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Online Master of Social Work (MSW) Guide

A master's degree in social work provides the necessary educational background for employment in community service careers, such as roles in public advocacy and mental healthcare. Many aspiring social workers pursue their master's degree in social work online. A bachelor's degree in social work (BSW) qualifies holders for some general positions in the field, but specialized careers in areas such as clinical private practice, school social work, or healthcare social work require a master's degree in social work (MSW).

Graduates of social work master's programs typically have more employment opportunities and higher earning potential than professionals with only a bachelor's degree. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 16% employment growth rate for social workers through 2026, higher than the national average for all occupations. Students in social work masters programs gain core competencies in areas including ethical practices and social behavior, which transfer to careers in related areas, such as counseling.

Covered in This Article:
  • What To Expect From an Online MSW Program
  • Online MSW Program Accreditation
  • What Can You Do With an Online MSW?
  • Social Work Concentrations and Specializations
  • Obtaining Social Work Licensure
  • Professional Social Work Organizations

What to Expect From an Online MSW Program

Details of online MSW programs vary by school. Some schools offer only a clinical track with a variety of concentrations; others offer tracks in areas such as school social work and healthcare social work. Keep reading to learn what to expect from accredited online MSW programs.

How Much is an Online MSW?

Total costs of tuition and fees for online master's in social work programs vary widely, ranging from about $13,000 per year to $40,000 per year. While tuition for online degrees is typically the same as that for on-campus programs, some schools charge in-state tuition rates for all online learners, regardless of residency.

Additionally, distance learners often save on expenses related to campus housing and transportation. Online students do not need to relocate or commute, which eliminates parking fees and incidentals such as restaurant meals. Distance learners also avoid childcare costs, and many maintain employment while earning their master's of social work online.

Students pursuing MSW online programs may also avoid fees for on-campus services, such as health center fees, printing costs, and technology service fees. Of course, online students must have reliable computer and internet access, so learners should factor in home technology costs when determining their budget.

Find a program for you on The Most Affordable Online Master's in Social Work Programs

What Will I Learn in an Online MSW Program?

Course requirements for students completing social work master's programs online, and similar classes may have different titles. However, the courses below are common to most master's in social work online programs.

  • Clinical Social Work Theory and Practice: In this foundational course, students develop a framework for clinical practice and learn assessment and intervention methods. Coursework integrates theories of human social behavior, interpersonal relationship skills, and intervention techniques to prepare students for effective and ethical clinical practice with individuals, families, and communities.
  • Social Policy Analysis and Advocacy: This course analyzes social problems and the development of U.S. social welfare policies within current and historical contexts. Students gain advocacy skills and prepare for careers in areas such as housing and mental health policy. The course emphasizes policy-making processes and the role of social workers in shaping aid programs.
  • Wellness Promotion and Intervention: This course explores and analyzes wellness across the lifespan, preparing students to support and promote community well-being. Coursework emphasizes distinctions between health and wellness and covers strategic tools to enhance wellness across cultures and economic groups. Students explore policy research, developmental models, and assessment measures to develop effective community intervention strategies.
  • Healthcare Policy: This course surveys the effects of healthcare policy on social work practice. Learners explore strategies for improvement and integration of care services. The course emphasizes the link between research and policy proposals and prepares students to serve community interests. Topics include healthcare reform law, sustainability, and health promotion initiatives.
  • Marital and Family Therapy:

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