Why This Matters

  • THE U.S. NEEDS 64,000 MORE SOCIAL WORKERS BY 2031

    Employment opportunities in this field are expected to increase by 9% from 2021 to 2031, which is much faster than average. Population changes and increasing health care spending are contributing to growth in this sector.

  • SOCIAL WORKERS ARE VITAL TO A VARIETY OF SETTINGS

    Social work is a diverse and evolving discipline. These professionals work in ambulatory care settings, government agencies, community development corporations, clinics, schools, and private practices.

  • THOSE WITH A MASTER’S CAN EARN OVER $80,000 ANNUALLY

    The median annual salary for all social workers in the United States is $50,390, while the highest 10 percent earn more than $82,840 per year.

Our Research

This list features some of the best master’s in social work programs at top colleges across the country. Each school featured is a nonprofit, accredited institution — either public or private — with a high standard of academic quality for post-secondary institutions. The programs on our list are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), a national organization that assesses social work programs for educational excellence and a commitment to quality education.

We evaluated each school’s program on tuition costs, admission, retention and graduation rates, faculty, and reputation as well as the student resources provided for on-campus students. Then we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Next, we compared this comprehensive list of master’s in social work programs to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like the U.S. News & World Report among others to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

The Top 50 Master’s in Social Work (MSW) Degree Programs

Best Master's in Social Work (MSW) Degree Programs 2023
01
Intelligent Pick
Washington University in St. Louis
01
Best Scholarships
University of Maryland at Baltimore County
01
Best Public Institution
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
01
Best Hands-on Training
University of Washington at Seattle Campus
01
Best Ivy League
University of Pennsylvania
01
Best Research Opportunities
University of Southern California
01
Best International Programs
The University of Texas at Austin
01
Best for Professionals
University of Illinois at School of Social Work
01
Best Alumni Network
University of California at Berkeley
01
Best Faculty
University of Wisconsin at Madison
01

Columbia University at School of Social Work
01

University of Michigan at School of Social Work
01

University at Buffalo at School of Social Work
01

University of Illinois at Chicago
01

University of Pittsburgh
01

University of Chicago
01

Boston College
01

Boston University
01

University of Minnesota at Twin Cities
01

Ohio State University
01

Rutgers School of Social Work
01

University of Houston
01

Indiana University School of Social Work
01

The University of Texas at Arlington
01

Fordham University
01

The University of Alabama at School of Social Work
01

NYU Silver School of Social Work
01

Case Western Reserve University
01

University of Louisville
01

University of Kansas
01

Tulane School of Social Work
01

Smith College
01

Florida State University
01

Portland State University
01

California State University at Fresno
01

California State University at Bakersfield
01

California State University at Los Angeles
01

California State University at Long Beach
01

Indiana University Bloomington
01

Michigan State University
01

UConn School of Social Work
01

Arizona State University at School of Social Work
01

University of North Carolina at Charlotte
01

Samford University
01

The Catholic University of America
01

Colorado State University Graduate School
01

University of New Hampshire at Manchester
01

Savannah State University
01

Texas Tech University
01

Widener University

 

What You Should Know About This Degree

When considering a career in social work, it’s important to determine your goals. Many entry-level jobs, including positions as a case management aide, community outreach worker, human services specialist, mental health assistant, or probation officer, only require only a bachelor’s degree.

Social work positions with more responsibility typically require a master’s degree. For instance, clinical social workers must have a master’s degree in social work. This specialized area focuses on the assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental illness.

In addition to opening up more opportunities in the field, a master’s degree in social work gives graduates the potential to earn some of the industry’s highest salaries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for all social workers in the U.S. was $50,390, while the highest 10% earned more than $82,840. Master’s degree holders typically earn higher wages than those who only have a bachelor’s degree.

All states require clinical social workers to be licensed, and most states have similar certification standards for nonclinical professionals. Because licensing requirements vary by state, students should contact their state licensure board.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching MSW programs:

  • Am I eligible for this program? Admission requirements vary by program, but all expect students to have a baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university. Many require applicants to demonstrate liberal arts undergraduate preparation through the completion of courses in the social and behavioral sciences, such as anthropology, psychology, and sociology.
  • How long does it take to complete this degree? Full-time graduate MSW programs typically require two years to complete. Some programs allow you to complete your MSW on an accelerated schedule. If you hold a bachelor’s degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited institution, you may be able to earn your MSW in one year.

As you research programs, review admission requirements, including required application materials, and take note of application deadlines. You can usually find information about the graduate application process online or by contacting their admissions department.

Financing your graduate education is another important consideration. Tuition and fees vary by program. Some programs provide funding for MSW students in the form of assistantships, fellowships, and scholarships. To see if you’re eligible, complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). If you’re employed, ask your employer about educational assistance programs.