Top 10 Online Social Work Degree Programs

Advocating for individuals and communities so that they can live full and flourishing lives; that is what Social Workers do!

As a profession, social work is a relatively recent phenomenon. It arose out of the work of the Charity Organization Society in London, England, in the mid-19th century, where the emphasis on individual casework first developed. The policy advocacy arm of social work had already developed in England to help the indigent poor. Both of these emphases were aimed at alleviating the conditions produced by the Industrial Revolution, especially the abject poverty it was producing in cities.

Today, the social work profession has grown tremendously and draws from a variety of disciplines like anthropology, counseling, psychotherapy, education, law, economics, sociology, and criminology, among others, to work with a wide range of individuals and communities. Social workers use evidence-based research to engage clients, assess problems, give counsel, develop action plans, and advocate for individuals and communities.

As in its inception, the central aim continues to be the well-being of the client and the well-being of society as a whole. And because our society and its political and economic structures continue to evolve and become more and more complex, there continues to be a need for social workers.

In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that over the next decade jobs in the profession will grow by 13%, which is much faster than the average growth of all occupations. This means there will be plenty of opportunities to break into the field. And though being a social worker isn't necessarily going to make someone wealthy monetarily, you can still make a decent living, as the salary range is between $40,000 and $70,000 per year. Of course, the real payoff for a profession like social work is the work itself and the opportunity to help individuals and communities find wholeness. 

Why Become a Social Worker?

If you are interested in having a job that revolves around the pursuit of social justice and social change, then social work is definitely for you. If you want a job that brings you into contact with people from all walks of life, then social work is for you. And what is more, the profession is very broad. Social workers work in all kinds of distinct settings, from government agencies to schools, to health clinics, to non-profit agencies. Doing social work can be extraordinarily challenging and deeply rewarding. 

Getting into the field of social work requires training of some kind. Typically individuals will pursue a Bachelor of Social Work or receive some form of certification training in the field. In the United States, to be a state-licensed social worker, you need to have a degree that has been accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, the main body that accredits undergraduate and graduate social work degree programs.

A Master of Social Work can build on the BSW or a bachelor's degree in a closely related field and open even more opportunities. Most MSW degrees offer a great mixture of deeper training in the theory and practices of the field and some type of field experience. So if you are considering pursuing an MSW, then check out our list of the Top 10 Online Social Work Degrees 2020!

How to Choose a Master of 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. University of Buffalo – Buffalo, NY

Master of Social Work

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Tuition: $11,090 in-state; $22,650 out-of-state

Score: 88.13

Unique Features

The flagship campus for the State University of New York System, the University of Buffalo is a large public research university. UB offers an online Master of Social Work degree. The program is part-time and can be pursued in an Advanced Standing or Traditional format. The program at UB is unique in its integration of trauma-informed and human rights perspectives into the curriculum. Courses in the program include Social Welfare Policy and History, Theories of Human Behavior and Development, and Perspectives on Trauma and Human Rights. Applicants for either the AS or Traditional program must have at least an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 and need to have completed minimal coursework in the social and behavioral sciences.

#9. University of Central Florida – Orlando, FL

Master of Social Work 

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Tuition: $6,916 in-state; $25,759 out-of-state

Score: 88.91

Unique Features

The University of Central Florida currently has the largest student body enrolled on their campus in Orlando, FL. UCF offers numerous online degree programs, including a Master of Social Work. The UCF program is designed for students who do not have a bachelor's degree in social work, though UCF does offer an Advanced Standing option for students who already possess a Bachelor of Social Work. Classes in the program include Theories for Evidence-Based Clinical Practice in Social Work, Medications in Social Work Practice, and Interventions with Older Adults and Their Families. Unfortunately, the program currently does not serve students from Nebraska. 

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

Master of Social Work

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Tuition: $17,232 in-state; $29,304 out-of-state

Score: 89.10

Unique Features

The largest institution of higher education in the state of New Jersey, Rutgers University has its main campus in New Brunswick, NJ. The School of Social Work at RU offers a fully-online Master of Social Work degree. Though the program is primarily geared toward individuals who do not have a Bachelor of Social Work, RU does offer an Advanced Standing option. All courses are delivered in an asynchronous format, and the degree is generally completed within three years. Courses offered in the program include Diversity and Oppression, Human Behavior and the Social Environment, and Social Welfare Policy and Services. Students accepted into the program can also apply to the Violence Against Women and Children Certificate program, which is designed to complement the MSW program. 

#7. University of Houston – Houston, TX

Master of Social Work

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Tuition: $8,214 in-state; $17,463 out-of-state

Score: 89.41

Unique Features

The University of Houston is a large public research university with an annual student enrollment of over 41,000 students. The Graduate College of Social Work at UH offers a Master of Social Work degree online. The program works on a cohort model, which means that over the course of the degree, students get to know one another as well as their faculty. The GCSW offers three unique fields of specialization for students interested in focusing their skills and education. These include Health & Behavioral Health, Political Social Work, and Social Work Practice with Latinos. There are also two areas of specialized practice – Clinical Practice and Macro Practice, the latter of which is especially geared to prepare students to work in urban settings. 

#6. Florida State University – Tallahassee, FL

Master of Social Work

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Tuition: $9,684 in-state; $24,116 out-of-state

Score: 90.04

Unique Features

One of the oldest institutions of higher learning in the state, Florida State University is a large public research university located in Tallahassee, FL. The College of Social Work at FSU offers a Master of Social Work online. FSU offers both a Traditional and an Advanced Standing option, requiring 61 and 39 credits respectively. Classes offered in the program include Budgeting and Finance in the Social Services, Family Violence Across the Lifespan, and Chemical Dependency Problems and Programs. Admission requires individuals to have at least a 3.0 GPA for the last 60 credit hours of their bachelor's degree. The program no longer requires GRE scores for admission. 

#5. University of Texas at Arlington – Arlington, TX

Master of Social Work

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Tuition: $7,898 in-state; $18,996 out-of-state

Score: 90.83

Unique Features

A large public university, the University of Texas at Arlington is classified as an R1 research institution because of the school's research output. UTA offers a Master of Social Work degree that is available fully online. UTA's program is organized on the cohort model allowing students to get to know one another over the course of their studies. The program can be pursued on a full-time or part-time basis, and classes run for eight-week terms. Students are enrolled in the Advanced Standing or Traditional program based on their previous academic and professional experience and can focus on three specialties: Direct Practice in Mental Health and Substance Abuse, Direct Practice in Aging, and Direct Practice in Children and Families. Currently, the program only accepts students who reside in Texas. 

#4. Indiana University Bloomington – Bloomington, IN

Master of Social Work

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Tuition: $9,225 in-state; $31,932 out-of-state

Score: 91.19

Unique Features

A "Public Ivy," Indiana University Bloomington is a large research university with an excellent reputation for academics. IUB offers a Master of Social Work degree that is 100%-online. The program at IUB allows students to focus their fields of practice on a variety of options, including Mental Health, Addictions, and e-Social Work. The curriculum consists of 60 credits that are divided between core and special practice courses. Classes offered in the program include Diversity, Human Rights, and Social Justice; Social Work Practice: Organizations, Communities, and Societies; and Assessment in Mental Health Addictions. Classes in the online program are taught by the same faculty who teach in the traditional program on campus, ensuring the best possible educational experience. 

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

Master of Social Work

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Tuition: $15,068 in-state; $28,221 out-of-state

Score: 91.37

Unique Features

A large land-grant institution, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is known for its cutting edge research in a variety of areas, especially the sciences. The School of Social Work at UI offers a Master of Social Work degree. UI offers both an online and a hybrid program. The hybrid program requires face-to-face meetings one time per month on weekends, in addition to online courses. UI offers five different concentrations, including Youth and Family Services, School Social Work, and Mental Health, among others. Only the Leadership and Social Change concentration is fully-online, while the other options are available in the hybrid program. UI accepts students with or without a Bachelor of Social Work. Classes offered at UI include Inequalities in a Diverse Society, Social Work and the Law, and Leadership and Social Change. 

#2. Columbia University – New York City, NY

Master of Social Work

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Tuition: $46,216

Score: 93.17

Unique Features

Columbia University is a large, private Ivy League research university that was originally chartered by the British Crown. CU's School of Social Work offers a Master of Social Work online. CU's degree is the first and – thus far – only Ivy League school to offer its MSW online. The program can be pursued full-time or part-time, and CU offers four distinct practice methods as well as seven fields of practice, including Contemporary Social Issues, International Social Welfare, and World of Work. CU has also developed several partnerships with eight other schools, which allows for nine different dual-degree options including a Master of Business Administration or a Master of Public Health, among others. 

#1. Arizona State University – Tempe, AZ

Master of Social Work

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Tuition: $11,406 in-state; $25,160 out-of-state

Score: 100

Unique Features

One of the largest public universities in the country, Arizona State University is also widely considered one of the most innovative. The ASU School of Social Work offers an online Master of Social Work degree. The social work program at ASU is one of the largest in the country. The online program is organized as an Advanced Generalist studies concentration that stresses cultural competence and the use of evidence-based research. Courses offered in the program include Diversity and Oppression In a Social Work Context, Social Policy and Services, and Assessment of Mental Disorders. Applicants must submit a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution, as well as references, a resume, and a statement of purpose. GRE scores are required for students who have less than a 3.2 undergraduate GPA. 

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