Why This Matters


    The opioid epidemic’s victims aren’t just adults. In 2016, 92,107 children were removed from their homes because of parental drug abuse – a 2% rise compared to 2015.


    By 2030, 20% of Americans will be 65 years or older. Social workers specialized in aging are already in high demand – the U.S. is expected to employ at least 70,000 in 2020.

  • THE U.S. NEEDS 118,000 MORE OF YOU BY 2026

    That’s a 16% increase in job positions – one of the fastest growing fields in the U.S. Within social work, the specializations in highest need are healthcare, mental illness, and addiction.

Our Research

Earning your Master’s in Social Work (MSW) immediately opens doors to do macro-level social work – helping communities on a broad scale. Through coursework and field experience, an MSW gives you the skills necessary to address complex issues and enables you to help more people regardless of your background.

To find the best online Master’s in Social Work, we only considered universities accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). This guarantees that your program is rigorous enough to prepare you for a career helping others and that your degree will be recognized by employers and state licensing boards nationally.

Then, we took a deep dive into each program to evaluate its reputation in the field, course strength, flexibility, and cost. Using this information, we calculated the Intelligent Score of each degree on a scale from 0 to 100. For full details, see Our Ranking Methodology.

  • 70 hours to write this article
  • 121 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 298 education programs we compared

The Top 51 Online Master’s in Social Work Programs

Best Online Master's in Social Work (MSW) Degree Programs
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What You Should Know About This Degree

While we’re eager to see more social workers in the field, there are a couple details you should know before pursuing a Master’s in Social Work.

In order to earn CSWE accreditation, every program requires fieldwork experience – at least 900 hours of it if you don’t have a background in social work. If you’re in a traditional 9-5 job, you’ll need to check with your employer and degree program to make sure you have time to fulfill your fieldwork requirement. While the 900+ hours are spread across the entire program, they are almost guaranteed to take place during standard business hours.

Your Master’s in Social Work will prepare you for licensure at the macro-level in most states, but if you want to work primarily with individuals (micro-level social work), a MSW is only the first step. The next step is at least two years of supervised work experience before you can be licensed as a clinical social worker. Clinical social workers can establish their own practices and provide therapy to individuals, unlocking some of the higher income brackets for social workers and providing specialized care.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching Online MSW programs:

  • Does this program offer the specialization I’m interested in? This depends on your personal career choices. If you’re not sure, reach out to individual professors to ask about the nuances of each specialization to determine whether it’s the right path for you.
  • Does my home state authorize this school for online education degrees? State authorizations vary both by state and by degree program, and not all states recognize the authority of others to administer online education. Be sure to research this subject thoroughly before applying to a particular program.

You must also consider how you will finance your education. We recommend that you research options such as scholarships, grants, work-study programs, and tuition reimbursement from your employer.