Best Online Master's in Social Work Programs

The best master’s degree in social work (MSW) programs prepare you for careers as a therapist, community service manager, social worker, and more.
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Updated September 15, 2023

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Are you ready to discover your college program?

If you want a career in mental health, substance misuse, or social work, you’ll likely need a master’s degree in social work (MSW). Consider an online MSW program if you want the flexibility to continue working while attending school.

Learn more about the top online MSW programs, the factors to consider when choosing a program, and the careers you can pursue after graduation.

Popular Online Social Work Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Best Online Master's in Social Work Programs

Read Our Methodology Here

#1 Best Online Master’s in Social Work Programs

University of South Florida

  • Tampa, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The University of South Florida in Tampa is a top-ranked public school offering 254 total programs. Of all applicants, USF admits 49%. Of all admitted applicants, 74% go on to graduate. USF offers robust graduate education, with 111 master's programs and 48 doctorate programs available.

Graduate tuition for in-state students is $8,350, and out-of-state students pay $19,048. The university also provides financial aid to 92% of its students (including undergraduates), with an average aid amount of $10,924. This reduces the average cost to $10,004.

USF also offers 42 total online programs. Of all USF students, 90% are enrolled in at least some distance learning.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$4,559
Out-of-state
$15,473
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$8,350
Out-of-state
$19,048
Retention Rate
92%
Admission Rate
49%
Students Enrolled
50,626
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
90% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#2 Best Online Master’s in Social Work Programs

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

  • Edinburg, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley is a public institution located in Edinburg, Texas. The school offers a wide range of courses, with 142 programs across the undergraduate and graduate levels.

An impressive 95% of students receive financial aid. The average amount of aid awarded per student is $9,910. Students can also take advantage of UTRGV's 25 online programs, with 97% of the student population enrolled in online courses. 

Graduate tuition for in-state students is $6,458, while out-of-state students pay $13,820. After financial aid, the average price per student is $4,419.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$7,233
Out-of-state
$17,049
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$6,458
Out-of-state
$13,820
Retention Rate
81%
Admission Rate
82%
Students Enrolled
32,441
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
97% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#3 Best Online Master’s in Social Work Programs

California State University-Northridge

  • Northridge, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

California State University-Northridge is a public university located in Northridge, California. The school offers a variety of degrees, with 156 programs in total. Currently, 40,381 students are enrolled in CSU-Northridge, and the student-to-faculty ratio is 28-to-1.

The university has 67 master's programs on offer, including a master's program in social work. Tuition varies according to the student's residency. Graduate tuition for in-state students is $7,176, while out-of-state students pay $16,680.

CSU-Northridge also offers 13 online programs. Of the total student population, 98% take at least some courses online. The average amount of aid awarded per student is $10,845, and the average price per student after financial aid is $8,882.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$5,742
Out-of-state
$17,622
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$7,176
Out-of-state
$16,680
Retention Rate
83%
Admission Rate
66%
Students Enrolled
40,381
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
98% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#4 Best Online Master’s in Social Work Programs

The Ohio State University

  • Columbus, OH
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The Ohio State University, located in Columbus, Ohio, is a public university offering a variety of programs. With an 87% graduation rate, students at Ohio State have the resources they need for academic and professional success.

The school offers 397 total programs, including 121 master's programs and 100 doctoral programs. Graduate tuition is $11,560 for in-state students and $36,276 for out-of-state students.

At Ohio State's main campus, 84% of students receive some form of financial aid, with an average of $8,412 awarded per student. After financial aid, the average price per student is $18,884. There are 23 online programs available with 94% of students enrolled in at least one online course.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$10,615
Out-of-state
$32,599
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$11,560
Out-of-state
$36,276
Retention Rate
94%
Admission Rate
68%
Students Enrolled
61,369
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
94% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#5 Best Online Master’s in Social Work Programs

University of Central Florida

  • Orlando, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The University of Central Florida offers a great online master's program in social work. Located in Orlando, Florida, this public institution maintains a 45% admission rate and 74% graduation rate. In all, UCF offers 297 programs of study.

UCF is committed to making higher education accessible and affordable for Florida residents, with an in-state graduate tuition of $6,916. In addition, 94% of students receive some form of financial aid.

The school offers robust distance education, with 136 online programs. Of these, 90 are master's-level programs. With an accredited degree, UCF graduates can expect to gain valuable skills and knowledge

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$4,478
Out-of-state
$19,810
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$6,916
Out-of-state
$25,759
Retention Rate
92%
Admission Rate
45%
Students Enrolled
71,881
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
9% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Why Get an Online Master of Social Work Degree?

How Much Does a Master's in Social Work Cost?

A master’s degree costs about $19,750 for the school year, according to 2020-2021 data from the National Council on Education Statistics (NCES). This figure does not include costs for books and other school supplies, like computers or smart devices, that you may need to complete your coursework.

As an online student, you may save money on transportation and campus-based fees. You can also save money by attending a public rather than a private school. Master’s degrees at public universities cost about $14,000 less per year than private universities, according to the NCES.

What Can You Do With a Master's in Social Work?

The most in-demand and highest-paying jobs in social work usually require a master’s degree in the field. However, you can become a social and community service manager and make a median salary of $74,000 per with only a bachelor’s degree in social work.

Social Worker Salaries and Job Outlook
Social Work Jobs Median Annual Pay (2021) Job Outlook (2021-2031)
Marriage and Family Therapists $49,880 +14%
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists $60,250 No change
Social and Community Service Managers $74,000 +12%
Social Workers $50,390 +9%
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors $48,520 +22%
Source: BLS

Common Social Work Concentrations

An MSW opens you up to various specialties in social work once you become licensed to practice in your state. You can work with children, families, victims of crimes, and people with mental health or substance misuse conditions.

Children and Families

A children and families social work concentration examines mental health among children. You learn to assess children, provide early intervention services, and offer clinical treatment for children and families. The concentration emphasizes mental health support, protective factors, and risk factors.

Clinical Social Work

This concentration trains social workers to help people facing mental and emotional challenges. You examine counseling practices, including identifying and evaluating challenges and individual and group treatment approaches. You also explore behavioral issues, professional challenges, and family conflicts. After graduation, you can pursue careers in clinical social work.

Community and Social Systems

A community and social systems concentration focuses on macro-level social welfare organizations. You examine social systems to identify potential improvements or policy needs. You also learn to conduct macro assessments and evaluate social problems. The concentration prepares you for roles in social work policymaking and social welfare institutions.

Forensic Social Work

This concentration covers social work tools to address problems in the legal system. Forensic social workers represent clients within the justice system, acting as consultants or advocates in legal settings. A forensic social work concentration includes training in the criminal justice system and social services.

Frequently Asked Questions About a Master's in Social Work

Why is an online MSW accreditation important?

Accreditation for your online MSW program is important because you must earn a degree from an accredited program to qualify for state licensure in social work. You’ll need a master’s level license and a degree from an accredited MSW program to practice master’s level generalist social work independently or clinical social work under the supervision of a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW),

Is a master's in social work hard?

MSW programs can be very challenging, mentally and emotionally. MSW programs train social workers in social welfare policymaking, social work research, and clinical social work. You must also complete an internship or practicum, which can be emotionally challenging. Driven, compassionate students can thrive in an MSW program.

How long does it take to complete an MSW program?

It typically takes two years for full-time students to complete an MSW program, including internship requirements. Some programs offer accelerated options, allowing you to complete your degrees in less time but require a bachelor's degree in social work to apply.

Should I get a master's in social work or counseling?

An MSW and a master's in counseling help prepare you for different careers. A counseling degree emphasizes counseling techniques and theories, while a social work degree takes a big-picture approach. Social workers provide various services within the social work system, while counselors typically work directly with clients.


Page last reviewed June 30, 2023. All rankings and school descriptions on this page were created and reviewed independently by the TBS Rankings Team.

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