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Earning a master’s degree in social work can open the door to an increased salary and more fulfilling leadership positions. It can also offer opportunities for a social worker to specialize in an area that interests them, such as mental health counseling or gerontological social work.

Sometimes, a social worker may be eligible for an advanced-standing MSW online program. What does this mean? We’ll unpack it in this article and help you determine if an online advanced-standing MSW program is right for you.

What Is Advanced Standing?

Simply put, a person is eligible to enter an advanced standing MSW online program if they earned a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) at an accredited school. The undergraduate school must have the approval of the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). This national organization regularly monitors social work programs, ensuring they adhere to the highest academic standards.

If you have earned a BSW degree from an accredited program, it is assumed that you have taken a broad range of foundational courses in social work and already have a good understanding of what is required to work in this field. Because of this, you will take fewer introductory social work courses in an advanced standing program than you would if you did not have an undergraduate degree in social work. It’s important to note that some programs will require students to have earned their BSW within the last six years in order to qualify for advanced standing — this is due to the fact that, just as people change over time, so does social work curriculum.

The advantages to an advanced standing program are two-fold. Because you are already well-versed in social work and require less in the way of basic social work education, you can earn your degree in less time, as little as one year, if you take classes full-time. Attending classes part-time means completing the program in two years or more.

Second, you can save significantly on tuition and other fees because you take fewer graduate-level credits. Doing your program online may save you even more since you won’t be paying for gas or parking costs.

Although requirements for entering an advanced standing MSW program vary from school to school, you will need to have documentation showing that you have earned a BSW from a CSWE-accredited school. There are other requirements that you might have to fulfill, which are as follows:

  • GRE scores — however, some programs accept students without the need to take the graduate record examinations.
  • An undergraduate GPA of a certain level, often 3.0.
  • Official transcripts, which are sent to your proposed graduate school directly from your undergraduate institution’s registrar.
  • Letters of recommendation from individuals who can attest to your ability to do graduate-level coursework and speak to your professional capabilities.
  • An application, which may also include a fee of anywhere from $10 – $100, although some schools do not require an application fee.
  • A personal statement, which outlines your interest in social work and rationale for wishing to earn an MSW.
  • English proficiency exam if English is not your native language.
  • A resume or CV.

Is an Online MSW Program Right For You?

There are two options for taking an MSW program: online or via traditional classes held in person. By taking online courses, you can expand your options and consider institutions from all over the country. This allows you to concentrate on a particular area of study and find a school with specialized courses, regardless of your location.

An online program has other obvious advantages: you can attend your classes at home, at a local cafe, or wherever convenient. If your school offers asynchronous courses, you can attend lectures in the early morning or late at night, perfect for students with young children or other family commitments or who work during the day.

But online programs aren’t suitable for everyone. Some students do best in a classroom situation, while others may enjoy the camaraderie that results from meeting with their peers in the cafeteria or study hall. Online students need to be dedicated to their studies and have a high level of motivation, meaning they are dedicated to attending lectures, even after a long day of work or childcare.

In short, the students who thrive in an online MSW program are those who are determined to advance their careers and able to effectively balance the needs of family and job with the demands of a rigorous academic program. Time management skills are important, as is the ability to work with online technology that may make connecting with peers and professors more challenging.

How To Succeed in an Online MSW Program

Online MSW programs are not impossible to manage. Online schools generally offer support services when needed and can work with you so that your road to success is achievable and realistic. Here are a few tips on how to succeed in an online MSW program:

  • Manage your time wisely. Develop a realistic and achievable timetable that allows you to give time to your professional and personal responsibilities while still leaving time for classwork. Consider attending graduate school part-time if you have other significant responsibilities.
  • Make use of your school’s student support services. If you are falling behind in a class, see if there is tutoring help. If you have a hard time prioritizing your responsibilities, find out if an academic counselor can assist you in setting a realistic schedule. Your school should offer you opportunities similar to those that in-person students have, so take the time to get to know your way around campus virtually, exploring options such as library resources and academic counseling.
  • Take advantage of your professors’ online office hours. Introduce yourself to them so they know you are serious about your studies. Most professors will happily help students who demonstrate that they are willing to invest time in doing what it takes to learn the material.
  • Likewise, connect with your fellow students whenever possible. You may have group assignments to complete, so you will get to know other students in the program. Why not suggest a group studying session when prepping for an exam? If you find some material challenging, it’s probable that other students will too, and would welcome being approached to work together to master the topic.

Our Research

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

We evaluated each school’s program on tuition costs, admission, retention and graduation rates, faculty, and reputation. 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 online advanced standing MSW programs to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications, such as U.S. News & World Report, to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

The 37 Best Advanced Standing Online MSW Programs

Best Advanced Standing MSW Online Badge

University of Southern California

Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service

Simmons University

Boston University

University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work

Our Lady of the Lake University

Adelphi University

Syracuse University

George Mason University

Case Western Reserve University

Delaware State University

Columbia University

Pennsylvania Western University

Ohio State University

Tulane University School of Social Work

University of California

University of Louisville

Texas State University