Top Colleges for Online Social Work Programs for 2012-2013
Now is a great time to pursue an education in social work. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Employment for social workers is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2018. Job prospects are expected to be favorable, particularly for social workers who specialize in the aging population or work in rural areas.”
More and more people are choosing to pursue social work degrees online because of the greater flexibility and affordability of online degrees.
For those looking for distance learning programs in social work, we’ve put together a ranking of the best online colleges and universities offering online Master of Social Work (MSW) and other social work related graduate degrees. Our online degree rankings are based on several factors, including school and program reputation, student satisfaction, peer and instructional quality, and overall affordability.
All online MSW programs on our list are either accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) or official candidates for accreditation. The CSWE is a nonprofit national association representing more than 3,000 individual members, as well as graduate and undergraduate programs of professional social work education. Founded in 1952, this partnership of educational and professional institutions, social welfare agencies, and private citizens is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation as the sole accrediting agency for social work education in the United States.
Only programs open to students outside of the school’s state of residence were considered. Some geographic restrictions may still apply for some programs.
The University of Southern California School of Social Work is one of the most highly regarded school’s of social work in California, as well as in the U.S. It is among the first elite research universities to offer an online Master of Social Work degree, the MSW@USC. The USC School of Social Work is ranked #8 by U.S. News & World Report and#15 byPrinceton Review. It’s our choice for the very best school for an online social work degree. The MSW@USC is a blend of web-based learning modules and guided, hands-on practicums within a student’s local community. The 60 unit degree can be completed in as few as two years or as many as four, depending on how many courses a student takes per semester. The MSW@USC is the same degree as the USC on-campus MSW except for the mode of delivery. The same rigorous admissions standards, graduation requirements, and coursework apply, and the exact same degree is awarded. Financial aid is available for those who qualify. No geographical restrictions apply for this program.
Saint Leo University is a small, Catholic liberal arts university with a quality online degree program ranked #24 in our list of the top 25 online colleges and universities. Saint Leo’s offers a full-time online Master of Social Work degree. The standard program is 62 credit hours and takes two year to complete. A one year, 32 credit hour advanced standing program is available for students who have completed a BSW degree from a Center for Social Work Education accredited program within the last five years. The online MSW program is administered primarily via live webcasts, requiring students to be online during class hours. Internships and a weekend-long campus visit are required. The Council on Social Work Education’s Commission on Accreditation affirmed Saint Leo University’s MSW program Candidacy status at its June 2010 meeting. As is the case with all new MSW programs, Saint Leo University’s MSW program must complete a 3 year candidacy period prior to receiving full accreditation. Achieving and maintaining Candidacy status indicates that the program is on the path to accreditation and assures Saint Leo students that they will be considered to have graduated from an accredited program once the program achieves accreditation. Full accreditation will be finalized after the first class has graduated. Financial aid is available for those who qualify. Some geographical limitations apply for this program.
#3. Northeastern University
Northeastern University is a top-tier private research university with a growing reputation. U.S. News & World Report recently ranked Northeastern #2 on its list of Up-and-Coming National Universities and our editors ranked it #5 in our ranking of the top 25 online colleges and universities. Northeastern offers an online Master of Science in Human Services degree through its College of Professional Studies designed to prepare students for careers as mental health workers, prevention specialists, volunteer coordinators, registered substance abuse counselors, addiction specialists, senior case managers, program directors, and social workers, among other things. The 42 credit program offers several electives, as well as specializations in leadership, organizational communication, and global studies. Reflecting Northeastern’s philosophy of practice-oriented education, the program includes work-based applications and a capstone service-learning project. Internships and co-op opportunities are available as well. Financial aid is available for those who qualify. No geographical limitations apply for this program.
#4. Florida State University
Florida State University (FSU) is one of the very best public universities in the U.S. and the first public university to offer an online Master of Social Work degree. FSU was ranked #8 overall in our listing of the top 25 online colleges and universities and its College of Social Work is ranked #30 overall by U.S. News & World Report and #24 by Princeton Review. FSU’s Online MSW is only offered in an Advanced-Standing part-time format to students who have already earned a Bachelor of Social Work from a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited program or have completed the first year of another CSWE accredited MSW program. The program is 39 credit hours long and includes 12 credit hours for advanced clinical field instruction, which take place within a student’s area of residence. The program starts a new cohort each fall and each spring semester, with most students finishing within two years. All courses are offered asynchronously, meaning students don’t have to be online at any particular time, and no campus visits are required. The online MSW Program is guided by the same standards as the on-campus MSW programs, with the same faculty and same degree awarded. Tuition is $454.56 per credit hour for Florida residents and $1,085 for non-residents. Non-residents can appeal to the department for a non-resident tuition waiver, which reduces tuition to $484.82 per credit hour. Financial aid is available. Some geographical restrictions apply for this program.
#5. Michigan State University
Michigan State University (MSU) is one of the top public universities in the world and the MSU School of Social Work has established itself as one of the very best, ranked #17 by Princeton Review and tied with the FSU College of Social Work for the #30 spot in U.S. News & World Report’s list of the best graduate schools for social work. Michigan State offers a blended online Master of Social Work degree in clinical social work. The three year program combines face-to-face, videoconferencing, and online instruction structured in a unique learning community to make quality clinically-focused graduate social work education available for non-traditional students. The program is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and has the same faculty, course content, and requirements as the regular MSW program. The only essential difference is the mode of delivery, which is primarily online rather than in a classroom. One week of face-to-face instruction on the MSU campus is required during each year of the program. Supervised field education units are arranged and completed in a student’s local community. Tuition for all MSU graduate programs is $531.75 per credit hour for Michigan residents and $1,044.50 per credit hour for non-residents. Financial aid is available. Some geographical restrictions apply for this program.
#6. Fordham University
Fordham University’s Graduate School of Social Service is one of the top-ranked schools at the prestigious Jesuit university and joins the USC School of Social Work as one of the first elite schools to launch an online Master of Social Work program. U.S. News & World Report ranks Fordham’s Graduate School of Social Service #18 in its list of the top schools of social work in the U.S. The 66 credit degree is a mix of web-based learning, hands-on field education in a student’s local community, and short yearly visits to the Fordham campus to meet and network with faculty and other online students. The Fordham online MSW is identical to the on-campus MSW, taught by the same faculty and within the Jesuit tradition’s way of thinking about and caring for people. It takes approximately 3 1/2 years to complete and comes with a Clinical concentration. Tuition is $787 per credit. Financial aid is available. Some geographical restrictions apply for this program.
#7. Texas State University-San Marcos
Texas State University-San Marcos is a respected public university with a relatively young School of Social Work that has already garnered national attention for its traditional and online Master of Social Work programs. The Texas State School of Social Work is ranked #149 overall by U.S. News & World Report. The Texas State On-Line MSW is offered in both part-time regular (62 credit hours) and part-time Advanced Standing (36 credit hours) programs. To qualify for the Advanced Standing program, students must have a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) from a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited program. The On-Line MSW Degree Program delivers the same social work curriculum used by the on-campus Texas State MSW program using online instruction, web-casting discussions, and other non-traditional methods. The same material is addressed and analyzed but delivered in an asynchronous online format. Tuition and fees for all Texas State graduate programs is estimated at $595 per credit hour for Texas residents and $905 per credit hour for non-residents. Financial aid is available. No geographical limitations apply for this program.
#8. University of North Dakota
The University of North Dakota (UND) is an established public university with a School of Social Work ranked #149 overall by U.S. News & World Report and recognized by Princeton Review. Utilizing interactive television technology, UND was the first accredited university to offer a distance social work degree, offering an undergraduate degree in 1998, and later the MSW. UND was also the first U.S. school to offer an MSW for students without a BSW. The Master of Social Work for non-BSW Students distance program is a three year, 60 credit program designed for student’s without a BSW degree. The Master of Social Work for BSW Students distance program is a two year, 36 credit program for students with a BSW from a Council of Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited program. Both programs require live (synchronous) online sessions on evenings and weekends. The non-BSW program requires two brief (4-5 day) on-campus visits. Students with a BSW are only required to make one on-campus visit. Supervised field education units are organized in a student’s area of residence. All students receive in-state tuition rates regardless of residency. Tuition and fees for the program are estimated at $481.74 per credit hour. Financial aid is available. No geographical limitations apply for this program, but priority is given to rural student unable to relocate to campus for their degree.
#9. University of New England
The University of New England (UNE) is a private research in Maine ranked as one of the top schools in the northeastern United States by U.S. News & World Report. UNE’s online Master of Social Work degree is offered in both a Traditional Track for students without a prior social work degree or the necessary social work experience, and an Advanced Standing Track for students who have earned a prior Council for Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited degree in the last seven years. The Traditional Track degree is 64 credit hours and takes approximately four years to complete. The Advanced Standing Track is 37 credits and takes approximately two years to complete. Both programs are fully accredited by the CSWE. Students are required to choose from one of two concentrations: Individual, Family and Group Practice (IFG) or Individual and Community Practice (OCP). Advanced social work practice is explored in the IFG concentration, including how to work with individuals, families, communities, and other groups. In the OCP concentration, students study the role and responsibilities of social work administrators and supervisors, professional standards, leadership in social work, and the influence of policy and law. Mandatory supervised fieldwork units are arranged and completed in a student’s own community. No campus visits are required. Tuition for the UNE online MSW is $715 per credit hour. No geographical limitations apply for this program.