Top 25 Affordable Master’s in Social Work Programs

Last Updated: April 2020

The social work field offers an abundance of lucrative career opportunities for those with MSW degrees. During their degree programs, students at the master's level can explore specialization opportunities that prepare them for specific career opportunities and population focus areas in the social work field.

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After graduation, individuals can pursue state licensure for their chosen career paths. Social workers identify people and communities that need help and create success plans for their clients, often referring them to psychologists and doctors. Social workers sometimes endure stressful work environments and must respond to crisis situations, including child abuse and mental health emergencies.

These professionals earned a 2018 median pay of $49,470, with the highest paying industry varying between types of social work. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an above-average 2018-2028 job growth rate of 11% for social workers.


Methodology

Read about our ranking methodology here.

Top 10 Affordable Master's in Social Work Degree Programs
Rank University Name
1 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – Chapel Hill, NC
2 University of Georgia – Athens, GA
3 University of Michigan – Ann Arbor – Ann Arbor, MI
4 North Carolina State University at Raleigh – Raleigh, NC
5 Columbia University in the City of New York – New York, NY
6 University of Washington – Tacoma – Tacoma, WA
7 University of Wyoming – Laramie, WY
8 University of California – Los Angeles – Los Angeles, CA
9 Gallaudet University – Washington, DC
10 University of Pennsylvania – Philadelphia, PA

Top MSW Programs 2020

1. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

UNC-Chapel Hill operates as the flagship institution of the University of North Carolina system. This public research university holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and is the oldest public university in the nation. Learners at UNC-Chapel Hill can explore degree opportunities across the undergraduate and graduate levels, including an MSW degree.

UNC-Chapel Hill's MSW program prepares enrollees to pursue advanced social work careers. This full-time online program allows learners to satisfy their degree requirements within three years. Students can consider concentration options in management and policy practice or direct practice and community.

The 62-credit hour curriculum requires students to complete up to 1,100 hours of field practice. Degree-seekers who hold bachelor's degrees in social work from accredited colleges or universities can apply for the advanced standing program, which requires 40 credit hours of coursework.

During the rigorous curriculum, learners explore topics such as social welfare policy and services, human behavior in the social environment, and social research. The advanced curriculum provides students with an in-depth study of research methods and complex policies in the field.


2. University of Georgia

Founded in 1785, UGA is one of the oldest public universities in the United States. UGA is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and functions as a public research university. UGA students can consider program opportunities across areas of study and degree levels,including a master's in social work option.

During the online MSW program, degree-seekers participate in field internships and research opportunities that enable them to connect the competencies they develop during their program to the social work field. During the program, learners can tailor their degrees to fit their interests and career goals, considering specialization options in macro (community development) practice, micro (clinical) practice, or integrated practice combining the micro and macro specializations.

Social work students can also consider dual master's degrees that allow them to focus on social work and public health, law, or divinity. Enrollees can pursue certificates in nonprofit management and leadership, marriage and family therapy, gerontology, and other disciplines.

Each applicant must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college or university. During the admissions process, a learner needs to provide a completed application along with GRE test scores, official undergraduate transcripts, a narrative statement, a current resume, three letters of recommendation, and a $75 application fee.


3. University of Michigan

U-M, Michigan's oldest university, was established in Detroit in 1817 and relocated to Ann Arbor in 1837. In addition to the main campus, U-M features two regional campuses in Dearborn and Flint. U-M holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. Degree-seekers at U-M can pursue a master of social work degree.

The MSW program at U-M emphasizes a strong interdisciplinary focus and allows enrollees to explore several specializations, such as interpersonal practice in integrated health, mental health, and substance abuse; social work practice with older adults and families; welfare of children and families; management and leadership; and policy and political social work.

MSW students can also consider dual-degree options, such as the MicroMasters MSW option to begin the degree online and finish online, or the 12-month advanced standing format for BSW graduates. Enrollees can also serve in the Peace Corps while earning their degree.

Throughout the rigorous curriculum, students can explore topics such as theories and practices for community action and social change, basic social work research, and foundation field instruction.


4. North Carolina State University

Functioning as a public research university, NC State belongs to the University of North Carolina system. As a land, sea, and space-grant institution, the university holds a place as a corner of the Research Triangle, along with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University. NC State features an MSW degree and holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), the MSW program welcomes diverse students and has inclusion efforts aligned with the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics. The program prepares students to advance their social work careers, equipping them with the skills and knowledge needed to help people in difficult life situations.

MSW students can consider the traditional option and enroll full time. This format comprises 60 credit hours of coursework and takes students two years to satisfy program requirements. Each applicant to the traditional format must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution with a 3.0 minimum GPA.

Degree-seekers can also consider enrolling in the advanced standing MSW, in which they focus on intensive coursework and complete 39 credit hours over 12 months. Each advanced standing applicant must hold a BSW degree from a CSWE-accredited program with a 3.5 minimum GPA.


5. Columbia University

Established in 1754, Columbia University is a private Ivy League research university, and is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Students can pursue top-ranked program opportunities at Columbia, including a master's in social work.

By connecting advanced coursework to real-world practice, the online MSW program allows degree-seekers to consider the concentrations in advanced clinical social work practice, advanced generalist practice and programming, policy practice, and social enterprise administration.

With programmatic accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education, the program allows degree-seekers to enroll in courses focused on social welfare policy and services, human behavior and the social environment, research, social work practice, and field education.

Online students must complete the same field education requirements as on-campus learners. During their first year of study, enrollees begin working with agencies in nearby metropolitan areas. Most online courses follow a synchronous format, requiring students to participate in their online components in real-time.

Each applicant must provide a completed application, official undergraduate transcripts, a current resume, three letters of recommendation, and an admissions essay.


6. University of Washington – Tacoma

As a satellite campus of the University of Washington, UW Tacoma functions as a public university regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. UW Tacoma offers program opportunities across degree levels and areas of study, including a master of social work option.

UW Tacoma's online MSW prepares students to develop the specialized skills needed to provide social services across advanced social work careers. During the program, learners benefit from intensive classroom instruction, along with additional field experience. Graduates can pursue career opportunities across settings, including child and family services, healthcare agencies, the criminal justice system, and social service organizations.

With programmatic accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education, the MSW program features a three-year program format or an advanced standing option. The three-year program employs part-time enrollment, while the advanced standing option allows learners to enroll part time and complete their requirements within 18 months. Each advanced standing applicant should hold an undergraduate degree in social welfare or social work.

A graduate candidate must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college or university with a 3.0 minimum GPA. As part of the admissions process, each applicant must complete an application and pay the $85 associated fee, provide official transcripts, and submit GMAT or GRE test scores.


7. University of Wyoming

Boasting regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission, UW functions as a public land-grant research university. Founded four years before the territory became the 44th state in the nation in 1887, UW operates seven colleges across various academic disciplines. Learners can explore many program options at UW, including an MSW degree.

MSW students at UW can consider a standard program or an advanced standing program depending on their enrollment needs and educational background. Master's students typically complete their degree requirements within two years of study. Throughout the specialized curriculum, learners can explore advanced theories and practices with children and families, human behavior and the environment, and principles and philosophy of social work.

Each degree-seeker must satisfy a capstone component to demonstrate the competencies and skills they developed throughout their program into one final, comprehensive project.

An applicant interested in the standard MSW program must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution with at least 21 credit hours of social and behavioral sciences courses, along with other general prerequisites and a 3.0 minimum GPA. Each advanced standing applicant must hold a bachelor's degree in a Council on Social Work Education-accredited program with a 3.0 minimum overall GPA and a 3.25 GPA or higher for undergraduate social work.


8. University of California – Los Angeles

UCLA functions as a public research university and features regional accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. The university boasts nearly 350 undergraduate and graduate program options, including a master's in social work option.

The university's MSW program prepares social workers to pursue advanced careers in the field. This program highlights a research capstone component, requiring learners to address and articulate a specific problem within a larger issue in the field. During capstone projects, enrollees collaborate with groups, aside from a limited number of students approved to work individually.

A degree-seeker chosen to complete an individual capstone project must hold a 3.0 GPA or higher and demonstrate evidence of strong performance in their previous coursework, such as a research proposal that shows originality and rigor or a letter of recommendation from a faculty member.

The curriculum features a two-year research course sequence, allowing degree-seekers to focus on topics such as social welfare research methods, data gathering and analyses, and interpreting and disseminating research.


9. Gallaudet University

This federally chartered private university for the deaf and hard of hearing was the first school to provide advanced education for deaf and hard of hearing students. The university is officially bilingual with written English and American Sign Language used for instruction. Gallaudet University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and offers a master of social work degree.

Gallaudet University's MSW program prepares degree-seekers to pursue advanced social work positions with deaf and hard of hearing populations. The program culminates 61 credit hours of coursework across eight core curriculum areas, including social work practice, research, field education, values and ethics, diversity, and at-risk populations.

Along with coursework, each student must attend a field practicum component to prepare for post-graduate careers with practical experience.


10. University of Pennsylvania

Regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, Penn functions as a private Ivy League research university. Founded in 1740, Penn was one of the nine colonial colleges founded before the U.S. Declaration of Independence. Among many program options, Penn offers an MSW degree.

The MSW program at Penn prepares social workers to pursue leadership roles in the field, providing services to families, individuals, groups, and communities. The program features an interdisciplinary approach, allowing learners to take elective courses across Penn's 12 graduate schools. Students can also consider enrolling in one of the 14 dual-degree opportunities.

The curriculum includes a foundation year and an advanced year. In both years, the core coursework exposes learners to the knowledge, skills, and critical thinking abilities needed to practice as effective social workers. During the advanced year, degree-seekers choose to pursue a macro or clinical concentration. Students can choose to complete elective coursework outside the school of social policy and practice.

Enrollees can also consider certificate programs focusing on global human rights, criminal justice, child welfare, school social work, and prisoner re-entry. The social work program holds programmatic accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education.


11. Tennessee State University

TSU is a historically black, public land-grant university founded in 1912. The largest and only state-funded historically black university in the state, TSU holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Students can pursue bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees across areas of study, including a master's in social work option.

The university's collaborative MSW program emphasizes the enhancement of human well-being, social justice, and diversity through improving and developing systems for public social services. This program holds programmatic accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education.

Students can enroll in the advanced generalist curriculum or the concentration curriculum. The advanced generalist curriculum prepares enrollees to provide leadership in the development of service delivery systems. Curriculum comprises 30 credit hours of coursework, developing students' skills in advanced generalist social work practice.

During the MSW program, students complete some of their courses entirely online, while others require learners to attend on-campus classes. The rigorous curriculum allows students to explore advanced topics such as social welfare policy and services, social policy analysis, and human behavior in the social environment.


12. New Mexico State University

Founded in 1888, NMSU operates as a public research university and one of two flagship universities in the state. Among the varied program options students can consider, NMSU offers a master of social work and holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

The MSW program at NMSU allows learners to focus on advanced generalist social work practice with populations of the Southwest. During the program, degree-seekers build on a liberal arts focus through foundation courses and explore advanced concepts in working with families, individuals, communities, organizations, and groups across social work settings.

Online students can consider part-time or full-time enrollment to complete course components and field experience. Graduates finish the program prepared to deliver multidimensional social work practice focused on empirical evidence and theoretical perspectives.

Students who study part time can complete the requirements of their program within three years, while those who enroll full time typically finish within two years of study. The program also features an advanced standing format for learners who hold bachelor's degrees in social work. In that program, part-time students can graduate within two years, and full-time learners can earn their degrees in as little as one year.


13. University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley

This public research university belonging to the University of Texas System features regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Created by the Texas legislature in 2013, UTRGV offers degrees across various levels and areas of study.

As the only institution to offer a bachelor's and master's degree in social work south of San Antonio, UTRGV features a flexible MSW degree that holds programmatic accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education. The program allows learners to tailor their coursework to fit their interests and career goals by offering concentration options in the direct micro practice with Latino individuals, families, and groups; and community practice and administration (macro practice).

Students must complete foundational courses before proceeding to concentration courses. All learners can explore social work with diverse populations, advanced policy analysis and development, and social work as a profession.

Each applicant must provide a completed application along with a $50 fee, official undergraduate transcripts from a regionally accredited institution demonstrating a 3.0 minimum GPA, a personal statement, and three letters of recommendation.


14. Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis

Regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, IUPUI functions as a core campus of Indiana University that also offers Purdue University degrees. The public research university offers degree opportunities across areas of study and degree levels, including a master's in social work program.

IUPUI's school of social work offers a social work master's program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. Learners can cultivate a specialized curriculum molded toward their career goals and interests by choosing a focus area in children, youth, and families; community and organizational leadership; health; mental health and addictions; and school social work.

The full-time MSW program allows learners to complete their requirements in two years, while part-time students graduate in three. Students can also take advantage of a personalized degree map if they require more time to complete their degree, working with an adviser to create a plan that works for them. IUPUI also offers an advanced standing format for MSW students if they hold a bachelor's degree in social work earned within the last ten years.

During the rigorous curriculum, degree-seekers complete foundation courses, concentration classes, and courses within their focus area. The program offers specialized topics in the field, such as generalist theory and practice, social policy analysis and practice, and community and global theory and practice.


15. Hunter College

As one of the constituent colleges of the City University of New York, Hunter functions as a public university that holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Degree-seekers at Hunter can pursue degree options across disciplines and levels of study, such as the master of social work.

The MSW program allows degree-seekers to choose from several formats to complete their degree requirements. During the two-year program, learners attend classes two days each week and satisfy field placement requirements three days a week to complete 60 academic credits. The one-year residency option functions as a work-study program, requiring 60 credits of coursework and a field placement internship.

The advanced standing format allows students with a bachelor's degrees in social work to complete 36 credits of coursework in three semesters, focusing on clinical practice with individuals, families, and groups or community organization, planning, and development.

Learners interested in the accelerated full-time program can complete the 60-credit curriculum within 18 months, attending classes two days a week and field placement three days a week. In the accelerated one-year residency format, each student completes a work-study program with 60 credits and a field placement internship.

The 85-credit dual-degree option allows social work students to focus specifically on the special vulnerabilities and needs of children from birth to the age of three and their families.


16. Appalachian State University

Founded in 1899 as a teachers college, Appalachian now functions as a public university in the University of North Carolina system. Regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, Appalachian offers bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees across disciplines, including an MSW degree option.

Appalachian's MSW equips degree-seekers with advanced clinical practice abilities, strong leadership skills, and the ability to engage in advanced social work practice with individuals, families, communities, and organizations. Upon completing the program, learners can apply for clinical social work licenses or a social work manager licenses.

The program, which boasts programmatic accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education, allows degree-seekers to consider a concentration in community and organizational practice or individuals and families.

During the community and organizational practice concentration, learners can focus on developing and implementing social services, policies, and programs while they learn more about government and nonprofit agency administration, political and social action, and community organizing and development.

In the individuals and families concentration, students focus on advanced clinical assessment, development of the professional relationship, theoretical perspectives, and evidence-based practice and intervention related to diverse children, adolescents, families, and adults.


17. Northwest Nazarene University

Holding regional accreditation from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, NNU is a private Christian university located in Nampa, Idaho. NNU is one of only eight U.S. liberal arts colleges affiliated with the Church of the Nazarene, and also belongs to the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. Learners at NNU can explore degree opportunities across several disciplines, including a master's in social work program.

Featuring a generalist and specialized level, the MSW program follows a cohort format, allowing learners to begin and end their curriculum with the same group of enrollees. Degree-seekers can pursue their program on-campus or from a flexible, online format.

Students pursuing the generalist level can complete the requirements of the program within 2.5 years, while advanced standing students can graduate within 1.5 years. The program features year-round enrollment in fall, spring, and summer semesters.

Accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, the MSW program allows learners to tailor their curriculum to fit their interests and career goals, offering concentrations in clinical mental health and addictions; and integrated clinical and community practice.

Throughout the program, students can explore advanced concepts, including policy issues in rural America, practical research, and clinical social work with families.


18. Brigham Young University

Located in Provo, Utah, BYU functions as a private research university with regional accreditation by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. BYU features a primary emphasis on undergraduate education but also offers master's and doctoral opportunities, such as the master of social work program.

By focusing on clinical practice and research with children and families, the MSW program allows learners to consider clinical- or research-focused tracks. Degree-seekers in the clinical emphasis cultivate the skills and knowledge needed to work as clinicians or practitioners by working in mental health facilities and other direct practice areas.

The research emphasis allows students to prepare for advanced training, equipping them with the competencies needed to advance into Ph.D. programs. During the emphasis, learners complete advanced research courses outside the social work discipline, along with a research project for professional publication.

Each enrollee must complete 60 credit hours of coursework, focusing on 54 credit hours of major requirements and six credit hours of electives. All learners must also complete master's research projects.

An applicant must submit a statement of purpose, completed application, official undergraduate transcripts, and a current professional resume.


19. University of Central Florida

Orlando's UCF enrolls more on-campus students than any other university in the United States. This public research university holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. UCF students can consider program opportunities across several degree levels and disciplines, including an MSW degree.

With programmatic accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education, the MSW program equips learners with the skills and knowledge for advanced social work careers. Degree-seekers can complete their degrees completely online, although they might not have access to all of the same elective options as on-campus learners. The program allows learners to follow a standard track if they do not hold a bachelor's degree in social work or an advanced standing option if they do.

The MSW program prepares students for professional licensing and certification opportunities. Enrollees can focus on a generalist approach, building critical thinking skills and learning more about how to provide ethical services for clients across settings.


20. New York University

This private research university based in New York City also functions as a global university with degree-granting campuses in Buenos Aires, London, Prague, and Shanghai. Regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, NYU offers both undergraduate and graduate degree opportunities, including a master's in social work.

The MSW program focuses on research-driven direct practice with individuals, groups, and families. Students can consider the part-time or full-time program formats, along with four dual-degree options in the disciplines of global health leadership, management, child development, and law. Degree-seekers can explore specialized topics such as advanced social policy; human behavior in the social environment; and diversity, racism, oppression, and privilege.

The first year of the curriculum focuses on generalist practice, while the second year exposes learners to specialized practice. In addition to the focus on clinical practice, students can also pursue an emphasis on policy practice.

Each applicant must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution with a minimum of 60 liberal arts credits. Learners do not need to provide GRE scores during the admissions process but should provide official undergraduate transcripts.


21. The University of Texas at Austin

Founded as a public research university in 1883, UT Austin operates as the flagship institution of the University of Texas system. UT Austin belongs to the Association of American Universities and holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Learners at UT Austin can explore a master of social work degree.

The 60-credit MSW program allows learners to pursue a concentration in clinical social work or administration and policy practice. Degree-seekers can consider flexible curriculum options, allowing them to complete their requirements in 1-3 years.

In addition to the master's degree options, social work students can enroll in three certificate programs, exploring healthcare, military social work, or school-based social work. UT Austin also features five portfolio programs covering women's and gender studies, aging and health, nonprofit studies, disability studies, and dispute resolution.

Along with the intensive coursework requirements, each learner must satisfy 1,020 hours of field practicum requirements. Students can also pursue dual-degree options in Latin American studies, business, law, divinity, public affairs, and public health.


22. Indiana University East

Located in Richmond, IU East functions as a regional campus of Indiana University. This public university holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission and grants degrees across levels and disciplines, such as the MSW degree.

With programmatic accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education, the MSW program provides degree-seekers with the skills and knowledge they need to pursue advanced social work careers.

As part of the intensive curriculum, learners must complete foundation courses, concentration courses, focus area courses, and electives. During the program, students explore advanced topics, including social policy and services, community and global theory and practice, and assessment in mental health and addictions.

The program follows a cohort format, allowing students to begin and end their program with the same group of learners. MSW applicants experience a competitive admissions environment. Degree-seekers who hold BSWs from accredited programs earned within five years of their intended MSW start date can apply for advanced standing admission.

BSW degree-holders from accredited institutions earned within ten years, along with extensive social work experience or social work licensure within five years prior to their program start date can also pursue advanced standing.


23. Florida International University

Holding regional accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, FIU is as a public space-grant research university in the State University System of Florida. As the first and only school in southern Florida to accomplish the "emerging preeminence" designation, FIU offers students a master's in social work program.

The MSW program at FIU holds programmatic accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education. The standard MSW program allows students to specialize in clinical social work and complete 60 credits of coursework comprising 30 credits of foundation courses and 30 credits of advanced clinical concentration courses.

The MSW advanced standing program features an accelerated clinical social work curriculum. Designed for BSW degree-holders, the program includes 33 credits of advanced clinical concentration coursework, preparing learners to pursue clinical licensure.

Students interested in pursuing a dual degree can combine their MSW with public health, public health with advanced standing status, or a juris doctorate. Students in the traditional program complete three internships with one at a foundational level and two at an advanced clinical level. Advanced standing students participate in two advanced clinical internships. During their last semester, all MSW students complete a licensure preparation course at no additional cost.


24. California State University – Bakersfield

CSUB functions as a public university in the 23-campus California State University system. CSUB holds regional accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Students at CSUB can consider a master of social work degree.

Accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, the MSW program models the curriculum after an advanced generalist approach to social work. Students build their skills in advanced generalist social work practice, preparing to work with individuals, families, groups, and organizations. The curriculum leads enrollees to explore micro, mezzo, and macro levels of practice.

The curriculum includes foundation courses and concentration courses, exposing degree-seekers to specialized concepts in advanced human behavior and the social environment, diagnostic process in social work, and advanced policy in social work.

Each applicant must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university with a liberal arts foundation. During the admissions process, each learner must submit a completed application, official transcripts demonstrating a 2.5 GPA or higher, GRE scores, and three letters of recommendation.


25. University of North Carolina at Greensboro

As a part of the University of North Carolina system, UNCG operates as a public research university and is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. UNCG offers an MSW degree option.

Accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) for 20 years, the joint master of social work program between North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and UNCG prepares degree-seekers for careers in multicultural clinical practice.

Students can complete course requirements at both universities and experience instruction from faculty at both schools. Upon completing the program, learners receive diplomas with seals from both schools.

Each applicant must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university and demonstrate a 3.0 undergraduate GPA or higher. Along with a completed application, each candidate must provide official undergraduate transcripts, three letters of recommendation, and a personal statement.

An advanced standing applicant must hold a bachelor of social work degree from a CSWE-accredited institution earned within ten years of their desired MSW program start date. These applicants should demonstrate a minimum 3.5 GPA and provide official transcripts, three letters of recommendation, and a personal statement.


Why Pursue a Master's in Social Work?

Earning a master's degree in social work allows graduates to pursue state licensure, which leads to many career opportunities. The social work field provides professionals with access to several specialized occupations, including roles focused on mental health and substance abuse, marriage and family therapy, school counseling, and family services.

Most social workers focus their careers on child, family, and school social work, finding the highest abundance of opportunities in individual and family services. Other popular types of social work include healthcare social work and mental health and substance abuse social work.

Social workers complete many of their daily responsibilities from office environments, although they spend a great deal of their careers visiting clients at their homes or in school. These professionals can find work in mental health clinics, human service agencies, and community development corporations.

Coursework and Core Concepts in an MSW Degree

Coursework and program requirements for MSW degree candidates vary, depending on the school and specialization. At the master's level, many social work programs allow students to focus their coursework on a particular concentration. Common concentration areas include military social work, school social work, and family social work.

MSW degrees typically require students to complete around 60 credits of coursework, although many schools offer advanced-standing formats for learners who hold bachelor's degrees in social work. These degrees allow them to earn their master's degrees sooner.

At the master's level, students in standard program formats usually take around two years to satisfy their degree requirements. Although courses vary from school to school, learners pursuing MSW degrees focus on understanding the concepts needed to obtain state licensure after graduation.

Social work program enrollees focus on course topics such as crisis management, understanding the ethical and legal considerations involved with crisis situations and trauma response. Students can also explore clinical supervision and leadership in social work practice, working to understand strategic planning and administrative roles across social work settings.

Practice Levels in Social Work

The social work field features several practice levels, including micro, mezzo, and macro. Professionals in the field consider the micro level the most common type of social work practice. Social workers focusing on micro practice work directly with individuals or families. Micro social workers help their clients by using government tools and programs.

Mezzo social workers fall between micro and macro social workers, working with smaller groups and institutions. These professionals typically work with small businesses, neighborhoods, local organizations, schools, and other small groups, promoting institutional and cultural change. Mezzo social workers often hold experience working in micro and macro social work.

Macro social workers work at the community and systems level to serve in many different roles. These social workers often work with large-scale research and provide leadership for major organizations. Earning an online MSW degree can prepare professionals to develop the competencies and experience they need to provide quality service across levels of practice.

Becoming a Licensed Social Worker

While earning an MSW degree allows graduates to consider many diverse career paths, professionals interested in working as any kind of social worker must also obtain state licensure. Additionally, counselors and therapists need to pursue licensure. Some occupations in the field, such as probation officers, do not need to hold licensure to practice.

Licensing requirements can differ depending on location and specialization. These requirements include aspects such as exam components, clinical experience, and educational criteria. Social workers who obtain licensure in one state should understand that their licenses may not allow them to practice in other states. These professionals should plan to pursue additional licensure throughout their careers if they relocate or want to shift into other areas of social work practice.




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