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If you are interested in social work as a career, you may be investigating Master of Social Work (MSW) programs, which are available both online and in person. Online degrees have many benefits, including increased flexibility, the possibility of lower costs, and the option to earn your degree in less time, which makes them attractive to adult learners who have jobs or family commitments in addition to their studies.

Although you can enter the social work field with a bachelor’s degree, an MSW degree opens the door to new opportunities for you. You may be able to earn a higher salary with a master’s degree and you will also be better situated to take on supervisory and leadership roles.

Many MSW programs take roughly two years to complete, but an increasing number of one-year MSW programs online may allow you to earn your degree and advance your career in less time. In this article, we’ll take a look at what you need to know to find the best one-year online MSW program .

How to Earn an MSW in Just One Year

Earning your master’s degree in a single year is a dream come true for many students. It generally means a lower total cost and allows you to advance your career that much more quickly. There are several factors that impact your ability to earn your MSW in a year, however, including your past education and the school you are planning to attend. Following are some of the considerations you’ll need to address when you begin looking for the right school for your one-year MSW.

Number of credits required

Every school designs its own program, so there may be differences in program requirements from school to school — which means that the number of credits you need to earn may differ from school to school. As long as you are attending a program that has been vetted by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), you know you will be graduating with a degree that is respected by recruiters and HR personnel alike.

Most online MSW programs will feature anywhere from 45 to 60 credits, but this varies, as we noted above. For example, some accelerated programs feature shorter but more intense classes that last half as long as a typical 16-week class and earn fewer credits.

When you are searching for the right program to meet your needs, ask your admissions counselor how many credit hours the program requires, considering both classes and supervised clinical experience. You’ll want to determine how many courses you can take simultaneously and what the expected hourly commitment is for those classes and clinicals. The more quickly you can earn the required number of credit hours, the more quickly you can graduate.

Transfer credits

If you have previous social work education at the higher education level, you may be able to transfer some or all of these credits to your MSW program, which would shorten your program time considerably. Every school will have its own policies on transfer credits, so be prepared to submit your transcript from your past educational experience to see what will transfer over. Neglecting this step could cost you time and money.

Advanced standing

An advanced standing option is one where you are accepted as a student having already earned a bachelor’s degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited program. Some institutions require you to have earned your degree within the recent past — for example, no more than five years ago. You may also be required to prove that you earned a good undergraduate GPA, such as 3.0 or higher.

For this arrangement, the institution is accepting some of your undergraduate preparation in lieu of foundational classes that may be more appropriate for those with no background in social work. You are essentially entering the program as a second-year graduate student. Depending on the range of courses you took at the bachelor’s level, you may need to take certain classes to be admitted as an advanced standing student.

If you qualify for advanced standing status in your MSW program, it is likely that you will be able to finish the work for your master’s degree in a year if you attend full time. However, you should discuss this with your admissions counselor to ensure that all your credits have been accepted and your path ahead is clear.

Internship requirements

Accredited social work programs typically require between 400 to 900 hours of internship, depending on the state licensing requirements and whether the student has a bachelor’s degree in social work.

Internship locations and hours of operation differ, so students need to keep this in mind as they plan out their graduation timeline. Students can expect to complete one to two semesters of internship which may require a commute or for the student to work nights and weekends.

What You Can Do With an MSW

Social workers help individuals, families, and other groups prevent problems in their everyday life, and cope with them if they occur. Clinical social workers, who must have an MSW degree, may also diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional problems.

You will find social workers in a broad range of environments. They frequently work in schools and may be employed by hospitals or clinics. They are found at all levels of community service, working with local institutions to create a better world for children and adults. They may help those with mental health challenges or substance misuse issues, as well as those with physical ailments. Some social workers in leadership positions help formulate policy at the local, state, and federal levels.

Many social workers work in an office, but they may also spend time in the field visiting clients and meeting with a range of support personnel. The majority of social workers are considered child, family, and school social workers, with a significant minority working in health care.

In every state in the United States, master’s-level clinical social workers must be licensed. Some states also require a license for nonclinical social workers.

Our Research

This list features some of the country’s best one-year online MSW programs. Each school featured is a nonprofit, accredited institution — either public or private — with a high standard of academic quality for postsecondary institutions.

We evaluated tuition costs, admission, retention and graduation rates, faculty, and reputation of each program. 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 the best one-year online MSW programs to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications, such as U.S. News & World Report, to simplify your search. We pored through these rankings so you don’t have to.

The 50 Best One-Year MSW Programs

Best One-Year MSW Programs Online badge
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Columbia School of Social Work
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Case Western Reserve University
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USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work
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BU School of Social Work
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Fordham Graduate School of Social Service
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Indiana University
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FSU College of Social Work
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University of Central Florida
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University at Buffalo School of Social Work
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University of Houston
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University of South Florida
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University of Missouri
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LSU College of Human Sciences & Education
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Colorado State University
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University of Arkansas
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The University of Tennessee at Knoxville
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University of Louisville
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University of Alabama
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University of North Dakota
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University of Nevada, Reno
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Simmons University
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Texas State University
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Saint Leo University
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University of Texas at Arlington
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Boise State University
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University of New England
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University of Alaska Anchorage
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Cal Poly Humboldt - College of Extended Education & Global Engagement
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OLLU - Worden School of Social Service
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PennWest
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Arizona State University
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Temple University