20 Best Online Master’s in Social Work – Schools and Info Guide

Written by College Cliffs Team At, our team, comprising seasoned educators and counselors, is committed to supporting students on their journey through graduate studies. Our advisors, holding advanced degrees in diverse fields, provide tailored guidance, current program details, and pragmatic tips on navigating application procedures.

Reviewed by Linda Weems I got started researching colleges and universities about 10 years ago while exploring a second career. While my second career ended up being exactly what I’m doing now, and I didn’t end up going to college, I try to put myself in your shoes every step of the way as I build out College Cliffs as a user-friendly resource for prospective students.

Updated: March 20, 2024, Reading time: 38 minutes

Find your perfect college degree

College Cliffs is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Social work is a dynamic and unique field that allows you to make a difference in society’s overall well-being by helping people meet their needs.

With critical thinking skills and an ability to empathize, a professional social worker often aims to empower vulnerable populations worldwide through evidence-based practice.

As social workers, you’re expected to provide direct services to clients that will help them cope with and overcome problems rooted in abuse, mental illness, addiction, and even poverty.

College Cliffs is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Job Outlook

The field of social work is wide and diverse. You can work in a variety of settings, including public agencies, hospitals, schools, nursing homes, private companies, non-profits, and police departments, among others. Social workers can earn around $55,350 every year or $26.61 per hour.

Quick audio summary:

The Lowdown:

Earning an online Master of Social Work is a vital step to expand your career options and prepare you to succeed in various leadership roles. This will help you gain access to positions beyond the entry-level.

Some of the roles that you can achieve with a Master’s degree include being health services managers, medical social workers, community or social service managers, or mental health social workers.

Fortunately, many universities and colleges all over the country offer online MWS programs, making it easier for working professionals and aspiring clinical social workers to pursue advanced education to enhance their career opportunities.


For those aiming to thrive in a rewarding and fulfilling professional career, being a social worker is an ideal choice.  At the very least, you need to earn a bachelor’s degree in social work to qualify for an entry-level position.

However, if you want more advanced positions with higher compensation, consider earning a master of social work degree from an accredited institution.

Not all online MSW programs are created equal. To help you find the best program, we put together outstanding options, highlighting quality education, affordability, and accreditation, among other features:

Please check out our Methodology page and explore our ranking process.

The Top Online Master’s in Social Work

Columbia University

Columbia University - School of Social Work
Master of Science in Social Work (MSSW)

As an Ivy League University, Columbia lies at the top of many prospective students’ target university wish lists because of its prestige and reputation.

Through its School of Social Work, Columbia University brings over a century of experience in Social Work together with its impressive array of faculty and resources into its Online Master of Science in Social Work degree program (MSSW).

The Columbia University MSSW degree program can be completed as a full-time student within two years.

Aside from the full-time pathway, students are given a great degree of time flexibility with five other pathway options, including an Advanced Standing pathway that lets them complete the program in one year or a 100% part-time pathway that they can complete within three to four years.

Program Highlights:
Standout features

You get to choose from a wide range of Field Placement sites supported by the university, with over 600 placement sites within New York City, New Jersey, and Connecticut, and around 300 other sites nationwide.

Besides the high quality of the education one gets, being enrolled in an Ivy League institution opens a unique set of opportunities for you to develop your networks, maximize your reach and social impact, and advance your career.

State University of New York at Buffalo

State University of New York at Buffalo-School of Social Work
Master of Social Work Online Program (MSW)

The University at Buffalo/UB is one of the flagship campuses of the State University of New York System.

Since being established as a medical school, it now offers a wide range of other academic programs. This includes Dentistry Pharmacy, Business, Engineering, Architecture, Humanities, and Law, to name a few.

Through its School of Social Work, it offers undergraduate and graduate degree Social Work programs that are at the leading edge of approaches and perspectives to the delivery of social services and care.

Program Highlights:
Standout Features

All of the UB’s Social Work programs integrate and give emphasis to Trauma-Informed and Human Rights (TI-HR) perspectives.

The application of these perspectives totally changes the approach to the delivery of social services and widens the understanding of the individuals and communities who are being served.

Rutgers University

Rutgers University - School of Social Work
Online Master of Social Work (MSW) in Clinical Social Work

The Master in Social Work (MSW) program is the largest program in Rutgers University’s School of Social Work.

It prepares students to not only become skilled in providing direct service in both the public and the private sector but also prepares students to take on leadership and administrative roles in a wide range of State social service agencies and departments, as well as the non-government/voluntary sectors.

Crucially, the Rutgers MSW program caters to student choice and maximizes the individualization of your learning paths. As part of its suite of possible program paths, Rutgers University offers a highly flexible 100% Online MSW in Clinical Social Work.

The Rutgers MSW Program has two distinct but sequential curricula: the Generalist curriculum and the Specialized curriculum. The Generalist curriculum must be completed in order to proceed into the Specialized curriculum.

Program Highlights:
Standout feature

Students of the 100% Online MSW may also go on to apply to the Violence Against Women and Children Certificate (VAWC) or the Latina/o/x Initiatives for Service, Training, and Assessment Certificate programs, which are specialized programs that can complement some students’ placements. 

Boston University

Boston University
Online Master of Social Work (MSW)

As a private non-sectarian research university, Boston University is one of the key educational institutions based on the East Coast.

Aside from being classified as an R1 University by Carnegie Classifications, it is also an affiliate of the Association of American Universities (AAU) and is one of the networks of space-grant institutions.

Through its School of Social Work (BUSSW), Boston University offers a fully part-time online master of social work degree that serves the furtherance of social and economic justice and prepares its students to take on leadership roles in our complex and diverse modern-day multicultural societies.

Boston’s online MSW Program offers two majors (Clinical Practice and Macro Practice) and three tracks that the prospective student can follow: Traditional MSW, Human Service Experience (HSE), and the Advanced Standing track.

Students majoring in clinical practice social work become qualified for licensure eligibility in their respective states.

Program Highlights:
Standout features

Field Placement for online students is a collaborative effort between them and the university so that their individual learning needs are matched.

The BUSSW has a dedicated team that helps tailor each student’s field placement to locations throughout the United States.

Boise State University

Boise State University
Master of Social Work (MSW) Online

Tucked away in the foothills of the strikingly beautiful Rocky Mountains, Boise State University is one of the premier Higher Education Institutions serving the State of Idaho and the Rocky Mountain/Northwest Region.

Through its College of Health Sciences – School of Social Work, BSU offers an online MSW Program that not only prepares its students to deliver competent professional care to individuals and families and promote their well-being and rights but is also known for its value and affordability.

Boise State University’s Online MSW Program comes in either the full MSW Program or as an Advanced Standing Program for baccalaureate degree holders from a CSWE-accredited institution.

Program Highlights:
Standout Feature of the Boise State University’s Online MSW Program:

Unlike many universities, Boise State University’s MSW Online Program does not have out-of-tuition rates, on top of already affordable tuition rates.

BSU’s Online MSW Program was ranked #10 in the United States for Best Affordable MSW Programs in 2021 by Best Value Schools and #19 in 2019 by the SR Education Group. Online Master’s Degrees also recognize BSU’s Online MSW Programs as one of the best in 2022.   

University of Georgia

University of Georgia-Online Learning

Master of Social Work (MSW)

The University of Georgia (UGA), having been established in 1785, is one of the oldest public universities in the United States. Their online Master of Social Work program, though perhaps one of the more recent online programs to be launched, carries with it the quality of education that comes with a curriculum informed by decades of education in social work.

Quite timely, too, if you’re a Georgia resident, as the state is projected to have a 19.7% increase in social work jobs for the year 2022, higher than the 11% national average.

With its online Master of Social Work program that has a primary emphasis on Micro-level practice, students will gain specialized skills to effectively deliver social services to individuals, families, and groups in a variety of settings.

Program Highlights:
Standout feature of the University of Georgia’s Online Master of Social Work:

Although it is primarily trained residents of the State of Georgia, the UGA’s Online MSW Program meets all educational requirements for social worker licensing not only within Georgia but nationwide.

George Mason University

George Mason University - Mason Online
Online Master of Social Work

The George Mason University (GMU) is a public research university based in Fairfax, Virginia. From being a northern branch of the University of Virginia (UVA) and only becoming an independent university in 1972, it has grown to become the largest university in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

As part of its thrust on the promotion of positive societal transformation, George Mason University, through its College of Health and Human Services, offers its online Master of Social Work (MSW) degree program, designed around empowerment and systems transformation.

GMU’s Online MSW is delivered in a part-time, asynchronous format, on top of two supervised Field Placements, with a total of 60 credit hours. The master’s of social work program is identical in content to the GMU’s on-campus MSW Program.

Program Highlights:
Standout features of George Mason University’s online MSW program:

GMU is partnered with over 400 field practicum partner agencies within Northern Virginia, the Washington Metropolitan Area, and throughout the United States.

George Mason University is partnered with Therapy Assistance Online (TAO) Inc. to provide their students with mental health support solutions.

Prospective students can have access to a range of financial aid programs. Also, graduates have lifetime access to GMU’s career services.

University of North Dakota

University of North Dakota
Master of Social Work (MSW)

A fitting name for the University of North Dakota (UND) might be The Jewel of the Northern Plains. Established in 1883 in the city of Grand Forks, it continues to lead in academic excellence.

It has maintained its high quality of education and continues to innovate, with its research institutional partnerships and national firsts, like the first in the nation to offer an Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operations BS Aeronautics program.

Their online Master of Social Work, launched in 2005, is likewise a national first, then using video-conferencing technology to implement distance learning.

With an emphasis on skillsets that lean toward Advanced Generalist practice, the UND’s MSW Program prepares students to become lifelong learners with multidimensional skill sets and to tackle the social contexts found in North Dakota, the Upper Midwest, and many other similar areas; that is, vulnerable and diverse populations in highly rural areas, like populations in First Nations Reservations and in rural agrarian settings. 

Program Highlights:
Standout feature of the University of North Dakota’s Online MSW degree program:

The UND’s choice to develop an Advanced Generalist curriculum is their gesture of acknowledgment of the value of social work practitioners who have multi-dimensional and multi-level skill sets that can readily answer to social trends within their region and in society at large.

In their words, specialization occurs not in the classroom, but over years of professional practice (Schatz et al., 2000).

Eastern University

Eastern University
Master of Social Work (MSW) Online

First established in 1925 as the Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, the institution moved into its current home in St. Davids, Pennsylvania in 1952 as the Eastern Baptist College, and finally gained University status in 2001.

As a Baptist institution, Eastern brings a different perspective in recognizing and addressing the current set of challenges that face various sectors of modern society. In the spirit of Eastern University’s Christian ethos, their program is one that promotes social and economic justice in underserved and underrepresented diverse communities.

Among the highlights of Eastern University’s online MSW curriculum are a dedicated course on the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Licensing application and exam process.

Program Highlights:

Likewise, Trauma-Informed practice is treated as a significant part of the curriculum with courses dedicated to trauma-informed policy and trauma-informed research.

Standout feature of Eastern University’s MSW online degree program:

Eastern University’s MSW applies trauma-informed perspectives to its curriculum. Trauma-informed practice is gradually gaining ground and demand within the social work sector.

Being a Christian institution, Eastern’s MSW Program integrates a Christian worldview in its education, preparing graduates to be ethically-grounded practitioners delivering spiritually-informed and trauma-informed care.

Ohio University

Ohio University
Master of Social Work (MSW) Online

First established in 1804, Ohio University, as a public research university, continues to serve as one of the largest higher education institutions not only in the State of Ohio but in the Midwest as well.

Accredited by the HLC or Higher Learning Commission, it has an “R1: Doctoral University – Very High Research Activity” classification from Carnegie Classifications, and is also a space-grant institution.

With the constant stream of challenges that our modern society presents, the demand for social services and the persons who will deliver them is expected to rise within the next few years.

Ohio University’s online Social Work program focuses on preparing practitioners to address challenges in underserved communities in direct practice settings, which include substance abuse and addiction, poverty, trauma, and chronic injustice, among others.

Program Highlights:
Standout feature of Ohio University’s MSW online program:

The Ohio University’s Online MSW uses a strengths-based, problem-solving model in their curriculum design that enables future practitioners to effectively facilitate outreach and address accessibility needs, take on an adversity support role to individuals, families, and groups, diagnose and assess mental health issues, and gain a clear big-picture view of social dynamics with regard to needs and policies.

University of Southern California – Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work

USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck - School of Social Work
Master of Social Work (MSW) Online

A private research institution in Los Angeles, the University of Southern California offers prestigious academic programs in a wide range of disciplines.

Under the Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, they offer a fully online MSW program with part-time and full-time options.

The program is accredited by the CSWE – Council on Social Work Education, which means you are well-prepared on your way to a clinical social work license. 

Program Highlights:
Standout Features of the University of Southern California’s online MSW Program:

In this program, you will gain a crucial hands-on experience integral to tackling today’s social work challenges. This includes field education, Virtual Field Practicum which can be completed online, and a community practice placement. All of these experiences amount to 1,200 hours.

Arizona State University,

Arizona State University - School of Social Work
Online Master of Social Work (MSW)

A regionally accredited institution, Arizona State University offers all of its online academic programs nationwide, meeting the gold standard in higher education in the process.

One of the programs they offer fully online is the Master of Social Work, designed to give you advanced knowledge and skills integral to working with individuals, families, and communities.

They give a lot of emphasis on the promotion of social and economic justice and finding practical solutions to pressing issues faced by the most vulnerable in society.

The MSW program focuses on several key areas, including administration, community practice, innovative services for children, youth, and families, behavioral health, and policy practice.

Program Highlights:
Standout Features of Arizona State University’s MSW online program:

The online social work program is offered under the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, which means the MSW program is devoted to addressing social problems through the use of teaching, research, and service.

The university’s MSW degree belongs in the 10% of graduate programs in social work as ranked by the U.S. News & World Report.

Louisiana State University

Louisiana State University - no 2Logo
Master of Social Work (MSW)

Louisiana State University is one of only 24 universities that holds land-grant, sea-grant, and space-grant designations. It is also known as the flagship institution of the state, leading in research and personal development.

The Master of Social Work or MSW is one of the innovative programs on offer which is fully available online and open to all US residents who live in the United States.

An intensive degree in a 7-week module format, the MSW online program gives students six start dates with asynchronous courses that can be completed at your own pace, albeit with guided dates and deadlines.

Program Highlights:
Standout Features of Louisiana State University’s Online MSW Program:

While not required to graduate, you are encouraged to undertake a thesis. Doing this will require the submission of a thesis proposal to a prospective thesis committee chair. This will account for a total of 6 credit hours.

The university has a huge impact on Louisiana, ushering in $5.1 billion to the economy, as found in the study conducted by the Economics & Policy Research Group at the E.J. Ourso College of Business.

University of Houston

University of Houston - Graduate College of Social Work
Online Master’s in Social Work (MSW)

The Master of Social Work or MSW online program offered by the University of Houston under its College of Social Work has educated more than 4,000 graduate students since its establishment.

The online program is specially designed for independent, self-motivated working professionals who need a flexible class schedule. While there is flexibility in the coursework; however, you still need to meet firm deadlines and due dates when it comes to learning activities and assignments.

When you enroll in the program, you will be assigned to a cohort, and you can take online classes with your cohort throughout the whole duration of the program.

Program Highlights:
Standout Features of the University of Houston’s Online MSW Program:

The program contains a pass/fail course in the form of the Foundations of Social Work Profession at the beginning of the curriculum which accounts for two credit hours.

Simmons University

Simmons University
Online Master of Social Work (MSW)

A private university located at the heart of Boston, Simmons University offers a variety of graduate programs in business, health sciences, liberal arts, public health, library and information science, and social work.

Their Master of Social Work is fully available online, which makes it ideal for working professionals who need the flexibility and convenience of a distance learning education.

The program features weekly, interactive classes with an average of 20 or fewer students, with a focus on social work practice and concepts.

Since the MSW program is offered online, you will get 24/7 access to the tools, features, and course content.

Program Highlights:
Standout Features of Simmons University’s ONLINE MSW Program:

The program requires you to attend a live online class through an HD streaming video where you will get to have a virtual “face-to-face” discussion in real-time. This online classroom makes use of the dynamic sharing and collaboration features of the tool.

The latter also includes a variety of features integral to a unique online experience, such as screen-sharing capabilities, videos, and document sharing, small-group breakout rooms, collaborative content annotation, and live chats, surveys, and polls, among others.

Colorado State University

Colorado State University Global - Logo
Online Master of Social Work (MSW)

As one of the well-regarded public research universities in the US, Colorado State University gives you the opportunity to receive a regionally accredited social work master’s program.

The program has a nationally recognized advanced generalist approach, which ensures the robust skills you will develop while earning this advanced degree.

This MSW program is in a hybrid format, which means you can learn through a combination of classroom and online coursework.

Recognized by the Council on Social Work Education, this master of social work degree provides a solid foundation in social work applications, along with hands-on field experience in a social service agency, including child welfare agencies.

Program Highlights:

Standout Features of Colorado State University’s Online MSW Program:

CSU’s online program is convenient and flexible for distance learning students; however, the program will require some on-campus attendance to complete the coursework needed to graduate. It combines hands-on experience with a solid foundation and knowledge of how to begin a career in social work.

University of South Florida

University of South Florida - College of Behavioral and Community Sciences
Online Master of Social Work (MSW)

With a strong tradition of providing engaging social work education, the University of South Florida equips students with the necessary skills and knowledge integral to their commitment to the promotion of social, economic, and environmental justice.

Their Master of Social Work can be earned fully online. It allows students to connect and build relationships with classmates and instructors through its cohort model.

Focused on social work clinical practice, the program provides a strong foundation of social work ethics, values, and professional standards.

With accreditation granted by the Council of Social Work Education, the program requires you to complete 60 credit hours that take about eight semesters.

Program Highlights:
Standout Features of the University of South Florida’s MSW online program:

With an emphasis on standards of professional behavior and ethics in the social work practice, this online MSW program requires the completion of several elective courses.

This includes Advanced Clinical Social Work Practice in Integrated Healthcare, Alternative Approaches in Clinical Practice: Integrative Body-Mind-Spirit Social Work, and Clinical Supervision, among many others.

California State University, Northridge

California State University, Northridge
Master of Social Work

With 23 campuses across California, CSU boasts one of the most diverse student bodies in the country. The institution remained committed to promoting student success by providing high-quality education since its establishment in 1857.

One of its academic programs on offer on the Northridge campus is the Master of Social Work, designed through the collaboration between the Department of Social Work under CSUN’s College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and Tseng College.

The program is available both online and off-campus, with the latter’s location varying every admission cycle. You are expected to gain relevant skills important to social work practice.

Program Highlights:
Standout Features of California State University’s Master of Education in Educational Leadership and Management Program:

The program requires completion of a field internship, which is not allowed to be fulfilled at your current place of employment.

CSUN’s Master of Social Work Field Education Department determines the field placement days and times of the field internship, all based on the schedule of the student and the approval of the employer.

Metropolitan State University of Denver

Metropolitan State University of Denver - Department of Social Work
Online Master of Social Work (MSW)

Promoting mutual relationships between the university and the community, Metropolitan State University of Denver makes quality education widely accessible to prospective students by providing various online programs. One of which is the online Master of Social Work.

Like other MSW programs, this master’s degree is designed to educate social workers in serving the needs of individuals, families, groups, communities, and organizations in the US and beyond. The program has earned official accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education.

The program offers multiple course delivery and enrollment options, allowing flexibility to aspiring social work professionals who want to pursue advanced social work practice.

Program Highlights:
Standout Features of Metropolitan State University of Denver’s Online MSW Program:

Combining academic, research, and field experience, the MSW program boasts of a rigorous curriculum that aims to enhance individual and community wellbeing.

In fact, 69% of the university’s social work graduates found a job within two months of graduation and 87% found one in less than six months in a variety of disciplines, whether they are in mental health practice, macro practice, community practice, or direct practice.

Indiana University

Indiana University - School of Social Work
Master of Social Work

Spread out across nine campuses, Indiana University offers more than 930 academic options. The university’s academic community guarantees a welcoming and inclusive environment when you are attending on-campus programs.

Beyond traditional learning, IU has expanded its program offering to online options in an effort to provide accessible education in the 21st century.

One of the academic programs they offer is the Master of Social Work showcases dynamic education to address the changing needs of individuals, families, groups, society, and organizations.

The MSW program offers a broad range of practice settings, including nursing homes, hospitals, schools, mental health agencies, employee assistance programs, and community service agencies.

Notably, it uses the same curriculum as the traditional MSW program.

Program Highlights:
Standout Features of Indiana University’s online MSW program:

Designed as a two-year program, the MSW degree is also offered in a part-time format, which means you can extend the time to complete the coursework to fit around your busy schedule.

You are also given the opportunity to create your personalized degree map or program plan, as long as you discuss it with your assigned academic supervisor.

Online Master's in Social Work - fact

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Social Work?

Social work is a highly interdisciplinary field that is informed and guided by global and local state of affairs and culture and draws on principles of other related professional and academic disciplines.

In keeping with its interdisciplinary nature, there is no single profession that can be called “social work.” Rather, it is a collection of professions and occupations that address social problems and issues, from macro-level social policy and social research to advocating for the rights of marginalized groups and minorities, to micro-level family and individual-level counseling and mental-health work, to name a few.

Social workers also often have roles in various other industries like government agencies, education, law enforcement, and healthcare. Social workers are society’s unsung heroes!

What is Field Placement and why is it important?

Within the context of the Master of Social Work degree, field placement or field education is an intensive internship that is a key part of all MSW degree programs.

In collaboration with the university that the student is enrolled in, they serve for a set amount of time in a variety of partner institutions in functions/positions that are relevant to their social work education.

Social work is primarily a practice-based profession, and Field Placements enable students to fulfill this aspect of their degree program.

Field placements are typically divided into Generalist and Advanced placement, where students get to practice fundamental social work skills and skills related to their chosen specialization, respectively.

Field placements enable students to put their classroom knowledge into practice and, at the same time, gain much-needed real-world experience, which is highly important to the rest of their social work careers.

Is a Master’s degree in Social Work worth it?

Social work is a diverse field that offers a wide array of opportunities for career development and growth.

With a master’s in social work, you will enhance your career options to encompass a wider range of workplaces. This includes finding employment in more advanced positions in hospitals, schools, and even the judicial system.

By gaining higher, more specialized positions within the social work field, you will get a higher chance of increasing your earning potential. Plus, a master’s in social work will also help you obtain a license to practice clinical social work.

Being a licensed clinical social work practitioner will lead to more career opportunities, allowing you to qualify for leadership positions in not-for-profit agencies, residential treatment facilities, and private practice.

Why do Social Work Master’s Degrees seem to take more time to complete?

Again, it’s down to the nature of Social Work. Social work is primarily an evidence-based interpersonal practice, where it is needed, where the action is.

As such, MSW degrees put heavy emphasis on Field Placements for their students to get crucial real-world experience.

Field placements take time, and nothing can beat the actual field time students spend putting their academics into action and gaining experience and insights in the process.

Aside from knowledge and skills, social work also requires empathy and compassion, and field placements are an important formative process in turning students into well-rounded and compassionate practitioners in their future careers.

What career paths await Master of Social Work degree graduates?
What career paths await Master of Social Work degree graduates?

Social work involves a very wide range of career opportunities in a number of industries. The following are just some of the possible career options for MSW graduates:

Key Takeaways