The Master of Social Work Degree

Completing your Master's in social work or public administration can be very rewarding for getting ahead in the social work field. Online Master's degrees are perfect for working professionals or people with families to complete course work at their own convenience. Please see our colleges below that offer online class for MSW degrees.

University of Southern California — To become a successful social worker, one need look no further than the University of Southern California Master of Social Work program. The curriculum will both develop your leadership skills and enable you to influence the world around you for the betterment of your local and global community.

University of New England — At the University of New England School of Social Work, students in the Master's program have a variety of concentrations in both individual, family, and group practice and organizational and community practice. The school is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.

Our Lady of the Lake University — Our Lady of the Lake is a private, Catholic college located near San Antonio and is one of the few colleges offering an online program for a Master of Social Work degree. This program focuses on social services leadership and advance direct practice with an emphasis on service to Hispanic families and communities.

Kaplan University — The MPA program at Kaplan University offers a curriculum whose classes will help you create a positive effect on social and ethical issues. Through interactions with staff, faculty, and your peers, the degree will prepare you for careers in social work, public administration, and public management.

Click here to learn about more Master of Social Work colleges.

Search for your online MSW degree...

Complete this short form and we'll match you with degree programs tailored to your interests.

Online MSW Programs

Social work is a rewarding and challenging profession. It’s perfect for those with a strong desire and motivation to help improve people’s lives. Social workers assist people by helping them cope with and solve issues such as family and personal problems, relationship issues, disabilities, life-threatening diseases, unemployment, substance abuse, inadequate housing, and more. Other social workers conduct research, advocate for improved services, or are involved in planning and policy development. Typically a social worker will specialize in a specific population group within a certain setting. Find out more about MSN and other related degrees below:

What are Online MSW Programs?

Social work is a growing profession. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that employment is projected to grow faster than average, expected to increase by 16 percent during the 2008–18 decade. There are many online graduate-level degree programs in social work. While a bachelor’s degree is necessary for entry-level positions, a master’s degree is necessary for more advanced careers. A higher degree also increases income and career options.

With an MSW you’ll be prepared to work in your chosen specialization and continue to develop skills required to perform clinical assessments, manage large caseloads, take on supervisory roles, and explore new ways of drawing upon social services to meet the needs of your clients. You will also be required to do a fieldwork placement even if you’re a distance-learning student. Fieldwork may include internships at agencies and institutions; some online programs will help you find fieldwork placements close to where you live. Typically MSW programs last one to two years and include a minimum of 900 hours of supervised field instruction or internship. A part-time online program may take four years. A bachelor’s degree is not always needed to enroll in a master’s program; however, courses in psychology, biology, sociology, economics, political science, and social work are recommended, if not required.

It is important to make sure an online school is recognized by the state-licensing agency where you wish to practice social work. School accreditation is also important to licensing agencies and future employers. The Council on Social Work Education is a good resource to check for program accreditation. The CSWE is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation as the sole accrediting agency for social work education in the United States.

This degree is ideal for people who are emotionally mature, objective, and sensitive to people and their problems. Social workers must work in an ethical and culturally sensitive manner. They must be able to work independently and maintain good working relationships with clients and coworkers. If you’re considering this field but don’t know if it’s really something you want to pursue, there are many volunteer or paid jobs that can help you test your skills.

Licensure Process after Completing an Online MSW Program:

All states have licensing, certification, and registration requirements regarding practicing social work and the use of professional social work titles. Typically states require two years or 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience for licensure. It’s important to know what your state’s requirements are before entering an online MSW degree program. Due to some limitations on what settings unlicensed social workers may work in, make sure to research the requirements in your state.

With an online MSW degree, it’s easy to advance your social work career. Advancements to supervisor, program manager, assistant director, or executive director of a social service agency or department usually require related work experience in addition to an advanced degree. If you wish to go into private practice you need an MSW degree and supervised work experience. Most private practitioners are clinical social workers who provide psychotherapy. To work with a government agency, an MSW degree is typically required.

What are Job Options for Online MSW Program Graduates?

There are many jobs options for MSW students. Clinical social workers practice in schools, hospitals, child welfare agencies, juvenile court, and other locations within the criminal justice system, homeless agencies, rape crisis centers and trauma centers, and employee assistance programs. There are also policy positions within federal agencies, county and municipal service agencies, public health institutions, and disaster relief programs. The options are immense for licensed clinical social workers, and you’re bound to find something you’re passionate about with your online MSW degree. Ten of the most popular social work jobs include:

  1. Child Protection Social Worker: Typically a child protection social worker intervenes in child abuse cases. This type of social worker may be employed by a county or state, or for an agency funded by the government. Much of the daily work involves outreach to victims, as many victims are complicit with keeping their situations a secret. Typically these social workers work with school counselors. They must take a very proactive role in cases, especially once brought to the attention of government officials or employees.
  2. Community Organizer: Community organizers can provide leadership to accomplish a task for an organization that focuses on social justice issues. Community organizer social workers can be found working in civic organizations, tenant and block associations, neighborhood improvement committees, parent associations, church outreach to the poor, citizen mobilization, school-based projects, and countless other local action groups.
  3. Employee Assistance Social Worker: Typically EAP social workers support vulnerable employees in workplaces. An EAP social worker is the first point of contact for employees with social problems affecting them, their families, and the surrounding community. These may be problems dealing with substance abuse, or severe family and professional dynamics.
  4. Family Practitioner: These social workers work as clinical counselors with children and families. They often provide assistance in a variety of areas, including finding housing, medical care, or safety from an abusive situation. There are also specialized counseling opportunities in the juvenile justice system for family practitioners.
  5. Hospice Social Worker: The first responsibility of a hospice social worker is to evaluate the needs of the patient and their family upon entering the hospice program. They must work with patients on physical and emotional comfort, assist families with issues such as withholding care, and financial difficulties associated with extended treatment. Often hospice social workers must be prepared to work with death.
  6. Program Developer: This type of professional is a social or community organizer who develops a community in the literal sense of the word through building houses, renovating abandoned buildings, and finding affordable housing in communities. They also can develop a community through social infrastructure as organizers, planners, managers, and program developers within organizations. Program developers must analyze a group or community, develop an action plan, and then build a project to help that community.
  7. School Social Worker: These social workers are responsible for working with children who exhibit behavioral problems, excess absenteeism, or who have visible signs of abuse. Intercepting families who are having difficulties that are reflected in a child’s behavior or appearance is also a duty of a school social worker. This role usually entails a complex situation that involves family and community and school personnel.
  8. Social Work Case Manager: This position is similar to a clinical counselor that manages multiple clients (cases) at once. Duties can range from intervention through the development of a treatment plan and intermittent counseling as the client progresses. Clients include families and individuals.
  9. Substance Abuse Social Worker: Addiction is a prevalent problem in our society, which makes the need for substance abuse social workers high. Typically these social workers work in rehabilitation programs. In this position it’s important to understand addiction. The addictive personality can be a challenge for someone who hasn’t been through it or lived with it.
  10. Trauma Specialist: A trauma specialist works in an emergency room or intervenes in abuse situations in a domestic setting. Elderly people, wives, children, or any family member that suffers from physical or psychological abuse, neglect, or abandonment make up the clientele population.

Search for your online MSW degree...

Complete this short form and we'll match you with degree programs tailored to your interests.