Are Online Master’s in Social Work Programs Accredited?

Students who want to become licensed social workers may wonder about accredited Online Master's in Social Work Programs. The good news is that there are many accredited master's degree social work programs that are available online.


Accreditation Basics

College accreditation is a type of official endorsement that higher learning institutions use to convey to prospective students that their programs are officially validated and recognized by the Department of Education (DOE). Earning this accreditation is an entirely voluntary process that is not required by the government. Thus, colleges will ask independent accrediting agencies to evaluate their academic programs. These agencies set their own standards that colleges must meet in order to earn their official stamp of approval. Bear in mind that there is quite a variance in quality standards, so some accrediting agencies are more prestigious and recognized than others.

Accrediting agencies are private educational organizations that set their own standards based on their academic mission and field of study. Certain agencies only accredit medical schools, while others simply accredit trade or career schools that teach hands-on programs. Generally speaking, larger universities carry multiple accreditations.

Regional accrediting agencies are considered to have the highest standards and thus carry a higher status. While the DOE does not accredit colleges, they do recognize many regional and national accrediting agencies, who need the DOE's endorsement to qualify for federal assistance programs, such as the Federal Student Financial Aid Program. The DOE maintains a list of Nationally Recognized Accrediting Agencies here.

The Council on Social Work Education

Prospective social work students who want an accredited Online Master's in Social Work Programs should consider applying to a program that is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). The CSWE is the official national organization that represents social workers and promotes standard industry practices. Almost all states and even military branches require that licensed social workers graduate from a CSWE approved program. Fortunately, the CSWE provides a helpful list of online and distance education degrees in social work here.

The National Association of Social Workers

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is another professional organization that supports and advocates for social workers. They offer a variety of specialty credentials to qualified and licensed social workers. For example, they offer a leadership certification called the Diplomat in Clinical Social Work (DCSW). For military social workers, they offer certifications for license workers with either a bachelor's or a master's degree. They also offer clinical certifications, such as Qualified Clinical Social Worker (QCSW), and education certifications, such as the Certified School Social Work Specialist (C-SSWS). Almost all credentials must be renewed every two years.

Sample Master's Program

Some online master's programs offer specializations in things like children, medical or human service social work. Courses will cover social welfare policies and practices. Other coursework will touch on human behavior in social environments, which will include an in-depth look at how culture and diverse backgrounds enrich people. Students will be exposed to the latest social work research and be trained how to formulate and implement individual research projects. Clinical practices will teach students how to assess, intervene and help their clients.

Any student who is curious about accredited Online Master's in Social Work Programs should first consult the DOE's website and then the CSWE's website for clarification and validation.