Best Online Master’s in Social Work Degree Programs

A career in social work attracts people with a strong passion for helping others in need. Professional social workers are expected to handle sensitive matters and interact directly with underserved clientele. To do their jobs effectively, they must have the right training, and entrants to the field need to have specific qualifications. Positions in social work are expected to continue growing at an average rate of nearly 19% through 2022, providing ample demand for professionals with the right education, experience and licensure.

For many students, an online master’s in social work is the perfect prerequisite for earning a position in the field. While all graduate programs require students to complete an externship or field experience, many programs provide their core curriculum in a fully online format. This allows students to complete required coursework remotely and focus their attention on developing interactive skills through their externship.

We’ve ranked the top accredited online master’s in social work (MSW) programs in the U.S. Browse our rankings below to learn more about how and where you can earn your master’s in social work online.

Rank School Name School Logo City Cost Address & Contact Info School Links Acclaim for Online Programs School Description

Fordham University

  • annually: $43,902
441 E Fordham Rd
Bronx, NY 10458
(718) 817-1000

The online MSW programs at Fordham University are open to students in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey. All required coursework and electives are delivered online, with additional required field placements arranged locally in the tri-state area. Students may choose a part-time or full-time study program; the latter option requires two years of study. Students may complete assignments asynchronously through the university’s Blackboard interface.

Master's in social work online students at Fordham must choose a concentration in either clinical practice or leadership and macro practice. Qualifying transfer students and graduates from an accredited bachelor's in social work (BSW) program may be eligible for the online advanced standing option, which features a customized curriculum that can be completed in just one year.


California State University - Long Beach

Long Beach
  • in-state tuition: $6,240
  • out-of-state tuition: $17,400
1250 Bellflower Blvd
Long Beach, CA 90840-0115
(562) 985-4111

CSULB offers online MSW programs that can be taken part-time in just three years. Students complete coursework on Saturdays for three academic years, spanning two summer sessions, using teleconferencing technology and two-way audio and video instruction.

Though students can access Blackboard at their convenience, distance courses are typically delivered synchronously through web conferencing software. In addition to web-based coursework, field experience is also part of the program. CSULB places students in a local intensive experience during their final two years in the program.


Case Western Reserve University

  • annually: $41,800
10900 Euclid Ave
Cleveland, OH 44106
(216) 368-2000

Case Western Reserve offers an MS in social administration almost entirely online. The first provider of social work degrees in the country, Case Western has long been a leader in the field and the school provides a robust online program for distance learners.

All master's in social work online courses are delivered through Moodle's learning management system, and are completed alongside mandatory field work. CWRU’s program is unique in that students are required to apply for the field experience as a condition of their admissions application. Available concentrations include:

  • Community practice for social change
  • Direct practice
  • Children
  • Youth and families
  • Mental health with adults

Catholic University of America

  • annually: $38,526
620 Michigan Avenue, NE
Washington, DC 20064
(202) 319-5000

Catholic University of America offers an online clinical MSW. The degree provides both foundational and advanced coursework in the clinical concentration. Here, students have the opportunity to request field placement in a facility of their choice as they work closely with the online MSW programs faculty to satisfy necessary practicum requirements.

CUA emphasizes the importance of field experience in combining theory and evidence-based practice. Additionally, online MSW students are well-prepared for their licensure exam; 95% of CUA students passed the test on their first attempt. Online courses are delivered through Blackboard, with a focus on student-centered learning practices. Distance learners benefit from small class sizes and close mentoring from their online instructors.


The University of Tennessee - Knoxville

  • in-state tuition: $11,194
  • out-of-state tuition: $29,684
527 Andy Holt Tower
Knoxville, TN 37996
(865) 974-1000

The University of Tennessee's MSW provides students with several study paths. Online students may choose from among the full-time program, the advanced standing program or the extended study program. All options combine both asynchronous and synchronous online coursework and a mandatory field experience, though individual schedules and completion-times vary.

Developed to accommodate distance learners, the master's in social work online at UT is taught by the same instructors as on-campus courses and follows the same format as the traditional degree. Online courses are delivered through Blackboard Collaborate, designed to facilitate distance learning through Tennessee's exclusive on-the-go app.


Louisiana State University

Baton Rouge
  • in-state tuition: $7,873
  • out-of-state tuition: $25,790
156 Thomas Boyd Hall
Baton Rouge, LA 70803-2750
(225) 578-3202

LSU’s online MSW is similar to the residential program offered at the school's Baton Rouge campus, but with flexible start dates and programs of study. Online students may study full-time, part-time or pursue the advanced standing track; these can be completed in as little as two years, three years and one year, respectively.

Courses are delivered asynchronously through Moodle, comprising 60 course credit hours and a required field component. Distance learners may enroll in the online MSW in one of six available start dates per academic year, completing modules in seven-week increments. Enrollment in the online MSW is open to students in most states throughout the country, though some restrictions apply.


Indiana University-Purdue University - Indianapolis

  • in-state tuition: $8,756
  • out-of-state tuition: $29,571
425 University Blvd
Indianapolis, IN 46202-5143
(317) 274-5555

IUPUI offers an online MSW through its IU Online system. Coursework centers on an "advanced generalist" concentration, designed to accommodate a variety of specialties and career opportunities for prospective social workers. Distance learners in the MSW program complete 60 total course credit hours, comprised of 19 courses and two field practicums.

Each course lasts for 11 weeks and can be scheduled as part of a part-time or full-time program; students typically complete the degree in three to five years. IUPUI uses Blackboard Learn to deliver synchronous and asynchronous instruction. Besides the required field practicum, the school's only in-person requirement is a mandatory three-day orientation on campus during the program’s first week.


Virginia Commonwealth University

  • in-state tuition: $12,002
  • out-of-state tuition: $29,473
910 W Franklin St
Richmond, VA 23284-2512
(804) 828-0100

Virginia Commonwealth University offers an MSW concentrated in clinical social work practice exclusively for distance learners. The program is designed for part-time students, comprising two distinct sections in foundational and concentration courses. Distance learners complete 60 total course credit hours, with required on-site field internships during all four years of the program.

The majority of the degree is offered completely online through assignments in Blackboard. A few on-campus visits are required, however, including an orientation for first-year students and two in-person courses per semester.


University of Hawaii at Manoa

  • in-state tuition: $9,904
  • out-of-state tuition: $27,472
2500 Campus Road, Hawaii Hall
Honolulu, HI 96822-2217
(808) 956-8111

The MSW online programs at UH can be completed in three-years. Coursework is facilitated through the Laulima portal, using interactive TV and other web-conferencing tools. Online students with a BSW may apply for the advanced standing track, which can be completed in as little as one year. The regular program requires two to three years of study.

The program sequence is identical for online and on-campus students, starting with foundational classes and then four semesters of mandatory field experience. Though mostly online, the program requires a combination of distance, hybrid and on-site coursework.


The University of Alabama

  • in-state tuition: $9,450
  • out-of-state tuition: $23,950
739 University Blvd
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0166
(205) 348-6010

Alabama's online MSW features two study tracks: the school offers a 42-credit advanced standing program for students with a BSW, and a 60-credit program for those without a bachelor’s degree. Course work is primarily web-based, delivered through Blackboard. The program does require students to attend intermittent Saturday classes, which are located at regional campuses throughout the state.

Advanced standing students may complete the MSW online programs in as little as three semesters, while the 60-credit program may take full-time students two years to finish. Distance learners in the MSW program may choose from one of two available concentrations:

  • Children, adolescents and their families
  • Adults and their families.

Texas State University

San Marcos
  • in-state tuition: $8,060
  • out-of-state tuition: $17,264
601 University Dr
San Marcos, TX 78666
(512) 245-2111

The online MSW at Texas State University is offered as a part-time program. Students may apply to either the regular or advanced track, comprising 62 and 36 total course credit hours, respectively. Advanced-standing status enrolls students directly into the second-year of the curriculum.

Online coursework is delivered through the TRACS collaborative learning environment. Coursework dovetails with mandatory field practicums, which can be arranged at a facility near your home. As the online MSW is a part-time-only program, it typically takes students between six and 11 semesters to complete the degree, depending on individual requirements and your study track.


California State University - Northridge

  • in-state tuition: $6,525
  • out-of-state tuition: $17,685
18111 Nordhoff St
Northridge, CA 91330
(818) 677-1200

The online MSW at Cal State Northridge is a two-year, 60-credit program designed for full-time students. Coursework may be completed entirely online through the Moodle learning management system, and features both asynchronous assignments and pre-planned, weekly synchronous sessions. No on-site visits are required, though students must participate in a field experience during each semester of the program. Upon acceptance into the program, students are interviewed to coordinate placement into a local social work facility to satisfy the MSW online programs requirements.


Colorado State University

Fort Collins
  • in-state tuition: $9,313
  • out-of-state tuition: $25,166
102 Administration Building
Fort Collins, CO 80523-0100
(970) 491-1101

Colorado State University offers a part-time online MSW designed for working professionals. Online MSW students may pursue one of two study tracks: the traditional or advanced standing program. Though most assignments can be completed online through Canvas, students are also required to attend an on-campus orientation and a few face-to-face classes in Fort Collins. This combination of online and on-site coursework helps students build crucial social and interactive skills.

Online MSW students at CSU have the opportunity to select their choice of electives from any course offered by the School of Social Work. Additionally, students are required to complete a field placement experience during each of the three years they're in school.


University of North Dakota

Grand Forks
  • in-state tuition: $7,508
  • out-of-state tuition: $17,794
264 Centennial Drive, Stop 8193
Grand Forks, ND 58202-8193
(800) 225-5863

The online MSW at UND is only available to students holding a bachelor's in social work. Coursework is delivered almost entirely online through Blackboard, which facilitates live-streamed, synchronous classes in the evenings. In addition to online assignments, students are required to attend one on-campus intensive lab session during the first year of the two-year, 36-credit program.

Both the advanced courses and field education in the program are designed to fit an "advanced generalist" concentration, allowing graduates to apply the skills they've learned in the program in a variety of professional specialties and practices. All online UND students are eligible for in-state tuition, regardless of where they live.


University of New Hampshire

  • in-state tuition: $16,496
  • out-of-state tuition: $29,216
105 Main St., Thompson Hall
Durham, NH 03824-3547
(603) 862-1234

The University of New Hampshire's MSW program allows students to specialize in several concentrations. Options include:

  • Health and mental health
  • Addictions and substance abuse
  • Children
  • Youth and families
  • Disabilities

The program requires students to complete core curriculum and electives, as well as two field internships.

Online courses are delivered asynchronously through multimedia technology in the Canvas learning management system. The degree may be completed in as little as 28 months. By offering "advanced generalist" courses, UNH supports a range of potential field specialties and subspecialties in social work.


University of New England

  • annually: $33,145
11 Hills Beach Rd
Biddeford, ME 04005-9599
(207) 283-0171

Students in the University of New England's MSW program can specialize in clinical practice or in one of a variety of macro concentrations. Options include:

  • Aging/gerontology
  • Families and children
  • Medical and public health
  • Substance abuse
  • Social action and community development

Coursework is delivered entirely online, though students must complete a field practicum to satisfy graduation requirements. Both the traditional and advanced tracks use Blackboard to facilitate the program's asynchronous instruction. Students enrolled in the accelerated track can complete their degree in only 16 months.


Our Lady of the Lake University

San Antonio
  • annually: $23,938
411 SW 24th St
San Antonio, TX 78207-4689
(210) 434-6711

Our Lady of the Lake University offers two distinct master's in social work programs. The MSW concentration track is tailored to students holding a BSW, while the MSW foundation program is geared towards distance learners with no academic background in social work. The programs can be completed in as little as two and three years, respectively.

OLLU’s online MSW uniquely focuses on preparing students to meet the demand for qualified social workers in the Hispanic community. Online courses are delivered through the university’s exclusive virtual learning system, developed in conjunction with a field education requirement that prepares students for specialized work.


Metropolitan State University

  • in-state tuition: $5,744
  • out-of-state tuition: $17,837
Speer Blvd and Colfax Ave
Denver, CO 80217-3362
(303) 556-3058

Metropolitan State University of Denver offers an online MSW in a variety of formats. Students may choose either the regular or advanced standing program, and within these tracks are various macro practice concentrations available.

These include:

  • Adult mental health
  • Child welfare
  • Children
  • Youth and families
  • Older adults

Online courses are delivered through Blackboard. Affordability is an important aspect of Metropolitan State's program, and the school provides a workable model for distance students unable to attend classes on campus. The combination of online coursework and field experience prepares students to use their skills in a contemporary social work position.


Saint Leo University

Saint Leo
  • annually: $19,920
33701 State Road 52
Saint Leo, FL 33574-6665
(352) 588-8200

Saint Leo University offers an online MSW with a concentration in advanced clinical practice. Though courses are primarily self-guided in Blackboard, distance learners are expected to virtually attend weekly webinars and attend a one-time weekend seminar on campus. Additionally, students should be prepared to complete a field internship during regular daytime business hours as part of their degree requirements.

The MSW is a two-year program for full-time students. An accelerated one-year option is available to students who earned a BSW within the last five years.


Washburn University

  • in-state tuition: $5,774
  • out-of-state tuition: $12,926
1700 SW College Avenue
Topeka, KS 66621-0001
(785) 670-1010

Washburn University offers a partially online MSW, combining virtual instruction and hands-on learning for prospective social workers in several specialties. Washburn emphasizes a concentration in clinical practice throughout its MSW program. Additionally, students are expected to complete a field practicum in a local facility.

While many lecture courses in the MSW program are offered online through D2L, instructors emphasize the importance of building interpersonal skills through face-to-face classes, which are also included in the program. Distance learners are supported by a large team of academic advisors and tech services staff, as well as a mobile app that helps them complete assignments on-the-go.

Social workers play a pivotal role in a variety of professional settings. Social workers are often employed by healthcare facilities, though many offer their valuable skills and expertise in schools, substance abuse clinics and correctional facilities. The BLS projects faster-than-average job growth over the next seven years, with an especially high demand for professionals with health care or substance abuse experience.

Obtaining a master’s in social work is the first step towards becoming a social worker, and pursuing an online degree offers students a convenient medium in which to study. Though challenging at times, the rigor and dedication required to complete a graduate program in social work prepares students for a rewarding career in the field. Once enrolled in an online program, master’s students must pick a specialty. Upon determining their area of focus, students should look for practicum or internship opportunities in their field; social workers are typically required to have at least two years of in-field experience in addition to their degree before starting practice.

Though contingent upon degree-completion, it is never too early to begin preparing for the state licensure exam. Licensure is required in all 50 states, though specific state requirements vary. Students should also explore potential job opportunities in their specialty area, or pursue a general position in social work to gain field experience. Many professionals seek out continuing education opportunities after graduation, not only to enhance their interpersonal skills, but also to renew and maintain current licensure credentials.

Download Seal

PNG (web) EPS (print)