alternative, less intensive research project at the end of their master's program.

29. Portland State University

Score: 83.0

Average Net Price: $14,160
Retention Rate: 73%
Graduation Rate: 54%
PayScale ROI: $318,000

Portland State University's online Master of Social Work program is offered part-time and completed over three years. The program caters to alternative students. Students spend 10 hours a week on coursework as well as 16 hours a week on their field placements. Professors make an effort to build relationships with their online students, including periodic meetings. Portland State social work students can specialize in Practice and Leadership with Communities and Organizations or Health Across the Lifespan. The admissions to Portland State University's Master of Social Work are competitive. The program admits around one-third of the applicants.

30. University of Maine

Score: 83.0

Average Net Price: $17,074
Retention Rate: 75%
Graduation Rate: 59%
PayScale ROI: $323,000

The University of Maine uses the developmental approach to teach its Master of Social Work program. Students take courses on practice, human behavior, and policy in a sequential design that builds concepts upon one another. The program uses the cohort model and integrates both synchronous and asynchronous classes. The University of Maine chooses field placements that provide students with mentors. In addition, faculty visit each field placement to provide support. The program is only available for residents of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. The program offers an advanced standing course with bridging courses designed especially for students on that track. For students in need of financial assistance, the university has an Office of Major Scholarships that offers support and coaching to help graduate students obtain prestigious merit-based scholarships.

31. University of Louisville

Score: 82.5

Average Net Price: $16,692
Retention Rate: 80%
Graduation Rate: 53%
PayScale ROI: $287,000

The program at the University of Louisville prepares students to become CSWs or LCSWs and focuses heavily on social justice and community building. The university offers five different specializations, including Military Social Work and Psychosocial Oncology, but most students in the program choose not to specialize. Students complete 950 hours of practicum and must provide their own liability insurance. All of the students are placed in public and non-profit placements. The Kent School of Social Work offers scholarships for students pursuing practice in rural areas, gerontology, or public policy.

32. Western Kentucky University

Score: 81.3

Average Net Price: $11,850
Retention Rate: 71%
Graduation Rate: 48%
PayScale ROI: $244,000

The University of Kentucky's Master of Social Work program serves students in western and southern Kentucky and nearby areas. The program focuses heavily on practice in rural areas, small towns, and small cities. They even offer a concentration in advanced direct practice in rural settings. The university offers a Public Child Welfare Certification along with many field placements in child welfare agencies. The university also offers employment-based internships so that students can stay with their current employers through their practicum. 

33. Metropolitan State University of Denver

Score: 80.5

Average Net Price: $13,276
Retention Rate: 64%
Graduation Rate: 34%
PayScale ROI: $343,000

The Metropolitan State University of Denver is a public university that offers online and hybrid Master of Social Work programs. It boasts the title of the most affordable MSW program in Colorado. The program prides itself on small class sizes and a diverse faculty that prepares students to work with diverse populations. Its graduates' ASWB Clinical Exam pass rate is 81%, well above the average pass rate for all exam takers. The program emphasizes social justice, and the university encourages its students to be politically engaged through its grassroots advocacy network. Students may choose between three specializations in Children and Families, Mental Health, or Leadership and Management. Students who choose not to specialize can fill their classes with the university's wide array of interesting electives, including classes in human trafficking and maternal and infant mental health. Students who have already been admitted to the in-person or hybrid delivery options can later choose to switch to a fully online option if it becomes more convenient.

34. Humboldt State University

Score: 80.5

Average Net Price: $14,490
Retention Rate: 69%
Graduation Rate: 55%
PayScale ROI: $258,000

In Arcata, California, Humboldt State University is a public university. Their online Master of Social Work focuses heavily on working with Indigenous and rural communities. The program attempts to decolonize the social work profession, which has historically had a complicated relationship with certain communities. The online program requires students to visit campus four days every semester and attend synchronous classes at least once weekly. The program is offered part-time and requires 25 hours of coursework a week. The university offers many electives, and students can design an independent study if none of the courses cover their topic of interest. Title IV-E funding is available for Humboldt's online MSW program.

35. University of New England

Score: 79.3

Average Net Price: $33,183
Retention Rate: 79%
Graduation Rate: 62%
PayScale ROI: $262,000

The program at the University of New England is part-time only and takes three years for traditional students to complete. Students gain an advanced generalist education at the University of New England and may choose electives outside of the social work department. The program offers an integrated clinical focus that aligns education with some of the material on state licensure exams for interested students. Students complete over 1000 hours of field education, including field instruction. Students are assigned to and maintain a relationship with a student support specialist to help them access recourses and navigate the university's online infrastructure.

36. University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Score: 77.3

Average Net Price: $13,729
Retention Rate: 69%
Graduation Rate: 36%
PayScale ROI: $235,000

The University of Arkansas at Little Rick Master of Social Work is a generalist program with two curriculum tracks. Students can choose to specialize in either advanced direct practice or management and community practice. Although the program is online, it is only available to Arkansas residents, and field placements must be completed in-person in Arkansas. Each class meets synchronously five times each semester, and Students take 36 hours of foundation courses and may choose 6 hours of electives. The field coordinator selects student field placements with the input of students. The placements. The University of Arkansas offers a military student success center to help veterans and military reserve students. The online courses are taught on Blackboard, and the University has IT support staff available to help students with the platform.

37. University of South Dakota

Score: 76.8

Average Net Price: $17,359
Retention Rate: 74%
Graduation Rate: 50%
Salary After Attending: $221,000

Students complete 250 hours of fieldwork per semester, including a weekly meeting with their field supervisor. The South Dakota branch of the NASW holds its annual conference in the same city as the University of South Dakota, meaning that many social work students can attend one of their many workshops and talks. The university encourages social work students to complete research projects. Students can present their work at a campus-wide IdeaFest or the School of Health Sciences Research Conference. In addition to normal financial aid, the university provides two scholarships, specifically for social work students.

38. Saint Leo University

Score: 75.8

Average Net Price: $18,456
Retention Rate: 72%
Graduation Rate: 41%
PayScale ROI: $312,000

Saint Leo University is a Catholic liberal arts university in Florida. Their online Master of Social Work program is taught synchronously. The classes are held in the evening to accommodate employment and field placements. Students must attend a weekend seminar on campus in the summer. The program prepares students for advanced clinical social work, emphasizing aging, military personnel, and working adults.

39. Western New Mexico University

Score: 74.8

Average Net Price: $12,045
Retention Rate: 56%
Graduation Rate: 25%
PayScale ROI: $75,000

Western New Mexico University is a public university located in Silver City, New Mexico. Their Master of Social Work program offers full-time and part-time learning opportunities. Each module lasts eight weeks, and classes continue over the summer. Students meet with their advisors at least twice a semester to clarify their academic progress. Social work advisors help students use university resources and clarify their career goals. The university offers graduate certificates in Rural Community Social Work Services, Social Work Services and Military Families, and School Social Work. Along with four semesters of a field placement, students attend a concurrent field seminar to integrate academic theory into social work practice. Their admissions are highly competitive, with a GPA cutoff of 2.75.

40. Edinboro University of Pennsylvania

Score: 74.3

Average Net Price: $16,085
Retention Rate: 68%
Graduation Rate: 47%
PayScale ROI: $95,100

This public university offers its Master of Social Work program offers both fully online and hybrid options. Hybrid students attend classes on campus one day a week and otherwise complete their coursework online. Traditional students complete 900 hours of field practicum. The university chooses field placements that could potentially lead to full-time employment. In addition, the university works with employee development programs to accommodate employer tuition reimbursement. The program maintains high academic standards and does not allow its students to graduate with more than six semester hours of a C grade or more than one C grade for a field placement. Applicants with a GPA less than 2.8 must prove their aptitude by achieving a high score on the MAT or GRE.

41. Our Lady of the Lake University

Score: 72.0

Average Net Price: $17,640
Retention Rate: 58%
Graduation Rate: 44%
PayScale ROI: $211,000

A private Catholic university in San Antonio, Texas, Our Lady of the Lake University offers its online Master of Social Work through its Worden School of Social Science. The university offers a concentration on working with Hispanic populations along with social work across the lifespan concentration. The program partners with the psychology department to offer a Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment Competency and Dissemination Project. It prepares students to handle the growing substance use disorder epidemic in the US. At least half of the program is spent completing the field placement program. Students are responsible for finding their fieldwork placements, but the university facilitates and contracts with the agency.

42. Campbellsville University

Score: 69.5

Average Net Price: $19,568
Retention Rate: 64%
Graduation Rate: 39%
PayScale ROI: $12,400

Located in Kentucky, Campbellsville University is a private Christian college. As a Christian institution, the university has high expectations for its students' behavior, including off-campus. The university asks students to refrain from drinking and gambling. The university's Master of Social Work, housed under the Carver School of Social Work, prepares students for advanced generalist practice. The curriculum is faith-based and incorporates Christian values of service. Students can supplement some of their required field placement hours with sanctioned service trips or mission trips. The university is military friendly and participates in the yellow-ribbon program, which helps students afford tuition not covered by the GI bill.

Best Online MSW Programs Guide

Social work professionals promote social change and development to enhance the well-being of others. Social workers mainly focus on a specific area of the population, for example, children, veterans, older adults, families, or clinical patients, by identifying their needs and developing ways to support the population. Becoming a social worker requires you to fulfill specific requirements. You will need to obtain a degree, gain hands-on experience both in a skills lab and field practicum as a social work student, and obtain a practicing license.

Earning a bachelor's degree is considered a stepping stone to a career in social work. However, those who seek to advance their careers to higher levels always pursue a master's level social work degree program. A master of social work offers specialized training for those who want a highly satisfying career. The biggest reason you need to get an MSW after earning your bachelor's degree is acquiring a professional license. A master's degree program opens up several career opportunities not available a social workers with only a bachelor's degree.

Several learning institutions offer MSW programs. Before enrolling in either an online social work degree or an on-campus social work program, ensure it is an CSWE accredited program. Having a CSWE accreditation demonstrates the online MSW program has all the standards set by CSWE. Also, it demonstrates the program has met all the standards of campus-based social work programs. In addition, the CSWE evaluates the online MSW curriculum and the program's mission and goals.

Are you considering pursuing a career in social service and completing an online MSW program? Well, this article explores everything you need to know about the online MSW program, including:

  1. Benefits of an online MSW program
  2. Requirements for online MSW programs
  3. How to apply to an MSW program
  4. Best online MSW programs

Benefits of an Online MSW Program

Online degree programs have continued to gain momentum in the wake of technological advancements in the education sector. Most students, especially working professionals, prefer online programs to campus-based programs due to their flexibility and reduced learning costs. Like other online degree programs, online MSW programs have several benefits compared to traditional learning. This page explores the benefits of online MSW programs and the reasons why you need to choose an online MSW program. Keep reading!

Why Choose an Online MSW Program?

Although there are various learning routes that you can pursue to enter the social work profession, earning an online MSW program with CSWE accreditation is considered to be the most effective path. Unlike campus-based social work programs, online MSW programs offer a high level of flexibility and convenience. Pursuing an online MSW program lets you work while advancing your education. You grow in your knowledge, skills, and expertise. The only thing lacking is the social environment of in-person learning.

Why Get Your Master's in Social Work?

Generally, one needs a bachelor's degree in social work to become a social worker. However, students who want to advance their knowledge and obtain a practicing license should get a master's in social work. Additionally, a master's in social work provides students with advanced knowledge to unlock more rewarding social work careers unavailable to undergraduate students. Finally, the comprehensive training offered by master's programs enables social workers to make larger impacts on clients' lives.

What Are the Benefits of an Online MSW Program?

The vital question that scholars and social work professionals ask themselves today is whether it is better to complete a social work degree in class or online. The answer mainly revolves around budget and schedule. The affordable programs have taken off for several reasons, including:

  • Increased learning flexibility and freedom
  • Reduced learning costs as online MSW programs tend to be cheaper than campus-based programs.
  • Improved learning outcomes as the students learn at their own pace and capability.

Requirements for Online MSW Programs

The career path for a social worker typically starts with obtaining a bachelor's degree from a recognized learning institution. Whether you opt to earn a bachelor of social work or major in similar disciplines such as sociology or psychology, you will unlock several entry-level social work positions. Those who want to pursue advanced social work roles must further their education by pursuing an MSW degree. The most common alternative to earning your master's degree is by enrolling in an online MSW program.

Online MSW programs are both affordable and flexible, which makes them ideal for social workers who are already practicing. In addition, online MSW programs accredited by CSWE meet the same standards as their campus-based counterparts. The training MSW degree education is also rigorous, ensuring students learn the various skills and knowledge needed to practice as social workers or specialize in different careers such as becoming a clinical social worker.

Choosing social work programs can be challenging as it involves several steps. Before considering pursuing an online MSW program, it is vital to familiarize yourself with the requirements needed to pursue the social work program. This article explores the requirements for an online MSW program, including the GPA requirements and other academic requirements. Turn to the subsequent sections to gain in-depth knowledge.

What Are the GPA Requirements for Online MSW Programs?

Like any other degree program, admission officers require aspiring licensed social workers to meet specific educational requirements to gain admission into online MSW programs. One such requirement is your GPA. Your GPA showcases your academic capabilities. GPA is also used to project your performance in each stage of the MSW program.

The GPA requirements vary from one institution to the other depending on the program's demand. The average GPA needed to get admission in an online MSW program is 3.0. Mostly, highly ranked learning institutions such as universities require students to have a cumulative bachelor's degree GPA of 3.5 and above. Hence, students aspiring to enroll in the best online MSW programs should strive to earn at least a GPA of 3.5 in undergraduate education. If you have a GPA of 3.0 and aspire to become a licensed social worker, you need not stress out. Some schools allow undergraduate students with a GPA lower than 3.0 but have taken the GRE. Before applying for an online MSW program, research the GPA requirements to ascertain you meet the criteria.

What Are Other Requirements for MSW Programs?

The admission requirements for MSW programs are relatively similar to the admission requirements of bachelor's degree programs. Nonetheless, there are requirements that a prospective student must be aware of. However, students who want to pursue an MSW program but have a bachelor's degree not related to social work might need to enroll in social work courses offered by a community college to fulfill the academic requirements for MSW programs. Although each school has its unique admission requirements, here are other requirements you need to be aware of:

  • Application: Every graduate school has its unique application forms, which an applicant must complete through a secure school online portal. Some colleges offer laptops to help with the application process. The application forms usually require prospective MSW students to feed in their contact information, academic information, residency information, among others.
  • Social Work Field Experience: Most MSW programs combine classroom curriculum and practical curriculum with building valuable skills and gaining expert knowledge in social work practice. After earning your undergraduate degree, it is vital to complete several hours of field experience. In addition, you might need at least one year of professional experience from a recognized social work setting.
  • Transcripts: Prospective graduate students must submit transcripts from their undergraduate learning institutions. Although most schools require you to submit your official transcripts when making an application, others might consider the unofficial documents to help speed up the process.
  • Letters of Recommendation: MSW program admission offices typically ask you to provide at least two recommendations from individuals who can vouch for you. The letters of recommendation usually attest to your educational accomplishment, professional accomplishments, and personal attributes. You opt to obtain a letter from individuals you have had a personal touch with, such as employers, mentors, and professors.
  • Personal Statement: The personal statement generally describes relevant accomplishments, including the applicant's interests and why they choose that particular school for the MSW program.

What Are Academic Requirements for an Online MSW Program?

The academic requirements for an online MSW program are quite similar to those of on-campus MSW programs. There are no notable variations in the educational requirements. So, are you considering enrolling in an online MSW program? Here are the academic requirements you need to fulfill to gain admission:

  • Bachelor's Degree: To gain admission into a graduate school, one must first obtain a bachelor's degree in social work or similar fields. MSW programs utilize prior knowledge and skills learned in undergraduate programs to help build valuable skills and expertise used in clinical practice. The MSW program curriculum is generally an advancement of the bachelor's programs. Hence, prior knowledge will come in handy.
  • GPA: College GPA is also a fundamental academic requirement for an online MSW program. Most online MSW programs prefer students with an average GPA of 3.0. Meaning those with a GPA lower than 3.0 are likely to gain admission in competitive schools.
  • Course Requirements: Individuals with bachelor's degrees unrelated to social work must first enroll in various social work courses provided by community schools. The courses give prospective master's students foundational knowledge on social work practice.
  • Undergraduate Transcript: Students applying for online MSW programs must submit their undergraduate transcripts to attest to their academic accomplishments. In some cases, the transcripts determine their cumulative GPAs. Always provide authenticated transcripts.

How to Apply to an MSW Program

With over 700 accredited MSW programs to choose from, you can find a program that suits your career interests and learning style. Before applying, you first need to research the admission requirements and the application process. You can find the requirements and procedures listed on each learning institution’s website. Be sure to go through the application processes in detail to avoid missing out on any vital information. This page explores the general application process of an MSW program, including the average cost of application and sources of information on the application process. I bet this guide will make the application process more manageable.

What Is the Application Process for MSW Programs?

Figuring out how to apply for an MSW program can be devastating since the process entails many components. Nevertheless, breaking down the steps can make the process easier and manageable. Are you applying for an MSW program but don’t know where to start? Well, you need not freak out. We’ll break down the entire process for you. Prospective clinical social work students should first identify the MSW programs that meet their needs. For instance, most graduate schools offer online MSW programs and on-campus programs. Professional social workers should consider online programs as they meet their schedules and career demands. Online programs are perceived to be the quickest degrees.

Once you have identified the right program, research the admission requirements to help you avoid investing your resources in a program that don't meet your qualifications. Make a list of all the items needed, such as recommendation letters, GRE scores, transcripts, and essays. In case of any questions, don’t hesitate to contact the graduate school’s admission officers. Once you have put everything in order and are confident with your application, submit your application.

What Is the Average Cost of Applying for MSW Programs?

The application costs for MSW programs vary from one school to the other. However, according to the National Center for Education Services, the typical application fee is $75. Be sure to consult the admission officers if you find issues with the costs.

Who Can You Contact to Get More Information On the Application Process for MSW Programs?

Each graduate school has its unique application process for MSW programs. To find more information on the application process, you need to contact the school’s admission officers. They are always at your service throughout the working hours.

Best Online MSW Programs

Earning an online MSW degree is an excellent way of taking your social work profession to the next level. Hence, the first step needed to advance your career is enrolling in an online MSW program. Several CSWE accredited institutions offer online MSW programs. With many online MSW programs provided by several graduate schools, choosing the right program can be challenging. It is vital to obtain your social work education from the best learning institution. This article explores some of the best online MSW programs and their similarities in the subsequent sections. Keep reading!

What Are the Best Online MSW Programs?

Have you considered pursuing a social work graduate degree but are having difficulties choosing the right online MSW program? Well, you are not alone. There are several prospective social work students like you. This page explores some of the best online MSW programs that might interest you. Ensure your program choice meets your professional objectives and goals. Here is a list of nonprofit colleges and private institutions with the best online master’s in social work today.

UCF has one of the best online MSW programs in the country. The institution’s programs entail a seven-week course. Each student must complete each course one at a time. The learning process takes place virtually and allows students to take lecturers and assignments at their convenience. The program’s curriculum mainly focuses on enhancing the well-being of the marginalized population in the community. After completing the classroom coursework, students must complete a supervised internship program to gain hands-on experience in social work. The program takes approximately 36 months to complete.

USC’s online MSW program is accredited by CSWE and WASC, making it one of the best online social work education programs. The programs offer three main concentrations: mental health, community organization, planning and administration, and military social work. All the classes are taken online through a mix of asynchronous and synchronous delivery. The program takes approximately two to three years to complete. Each student must complete 60-credit and at least 1,000 hours of social work fieldwork before graduation.

The University of Arkansas offers a graduate program in social work that incorporates both campus-based learning and online classes, allowing both cohorts to network and offers education support to one another. The curriculum is quite rigorous and takes close to one year to complete, especially for full-timers. The students must also complete approximately 22 hours per week of fieldwork learning. In addition, the students must attend a live field seminar once a week.

According to their schedules, Rutgers offers an online MSW program tailored to meet the needs of social workers and students who want to complete their graduate degrees. The coursework is primarily asynchronous, but students can interact with instructors through online forums and video conferencing. Students need to complete two field experiences before graduation. This field practicum includes generalist field placement and clinical practice experience. The field experiences enables students to interact with social work professionals in various settings.

Boston University’s online MSW program requires students to earn 65 credits and complete 1,200 field experience hours. The programs emphasize more on meeting the needs of at-risk populations. The learning process involves attending live virtual class sessions weekly. Students can always access the assignments and complete assignments conveniently, making the graduate program relatively flexible. Additionally, students must complete 1-2 field experiences before graduation. There are several topics that a student might choose from. They include family therapy, managing stress and trauma, LGBTQ issues, and group therapy.

Ohio State University’s online MSW program broadly focuses on substance abuse, family challenges, and mental health. Upon completing the program, students can take up several social work roles such as advocacy, policymaking, direct service delivery, and administrative positions. The coursework is entirely delivered asynchronously, enabling students to complete the education program on their own time. Students take approximately two years to complete the program. Students also complete 800 hours of fieldwork from social work settings located around their residential areas.

The California State University-San Bernardino’s online master’s in social work helps students unlock several social work career opportunities. The program uses a mix of asynchronous and synchronous delivery, requiring students to earn 60 credits to graduate. In the early stages of the program, students primarily focus on general studies. However, in their final year, students can specialize in various areas such as client population, social problems, and practice. They are also required to take part in field events, seminars, and practicum. The field events give students the opportunities to network and gain mentorship and guidance from professional social workers. The program takes approximately three years to complete.

The University of Alabama’s online MSW program prepares students to take up roles related to human behavior in social environments, social welfare policy, and social work research. Although the program is primarily online, the school requires students to take in-person lab sessions on select weekends. They are also required to complete several hours of field experience weekly. Aspiring social workers might choose to concentrate on adults and their families or children, adolescents, and families. Despite their concentration, students will deal with mental health issues that affect their focus group. Those seeking to enroll in the program must apply to join either the June or August cohort.

The learning institution began offering online MSW recently. The school mainly offered the program through on-campus learning. The program prepares students for their social work licensure and prepares them for advanced social work careers. The program broadly focuses on social justice for oppressed populations. Students learn the social aspects that help improve the well-being of the populations. You are likely to land a job placement in hundreds of organizations and agencies across the country. Learners either enroll part-time or full time depending on their schedules.

ASU’s online MSW programs are among the best online programs for social workers seeking to advance their knowledge and skills in social justice. The program enables students to identify practical solutions to social issues affecting the varied populations. The program requires students to complete 60 credits and an applied project in the final year of the program. They must also complete a two-year-long internship program before graduating.

What Do the Best Online MSW Programs Have in Common?

The best online MSW programs have several similarities. Firstly, the best online MSW programs are accredited by CSWE, demonstrating that the programs have met all the standards put in place by various education boards. The best online MSW programs also have a similar curriculum. For instance, they take an average of 2 to 3 years to complete. Students must earn an average of 60 credits and complete a supervised internship program to graduate.

The MSW programs also prepare students to take up advanced career roles unavailable to undergraduate degree holders. Before choosing an online MSW program, research the CSWE websites to ascertain whether the program is accredited. The social work job market is highly competitive as employers lookout for graduates from accredited schools.

Where Can You Get More Information On the Best Online MSW Programs?

Getting information on the best online MSW programs is relatively easy as several online sites list some of the best programs and offer advice on the application process. They also provide career information for aspiring social workers. One might explore various university websites to determine the programs offered and compare the curriculum with other universities. Doing so enables you to choose the right online program. Aspiring social workers can also find information on the best online MSW programs in various informational blogs and journals that rank programs based on their merits.

Final Thoughts

With the increased number of social problems, such as mental health issues, the demand for social work professionals is taking off. Social workers help clients identify the best strategies for handling social problems, such as substance abuse, depression, and family-related issues. To become a social worker, one needs first to earn a bachelor’s degree in social work. Besides, they need to gain 1 to 2 years of work experience. These are also the requirements for MSW programs. Although most professionals prefer to obtain an undergraduate degree, those seeking a practicing license advance their education by pursuing a master’s of social work degree.

The MSW program covers a wide range of topics needed to expand a professional’s knowledge and skills. The quickest way to earn your degree is by enrolling in an online MSW program. Unlike the campus-based MSW programs, online MSW programs are highly flexible and allow students to learn at their convenience. They are relatively cheap compared to on-campus programs. Getting an MSW program enables you to take your social work licensing exams. The certifications unlock several career roles, including managerial and administrative functions. Enroll in an online MSW program today to advance your career and expand your career prospects.

Online MSW Overview

A master’s degree in social work online is an excellent way for students to advance their careers and focus on work in a clinical setting. Choosing an online MSW program allows students to pursue their degrees from home and provides students with the flexibility needed to still work full time. Online MSW students can learn more about providing case management and clinical services. 

When choosing a social work master's program online, it is important to verify that the university holds accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). This ensures that schools have completed a multi-step accreditation process designed by the CSWE's Commission on Accreditation that involves program self-studies, site visits, and reviews. CSWE accreditation provides a standard across social work degree programs so that all students are meeting the same requirements.

How to Choose an Online MSW Program

Aspiring social workers should carefully review both online MSW programs and on-campus MSW programs to ensure their needs are fully met. The first step in narrowing down an MSW program is making sure it is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). States typically require this qualification as part of their licensing process.

Next, prospective students should consider whether they should earn their degree online or in a traditional classroom setting. Those who plan to work or don’t live near an accredited MSW program may prefer the online route. Tuition is also an important factor for students searching for the right program, as are living and commuting expenses.

Once a student’s list is narrowed by accreditation, cost, and logistics, MSW programs can be evaluated in a few different ways. Future social workers who are passionate about a certain field or demographic should make sure the program offers the appropriate specialization. Field placements for internships during the program are also important since future employers consider work experience during the hiring process. Students should also research job placement records and average starting salaries for program graduates. These statistics give a very clear indication of the school’s reputation among the area’s relevant employers.

Online MSW Programs

Online MSW programs are an increasingly popular option for aspiring social workers as well as current social workers who wish to pursue an advanced degree. One of the most common reasons for pursuing an online master’s degree in social work is flexibility. Online MSW programs often offer class schedules that are more convenient for those who work full-time or part-time.

Physical proximity is another factor for students who live in areas without an accredited MSW program nearby. Many states have only a few MSW programs available across the entire region, so attending in person isn’t possible for students who live hours away. Some online MSW programs require students to come to campus for a minimal amount of time, but this requirement takes much less time than a traditional on-campus program.

Online MSW programs are typically broken into two components: online classes and field education. Students who don’t live near the school can complete their field assignments at an agency close to their homes.

Most online MSW programs allow students to access all of the same resources — both physical and digital — that on-campus students have. This flexibility allows prospective social workers to balance their logistical needs with their learning needs while earning a master’s in social work online. 

Related Programs That Might Interest You

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Take the next step toward your future with online learning.

Discover schools with the programs and courses you’re interested in, and start learning today.