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Education is important, but it can also be expensive, and it can take a lot of time to get the degree necessary to have a great career. Maybe that’s one of the reasons some master’s students will look for academic shortcuts that allow them to get their degree in less time or with less effort. Unfortunately, at some point the not-so-reputable colleges noticed this and began offering degrees that weren’t worth the paper they were printed on. These “diploma mills” took advantage of hard-working students who didn’t know any better.
The good news is that students can easily avoid these types of scams by ensuring their school or program is fully accredited. Accreditation is the process by which an independent organization reviews a school and determines if its curriculum meets the rigorous requirements of a high-quality education. Let’s look at why accredited schools are the only way to go for social work students – or any other student, for that matter – and what students must do to ensure they only apply to Accredited Online MSW Programs.
www.onlinemasterscolleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
Southern New Hampshire University is a private, nonprofit, accredited institution with more than 3,000 on-campus students and over 60,000 online students, making us one of the fastest-growing universities in the country. Founded in 1932, we’ve been relentlessly reinventing higher education ever since and have gained national recognition for our dedication to helping students transform their lives and the lives of those around them.
We’re proud to provide affordable, accessible education that students can pursue on our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH, over our innovative online platform or at our regional centers in Manchester, Nashua, Portsmouth and Salem, NH, and Brunswick, ME.
SNHU has earned the GetEducated.com Best Buy and Best of Business – Best Online Degree awards and is consistently ranked as a top Military Friendly® School by G.I Jobs®.
Why Should You Pursue Accredited Online MSW Programs?
In addition to ensuring that the degree pursuit will result in a solid, recognizable credential, there are other reasons why accreditation matters so much for aspiring social workers. Here’s why
It’s a requirement for licensure.
Most states’ education requirements will demand that the applicant graduated from an accredited institution. While the wording of the applicable law in some states may leave open the technical possibility of a student becoming licensed without a degree from an accredited institution, no student should expect to become licensed unless they have graduated from an accredited program.
It matters at hiring time.
Many employers within the social work profession fully expect new hires to have a degree from an accredited institution. If it’s not explicitly listed in the job eligibility requirements, it’ll be implied, such as requiring that new hires be fully licensed in the state, they expect to practice in.
It’s necessary to eventually earn a doctorate.
Social workers who wish to advance their education even further and obtain their doctorate will still need to meet the admissions requirements for those programs, and all of them require that the student hold a degree from an accredited institution.
Only accredited credits will transfer.
If a student must transfer to another MSW program, they will usually request and expect that their previously completed coursework will be accepted as transfer credit. While each school has its own policies and rules concerning what they will accept as transfer credit, most schools will reject any credits that were obtained through a non-accredited institution.
Financial aid rules often require accreditation.
Most forms of financial aid, from gift-based grants and scholarships to federal loans, will require recipients to attend an accredited school and/or program. Some private scholarships may not have this requirement, but they will be relatively rare. As for government-based financial aid, this option will always require the financial aid be spent at an accredited institution.
It creates equal footing with peers.
Because of the near universal requirement that social workers graduate from programs with accreditation, any student that doesn’t have a degree from such an institution will be at a severe disadvantage. Given this drawback, as well as how easy it is to find an accredited MSW online program, prospective students have no reason not to attend an accredited social work program.
Given the importance of accreditation, practically all MSW online programs are accredited by the CSWE. Some of the more popular programs are detailed here as our spotlight schools.
1. Arizona State University
More commonly known as ASU, Arizona State University has one of the largest and most robust distance learning programs in the country. ASU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (formerly known as the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges). Its distance learning programs are collectives known as ASU Online and includes theASU School of Social Work, which holds programmatic accreditation from the CSWE.
ASU’s online MSW program consists of 60 credits and 20 classes. However, the number of credits and classes may be reduced based on how many transfer credits the student brings in. Each class lasts approximately seven and a half weeks; most of the classwork is completed asynchronously. Because of the relatively short length of these courses, a program start date occurs every seven and a half weeks. Like any other CSWE accredited online social work master’s degree programs, students must complete their fieldwork requirement, which consist of 960 hours. There is also the requirement that students finish an Applied Portfolio Project and internship.
Full-time student status consists of nine credit hours per semester. And even though ASU is a public institution, students are charged the same tuition rate regardless of their residency status.
2. University of Houston
The University of Houston is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Its Graduate College of Social Workis accredited by the CSWE and offers students the opportunity for three types of learning styles: traditional on-campus, hybrid and fully online (notwithstanding the fieldwork requirements). While the fully online program is exactly that, the hybrid program’s curriculum is still 75 percent online, with each class having both online and in-class portions; the in-person requirement means students meet one or two Saturdays each month.
Students enrolled in the traditional program can choose between an emphasis on a micro (clinical) or macro level practice in addition to concentration areas including Health and Behavioral Health, Social Work Practice with Latinos, Political Social Work and Individualized. Online or hybrid students are limited to the micro level practice with the sole specialization options being in Health and Behavioral Health.
Under normal circumstances, a student will complete the fully online program in three years, usually by finishing two courses per semester. These classes are offered in both synchronous and asynchronous formats. However, students with advanced standing (bachelor’s degree in social work) can finish their MSW in two and a half years. Online students may complete their fieldwork requirements close to home at an approved location.
3. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
As the flagship institution of the University of Illinois university system, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is a premier post-secondary institution with a plethora of program offerings, including its School of Social Work. The university is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The School of Social Work offers the CSWE accredited online MSW program.
In addition to its traditional on-campus program, the School of Social Work has two online program options. The iMSW Program is fully online, but only allows students to take a course of study that prepares them for macro level social work. The iMSW Hybrid Program has both online and on-campus classroom components and it allows students to choose from both micro (clinical) and macro level practice program tracks. Even though the iMSW Hybrid program is not 100 percent online, the on-campus components are limited, with students coming to campus over four weekends per semester.
Students at the School of Social Work hoping for a variety of concentrations are going to be happy with several options. Students can choose between Leadership and Social Change or Advanced Clinical. The Advanced Clinical has varioussub-specialties, including:
Before getting into the details about the accreditation of MSW online degree programs, let’s first discuss the two primary types: regional (also known as institutional) and programmatic. Regional accreditation deals with the accreditation of an educational institution. Most schools are accredited by an organization that has jurisdiction over a region consisting of several states.
Programmatic accreditation goes to a specific program, so it’s possible for a program to be accredited while the school is not (though this is quite rare). However, for students researching potential schools to apply to and earn an online MSW degree, programmatic accreditation is what they should focus on.
To find out of a school has regional accreditation, the best place to look is the U.S. Department of Education’s Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs. MSW students can search by school to learn if they are accredited and by what organization. Of course, students can also check the school’s website or contact the school directly but checking the U.S. Department of Education’s website is the most reliable way of confirming regional accreditation.
What about CSWE accreditation?
When it comes to the accreditation of social work programs, theCouncil Social Work Education, or CSWE, is the primary accrediting body. Founded in 1952 and recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, the CSWE accredits more than 800 bachelor’s and master’s level social work programs. Besides ensuring the quality of social work academic programs, the CSWE also promotes the social work profession through opportunities for career development, networking and leadership. CSWE’s website has anonline directory of accreditation programs for anyone wishing to confirm a program’s accreditation status.
To become accredited, schools must go through an extensive and somewhat complicated process. Accreditation can take months to years to obtain. For a school seeking initial accreditation, the process begins by submitting a letter of institutional intent, a candidacy eligibility fee and a candidacy eligibility application. The letter of institutional intent is basically a document in which the school explains why it wants to have an accredited social work program and what that program will offer.
In the eligibility application, the school confirms that it meets the eligibility requirements, some of the more notable being:
The school is regionally accredited by a body recognized by the Commission on Higher Education Accreditation.
The school is legally allowed to operate as a school in its state.
The school has a written anti-discrimination policy.
A properly qualified and capable school administrator is in place to handle the operation of a social work program.
The school has the resources to operate and maintain a social work program.
What follows is a series of campus visits and application submissions that cover program specifics, such as the curriculum and whether students will be effectively trained to work in the social work profession. Only after passing each of these steps can a school be awarded CSWE accreditation for their social work program.
Learn More about Social Work Online Master’s Programs
Understanding why accreditation matters makes it clear that the only option for a hard-working student will be a CSWE accredited program. But beyond this very important factor, there are others to consider, such as how much a program will cost, and which ones are the best for a variety of good reasons. To learn more about social work programs at the master’s level, check out our other guides on the subject:
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