Online MSW without GRE Requirement

msw without gre requirements

Key Takeaways 

  1. Pursue an online MSW program without the GRE for added flexibility and accessibility.
  2. Compare admission criteria, curriculum, and student experiences when choosing an online MSW program.
  3. Consider online MSW programs as a viable option for advancing your social work career without GRE constraints.


The popularity of online MSW programs can be attributed to their quality, flexibility, and affordability as well as accessibility. Earning an online MSW degree is worth it, too. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), social workers earn a median annual salary of $58,380 (May 2023) but can earn more than $94,910 annually in leadership positions. A master’s degree in social work opens career advancement opportunities in a wide range of occupations, too, such as nonprofit directors, justice advocates, and policy advisors. 


In most ways, online MSW programs without GRE requirements are the same as their on-campus counterparts. The best online and on-campus programs offer quality, affordability, and accessibility through their challenging curriculum, credentialed professors, and satisfactory student support services. Their curriculum can include the following major components: 

Featured Programs

  • Foundational courses 
  • Major or core courses 
  • Concentration courses 
  • Elective courses 
  • Master’s thesis or capstone project in a non-thesis option 
  • Practicum or field experiences that meet social work licensure requirements 

Their main difference is in their delivery – online MSW programs offer more flexibility because of their remote learning format than on-campus MSW programs. 

Importance of GRE in MSW Programs

The Graduate Record Examination is owned and administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). It is a standardized test that is required in many Master of Social Work (MSW) programs for the following reasons:

Evaluation of Academic Potential and Preparedness

Admissions officers use GRE scores in the assessment of an applicant’s preparedness and readiness for challenging graduate-level courses. The GRE contains sections on verbal skills, quantitative skills, and analytical writing skills that demonstrate an individual’s level of proficiency in these areas. These scores are used in the evaluation of an applicant’s fit for the program beyond their bachelor’s degree cumulative GPA, professional work experience, personal statement, and letters of recommendation. 

Comparisons Between Applicants

In selective programs, admissions officers use GRE scores as an objective tool in choosing between applicants with the same or similar credentials. For example, an applicant with better quantitative scores may be a better fit since social work demands competent quantitative skills in research and data analysis. 

We must, however, point out that many of the best online MSW programs don’t require GRE scores as part of their admission criteria. These programs recognize that GRE scores have a limited correlation to academic potential and preparedness and have little bearing on social work as a profession. 

Interested individuals can also look for the GRE waiver for MSW programs. Applicants can take advantage of the GRE waiver if they meet other admission requirements, such as an exceptional undergraduate GPA, extensive and relevant professional work experience, and demonstrations of leadership. 

The no GRE required admissions policy in online MSW programs makes it possible for working professionals who haven’t taken the GRE or who don’t meet the GRE scores thresholds to apply. In doing so, the field of social work becomes more attractive for individuals without a bachelor’s degree in social work, among other benefits. 

Benefits of Online MSW Programs

Online learning is seeing a steep rise in popularity among working professionals, adult learners, and other non-traditional students because of its numerous benefits. 

Excellent Quality of Education and Training 

The best online programs deliver the same curriculum as their on-campus counterparts, as is the case with the University of Southern California, the University of Denver, and Boston University. The professors in on-campus programs also teach the online programs, often in a blended environment. Most of the on-campus student support services, library resources, and career services are also offered online.

Online students then receive the same outstanding quality of academic instruction, undergo the same rigorous coursework, and benefit from the same services and resources as on-campus students. In terms of practicum and field experiences, online students are also required to meet them. 

Greater Flexibility in Schedules 

Online MSW programs for working professionals are designed with maximum flexibility in mind. Students can access their learning materials, resources, and assignments 24/7, submit their assignments, take their exams online, and participate in other learning activities through online platforms. Video conferencing, emails and chats, and discussion boards are common. 

The self-paced learning also enables working professionals to maintain a good work-life balance while meeting their commitments. This is also beneficial in terms of accommodating different learning preferences and styles, such as through multimedia content, recorded lectures, and text-based materials. 

More Affordable Cost of Education 

If you want to earn an MSW degree without getting into crippling student debt, you should look into affordable online MSW programs first. Public colleges and universities are your best bets, but private institutions are a good option, too, with their generous financial aid programs. 

On their own furthermore, online MSW programs can be more affordable than on-campus programs. Online students don’t have to spend money on traveling from and to the campus and spend less on supplies and textbooks.  

Greater Accessibility and Geographical Flexibility 

Online MSW programs eliminate geographical barriers associated with on-campus programs. With an online learning management system and other digital technologies, online students can complete their social work degrees without setting foot on campus. Even the in-person field experiences can be completed in their local communities. 

Students in rural communities or areas without on-campus MSW programs can then participate in these online programs. 

More Diversity, Equity and Inclusion 

With greater accessibility and geographical flexibility, online MSW programs feature diverse and inclusive student populations, too. Students can come from across the nation, as well as from diverse educational and professional backgrounds. The greater the diversity, the more enriching the learning experiences can be. 

Broader Networking Opportunities

Since students in online MSW programs come from diverse locations and backgrounds, their networking opportunities become broader. Students in LSU’s program, for example, can connect with students in and outside of Louisiana.

Of course, not every individual will thrive in an online MSW program. You may, for example, prefer face-to-face interactions and a more structured classroom setting. However, you will find that online MSW programs have several merits that make them an excellent alternative.  

List of 10 Online MSW Programs Without GRE Requirements

  1. California State University 
  2. University of Houston 
  3. University of South Florida 
  4. University of Denver 
  5. Howard University 
  6. Simmons University 
  7. Syracuse University 
  8. Fordham University 
  9. Louisiana State University 
  10. Ohio State University 

Admission Criteria for Online MSW Programs

Note that the online MSW program’s admission requirements are usually the same as the on-campus program application requirements. In online MSW programs without the GRE requirement, the other admissions requirements are more likely to be selective. For example, the minimum cumulative GPA requirement can be 3.0 instead of 2.5 to ensure academic readiness. 

Undergraduate Academic Performance

The assessment of applicants is based on their cumulative GPA on their undergraduate degree. It can be in social work or another field of study. Most, if not all, programs require a 3.0 GPA for applicants to be considered. However, applicants may be able to demonstrate relevant professional experience to compensate for a lower-than-preferred GPA. 

Prerequisite Courses 

In many MSW programs, applicants will only be considered if they have completed specific prerequisite courses. Applicants with a bachelor’s degree in social work may or may not be required to comply with the requirement. 

The common prerequisite courses include: 

  • Introductory psychology, sociology, and social work 
  • Human development and human biology 
  • Statistics and other courses related to quantitative skills 
  • Research methods 

Check with the program administrators regarding the prerequisite requirement. You may be allowed to complete them while you’re already enrolled. 

Professional Work Experience

Many MSW programs require applicants to possess relevant professional work experience as part of the admissions process. The professional work experience will usually be in a social work capacity, particularly for advanced standing programs, but it can also be in another capacity. 

Admissions officers use professional work experience as a tool to determine an applicant’s commitment to the field of social work, their career progression, and their potential contributions to the program and profession. Their first-hand experiences can enrich class discussions, too. 

Applicants may either be required (mandatory) or requested (optional) to submit their professional work portfolio for evaluation purposes. For example, you can submit it to strengthen your application and increase your chances for admission. Your work portfolio should showcase your professional accomplishments, including social work-related projects and research studies. 

Letters of Recommendation or Professional References 

These formal letters demonstrate an applicant’s preparedness and suitability for the rigorous social work courses ahead. Both letters of recommendation and professional references must be from non-family members, such as professors, supervisors, and community leaders. 

Statement of Purpose or Personal Statement 

Applicants can further demonstrate their suitability for the program through a compelling statement of purpose or personal statement. You can write about your motivations for pursuing an MSW degree, related career goals, and relevant experiences. If there’s a recommended format and content, you should ideally follow it. 


In most MSW programs, prompts for essays are provided in addition to specific instructions about word count, format, and delivery format (e.g., email attachment or part of the online application form). Again, be sure to follow instructions. 


Not every online MSW program conducts applicant interviews. But if you’re invited to an interview, you should prepare for it since it’s usually the last step in the acceptance process. 

Every online MSW program has specific admissions processes and criteria that you must consider carefully. When in doubt, you should always request for more information. You should also check and double-check that your online application form and its supporting documentation are complete, accurate, and up-to-date. Your success in being accepted into your preferred program may well hinge on this first step. 

Student Testimonials

When you’re considering earning an online MSW degree, you should read the testimonials of current students pursuing online social work degrees. You will find that their first-hand experiences related to the learning management system used in their programs, their peers and professors, and their courses and field experiences provide valuable insights. 

According to students in Fordham University’s online MSW program, for example, the program’s strong emphasis on holistic development prepared them for the risks and rewards of leadership positions in social work. Students are encouraged to develop their intellectual knowledge and skills alongside their moral compass and spiritual awareness. The combination of online courses and field education in their local communities also contributed to their well-rounded education. 

California State University students, in its online MSW program, say that the extensive curriculum provided them with the knowledge, skills, and tools for career advancement. Students love the program’s strong emphasis on peer collaboration and support, phenomenal student support services, and exceptional mentorship from their professors. The generous financial aid options also eased the financial burden of earning a prestigious MSW degree. 

Students in the University of Denver’s online MSW program assert that it’s an excellent program with accessible and enjoyable classes. Their professors are engaging, accessible, and knowledgeable, too, which contributed to their productive time. Even their course load is manageable, which allows them to maintain a good work-life balance. 

The University of South Florida online MSW students say that while the challenging curriculum can be stressful, the rigorous education strengthened their readiness for leadership positions. Their professors work with them toward academic and career success, while administrative staff members are supportive. 

Students in Howard University’s MSW program praise it for its strength-affirming features that enabled them to make a more positive impact on their communities. The program also emphasizes holistic development at both the personal and professional levels, which prepares students for career and life success. 

Louisiana State University’s online MSW program is known for its rigorous academics, combining contemporary courses, experiential learning opportunities, and group projects. Students praise its asynchronous learning format that enables self-paced learning for working professionals. Both the professors and administrative staff members are easy to communicate with and work with students for their success. 

Student reviews of Ohio State University’s online MSW program have been largely positive, too. The professors were praised for their exceptional teaching styles, extensive knowledge and experience in their fields, and their liberal perspectives. The overall approach emphasizes social justice and equity, policy advocacy, and ensuring the client’s best interests. 

Simmons University’s online MSW program is popular for its streamlined, if selective, admissions process where students work with their student success specialist and academic advisor early on. The curriculum strongly emphasizes social justice, equity and advocacy, while the internships are popular for their enriching experiences.

Comparing Online MSW Programs

These ten accredited online MSW programs offer students the flexibility, accessibility and quality as well as accessibility that characterize online programs. The Council on Social Work Education is the sole accrediting agency that is Council for Higher Education Accreditation- or CHEA-recognized.

These programs are also featured in the best online MSW programs rankings for these reasons. Just keep in mind that what may be best for others may not be the best for your unique circumstances, needs, and goals. 

You should then take a closer look at each of these programs’ admission requirements, curriculum, and degree requirements when making your choice. Your goal is to ensure that, indeed, you’re the right fit for whatever online MSW program you choose. 

NameApplication RequirementsOptionsExamples of CoursesRegional and Programmatic Accreditation
California State University– Bachelor’s degree
– 3.0 GPA
– Liberal arts academic background and prerequisite courses
– Social work experience
– Advanced Standing program
– Two-year program
– Three-year program
– Pathway Distance Education program
– MSW/MPA program
– Human Behavior in the Social Environment
– Social Work Research
– WASC Senior College and University Commission
University of Houston– Bachelor’s degree
– 3.0 GPA
– Personal narrative statement
– Two letters of recommendation
– Resume
– Clinical Practice
– Macro Practice
– Confronting
– Oppression and Injustice
– Social Policy Analysis
– Association of Colleges & Schools Commission on Colleges
University of South Florida– Bachelor’s or master’s degree with a “B” average
– Resume 
– Essays on life experiences and social problems 
– Three references
– Online Part-Time 
– Non-Advanced Standing
– Online Part-Time Advanced Standing
– Online Full-Time Advanced Standing
– Social Work Practice with Individuals
– Social Welfare Policy Development and Analysis
University of Denver– Bachelor’s degree
– 2.5 GPA, minimum, but 3.0 is preferred
– Official transcripts
– Letters of recommendation
– Resume
– Career goals statement
– Online MSW
– Online 
– Advanced-Standing MSW
– Power, Privilege and Oppression
– Assessment of Mental Health Across the Lifespan
– Higher Learning Commission
Howard University– Bachelor’s degree
– Transcripts from all previously attended institutions
– Current resume
– Three letters of recommendation
– Personal statement and application essay
– Traditional MSW
– Advanced Standing MSW
– Direct Practice Concentration
– Community, Administration and Policy (CAP) Practice Concentration
– Human Service Administration
– Intervention Planning and Strategies
– Psychopathology
– Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Simmons University– Résumé
– Transcript
– Letters of recommendation
– Statement of professional and educational intent
– Advanced Standing
– Accelerated
– Full Time
– Extended
– Certificate in Mental Health Practice, Trauma Practice, or Military Practice offered
– Ecological Systems Theory
– Sociocultural Theory
– Cognitive Behavioral Theory
– New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
Syracuse University– Bachelor’s degree
– Resume 
– Essay
– Three letters of recommendation 
– Completion of prerequisite courses in physical or natural science, computational skills, humanities, and social sciences
– Traditional MSW
– Advanced Standing MSW
– Advanced Integrated Practice Concentration 
– Advanced Clinical Practice Concentration
– Fundamentals of Social Work Practice I
– Social Welfare Policy and Services
– Persons in Social Context
Fordham University– Bachelor’s or master’s degree
– Undergraduate and, if applicable, graduate transcripts
– Current résumé
– Personal statement
-Recommendation letter
– Traditional Online MSW
– Advanced Standing Online MSW
– Generalist Phase courses
– Specialist Phase courses
Louisiana State University– Bachelor’s degree 
– Completion of prerequisite courses in the social and behavioral sciences,  humanities, and introductory statistics
– 3.0 GPA minimum
– Official copy of transcripts
– Three letters of recommendation
Letter of Intent
– Current resume
– Demonstration of aptitude and personal traits for social work, including emotional stability and genuine interest in people
– 60-Hour Fast Track
– 60-Hour Standard Track
– 60-Hour Extended Track
– Advanced Standing Fast Track
– Advanced Standing Standard Track
– Differential Diagnosis
– Specialist Internship
Ohio State University– Bachelor’s degree
– 3.0 GPA or higher
– Transcripts
– Resumé
– Personal statement
– Three professional letters of recommendation
– MSW Advanced Standing Alternative Program (ASAP) pathway
– Traditional MSW pathway
– Integrative Seminar on Child and Youth Services
– Evidence in Social Work Practice

Tips for Success in Online MSW Programs

Earning an online MSW degree isn’t a walk in the park. You must be determined, driven, and dedicated to achieving your goal. Otherwise, you may well drop out due to the rigorous coursework and challenging nature of fieldwork. Fortunately, you can earn an online MSW degree with careful planning and execution. 

  • Review the curriculum and course descriptions. Understand the learning outcomes for both the program and its courses. 
  • Communicate with your professors before classes start. Ask them relevant questions about the syllabus. Introduce yourself, but do it professionally. 
  • Connect with your fellow students as early as possible. By maintaining positive relationships with your peers, you have a support system that understands the exact nature of your academic challenges. 
  • Create a conducive space for your studying needs. Ensure that your study space also includes the required technology requirements. 
  • Make daily, weekly, and monthly schedules based on your coursework, work commitments, and personal obligations. Adjust them as necessary. Time management is the key to meeting your commitments. 
  • Take advantage of your program’s student support services, library resources, and career services. Don’t hesitate to ask for assistance, either.

Most importantly, keep your eye on the prize – an MSW degree. 


Online MSW programs without GRE admission requirements are an excellent option for working professionals. It allows them to take advantage of career advancement opportunities in the field. Students benefit from the rigorous curriculum and challenging field experiences through excellent career preparedness for leadership positions. Be aware, however, that these online programs have selective admissions processes and criteria that ensure their students will succeed in the profession.