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The 10 Best Online Master’s in Social Work (MSW) Degree Programs 2019

Top Masters Programs-OCRBy OCR Staff
April 2019

It may seem surprising, yet it is true that the majority of mental health services in the United States are provided by social workers. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, for instance, employs more than 10,000 professional social workers, and the Red Cross estimates that, during or after a disaster, more than 40% of its mental health volunteers are professional social workers. Holders of advanced social work degrees are employed in other fields, too–as educators, consultants, clinical practitioners, researchers, and program administrators and managers. Working from a transcultural, multi-systems perspective, graduate social work programs prepare social workers to work with groups, organizations, communities, families, and with individuals ranging from helpless infants to the aged infirm.

If you are considering returning to school for an advanced degree in social work, now is a very good time. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), “overall employment of social workers is projected to grow 15 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations.”

Perhaps you see the need to obtain an advanced degree, but you may be telling yourself that your life is too busy, too full of obligations. Online degree programs were created for just such circumstances. Going to school “electronically” means that you can earn a diploma in the comfort of your living space, without the need to spend time hurrying to and from the classroom. At the end of the process, your education and your diploma will be every bit as genuine as if you’d gone to a brick-and-mortar school.

The median salary for a Social Worker with a Bachelor’s Degree (BSW) is $54,167 – $57,831. For a Social Worker with a Master’s Degree (MSW) or MBA, the median salary is $60,781 – $64,349. Social work professionals who work in an industry outside of mental health–such as substance abuse, child and family social work, school social work and healthcare social work–receive some of the highest salaries. For these social workers, the median wage is $60,230, the BLS reported.

The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) is the accrediting organization for Social Work departments of colleges and universities.

Hourly Tuition Rate:

  • Under $400 – 5 points
  • Under $800 – 4 points
  • Under $1,200 – 3 points
  • Under $1.600 – 2 points
  • Under $2,000 – 1 point

Regional Accreditation: 5 points

CSWE Accreditation: 5 points

Multiple Tracks/Specializations: 3 points

Payscale.com ROL Ranking:

  • Top 75 – 5 points
  • Top 200 – 4 points
  • Top 500 – 3 points
  • Top 700 – 2 points
  • Top 900 – 1 point

Graduation Rate:

  • 80-100% – 5 points
  • 60-79% – 4 points
  • 40-59 % – 3 points
  • 21-39% – 2 points
  • 0-20% – 1 point

#10 – Western New Mexico University

Silver City, New Mexico

Online Master’s of Social Work

Regional Accreditation: Yes

Multiple Tracks/Specializations: No

Payscale.com: Not listed

Graduation Rate: 23%

Points: 12

Website

Western New Mexico University has an online master’s of social work degree that is “non-advanced standing,” meaning that your undergraduate degree does not need to be in social work, but that you must successfully complete four prerequisite courses before being allowed into the field practicum part of the MSW curriculum. The program is 39 credit hours with BSW or 60 hours without BSW. Cost per credit hour is $265.62. To apply, submit transcripts, references, personal essay, and $100 fee. Western New Mexico University receives accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education.

#9 – University of Louisville

Louisville, Kentucky

Online Master of Science in Social Work

Regional Accreditation: Yes

Multiple Tracks/Specializations: Yes

Payscale.com: 718th

Graduation Rate: 54%

Points: 16

Website
The University of Louisville’s master of science in social work is a 30 credit hour course if you have advanced standing or 60 hours under the regular curriculum plan. The program has six specializations, including psychosocial oncology, military, gerontology, and mental health. Admissions requires a resume, three recommendations, transcripts (if GPA is below 2.7, submit GRE scores), writing sample, and $65 fee. The University of Knoxville asks for $714 for each credit hour. The online master of science in social work is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.

#8 – University of South Florida

Tampa, Florida

Online Master of Social Work

Regional Accreditation: Yes

Multiple Tracks/Specializations: No

Payscale.com: 438th

Graduation Rate: 67%

Points: 16

Website
The University of South Florida’s online master of social work degree is a 60 hour program with full-time (4 semesters) and part-time (8 semesters) scheduling. In addition to a culminating capstone project, course titles include the following: diversity and social justice; health, illness, and disability; and field instruction. Cost per credit hour is $694.82. The master of social work degree is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. To apply to the University of South Florida graduate program, submit transcripts showing a minimum 3.0 GPA, three references, resume, personal interview, and $30 application fee.

#7 – University of Tennessee Knoxville

Knoxville, Tennessee

Masters of Science in Social Work Online

Regional Accreditation: Yes

Multiple Tracks/Specializations: Yes

Payscale.com: 596th

Graduation Rate: 69%

Points: 18

Website
The University of Tennessee Knoxville offers a 100% online masters of science in social work degree that is a 60 credit hour, cohort program, offered either as full time or extended study, and with two concentrations, clinical or macro. Three-quarters of your undergraduate study must have been in social sciences, humanities, physical science, and other liberal arts subjects. To apply, submit three reference evaluation forms, resume, professional statement, 2.7 minimum GPA, and $60 application fee, but GRE scores are not needed. The University of Tennessee Knoxville asks for $626 for each credit hour for their online master of science in social work degree.

#6 – University of Texas – Arlington

Arlington, Texas

Master of Social Work Online

Regional Accreditation: Yes

Multiple Tracks/Specializations: Yes

Payscale.com: 170th

Graduation Rate: 42%

Points: 19

Website
The University of Texas – Arlington offers an online, 61 credit hour master of social work degree that is open only to residents of the state of Texas. There are six curriculum areas, including applied social work practice, research and evaluation, community and administrative practice, and human behavior and the social environment. The University of Texas – Arlington charges $405 for each credit hour for the fully online master of social work. Admission calls for transcripts with a minimum 3.0 GPA, GRE scores, three letters of recommendation, a narrative essay, and a $75 application fee.

#5 – University of Nevada – Reno

Reno, Nevada

Master of Social Work Online

Regional Accreditation: Yes

Multiple Tracks/Specializations: Yes

Payscale.com: 320th

Graduation Rate: 55%

Points: 19

Website
The University of Nevada – Reno confers an online master of social work degree that is a 32 credit hour program and includes the study options of gerontology, substance abuse, mental health, and children and families. The degree may be obtained in 15 months. GRE scores are not required for admission to the University of Nevada – Reno’s MSW program, but you must submit transcripts with a GPA of 3.0 (3.25 in last half of undergraduate work), essays, resume, three letters of recommendation, and a $60 fee. The cost for each credit hour is $350.

#4 – University of Southern California

Los Angeles, California

Online Master of Social Work

Regional Accreditation: Yes

Multiple Tracks/Specializations: Yes

Payscale.com: 156th

Graduation Rate: 91%

Points: 21

Website
The University of Southern California offers a 37 credit hour, online master of social work degree with three departments of study: adult mental health and wellness; children, youth, and families; and social change and innovation. Students may also choose further between the two optional program tracks of military social work or school social work. To apply, submit transcripts (minimum 3.0 GPA), a resume, letters of recommendation, and a fee of $90 but no GRE scores. The University of Southern California charges $1,874 per credit hour for the online master of social work degree. The school is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.

#3 – Columbia University

New York, New York

Master of Social Work Online

Regional Accreditation: Yes

Multiple Tracks/Specializations: No

Payscale.com: 46th

Graduation Rate: 95%

Points: 22

Website
Columbia University has a 60 credit hour, online master’s of social work degree. For Field Education, students are matched “with agencies that provide experience with direct social work.” Courses must be taken in the following areas: human behavior and the social environment; social welfare policy and services; research; social work practice; and field education. Course titles include Social Welfare Policy and Advocacy in Social Work Practice. Admission to the online master’s of social work program requires transcripts and a $75 application fee but no GRE scores. The charge for each credit hour is $1,564. Columbia University is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.

#2 – San Jose State University

San Jose, California

Online Master of Social Work

Regional Accreditation: Yes

Multiple Tracks/Specializations: No

Payscale.com: 69th

Graduation Rate: 52%

Points: 24

Website
San Jose State University boasts a 60 credit hour, online/hybrid master of social work degree, for which two applications are required: one for the university level (Cal State Apply); and one for MSW program level (MSW Application Portal). The program infuses the curriculum with “transcultural perspective” and is open only to California residents. Admissions requires transcripts showing a 2.5 minimum GPA, personal statement, social work experience, three letters of recommendation, and $55 fee. San Jose State University charges $550 per credit hour for the online master of social work degree. The school is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.

#1 – Texas State University

San Marcos, Texas

Master of Social Work Online

Regional Accreditation: Yes

Multiple Tracks/Specializations: Yes

Payscale.com: 473rd

Graduation Rate: 55%

Points: 24

Website
Texas State University has a 100% online master of social work with two tracks. The Foundation Track is 62 credit hours, for students with a bachelor’s degree in a field besides social work. The Advanced Standing Track is 36 hours, for students with a BSW. Online classes are full-time (three courses a semester) or part-time (two courses a semester). To apply, submit transcripts and a $40 fee. GRE scores are not required. Texas State University charges $301 for each credit hour for their online master of social work. Accreditation is awarded by the Council on Social Work Education.