Best Master’s in Social Work Programs

by TBS Staff

Updated September 26, 2022

reviewed by TBS Rankings Team
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Social Work Masters Programs

Social workers help vulnerable populations access community resources, counsel couples on relationship issues, or support children dealing with bullying at school. The type of social work they do depends on their specialization. Social workers may also diagnose and treat disorders. Many social work jobs require a master of social work (MSW) and professional licensure.

Graduates with an MSW can work as clinical social workers, marriage and family therapists, mental health counselors, and community service managers. They can also pursue careers as social policy advocates, social welfare researchers, and social program administrators.

See the top master of social work programs offered today.

What Is a Master's of Social Work Degree?

"An MSW degree program trains students about social work practice, social welfare research, and social work theory."

An MSW degree trains students about social work practice, social welfare research, and social work theory. Learners study counseling approaches, cognitive treatment methods, clinical assessment, and social welfare planning. Students also complete fieldwork requirements to gain hands-on experience in a social work setting.

Many social work programs offer concentrations that allow students to tailor their degree to their goals and interests. Common concentrations include:

Students typically complete an MSW program in two years of full-time study, but some programs take less time to complete. For example, incoming students with a bachelor of social work (BSW) may be able to graduate from an MSW program in as little as one year.

Featured Online MSW Programs

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master of Social Work?

During an online MSW program, students typically complete online courses and in-person field work at an approved site in their community. Some online programs incorporate set meeting times to encourage collaboration, while others operate without set log-in times.

The flexibility of online school allows students to balance their studies with their personal and professional life. Online learning also lets students attend top programs across the country without relocating.

Accreditation for Social Work Degree Programs

Students must attend an MSW program that holds programmatic accreditation to meet social work licensure requirements. Many employers only hire candidates with an accredited degree. The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredits MSW programs. The council reviews MSW programs based on their curricula, field experience requirements, and faculty qualifications. Programs must undergo regular reviews to maintain their accreditation status.

MSW Advanced Standing Students

Students with a BSW degree from a CSWE-accredited program may receive advanced standing in an MSW program. Advanced standing status typically allows students to bypass some foundational coursework, expediting graduation by as much as one year.

Master of Social Work Practicum

MSW programs incorporate field work requirements to teach students the practical skills necessary for social work jobs. A practicum represents a core component of social work training and helps meet social work licensure requirements. During a social work practicum, students strengthen their clinical skills through community-based placements. Graduate students observe practitioners and complete hands-on training under supervision.

The number of required practicum hours varies by program. Most programs require at least 600 hours of field education. This field work often includes specialized training in the student's focus area.

The Best Master of Social Work Programs

#1

California State University, Fresno

School Information
Location Fresno, California
Admission Rate 58%
Graduation Rate 56%
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 31% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Graduate students interested in a master's in social work can earn their degree from California State University, Fresno. The master of social work program builds specialized skills for leadership roles in the social work field and related industries. A master's degree allows candidates to move up the career ladder or pursue a new career path.

The master's curriculum explores social work research and methodologies. Learners choose electives or a specialization to gain focused career training. Applicants without a degree in social work or a related field may need to meet prerequisite requirements to enroll in the program.

Online enrollees can often complete professional internships at approved locations in their own community. Graduate students also build professional connections through virtual networking events and other activities.

California State University, Fresno at a Glance:

Type of School: Public

Admission Rate: 58%

Total Online Master's Programs: 3

Program Name: Master of Social Work

Graduate Tuition In State: $7,176

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $16,680

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#2

California State University, Bakersfield

School Information
Location Bakersfield, California
Admission Rate 81%
Graduation Rate 43%
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 51% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Graduate students seeking an online social work degree can enroll in the master's program at California State University, Bakersfield. The master of social work builds specialized skills for advanced practice, preparing graduates for leadership positions with increased salary potential. Earning a master's degree can also help candidates pursue new career opportunities.

The master's curriculum examines advanced theories and practices in social work. Learners focus the program with electives or a concentration. Applicants without a background in social work may need to complete prerequisite courses before enrolling in the master's program.

Online enrollees complete internship programs in their local area to gain hands-on experience. Graduate students grow their professional connections through internships and virtual networking events.

California State University, Bakersfield at a Glance:

Type of School: Public

Admission Rate: 81%

Total Online Master's Programs: 2

Program Name: Master of Social Work

Graduate Tuition In State: $7,176

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $16,680

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#3

Indiana University Bloomington

School Information
Location Bloomington, Indiana
Admission Rate 78%
Graduation Rate 79%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 19% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Indiana University Bloomington offers a flexible online master's in social work. The master of social work program helps graduates move into leadership roles and increase their earning potential. Earning a master's degree helps candidates move into a new career path or advance in their current field.

The master's curriculum covers methodological and research perspectives. Learners specialize the program by choosing from a variety of electives. The program recommends that applicants bring a background in social work or a related field.

Online enrollees complement the classroom experience with internship opportunities in their local area. Graduate students also build professional connections by attending networking events.

Indiana University Bloomington at a Glance:

Type of School: Public

Admission Rate: 78%

Total Online Master's Programs: 10

Program Name: Master of Social Work

Graduate Tuition In State: $9,501

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $31,932

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#4

The University of Texas at Austin

School Information
Location Austin, Texas
Admission Rate 32%
Graduation Rate 86%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 25% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The University of Texas at Austin offers an online master's in social work. Graduates train for leadership roles in the field while earning their degree from the master of science in social work program. After completing a master's degree, candidates advance in their current field or pursue new opportunities.

The master's curriculum emphasizes the best practices in social work. Learners specialize their course of study to prepare for the job market. Applicants without a social work background may need to complete prerequisite courses to enroll in the program.

Online enrollees meet any in-person requirements, such as internships, at approved sites in their local area. Internships and other practicum activities also provide professional networking opportunities.

The University of Texas at Austin at a Glance:

Type of School: Public

Admission Rate: 32%

Total Online Master's Programs: 5

Program Name: Master of Science in Social Work

Graduate Tuition In State: $11,998

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $22,966

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#5

California State University, Los Angeles

School Information
Location Los Angeles, California
Admission Rate 48%
Graduation Rate 52%
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 33% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

California State University, Los Angeles, offers a flexible online master's in social work. The master of social work program strengthens specialized skills, preparing graduates for leadership roles with a higher earning potential. A master's degree can also train candidates for roles in new industries.

The master's curriculum emphasizes research methods and analytical skills. Learners individualize the course of study by selecting electives and concentrations. The master's program builds on undergraduate training or professional experience in social work.

Online enrollees work with the program to identify internship opportunities at approved sites in their local communities. Graduate students expand their professional network through internships and online events.

California State University, Los Angeles at a Glance:

Type of School: Public

Admission Rate: 48%

Program Name: Master of Social Work

Graduate Tuition In State: $7,176

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $16,680

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#6

The University of Connecticut

School Information
Location Storrs, Connecticut
Admission Rate 49%
Graduation Rate 84%
Accreditation Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 14% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The online master's in social work degree at the University of Connecticut, located in Storrs, Connecticut, prioritizes flexibility. The master of social work program emphasizes industry-relevant knowledge and skills, preparing graduates for decision-making responsibilities. A master's degree can also lead candidates to new career paths.

The master's curriculum emphasizes the best practices in social work. Learners take electives and other specialized courses to gain career-specific training. The admission requirements include a background in social work or a related field.

Online enrollees complete internship programs in their local area to gain hands-on experience. The program encourages graduate students to expand their professional connections through internships and networking events.

The University of Connecticut at a Glance:

Type of School: Public

Admission Rate: 49%

Total Online Master's Programs: 3

Program Name: Master of Social Work

Graduate Tuition In State: $16,300

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $38,212

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#7

Samford University

School Information
Location Birmingham, Alabama
Admission Rate 83%
Graduation Rate 76%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 30% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Located in Birmingham, Alabama, Samford University offers an online master's in social work. The master of social work program builds specialized skills for leadership roles in the social work field and related industries. With a master's degree, candidates advance their current career or move into new career paths.

The master's curriculum examines theoretical and practical perspectives on social work. Learners focus the program with electives or a concentration. The master's program recommends a background in social work before applying to the program.

Online enrollees complement the classroom experience with internship opportunities in their local area. Internships and other practicum activities build both hands-on experience and professional connections.

Samford University at a Glance:

Type of School: Private 

Admission Rate: 83%

Total Online Master's Programs: 8

Program Name: Master of Social Work

Graduate Tuition In State: $17,754

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $17,754

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#8

Colorado State University

School Information
Location Fort Collins, Colorado
Admission Rate 81%
Graduation Rate 70%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 26% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

From its campus in Fort Collins, Colorado State University offers an online master's in social work. The master of social work program builds specialized skills for leadership roles in the social work field and related industries. A master's degree also helps candidates pursue new career paths.

The master's curriculum emphasizes current research in social work. Learners choose electives or a specialization to stand out in a competitive job market. Applicants who majored in social work or a related field typically meet the admission requirements.

Online enrollees complement the classroom experience with internship opportunities in their local area. Internships and other practicum activities build both hands-on experience and professional connections.

Colorado State University at a Glance:

Type of School: Public

Admission Rate: 81%

Total Online Master's Programs: 19

Program Name: Master of Social Work

Graduate Tuition In State: $10,520

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $25,791

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#9

Savannah State University

School Information
Location Savannah, Georgia
Admission Rate 33%
Graduation Rate 29%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 38% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

From its campus in Savannah, Georgia, Savannah State University hosts a top-ranked master's in social work program. The master of social work program emphasizes industry-relevant knowledge and skills, preparing graduates for decision-making responsibilities. Earning a master's degree can also help candidates pursue new career opportunities.

The master's curriculum emphasizes the best practices in social work. Learners focus their training by choosing electives based on their interests and career goals. The master's program builds on undergraduate training or professional experience in social work.

Online enrollees meet any in-person requirements, such as internships, at approved sites in their local area. Graduate students expand their professional network through internships and online events.

Savannah State University at a Glance:

Type of School: Public

Admission Rate: 33%

Program Name: Master of Social Work

Graduate Tuition In State: $3,528

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $13,068

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#10

The University of Texas at Arlington

School Information
Location Arlington, Texas
Admission Rate 83%
Graduation Rate 51%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 54% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The University of Texas at Arlington hosts a top-rated online master's in social work. The master of social work program emphasizes advanced practice skills, training graduates for leadership roles and an increased earning potential. A master's degree also helps candidates pursue new career paths.

The master's curriculum emphasizes the best practices in social work. Learners choose electives or a specialization to gain focused career training. Applicants who majored in social work or a related field typically meet the admission requirements.

Online enrollees work with the program to identify internship opportunities at approved sites in their local communities. Graduate students also build professional connections through virtual networking events and other activities.

The University of Texas at Arlington at a Glance:

Type of School: Public

Admission Rate: 83%

Total Online Master's Programs: 13

Program Name: Master of Social Work

Graduate Tuition In State: $8,474

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $21,206

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#11

Texas Tech University

School Information
Location Lubbock, Texas
Admission Rate 69%
Graduation Rate 61%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 52% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

From its campus in Lubbock, Texas Tech University offers an online master's in social work. The master of social work program emphasizes industry-relevant knowledge and skills, preparing graduates for decision-making responsibilities. After completing a master's degree, candidates advance in their current field or pursue new opportunities.

The master's curriculum covers methodological and research perspectives. Learners prepare for focused career paths by choosing electives and concentrations. The admission requirements include a background in social work or a related field.

Online enrollees gain hands-on experience during professional internships in their local area. The program encourages graduate students to attend networking events to expand their professional connections.

Texas Tech University at a Glance:

Type of School: Public

Admission Rate: 69%

Total Online Master's Programs: 14

Program Name: Master of Social Work

Graduate Tuition In State: $5,958

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $13,428

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#12

West Virginia University

School Information
Location Morgantown, West Virginia
Admission Rate 84%
Graduation Rate 61%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 34% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The master's in social work program at West Virginia University, located in Morgantown, offers a flexible online format. The master of social work program draws on a rigorous curriculum that prepares graduates for leadership responsibilities. After completing a master's degree, candidates advance in their current field or pursue new opportunities.

The master's curriculum examines theoretical and practical perspectives on social work. Learners focus the program with electives or a concentration. Applicants with prior experience in social work or a related field often meet the admission requirements.

Online enrollees gain hands-on experience during professional internships in their local area. Graduate students grow their professional connections through internships and virtual networking events.

West Virginia University at a Glance:

Type of School: Public

Admission Rate: 84%

Total Online Master's Programs: 18

Program Name: Master of Social Work

Graduate Tuition In State: $10,134

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $26,154

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#13

DePaul University

School Information
Location Chicago, Illinois
Admission Rate 68%
Graduation Rate 74%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 30% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Based in Chicago, Illinois, DePaul University hosts a top-rated online master's in social work. The master of social work program builds specialized skills for leadership roles in the social work field and related industries. Earning a master's degree helps candidates move into a new career path or advance in their current field.

The master's curriculum covers theoretical and practical approaches to social work. Learners individualize the course of study by selecting electives and concentrations. Applicants with prior experience in social work or a related field often meet the admission requirements.

Online enrollees add to their resume by pursuing internship opportunities at approved locations in their local area. Graduate students expand their professional network through internships and online events.

DePaul University at a Glance:

Type of School: Private

Admission Rate: 68%

Total Online Master's Programs: 14

Program Name: Master of Social Work

Graduate Tuition In State: $19,584

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $19,584

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#14

Gallaudet University

School Information
Location Washington, District of Columbia
Admission Rate 61%
Graduation Rate 51%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 20% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

From its campus in Washington, D.C., Gallaudet University hosts a top-ranked master's in social work program. The master of social work program strengthens specialized skills, preparing graduates for leadership roles with a higher earning potential. With a master's degree, candidates advance their current career or move into new career paths.

The master's curriculum incorporates theoretical and applied approaches. Learners take electives and other specialized courses to gain career-specific training. The program recommends that applicants bring a background in social work or a related field.

Online enrollees add to their resume by pursuing internship opportunities at approved locations in their local area. The program hosts networking events and other professional development activities to help graduate students expand their professional connections.

Gallaudet University at a Glance:

Type of School: Private

Admission Rate: 61%

Total Online Master's Programs: 4

Program Name: Master of Social Work

Graduate Tuition In State: $18,180

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $18,180

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#15

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

School Information
Location Honolulu, Hawaii
Admission Rate 58%
Graduation Rate 61%
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 20% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Graduate students seeking an online social work degree can enroll in the master's program at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, located in Honolulu. The master of social work program strengthens industry-specific skills, preparing graduates for leadership responsibilities. A master's degree can also prepare candidates for opportunities in new fields.

The master's curriculum emphasizes the best practices in social work. Learners choose electives and concentrations to prepare for focused career paths. The program encourages applicants to gain experience in social work before applying to the program.

Online enrollees complete internships in their local community to gain real-world experience. The program encourages graduate students to expand their professional connections through internships and networking events.

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa at a Glance:

Type of School: Public

Admission Rate: 58%

Total Online Master's Programs: 5

Program Name: Master of Social Work

Graduate Tuition In State: $15,912

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $37,392

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#16

Youngstown State University

School Information
Location Youngstown, Ohio
Admission Rate 67%
Graduation Rate 41%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 37% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The online master's degree in social work at Youngstown State University, located in Youngstown,  Ohio, offers high academic quality. The master of social work program emphasizes specialized skills, preparing graduates for increased responsibilities and a higher earning potential. After completing a master's degree, candidates pursue career advancement in their current field or a new one.

The master's curriculum emphasizes theory and practice in social work. Learners choose electives or a specialization to stand out in a competitive job market. The master's program recommends that applicants bring a background in social work or a related field.

Online enrollees complete internships in their local community to gain real-world experience. Graduate students also participate in networking events to expand their professional connections.

Youngstown State University at a Glance:

Type of School: Public

Admission Rate: 67%

Total Online Master's Programs: 9

Program Name: Master of Social Work

Graduate Tuition In State: $6,058

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $9,058

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#17

Western Carolina University

School Information
Location Cullowhee, North Carolina
Admission Rate 69%
Graduation Rate 62%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 41% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The online master's in social work degree at Western Carolina University, located in Cullowhee, North Carolina, prioritizes flexibility. The master of social work program builds specialized skills for leadership roles in the social work field and related industries. A master's degree allows candidates to move up the career ladder or pursue a new career path.

The master's curriculum explores social work research and methodologies. Learners take specialized courses to stand out in a competitive job market. Applicants with a background in social work typically meet the admission requirements.

Online enrollees work with the program to find internship opportunities in their local area. Graduate students also build professional connections through virtual networking events and other activities.

Western Carolina University at a Glance:

Type of School: Public

Admission Rate: 69%

Total Online Master's Programs: 10

Program Name: Master of Social Work

Graduate Tuition In State: $4,435

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $14,842

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#18

Ohio University-Main Campus

School Information
Location Athens, Ohio
Admission Rate 82%
Graduation Rate 65%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 48% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

From its campus in Athens, Ohio University offers an online master's in social work. The master of social work program uses a rigorous curriculum to prepare graduates for advanced roles in the field. A master's degree helps candidates advance in their current field or pursue a new career path.

The master's curriculum covers methodological and research perspectives. Learners specialize their course of study to prepare for the job market. The program encourages applicants to gain experience in social work before applying to the program.

Online enrollees complement the classroom experience with internship opportunities in their local area. Internships and other practicum activities build both hands-on experience and professional connections.

Ohio University at a Glance:

Type of School: Public

Admission Rate: 82%

Total Online Master's Programs: 23

Program Name: Master of Social Work

Graduate Tuition In State: $9,444

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $17,436

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#19

Temple University

School Information
Location Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Admission Rate 60%
Graduation Rate 74%
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 21% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

From its campus in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Temple University hosts a top-ranked master's in social work program. The master of social work program uses a rigorous curriculum to prepare graduates for advanced roles in the field. After earning a master's degree, candidates also pursue careers in new industries.

The master's curriculum explores theoretical and practical perspectives in the field. Learners choose electives or a specialization to stand out in a competitive job market. The master's program recommends a background in social work before applying to the program.

Online enrollees complete internship requirements at approved sites in their own community. Internships and other practicum activities also provide professional networking opportunities.

Temple University at a Glance:

Type of School: Public

Admission Rate: 60%

Total Online Master's Programs: 10

Program Name: Master of Social Work

Graduate Tuition In State: $16,956

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $23,346

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#20

Saint Leo University

School Information
Location Saint Leo, Florida
Admission Rate 72%
Graduation Rate 49%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 72% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The online master's in social work program, offered by Saint Leo University from its Saint Leo campus in Florida, ranks as a top program. The master of social work builds specialized skills for advanced practice, preparing graduates for leadership positions with increased salary potential. A master's degree can also train candidates for roles in new industries.

The master's curriculum examines theoretical and practical perspectives on social work. Learners individualize the course of study by selecting electives and concentrations. The master's program builds on prior social work experience during a bachelor's program.

Online enrollees add to their resume by pursuing internship opportunities at approved locations in their local area. Graduate students also participate in networking events to expand their professional connections.

Saint Leo University at a Glance:

Type of School: Private

Admission Rate: 72%

Total Online Master's Programs: 27

Program Name: Master of Social Work

Graduate Tuition In State: $7,296

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $7,296

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Master of Social Work Programs Ranking Guidelines

We based the following rankings on academic quality, curricula, faculty strength, internship opportunities, facilities, school awards, rankings, and reputation.

Our Methodology

Here at TheBestSchools.org, we take the trust and welfare of our readers very seriously. When making our school and program rankings, our top priority is ensuring that our readers get accurate, unbiased information that can help them make informed decisions about online education. That's why we've developed a rigorous ranking methodology that keeps the needs of our readers front and center.

Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.

While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.

  • Academics
  • Affordability
  • Online Enrollment

Data Sources

The data used in TBS rankings comes primarily from the federal government, and much of it is provided by the schools themselves. We aggregate and analyze this data to build our rankings.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.

Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from AcademicInfluence.com, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.

Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

About Our Ranking Factors

Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.

Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.

We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.

Academics - 75%
Affordability - 15%
Online Enrollment - 10%

In all our school rankings and recommendations, we work for objectivity and balance. We carefully research and compile each ranking list, and as stated in our advertising disclosure, we do NOT permit financial incentives to influence rankings. Our articles never promote or disregard a school for financial gain.

If you have questions about our ranking methodology, please feel free to connect with our staff through contact page.

We thank you for your readership and trust.

Types of Social Workers

There are three major types of social workers: macro, direct services, and clinical social workers. Clinical social workers may be licensed or unlicensed.

Macro Social Workers

Macro social workers work with communities, large groups of people, major institutions, and cities. Depending on their position, these social workers may advocate for large-scale social policy change, lobby to change healthcare laws, or organize state-wide activist groups. They may also engage in research or work as managers or administrators for community programs.

Licensed Clinical Social Workers

Licensed clinical social workers evaluate, diagnose, and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional disorders. They may provide individual, group, or family therapy. They work in settings such as hospitals, community mental health centers, rehabilitation facilities, and private practice. Clinical social workers often collaborate with professionals like psychiatrists, psychologists, and advanced practice psychiatric nurses.

The job title for social workers with a clinical social work license varies by state. States may use titles such as licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), licensed independent social worker, or licensed independent clinical social worker.

Clinical Social Workers Without a License

These social workers are authorized to practice clinical social work under the supervision of an LCSW. They must earn licensure to practice independently.

Direct Service Social Workers

Direct service social workers connect individuals with relevant resources and services. They may also provide limited counseling services, but they cannot provide psychotherapy. Depending on their role, these professionals may perform intake screenings, refer clients to relevant services, provide mediation services, and work in case management.

Jobs in Social Work

Graduates with an MSW degree can pursue careers in several social work fields, such as mental health counselor, social service manager, and marriage and family therapist. The section below covers several common careers for MSW graduates.

Marriage and Family Therapists

Median Salary 2020: $51,340 Projected Job Growth 2020-2030: 16%

Marriage and family therapists help individuals, couples, and families manage relationship problems through therapy. They encourage clients to discuss their emotions, help people adjust to life changes and modify behaviors, and guide clients through decision-making processes. Marriage and family therapists also connect clients with relevant resources and services.

These professionals need a master's degree and a license to practice. A master's in social work, psychology, marriage and family therapy, or a related field typically meets licensure requirements.

Median Salary: $51,340

Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists

Median Salary 2020: $55,690 Projected Job Growth 2020-2030: 4%

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists offer social services to law offenders to help them make progress toward rehabilitation. They create rehabilitation plans, connect clients with resources, and maintain case files on clients. Most probation officers and correctional treatment specialists hold a bachelor's degree in a field like social work or criminal justice. Candidates with a master's degree may qualify for advanced opportunities.

Median Salary: $55,690

Social and Community Service Managers

Median Salary 2020: $69,600 Projected Job Growth 2020-2030: 15%

Social and community service managers oversee social service programs and community organizations. They manage program staff, analyze data to determine a program's effectiveness, suggest improvements to programs, and increase program awareness through outreach activities. They also oversee budgets and may write proposals for funding.

Most social and community service managers hold at least a bachelor's degree in a field like social work, public administration, or business administration plus several years of work experience. Some employers prefer or require a master's degree in social work.

Median Salary: $69,600

Social Workers

Median Salary 2020: $51,760 Projected Job Growth 2020-2030: 12%

Social workers help clients overcome short-term and long-term challenges. They help clients adjust to life changes, connect clients with community resources, and respond to crisis situations. Social workers may specialize in an area such as school social work, healthcare social work, or child and family social work.

Clinical social workers diagnose and treat behavioral, mental, and emotional disorders. They provide therapy, create treatment plans, and coordinate with other healthcare professionals. Clinical social workers must hold a master's degree in social work and a license to practice.

Median Salary: $51,760

Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

Median Salary 2020: $47,660 Projected Job Growth 2020-2030: 23%

Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors help clients manage substance use, mental health, and behavioral disorders. They meet with clients to evaluate their needs, create customized treatment plans, and work with clients on behavior modification techniques.

Most substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors need a bachelor's degree, while mental health counselors generally need a master's degree to practice.

Median Salary: $47,660

How Much Do Social Workers Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median social worker salary exceeds $51,000 per year. However, social work salaries depend on factors like a worker's location, degree, and industry. For example, the typical salary for a professional who holds a master of social work exceeds that of a professional with a bachelor's degree. Similarly, clinical social workers generally earn higher salaries than nonclinical social workers.

As with other fields, social workers often see an increase in their earning potential after gaining experience, earning an advanced degree, and/or learning specialized skills.

PayScale Median Salary Information for Social Workers as of June 2021
Position Salary
Social Worker (MSW) $37,000 - $65,000
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) $44,000 - $79,000
Clinical Social Worker $43,000 - $79,000
School Social Worker $38,000 - $68,000
Source: Payscale
BLS Median Salary Information for Social Workers as of May 2020
Position Salary
Healthcare Social Workers $57,630
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers $48,720
Child, Family, and School Social Workers $48,430
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Frequently Asked Questions About MSW Degrees

What Is an MSW Degree?

An MSW is a social work degree that stands for "master of social work". In most states, licensed social workers are required to have an MSW.

What Does a Master of Social Work Do?

An MSW qualifies graduates for positions as a href="/careers/career-guide/lcsw/">licensed clinical social workers, therapists, and counselors. These professionals help vulnerable populations and provide assistance to adults, children, families and couples who need guidance and access to resources.

Is a Master's in Social Work Worth It?

An MSW can lead to a fulfilling career as a social worker, therapist, or counselor. However, the average salary for a social worker with an MSW is over $48,000, which is under the national average for all occupations.

What Is the Difference Between a Master of Social Work and an MA in Social Work?

There is no major difference between an MSW and an MA in social work. However, students should make sure their degree is conferred by a program that is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

How Much Can You Make With a Master of Social Work?

The average pay for a social worker with an MSW ranges between $37,000-$65,000.

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