Top 25 MSW Online Programs 2020

As human beings, we are all connected. Do you find those connections fascinating? If you want to help people with their interpersonal connections, consider a career in social work.

According to the International Federation of Social Workers, "Social work is a practice-based profession […] that promotes social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people." Social workers find themselves working in schools, the healthcare industry, and clinics.

After receiving an education in social work, most social work positions require state licensure. Those at the bachelor's level usually work with groups and community organizations. Licensed clinical social workers work with individuals, groups, and families. They have the training and licensure to diagnose and treat emotional disorders as well as mental and behavioral disorders. They help their patients discover coping strategies and might lead support groups. T

he Association of Social Work Boards handles licensing for social workers. ASWB works with states to establish licensure based on state regulations. Most social worker positions require a Master of Social Work. The MSW is usually a two-year program that provides advanced training in focused areas. To complete an MSW, you can find a school certified by the Council on Social Work Education. If you hold a CSWE-certified Bachelor of Social Work, you may be eligible to begin your MSW program with advanced standing. To become a licensed MSW with ASWB, you will need to complete a supervised experience.

The need for field experience is an integral part of every MSW program. Most of the schools in our list of the Top 25 MSW Online Programs include field experience. This can be more than 20 hours per week for full-time students. It gives students an opportunity to gain important real-world experience under supervision. If you have always wanted a career where you can help others, then consider one of our Top 25 MSW Online Programs 2020. 

Why Become a Social Worker?

Social workers are in demand now more than ever. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for social workers is almost $50,000. The largest number of social workers specialize in children, families, and schools. These social workers dedicate themselves to helping children in the foster care system or working in schools. They might also help the elderly or those with learning disabilities. Some social workers choose to go into the medical or public health fields. Medical social workers might work in hospitals or assist those on medicare or Medicaid. They might serve as advocates, counselors, or case managers. According to the BLS, this segment of social workers can expect to see a 17% growth rate over the next decade. Healthcare social workers also can expect a higher income than average, at $56,200. Those working in hospitals can see wages up to $60,000. Another common area of emphasis for social workers is Mental Health and Substance Abuse. In this practice, social workers help in rehabilitation programs and in mental health programs. Mental health and substance abuse social workers can expect jobs to grow by 18% over the next decade. 

There are three major focuses within the study of social work: Micro, Mezzo, and Macro. Micro studies focus on the individual and families; Mezzo studies explore the community and groups; Macro studies explore society and overall policies. Many jobs in social work require at least a Master of Social Work degree. According to the BLS, more than half of all healthcare social workers need a master's degree to practice. Most jobs require state licensure. As you consider one of the Top 25 MSW Online Programs, keep in mind that you begin with foundation courses. Schools will often waive these for students with a BSW degree. You will declare an emphasis in one of the areas of social work. Coursework varies depending on each school but might include topics on death and dying, assessment and diagnosis, couple and family therapy, substance abuse, elder care, and children with disabilities. Because social work combines theory with practical experience, a major component of any MSW program is field learning. Most online students can complete their supervised field experience within their individual communities. Some of the career options available to those who complete an MSW program and follow up with required licensure include: 

  • Adult Protective Services worker
  • Alcohol and Addiction Specialist
  • Child Protective Services worker
  • Clinical Social Worker
  • Counselor
  • Developmental Disabilities Specialist
  • Family Service Worker
  • Foster Care Social Worker
  • Geriatric Case Manager
  • Hospital Social worker
  • Medical Social Worker
  • School Social Worker
  • Therapist

All of this and more awaits when you complete one of the Top 25 MSW Online Programs 2020.

How to Choose a Master of Social Work Degree

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.

#25. University of Arkansas – Fayetteville, AR

Master of Social Work

More Information

Tuition: $ 15,966

Score: 92.74 

Unique Features

The University of Arkansas began in 1871 as a land-grant university in Fayetteville, AR. The campus is a gorgeous setting for a college, surrounded by beautiful forests of Northwest Arkansas. From its first class of eight students, including one female, the school is now a major research institute. There are almost 28,000 students, including those attending the U of A Online. You can complete a 100%-online Master of Social Work at the U of A. The 39-credit program is available for full-time study. This is a cohort program, so you will progress alongside the same set of students. You must hold a BSW with at least a 3.0 GPA. The GRE is not required for admission to the program. As is common in most MSW programs, you will also need to complete an internship for at least 22 hours each week.

#24. Campbellsville University – Campbellsville, KY

Master of Social Work

More Information

Tuition: $ 16,523

Score: 92.82

Unique Features

Campbellsville University, founded in 1906, is a private Christian university. It began as the Russell Creek Academy, founded by the Russell Creek Baptist Association in Kentucky. There are now more than 12,000 students enrolled on-campus and online. According to CollegeConsensus.com, CU ranks as one of the Top 25 Most Innovative Online Colleges. You can complete a Master of Social Work online at CU. The 30-credit program takes one year to complete and is for students with a BSW. Each eight-week course examines theories, methods, and techniques you need to work with children and families. You complete 24 credits in clinical courses and six credits in a practicum. If you do not have a BSW degree, you can take the 60-credit MSW program. The full program takes two years to complete. It begins with 24 credits in MSW Foundation Courses and six credits in a practicum.

#23. San Jose State University – San Jose, CA

Masters of Social Work

More Information

Tuition: $ 13,906

Score: 92.82

Unique Features

San José State University is often called Silicon Valley's public university. SJSU began in 1857 as a normal school in San Francisco. It relocated to San Jose, now in the heart of Silicon Valley. Today, there are more than 36,000 students. You can complete a Masters of Social Work either on-campus, online, or in a hybrid program. The MSW program at SJSU began as a way to work with the state's Spanish-speaking populations. Today, it continues to focus on helping prepare you for a career working with Latinos and other minority groups. The online/hybrid MSW is a part-time, two-year program. You complete your academic courses online along with in-person field education. Courses take three to 11 weeks to complete. You can take both asynchronous classes or synchronous courses at night. Your internships can be up to 24 weeks long. You begin with foundations courses in social work. Your advanced courses concentrate on Transcultural Multi-Systems Practice.

#22. Louisiana State University – Baton Rouge, LA

Master of Social Work

More Information

Tuition: $ 19,224

Score: 92.83

Unique Features

Louisiana State University is in Baton Rouge. It began in 1860 as the Seminary of Learning of the State of Louisiana. It started in Pineville and moved to Baton Rouge in 1926. There are more than 30,000 students enrolled at LSU. LSU Online offers the same high-quality education you can get on the campus. You can complete a 60-credit Master of Social Work online at LSU. The first year is the "generalist year." It offers concepts and theories along with an internship component. During your second year, the "specialist year," you cover theory and treatment. You also complete an internship. You may select either a thesis or non-thesis option for the MSW. The complete program takes two years. If you hold a BSW, you may begin with the "specialist year." This option requires 30 credits and takes one year to complete. Online classes are seven weeks long. You complete internships in the real world.

#21. Saint Leo University – Saint Leo, FL

Social Work Masters

More Information

Tuition: $ 20,552

Score: 92.99

Unique Features

Saint Leo University is a Catholic school in Central Florida. The main campus, about 30 miles north of Tampa, has about 2,200 students. There are a total of 15,000 students enrolled at Saint Leo, including via online programs and centers across Florida. The school, founded in 1889, plays an important role in educating military members and their families. It began offering courses at MacDill Air Force Base about 40 years ago. You can complete an online Social Work Master's program at Saint Leo. One of the areas of emphasis available is Social Work Practices in the Military. The online degree is a full-time program. It is available to those living in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi, Texas, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, New Jersey, Maryland, and Illinois. You attend classes via webcam, meeting Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings. You will also take an internship during the program and must be on the campus for one weekend during the summer.

#20. The University of Alabama – Tuscaloosa, AL

Master of Social Work

More Information

Tuition: $ 19,993

Score: 93.32

Unique Features

The University of Alabama, based in Tuscaloosa, has a history spanning almost 175 years. It began in 1831 as the first public college in the state. Today, there are more than 38,000 students attending UA. You can complete a Master of Social Work online at UA. The School of Social Work, founded in 1965, offers the same education to both online and on-campus students. The MSW requires 42 to 60 credits. The 42-credit Advanced-Standing MSW is for students with a BSW. You take 12 hours in bridge courses either during the spring or summer. These include a research course and a social work practice with skills lab. Your concentration year includes 15 hours each semester. You take courses online but complete face-to-face skills labs. If you do not hold a BSW, you may enroll in the 60-credit MSW program. Your foundation year includes social work courses and a field internship. Both programs offer a concentration in either Children, Adolescents and Their Families or Adults and Their Families.

#19. California State University-Northridge – Northridge, CA

Master of Social Work

More Information

Tuition: $ 5.958

Score: 94.25

Unique Features

Northridge is a suburb north of Los Angeles in the fertile San Fernando Valley. Northridge is convenient to everything L.A. has to offer. It has been home to what is now California State University-Northridge since 1958. CSUN began as San Fernando Valley State College. Today, it is a major university with more than 42,000 students. You can complete a Master of Social Work in a convenient online format. The CSUN MSW ranks as one of the top Affordable Online Master's Degrees in Social Work by AffordableColleges.com. The 60-credit MSW at CSUN is a generalized program offered in a cohort format. It gives you skills in the micro, mezzo, and macro areas. The online MSW is available as a two- or three-year program. You complete assignments online. You can join classes live one night during each week or listen to a recording on your own schedule. You will also need to meet weekly for one-hour field classes. 

#18. The University of Tennessee, Knoxville – Knoxville, TN

Master of Science in Social Work

More Information

Tuition: $ 20,995

Score: 94.34

Unique Features

The University of Tennessee in Knoxville got its start back in 1794. It began as Blount College before the territory became a state. Blount was the country's first college west of the Appalachian Divide. It became East Tennessee College in 1807 and gained university status in 1840. Today, there are almost 30,000 students across 11 campuses. You can complete an online Master of Science in Social Work at UT. The online MSSW is available through full-time, part-time, or advanced standing studies. The 60-credit program requires two years of full-time study. If you hold a BSW or BSSW degree, you may complete 37 credits to receive the MSSW. The advanced standing program takes 12 to 24 months. You choose one of two concentrations for your MSSW. You can select Evidence-Based Interpersonal Practice focusing on clinical social work. Your other option is Organizational Leadership, which is a macro concentration. All students complete an internship.

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

Master's of Social Work

More Information

Tuition: $ 12,50

Score: 94.67

Unique Features

Silver City is a small town of 10,000 residents in western New Mexico. The city sits at almost 6,000 feet above sea level. Back in 1893, when New Mexico was still a territory, a school for teachers opened in Silver City. The school grew and gained university status in 1963. Today, Western New Mexico University has about 3,500 students, studying both on campus and online. You can complete an online Master's of Social Work at WNMU. If you hold a BSW degree, you may apply for advanced standing in the MSW program. The advanced standing program requires 30 credits in the social work core and nine credits in electives. If you do not have a BSW degree, you can apply to the 60-credit MSW program. The non-advanced program requires 51 credits in the social work core. All students complete six credits in a field practicum.

#16. Arizona State University-Tempe – Tempe, AZ

Master of Social Work

More Information

Tuition: $ 12,947

Score: 94.69

Unique Features

Arizona State University, based in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe, AZ, began with 33 students in 1886. From its days as a Normal School in the Arizona Territory, ASU has grown into a university with more than 98,000 students. U.S. News & World Report ranks ASU No. 1 in the U.S. for Innovation. ASU has a large online program, including an online Master of Social Work. The 60-credit MSW program requires 20 classes. Each class at ASU is 7.5 weeks. Along with courses on social concerns, you complete two professional seminars. All students take 960 hours of mandatory field education. There is also a final Applied Portfolio Project in conjunction with the internship. To be eligible for admission to the program, you must show 240 hours of volunteer or work experience.

#15. Indiana University–Bloomington – Bloomington, IN

Master of Social Work

More Information

Tuition: $ 12,488

Score: 94.75

Unique Features

Indiana University, based in Bloomington, is more than 200 years old. There are campuses across Indiana. IU also created a partnership with Purdue University, and there are campuses today for IUPUI as well. IU also offers more than 125 online degrees, including a 60-credit Master of Social Work. The MSW program includes 30 credits in core courses and 30 credits in special practice areas. Your core courses include Social Policy Analysis and Practice; Generalist Theory and Practice; and Clinical Theory and Practice. You will complete three field practicum courses and a practice evaluation seminar. Your electives give you the opportunity to focus your social work practice. Courses might include Military Social Work; e-Social Work Practice; or Mental Health and Addictions Practice. IU also offers an "advanced generalist" program, which focuses on Special Practice Areas in Social Work.

#14. Boston University – Boston, MA

Master of Social Work

More Information

Tuition: $ 33,728

Score: 95.01

Unique Features

Boston University is a private university with more than 35,000 students. It began as the Newbury Biblical Institute in Vermont. It moved to Boston and became BU in 1869. BU has more than 3,200 students in its online programs. The online programs take place through the learning management system. You can complete an online Master of Social Work at BU. There are several options available for the MSW. The 65-credit Traditional MSW Track takes three years and nine semesters to complete. You complete both foundation and advanced courses online on your own schedule. You will also attend a live classroom session either Sunday or Monday night. The traditional track requires two 600-hour internships. There is a 65-credit Human Service Experience Track. The HSE requires at least two years' experience and takes three years to complete. You take one 1,000-hour field internship. The 40- to 43-credit Advanced Standing Track is for those with a BSW. It requires six semesters and one advanced 1,000-hour internship.

#13. Ohio State University-Main Campus – Columbus, OH

Master of Social Work

More Information

Tuition: $ 18,042

Score: 95.06

Unique Features

Ohio State University began as a land-grant school in 1870. Today, there are more than 68,000 students across seven campuses. U.S. News & World Report ranks OSU as one of the nation's best public universities. You can complete a Master of Social Work through Ohio State Online. The MSW is available in a Traditional 63-credit program. There is also a 43-credit Advanced Standing program if you hold a BSW. The online MSW has two concentrations: Mental Health & Substance Misuse or Child & Youth Services. After the foundation courses, you complete six hours in your area of emphasis. All students also take 12 hours in advanced practice methods courses and six hours in practice evaluation. You will need to compete field education and a seminar. The field work is 24 hours each week, for a total of 672 hours. The online program is asynchronous, but you can join live sessions when time allows. You complete work in one-week blocks.

#12. University of Iowa – Iowa City, IA

Master of Social Work

More Information

Tuition: $ 14,845

Score: 95.09

Unique Features

The University of Iowa, founded in 1847 in Iowa City, is a major research institute. There are almost 33,000 students attending Iowa. If you don't live in Iowa, you can become a Hawkeye by studying online. The School of Social Work, through the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, offers an online Master of Social Work degree. The online program is a cohort-based degree, so you complete your MSW with the same group of students. Each cohort consists of about 25 students. There is no GRE required for admission. The online MSW is available in the Integrated Concentration. You complete some of your coursework on your own time through asynchronous learning. Others take place in real time via video conference. You will also need to complete a two- to three-day summer session in Iowa City.

#11. University of Houston – Houston, TX

Master of Social Work

More Information

Tuition: $ 15,664

Score: 95.70

Unique Features

The University of Houston, founded in 1927, is now home to 46,000 students. Based in the country's fourth-largest city, it ranks as one of the Best Colleges in the U.S. according to Princeton Review. Houston offers an online Master of Social Work. The 63-credit program ranks in the top online master's for social work by BestColleges.com, BestMSWPrograms.com, and more. When you begin the MSW program at Houston, you join a cohort of other students. You complete courses online, take part in discussion boards, and turn in weekly assignments. All students need to complete at least 900 clock hours in an internship. If you hold a BSW degree, you can apply for advanced standing. Houston offers concentrations in Clinical Practice or a specialization in Health & Behavioral Health, Social Work Practice with Latinos, or Political Social Work. You can also create an individualized specialization.

#10. Fordham University – New York, NY

Master of Social Work

More Information

Tuition: $ 38,503

Score: 95.78

Unique Features

Fordham University, founded in 1841 as St. John's College, is a Jesuit University in New York. Over the years, Fordham has been home to 185 Fulbright scholars. Today, there are more than 16,000 students enrolled across nine schools. Fordham's Graduate School of Social Service is a top-25 school. You can complete a Master of Social Work online if you hold a bachelor's degree. You can finish the 66-credit traditional online MSW in as few as 16 months of full-time study. You may extend that to 32 months for part-time study. You complete a generalist foundation along with direct-practice coursework. If you hold a BSW degree, you can apply for advanced standing. You can complete the advanced standing online MSW in eight months of full-time study or 16 months as a part-time student. All Fordham MSW students complete field education. You spend 16 to 21 hours per week working in your own community.

#9. University of Central Florida – Orlando, FL

Master of Social Work

More Information

Tuition: $ 15,341

Score: 96.05

Unique Features

The University of Central Florida began in 1963 to service the U.S. space program. It ranks as one of the country's Most Innovative colleges according to U.S. News & World Report. Today, there are more than 68,000 students enrolled in more than 220 degree programs. You can complete an online Master of Social Work at UCF. The 62-credit MSW is ideal for students with a bachelor's degree but not a BSW degree. The nine-semester program features a cohort model, completing your degree with the same set of students. You take one class every seven-week term. There are 21 credits in core courses, 18 credits in clinical practice, and nine elective credits. You also complete 14 credits in field experience. You choose either a generalist field education or select a clinical field study. When you graduate, you will be eligible to sit for the state licensure exam. UCF offers a 32-credit advanced standing program if you hold a BSW.

#8. University of Southern California – Los Angeles, CA

Master of Social Work

More Information

Tuition: $ 32892

Score: 96.40

Unique Features

The University of Southern California is a leading private university. It began with 53 students in 1880 through the vision of prominent residents in the new frontier town of Los Angeles. Today, the school ranks among the top 20 universities according to both The Wall Street Journal and the Times Higher Education. There are more than 47,500 students in undergraduate and graduate programs. You can complete the Master of Social Work program online through USC. The rigorous program requires 60 units for those with a bachelor's degree outside of social work. If you hold a BSW, you may apply for the 37-unit advanced standing program. As an MSW student at USC, you choose one of three academic departments. You can choose Adult Mental Health and Wellness; Children, Youth, and Families; or Social Change and Innovation. You may also select either the Military or School Social Work track if you want to further specialize. All MSW students complete 1,000 hours in field education. 

#7. University at Buffalo – Buffalo, NY

Master of Social Work

More Information

Tuition: $ 16,120

Score: 96.53

Unique Features

The University at Buffalo is part of The State University of New York system. Founded in 1846, it is the largest campus in the SUNY system. It ranks No. 1 New York Public University according to U.S. News & World Report. There are more than 31,500 students enrolled at UB. You can pursue the Master of Social Work online through UB. The online program is part-time. You can complete the 60-credit Traditional Online MSW program or a 35-credit Advanced Standing program. The traditional program requires a bachelor's degree. If you hold a BSW degree, you can be eligible for the advanced standing degree. Your online courses include both live and asynchronous components, which you can complete on your own schedule. If you do not live in New York, you are eligible for in-state tuition if you complete all courses online. You will need to take a two-semester field program of at least 15 clock hours each week in your local area.

#6. University of South Florida-Main Campus – Tampa, FL

Master of Social Work

More Information

Tuition: $ 11,766

Score: 97.17

Unique Features

The University of South Florida is a research school in the Tampa Bay area. It began in 1956 and grew to an institution with more than 50,000 students. You can complete an online Master of Social Work at USF. The 60-credit program, which you can finish in as few as eight semesters, is for those with a bachelor's degree. You gain a solid foundation in social work theory. During your last 35 credits, you prepare for clinical social work. If you hold a BSW earned within the past five years, you can apply to the Advanced Standing MSW. You can complete the 35-credit advanced standing online MSW in as few as three semesters of full-time study. There is also a part-time option. During the program, you meet one to two nights each week during a live session via webcam. You also take a field placement before you receive the MSW. Full-time students complete 20 hours each week in the field.

#5. Florida State University – Tallahassee, FL

Master of Social Work

More Information

Tuition: $ 16,450

Score: 98.38

Unique Features

Florida State University began in 1851 in Tallahassee. The major research institute ranks as one of the top 20 National Public Universities according to U.S. News & World Report. Today, there are more than 41,000 students studying at FSU from around the world. You can complete an online Master of Social Work at FSU. You can opt for a three-year Traditional MSW if you hold a bachelor's degree. If you have a BSW and 400 hours of field education, you may apply to the two-year Advanced Standing program. The 61-credit Traditional Program requires two, 16-week courses per semester. You also take two field placements and complete two weekends on campus. The 39-credit Advanced Standing MSW requires you to complete two courses each semester and one field placement. All graduates with the MSW are able to sit for the social work licensure exam.

#4. The University of Texas at Arlington – Arlington, TX

Master of Social Work

More Information

Tuition: $ 12,533

Score: 98.58

Unique Features

The University of Texas at Arlington, founded in 1895, is in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Arlington is about 20 miles from both Dallas and Fort Worth. UTA is the second-largest school in The University of Texas System, with almost 60,000 students attending on campus or online. You can complete an online Master of Social Work through UTA. The program ranks No. 5 Most Affordable Social Work Master's Online by College Choice. UTA's MSW program is a cohort program with courses lasting eight weeks. If you hold a BSW, you can complete the Advanced Standing program in as few as 12 months with an accelerated program. The accelerated program begins each fall. There is also a regular full-time program that you can complete in 16 months. If you hold a bachelor's degree that is not a BSW, you may finish the program in 26 months of full-time study. UTA also offers part-time options.

#3. Rutgers University-New Brunswick – New Brunswick, NJ

Master of Social Work

More Information

Tuition: $ 16016

Score: 99.19

Unique Features

Rutgers University is the country's eighth-oldest university. Founded in New Jersey in 1766, it has campuses in New Brunswick, Newark, and Camden. You can also earn a degree online at Rutgers. Today there are more than 70,000 students enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs at Rutgers. You can complete an online Master of Social Work. It is a clinical social work program that takes three years to complete. The regular MSW is a 60-credit program that begins with generalist courses. You also take a field practicum during the generalist part of the program. The specialized curriculum gives you experience in advanced clinical practice and research. These offer you a chance to explore clinical social work courses. You take courses while you complete a field education practicum. If you hold a BSW, you can apply to the advanced standing option. This gives you a chance to begin with the specialization courses.

#2. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – Champaign, IL

Master of Social Work

More Information

Tuition: $ 16,638

Score: 99.30

Unique Features

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign began in 1867 as Illinois Industrial University. The school, originally a land-grant institute, is in east-central Illinois. Today, almost 50,000 students study at Illinois in both on-campus and online courses. You can complete a Master of Social Work through the online iMSW Program. There are two options for the iMSW: you may complete a hybrid program in Clinical Social Work, or there is a 100%-online option in Leadership and Social Change. If you choose the hybrid, you meet one weekend per month on the Urbana-Champaign campus. If you hold a BSW degree, you complete 42 credits to receive your MSW. Those 42 credits include a one-semester field practicum. If you hold a bachelor's degree in another area, you complete 72 credits. The 72-credit program adds foundation coursework and includes a two-semester internship.

#1. Columbia University in the City of New York – New York, NY

Master of Social Work

More Information

Tuition: $ 22,824

Score: 100.00

Unique Features

Columbia University began in 1754 under the direction of King George II of England. It began as King's College and is the oldest university in New York. Its location in New York City makes the school a vibrant place to learn. There are more than 33,000 students studying at Columbia. You can now earn an online Master of Social Work degree at Columbia. It is the only Ivy League school to offer an online MSW. You can complete your MSW in two years of full-time study. Columbia offers concentrations in Advanced Clinical Practice, Policy Practice, or Social Enterprise Administration. Your synchronous classes take place live online. You also complete a field education in your own community. There is an advanced standing option if you hold a BSW degree. This program gives you a chance to earn your MSW from Columbia in one year.

Find Your Degree
Sponsored Schools