In this ranking, we examine the 10 best value colleges for a social worker degree online in 2016.
The social worker degrees listed below include both bachelor’s (BSW) and master’s (BSW) options. All of these programs are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, with the exception of those at the University of North Alabama and Montclair State University. This is because they offer an online M.S. in Family Studies and an online M.A. in Child Advocacy and Policy, respectively, which are not official MSW options and thus do not require CSWE accreditation to be considered of high quality. Even so, both UNA and MSU – and all the other online colleges that we have included – have plenty of accredited programs across an array of subjects.
Whether you’re looking for the first step in your social work career or are ready to take on some of the industry’s most advanced topics, one of these schools will be able to deliver the convenient online education you need.
10. University of Southern California
Online Master of Social Work
The first major research university to offer its MSW entirely online, USC offers a top value online social worker degree. The school’s commitment to innovation shows in its approach to distance learning: there’s a Virtual Academic Center that maximizes the power of technology in teaching. Classes are taught live by faculty, while breakout discussion rooms, live chats, document sharing, and one-on-one video office hours create an interactive learning experience. You’ll follow the same rigorous curriculum as on-campus students, with several interesting concentrations and sub-concentrations from which to choose. These options include mental health, families and children, military social work, and school social work. USC faculty will also approve and oversee your required field placements where you live, ensuring that you get practical experience.
Net Price: $31,189/yr
9. University of North Alabama
Online Master of Science in Family Studies
Graduates of the University of North Alabama’s MS in Family Studies – one of the most affordable online social worker degrees – go on to careers that allow them to serve and advocate for children and families. There is a range of interesting courses designed to prepare you for social work, including Family Diversity and Social Change, Social Psychology of Intimate Relationships, Applied Statistics in Family Studies, and Family and Social Policy. Although the program is 100% online, you will complete a practicum in your home area approved and supervised by a faculty adviser. This MS takes just two years to complete, including a capstone project or thesis in which you collect and analyze data on an issue of your choosing and give an oral defense. And take note of this perk: all students – wherever they live – pay in-state tuition!
Net Price: $10,118/yr
8. University of Alabama
Online Master of Social Work (MSW)
The University of Alabama offers two tracks through its MSW program: Advanced Standing is for students holding a Bachelor’s in Social Work; they can finish the Master’s in three full-time semesters, beginning in January or June. For those without a BSW, the Master’s degree requires two years of full time study. Either way, this is an affordable social worker degree online. Although primarily online, the curriculum calls for occasional “skills labs” that require face-to-face instruction. These labs take place at regional locations throughout Alabama, making the program most convenient for students who live in the south or are willing to travel. Choose to concentrate in Children, Adolescents, and their Families or Adults and their Families. You’ll also get practical experience through field education hours.
Net Price: $18,935/yr
7. University of New Hampshire
Online Master of Social Work
Of all the accredited online social work degrees from which you could choose, the University of New Hampshire’s MSW is superior in the many concentration options it offers. In addition to tackling UNH’s Advanced Generalist Curriculum, you’ll choose from in-demand specialties such as Health and Mental Health; Addictions and Substance Abuse; Children, Youth and Families; and Disabilities. Get the best of both educational worlds – campus and online – by learning from full-time UNH faculty without ever needing to travel to campus. Because most of your courses will be asynchronous, you can study when it’s convenient for you, making this program ideal for working professionals or anyone who needs flexibility. You could even complete the program in as few as 28 months – including the time required for internships!
Net Price: $20,546/yr
6. University of Hawaii at Manoa
Online Master of Social Work Degree
Based on Oahu, this accredited social worker degree online is available to students who live on the neighboring islands of Hawaii, Moloka’i, Kaua’i, Maui, and Lana’i. As opposed to asynchronous courses, UHM utilizes “Hawaii Interactive Television” to deliver live lectures over the internet. The majority of classes occur on weeknights in order to accommodate the schedules of working students. Small cohorts of 25-30 students participate in real-time discussions through web conferencing and interactive virtual classrooms. Be advised that you will also need to travel to the Manoa campus once per year for training and advising. Don’t live in Hawaii? Perhaps you’d like to move!
Net Price: $12,163/yr
5. Texas State University
Online Bachelor/Master of Social Work (BSW/MSW)
Texas State’s School of Social Work prepares students to serve society through its affordable online social worker degrees at both the bachelor’s and master’s levels. Undergraduate social work majors concentrate in Child Welfare, Corrections, Medical Social Work, Mental Health, Long Term Care, Rehabilitation, Industry, or Public Assistance. The BSW qualifies graduates for state licensure and entry-level social work jobs or for admission to graduate programs. The master’s program uses the same curriculum and textbooks as the on-campus program and includes both traditional coursework and real-world field experiences. Using a liberal arts approach to learning, TSU prepares master’s graduates to work in a wide variety of fields or to pursue doctoral study in a related field.
Net Price: $11,871/yr
4. Salisbury University
Online MSW Program
Located in Maryland, Salisbury’s cheap social worker degree online is currently available to residents of Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Qualified students with a BSW may be eligible for advanced standing, allowing them to shorten their time in school. For students without a BSW, the program takes 3 years of continual study in 7-week sessions. Coursework ensures broad exposure to the field, including courses on policy, research, ethics, and psychopathology. You’ll also choose from electives and complete field work to get real-world experience. With a small cohort of just 20 students and a mandatory online orientation, you don’t have to worry about getting lost in cyberspace!
Net Price: $16,683/yr
3. The University of Tennessee Knoxville
Online MSW Program
Enroll in this accredited social worker degree online and you’ll learn from the same professors as students in the on-campus program. Choose from three tracks depending on your background and other commitments: advanced standing for students with a bachelor’s in social work; full time, which takes two years to complete; or extended, which takes three or four years. All programs require field placements, which you can arrange in your local community. Because classes are both synchronous (everyone gathers to watch and participate at the same time) and asynchronous (watch as your schedule allows), you’ll find a balance of both community and flexibility. UT Knoxville’s approach to distance learning recently earned an innovation award from the Tennessee Alliance for Continuing Higher Education.
Net Price: $17,863/yr
2. Montclair State University
Online Child Advocacy and Policy M.A.
One of the best online social work degrees, Montclair’s M.A. in Child Advocacy and Policy trains its students in an emerging field that draws from psychology, sociology, and law. The curriculum prepares students for careers in child welfare, child behavioral health, community support, domestic violence, youth mentorship and development, legal advocacy, and more. Note that Montclair State University is currently only able to offer this social work degree online in 14 U.S. states. Therefore, be sure to check the website before applying to confirm that you are eligible based on residency.
Net Price: $14,798/yr
1. University of Utah
Online Bachelor of Social Work
The University of Utah teaches its students “to become the agents of change who work on behalf of society and their fellow human beings.” This bachelor’s degree requires fundamental classes in biology, psychology, sociology, and social work, followed by a series of specialized courses. You’ll choose from numerous options, including timely topics such as immigration and resettlement, substance abuse, and community-based research. There is a special emphasis on marginalized groups such as indigenous and aboriginal populations, refugees, and immigrants. This distinction makes Utah a standout in this online social worker degree ranking. Group assignments, discussion forums, and online and in-person office hours make the distance learning experience interactive. Furthermore, a required internship gives you the chance to put your skills into practice before graduating.
Net Price: $11,277/yr
This concludes our ranking of the best value colleges for a social worker degree online.
See our methodology page for more information about how we calculated this ranking.
By CVO Staff
Published March 2016