Top 10 Affordable Online Masters in Social Work

Everyone needs an advocate, and in essence, that's what a social worker is. More specifically, social workers advocate for some of the most vulnerable and underserved populations in our country and local communities.

Social workers use the insights of social sciences like economics, sociology, public health, psychology, and political science to help engage social and personal challenges and to fight for policies that affirm the dignity of human persons and promote the well-being of society as a whole.

Social workers are typically assigned cases by the agency that they work for, and they will often forge relationships with their clients to help them in a variety of ways. They can assess problems, help individuals and communities to develop action plans, encourage their clients to implement those plans, then monitor and offer counseling as clients follow through. Some areas where social workers are especially active include family and child welfare services, elderly services, probation, employment services, and disability counseling.

According to the National Association of Social Workers' Code of Ethics, there are six core values that should inform and guide social workers: service, social justice, integrity, the importance of human relationships, the dignity and worth of individuals, and professional competence.

Though social work can be challenging in a variety of ways, if you feel called to this line of work, then the good news is that this is a growing field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, social work positions are expected to grow by at least 11% over the next decade or so. And the closely related occupational category of social and human service assistants is expected to grow by 13%. Social workers also generally make more than the median for all professions, with a salary range between $40,000 and $70,000 per year. 

Why Become a Social Worker?

One big reason to consider becoming a social worker is the flexibility within the industry. Social workers can be found in government agencies, non-profit settings, hospitals, local clinics, the military, educational institutions of various levels, and a variety of mental health service settings.

Social workers serve various client populations like the elderly, children, people living with HIV/AIDS, LGBTQI+ persons, immigrants and refugees, and minority groups. And social workers can also choose between numerous fields in which they practice their craft like mental health, the health care system, correctional services, disability services, substance abuse, or even international social work. All of these options mean that individuals who pursue an advanced degree will have a significant number of distinct pathways open to them. 

Most Master's of Social Work degree programs include a mixture of academic and theoretically-focused classes as well as a significant field experience. When looking at the degree programs, one will also find the distinction between Advanced Standing programs and Non-Advanced Standing programs. The difference between these two types of programs is important. An AS program is meant to build on education – and sometimes experience- already received in the discipline.

Typically AS programs require applicants to already possess a Bachelor of Social Work, and the curriculum of the program usually build on that prior knowledge. These programs are also shorter in duration. Non-Advanced Standing programs usually take longer and don't require applicants to have a previous BSW degree. As you consider individual programs, be sure to check and see what kinds of options are available for you to choose from. 

How to Choose a Master's in Social Work

Social Work Degree Guide is here to help you find the perfect program for you. We factor in Student Satisfaction and Affordability as our primary metrics, at 30% of the total ranking each. From there Alumni Salaries, SAT Scores, and the school's retention rate each represent 10%. For more information on how SWG ranks Social Work degrees, please visit our About Us page.

 

#10. Western New Mexico University – Silver City, NM

Master of Social Work

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Tuition: $12,500

Unique Features

Western New Mexico University is a small public university with a highly diverse student body located in Silver City, NM. WNMU offers a Master of Social Work degree online. The program at WNMU features both Non-Advanced Standing and Advanced Standing degree options, which means the program can accept a wide variety of students. Core classes in the program include Cultural Competence in Social Work Practice, Theories and Techniques of Clinical SWK Practice, and Social Work Clinical Assessment and Intervention. Admission to the NAS program requires a bachelor's degree with at least a 2.75 cumulative GPA, while the AS program requires a bachelor's degree in Social Work with a 3.0 GPA in SW coursework. Most of the faculty in the program have worked as social workers and bring their experience into the classroom. 

 

#9. Indiana University Bloomington – Bloomington, IN

Master of Social Work

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Tuition: $12,488

Unique Features

A large public research university, Indiana University Bloomington offers an online Master of Social Work degree. The program not only grounds students in core areas like human rights, diversity, and social justice, but also allows individuals to explore a variety of potential fields of practice like e-social work, telebehavioral health social work, and military social work. Overall the program consists of 60 credits and students take classes like Assessment in Mental Health Addictions; Military Social Work: Principles for Working with Military Personnel, Veterans, and Their Families; and Mental Health and Addictions Practice: Individuals and Families. IU provides excellent support for its online programs and works hard to incorporate all students into the program, giving them an exceptional online educational experience. 

 

#8. Metropolitan State University of Denver – Denver, CO

Master of Social Work

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Tuition: $12,175

Unique Features

Metropolitan State University of Denver shares a campus with the University of Colorado and the Community College of Denver at the Auraria Campus, which is located near downtown Denver. The Department of Social Work at MSUD offers a fully-online Master of Social Work degree. Courses are delivered in both synchronous and asynchronous formats, which allows for both flexibility and the ability to connect with other students and faculty in a live online setting. MSUD has both an Advanced Standing pathway for individuals with a bachelor's degree in Social Work as well as a traditional program option for individuals without a Social Work bachelor's. The AS program consists of 36 credits, which the traditional program includes 60 credits. Both options allow students to pursue concentrations in Children and Families, Mental Health, or Leadership and Management.

 

#7. Western Kentucky University – Bowling Green, KY

Master of Social Work

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Tuition: $11,817

Unique Features

Western Kentucky University is a mid-sized public university located in Bowling Green, KY. WKU offers an online Master of Social Work. The program is 100% online and is designed to be pursued part-time, making it extremely flexible. Students who enter the program can either pursue an Advanced Standing program that only requires 36 credits or the Traditional program, which requires 60 credits. Admission to the AS program requires a bachelor's degree in Social Work from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. Admission to both programs requires a minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.75. Courses available in the program are particularly attuned to rural settings and include classes like Advanced Psycho-Social Approaches for Rural Practice, Social Work in Diverse Rural Areas, and Rural Social Welfare Policy. 

 

#6. University of South Florida – Tampa, FL

Master of Social Work

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Tuition: $11,766

Unique Features

A large public research institution of higher learning, the University of South Florida is located in Tampa, FL. The School of Social Work at USF offers an online Master of Social Work. USF offers both an Advanced Standing and a Traditional program option. The AS option consists of 35 credits, while the Traditional option is 60. The program can be pursued on a part-time or full-time basis, though the classes are offered in a structured sequence that must be followed. Admission to the Traditional degree program requires a bachelor's degree with a 3.0 GPA, while admission to the AS option requires that all Social Work courses taken in their undergraduate program must have been passed with at least a B-, and the program must be accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. 

 

#5. West Virginia University – Morgantown, WV

Master of Social Work

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Tuition: $11,486

Unique Features

A large public land-grant research institution of higher education, the main campus of West Virginia University is located in Morgantown, WV. WVU offers an online Master of Social Work degree. The program is an Advanced Standing program and requires 12 courses, including an Advanced Field Experience. Classes offered include Social Policy Analysis, Advocacy, and Deliberation; Child Mental Health: Promotion, Prevention, and Treatment; and Addiction and Social Work Practice. Admission requires a Bachelor of Social Work degree from a Council on Social Work Education accredited school with a 2.75 cumulative GPA. Applicants must also submit an essay, resume, three letters of recommendation, and complete a case study issued by the program. 

 

#4. Appalachian State University – Boone, NC

Master of Social Work

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Tuition: $10,473

Unique Features

Nestled in the North Carolina mountains in the town of Boone, Appalachian State University is a mid-sized public university. ASU offers a Master of Social Work degree program that is delivered in a hybrid format. Some coursework is done online, while there are some classes offered in the evenings on campus. The program can be pursued in both an Advanced Standing and a Non-Advanced Standing configuration and is designed to be taken part-time. There are two concentrations offered: Individuals & Families and Community & Organizational Practice. Classes include Human Behavior and the Social Environment, Foundations of Social Work Research, and Social Welfare Policy Analysis and Practice. Admission to the program requires GRE test scores, unless applicants have a 3.2 cumulative GPA for their undergraduate degree. 

 

#3. California State University, San Bernardino – San Bernardino, CA

Master of Social Work

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Tuition: $8,704

Unique Features

Part of the California State University System, California State University is a mid-sized research university. The School of Social Work at CSUSB offers a Master of Social Work degree online. The program can be completed in three years, or nine quarters, though it is not necessarily considered a part-time program. The curriculum consists of core courses and electives and includes classes like Social Work Intervention with the Elderly; Domestic Violence; and Public Child Welfare: Policy and Practice. During the third year, students are also given the opportunity to focus on an area of specialization, which can be a field of practice, a client population, or a social issue. Specializations include Poverty and Public Welfare, Immigrants and Refugees, and Social Work in the Workplace, among many others. Admission requires a bachelor's degree with at least a 3.0 GPA, with demonstrated coursework in areas like Human Physiology, Human Behavior, and Social Research Methods. 

 

#2. California State University, Northridge – Los Angeles, CA

Master of Social Work

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Tuition: $5,958

Unique Features

California State University, Northridge is a large public university located in the Northridge neighborhood of Los Angeles. CSUN offers a fully-online Master of Social Work degree. The program can either be pursued in a two-year or three-year format. All classes are asynchronous, except the field classes, for added flexibility. The urban setting of CSUN gives shape to the program, as the focus is especially on training social workers who will serve urban populations. Classes in the program include Social Welfare Policies and Services, Family Crisis, Trauma and Grief, and Urban Social Policy and Advocacy. Competitive applicants will have a bachelor's degree in a field like Sociology or Psychology or a related field, with a 3.0 cumulative GPA, and will have had some post-baccalaureate work experience. 

 

#1. The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley – Brownsville, TX

Master of Science in Social Work with a concentration in Administration and Community Practice

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Tuition: $4,095

Unique Features

With campuses located throughout the Rio Grande Valley, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley is a large public research university. UTRGV offers a Master of Science in Social Work with a concentration in Administration and Community Practice online. The program is designed specifically to train individuals who will work in human services within the Latino community and is an Advanced Standing program only. The program can be completed in 12 months. Classes offered include Social Work with Diverse Populations, Social Work Practice with Latinos, and Advanced Policy Analysis and Development. As an Advanced Standing program, applicants must possess a Bachelor of Social Work from a Council on Social Work Education accredited degree program and must have a 3.2 GPA or higher. 

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