Best Online Master’s in Social Work Degree Programs

Written by: Genevieve Carlton | Edited by: Joey Morris

A master’s in social work can expand your career opportunities and earning potential. You can qualify for licensure as a clinical social worker, opening career doors in high-demand fields like healthcare social work and mental health social work. Earning your master of social work (MSW) online can take as little as one year.

If you’re considering a master’s in social work, check out our list of the best online MSW programs. With a flexible format designed for working professionals, online programs make it easier to finish your MSW.

Popular Online MSW Programs

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

Rank School Name School Logo City Cost Address & Contact Info School Links Acclaim for Online Programs School Description
1University of Arkansas at Little RockLittle Rock$$$$$2801 S University Ave
Little Rock, AR 72204
(501) 569-3000

Accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, the 60-credit master of social work at UA Little Rock prepares graduates for advanced clinical practice and leadership roles in social work. The online MSW, open exclusively to Arkansas residents, takes three years to complete, including in-person field internships.

The curriculum consists of 36 credits in foundation and concentration classes, six credits of electives and an 18-credit field internship requirement totaling 1,200 practice hours. Each online course spans five synchronous sessions each semester. The internship coordinator works with distance learners to find approved field placements near their place of residence.

2Indiana University-Purdue University - IndianapolisIndianapolis$$$$$425 University Blvd
Indianapolis, IN 46202-5143
(317) 274-5555

For students seeking a focus on clinical and community practice, the 60-credit master of social work at IU Online combines foundational courses with training in specialized practice areas.

The advanced generalist foundational coursework addresses diversity, social justice, social policy, and social work practice in organizations, communities, and societies. Distance learners can select one of five concentrations in military social work, e-social work, telebehavioral health social work, mental health, or addictions. Applicants to the MSW program must have a bachelor’s degree and submit official transcripts, a statement of interest, a writing sample, and a resume.

3Campbellsville UniversityCampbellsville$$$$$1 University Dr
Campbellsville, KY 42718-2799
(270) 789-50005000

Through a curriculum grounded in Christian principles, Campbellsville University’s master of social work emphasizes trauma-informed practice. The curriculum offers clinical, substance use disorder, and faith-based areas of focus. Distance learners take all coursework online in eight-week sessions and may complete their in-person fieldwork placements at clinical settings of their choice.

The MSW, accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, requires between 60 and 69 credits. Bachelor degree holders in fields other than social work typically finish the degree in two years. Applicants with undergraduate social work degrees may enter the advanced standing MSW program allowing them to complete degree requirements in less than one year.

4University of New EnglandBiddeford11 Hills Beach Rd
Biddeford, ME 04005-9599
(207) 283-0171

Featuring a flexibly designed asynchronous format, UNE's online master of social work develops evidence-based clinical practice skills in a curriculum that emphasizes social justice and inclusion. The MSW program offers two pathways. Students who hold a bachelor’s in a field other than social work pursue the 60-credit traditional pathway. A 30-credit advanced standing pathway admits students with a bachelor of social work degree from a CSWE-accredited program.

Students specialize in one of four focus areas: school social work, medical social work, advanced clinical studies, and trauma-informed practice. Flexible practicum options, including traditional, block, simulation, and onsite placements, accommodate the needs of distance learners.

5New Mexico State UniversityLas Cruces$$$$$2850 Weddell Street
Las Cruces, NM 88003-8001
(575) 646-0111

NMSU’s master of social work prepares graduates for advanced generalist practice with vulnerable populations in multicultural settings. The fully online curriculum includes some synchronous coursework.

The MSW requires 60 credits, taken over two to three years. Advanced standing students who enter the program with a bachelor’s in social work complete 30 credits, finishing all degree requirements in one year. The two and three-year plans of study require two practicum placements totaling 950 hours. Advanced standing enrollees complete one 500-hour practicum. Distance learners choose their own practicum placements and arrange for transportation to sites.

6Texas A&M University - CommerceCommerce$$$$$2600 South Neal
Commerce, TX 75429-3011
(888) 868-2682

Designed to accommodate individuals with work or personal obligations, the online master of social work at A&M-Commerce offers flexible options. Students take all coursework in an asynchronous format enabling them to progress at their own pace.

Distance learners may pursue two tracks. For those who enter without a bachelor’s in social work, the 57-credit foundation generalist track requires two years to complete full-time or four years part-time. The 33-credit advanced generalist track takes one year to finish. It is designed for students with a bachelor’s of social work from an accredited program. The MSW prepares graduates for licensure by the state of Texas as a licensed master social worker.

7Rutgers University New Brunswick83 Somerset St
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
(848) 445-4636

A flexible online program developed for self-directed learners, Rutgers’ 60-credit master of social work provides a two-year, full-time option or a three-year, part-time option. Students who hold a bachelor’s in social work from an accredited program enter the 39-credit advanced standing option that takes between one and two years to complete.

The program features two clinical specializations in management and policy or clinical social work. Online learners may also apply for certification in interpersonal violence and trauma or in Latina/o initiatives for service, training, and assessment. Rutgers offers a fixed cost-per-credit tuition rate for online students, regardless of residency.

8University of North DakotaGrand Forks$$$$$264 Centennial Drive, Stop 8193
Grand Forks, ND 58202-8193
(800) 225-5863

The only online master’s of social work degree in North Dakota, the MSW program at UND prepares graduates for licensure as clinical social workers.

Bachelor degree holders in a field other than social work enter the 60-credit online generalist option. Students in the 36-credit advanced generalist option must have completed a BSW from an accredited program. Both options use a synchronous format delivering coursework in real-time with some on-campus requirements. Distance learners may complete the required 500-hour field placement in their local communities.

UND provides financial support to qualified MSW students who commit to working in an approved child welfare agency in North Dakota when they graduate.

9Brescia UniversityOwensboro$$$$$717 Frederica St
Owensboro, KY 42301-3023
(270) 685-3131

The master of social work at Brescia University, a Catholic liberal arts college, features a unique curriculum that incorporates the Caritas philosophy into social work through a focus on human rights and social and economic justice. All online courses meet weekly over 15 weeks, delivered through a synchronous, real-time format.

The 60-credit MSW option for students with a bachelor's in a non-social work field takes two years to complete. The 30-credit advanced standing MSW is designed for students with a BSW from an accredited program. It features a full-time option that can be completed in one year and a part-time option that takes three years.

10University of North Carolina at PembrokePembroke$$$$$1 University Drive
Pembroke, NC 28372
(910) 521-6000

Reflecting the university’s identity as a Native American Serving Institution and a Minority Serving Institution, USC Pembroke’s master of social work emphasizes advanced generalist practice in rural and underserved communities and with indigenous populations.

The online MSW admits bachelor's degree holders from non-social work fields and requires between 50-62 credits. Students may choose 24-month, full-time or 36-month, part-time plans of study. Graduates of accredited BSW programs enter the 35-credit advanced standing option, which can be completed in 12 months if attending full-time or 24 months part-time.

USC Pembroke offers scholarships to economically disadvantaged MSW students identifying as Native American, African American, Hispanic, or multiracial.

Online Master’s in Social Work Degree Overview

Social work master’s programs prepare graduates for clinical practice and leadership roles in social services organizations. You learn about evidence-based social work practice, program management, and social work research methods. MSW programs also incorporate a practicum to gain hands-on experience.

Earning your social work degree online offers the greatest flexibility for working students. If you already hold a bachelor’s in social work, you may qualify for advanced standing MSW programs that save you time and money.

  • Sample courses: Professional social work practice, Social welfare research, Clinical social work, Social and healthcare policy, Strategic program management, Social work practicum
  • Degree concentrations and specializations: Children, youth, and families; Behavioral health; Aging and gerontology; Social services administration; Healthcare social work
  • Program length:
    • Full time: 2 years, with accelerated programs for those with a bachelor’s in social work
    • Part-time: 3-4 years
  • Potential jobs: Clinical social worker, Healthcare social worker, Mental health social worker, Child and family social worker
  • Average Income: $61,000 per year, according to Payscale

Career Outlook

A master’s in social work prepares you for licensure as a clinical social worker. With a social worker license, you can qualify for specialized roles as a healthcare social worker, substance abuse social worker, or child and family social worker. You can also become a school social worker or mental health social worker.

In addition to these clinical social work careers, an MSW can lead to opportunities as a social services program manager, social welfare policy maker, or substance use counselor. By choosing a specialization during your MSW, you can prepare for specific career paths.

Salaries and Growth for Social Work Careers

Demand for social workers remains high. Several career paths project 10% or higher employment growth, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projections.

Earning potential with an MSW varies depending on your specialization. Clinical social workers report above-average salaries, with healthcare social workers also ranking among the highest-paying specialties.

Salaries and Growth for Social Work Careers
Career Median Annual Salary Employment Growth 2022-2032
Healthcare social workers $62,940 10%
Mental health and substance abuse social workers $55,960 11%
Child, family, and school social workers $53,940 5%
Licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) $66,000 10%
Licensed master social worker (LMSW) $58,000 7%
Source: BLS, 2023 and Payscale

Keys to Success in the Field

Set yourself up for success during your MSW and your social work career by prioritizing these factors:

  1. Understand your licensure requirements. You need a state-issued license to work in clinical roles. In every state, licensure requirements include an accredited MSW program, plus supervised clinical experience. You also need to pass an exam. Learn more from the Association of Social Work Boards.
  2. Research specialization options. Choosing a specialization during your MSW means you graduate with the coursework and practicum hours for your chosen career path. However, MSW programs offer many specializations. Review your options, including course descriptions and requirements, to find the best fit.
  3. Focus on time management. MSW programs incorporate coursework and practicum requirements. If you are also balancing grad school with work, you need strong time management skills to stay on top of your obligations. Consider creating a schedule and getting organized before starting your program.
  4. Prioritize networking. During an MSW program, you work closely with faculty and fellow students. It’s also a good idea to network outside of your school. Fieldwork offers networking opportunities. Joining professional associations can also help you build a professional network, and organizations like the National Association of Social Workers offer student membership discounts.

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