Online Social Work Degrees

An online bachelor’s in social work (BSW) program trains students for a range of entry-level employment opportunities in the field, while master’s and doctoral programs prepare graduates for clinical social work. Both online BSW degrees and online master’s in social work (MSW) programs allow students to obtain practical experience through a practicum or internship while they’re in school. Master’s degree holders with at least two years of clinical experience can pursue their state-issued license to practice social work in a clinical setting.

Ideal candidates for an online social work degree are interested in pursuing advocacy on behalf of underrepresented and disadvantaged people. They should be sympathetic and sensitive to the needs of others, with an interest in justice and a desire to make a better world.

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Online Social Work Degree Overview

Degree Avg Degree Cost Avg Loan Default Rate Time Commitment Early Career Pay Mid-Career Pay Unemployment Rate
Associate $6,396 22.76% 2 years $25,400 $33,300 9%
Bachelor's $15,188 9.06% 4 years $33,200 $45,700 5%
Master's $19,529 6.91% 1+ years $42,600 $58,200 4%
Whether you are new to the field, or looking to advance in your current career, you should weigh the costs and time of getting a new degree against its benefits. There is no one-size-fits-all degree. The best choice for you will depend on your current educational background, financial standing, employment history, and area of interest. For instance, those with no experience may want to consider an associate degree, due to its shorter time commitment and lower cost. If finances are tight for you, then you should prioritize the student loan debt and default categories, as you will want to choose a degree that offers you the best chance of improving your financial standing with minimal risk. If your employer or someone else is paying for your education, then you might want to consider the degree that will offer you the highest salary. All salary information is sourced from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and/or PayScale

Pursuing an online social work degree can be rewarding at any level of study, and MSW programs tend to have the best financial ROI among online social work degrees. While the average degree cost is higher than for associate and bachelor’s programs, MSW graduates stand to earn a higher average salary, with lower unemployment and default rates. Additionally, students enrolled in MSW online programs can gain the professional experience and training needed to qualify for licensing or credentials in their state.

Online Social Work Degrees


Online Associate’s Degree in Social Work

Most associate programs require a two-year commitment. Graduates can expect to earn an average hourly wage of $14.32 in an entry-level or assistant position.


    Principles of Sociology, Interpersonal Communication, Group Dynamics and Counseling, Multicultural Issues, and Psychology


    Social and Human Service Assistant, Community Health Worker, and Childcare Worker


    $14.32 hourly


    11% increase for Social and Human Service Assistant, 13% increase for Community Health Workers

Online Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work

A bachelor’s degree in social work is often required for most positions in the field. BSW graduates have significantly higher earning potential than associate degree-holders, with lower unemployment and student loan default rates. They also have a wider range of career options involving counseling and education. Some bachelor’s degree graduates pursue online MSW programs to advance their career or practice clinical social work.


    Social Welfare and Social Work, Policies and Strategies of Community Intervention, Ethnicity, Race and Culture, and Human Behavior Social Environment


    Social Welfare, Human Development/Family Studies, and Sociology


    Social Worker, Substance Abuse Counselor, and Health Educator


    $39,270 annually


    12% increase for Social Workers, 22% increase for Substance Abuse Counselors, 13% increase for Health Educators

Online Master’s Degree in Social Work

Career opportunities for social workers continue to expand throughout the United States, in clinics, hospitals, schools, government agencies, and nonprofits of many kinds. TheBureau of Labor Statistics projects the overall employment of social workers to increase 16% from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations. The BLS forecasts even higher demand for clinical social workers in healthcare, mental health, and substance abuse specializations. Online MSW programs provide graduates with the skills to work with marginalized, at-risk, and vulnerable populations such as victims of domestic or child abuse and individuals struggling with alcohol or drug addictions.

Earning a master’s in social work online provides a flexible alternative for students whose personal or work responsibilities may hamper their ability to pursue a campus-based program. Most online programs feature adaptable schedules, accelerated or part-time options, and convenient course delivery formats. While many entry-level jobs in social services require only a BSW or a bachelor’s degree in a related field, earning a master’s degree in social work online prepares students for state licensure and a wider range of placements, including supervisory and advanced practice roles. Students must have an MSW degree to work in clinical settings offering therapy, counseling, and advocacy services directly to clients.


    Social Welfare Policy, Human Neuropsychology, Cognitive and Behavioral Treatment, Clinical Practice with Groups, and Mental Health and Social Policy


    Rehabilitation Counselor, School Counselor, and Marriage/Family Therapist


    $53,370 annually


    9% increase for Rehabilitation Counselors, 8% increase for School Counselors, 19% increase for Marriage/Family Therapists

Social Work
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For the 2016 rankings, has greatly refined its approach to evaluating schools and their respective programs. Our innovative method of assessing schools is what makes our rankings so distinctly authoritative. On the surface, every ranking we produce employs a basic formula: Academic Quality + Online Offerings + Cost and Student Aid = Final Score. This final score determines where a school ends up in our rankings. Of course, there's a lot more than meets the eye. Visit our methodology page to discover the data points that shape our formula and to learn more about our process.

Social Work Master’s Degree Rankings

Rank School Name School Logo City Cost Address & Contact Info School Links Acclaim for Online Programs School Description
1University of Southern CaliforniaLos Angeles$$$$$University Park
Los Angeles, CA 90089
(213) 740-2311

An elite research institution, the University of Southern California serves more than 45,000 students through a variety of undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs. USC offers a master's in social work online that is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.

The 60-credit online MSW program combines asynchronous and synchronous course formats. Full-time learners can complete the program in two years, while part-time students follow three- or four-year tracks. An advanced standing program for qualified BSW degree holders requires only one year to complete.

Students can specialize in one of three areas of study. The adult mental health and wellness curriculum explores behavioral theory and neuroscience. The children, youth, and families option prepares graduates for clinical positions in childhood and family services. The social change and innovation specialization focuses on social policy and social work practice in business and community environments. Students are encouraged to pursue field placements at sites in their local communities.

USC holds regional accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

2Columbia University in the City of New YorkNew York$$$$$West 116 St and Broadway
New York, NY 10027
(212) 854-1754

A pioneer in social work education since 1898, Columbia University offers a master's in social work online that is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. The program focuses on social and economic justice for at-risk populations.

Full-time students can complete the 60-credit online MSW program in approximately two years. An extended program option allows working professionals up to four years to earn their degree. A reduced residency option enables students to maintain their employment while enrolling part time for the first two years; in the third year, learners must enroll full time to complete the field education requirement.

An advanced standing option, designed for students holding an accredited bachelor’s degree in social work, requires only one year of coursework to complete.

Columbia holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

3University of South FloridaTampa$$$$$4202 East Fowler Ave
Tampa, FL 33620-9951
(813) 974-2011

Located in the Tampa Bay area, the University of South Florida offers more than 80 undergraduate majors and 130 graduate and professional programs including a master's in social work online. Accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, this advanced standing program requires applicants to have completed a BSW with an overall 3.0 GPA. USF does not require GRE scores.

Students who enroll full time in USF's 60-credit online MSW can complete the degree in three semesters. Part-time students take an average of five semesters to finish the program. All courses are live and synchronous, with learners progressing through the curriculum in sequence. Classes meet at a set time on Tuesday evenings for the first semester and Tuesday and Thursdays for the remaining semesters.

USF holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

4Rutgers University New Brunswick$$$$$83 Somerset St
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
(848) 445-4636

New Jersey-based Rutgers University began offering social work programs in 1954. Accredited by the Council of Social Work Education, the School of Social Work administers one of the largest online programs in the U.S., including two MSW online options.

In the fully online program, distance learners take two courses each fall, spring, and summer semester, typically fulfilling all requirements in three years. Students in this program may elect to take specialized courses that count toward the violence against women and children certificate.

The blended MSW option delivers the first two years of coursework entirely online, with the third year featuring a blend of online and on-campus classes. Both the online and blended programs offer an advanced standing option for students who have a BSW or related undergraduate degree. An advanced standing program enables students to complete the degree in two years over four semesters.

All online courses use asynchronous delivery while providing opportunities for faculty and student interaction via discussion threads and other web-based applications.

Rutgers holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

5University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignChampaign$$$$$601 E John Street
Champaign, IL 61820-5711
(217) 333-1000

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the flagship of the state's public higher education system, has offered social work training since 1943. For over four decades, the School of Social Work has offered MSW degree options that enable students to earn their degree while working full time for a social service agency or other provider in their community.

Students can enroll in a fully online master's in social work or a hybrid program composed of web-based and classroom courses. The leadership and social change program requires four semesters of online classes and a field practicum. The advanced clinical concentration features a hybrid format that includes online policy and research courses complemented by in-person weekend sessions, held once per month at the Urbana-Champaign or Chicago campus.

The School of Social Work has been continuously accredited by the Council of Social Work Education since its inception. Illinois holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

6The University of Texas in ArlingtonArlington$$$$$701 S. Nedderman Dr.
Arlington, TX 76013
(817) 272-2011

The University of Texas at Arlington boasts 180 degree programs including full-time and part-time online MSW options accredited by the Council of Social Work Education.

UTA offers both non-cohort and cohort tracks, including accelerated options for advanced standing students who have already earned a BSW. Non-cohort plans include web-based and face-to-face components delivered in 16-week courses. Cohort plans feature a fully online curriculum where a group of students progress together via synchronous courses. Learners complete the program requirements in 16-26 months depending on enrollment status and their chosen plan. Students in the accelerated option can complete all coursework in 12 months.

Distance learners pursuing the online MSW may select one of three direct-practice specializations: children and families, mental health and substance abuse, and aging. Currently, admission to the MSW online degree program is restricted to Texas residents.

UTA holds regional accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

7University of DenverDenver$$$$$2199 S. University Blvd
Denver, CO 80208
(303) 871-2000

The University of Denver offers an MSW online through its Graduate School of Social Work. The school provides two MSW concentration options. A mental health and trauma specialization prepares students for clinical practice that focuses on assessment and advanced interventions. A health and wellness option provides students with integrated approaches to healthcare emphasizing the mind-body connection. Both concentrations promote culturally responsive critical practice.

The traditional MSW track, for students without a BSW, requires 90 credits of coursework. Learners can earn the degree in 21-48 months. Students with a BSW can enroll in the 60-credit advanced standing track, typically completing the requirements in 18-24 months.

In addition to taking asynchronous courses, students participate in live classes a maximum of four hours per week. Although synchronous courses require participation at set times, online students can select from multiple class sessions to best fit their schedules.

The school's online social work programs are fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. DU holds regional accreditation through the Higher Learning Commission.

8Florida State UniversityTallahassee$$$$$222 S. Copeland Street
Tallahassee, FL 32306-1037
(850) 644-2525

Florida State University has developed part-time, online MSW programs to meet the needs of working professionals. Both the advanced standing MSW program and the traditional option provide a clinically focused curriculum and field placements that lead to Florida state licensure upon graduation.

Students without a BSW can enroll in the 61-credit traditional program. Learners typically complete the degree requirements in three years. A weekend residency is usually scheduled for the second or third semester of the curriculum.

The 39-credit advanced standing option, designed for students who possess a BSW, can be completed in as little as two years. Distance learners take most courses asynchronously, working at their own pace.

The university's online MSW program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education FSU holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

9Boston UniversityBoston$$$$$
Boston, MA 02215
(617) 353-2000

Boston University has offered graduate degrees in social work since 1918. In addition to its on-campus programs, the school provides a master's in social work online with two major options. A clinical major prepares students for social work practice and state licensure. A macro practice major focuses on policy and change initiatives in community and organization settings. Both majors emphasize social and economic justice.

Applicants to the program enter one of three tracks. The 65-credit traditional track, for students with a bachelor's degree but no social work experience, can be completed in nine semesters. Students who have acquired at least two years of supervised professional experience may enroll in the 65-credit, nine-semester human service experience track. The advanced standing MSW, an accelerated option for applicants with a BSW, requires 40-43 credits over six semesters.

The course curriculum consists primarily of asynchronous classes. However, students must attend one synchronous class session each week.

The online MSW programs are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. BU holds regional accreditation from the New England Commission of Higher Education.

10University of Central FloridaOrlando$$$$$4000 Central Florida Blvd
Orlando, FL 32816
(407) 823-2000

Located in the metropolitan Orlando area, the University of Central Florida serves over 68,000 students on campus and online. UCF provides two social work master's programs online. Both options offer concentrations in behavioral health and child welfare services.

The 62-credit MSW, designed specifically for students without a BSW, delivers courses in two seven-week terms each semester. Students with a BSW earned within the last six years can enroll in the 32-credit, advanced standing MSW program.

Learners progress through the degree in cohorts, taking one asynchronous course at a time with the same group of classmates. Students also complete a field experience at a service provider in their local community. Graduates of these programs meet the educational eligibility criteria for Florida state licensure. All online MSW students pay the same tuition rate.

The online MSW programs are accredited by the Council of Social Work Education. UCF holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

11University at BuffaloBuffalo$$$$$12 Capen Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260-1660
(716) 645-2000

Rated by U.S. News & World Report as a top public institution, the University of Buffalo boasts more than 125 undergraduate degrees and more than 325 graduate-level programs. Since 2013, UB has offered an online MSW that is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.

UB's part-time master's in social work offers two tracks: a traditional online program and an advanced standing, accelerated program for students with a BSW. Students can complete the traditional online degree in three years; the advanced MSW program takes 18 months to complete. Both programs feature asynchronous and synchronous course delivery formats.

The curriculum focuses on the intersection of traumatic experiences with human rights violations, in local and global contexts. The program allows students to customize their coursework through a wide variety of elective classes.

UB holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

12Case Western Reserve UniversityCleveland$$$$$10900 Euclid Ave
Cleveland, OH 44106
(216) 368-2000

In 1915, Case Western Reserve University established the first school of social work in the United States. The Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences offers a master of science in social administration (MSSA) online, recognized as equivalent to an MSW program by other universities, employers, and state licensing boards. The MSSA holds accreditation from the Council of Social Work Education.

The Mandel School provides two MSSA options. The 36-credit, advanced standing program awards up to 24 credits to students who have completed a BSW. Full-time, advanced standing students typically complete the degree in two years over six semesters. The traditional track requires 60 credits taken over eight semesters. Online learners may choose from three practice concentrations: children, youth, and families; adult mental health; and community practice for social change.

Students complete all coursework synchronously in live sessions that allow for real-time interaction with faculty and peers. Degree candidates working in a clinical setting can fulfill the program's field experience requirement at their current place of employment.

CWRU holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

13Fordham UniversityBronx$$$$$441 E Fordham Rd
Bronx, NY 10458
(718) 817-1000

Accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, Fordham University's Graduate School of Social Service has offered social work programs for more than a century. Students earning the master's degree in social work online complete asynchronous, self-paced coursework through weekly live classes providing real-time feedback from faculty. For local students, Fordham also offers a hybrid MSW combining online courses with on-campus classroom sessions.

Full-time students can complete the 66-credit, traditional online MSW option in two years or take an accelerated 16-month track. Part-time students typically finish the traditional program over 32 months. The advanced standing online MSW for BSW holders permits students to skip foundational coursework and complete their degree in as few as eight months of full-time enrollment.

The MSW online program enables students to focus on one or more practice areas including individuals and families, organizations and communities, evaluation, and policy practice and advocacy. Students complete their fieldwork placements at approved agencies in their local communities.

Fordham holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

14Simmons CollegeBoston$$$$$300 The Fenway
Boston, MA 02115-5898
(617) 521-2000

Established in 1899 in Boston, Massachusetts, Simmons College became Simmons University in 2018. The school's clinically focused online MSW, accredited by the Council of Social Work Education, incorporates a strong emphasis on social justice and multicultural perspectives.

The MSW program provides three tracks. The 65-credit accelerated program provides a fast-paced option that learners can complete in 15 months. Students enrolled in the standard full-time program can complete the curriculum in less than two years. The extended program enables students to spread out their courses over 32 months of part-time study.

Learners can customize the degree and earn certifications in specific practice areas including groups and families, mental health, and trauma. In addition, students may choose to focus on one of four clinical specializations: child and family, trauma and interpersonal violence, mental health and addictions, and health and aging.

Simmons holds regional accreditation from the New England Commission of Higher Education.

15University of New EnglandBiddeford$$$$$11 Hills Beach Rd
Biddeford, ME 04005-9599
(207) 283-0171

The University of New England developed the nation's first asynchronous online MSW program accredited by the Council of Social Work Education. The fully online master's in social work shares the same curriculum as the campus-based degree, preparing its graduates for state licensure in Maine.

UNE offers two tracks with full- or part-time options. The 64-credit traditional MSW consists of 20 courses and two field practicums that students can complete in three years of full-time enrollment or four years of part-time study. For students who possess a BSW, the 35-credit advanced standing track requires 11 courses and one field practicum. Learners typically enroll part time and complete the degree in approximately two years.

Students enrolled in either track may choose from three concentrations. The clinical practice specialization emphasizes advanced practice with individuals, families, and groups in a variety of organizational settings. The community practice option prepares graduates for program development, policy, advocacy, and administrative roles. The integrated practice concentration combines foundational courses from both the clinical and community practice specializations.

UNE holds regional accreditation from the New England Commission of Higher Education.

16University of HoustonHouston$$$$$212 E. Cullen Building
Houston, TX 77204-2018
(713) 743-1000

With programs accredited by the Council of Social Work Education since 1970, the University of Houston administers a 63-credit master of social work through the Graduate College of Social Work. In addition to a campus-based program, UH provides an entirely online MSW and a hybrid program combining web-based and on-campus courses. Both options offer advanced standing for students with a BSW, requiring only 38 credits and reduced field placement hours.

Part-time students in the online MSW program can earn their degree in 30-36 months. Distance learners take most courses asynchronously with some classes featuring synchronous elements. The program offers students two areas of specialized practice. The clinical practice option focuses on intervention, treatment, and assessment in a variety of settings. The macro practice option trains students to work with diverse and vulnerable populations in public and private organizations.

The university is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Postsecondary Education. UH holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

17The University of AlabamaTuscaloosa$$$$$739 University Blvd
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0166
(205) 348-6010

The University of Alabama School of Social Work offers a primarily online MSW designed especially for working professionals. The program prepares graduates to advocate on behalf of vulnerable populations, emphasizing evidence-based and culturally competent practice.

Applicants to the MSW online program may choose from two program tracks. A 42-credit advanced standing option enables students with a BSW to graduate in 18-24 months. A traditional 60-credit track typically takes full-time students two years to finish, with part-time students requiring approximately four years to fulfill the requirements.

Students can choose from two concentrations under each program track: social work with children, adolescents, and their families; and social work with adults and their families.

Learners in the program take web-based courses along with face-to-face skills labs held at the Tuscaloosa campus on designated Saturdays.

UA holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

18California State University - NorthridgeNorthridge$$$$$18111 Nordhoff Street
Northridge, CA 91330
(818) 677-1200

Through the Tseng College, CSUN offers a full-time MSW online degree based on a community-oriented, urban practice model emphasizing a commitment to social justice and sensitivity to diversity. The program prepares graduates for clinical and supervisory roles in a variety of settings including healthcare facilities and school, government, and community organizations.

Students progress through the 60-credit MSW degree curriculum in a cohort, working on group projects in addition to their individual studies. The degree takes four semesters or 2-3 years to complete, depending on enrollment status. Each semester comprises two sessions, with students taking three classes per session.

The required field practicum provides the guided practice needed to prepare MSW students for employment in advanced social work positions. The program strongly encourages students to participate in field placements in new settings instead of at their current workplace.

The online MSW is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. CSUN holds regional accreditation from the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

19Aurora UniversityAurora$$$$$347 S Gladstone Ave
Aurora, IL 60506-4892
(630) 892-6431

Located in the Chicago metropolitan area, Aurora University offers several degree-completion programs, master's degrees, and endorsements in completely online formats, including a master's degree in social work online. The program features five distinctive concentrations in faith-based social work, forensic social work, healthcare, leadership administration, and school social work. The school social work concentration leads to a professional educator license. Online students may also pursue MSW/MBA and MSW/MPA dual-degree programs.

Distance learners typically complete the 60-credit online MSW in less than three years. The curriculum consists of self-paced, asynchronous courses delivered in eight-week sessions and 1,050 hours of required fieldwork.

Applicants to the online MSW program must have a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution with a minimum 3.0 GPA. In addition to official transcripts, students must also submit a professional resume, personal statement, and two letters of recommendation. AU charges all online students a flat, per-credit tuition rate.

The school's MSW online is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. AU holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

20Ohio State UniversityColumbus$$$$$190 N. Oval Mall
Columbus, OH 43210
(292) 646-8600

Operating under the guidelines of the Council on Social Work Education, Ohio State University boasts the longest continually accredited public social work program in the U.S.

The College of Social Work administers two online MSW program options. The traditional program requires 63 credits and can be completed in two years of full-time study. The 43-credit advanced standing alternative for BSW degree holders requires three semesters of full-time study. Students may enroll part time in either option. The curriculum allows students to select specializations in aging and health, health and substance abuse, child and youth services, and community and social justice.

Students primarily take asynchronous courses, completing assignments during one-week windows. Some classes include a live, synchronous component that provides the opportunity to interact with faculty and other distance learners. Students must complete fieldwork placements. The program's field education office works with over 800 agencies nationwide to place students within a 50-mile radius of their local communities.

Ohio State holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

21Wayne State UniversityDetroit$$$$$656 West Kirby Street
Detroit, MI 48202
(313) 577-2424

Located in Detroit, Wayne State University established its School of Social Work in 1935. The school offers offers full-time and part-time study programs leading to an online master's in social work, accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.

The online MSW degree requires a minimum of 60 credits of coursework. The full-time program consists of four semesters including fieldwork. Students who hold a BSW may be admitted with advanced standing and exempted from core classes. The advanced standing MSW requires 38 credits.

The program's core curriculum covers social work practice, human behavior, policy and services, research, and field education. Students select from advanced classes in one of two concentrations: interpersonal practice or innovation in community, policy, and leadership.

WSU holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

22University of North DakotaGrand Forks$$$$$264 Centennial Drive, Stop 8193
Grand Forks, ND 58202-8193
(800) 225-5863

The University of North Dakota began offering social work education in 1989, with its MSW program continuously accredited by the Council of Social Work Education since 1993. UND offers two online MSW options: a distance concentration and a distance foundation.

The distance concentration, designed for students with a BSW, requires 36 advanced standing credits and 500 hours of field experience. This concentration takes 1-2 years to complete. Learners with a bachelor's degree in a related field can enter the 60-credit distance foundation option. Part-time students typically need three or more years to finish the program, including the mandatory 950 fieldwork hours.

Classes are synchronous web sessions during evenings or on weekend days, with students advancing through the curriculum in a cohort. The program requires one on-campus residency for advanced standing students and two for traditional students, each lasting 5-6 days.

UND holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

23Adelphi UniversityGarden City$$$$$South Ave
Garden City, NC 11530-0701
(516) 877-3000

Established in 1896, New York-based Adelphi University serves approximately 8,000 students in more than 60 undergraduate and 65 graduate programs. The university offers a master's in social work online designed for working professionals.

The standard MSW and the program for human service professionals each require 64 credits. Most students complete their selected program in three years, taking up to 10 credits each semester. An advanced standing MSW, for students who have earned a BSW, exempts applicants from first-year foundation courses, enabling them to complete all requirements in approximately 15 months.

Adelphi's online MSW uses a blended structure, composed of web-based courses that run from 8-15 weeks and two annual on-campus residencies. Distance-learning components include both synchronous and asynchronous elements, allowing students to fit classes into their work schedules while providing opportunities for classroom interactions online.

Adelphi holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The online MSW is accredited by the Council of Social Work Education.

24The University of Tennessee - KnoxvilleKnoxville$$$$$527 Andy Holt Tower
Knoxville, TN 37996
(865) 974-1000

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville has offered social work education since 1942. The master of science in social work (MSSW) degree at UT Knoxville, equivalent to an MSW program, is the state's first and oldest program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. Students interested in the online MSSW can select from one of three formats.

The full-time and the part-time extended study programs each require 60 credits. Students can complete the full-time option within two years and the extended study program in three or four years. The 36-credit advanced study program, designed for learners who have a bachelor's in social work, exempts students from foundational classes. Full-time students typically complete this program in one year; part-time learners take two years on average.

The curriculum features both asynchronous and synchronous components. Distance learners may choose a clinical concentration in evidence-based interpersonal practice or a macro-focused concentration in organizational leadership. Students can also pursue specialized certificates in gerontology, school social work licensure, trauma, and veterinary social work.

UT Knoxville holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

25Our Lady of the Lake UniversitySan Antonio$$$$$411 SW 24th St
San Antonio, TX 78207-4689
(210) 434-6711

Our Lady of the Lake University is home to the highly regarded Worden School of Social Service, the oldest school of social work in Texas. Accredited by the Council of Social Work Education, the Worden School offers one of the only MSW programs in the nation with an emphasis on serving the Hispanic community. The university's part-time online MSW caters to working professionals.

Students enroll in one asynchronous course per term in eight-week sessions. OLLU provides two study plans for the degree: a 57-credit foundation MSW for students with undergraduate degrees in fields other than social work, and a 30-credit advanced standing concentration program for BSW holders. Online learners can complete the foundation MSW in a little over three years; students with advanced standing can earn their MSW online in 20 months.

The curriculum also includes a field education component where students gain real-world experience under the guidance of a social work supervisor and faculty liaison.

OLLU holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Online Doctorate Degree in Social Work

Ph.D. holders in social work are eligible for senior industry positions. Many doctoral graduates become postsecondary teachers or assume an advanced management role, such as director of social work for a nonprofit or government agency. Those interested in earning a Ph.D. should have a particular career objective in mind.


    Advanced Knowledge of Social Work, Applying Action Research, Contemporary Issues in Social Work, History of Social Work Education, and Interprofessional Education in Social Work


    Professor and Human Services Director




    13% increase for Professors

Online Social Work Choose Your Career

Average Social Work Salaries


Social Worker

Salary: $45,500
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
12% 649,300 Bachelor's State-specific requirements

Social workers and clinical social workers provide assistance to patients struggling with problems impacting their daily lives. They act as advocates for underprivileged adults, children, or families, and offer help finding housing, applying for food stamps, or adopting a child. Clinical social workers are specially licensed to diagnose and treat mental health issues. Positions in social work are expected to grow; as the baby boomer generation ages, jobs in healthcare are expected to grow particularly quickly. Prospective social workers should be empathetic, and have strong communication, organizational, and problem-solving skills. Obtaining a bachelor’s in social work degree online is sufficient for entry-level jobs in the field. Clinical social workers must have a master’s degree, two years of clinical supervised field experience, and a state-issued license to begin practice.

Health Educator

Salary: $42,580
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
13% 115,700 Bachelor's Dependant on employer requirements

Health educators promote health and wellness knowledge, behavior, and programs aimed to keep individuals and communities healthy. These professionals act as liaisons between healthcare and social services providers and community members by collecting data, disseminating information, and implementing programs designed to promote healthy living. Employment opportunities in this sector are growing as healthcare providers and the general public explore how to reduce medical costs through preventive health and wellness care. BSW degree holders with exceptional analytical and problem-solving abilities are well-suited to this area of social work. Of these candidates, some may choose to specialize in a particular demographic, medical condition, or disability.

Substance Abuse Counselor

Salary: $39,270
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
22% 94,900 Bachelor's Dependant on employer requirements

Substance abuse counselors help those struggling with substance or alcohol addiction, or from related behavioral disorders. Professionals must be compassionate, patient, and have strong communication skills. Jobs in the field are expected to grow as health insurance increasingly includes mental health coverage. While a BSW is generally acceptable for most positions in the field, candidates wanting to counsel patients one-on-one should pursue a graduate degree. Private practice substance abuse counselors are required to be licensed in their state; certification requirements for those operating outside of private practice vary from state to state.

School Counselor

Salary: $53,370
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
8% 273,400 Masters State-issued credentials required

School counselors help students succeed by assessing their abilities and goals and developing their social and academic skills. Professionals may choose to specialize in elementary, secondary, or postsecondary education counseling services. Online MSW students interested in this field are required to have 1-2 years of classroom experience and must undergo a criminal background check as part of the credentialing process. School counseling candidates should have highly developed communication skills and should be familiar with various learning disabilities and behavioral disorders. An online MSW and state-issued credentials are required.

Rehabilitation Counselor

Salary: $40,763
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
9% 120,100 Masters Dependant on position

Rehabilitation counselors help people living with disabilities overcome and lead productive lives. These professionals are typically well-versed in the core psychological and social adjustments generally needed among clients with disabilities; they may specialize in newly or temporarily disabled patients or provide youth or senior care. Though most jobs require a graduate degree, there are a variety of job opportunities available due to the opportunity for diversity and variety within the industry. Rehabilitation counseling is well suited to candidates with a compassionate, patient manner and acute listening and interpersonal skills. While some employers may accept a bachelor’s degree, an online MSW is typically the minimum education requirement in the field.

Online Social Work Professional Requirements

Most states require non-clinical social workers to obtain certification, and all states require clinical social workers to have a license to practice in their state; specific rules and regulations vary between states. The Association of Social Work Boards oversees four categories of social work exams for licensure: bachelor’s, master’s, advanced generalist, and clinical. Each test was developed by licensed professionals according to a universal set of qualifiers spanning a variety of practical applications and settings in social work. Prospective licensees should consult the ASWB for state credentialing information.

Bachelor's Social Work Exam

The bachelor’s exam comprises four major subject areas of social work: (1) human development, diversity and behavior in the environment; (2) assessment; (3) direct and indirect practice and professional relationships; (4) values and ethics. The structure of this exam is designed to test the candidate’s general knowledge of broad social work concepts, along with professional competencies and knowledge, and skills and abilities statements (KSAs). The test focuses on acute development of introductory concepts and assessment techniques.

Is it required?

Requirements vary by state

How long will it take?

Candidates have four hours to complete the test

Master's Social Work Exam

The master’s in social work exam tests the candidate’s broad understanding of social work concepts, professional competencies and knowledge, and KSAs. The exam for master’s students is organized into similar categories as the bachelor’s exam (human development, diversity and behavior in the environment, assessment and intervention planning, direct and indirect practice and professional relationships, and values and ethics) though this test requires a rigorous understanding of treatment and intervention in action and direct practice techniques.

Is it required?

Requirements vary by state

How long will it take?

Candidates have four hours to complete the test

Advanced Generalist Exam

The broadest test, the advanced generalist exam features categories similar to the bachelor’s and master’s exams, but with a primary focus on professional relationships, values, and ethics. Additionally, the exam does not explore any one speciality in the field deeply, but instead tests the candidate’s general knowledge of human development, diversity and behavior in the environment, micro assessment and planning, micro practice and social work relationships, and macro practice. The advanced generalist exam is intended for candidates aspiring to obtain licensure in their state for a niche or entry-level job in social work. This credential may qualify candidates for employment in a range of professional settings.

Is it required?

Requirements vary by state

How long will it take?

Candidates have four hours to complete the test

Clinical Exam

Clinical social workers are responsible for using advanced diagnostic and treatment methods, and the clinical exam helps evaluate the candidate’s acute abilities in assessment, diagnosis and treatment planning, psychotherapy, clinical interventions, and case management. The exam also tests human development, diversity, and behavior in the environment (exploring the entire lifecycle) as well as professional ethics and values, including potential conflicts that may arise in this area.

Is it required?

Requirements vary by state

How long will it take?

Candidates have four hours to complete the test

Advanced Practice Specialty and Professional Social Work Credentials

Speciality credentials are available in a variety of areas to social workers who have already obtained state licensure and are otherwise qualified to legally practice social work. Advanced Practice Specialty Credentials (APSC) are aimed at social workers in individual areas of expertise, including treating a particular demographic (e.g. military, youth, and families) or providing specialized health care (e.g. addictions or hospice and palliative social work services). Other professional social work credentials such as the Academy of Certified Social Workers (ACSW) and the Diplomate of Clinical Social Work (DCSW) are exclusive to those who are members of the NASW. Speciality credentials vary according to state licensure laws and regulations.

Is it required?

Requirements vary by state

How long will it take?

Exam availability and times vary