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best online msw degree programs
How to find best programs?
top online social work masters programs
Spotlight schools?
best online social work masters programs
Tips for students
best online schools for masters in social work
Best Programs List

Find the Best Online MSW Programs

best online msw programs

Everyone wants the best. But if you ask 100 people to define what makes something “the best,” you’ll get 100 different answers. This same idea applies to choosing the best academic program. While there some objective ways to quantify what makes one school better than another, what constitutes “the best” will be specific to each student.

For some students, cost will be a major driver of program choice. For others, it might be the opportunity to focus on a concentration. We’re here to help prospective students understand and choose among the best online MSW programs, based on their specific needs.

How to Find the Best Online MSW Programs

There are plenty of ways for students to decide what the best online schools for master’s in social work might be for them. Some of these reasons include:

Affordable tuition.

Most students want to choose a school with the lowest tuition. But don’t forget to look at other expenses, such as books, travel and fees when deciding how affordable a program really is.

We have created a list of schools that offer affordable online MSW programs here

Financial aid options.

The availability of financial aid can make a very big difference in cost of attendance. While many scholarships allow recipients to attend any eligible school they choose, some scholarships are only available to admitted students.

Find out more about Financial aid for online master’s programs here

A good graduation rate.

The higher the graduation rate, the better the program is, right? Well, maybe. A 100 percent graduation rate could mean the school isn’t challenging enough. But a dismal graduation rate could be the fault of an overeager admissions office. Weigh this one carefully with other factors.

Job placement and career services.

Though finding post-graduate employment is largely based on student effort, the process can be made much easier when a school has an involved career services office. Look for a school with a strong alumni association, robust career services and networking opportunities.

Strong faculty and staff.

Signs of great faculty include those that have attained the highest level of education in their field, performed a great amount of research and have years of experience working in the social work field.  A low student-to-faculty ratio helps, too – students get more individual attention that way.


Accreditation results when an independent body reviews a school or program and finds it provides a solid level of training and instruction. The lack of accreditation should be a non-starter for any prospective social work master’s student. Students should only look for programs that have been accredited by the CSWE or Council on Social Work Education.

We have created a list of schools that offer Accredited Online MSW Program here.

Read more about general Accreditation here.

Flexible online options.

Schools can offer distance learning in many ways. The best for those with very busy schedules will be asynchronous learning, where a student can log on at any time and complete requirements by a certain due date. Students can also look for accelerated courses to help ease their scheduling difficulties.  

Ease of completing fieldwork.

Any accredited MSW program will have in-person fieldwork requirements. Prospective students need to ensure they will have access to fieldwork sites close to work or home that have been or can be approved by the online MSW program administration.

A reasonable admissions rate.

There’s no point in applying to a school if it’s impossible to get into, so it’s nice when a program has a good admissions rate. But beware of programs that have low admissions standards. This may be a sign that the program isn’t as high-quality as it should be or that its accreditation is in jeopardy.

Challenging programs.

Master’s students attend school to learn, so an important consideration is the quality of the teaching. Good signs of a challenging program include number and types of specializations available, opportunities for self-pacing and additional curriculum requirements such as projects, internships or on-campus residencies.


Spotlight Schools: Best Master of Social Work Programs Online

What are some of the best schools for social work programs? These spotlight schools give master’s in social work students an idea of what to expect when looking for top schools for their educational pursuits.

Boston University

California State University, Northridge

Case Western Reserve University


Tips for Creating a Personal Online MSW Ranking

Since so many factors go into choosing what’s “best” and that varies from one person to another, perhaps the easiest way to choose the top online MSW program will be to create a personalized ranking. This process can be started by identifying what matters most to the MSW student.

For example, someone paying their own tuition without any financial aid or outside assistance might place a lot of emphasis on the tuition cost. But another student who has an employer that will reimburse them for the cost of the online MSW degree may not care at all what the tuition rate is. Creating an individualized ranking of the best online MSW programs begins with figuring out what is essential to the student, then ranking those factors based on importance.

As another example, someone who has little experience in the social work field may want to attend a program with a well-established alumni network and supportive career services department to help them find post-graduate employment. But someone already working in the social work field who has a job waiting for them once they graduate from the online MSW program probably won’t need to worry too much about access to the program’s alumni or how helpful a career services office is.

One thing to keep in mind is accreditation. An online MSW program that’s not accredited by the CSWE will be practically worthless, as it will make the chances of licensure and obtaining any form of financial aid almost impossible. Luckily, there are tons of fully accredited online MSW programs for interested students to choose from.


Learn More about Finding the Best Value Online MSW

Many factors go into what makes a school great. Accreditation and affordability are two of the most important, but obviously there are others that matter as well. To learn more about social work master’s programs, check out the following pages:


Best Online MSW Programs

College Name & Address Tuition Financial id
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA 90007
Columbia University in the City of New York
New York, NY
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Champaign, IL
Boston University
Boston, MA
Rutgers University-New Brunswick
New Brunswick, NJ    
$28,194 80%
Florida State University
Tallahassee, FL
$27,360 80%
Indiana University-Bloomington
Bloomington, IN   
$35,456 77%

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