Western New Mexico University confers a CSWE-accredited MSW program that is available 100 percent online. It is also a program that is taught by licensed professional social workers, making it a great fit for students who want to learn from professionals who know the field from first-hand experience. The program also offers a variety of electives that touch on core areas of the field, enabling students to create their own concentrations for use in the careers. Students will find that field practicums are mandatory for all students, and as these requirements can be quite comprehensive, it may be necessary for students to reduce their working hours to part-time in order to accommodate the experience. The degree requires 39 credit hours of coursework and practicums, a research paper, and a comprehensive exam. Sample courses include Community Organization and Development, Social Work Clinical Assessment and Intervention, and Theories and Techniques of Clinical Social Work Practice.
10 Most Affordable Online Master’s in Social Work
Online Master’s in Social Work programs are some of the most in demand by professionals in the field, and for good reason; with so many professionals choosing to go back to school, an online pathway to do just that is the best way for them to earn a graduate degree and move forward in their careers. The field is also becoming a critical part of many social services and because it includes everything from foster care to drug rehabilitation, it’s time for professionals with an undergraduate degree to really focus on earning an advanced degree.
An online MSW can make this a reality. With many schools offering asynchronous courses, an accelerated format, and even practicum experiences in a student’s area of residence, it’s becoming clear that an online education in social work is the way forward. With this ranking, professionals from all over the United States will be able to make the right choice for them.
Accredited Online College Programs
What are the Most Affordable Online Master’s in Social Work? Here our top 10:
|1||Western New Mexico University||Silver City, NM|
|2||University of Wyoming||Laramie, W|
|3||Boise State University||Boise, ID|
|4||California State University-Northridge||Northridge, CA|
|5||California State University-Chico||Chico, CA|
|6||California State University-San Bernardino||San Bernardino, CA|
|7||Humboldt State University||Arcata, CA|
|8||University of Central Florida||Orlando, FL|
|9||University of North Dakota||Grand Forks, ND|
|10||University of Arkansas||Fayetteville, AR|
Frequently Asked Questions
|Social Worker’s Median Salary||$50,470 per year|
|Number of Jobs in the U.S. (2019)||713,200|
|Job Growth Projection (2019-2029)||13% (above average)|
What are the Career Options for an Online Master’s in Social Work Degree?
There are various career options available to a professional who earns an online graduate degree in social work. These include, but are not limited to:
- Social Worker
- Grant Writer
- School Counselor
- Substance Abuse Counselor
- Case Manager
- Clinical Social Worker
- Health Care Social Worker
Most professionals will find their career path will form while still in the graduate program, especially if concentrations are available. These concentrations range from substance abuse to clinical social work and often dictates what sort of jobs and licensures are available to a professional. It is best for a professional to do research on career options with a concentration in mind; many other avenues may be closed off to them once they complete their degree.
How Much Can You Earn with a Masters in Social Work?
Social work consists of a variety of career options, so for the purposes of this question, the focus will be social workers. These professionals can make anywhere from $54,000 to $90,000 annually. This is a large jump from the $41,300 to $60,000 that a professional with just a bachelor’s in social work can make.
There is a significant difference in salaries for general social workers and those who specialize in one field. General social workers tend to make around $50,000 a year, depending on their region, while school or mental health social workers make around $65,000 a year. Hospital social workers tend to make the most money, especially if they live in metropolitan areas; the average salary is $90,000.
Top-paying Industries for Social Workers
|Industry||Median yearly salary|
|Ambulatory Health Care Services||$83,050|
|Federal Executive Branch||$75,940|
|Agencies, Brokerages, and Other Insurance Related Activities||$74,240|
|General Medical and Surgical Hospitals||$72,760|
What are the Different Types of Social Work Degrees?
To become a social worker, you need a social work degree from an accredited institution. Even if you have a bachelor’s degree in another field, you can still pursue a master’s or doctorate degree in social work. The undergraduate degree for social work is a Bachelor’s in Social Work (BSW) while the graduate degrees consist of a master’s in social work (MSW) and doctoral degree in social work (DSW).
How the COVID-19 Pandemic has Disrupted the Social Work Industry
The global pandemic has had a major impact on the economy and workforce around the world. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nonfarm employment declined 9.6 percent between February and June 2020. Many industries, including social work, have seen an exponential increase in telework. This could potentially mean that social workers will likely see long-term structural changes in their day-to-day work and how they operate within the workspace as a result of COVID-19.
Covid-19 and Online Learning for Social Work, Explained
In a recent study conducted by the Council on Social Work Education, 61.1% of social work students expressed that they were dissatisfied with their online learning experience after the transition to an online platform due to the pandemic. In fact, 64.8% of the students who responded to the study said they learned at least 40% less. Satisfaction with online learning during the pandemic varied widely amongst social work students in different degrees. For example, 70.2% of doctoral students reported that they were generally satisfied.
What are the Various Disciplines of Social Work?
Social work is a large field that consists of human services, public administration, government, psychology, and sociology. For the most part, these are the disciplines that are the major players in the field.
There are others, however; depending on what a student’s concentration is, they may find themselves focusing on education, substance abuse, nonprofit management, medicine, mental health, children and families, and more. This is because while social work is a general field, it is the subfields that make the most difference in a professional’s career; whatever they have chosen to focus on as their career will determine the disciplines they engage in.
Is Licensure Necessary Prior to Applying for a Masters in Social Work?
No, licensure is not necessary to apply for a Master’s in Social Work.
The first reason is that licensure is not always necessary to move forward in a career in social work. While many students do obtain licensure, especially at the bachelor’s level, it is possible to find work without licensure in many states. This is a result of not all states having the same requirements for social workers in place, enabling some professionals to work their entire career without ever sitting for the distinction.
The second reason is that MSW programs often require a student to show proof of graduating from a Council of Social Work Education, or CSWE, accredited school. This means that most students often already have licensure as well as some work experience. Attending a CSWE-accredited undergraduate school is the only pathway to earn licensure at that level.
However, many MSW programs are now allowing pre-service professionals, or students without an educational or work background in social work, to take part in their graduate programs. This can only be done by removing the restriction of having licensure.
What this means is that any student with a regionally accredited undergraduate degree can apply for MSW programs. This provides them the opportunity to change careers or move from a related field into social work. It can also be a help to the field of social work because outside perspectives are valued.
There is a caveat to not having licensure. Most MSW programs have two tracks: a general track and an advanced standing track. The advanced standing track is for licensed social workers while the general track is for pre-service professionals. It is here where the difference emerges. General MSW graduate candidates are required to complete 1,000 hours of fieldwork experience as well as, in most cases, an additional 30 credit hours of coursework. These requirements are put in place to help bring pre-service professionals up to speed in the field. The fieldwork is also necessary to obtain licensure at the graduate level.
Is it Necessary to Get a Master’s in Social Work?
A Master’s in Social Work, whether conferred online or in a traditional format, can open up a lot of opportunities for students. Professionals will find that the graduate degree provides chances to concentrate in one subfield or another of social work, enabling them to become abuse or medical social workers, work with children and families, and more.
The most important of these opportunities, however, is that a graduate degree in social work provides a pathway to becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, which is also known as LCSW. This is a popular career option for many professionals because not only does it enable them to work as an in-demand social worker, it also opens up their salary options. It’s also a respected licensure that can only be obtained after earning a graduate degree in social work.
Additionally, there are several other credentials and licenses that a social worker can earn after graduating with an MSW. These are often listed as possible pathways through different programs, so it’s critical that students research what credential they need for their career goal and inquire if the program offers a way to earn that credential.
The MSW is a great choice for social workers who want to do more in the field. While the bachelor’s in social work does a lot of good for professionals, it can be limiting in terms of career opportunities. Students who want to advance will want to continue their education, and the MSW is the best pathway forward.
Social work is a challenging but rewarding career, no matter what specialty or concentration a professional chooses. As the need for social workers rises, so too does the responsibility that comes with the job. Professionals will have an ample group of schools to choose from in this ranking as they make the choice to advance their career with a Master’s of Social Work.
What Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations are Needed to Practice?
Anyone who is interested in becoming a social worker will most likely be required to obtain a licence to practice. Not all states require a licensure to become a social worker, but every state does require clinical social workers to be licensed. To become a clinical social worker, individuals will need to complete a master’s degree in social work and at least 2 years of supervised clinical practicum upon graduation.
License requirements for social workers vary by state, but typically these are the different certifications a social workers can pursue:
- licensed social workers (LSWs)
- licensed independent social workers (LISWs)
- licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs)
- licensed independent clinical social workers (LICSWs)
Ranking for Low-cost Online MSW Programs
Research for this ranking began with collating information pulled from the National Center for Education Statistics and its public College Navigator database. In initial pool of 45 schools was created from NCES with the final 10 being chosen based on in-state graduate tuition rates. They are listed below, from most to least expensive MSW programs.
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