In this ranking, we profile the top 20 accelerated online MSW degree programs for 2020.
Social work is a broad field that includes counselors, clinicians, medical social workers, social workers, and more. Most organizations meeting the needs of poor, rural, and at-risk populations employ social workers. Social workers often have a prominent role in advocating for progressive change to improve the livelihood of the most disenfranchised populations. Social work is a demanding, but rewarding field. Graduate degrees in social work, such as the MSW, are also demanding and rewarding.
Methodology for Top 20 Accelerated Online MSW Degree Programs
We looked at a total of 55 colleges and universities listed by the Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) College Navigator that offered accelerated master of social work online degrees. Accelerated MSW online degrees take less time to complete than traditional MSW degrees. In fact, many of the accelerated online master of social work programs on our list can be earned in 12-18 months. These fast-paced programs are typically only open to students who have earned a BSW within the last five years. We narrowed our original pool of schools by applying the following criteria: CSWE-accreditation, school or program rankings with at least one major publication like U.S. News and World Report,
Below are the results for our list of the top 20 accelerated online MSW programs.
#20 – Boston University
Online MSW Degree
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $53,572
Students in the CSWE-accredited online MSW program can choose between concentrations in clinical social work and macro social work. The advanced-standing program involves a 1,000-hour field internship. Students will take courses like alcoholism and drug abuse, clinical practice with individuals, community organizing, human services management, and organizational behavior and culture. The 2018 U.S. News & World Report edition of “America’s Best Graduate Schools,” ranked Boston University’s School of Social Work #10 among 251 social work graduate programs nationally, placing it within the top 5 percent of similar programs. Also, Boston University ranks #40 in best national universities, according to the most recent edition of Best Colleges published by U.S. News and World Report.
#19 – Case Western Reserve University
Online MSW Programs
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $45,204
This CSWE-accredited accelerated master of social work online program offers concentrations in community practice for social change, direct practice: children, youth and families, and direct practice: mental health with adults. Case Western Reserve offers all students the chance to study abroad over a winter semester in areas across Europe and Central America. Classes are delivered 100% online, but offer engaging interaction in real-time conservations with faculty and peers. Case Western Reserve also offers a solid reputation and rankings with U.S. News and World Report. In fact, the school ranks #40 in best national universities, #49 in best value schools, and #57 in most innovative schools.
#18 – Fordham University
Bronx, New York
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $34,363
Students who start the online advanced-standing MSW program at Fordham University in the fall can complete it in one year, while those who start in spring follow an 18-month plan. Fordham offers a clinical concentration and a concentration in leadership and macro practice: community-based practice and leadership. The program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) and has received recognition from major publications like U.S. News and World Report as a top graduate social work school. Other rankings for Fordham include #74 in best national universities. Fordham lands a top spot on our list of accelerated master of social work online programs that can be completed in less time than traditional programs.
#17 – University of New England
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $20,525
This CSWE-accredited accelerated master of social work online degree at University of New England offers advanced-standing students the opportunity to complete the program in under one year. The three concentrations offered by this online MSW degree are clinical, community, and integrated practice. The program is 100% online and does not require any on-campus intensives. Students will take courses like administration and supervision, advanced psychological assessment, and program development and community practice. In addition to accreditation, the school is also ranked by U.S. News and World Report as a top institution. In fact, University of New England ranks #246 in best national universities.
#16 – Rutgers University
Online MSW Degree
New Brunswick, New Jersey
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $19,416
Rutgers University offers an accelerated master of social work online degree program that can be completed 100% via distance learning. Classes and requirements typically take three years to complete, though the program offers advanced standing for on-campus students. Through the accelerated format, students generally earn their MSW in a quicker time. There is also a weekend intensive pathway to the MSW degree, which allows students to earn their degree in two years. Certificate programs are also available for graduate students seeking additional training in addiction counseling, aging health, promoting child and adolescent well-being, and violence against women and children. Rutgers is ranked as a top national institution. In fact, U.S. News and World Report ranks the school #62 in best national universities and #157 in best value schools.
#15 – Our Lady of the Lake University
Online MSW Degree
San Antonio, Texas
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $17,142
The 30-credit advanced-standing program offered by Our Lady of the Lake University takes under two years to complete, making it a great choice for an accelerated master of social work online degree. Students will take classes like social work practice with Hispanic youth, social work practice with Hispanic families, theories and perspectives: Hispanic children and families, Hispanics in the US: policies and perspectives, and psychopathology. The program is CSWE-accredited and top ranked with major publications like U.S. News and World Report. Also, the MSW program serves as licensure preparation for individuals looking to work in advanced practice roles and clinical settings. OLLU ranks #293-#381 in best national universities by U.S. News and World Report.
#14 – University at Buffalo
Online MSW Degree
Buffalo, New York
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $13,705
University at Buffalo offers a part-time online MSW and a 35-credit advanced standing online MSW program. The advanced standing program is open to students who hold a BSW degree from an accredited institution. Courses are delivered entirely online and include topics like advanced interventions, advanced standing research and seminar, perspectives on trauma and human rights, and professional development seminar. The program typically takes 1.5 years or five semesters to complete the degree, which is why this is an accelerated master of social work online. University at Buffalo ranks with U.S. News and World Report as the 79th best national university and the 127th best value school in the nation.
#13 – University of Tennessee
MSW Online Programs
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $13,120
University of Tennessee’s accelerated master of social work online advanced-standing program can be completed in just one year of full-time study or 18 months of part time study. The program offers concentrations in evidence-based interpersonal practice and organizational leadership. Students can also earn certificates in gerontology, school social work licensure, trauma, and veterinary social work. UT ranks with major publications, such as U.S. News and World Report. In fact, UT ranks #104 in best national universities and #123 in best value schools. We selected UT’s online MSW due to affordability and accelerated track that allows students to complete their degree faster than most traditional programs.
#12 – Louisiana State University
Online MSW Degree
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $13,023
Full-time advanced-standing students at Louisiana State University can complete the CSWE-accredited accelerated master of social work online degree in just one year. Foundation students typically complete the program in two years. The online program is asynchronous and students complete their coursework at their own pace with guided deadlines and submission dates. The program operates year-round, which allows students to earn their degree at a faster rate than most traditional MSW programs. The MSW program is fully accredited and LSU ranks with major publications like U.S. News and World Report. In fact, LSU ranks #153 in best national universities and #173 in best value schools.
#11 – University of Louisville
Online MSW Degree
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $12,880
The advanced-standing track at the University of Louisville consists of 30 credit hours and can be completed 100% online in just one year. Students must have a minimum 3.25 GPA in undergraduate social work courses to qualify for advanced-standing. The social work program at the University of Louisville is among the top 30 graduate social work degrees in the United States, according to U.S. News and World Report. Additional rankings for the school include #192 in best national universities and #95 in top public schools. University of Louisville offers one of the most affordable accelerated online master of social work programs on our list.
#10 – Colorado State University
Online MSW Degree
Fort Collins, Colorado
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $12,495
Colorado State University’s CSWE-accredited accelerated master of social work online program offers students the opportunity to earn a certificate in either advanced clinical behavioral health or pre-K-12 school social worker. Students will take courses such as foundation field placement, generalist practice – large client system, small client systems skills lab, and social welfare policy analysis. Courses change during the following year and include methods of research and field placement. While the traditional MSW at CSU takes three years to complete, the advanced-standing MSW can be completed in just two years. U.S. News and World Report ranks CSU #166 in best national universities. Also, several of the school’s online graduate programs, including social work, have received top 10, 15, and 20 rankings.
#9 – University of Alabama
Online Master of Social Work
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $10,780
The 42-credit (advanced-standing) accelerated master of social work online degree from University of Alabama can be completed in just three semesters of full-time study. Students will take classes like models and methods of social work practice with adults in mental health, advanced social welfare policy analysis, chemical dependency, models and methods of social work practice with children and adolescents in mental health, and family preservation. These courses are offered online though minimal face-to-face skills laboratory sessions may be required. UA ranks with major publications like U.S. News and World Report as the 153rd best national university and 129th best value school. Also, several of UA’s online graduate programs have received top rankings.
#8 – Campbellsville University
Online MSW Degree
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $10,380
Campbellsville University offers a 30-credit advanced-standing program that takes less than a year, and a 60-credit program that can be completed in just 21 months. Students in the accelerated master of social work online program will take courses like advanced practice with children and families, community development and grant writing, leadership and supervision in social work, program evaluation, psychopathology, and world problems and advocacy. Applicants who have completed their BSW degree over seven years ago will need to enroll in the 60-credit hour MSW program rather than the accelerated MSW. Campbellsville University ranks #92 in best regional universities in the South and #114 in top performers on social mobility, according to U.S. News and World Report.
#7 – Indiana University
Online MSW Degree
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $9,662
Indiana University’s CSWE-accredited accelerated master of social work online program’s advanced-standing track consists of 39 credit hours and can be completed in 18 months. All students have up to five years to complete their degree from the date you begin coursework. However, students eligible for advanced standing in the MSW program must have received a BSW within the last five years. Some of the required courses include assessment in mental health and addictions, community and global theory and practice, and practice research integrative seminar. Indiana University ranks #79 in best national universities and #140 in best value schools by U.S. News and World Report.
#6 – Boise State University
Online MSW Degree
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $9,194
Boise State University accelerated master of social work online program offers a flexibly designed degree that is ideal for working students. All classes are delivered online. Students cover topics in clinical, organizational, and policy social work. They delve into studies that promote social justice and equality, while learning how to enhance the quality of life for all people. To enroll in the advanced standing program, applicants must have graduated from an accredited BSW program within the last five years. BSU ranks with U.S. News and World Report as the 42nd most innovative school. Also, the school ranks #293-#381 in top national universities.
#5 – Humboldt State University
Online MSW Degree
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $9,109
Humboldt State University’s CSWE-accredited one-year advanced-standing program is available to students with a CSWE-accredited BSW degree. Students in the advanced-standing program will take courses like child and family welfare, communities and organizations, and wellness and sustainability. This program exposes all graduate students to the cultural diversity and influences that impact individuals and groups of people within rural and Native American communities. In addition to the CSWE accreditation, Humboldt State ranks with U.S. News and World Report as the 37th best regional university in the West and the 43rd best value school.
#4 – University of Maine
Online MSW Degree
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $9,106
University of Maine’s advanced-standing accelerated master of social work online program takes less than two years, depending on student’s pace and schedule. Students will take courses like advanced social policy, human behavior and the social environment, program planning and grant writing, and social welfare policy and issues for generalist practitioners. To be admitted to the advanced standing MSW program option, students must hold a BSW from a CSWE-accredited program. Online options are also available, but take three years to complete. The online MSW offers a blend of online and hybrid classes. The University of Maine ranks with major publications like U.S. News and World Report. In fact, the school ranks #202 in best national universities and #100 in top public schools.
#3 – Saint Leo University
Online MSW Degree
Saint Leo, Florida
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $8,498
To qualify for advanced-standing at Saint Leo University students must have a bachelor’s in social work from a CSWE-accredited program. Advanced-standing can be completed in one year of full-time study. While offered fully online, students must live in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, South Carolina, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, Texas, or Virginia to take this accelerated master of social work online program. Students will take classes like psychopathology, evidence-based social work research methods, and ethical foundations in social work practice. Saint Leo ranks with U.S. News and World Report as the 25th best regional university in the South and the 5th best value school in the nation.
#2 – Valdosta State University
Online MSW Degree
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $6,628
Valdosta State University’s online MSW consist of 60 hours of coursework delivered in a hybrid format. Advanced-standing online MSW students complete the degree in one year while simultaneously engaged in a one-year practicum placement. Students enrolled in the CSWE-accredited accelerated master of social work online program will acquire a broad range of skills enabling them to work in many settings, including hospice, mental health facilities, hospitals, and schools. Valdosta State ranks with major publications like U.S. News and World Report. In fact, Valdosta ranks #293-#381 in best national universities. Also, the school lands a top spot on our list for affordability.
#1 – Western New Mexico University
Online MSW Degree
Silver City, New Mexico
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $4,781
Western New Mexico University’s accelerated master of social work online degree features a 45-credit advanced-standing track that can be completed in as little as one year. The 66-credit track takes two years because it features four field experiences to make up for the lack of a BSW. Students enrolled in the advanced standing program take classes in community organization and development, cultural competence in social work practice, social work administration and supervision, and theories and techniques of clinical social work practice. Western New Mexico University has received recognition from major publications like U.S. News and World Report as a top regional university in the West. The school ranks #1 on our list for offering the most affordable accelerated master of social work online degree program.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can I do with an accelerated online MSW degree?
Social workers work in a variety of settings, including child welfare agencies, clinics, hospitals or healthcare facilities, human service organizations, and private practices. The primary role of a social worker, especially one with an accelerated master of social work online degree, is to help individuals cope and solve problems impacting everyday life.
For those with an MSW, opportunities to work with specialized population groups exist. Below are examples of types of social workers:
Child and family: Child and family social workers advocate and protect vulnerable children and help families acquire assistance. Services may include help with adoption, housing assistance, foster care, and more.
Healthcare: Healthcare social workers often assist doctors and caregivers in a professional healthcare setting. They help patients manage illnesses, diseases, and the impacts these have on mental health.
Mental health and substance abuse: These specialized social workers help clients with mental illness, addiction, and substance abuse. They often work in private practice.
School: School social workers typically work in school settings and work closely with parents, teachers, and administrators to develop plans to improve academic performance and social development. School social workers deal with a variety of problems, such as bullying, frequent absences, and behavioral issues.
What are the requirements of an accelerated MSW online degree program?
Accelerated master of social work online degree programs shorten the length of time spent earning the degree. Most accelerated programs, also referred to as advanced standing programs, require applicants to hold a bachelor of social work (BSW) before enrollment. In fact, many accelerated programs require applicants to have earned a BSW within the last five years.
Additional requirements of advanced standing, or accelerated, MSW online degree programs include accreditation. Not only do the programs require BSW degrees, but stipulations state that the bachelor of social work be obtained from a CSWE-accredited program. CSWE, or Council on Social Work Education, is a governing body responsible for developing accreditation standards that define competent preparation. CSWE’s Commission on Accreditation (COA) ensures social work programs meet the standards set forth by the governing body. This means that CSWE-accredited programs adhere to the stringent requirements of social work.
Currently, accelerated MSW programs require 30 to 48 credits, as compared to the 60 credits required for traditional programs. Since a BSW has been earned, the required credits in accelerated programs have been cut short.
In addition to an earned BSW, other requirements for admission vary by program. Some programs will require an undergraduate GPA of 3.0, letters of recommendation, and/or job related social work experience.
How much money can I earn with an accelerated online MSW degree?
The Occupational Outlook Handbook published in May 2018 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the median annual wage for social workers was $49,470. The lowest ten percent of earners made $30,750 or less, while the highest ten percent earned more than $81,400.
PayScale, a global compensation research organization that compiles salary data for occupations and degree levels, reports the average social worker (MSW) salary as $46,656. PayScale also reports that the average salary is impacted by experience. In fact, pay increases with experience. The breakdown of pay is indicated below.
For entry-level social workers with an MSW degree and less than one-year experience, the average total compensation is $42,375 based on over 270 salaries profiled. Early career social workers, those with one to four years of experience, earn an average total compensation of $44,963. Mid-career social workers with five to nine years of experience earn average salaries of $48,994. Experienced social workers with ten to nineteen years of experience earned average salaries of $52,887. The last group detailed by PayScale showed the highest reported salary. Social workers in their late career, twenty years or higher), reported average salaries of $60,875.
There is a direct correlation between years of experience and total compensation. The more experience a social worker has, the more money they can expect to earn.
How long are accelerated online MSW degree programs?
Accelerated master of social work online degree programs vary. Typically, accelerated programs require an earned BSW, which shortens the time it takes to earn the MSW. Most of the programs on our list range between 12 and 18 months to earn the degree.
Many of the accelerated MSW programs on our list offer part-time or full-time completion pathways. You should expect a shorter length of time when earning an MSW if you are enrolled full-time. Part-time programs do offer flexibility and are ideal for working students, though take longer to complete the requirements for the MSW. Most accelerated master of social work online degree programs on our list offer only full-time enrollment.
Without acceleration, a traditional MSW takes two years to complete. Some programs allow students to work at their own pace, stretching the time it takes to earn the MSW. In most cases, students are offered a range of time to satisfy the requirements for their degree. Completion time varies, but typical programs allow up to six years. However, accelerated master of social work online degree programs take less time. Most of the accelerated programs on our list stipulate that requirements for the degree must be met within 12 to 24 months.
What is the job outlook for individuals with accelerated MSW online degrees?
The United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports a favorable job outlook for social workers. In fact, the overall employment of social workers is expected to grow 11 percent from 2018 to 2028. This is a much faster growth rate than the average for all occupations.
BLS predicts that the job prospects for clinical social workers, those with an MSW, should be “very good.” The favorable prediction is primarily due to the continuing growth of healthcare spending. Also, as treatment increases and more emphasis is placed on mental health wellness, job opportunities for clinical social workers will expand. In fact, BLS reports a higher anticipated growth in jobs for clinical social workers who see patients than for social workers who do not offer treatment services.
Certain areas of specialty within the social work field are expected to see an even higher job growth. Specifically, the employment of mental health and substance abuse social workers is projected to grow 18 percent through 2028, which is also much faster than the average for all other occupations. Individuals earning an accelerated master of social work may consider certification or licensing in substance abuse or mental health counseling to take advantage of the anticipated job prospects.
All information in this article was drawn either directly from each school’s website or from the National Center for Education Statistics’ College Navigator database.