30 Best Master’s Degrees in Social Work 2020

| Staff

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Social work aims to boost community welfare, and with one of the following 30 Best Master’s Degrees in Social Work, graduates can enhance lives from an individual to a global level.

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Social workers address – and help to minimize – society’s greatest challenges. The following 30 Best Master’s Degrees in Social Work address a wide range of social and economic issues and human needs. They prepare graduates to serve individuals in clinical settings; to address the needs of groups and communities, and even to promote social justice on a macro level. Many of the programs listed are highly customizable to students’ individual goals and interests. Most are built on a foundational curriculum that builds generalist social work skills. Students then often move on to an advanced curriculum with multiple specializations and concentration options to choose from. These options may include areas such as aging populations, children and families, grief and trauma, mental health, and more. Each program also incorporates field education, allowing students to gain hands-on experience in their field.

Graduates of these Social Work programs leave prepared to become licensed social workers in the state of study. Social workers must be licensed in the state in which they practice. Social work master’s degree holders can go on to work in a variety of settings, such as nonprofit agencies, direct clinical practices, and community leadership settings. According to the most recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2018 median salary for social workers was $49,470. The field is growing at a projected rate of 16 percent, which is much faster than average. This is due to an increased demand for health and social services and the complexity of contemporary social issues.

Top 10 Best Master’s Degrees in Social Work 2020

Rank School Location
1 University of California, Berkeley Berkeley, CA
2 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, NC
3 Boston College Chestnut Hill, MA
4 University of Wisconsin Madison, WI
5 University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI
6 University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA
7 Columbia University New York, NY
8 University of Washington Seattle, WA
9 Ohio State University Wooster, OH
10 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL
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Methodology

The staff of Grad School Hub has compiled the following 30 Best Master’s Degrees in Social Work for the 2019-20 academic school year based on public data released from educational, commercial, and government databases. Data contributed from sources such as the National Center for Education Statistics, and the U.S. Department of Labor plays a significant role in how graduate degree programs are ranked because institutional transparency is essential for deciding which career path is right for you. Based on this data, GSH organizes information into five weighted categories, which are:

  • Alumni Feedback: 20%
  • Continued Enrollment: 20%
  • Degree Selectivity: 10%
  • Graduate Expenses: 25%
  • Projected Annual Salary: 25%

A more comprehensive evaluation of how each category is determined and scored is accessible through our Ranking Methodology page.

Here are the 30 Best Master’s Degrees in Social Work for 2019 – 2020!

  1. University of California, Berkeley
    Location

    Berkeley, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of California, Berkeley provides a Master of Social Welfare degree program. The program is designed to prepare leaders for multi-level social work practice rooted in social justice. Students follow a prescribed plan of study, which prepares them for both generalist and specialized practice. The program offers three specialization area options: Advancing Health and Wellbeing Across the Adult Lifespan; Strengthening Children, Youth and Families; and Strengthening Organizations and Communities. Each student must complete a minimum of 54 units of study, including 25 units of field education. The program is designed to be completed in two years of full-time study.

    Founded in 1868, Berkeley is the flagship institution of the University of California system. The public research university is a founding member of the Association of American Universities. It is home to research institutes including the Center for the Built Environment, the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The university's library system is the fourth-largest academic library system in the nation. In the 1960s, Berkeley was noted for its student-led Free Speech and Anti-Vietnam War movements. The university is counted among the nation's "Public Ivy" institutions. U.S. News & World Report ranks it at No. 24 in Most Innovative Schools, No. 22 in National Universities, and No. 2 in Top Public Schools. The university also ranks third in Social Work at the graduate level.

  2. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    Location

    Chapel Hill, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill awards a Master of Social Work degree program. The 62-credit curriculum consists of a generalist curriculum, an advanced curriculum, and field education. For the Advanced Curriculum, students specialize in evidence-informed practice and choose a concentration in Community, Management and Policy Practice or Direct Practice. Course offerings include Confronting Oppression, Interpersonal Psychotherapy, and Non-Profit Leadership. The program is offered as a full-time, on-campus program that can be completed in two years. The degree program is also available as a one-year Advanced Standing program or a three-year distance education program.

    Chartered in 1789, UNC is one of three schools allowed to claim the title of the oldest public university in the United States. It is the flagship university of the 17-campus of the University of North Carolina system. Located in downtown Chapel Hill, the campus encompasses the Morehead Planetarium and much of bustling Franklin Street. The public research university anchors the region's Research Triangle, along with Duke University and North Carolina State University. UNC is also counted among the nation's "Public Ivy" universities. U.S. News & World Report ranks it at No. 30 in National Universities, No. 8 in Best Value Schools, and No. 5 in TOp Public Schools. The university also ranks third in graduate Social Work studies.

  3. Boston College
    Location

    Chestnut Hill, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Boston College provides a Master of Social Work through its School of Social Work. The degree program boasts hands-on faculty and advising and career planning services, and a social work library and dedicated research librarians. Through electives and certificate programs, students can tailor their plan of study to their needs and interests. They can specialize in social work at the clinical or macro level, which might include a specialty in Mental Health or Older Adults & Families, amongst others. Elective course offerings include Neuroscience of Human Relationships & Development and Strategic Planning for Public & Nonprofit Organizations. Students can expect to spend half of their MSW time on field education experience.

    Boston College was founded in 1863 by a local Jesuit bishop. Previously a preparatory school and liberal arts college, BC is now a Jesuit research university. The campus is located in Massachusetts' opulent Chestnut Hill village, about six miles from downtown Boston. The historic campus features some of the initial forms of gothic architecture in the country. The university's research centers include the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life, the Sloan Work and Family Research Network, and the Weston Observatory. U.S. News & World Report ranks BC at No. 38 in National Universities and No. 33 in Best Value Schools. The university's School of Social Work ranks at No. 10 at the graduate level.

  4. University of Wisconsin
    Location

    Madison, WI

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of Wisconsin – Madison offers a Master of Social Work. The program is split into two parts: the Generalist Practice Year and the Advanced Practice Specialization Year. During the first year, students will build a foundational understanding of generalist social work. For their second year, students can choose from four focus areas: Aging; Child, Youth and Family Welfare; Health; or Mental Health. Students can then deepen their understanding of social work practice through direct or indirect practice experience. The traditional full-time program can be completed in four semesters or two years. Students who choose to complete the program on a part-time basis must carefully plan their studies with a Social Work advisor.

    Founded in 1848, UW – Madison is the oldest and largest public university in Wisconsin. It is the state's official university and the flagship campus of the University of Wisconsin System. A land and sea grant institution, UW is a Carnegie-classified top-tier research university. It is also a member of the Association of American Universities and is counted among the nation's "Public Ivies." The university is a leader in research, including nutrition science, stem cell research, and human virus research. U.S. News & World Report ranks UW at No. 49 in National Universities and No. 15 in Top Public Schools. The university's graduate Social Work studies rank at No. 13 in the nation.

  5. University of Michigan
    Location

    Ann Arbor, MI

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of Michigan offers a Master of Social Work through its School of Social Work. MSW students can choose from among 13 specializations, including Global, Interpersonal Practice, and Peace Corps. Students can also choose their desired practice area and practice method concentration. MSW course offerings include Contemporary Cultures in the United States; Death, Loss and Grief; and Social Change Theories. The 60-credit curriculum also includes a foundation field instruction experience and seminar. The degree program can be completed through one of four curriculum schedule options. These include 12-, 16, and 20-month options, as well as accelerated programs for experienced applicants and extended programs for working professionals.

    Founded in 1817, U of M is the oldest university in Michigan and the state's flagship institution. Originally established in Detroit, the campus is now located in Ann Arbor. The public research university operates the Matthaei Botanical Gardens and the Wolverine Tower office building. A sea and space grant institution, U of M is a founding member of the Association of American Universities. The university conducts significant technological research and operates the nation's oldest interdisciplinary social science research lab. It has also been included among the nation's "Public Ivy" institutions. U.S. News & World Report ranks U of M at No. 27 in National Universities, No. 12 in Most Innovative Schools, and No. 4 in Top Public Schools. The university also ranks first in graduate Social Work studies.

  6. University of Southern California
    Location

    Los Angeles, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of Southern California provides a Master of Social Work through its Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. MSW students can specialize in Adult Mental Health and Wellness; Children, Youth, and Families; or Social Change and Innovation. They may choose to pursue a military social work track or one of eight dual-degree programs. The curriculum includes course offerings in such areas as juvenile justice, school social work, and spirituality. It also incorporates field internship experiences and international study abroad opportunities. The degree program can be completed on campus or online at students' own pace, in four, six, or eight semesters.

    Founded in 1880, USC is the oldest private research university in the state of California. Its main campus is located in the University Park district of Los Angeles and features various architectural styles and historic structures. A sea- and space-grant institution, the university is a member of the Association of American Universities. USC innovations include antivirus software, DNA computing, and the Domain Name System. The USC Libraries house notable library collections in such areas as German exile literature, queer studies, and Warner Brothers studio archives. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University at No. 37 in Best Value Schools, No. 28 in Most Innovative Schools, and No. 22 in National Universities. The Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work ranks at No. 25 in the nation for graduate studies.

  7. Columbia University
    Location

    New York, NY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Columbia University in the City of New York provides a Master of Social Work through its School of Social Work. The Columbia School of Social Work has been a leader in social work education since 1898. It offers seven different pathways to its MSW degree, including on-campus, online, full-time, part-time, and accelerated programs. Students can also choose from four concentration areas: Advanced Clinical Social Work Practice, Advanced Generalist Practice & Programming, Policy Practice, and Social Enterprise Administration. The program also provides seven fields of practice, including but not limited to aging, contemporary social issues, school-based services, and workplace services. The traditional, full-time, on-campus program can be completed in two years.

    Columbia was established in 1754 by King George II of Great Britain. It is the oldest institution of higher education in the state of New York and the fifth-oldest in the United States. A private Ivy League research university, Columbia often ranks among the top ten universities in the world. Its research developments include the laser, the first evidence for plate tectonics and continental drift, and the origin of modern genetics. It is a member of the Association of American Universities. Several significant politicians are alumni of Columbia, including five founding fathers–Theodore and Franklin Delano Roosevelt–and Barack Obama. U.S. News & World Report ranks the university the third Best University in the Nation overall, and sixth for Best Value. The Columbia School of Social Work also ranks third in the nation at the graduate level.

  8. University of Washington
    Location

    Seattle, WA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of Washington offers flexible program options leading to a Master of Social Work degree. The degree program can be completed on a traditional full-time basis or a part-time basis with evening classes for working professionals. The curriculum covers history, policy, professionalism, and social justice in relation to social work. Course examples include Child Development; Gender, Gender Identity, and Sexuality; and Poverty and Inequality. Through Advanced Practice with Diverse Children and Families, individuals can focus on child mental health, child welfare, or community settings. Other invaluable fieldwork opportunities include Empowerment Practice with Refugees; Engaged Practice with Latinas and Latinos; and Praxis for Intergroup Dialogue. Students can complete the degree program in two years of full-time study, or in 9 to 11 consecutive quarters of part-time study.

    Founded in 1861, UW is the flagship university of the state of Washington. Originally established in downtown Seattle, the campus now lies in the city's University District. The university operates additional campuses in the Washington towns of Bothell and Tacoma. With over 26 libraries, the public university has one of the largest library systems in the world. A sea- and space grant institution, UW is a member of the Association of American Universities. It is also counted among the nation's "Public Ivies." U.S. News & World Report ranks UW at No. 59 in National Universities, No. 37 in Most Innovative Schools, and No. 20 in Top Public Schools. The university also ranks third in the nation for its graduate Social Work programs.

  9. Ohio State University
    Location

    Wooster, OH

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The Ohio State University awards a Master of Social Work through its College of Social Work. The degree program can be completed on a full- or part-time basis on campus or online. Students can choose from among four emphasis areas: Aging and Health, Child and Youth Services, Community and Social Justice, and Mental Health and Substance Misuse. In addition to courses, the 63-credit curriculum includes 11 credit hours of field education and seminar. The degree program can be completed in two years of full-time study. Students may also choose to pursue a dual degree program or an accelerated MSW/Ph.D. program.

    Founded in 1870, OSU was one of the land-grant universities created under the Morrill Act. Originally an agricultural and mechanical school, it is now a public research university. It has grown into the fourth-largest university in the United States by campus enrollment. In addition to its main Columbus campus, it occupies five regional campuses throughout Ohio. The university has been counted among the nation's "Public Ivies" for its high quality of education. A Carnegie-classified top-tier research university, OSU operates research facilities including the Byrd Polar Research Center, the Boyd Arboretum, and the Stone Laboratory on Gibraltar Island. U.S. News & World Report ranks the school at No. 56 in National Universities, No. 18 in Most Innovative Schools, and No. 17 in Top Public Schools. The university's College of Social Work is ranked 13th in the nation for its graduate studies.

  10. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
    Location

    Champaign, IL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign provides a Master of Social Work. The degree program is available in a traditional on-campus format, a hybrid format, or as an on-campus dual degree program with an MBA. It can be completed on a full- or part-time basis. Students can choose to pursue an Advanced Clinical or Leadership and Social Change. Under the Advanced Clinical umbrella, students can choose a focus area in Children, Youth, and Family Services; Health Care; Mental Health; or Schools. Students must complete 36 to 56 credits of coursework plus one to two semesters of internship.

    Founded in 1867, UI was one of the universities created under the Morrill Land-Grant Act. It is the flagship institution of the University of Illinois System. The public university's campus is located in the twin cities of Champaign and Urbana. It houses the second-largest library holdings in the United States, after Harvard University. It also houses the world's fastest university campus supercomputer in its National Center for Supercomputing Applications. The sea- and space-grant institution is a Carnegie-classified top-tier research university and a member of the Association of American Universities. U.S. News & World Report ranks UI at No. 46 in National Universities and No. 13 in Top Public Schools. The university also ranks at No. 22 in Social Work at the graduate level.

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