The social work profession takes this approach – it is less of a job and more of a calling. Social workers attend those in need by helping, caring, and treating the elderly, the homeless and unemployed, those with disabilities, abused children, those addicted to drugs, the terminally ill, and juvenile delinquents for example.

The social work field can encompass many different options. There are careers in courts, mental health centers, family agencies, inpatient units, senior centers, healthcare careers, administrative positions in organizations and agencies, and academic positions like researchers and professors to name just some.

In today’s fast-moving, tech-savvy society the necessity for convenient, flexible, and online degrees is growing. In the world of social work, schools are rising to the challenge to educate men and women in the 21st century for the 21st century. An online Master of Social work is worth considering. Demand is growing and it’s a good time to enter the field, earn a promotion, or work on professional development.

What is the job prospects for social work?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual salary for a social work teacher or researcher is $67,500. Now is an ideal time to earn a Master’s in Social Work. The BLS projects overall employment of social workers to grow 16 percent from 2016 to 2026. With a Master in Social Work in hand from an accredited university, you will set yourself up for a satisfying career.

What are some potential jobs that open up with an MSW?

  • Substance abuse counseling
  • Child welfare/family services
  • Veterans affairs/services to military personnel
  • Private practice
  • Government agencies or NGOs
  • Corporations or high-profile businesses
  • Hospitals, clinics, and outpatient care settings
  • Internationally focused organizations/practices
  • Medical/Public Health
  • Correctional Social Work

How do I choose the best school for an online MSW?

The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) is the nation’s authoritative accrediting agency for social work. Look for schools and programs that are CSWE-accredited. The CSWE offers accreditation only to schools that meet its high standards and pass a variety of steps overseen by the CSWE Office of Social Work Accreditation. The schools on our list are CSWE-accredited, which translates for you to a program that is trustworthy and puts a high premium on field education.

In addition to looking for accreditation keep your eyes out for competitive tuition rates, great career/student services, job search support, and field placement assistance. Also be aware of the fact that some schools require a residency (which is noted in this top 20 list). Also, the online delivery of the curriculum may impact your decision: asynchronous, synchronous, or a combination.

What are some different types of MSW programs?

In addition to accreditation, school resources, convenience, and affordability the actual degree-type may impact your decision. There are clinical MSW programs that focus on serious illness, substance abuse, and domestic conflict, for example. Clinical programs have curriculums that include the use of evidence-informed approaches to intervention and treatment in a variety of settings. Non-Clinical social workers usually work on a consulting basis as opposed to in a clinical setting. A minimum of a BSW is required for non-clinical work. An MSW is required for clinical work and earns a higher salary. In addition to these broad differences are many different concentrations and specializations.


We’ve searched through the nation’s online programs and found schools with accredited programs, high academic reputations, and affordable tuition. We collected data using reliable sources such as the National Center for Education Statistics,, and each school’s website and scored the reputation, quality, and cost of each school to create this list. 

This following ranking was calculated based on these percentages:

  • Cost per Credit Hour – 30%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio – 15%
  • Average Mid-Career Salary – 25%
  • Retention Rate – 15%
  • Percentage of Graduate Students – 15%
  1. Columbia University
    Average Cost:
    • Location: New York, NY
    • Cost per Credit: $1564
    • Total Undergraduate Students: 8,170  
    • Student to Faculty Ratio: 6 to 1
    • Degrees Offered: Bachelor’s degree, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master’s degree, Post-master’s certificate, Doctor’s degree – research/scholarship, Doctor’s degree-professional practice
    • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education as well as numerous other accrediting bodies.

    King George chartered Columbia University in 1754. As one of the nine colonial colleges, CU’s experience, tradition, and reputation are among the best. A founding school of the Association of American Universities, CU is known for research and academic rigor.

    Columbia University has always been at the front of the pack. Their online Master’s in Social Work is simple, convenient, fully-online, and quality. The MSW can be earned in one of five ways: Two-Year Program, Advanced Standing, Reduced Residency, Extended Program, or Transfer Program. Within those, there are two specializations/concentrations, Advanced Clinical Practice or Social Enterprise Administration as well as two fields of practice: Family, Youth & Children’s Services or Health, Mental Health & Disabilities.

    CU’s MSW is synchronously delivered and orientation, all coursework, and your final capstone are completely online. An element worth noting at CU is the academic support. The Office of Advising assigns you a local social work professional to serve as your advisor.

    This is factored into your 60-credit program as the face-to-face component with a professional in the real-world and beautifully complements the curriculum. Along with courses in human behavior and the social environment, social welfare policy and services, you are required to log 1,200 hours in the field.

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  2. University of Denver
    Average Cost:

    The University of Denver is a private school set in the majestic Rockies on a 125-acre campus arboretum. In such a beautiful setting, students enjoy high-quality academics and many outdoor extra-curricular options. UD is known for Business, Law, Social Work, and Communication.

    UD offers an online MSW through their nationally-recognized Graduate School of Social Work. As a CSWE-Accredited program, the [email protected] curriculum takes a social justice approach. Depending on your previous coursework and experience you can complete the program is as little as 18 months (60 credits and one internship), or two years (90 credits and two internships).

    The field work is arranged with local professionals in where you live, making the online option preferable and convenient. Online delivery includes live online classes with UD faculty. The particular focus on [email protected] is a foundational curriculum and concentration in Mental Health and Trauma. Regardless of the setting you work in or plan to work in, the degree will train you to “help individuals, families and communities combat injustice and oppression.”

    Admission is straightforward and requires a Bachelor’s and a preferred 3.0 GPA (2.5 will suffice) and takes place in January, March, June or September.

    Location: Denver, CO
    Cost per Credit: $947
    Total Undergraduate Students: 5,765
    Student to Faculty Ratio: 11 to 1
    Degrees Offered: Less than one year certificate, Bachelor’s degree, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master’s degree, Post-master’s certificate, Doctor’s degree – research/scholarship, Doctor’s degree-professional practice
    Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission as well as several other accrediting bodies.

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