Top 10 Online Degree Programs In Social Work for 2017

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The field of Social Work offers substantial rewards to the professionals who choose it as a career. Though challenging, social work professionals are able to improve the quality of life for the most vulnerable and in need populations. Social workers are employed by a range of human service agencies identifying individuals, families and groups in need, determining appropriate intervention actions and providing support services. Social workers practice in hospitals, schools, nursing homes and government agencies in all states – Delaware, Louisiana, Mississippi, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, etc. Some specialize in specific populations such as pediatrics, families or geriatrics or in a specific at-risk group such as abused children, drug or alcohol addicted individuals or providing counseling for pregnant teens. The need for qualified, educated social workers is great and exists in all urban, suburban and even rural areas across the country. Professionals are needed in most regions of the country.

Education in the field of Social Work is essential and salary ranges increase with advanced studies. Professionals with advanced degrees receive much higher salaries than those with an associate or bachelor’s degree. Individuals trying to pursue additional educational accomplishments while working face significant challenges and difficulties. Online degree options provide students with the flexibility necessary to allow them to successfully complete their educational goals without interfering with other responsibilities. Below is a list of the top ranked online programs for 2017, offering the highest quality educational programs at a range of degree levels from undergraduate to graduate programs and post graduate certificate programs. All of these programs will increase the skills and knowledge of the students while providing the education necessary to advance their careers and salary range.

  1. University of Southern California – School of Social Work

    University of Southern California first opened its doors in 1880 in the heart of the frontier town of Los Angeles. As Los Angeles grew and thrived, so did USC, enrolling more and more students, offering more programs, and establishing new departments and schools. In 1920, USC established their School of Social Work, making it one of the first schools of social work in the nation. The faculty here consists of well-respected scholars and researchers who focus on real-world social issues. Through education, research, and professional leadership, the School of Social Work strives to achieve its mission of producing graduates who are fully prepared to work with and improve the lives of individuals and communities.

    The USC School of Social Work became one of the first research universities to offer a Master of Social Work degree program entirely online, the MSW@USC. Through this program, students are able to gain a high-quality education from a respected university without ever having to attend the physical campus. The flexibility and convenience of online learning allows students log on from anywhere they can connect to the Internet. The program features live online classes and ways to interact with instructors and fellow students through online study groups and chat sessions. Plus, students will have the opportunity to gain hands-on real world training in their local communities. The curriculum in the online MSW@USC program mirrors that which is found in the traditional on-campus program. Foundational courses focus on areas including human behavior, the social environment, social work practice, social work organizations, and social work research. Students can choose from concentrations in mental health, community organization, planning and administration, military social work, or families and children. The MSW@USC is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) and the Western Association of Colleges and Schools (WASC).
    [Click here for more information about online degree programs in social work]

  2. Capella University

    Capella University is a well regarded institution of higher learning which focuses on providing online degree programs tailored to meet the needs of working adults. Working adult students are provided with respected, challenging online degree programs within a range of disciplines which facilitate career advancement, career changes and entry level career opportunities. Students enrolled at Capella University have the opportunity to pursue degree programs in business management, higher education, information technology, public safety and health care. The extensive resources and support services provide students with the added assistance necessary to ensure their educational and career success. Faculty members forge personal relationships with their students which further enhances the experience at Capella University. Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and schools.

    The School of Public Service Leadership at Capella University provides a range of graduate degree programs relevant to social work. Programs offered in the field of social work or related areas include social work, counseling, emergency management, school counseling, psychology and a PhD in human services. The 48 credit Master degree program in the Social and Community Services specialization requires students to complete courses such as philosophy of social work, history of social welfare, scope of human services, utilization of community resources, ethnic and cultural awareness and survey of research in human development and behavior. The Master of Social and Behavioral Sciences specialization focuses on public health issues and the administrative systems. Students study the areas of social and behavioral theories, program planning and evaluation, international public health and public health information for diverse populations. The 60 credit program requires students to complete courses such as psychological, behavioral, and social issues in public health, principles of epidemiology, environmental health concepts in public health and theories of social and behavioral sciences.

    [Click here for more information about online degree programs in social work from Capella University]

  3. Simmons College

    As the nation’s oldest school of social work, Simmons School of Social Work (SSW) has been training clinical social workers to improve the well-being of individuals and communities for more than 100 years. Co-founded in Boston with Harvard University in 1904, SSW is dedicated to promoting social action and rooted in the belief that all individuals have the capacity and deserve the resources to grow, change, and improve their lives. Today, SSW is expanding its reach to students and aspiring clinical social workers across the country through SocialWork@Simmons.

    SocialWork@Simmons is SSW’s nationally-recognized Master of Social Work (M.S.W.) degree program delivered online. Combining live online classes, self-paced coursework, and field experiences in or near students’ own communities, SocialWork@Simmons prepares clinical social workers for direct clinical practice in a wide range of school, agency, clinic, and other settings. Featuring the same rigorous M.S.W. curriculum as Simmons’ on-campus program, this innovative online M.S.W. program offers: Live, weekly online classes taught by renowned SSW faculty and limited to 15 students to ensure an effective classroom experience. Coursework with a clinical practice focus on social welfare policies, human behavior, assessment and diagnosis, multicultural perspectives, and racial and social justice. Hands-on experience through internships arranged in or near students’ own communities by our field placement team.

    [Click here for more information about online degree programs in social work]

  4. Walden University

    Walden University is a student centered institution dedicated to the success of working students. Since its founding in 1970, Walden University has evolved into a highly regarded institution offering a range of undergraduate and graduate degree programs and certificate programs tailored to meet the scheduling needs of their working students while providing a challenging and industry current curriculum. The degree programs are intended to provide students with the tools needed to advance their careers and produce positive social change through the application of research and the discovery of new knowledge. The programs at Walden University are enhanced through the shared insights of instructors and peers who are experienced in the professional setting. Walden University provides a supportive environment with the latest technology in online learning and various educational services in research and writing. Students are offered a range of career assistance and advising and lifelong learning opportunities to ensure they remain abreast of advancements in their fields of study.

    Students enrolled at Walden University have the opportunity to pursue a range of degree options with relevance to the field of social work. Walden University offers a 63 credit Master of Science in Psychology with a specialization in social psychology. The program provides a comprehensive understanding of the various social, environmental and situational factors which impact the development of social and behavioral interaction in humans. The curriculum includes the analysis and evaluation of psychological theories, research, social and cultural factors, psychological concepts and principles and contemporary and global issues influencing social change. Walden University offers a 132 credit doctoral program in clinical social work which focuses on the models and theories of clinical practice for vulnerable and disadvantaged populations. The program requires students to complete 42 credits in core knowledge areas, 42 credits in specialized knowledge areas, 12 credits in research and a 30 credit dissertation sequence. The program is intended for students with a solid foundation in qualitative and quantitative methods of study and inquiry.

    [Click here for more information about online degree programs in social work from Walden University]

  5. The Catholic University of America

    Located on a beautiful campus in Washington, D.C., The Catholic University of America (CUA) is the national university of the Catholic Church and the only higher education institution founded by the Catholic Church and the only higher education institution founded by the U.S. Catholic bishops. Founded in 1887 as a center for graduate study, CUA has evolved into a modern American university, committed not only to graduate but also to undergraduate and professional education. The University is dedicated to advancing the dialogue between faith and reason, seeking to discover, preserve and impart truth through excellence in teaching and research, all in service to the Church, the nation, and the world. Catholic University has more than 40 research centers, institutes, and interdisciplinary collaborative arrangements currently in place and is home to approximately 7,000 students from 50 states and 85 countries.

    The online Master of Social Work (MSW) from The Catholic University of America’s National Catholic School of Social Service (NCSSS) helps you gain the knowledge and skills to leave your legacy and prepares you to obtain your license in clinical social work practice. This values-based degree uses a comprehensive, demanding curriculum that utilizes theory in all written assignments and readies you for real-world application after graduation. Although an undergraduate degree in social work is not required to apply, a true desire to serve all people is necessary when considering our MSW program. This clinical MSW concentration prepares you for a wide range of professional roles including: – Mental health counseling/therapy – Clinical work with at-risk families – Clinical case management with homeless individuals – Trauma treatment – School social work – Play therapy with children – Community-based work with the elderly

    [Click here for more information about online degree programs in social work]

  6. Our Lady of the Lake University

    Our Lady of the Lake University is a private, Catholic university with a deep connection to the history and community of San Antonio. Founded in 1895 by the Congregation of Divine Providence, we have developed a reputation for our personal teaching style. Since 2011, OLLU has been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. Our online degree programs prepare professionals to provide leadership and make scholarly contributions to the advancement of knowledge in their fields, apply the most current information and technology to decision making and problem solving, work collaboratively, productively and ethically in culturally diverse settings, and contribute to the mission of the University by serving the needs of their communities.

    OLLU’s Worden School of Social Service, one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious schools of social work, is now offering its acclaimed Master of Social Work degree program entirely online, giving working adults the opportunity to work toward this career-building and service-oriented credential no matter where they reside. The online MSW from Our Lady of the Lake University is one of only three social work Master’s degree programs in the US that emphasizes service to Hispanic children and families, the fastest-growing demographic community in the nation. With a focus on social work across the life span, the program prepares students for social services leadership and advanced direct practice in a variety of settings and for a variety of clients, from young children to elderly adults (already the single largest group of social service recipients, and growing fast).

    [Click here for more information about online degree programs in social work]

  7. Grand Canyon University

    Grand Canyon University is a private Christian college established in the mid 1940’s for the purpose of providing a quality distance learning education. Grand Canyon University is considered a leading provider of online education; boasting an enrollment of 25,000 students. Students have the opportunity to attend courses on campus or to select the time flexible, online degree programs instead. The university endeavors to prepare graduates to become ethical and socially aware leaders with a global perspective. The programs are taught by practitioner faculty who provide advanced knowledge which can be immediately applied within any field. Student success is a priority of the institution which offers individualized attention and support.

    Grand Canyon University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a Bachelor of Science in Sociology degree program. The Sociology program provides students with an understanding of the impact of social structures on human behavior and develops students’ skills in analytical and critical thinking. The 120 credit program includes up to 40 credits in general education courses, 44 credits in sociology courses and up to 42 credits in elective courses. Courses include sociological theory, social inequality and stratification, social psychology American Minority Peoples, Social Problems and Marriage and Family. The psychology program provides perspective of human actions and utilizes this understanding to evaluate similar behaviors in others. This program is intended to prepare students for a career in human service agencies providing assistance to individuals and groups in need. Also a 120 credit program, courses are concentrated in the various areas of psychology, counseling and guidance.

    [Click here for more information about online degree programs in social work]

  8. Boston University Online

    Founded in 1839, Boston University has a long history of producing excellence. They can boast about Nobel and Pulitzer Prizes, milestones in the civil and women’s rights movements, and being ranked as one of the top 50 universities by U.S. News. Boston University is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Inc. and the Commission on Institution of Higher Education. It is a nonprofit, private research institution dedicated to academic excellence and social relevance. A faculty of scholars ignites and encourages students’ imaginations, leading to innovative ideas and engaging discussions. BU’s online programs promise the same dedication and world-class education a student would expect on campus. Designed and taught by distinguished faculty members, Boston University’s distance learning programs reach students around the world.

    The online Master’s Degree in Social Work, offered through Boston University’s School of Social work, is a part time program that allows individuals the chance to further their educations while continuing to work within their communities. It is open only to applicants who live within the United States, but not those from New Hampshire, Maryland, nor within the Massachusetts Route 128 corridor. There is an optional concentration in Clinical Social Work Practice, and students of this program will take required and elective courses ranging from Social Policy I to Mental Health and Social Policy. For more information on courses offered through this program, please see the Curriculum and Course Descriptions.



To determine the best online Social Work programs, we looked at the most important factors prospective students, mainly common predictors of future success and a school’s commitment to online programs. This boils down to admissions rate, student loan default rate, retention rate, graduation rate, and the percent of students enrolled in online classes. All data points are taken from information provided by colleges and universities to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Each factor is weighted evenly in order to give an objective view and determine the 8 best online Social Work programs. To calculate our rankings, we looked at a school’s ranking when organized by a single factor, and then averaged each category’s ranking to find an overall score: Admissions Rate (20%) + Default Rate (20%) + Retention Rate (20%) + Graduation Rate (20%) + Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes (20%) = Final score.

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