Written By - Derick de Souza

Edited By Darryl S.

Review & Contribution By Tracy C. Eidson

Education is essential, 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 scams by ensuring their school or program is fully accredited. Accreditation is when 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.

msw online accredited

Table Of Contents

Featured Online Programs

Southern New Hampshire University

PROGRAM: Online Masters Degrees in Social Sciences

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 is a requirement for licensure

Most states’ education requirements will demand that the applicant graduate 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 is necessary to earn a doctorate eventually

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 students must transfer to another MSW program, they usually request and expect their previously completed coursework to 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 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 to 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 who doesn’t have a degree from such an institution will be at a severe disadvantage. Given this drawback and how easy it is to find an accredited MSW online program, prospective students have no reason not to attend an accredited social work program.

Read about general Accreditation and a list of Accredited Online MSW Programs on our Online MSW Programs page.

Accredited Online MSW Programs: Spotlight Schools

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 the ASU 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

3. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Here is a full listing of the Accredited Online MSW Programs on our main page for Online MSW Programs.

How to Find Accredited Online MSW Programs

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 a program can be accredited while the school is not (though this is quite rare). However, programmatic accreditation is what they should focus on for students researching potential schools to apply to and earn an online MSW degree.

To determine if a school has regional accreditation, the U.S. Department of Education’s Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs is the best place to look. 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, the Council on 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 over 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 career development, networking, and leadership opportunities. CSWE’s website has an online directory of accreditation programs for anyone wishing to confirm a program’s accreditation status.

To become accredited, schools must undergo 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 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:

  1. The school is regionally accredited by a body recognized by the Commission on Higher Education Accreditation.
  2. The school is legally allowed to operate as a school in its state.
  3. The school has a written anti-discrimination policy.
  4. A suitably qualified and capable school administrator is in place to operate a social work program.
  5. 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 pach of these steps can a school be awarded CSWE accreditation for their social work program.

Learn More About Master’s in Social Work Online 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 are the best for various 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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