According to the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), reputable online MSW programs exist, though are limited. We researched colleges and universities that offered accredited and ranked accelerated online MSW programs. We considered advanced standing online programs and programs that took less time than the traditional two to three years. Most of the accelerated MSW online program offerings listed below take less than two years to complete. In fact, some of the quickest programs take just eight to twelve months to earn an online master’s in social work.
Top 20 Affordable Accelerated MSW Programs Online Methodology
We looked at approximately 60 online MSW programs listed by the Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) College Navigator and Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) in an effort to find the top 20 accelerated online MSW programs. We narrowed our original pool of schools by applying the following criteria: accreditation, an online pathway for the degree, advanced standing or accelerated degree completion options, and institution rankings with U.S. News and World Report. We then listed the top 20 programs according to raw affordability.
Below are the results of our top 20 accelerated online MSW programs of 2020.
#20 – University of Southern California
Accelerated MSW Programs Online
Los Angeles, California
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $45,561
Recognized as having one of the top accelerated online MSW programs, University of Southern California’s Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work offers advanced standing online MSW degrees for qualifying students. If you have already earned a bachelor’s in social work (BSW), you may be eligible for advanced standing in the USC MSW program. Qualifying applicants may earn the MSW online in as few as 12 months, making the USC MSW one of the shortest degree programs on our list. A key benefit to earning the online MSW faster is that you will also be able to pursue licensure sooner. Along with accreditation and reputation comes national recognition. In fact, USC ranks with U.S. News and World Report as the 22nd best national university.
#19 – Fordham University
Accelerated MSW Programs Online
Bronx, New York
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $34,363
Fordham University’s accelerated MSW online program serves students across the country who have earned a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Traditional online MSW and advanced-standing online MSW programs are available. If students have earned an accredited BSW or completed the first year of a CSWE-accredited MSW program, they may be eligible for the Fordham advanced standing MSW. Advanced standing means you can finish your MSW online degree in eight months when enrolled full-time or 16 months when enrolled part-time. Fordham ranks with major publications like U.S. News and World Report as the 74th best national university.
#18 – Simmons University
Accelerated MSW Programs Online
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $21,894
The online master’s in social work at Simmons University consists of 65 credits, two field education experiences, 1,000-plus hours of field education, and takes approximately 16 months to complete. Accelerated tracks are offered, as well as advanced standing tracks for those who hold an accredited BSW degree. Options to pursue certificates in a special area of interest are also offered, though may extend the time it takes to earn the degree. Certificates offered include mental health practice, practice with groups and families, and trauma practice. The small university in the heart of Boston ranks with U.S. News and World Report as the 125th best national university and 35th best value school.
#17 – Temple University
Accelerated MSW Programs Online
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $17,378
Temple University’s accelerated online MSW program follows a rigorous track to ensure students graduating are highly skilled professionals. Two concentrations are offered: clinical practice with individuals and families and macro practice in organizations, communities, and policy areas. These concentrations allow students to hone skills in specialized areas of interest. Advanced standing MSW options are available, which allow students with a BSW to complete their degree in 12 months when enrolled full-time. Part-time options are also available and extend the time to degree completion to 18 months. U.S. News and World Report ranks Temple #104 in best national universities and #99 in best value schools.
#16 – Our Lady of the Lake University
San Antonio, Texas
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $17,142
Offering a top accelerated MSW online program, Our Lady of the Lake University’s acclaimed Worden School of Social Service provides advanced standing to qualifying students. Through the advanced standing program, students with a social work degree can take fewer credit hours and graduate faster. Often, students save time and money when enrolled in an advanced standing program. For the advanced standing MSW, 30 credits are required for qualifying students who have earned a BSW from a CSWE-accredited program. The Lady of the Lake online MSW takes less than two years with an advanced standing pathway. Ranked and accredited, Our Lady of the Lake University is recognized by U.S. News and World Report as a top national university.
#15 – Edinboro University
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $16,328
The online master’s in social work at Edinboro University prepares graduates for careers in a wide range of practice settings. The program may be completed entirely online, with the exception of a hybrid option for advanced standing students. However, even in the advanced standing program, courses are offered online. To be eligible for advanced standing, applicants must hold a bachelor’s in social work. Advanced standing compresses the length of time it takes to earn the online MSW. Applicants to the advanced standing program are required to have an undergraduate GPA of 3.0. The time to complete the advanced standing degree is just one year. U.S. News and World Report ranks Edinboro #129-#170 in best regional universities in the North.
#14 – University at Buffalo
Buffalo, New York
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $13,705
University at Buffalo’s accelerated MSW online programs include the advanced standing online MSW. This 35-credit program is open to students who have a BSW from a CSWE-accredited program, with no more than six years between the completion of the undergraduate degree and the MSW start date. Minimum undergraduate GPA requirements of 3.0 are also needed. The advanced standing program offers a part-time pathway to completion and takes 1.5 years or five semesters. Courses cover topics like advanced interventions, advanced topic analysis, and perspectives on trauma and human rights. University at Buffalo ranks with U.S. News and World Report as the 79th best national university and 127th best value school.
#13 – University of Louisville
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $12,880
University of Louisville’s accelerated online MSW consists of 100% online courses and requires the completion of 30 credit hours. The program is CSWE-accredited and offers specialization options in alcohol and drug counseling, forensic social work, gerontology, mental health, military social work, or psychological oncology. Admission to the program requires no GRE and flexible online coursework makes the program ideal for working students. Advanced level courses cover topics like advanced social work practice, advanced social work practicum, and social justice policy. In addition to the program’s CSWE accreditation, the school offers rankings with major publications like U.S. News and World Report. In fact, University of Louisville ranks #293-#381 in best national universities.
#12 – Arizona State University
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $12,134
Arizona State University’s accelerated MSW online program is designed to prepare students to work with communities, families, and individuals to promote social justice and find solutions to social issues impacting vulnerable people. A total of 20 courses are required and course topics include assessment of mental disorders, diversity and oppression in social work context, macro social methods, micro human behavior and social environment, and policy practice. Culminating work for the program is tied to a concentration year internship. ASU’s online MSW is CSWE-accredited and moves at a rigorous pace. Students must earn at least a B in each class or their degree will not be conferred. In addition to its CSWE-accreditation, ASU has received rankings from U.S. News and World Report as the 117th best national university.
#11 – Florida State University
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $11,553
The College of Social Work at Florida State University offers an accelerated online MSW that is both CSWE-accredited and available entirely online. The online MSW is a part-time program designed for students who cannot pursue full-time study to work toward the traditional MSW. There is also an advanced standing online MSW option for qualifying students who want to finish their degree requirements at a quicker pace. Admission requirements are standard for the online MSW program, though the GRE is not required for students who meet waiver criteria. Also, advanced standing status is open to students who have earned a BSW. Ranked by U.S. News and World Report, FSU has earned top recognition as a best national university. In fact, the institution ranks #57 in best national universities and #114 in best value schools.
#10 – The University of Alabama
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $10,780
The University of Alabama’s online master’s in social work program consists of 42-60 credits, depending on qualifying pathways and concentrations selected. The advanced standing option allows students to earn less credits and earn the MSW in a shorter length of time than the traditional 60-credit MSW requires. The accelerated program is only open to students with a CSWE-accredited BSW. With advanced standing, students may earn their degree in just three semesters when pursued full-time. Courses include advanced social welfare policy analysis, evaluation research, and 500 clock hours of field education. U of A ranks #153 in best national universities and #129 in best value schools by U.S. News and World Report.
#9 – University of Alaska
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $10,410
The School of Social Work at University of Alaska offers an accredited online master’s in social work designed for busy and working students who desire to complete their degree in one to four years. Accelerated options are available for students with an earned BSW from an accredited college or university. The advanced standing option allows students to earn their degree in a shorter length of time than the traditional MSW. In fact, most advanced standing students earn their online MSW in one to two years. University of Alaska ranks with U.S. News and World Report as the 62nd best regional university in the West and 25th top public institution.
#8 – University of Missouri
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $10,017
University of Missouri’s College of Human Environmental Sciences offers an accelerated online MSW that is CSWE-accredited and delivered fully online. No campus visits are required for the completion of the degree; however, field practicum requirements involve supervised work at an approved agency. For students who have completed a bachelor’s degree program in social work within the past seven years of beginning the MSW program, advanced standing is offered. Instead of completing 60 credits, advanced standing students earn 39 credits in just six semesters. University of Missouri ranks with major publications like U.S. News and World Report. In fact, Mizzou ranks #139 in best national universities and #90 in best value schools.
#7 – University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, North Dakota
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $9,697
University of North Dakota’s accelerated MSW online program allows students to earn an online MSW in one to two years. For students who have completed a BSW degree from a CSWE-accredited college or university, 36 credit hours are required for the MSW to be conferred. Classes are delivered entirely online and students must receive a B average to satisfy degree requirements. While the online MSW is flexible, the advanced standing option means courses move at a rigorous pace. Only serious students need apply, as the rigor of the program requires ample study time. University of North Dakota, a public and accredited institution, ranks with U.S. News and World Report. In fact, UND ranks #263 in best national universities and #128 in top public schools.
#6 – University of Houston
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $9,216
University of Houston’s Graduate College of Social Work offers an accredited online master’s in social work for qualifying students who want to earn their MSW online. The program is ideally designed for independent and self-motivated learners. Applications for admission are reviewed on a rolling basis beginning August 1st. To be fully considered for admission, applicants must submit materials by March 1st. Courses, delivered online, are taught by university professors. These courses cover topics like community development, evaluation of practice, foundations of social work, and policy in the social environment. University of Houston ranks with U.S. News and World Report as the 185th best national university and 133rd best value school in the country.
#5 – Boise State University
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $9,194
Boise State University’s accelerated MSW online program is designed to prepare students for advanced roles in social work practice. Online classes make the program convenient for working students, while the advanced standing track cuts the program length nearly in half, as compared to the traditional MSW. Applicants with a BSW from a CSWE-accredited school may qualify for advanced standing. There are two ways to qualify for advanced standing status. First, the student must have graduated from an accredited BSW program within the last five years. However, if a student has graduated with a BSW within the last ten years but has significant post-BSW social work experience, the student may also qualify. BSU ranks with U.S. News and World Report as a top national university.
#4 – University of Arkansas
Online Accelerated MSW Programs
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $8,612
University of Arkansas offers an accelerated online MSW that consists of 39 credits and takes one year to complete with the advanced standing option. To qualify for the accelerated MSW, applicants must hold a BSW from a CSWE-accredited program, or a program recognized through its International Social Work Degree Recognition and Evaluation Service. In addition to the BSW, students must also have earned an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 for the last 60 hours leading up to the first bachelor’s degree. The University of Arkansas ranks with U.S. News and World Report as the 153rd best national university and 167th best value school.
#3 – Saint Leo University
Online Accelerated MSW Programs
Saint Leo, Florida
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $8,498
Saint Leo University’s online master’s in social work is a full-time online program with an advanced standing option for students who are residents in certain states, such as Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina. Students attend classes via webcam, which allows face-to-face interaction while in the convenience of your own home. The advanced standing option allows students to complete 32 credits in one year. To qualify for advanced standing admission, applicants must have earned a CSWE-accredited BSW with a 3.25 GPA. Saint Leo ranks with major publications, such as U.S. News and World Report. In fact, Saint Leo ranks #25 in best regional universities South and #5 in best value schools.
#2 – Texas State University
San Marcos, Texas
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $8,449
Texas State University ranks as having one of the most affordable accelerated MSW online programs on our list. The mission of the program is to prepare advanced-level social workers for practice in advocacy and research. An online advanced standing option is open to qualifying applicants with an earned and accredited BSW. Courses are delivered online and cover topics like human behavior in individual and family social environments, social welfare policy and services, and social work intervention in drug addiction and abuse. Texas State ranks #293-#381 in national universities. In addition to national rankings, several of the university’s online graduate programs have received recognition, including the online social work programs.
#1 – University of Nevada
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $5,575
The #1 most affordable accelerated online MSW program on our list is offered by University of Nevada at Reno. The CSWE-accredited online program offers advanced standing pathways to qualifying students with an earned BSW degree. Advanced standing students may receive their MSW in as little as 15 months by earning 32 required credits. The traditional MSW program requires the completion of 62 credits. While admission requires an undergraduate degree in social work, there is no GRE stipulation. GRE scores are not needed to apply to the online MSW program. In addition to affordability, University of Nevada also offers recognition by major publications like U.S. News and World Report. In fact, U.S. News ranks the school #240 in best national universities and #117 in top public institutions.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to earn an accelerated MSW online?
The time to completion for an accelerated online MSW varies by program and school. However, we’ve determined an average completion time of 12-16 months based on the programs on our list.
The typical online MSW program requires students earn anywhere between 36 and 60 credits, depending on several factors. Traditional completion pathways take longer than accelerated or advanced standing pathways. Advanced standing MSW programs are designed for students who have earned an accredited BSW or have completed foundational coursework required for the MSW degree. Advanced standing pathways allow students to bypass prerequisite coursework since they gained this knowledge in a BSW program.
In addition to advanced standing, enrollment status, such as full-time or part-time enrollment also impacts completion time. For most of the full-time accelerated online MSW programs on our list, the completion time is up to one year. However, part-time enrollment takes longer to earn the online MSW, though allows students more flexibility. With part-time enrollment, students work at their own pace and take less courses at a time.
In general, an online master’s in social work can take less time to complete than a traditional MSW degree, especially if enrolled in an accelerated program. Online MSW programs are ideal for working students or those balancing family obligations while earning a degree.
How much money will I earn with an accelerated online MSW degree?
Although social work includes a wide range of specialties, the median annual wage for social workers, as of May 2018, was $49,470. This number reflects the median wage at which half of all workers in this occupation earned, according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). BLS also reports that the lowest ten percent of all social workers earned less than $30,750, while the highest ten percent earned approximately $81,400 or higher.
After evaluating top paying industries for social workers, BLS reported the following in May 2018:
Social workers in state, local, and private hospitals earned an annual median wage of $60,100. Local government social workers, excluding hospitals and education facilities, earned an average median wage of $54,430. Other industries evaluated include ambulatory healthcare services, which employ social workers with median annual wages of $49,840; state government social workers earning $48,590; and individual and family services social workers earning median annual wages of $41,810.
The highest paid social workers are healthcare social workers, typically employed by hospitals or medical organizations. BLS reports healthcare social workers earn a median annual wage of $56,200.
Social workers often work full-time. It is not uncommon for social workers to work weekends, holidays, and evenings, which adds overtime pay.
What are the admission requirements for online accelerated MSW programs?
Admission requirements for accelerated online MSW programs vary by institution and program, though many on our list require an earned BSW from a CSWE-accredited college or university. Advanced standing or accelerated MSW online programs require qualifying students hold an earned bachelor’s in social work. By having the degree, students bypass prerequisite courses and shorten the program completion time. Many of the accelerated MSW programs on our list take 12 months to complete when a BSW has already been earned.
In addition to an accredited BSW, admission requirements include satisfactory undergraduate performance. This means programs may stipulate applicants have a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or better. In some cases, programs will ask for a minimum of 2.75 on all undergraduate work. However, top-ranked programs may increase their GPA requirements to 3.5 on all undergraduate work.
A BSW and satisfactory performance on undergraduate work are not the only requirements for admission to accelerated online MSW programs. Some institutions require GRE or GMAT scores received within the last five years. While not all programs require scores, some state they are optional. Submitting test scores may be left up to the discretion of the applicant, however, providing optional test scores can leverage your application. In some cases, online MSW programs offer GRE or GMAT waivers to applicants with high undergraduate GPAs.
Are there specializations I can earn alongside an accelerated online MSW?
Accelerated online MSW programs begin with a set of core classes that must be taken before advancing to higher level courses. In most cases, students enrolling in an advanced standing MSW program have already earned a BSW and have built a solid foundation of knowledge. However, MSW programs build on the foundation gained in a BSW program. During the first year, online MSW students can expect to take additional foundation courses that dig deeper than BSW courses.
Generally, during the final year of an accelerated online MSW program, students have the opportunity to pursue a specialization or concentration. Specializations are ideal for students who wish to tailor their degree toward areas of interest or to serve career goals. Concentrations may lead to careers in areas of social work that involve advocacy, community practice, management and leadership, or mental health.
Several specializations can be earned alongside an accelerated online MSW degree. Some examples may include clinical practice, management and community practice, policy and administration, and policy planning in community health. In policy-making, students may sub-specialize in areas that complement their career aspirations, such as policy-making in social service organizations or political and governmental settings.
What is the job outlook for individuals with an accelerated online MSW?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook, individuals with an accelerated online MSW can expect a favorable job outlook for social workers through 2028. In fact, the overall employment of social workers, as listed by BLS, is projected to grow 11 percent. This is much faster than the average for all occupations. Several factors impact job growth for this specialized field of healthcare workers, which we have detailed below.
BLS indicates job growth will be directly impacted by increased demand for healthcare and social services, which will ultimately drive up the demand for social workers. However, employment growth will vary by specialization.
Counselors, social workers, and other community and social service specialists should see a 12 percent change in employment through 2028. Employment of child, family, and school social workers is also projected to grow. However, the growth rate for this niche of social workers will see an anticipated increase in jobs of seven percent, slightly lower than the overall employment of social workers. Mental health and substance abuse social workers should expect the highest employment growth rate. BLS reports an 18 percent growth in employment for mental health and substance abuse social workers. Lastly, the employment of healthcare social workers is projected to grow 17 percent through 2028.
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