Master's in Social Work: Online and Campus-Based Programs

In addition to providing emotional support to clients, social workers often act as social justice advocates towards issues like economic well being and access to education. Learn about earning a master's degree in social work on-campus or online. Schools offering Addictions & Social Work degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does A Master's Degree Program in Social Work Entail?

As a student in a Master of Social Work (M.S.W.) degree program, you'll learn how to provide practical assistance and emotional support to various social, cultural and demographic groups or individuals in need. Classes will give you an in-depth education in social work assessment and treatment techniques. You'll also receive some instruction in basic psychological theories.

You'll learn about the roles social groups and problems play in the lives of individuals, and how to provide practical and therapeutic counseling to improve their lives. You'll also learn about the foundations of social programs.

At the beginning of your M.S.W. studies, you'll likely be required to complete a handful of core social work courses. Beyond these mandatory foundational courses, your master's degree curriculum is likely to be fairly flexible, allowing you to customize your coursework to address your eventual social work career goals. You may specialize in public or mental health, gerontology, or school social work. You'll also have to complete social work practicum hours under the supervision of a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW).

The structure of your M.S.W. plan of study may also be altered depending on the level of social work background with which you enter the program. If you've recently earned a Bachelor of Social Work (B.S.W.), you can often apply to an advanced standing master's program. As a result, you'll have to take fewer graduate courses and will be able to earn your master's degree faster than in a traditional program.

Program Structure Foundational social work courses, specialization in a certain area of social work and supervised practicum hours
Common Courses Mental health care, counseling techniques, developmental psychology, crisis intervention
Licensure3,000 hours or two years' experience required by most states; degree program may satisfy requirements
Online Requirements Computer with an Internet connection and some software may be required

What Kinds of Classes Will I Take?

Your exact plan of study will differ somewhat depending on the exact area of concentration you declare. Sample course topics that may be of interest to all M.S.W. students include:

  • Child and family counseling
  • Social science research and statistics
  • Psychological assessments
  • Caseloads and treatment planning
  • Mental health care
  • Social work administration
  • Social welfare programs
  • Developmental psychology
  • Crisis intervention
  • Social justice advocacy

Will A Master's Degree Qualify me to be a Licensed Social Worker?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the majority of states require social workers to have either 3,000 hours or two years of supervised work experience before officially designating them as social workers. The BLS also reports that social work licensure or certification is required in each U.S. state and Washington, D.C. (www.bls.gov.).

Earning your social work master's degree may or may not be sufficient in satisfying the clinical experience regulations for licensure in your state. Many schools do require enough clinical hours to qualify graduates for licensure in the states in which they're located, however.

Are These Programs Available Online?

If you want to earn a social work master's degree but cannot commit to the time or location demands of a campus-based program, you can enroll in an online M.S.W. program and receive the same education you would on campus. Part-time M.S.W. degrees are also available, making distance learning study accessible to working professionals who are returning to college.

All you'll need to access course lectures, tests, readings and assignments and submit your completed work is an Internet-connected computer, perhaps with some additional standard software programs for completing and viewing documents. Be aware that you must complete your mandatory clinical fieldwork through a social work-related agency in your area.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

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  • Purdue University Global

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  • Capella University

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  • Strayer University

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  • Regent University

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  • Saint Leo University

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  • University of Louisville

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    • Kentucky: Louisville
  • University of Connecticut

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    • Connecticut: Storrs
  • University of Pennsylvania

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    • Pennsylvania: Philadelphia
  • DePaul University

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    • Illinois: Chicago