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For students interested in becoming social workers but seeking a quicker entry into the workforce, an accelerated degree program offers an ideal path. Graduates with a Master of Social Work (MSW) will be prepared to pursue various careers in social work, with a median salary of $58,380. They can work with many different populations, including children and families, the elderly, individuals with mental health or substance abuse issues, and communities in need.

Accelerated programs typically take 12 to 18 months to complete, allowing graduates to enter the workforce quickly and begin making a difference in their communities.

How to Choose an Accelerated Social Work Program

Choose your area of study

While social work may seem like a niche field, these degrees are highly versatile, with many specializations to fit various career goals. When choosing yours, consider asking yourself the following questions:

  • What client groups do I want to work with?
  • Do I prefer clinical practice or community-focused work?
  • What are the demand and job prospects for the specializations I’m drawn to?

Potential specialization options may include clinical social work, which focuses on therapy and mental health; school social work, which supports students’ welfare in educational settings; and healthcare social work, which assists patients in navigating the medical system. Other areas include child and family services, gerontology, and substance abuse counseling.

Research schools and programs

Now that you’ve narrowed down your specialization, you can begin researching schools and programs. Think about the following questions to guide your research:

  • What is the accreditation status and reputation of the program?
  • Are there fieldwork and internship opportunities available, and what do these entail?
  • What is the program’s graduation and job placement rate?
  • Are there experienced faculty in my area of interest?
  • How flexible is the course schedule for accelerated learning?

You can usually find most of this information on school websites, but many students benefit from attending an open house or speaking to an admissions counselor. Platforms like LinkedIn and Reddit can also be helpful for gaining insights from current students and recent graduates.

Prepare for tests and applications

While some admission requirements will vary depending on your school, many accelerated social work programs share similar criteria. This often includes:

  • Transcripts from all previously attended educational institutions
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal statement or essay
  • Current resume highlighting relevant experience

If your schools require GRE scores, you’ll benefit from enrolling in a test prep program for extra support. These programs can significantly improve your scores, making you a more competitive applicant.

Select your program

Once acceptance letters arrive, you may have a significant decision to make. Start comparing programs by evaluating tuition costs and comparing this to any available financial aid. Then, reflect on the school’s curriculum and how it will prepare you for your future career, including evaluating faculty credentials. You’ll also want to reflect on the school’s culture and location, noting how well these resonate with your personal and professional goals.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Financing your degree can feel intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Begin by exploring scholarships and grants, which don’t require repayment and are often awarded based on merit or need. Next, look into assistantships that provide tuition waivers and stipends in exchange for work. If you’re currently employed, ask your employer about tuition reimbursement, primarily if you work in social work or a related field.

If loans are necessary, opt for federal loans first, as they offer lower interest rates and better repayment options than private loans.

Best 50 Accredited Accelerated Social Work Programs

Best Accelerated Social Work Degree Programs_2024 badge
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Simmons University
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Simmons University
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Misericordia University
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Misericordia University
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Mount Vernon Nazarene University
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Mount Vernon Nazarene University
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Ursuline College
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Ursuline College
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University of Arkansas at Little Rock
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University of Arkansas at Little Rock
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Aurora University
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Aurora University

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How we rank schools

This list features some of the best accelerated social work degree programs in the country. Each school featured is a nonprofit, accredited institution — either public or private — with a high standard of academic quality for postsecondary education.

We evaluated each school’s program on admission, retention, and graduation rates as well as tuition costs, faculty, reputation, and student resources. 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 accelerated social work degree programs to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like 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.

What Can You Expect From an Accelerated Social Work Program?

An accelerated social work program offers students an expedited pathway to earn their degree, usually completed in 12 to 18 months, compared to the traditional two-year program. The most comprehensive programs will offer an intensive curriculum that covers multiple topics essential for a career in this field. Coursework often includes human behavior and the social environment, social welfare policy, research methods, and clinical social work practice.

Many programs encourage students to engage in fieldwork or practicum experiences, allowing them to apply theoretical knowledge in real-world settings under the supervision of experienced professionals.

Potential courses you’ll take in an accelerated social work program

  • Human Behavior and the Social Environment: In this fundamental course, students explore interactions between individuals and their social environments. They learn about theories of human development, social systems, and the impact of social, cultural, and economic factors on behavior. This foundation helps students understand clients’ diverse needs and how to center their interventions effectively.
  • Social Welfare Policy: A cornerstone in many curriculums, this course examines the history, development, and implementation of social welfare policies. Participants analyze how these policies affect different populations and the role of social workers in advocating for policy changes. Upon completion, students are better equipped to support clients through informed practice and advocacy.
  • Clinical Social Work Practice: Centered around developing practical skills, this course covers assessment, diagnosis, and intervention strategies for working with individuals, families, and groups. Students learn evidence-based techniques for addressing mental health issues, substance abuse, and trauma, preparing them to provide adequate therapeutic support in clinical settings.

What Can I Do With a Social Work Degree?

The career outlook for graduates entering this field is promising, with jobs projected to grow faster than average over the next decade. The demand for social workers is expected to generate 281,600 job openings each year.

Career outlook

  • Clinical Social Worker — These professionals provide therapy and counseling services to individuals, families, and groups dealing with mental health issues and other personal challenges.
    • Median annual salary: $58,380
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 7%
    • New jobs projected: 63,800
  • Substance Abuse Counselor — Graduates in this role provide support and treatment for individuals struggling with addiction. They use various therapeutic techniques to help clients overcome their dependencies and develop healthier coping mechanisms, often working in rehabilitation centers or outpatient clinics.
    • Median annual salary: $55,960
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 11%
    • New jobs projected: 12,000
  • Social Services Manager — Typically obtainable with adequate work experience, these managers oversee the planning, coordination, and implementation of social service programs, ensuring they effectively address community needs.
    • Median annual salary: $77,030
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 9%
    • New jobs projected: 16,000

Accelerated Social Work Degree Program Frequently Asked Questions

How do accelerated degree programs work?

Accelerated social work degree programs provide a faster route to graduation, typically completed in 12 to 18 months. These programs condense the coursework into a shorter timeframe, requiring students to take more credits per term and often attend classes year-round. Designed for highly motivated students, the curriculum is intensive, combining online learning, in-person courses, and practical fieldwork. To learn more about how accelerated social work programs might fit your career goals, see this article with more information about the pros and cons of these programs.

How long does it take to earn an accelerated social work degree?

An accelerated social work degree can be earned in 12 to 18 months, significantly shorter than the traditional two-year timeline. However, program length can vary depending on the required credits set by each institution. Generally speaking, the more credits required, the longer it will take to complete.

How much does an accelerated social work degree cost?

The cost of these degree programs varies by institution, but for the 2020-2021 academic year, graduate degree programs averaged $19,749 across the United States. You’ll also want to budget for additional expenses not typically included in tuition — such as housing, commuting costs, textbooks, and course materials. These costs can considerably impact your overall budget, so it’s essential to consider them when planning for your education.


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