Masters in Social Work Online

By Erika Lasrado

Updated February 10, 2023

Erika Lasrado

Erika has broad experience in counseling, psychology, and human resources. Although she has done a master’s in psychology, she is currently pursuing a master’s in educational psychology to change careers. Erika is a foodie and reader and loves to research and write about various topics when time permits.


Master of Psychology, Master of Educational Psychology

Areas of Expertise & Credentials

None to disclose in particular; the basics are covered in the short bio.

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For people who care about changing the world for the better, who want to contribute to solving the many complex problems individuals, groups and communities face, social work may be a very interesting and satisfying experience. A master of social work degree will offer the knowledge, skills, and expertise to make a genuine difference in the lives of individuals and society as a whole. It prepares students for a wide range of career choices in the public, commercial, and nonprofit sectors, as well as the ability to transition from one environment to another easily. Masters in Social Work online Programs (MSW) trains scholar-practitioners to work with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities in a culturally responsive, ethical, and evidence-based manner. The curriculum of MSW online equips students to be change agents in and outside of their communities, advocating for social justice on behalf of a variety of populations, with a focus on vulnerable and oppressed individuals. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), social work is one of the fastest-growing occupations in the country, expected to grow by 12% between 2020 and 2030. This article provides in-depth information on the MSW degree, the types of degrees available, what one can do with this degree, the best schools, scholarships available, information on accreditation, career options, and more.

Best Masters in Social Work
Online Programs

MSW online degrees are offered at universities throughout the country. The best MSW programs are accredited and provide a solid mix of all essential aspects, such as the institution’s reputation, quality and experience of the faculty, infrastructure, student services, affordability, and so on. FBD teams have extensively analyzed some of the best offerings in the county and compiled a list to make it easy for potential MSW degree students to choose a school or program that meets their expectations and needs. Here are the best online MSW programs in social work: *

Universities and programs are ranked by various factors, such as affordability, curriculum and coursework, reputation and availability, program length, statistics, the potential of employment, and return on investment for the students. For a more in-depth analysis, please read about our rankings methodology page

Find Best MSW Online
Programs Near Me

When it comes to finding a decent online master’s in social work degree program, location is critical. The difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition fees is the reason for this. In almost all cases, in-state tuition is far less expensive than out-of-state tuition. Fortunately, online master’s degree programs usually feature a uniform tuition fee that applies regardless of where the student lives. Nonetheless, some students may prefer to pursue their degree in their home state, while others may like to consider colleges outside of their home state. Several teams at FBD have worked to discover some of the top and most economical online master’s degrees in social work in various states to assist students in choosing one that is right for them. Here is a list of ‘MSW programs near me ‘:

Ivy League MSW

Ivy League colleges are typically recognized as the most elite institutions of advanced education in the U.S. These colleges, which are primarily located in the Northeastern region of the country, are made up of a total of eight institutions. In addition to being the most outstanding and sought-after, these top universities are also regarded as the finest among all higher education institutions.

Rated among the top five schools offering graduate-level social work programs (U.S. News & World Report), the Columbia School of Social work is the first and only ivy league school to offer a Master of Social Work online degree program.

The Columbia School of Social Work MSW program offers high educational quality and builds upon an agenda that promotes human rights, social justice, and respect for human diversity. Students of this program prepare themselves to improve lives and strengthen communities locally and the world over by qualifying to be in leadership positions in social work practice and research.

MSW Online or Counseling 

What to Expect from the Masters in Social Work
Online Program?

Degree Format of Masters in
Social Work Online

Area of Specialization for Masters of Social Work
Online Programs

Specializations are an excellent approach to go deeper into the subject of social work and gain specific knowledge and skills in a certain area. Specializing can lead to better career prospects and salaries, making them popular among students who want to stand out from the crowd or have specific professional goals in mind.

Some of the many specializations and concentrations in an online master’s degree in social work are:

Specialization Description Careers
Aging & Geriatrics Social Work Degree OnlineThis specialization prepares students to provide specialty paging services to seniors with specific requirements. Students learn about the difficulties older people face, such as declining health, mental health, financial worries, and social isolation.Aging & Geriatrics social workers can work as hospice social workers, palliative care social workers, geriatric social workers, and in care homes, elderly homes, and community services.
Children, Families, and Couples Social Work Degree OnlineThis specialization teaches students how to advocate for children, provide child welfare services, and build child and family programs. Students learn about youth development, vulnerable children’s needs, suitable interventions, as well as the legal and ethical standards for child and family social work.Children, Families, and Couples social workers can work as child protective services social workers, family service workers, children’s services specialists, adoption social workers, youth welfare services, child protective agencies, and the juvenile justice system.
Clinical Social Work – Masters in Clinical Social WorkThis specialization equips students to research mental health initiatives, diagnose and treat clients through individual and group therapy, and examine how effectively social services might be provided. Among the critical social work practices, they study case management, advocacy, child welfare, and direct aid. This specialization leads to clinical social worker licensure.Clinical social workers can work as licensed clinical social workers, and in healthcare and education settings.
Public Policy AdministrationThis specialization prepares students for leadership and administrative roles in social work. Students learn how to work at the administrative level, assisting organizations in serving clients in need, and advocating for social change.Public Policy Administration social workers can work as managers, administrators or directors of social work organizations, governmental agencies, healthcare organizations, and welfare agencies.
Forensic Social Work Degree OnlineThis specialization equips students to deliver social work support to clients who are dealing with legal issues or institutions. Students learn about criminal conduct and how forensic populations are treated, how to deal with criminal offenders, and work with couples and families dealing with legal issues such as divorce, custody, and spousal and child abuse, among other things.Forensic social workers can work as crisis workers, corrections counselors, victim advocates, or in social service agencies, government organizations, and the juvenile justice system.
Community ServicesThis specialization focuses on how to work with underserved and unrepresented populations, by providing community services, mental health care, guidance, and counseling.Community Services social workers can work in homeless shelters, rehabilitation centers, community drug treatment centers, or refugee camps.
Medical Social Work Degree OnlineThis specialization trains online graduate students to assist vulnerable people with emotional, financial, and social needs that come with chronic disease, disability, or elderly age. Students will also explore intervention research, best practices for social workers in healthcare settings, the diverse needs of varied patient populations, and how to advocate for patients in collaboration with medical professionals.Medical social workers can work as case managers, medical or healthcare social workers, patient navigators, and therapists, or in hospitals, government agencies, community health settings, and schools.
Military & Veteran Social Work Degree OnlineThis specialization trains students to help service members, veterans, and their families cope with the stress of deployment and reintegration back into civilian life. Students learn how to address military difficulties such as mental trauma, anxiety, and bereavement by investigating the military’s social services network.Military & Veteran social workers can work as veteran’s affairs social workers, or military social workers.

Why Should I Do a Masters of
Social Work Online?

Free Masters of Social Work
Online Courses

Free master’s in social work online courses do not lead to a master’s degree. Instead, they provide knowledge and skills that may not be part of a typical graduate social work program. Free content and courses are a great way to complement a master’s program in social work and may also help when doing assignments or preparing for examinations. Here are a few resources for free online classes for social work master’s students:

Course Description Offered by
Social Work Courses and ProgramsEdX offers about 42 programs and 325 courses related to social work, in 3 basic, intermediate, and advanced levels. Topics include ‘Talk to Me: Improving Mental Health and Suicide Prevention in Young Adults’, ‘Human Rights, Human Wrongs: Challenging Poverty, Vulnerability and Social Exclusion’, ‘Injury Prevention for Children & Teens’, etc.EdX
Topics on Social WorkOpenLearn, from The Open University, has many courses related to social work. Courses come in 3 different learning levels and include topics such as ‘Caring for Adults’,  ‘Race and Youth Policy: Working with Young People’, ‘Population Ageing: A Global Health Crisis?’, etc..OpenLearn
Topics on Social WorkCoursera, a popular choice among graduate students, offers over 1,200 free guided projects, courses, specializations, and professional certificates in social work and related topics. Most of the content is created by reputable universities such as Stanford University, Johns Hopkins University, University of Colorado Boulder, University of Pennsylvania, and such.Coursera

Can you do MSW
without BSW?

How to Get into the Masters of
Social Work Online program?

To address the fundamental question of “how to get a master’s degree in social work” – Master’s in social work requirements are largely uniform across universities. However, applicants should verify with the admissions office at their college for any additional or specialized masters in social work prerequisites, which may differ by program and school. Here are some of the essential MSW admission requirements:

*Is the GRE required for MSW programs? Yes and no. While many schools have done away with the requirement of a GRE score for admission into an MSW degree program (provided they have a good GPA), some schools still make it part of their admission requirements.

How long does a Masters of Social
Work Online take?

Accelerated Programs Masters of
Social Work Online

Students may be qualified for a one-year master’s in social work if they have a bachelor’s degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited college. Many schools waive the first year of the master’s program because the BSW undergraduate degree serves as a foundation for the master’s degree, making it possible for students to graduate in about a year. These 1-year MSW programs online, no BSW, have become increasingly popular among social work students who wish to enter the workforce as soon as possible.

Other options for the fastest MSW program entail transferring credits or choosing courses that can be completed in shorter durations, or taking up an accelerated 3+1 bachelor of social work and masters of social work program. Some schools also offer advanced standing programs in which students can get their advanced MSW degree in as little as eight months by following a unique study plan that allows students to skip the fundamental curriculum.

Here are a few examples of 1 year MSW programs online and fastest online MSW degree programs:

The USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work

students who already have a bachelor’s in social work may be eligible for a 37-credit advanced standing program that can be completed in as few as 12 months.

Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service (GSS)

students can bypass the foundation coursework they would have already completed in a BSW to earn their advanced MSW degree in as few as eight months full time or 16 months part-time.

Louisiana State University (LSU) School of Social Work

BSW degree holders who opt for an advanced standing MSW program, can have 27 hours waived toward their MSW degree, making it possible to graduate in approximately 12 to 15 months.

Accreditation for Masters of Social Work
Online Degree

Online MSW Programs that
accept low GPA

The Grade Point Average or GPA is a standard admissions requirement for almost all educational institutions across the United States. The GPA measures the student’s cumulative and continuous academic progress and is a vital deciding factor for admission to a program. In social work degree programs, the GPA becomes more critical because it is the primary indicator of competency and aptitude.

Although most schools require a GPA of 3.0 or more on a scale of 4.0, some schools accept incoming students with a lower score of 2.5 to 3.0. However, it is worth noting that a score lesser than 3.0 will bring the applicant’s last 60 to 90 undergraduate credits under scrutiny. Furthermore, students with a low GPA will do well to include strong Letters of Recommendation and perhaps even a high GRE score when applying to a social work degree program. Here are a few examples of colleges that will accept a low GPA:

University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work – accepts students to traditional MSW programs and advanced standing MSW programs with a GPA of 2.5.

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, College of Social Work – accepts students with a minimum GPA of 2.7 out of a possible 4.0 on all undergraduate work and a minimum GPA of 3.0 out of a possible 4.0 on all previous graduate work.

Western New Mexico University – accepts students who have a GPA of at least 2.75 on the most recently taken 64 hours of college or graduate coursework.


An interesting blend of disciplines in higher education is a BSN or Bachelor of Science in Nursing and an MSW or Masters in Social Work. Earning a BSN gives students foundational knowledge and skills in nursing and health care, and stepping forward to an MSW will enable these students to use that knowledge and skill in social work settings. Pursuing such a combination will require some prerequisite courses if specific subjects were not covered in the undergraduate program.

How to Pay for Masters of Social
Work Online Programs?

Scholarships for Online Masters
Degree in Social Work

Students with good grades should consider the several graduate scholarships available to them for their master’s in social work online degree program. Scholarships are offered by universities, as well as other independent organizations and groups, to deserving students. A few instances are listed below:

Scholarship Description Amount/AwardDeadline
Pi Gamma Mu ScholarshipsPi Gamma Mu Scholarships are intended for the first or second year of graduate work in a student’s first graduate degree program in social work and a few other disciplines. Eligibility is for up to four years from initiation into Pi Gamma Mu, and scholarships are awarded to Pi Gamma Mu members only.10 scholarships of $1,000 to $2,000 eachFebruary 15, annually
Consuelo W. Gosnell Memorial ScholarshipThe Consuelo W. Gosnell Memorial Scholarship is awarded to master’s degree candidates in social work who have shown a dedication to working with American Indian/Alaska Native and Hispanic/Latino populations, or who have a special affinity for them. Candidates who have shown a commitment to working with public or private nonprofit organizations, as well as local grassroots organizations in the United States, are also eligible.10 scholarships of up to $4,000 eachClosed for 2021-2022 | TBA for 2023-2023
Harry S. Truman ScholarshipThe Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation – the federal memorial to our thirty-third President – awards merit-based scholarships to college students who plan to pursue careers in government or elsewhere in public service. Scholarships are awarded for graduate or professional school and to those who participate in leadership development activities or have special opportunities for internships and employment with the federal government.Up to $30,000TBA
National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW) OSA ScholarshipsThe National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW) offers a multitude of scholarships to members who are full-time students in an accredited social work program. Applicants must be African-American and have a GPA of at least 2.5 on a scale of 4.0.VariesVaries

FAQs Related to Masters of Social
Work Online Programs

What is MSW degree?

What can I do with a masters in social work?

How to get a masters degree in social work?

How long to get a masters degree in social work?

Should I get a masters in social work?

Can you become a social worker online?

Is an online msw worth it?

Do you need a BSW to get an MSW?

Do you need a masters in social work?

 Is getting a master’s in social work hard?

Career Opportunities and Salaries After Masters of
Social Work Online

There are a variety of positions within the field of social work that work in tandem with public health, family counseling, substance abuse, criminal justice, public health, rehabilitation, etc.  Although most of these positions may require a master’s degree, some will require a Ph.D. Depending on the individual’s state and employer, additional certification and licensure may also be necessary. “What can I do with a master’s in social work”? MSW online jobs can be found in a wide range of settings, including:

As for master’s degree in social work salary, the growing demand for social workers is apparent in the statistical figures that report growth. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median annual salary of social workers (general) is $51,760, with occupations projected to grow 12% from 2020 to 2030, which is faster than the average for all occupations. Here are some examples of careers in social work, along with their salaries and growth potential, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):

OccupationSkills RequiredMedian Annual SalaryJob Growth (up to 2030)Job Description
Marriage and Family TherapistInterpersonal skills, listening skills, compassion, organizational skills, speaking skills.$51,34016% (much faster than average)Marriage and family therapists help people manage and overcome problems with family and other relationships, and address relationships that affect mental and emotional disorders.
Social and Community Service ManagerAnalytical skills, managerial skills, problem-solving skills, time-management skills, communication skills.$69,60015% (faster than average)Social and community service managers coordinate and supervise programs and organizations that support public well-being.
Social Worker (General)

Emotional skills, organizational skills, problem-solving skills, interpersonal skills, communication skills

12% (faster than average)
Social workers work in a variety of settings, including mental health clinics, schools, child welfare and human service agencies, hospitals, settlement houses, community development corporations, and private practices.
School and Career Counselors and AdvisorAnalytical skills, interpersonal skills, speaking skills, listening skills, compassion.$58,12011% (faster than average)School counselors help students develop academic and social skills. Career counselors and advisors help people choose a path to employment. Although some employers prefer that career counselors have a master’s degree in counseling with a focus on career development, a master’s in social work is also well accepted.
Rehabilitation CounselorCritical-thinking skills, communication skills, listening skills, interpersonal skills, patience, compassion.$37,53010% (as fast as average)Rehabilitation counselors help people with physical, mental, developmental, or emotional disabilities live independently. Candidates typically need a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling or a related field such as social work. Some positions require certification or a license.

Certification and Licensing for Masters of
Social Work Online

Additional Resources for Masters of
Social Work Online

Author Bio:

Erika Lasrado

Erika has broad experience in counseling, psychology, and human resources. Although she has done a master’s in psychology, she is currently pursuing a master’s in educational psychology to change careers. Erika is a foodie and reader and loves to research and write about various topics when time permits.


Master of Psychology, Master of Educational Psychology

Areas of Expertise & Credentials

None to disclose in particular; the basics are covered in the short bio.


The average tuition (based on degree type for in-state students), average graduation rates, and rankings are based on data from various sources, including the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), and are variable over time. All rankings and statistics are subject to change. The rankings are solely the opinion of Find Best Degrees (FBD) and are based on our proprietary methodology. They do not represent the views of the institutions or organizations mentioned, nor do they represent any official government census or survey. Furthermore, any views or opinions expressed on this page are of FBD’s researchers and teams. Unless otherwise specified, they do not represent the thoughts and opinions of the individuals, institutions, or organizations mentioned. This page’s content is provided solely for informational purposes, with data drawn from various sources, including IPEDS. FBD and its employees make no guarantees regarding the accuracy or completeness of any information found on this page or by following any link. FBD will not be held liable for any errors or omissions in this material nor any losses, injuries, or damages resulting from the exposure or use of this information. Although the information on this page is/was correct at the time of publication, readers should exercise caution because some or all of the provided information may have changed over time, potentially resulting in inaccuracies. For more information, please read our Terms of Service. Trademarks and logos are the property of their registered owners. | Page last updated: Dec 2023.