Choosing the Right Online MSW Program for YouMany Council of Social Work Education (CSWE)-accredited schools of social work now offer online MSW programs that provide aspiring social workers with greater flexibility and affordability in pursuing graduate education. While all of these programs lead to the MSW degree, they differ in a number of ways, from field experiences to employer connections to cost per credit hour. Thus, not all online MSW programs are created equal, and not all MSW students are looking for the same qualities in a program. That’s why it is important to do a bit of research before choosing the CSWE-accredited online MSW program that’s best for you!

If you’re not sure what program will best suit your needs, this guide is for you! We’ve done the research and found the top online MSW programs for a variety of student needs.

Best Value for Money

Graduate education can be expensive, and so the cost of a program can be a determining factor for many prospective students. But, looking for affordable options doesn’t mean students have to sacrifice quality, or the opportunity to attend a well-ranked school. The following programs are some of the most affordable, while still offering a high quality educational experience, offering you the best value for your money.


  1. Fordham University – Fordham’s program ranks in the op 10% in the United States, and its online program in particular has received high commendations. The cost per credit hour at Fordham is just $510.
  2. The University of Alabama School of Social Work – This program is ranked 47th in the nation with a cost of only $367 per credit hour.
  3. Arizona State University School of Social Work – With a high ranking of 32nd in the nation, Arizona State University’s program remains affordable at $599 per credit hour.
  4. The University of Hawaii at Manoa School of Social Work – This renowned program is in the position of 58 in U.S. rankings, and costs $440 per credit hour.

Most Flexible Study

We all lead busy lives, and online MSW programs help students to fulfill multiple roles and responsibilities while pursuing their graduate degree. With this in mind, many programs strive to provide flexible options of study. The following are those that excel in this arena.

  1. Boston University School of Social Work – Ranked 12th in the nation, this leading program also offers students’ needed flexibility. Students choose to focus on clinical or macro social work, with a range of specialization and electives, and participate in an advanced field practicum. They offer flexible full-time, part-time, and online options, and an accelerated program for advanced standing candidates.
  2. Simmons College School of Social Work – This flexible program offers a range of options for students including full-time, a 12-month advanced standing option, a 16-month accelerated program, a part-time extended option, and an online program. Students from across the country enroll in the online program, which also has full-time and part-time options, in addition to an accelerated track.
  3. Boise State University School of Social Work – Boise State offers students the option of full-time or part-time regular or advanced standing courses of study within its online program. Regular standing requires 18 credits, while advanced standing requires 12 credits.
  4. Indiana University School of Social Work – This online program allows students to focus on macro or micro social work practice. They allow 5 years from beginning the program to finish the degree, with a variety of online program options called Degree Maps.

Best Connections with Employers

Obtaining your MSW is just the first step in your social work career path. After completing an online MSW program, graduate are looking for professional positions in which they can apply their skills. Thus, choosing an online MSW program with great connections to employers is a smart choice for your long-term social work career.

  1. Case Western Reserve University Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences- Social Work students at Case Western Reserve University have access to several multi-disciplinary research centers engaged in cutting-edge service delivery, often with agency partners. These include the Center for Evidence-Based Practice and the Center for Violence Prevention, Research, and Education. Additionally, the university is affiliated with more than 350 social service agencies in the Greater Cleveland area.
  2. Rutgers University School of Social Work – A top-ranked program, Rutgers University offers field placements at over 1,000 social service agencies throughout the country. They also maintain an extensive alumni network for employment connections.
  3. Washington University St. Louis George Warren Brown School of Social Work – Social Work students in this program are able to choose from 300 potential field placement sites in the U.S. and abroad. They also offer one-on-one career coaching as students approach graduation.
  4. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Social Work – Students in this program have 250 potential field placement options through the school’s connections. They also have many global connections, and maintain a student job board.

Most Unique Field Experiences

Social work students gain the experience they need to be effective social work practitioners through their field experiences during graduate-level study. Many online programs offer unique field experiences that can be tailored to student interests.

  1. University of Michigan Ann Arbor School of Social Work – This program offers students the opportunity to complete field placements abroad in India, Peru, or Israel, during the Spring or Summer terms, giving students valuable international social work experience. They also have the option of incorporating Peace Corps service into the program, and allow students to arrange an independent study abroad.
  2. Columbia School of Social Work – This school provides field placement options in over 600 community and public service organizations in New York City, a diverse metropolis where there are many agencies serving specialized populations and needs.
  3. The University of Texas at Arlington School of Social Work – In addition to clinical placements, this school allows students to gain field work experiences in community and administrative practice. These opportunities allow students to gain skills in financial management, advocacy, and proposal-writing.
  4. Widener University Center for Social Work Education – This program has long-standing partnerships with three different clinics, allowing students to gain deep knowledge and experience in working with vulnerable adults, community engagement and outreach, or community building. They also offer an individualized placement process.

Best Online Experience

Online MSW programs utilize different types of software and online services to engage students in their social work education, and some are better than others. These programs offer the best overall online experience for students.

  1. Our Lady of the Lake Worden School of Social Service – Our Lady of the Lake’s progressive online MSW program won the President Award for Excellence from the CSWE in 2009. They are one of only three online MSW programs that specialize in serving Latino families, and the online experience is specifically designed to address emerging needs and trends.
  2. The Catholic University of America National Catholic School of Social Service – Offering small class sizes, good faculty to student ratios with hands-on faculty instruction, and the application of evidence-based practice in their online curriculum, The Catholic University of American’s online MSW is a great option.
  3. University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work – Classes in this program are conducted in a live-seminar style with small class sizes, encouraging collaboration and active student engagement.
  4. Sacred Heart University – This popular private university offers an online MSW program that has received consistent top rankings and can be completed in one year.


Choosing the Right Online MSW Program for You
Article Name
Choosing the Right Online MSW Program for You
Not all online MSW programs are created equal, and not all MSW students are looking for the same qualities in a program. Choosing the Right Online MSW Program is key.