Top 25 Cheap MSW Online Programs 2017-2018

Best Value Schools - Top Online MSW ProgramsIf you’re interested in psychology or counseling, you may want to consider a career in social work. Many occupations in this field – particularly those that seek licensed counselors – will only consider applicants with a master of social work (MSW) degree. Earning a master’s degree in social work enables students to acquire advanced training and engage in internships and practicums that will help them – and their future clients – be successful.

Featured Programs

The first step, of course, is to pick an online college. This may seem like a simple task, but it can be difficult to find a school that fits your needs. In many cases, it comes down to balance. This means finding a college that offers flexible scheduling and low tuition, but also a challenging curriculum.

The 25 Best Online MSW Programs Ranking Methodology

Selection Criteria

For this ranking, we focused on public and private (non-profit) colleges and universities that offer MSW degrees online. To be eligible for consideration, each program must be accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). We acquired our initial list of potential top programs from the CSWE’s list of accredited online and distance education MSW programs.

In addition, we limited our selection to colleges with an average* annual graduate school tuition rate of $25,000 or less.

*For public schools, we calculated the average value of their in-state and out-of-state rates.

Ranking Factors

To assess the value of each program, we defined six ranking factors.

First, we looked at the types of program format: part/full-time and regular/advanced standing. Schools earned more points for offering a greater variety of formats. (Weighted 10%).

Second, we examined accessibility . Not all schools on this ranking are available 100% online. We assigned each MSW program a level of accessibility on a scale from 1 (50% or less of the coursework is online) to 7 (100% of the program is online). Intermediate levels accounted for the percentage of online coursework and other factors, including occasional trips to campus for workshops or intensives and any limitation on the residency of applicants. (Weighted 20%).

Third, we awarded points to programs that offer specialized practice and/or concentration options to online learners. (Weighted 15%).

Fourth, we calculated an average student performance outcome using an assessment report that the CSWE requires each college to publish. MSW departments must evaluate students on various competency measures and report the percentage of program members who meet “competency benchmarks.” (Weighted 20%).

Fifth, we recorded the number of MSW majors that the program graduated last year. This measure complements the previous one by emphasizing size over percentage. In this way, we were able to account for the fact that large departments must get more students to hit benchmarks in order to report the same percentage as a smaller program. (Weighted 15%).

Lastly, we measured affordability by looking at each college’s average annual tuition rate. Of course, lower prices earned more points. (Weighted 20%).

We scaled the final scores so that the top school earned 100 points. Read more about the best online master of social work programs below!


Widener University Online MSW Degree Programs

Widener provides one of the best online master’s of social work with a focus on trauma.

25. Widener University

Online Master of Social Work

Website
The belief that past trauma is often the root cause of mental illness defines Widener’s accredited online MSW degree program. Coursework incorporates this trauma-centric approach, and students leave ready to help patients work through past experiences to come out stronger. As a socially engaged school, Widener’s MSW program also includes a focus on social and economic justice. Students begin by studying the history of social welfare programs before learning how they can help their communities develop policies that truly work for everyone. You can complete all courses online, and you’ll complete a field placement to gain hands-on experience in your community.
Average Tuition: $22,140/yr
Score: 60.07

Western Kentucky University Online MSW Degree Programs

Earning a top MSW degree online from Western Kentucky University prepares you for work in rural communities.

24. Western Kentucky University

Online MSW Advanced Standing Program

Website
If you’re passionate about providing mental health services to underserved communities, WKU could offer one of the best online social work master’s degrees for you. Although the program prepares graduates for work in all geographical areas, the school focuses primarily on rural areas and small towns or cities. Required classes such as “Social Work in Diverse Rural Areas” and “Rural Community Organization and Development” reflect this focus. The program also includes an impressive selection of electives to help you narrow your studies. Whether you’re primarily interested in working with immigrants, children, or another specific group, WKU likely has a course to meet your needs.
Average Tuition: $13,060/yr
Score: 62

Portland State University Online MSW Degree Programs

The accredited online MSW degree program at PSU includes two concentrations to prepare you for careers in specific settings.

23. Portland State University

Online MSW

Website
Portland State University wants its online learners to feel as though they’re part of the greater school community. To that end, all students who choose to earn the school’s top MSW online are required to spend two days on campus at the beginning of each year, where they can meet both their instructors and their fellow learners. For the rest of the year, however, you can complete your coursework completely online. The three-year MSW program includes two concentrations: Health Across the Lifespan and Practice and Leadership with Communities and Organizations. The former focuses on social work in health-related contexts, while the latter prioritizes work in the community and organizational settings.
Average Tuition: $16,416/yr
Score: 62.47

California State University Chico Online MSW Degree Programs

As you earn an affordable online social work master’s degree from CSU – Chico, you’ll spend a few weekends on campus each semester.

22. California State University-Chico

Online MSW Distributed Learning Program

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Because CSU requires enrollees in its accredited online master’s of social work program to spend significant time at its Chico campus, the program might be best suited for local students. The school’s “distributed learning” model incorporates a blend of asynchronous online courses, on-campus classroom time, and synchronous online collaborative sessions to give students a unique experience as they pursue their MSW. Expect to spend two to three weekends on campus each semester, where you’ll practice your skills with instructors. Note that this cohort-based program does not offer rolling admission and only admits students every three years when the previous class graduates.
Average Tuition: $11,202/yr
Score: 63.67

University of Wyoming Online MSW Degree Programs

UW provides one of the most affordable MSW online degrees – even without factoring in the savings you’d earn from a graduate assistantship.

21. University of Wyoming

Online MSW Program

Website
At the University of Wyoming, you can earn a cheap MSW degree online with the option to enroll in an Advanced Standing program. The latter program begins each summer with bridge courses that prepare BSW holders for further study. Note that it requires an undergrad social work GPA of 3.25 or above, and you’ll need to have received a B or better on your BSW’s field education practicum. For students without a BSW, UW also offers a standard program. And although this is one of the more affordable MSW options on this list, if you need financial assistance and can spend time on the Laramie campus, you could pursue a graduate assistantship to reduce the cost of tuition.
Average Tuition: $8,325/yr
Score: 66.73

University of Arkansas Online MSW Degree Programs

The top online social work master’s degree at U of A is an Advanced Standing program you can complete in just 12 months.

20. University of Arkansas

Online MSW Advanced Standing Program

Website
The University of Arkansas boasts one of the most unique accredited online MSW degree programs on this list. While many online degrees are tailored to part-time study, U of A offers a single program that requires full-time work. But that means you can earn an Advanced Standing MSW in a single year, with courses in the summer, fall, and spring semesters. This brand-new program requires no campus visits, and faculty will help you arrange an agency-based internship at a location in your community. If you have your BSW degree and want to earn an MSW in relatively little time, U of A could be a great choice.
Average Tuition: $12,487/yr
Score: 69.4

Arizona State University Online MSW Degree Programs

The top online master’s of social work from Arizona State includes three concentrations to bring focus to your degree.

19. Arizona State University

Online Social Work – Standard Program (MSW)

Website
The rigorous accredited online social work master’s degree at Arizona State provides students with both a broad understanding of social work and a deeper dive into certain populations. For example, thanks to the school’s location, the curriculum includes work that examines Borderland issues and the cultural diversity of the American Southwest. During your second year of study, you’ll choose one of three concentration options: advanced direct practice; advanced generalist; and policy, administration, and community practice. If you choose advanced direct practice, you’ll further define your studies with a specialization in children, youth, and families; health/behavioral health; or public child welfare.
Average Tuition: $18,420/yr
Score: 70.07

Humboldt State University Online MSW Degree Programs

As you earn a top MSW degree online from Humboldt State, you’ll spend a few days on campus each year.

18. Humboldt State University

Online MSW Degree Program

Website
Both the Advanced Standing and standard top MSW online programs at Humboldt State are designed with rural students in mind. Because this group might not have easy access to the school’s campus in Arcata, California, the programs incorporate just a few on-campus requirements: an orientation as you enter the program and yearly January intensives, typically held over a long weekend. Both degrees are administered by supportive faculty who will work closely with you to make arrangements so you can meet the program’s field experience requirements. And if you’re interested in helping Native populations, note that Humboldt’s curriculum emphasizes working with rural and indigenous communities.
Average Tuition: $11,202/yr
Score: 70.67

University of Central Florida Online MSW Degree Programs

A Success Coach is just a phone call away to help you apply to UCF’s accredited online MSW degree program.

17. University of Central Florida

Online Master of Social Work

Website
If you’re unsure about online education or just want a little extra help as you apply, you’ll appreciate the University of Central Florida’s Success Coaches, who are on hand to guide you through the process. That’s just one perk of earning a top MSW degree online at UCF. You’ll also have access to expert faculty who are constantly looking for the latest innovations to apply to their work, and you’ll enroll in a single course per seven-week term, letting you take a deep-dive into the subject at hand. Note that the standard degree requires nine semesters, while the Advanced Standing program requires just four.
Average Tuition: 16337.5/yr
Score: 74.6

California State University San Bernardino Online MSW Degree Programs

At CSUSB, you can earn an extremely affordable MSW online if you agree to work for a specific child welfare program after graduation.

16. California State University-San Bernardino

Online Pathway Social Work Distance Education Program

Website
Students who want to pursue children’s services, take note: you might be eligible for special funding as you pursue your accredited online master’s of social work at California State University – San Bernardino. That’s because the school participates in a special Title IVE Pathway Program, where students can receive up to three years of funding as long as they go on to work for an approved child welfare program for two years after graduating. You can expect to be placed in a county or tribal program because the purpose of this incentive is to promote better mental health services for children in underserved communities.
Average Tuition: $11,202/yr
Score: 75.6

Western New Mexico University Online MSW Degree Programs

For a high-quality yet cheap online master’s of social work, look to Western New Mexico University.

15. Western New Mexico University

Online Master of Social Work (Non-Advanced Standing)

Website
At Western New Mexico University, you’ll find one of the most affordable online MSW degree programs in the country – tuition comes in at just under $6,000! But you won’t sacrifice quality for this low price. Graduates of the program review it with glowing praise for both the caliber of the professors and the level of preparation it offers. And a survey of recent graduates bears out these words; 28% of responders had received a raise or a promotion since graduation. One more benefit of applying to Western New Mexico? Although the program technically requires an undergrad GPA of 2.75, the school provides a special option for applicants who don’t quite meet that threshold.
Average Tuition: $5,878/yr
Score: 76.47

California State University Northridge Online MSW Degree Programs

CSU – Northridge provides one of the best MSW degree online for students who want to earn their degree quickly.

14. California State University-Northridge

Online Master of Social Work

Website
While many similar accredited online social work master’s degrees will take you about three years to finish, the program at California State University – Northridge takes just two years (four semesters) of full-time study. You’ll take a blend of classes; most are asynchronous, but you’ll need to log on for one synchronous course each week. This program also stands out thanks to its heavy focus on field work. In fact, you’ll complete 16 credit hours of practical learning throughout the entire program, giving you ample experience to draw on as you enter the job market.
Average Tuition: $11,202/yr
Score: 76.53

University of Alaska Anchorage Online MSW Degree Programs

Only residents of Alaska can enroll in the University of Alaska’s top online MSW degree program.

13. University of Alaska-Anchorage

Online MSW Program

Website
If you’re hoping to earn a top MSW online from the University of Alaska – Anchorage, you’ll need to be a resident of Alaska, in part because the program requires at least one campus visit. If you are, you’ll have access to both the traditional and Advanced Standing options. You can choose to complete both of these either full-time or part-time, with classes beginning in the fall semester for both. Neither option requires the GRE, although you will need a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0. (Advanced Standing students must also have a 3.5 GPA for core courses in their BSW.)
Average Tuition: $16,540/yr
Score: 77.47

Rutgers University Online MSW Degree Programs

With an optional certificate program and multiple start dates, Rutgers offers a flexible accredited online social work master’s degree.

12. Rutgers University

Online MSW Program

Website
As you earn an accredited MSW degree online from Rutgers, you can choose from a few options to make sure the program meets your needs and availability. For example, during your third and final year, you can opt to take your advanced clinical courses either synchronously or asynchronously. The former gives you the chance to interact in real-time with instructors, while the latter might be preferable if you have an unpredictable schedule. You can also choose when to begin your course of study: in the fall, spring, or summer semester. One more option: You can enroll in the Certificate Program for Violence Against Women and Children to give yourself extra training in this area.
Average Tuition: $21,960/yr
Score: 79.53

Metropolitan State University of Denver Online MSW Degree Programs

Students who pursue a top MSW online from MSU Denver have multiple opportunities to narrow the focus of their degree.

11. Metropolitan State University of Denver

Online Master of Social Work (MSW) Program

Website
The affordable online master’s of social work from the Metropolitan State University of Denver comes with two concentrations: Macro Practice (Leadership and Management) and Individuals and Families. Students in both the regular program and the Advanced Standing program will choose a concentration, but you’ll need to do so early on: concentration-specific classes begin in the first semester. If you opt for the Individuals and Families concentration, you’ll further define your studies by choosing a specialty track: older adults, children/youth/families, adult mental health, or child welfare. With these options, you can become a specialist and help yourself stand out as you apply for jobs after graduation.
Average Tuition: $11,588/yr
Score: 79.53

Indiana University Online MSW Degree Programs

Earning a top MSW degree online from Indiana University gives you the chance to take a variety of innovative electives.

10. Indiana University

Online Master of Social Work Program

Website
Indiana University offers some of the most unique MSW courses on this list. Although the school’s accredited online MSW degree program offers just one track (advanced generalist), you can still take individual courses that will provide depth to your work. For example, the “eSocial Work and Telebehavioral Health Practice” elective touches on a growing field in social work: harnessing technology to provide mental health care to those who can’t or won’t access it otherwise. And the “Military Social Work” elective gives you the chance to take an in-depth look at a population with complex health needs.
Average Tuition: $16,608/yr
Score: 82.47

Boise State University Online MSW Degree Programs

All of the top online social work master’s degrees at Boise State are available to both full- and part-time students.

9. Boise State University

Online Master of Social Work

Website
At Boise State University, the classes required to earn a top MSW online follow a fairly standard order. You’ll begin with foundational courses during your first year, where you’ll learn the basics of social work practice, research methodology, and field work. Year two introduces advanced courses in these topics, along with a practicum and the chance to take a few electives. If you qualify for the Advanced Standing program, you’ll take a similar approach, but condensed: 37 credit hours instead of the 61 required in the standard track. Note that both programs are available full- and part-time, so you can choose the option that best fits your schedule.
Average Tuition: $14,305/yr
Score: 83.27

University of South Florida Online MSW Degree Programs

Students who prefer real-time classes as they earn a top online master’s of social work should give USF a look.

8. University of South Florida

Online Advanced Standing MSW Program

Website
USF’s Advanced Standing accredited online social work master’s degree is available to both part- and full-time learners, with the former option requiring five semesters and the latter requiring just three. This brand new program, introduced in 2016, might appeal to you if you’d prefer synchronous classes, where you interact with classmates and professors in real-time. That’s because the program’s “practice classes” meet on weekday evenings at a pre-arranged time: one day a week during the first semester and two days a week during the remaining semesters. Note that not every state is authorized to participate in online learning at USF, so you’ll need to check whether you’re eligible.
Average Tuition: 12925.5/yr
Score: 84.8

Edinboro University of Pennsylvania Online MSW Degree Programs

Edinboro’s top online MSW degree program includes a strong emphasis on providing care for children and families.

7. Edinboro University of Pennsylvania

Online Master of Social Work Program

Website
Although the accredited online master’s of social work from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania employs the generalist approach, the school is so dedicated to helping children and families that the entire second year incorporates courses that deal with those populations. During your studies, you’ll have to consider how different policies and approaches affect the family system, with a special focus on families in both diverse areas and in rural regions. You’ll augment this work with a few electives, which can help prepare you for more specific types of social work, such as addiction.
Average Tuition: $10,575/yr
Score: 86.67

Salisbury University Online MSW Degree Programs

You’ll take all your courses with the same cohort of classmates as you earn Salisbury’s accredited MSW online.

6. Salisbury University

Online MSW Program

Website
Although only residents of certain Mid-Atlantic states can earn Salisbury’s affordable MSW degree online, those who qualify will benefit from the school’s community-based approach. The cohort-based program accepts only 20 students per class, so you’ll progress through your entire three years of study (or just over one year for Advanced Standing students) with the same group of classmates. Another benefit? The school conducts its orientation entirely online, so you can complete the introductory sessions on your own time. In fact, you won’t need to make any visits to campus during your program, and the school’s online field director will help you find field work placement in your community.
Average Tuition: $9,261/yr
Score: 87.13

Our Lady of the Lake University Online MSW Degree Programs

OLLU offers one of the best online social work master’s degrees for students who intend to work with Hispanic families.

5. Our Lady of the Lake University

Online Master of Social Work

Website
Our Lady of the Lake University has impressive credentials when it comes to educating social workers. Indeed, its Worden School of Social Service was the first such school in the state of Texas (it opened in 1942)! So it’s no surprise that its accredited online MSW degree program ranks as one of the best in the country. Available as a standard program and a “concentration” program (Advanced Standing by another name), the online MSW includes a particular focus on Hispanic children and families. In fact, it’s one of just three programs in the country with this emphasis, making it a great choice if you intend to practice in a community with a large Hispanic population.
Average Tuition: $14,796/yr
Score: 87.27

University at Buffalo Online MSW Degree Programs

As you pursue your accredited MSW degree online at UB, you might want to visit campus to take some of the more interesting electives.

4. University at Buffalo

Online MSW Part-Time Program

Website
If you have the flexibility to take some on-campus courses, the University at Buffalo’s part-time affordable online social work master’s degree might appeal to you. You can customize this flexible program with a mix of online courses (synchronous and asynchronous) and on-campus classes, effectively creating a hybrid program that fits your own schedule. Note that UB offers some advanced intervention-focused courses (“Interventions in Intimate Relationships” and “Case Management Interventions,” for example) as on-campus courses only. The same goes for some of the more unique electives, such as “Spirituality in Social Work” and “Responding to Refugees/Immigrants.”
Average Tuition: $8,839/yr
Score: 90.27

Campbellsville University Online MSW Degree Programs

Students of faith might want to earn an affordable online master’s of social work from Campbellsville University.

3. Campbellsville University

Online Master of Social Work

Website
Kentucky-based Campbellsville University provides one of the best places to earn a cheap MSW online – especially if you’re a student of faith. This Baptist school grounds its MSW coursework in Christian values and ethics, preparing graduates to work in both secular and religious organizations. It’s also a relatively fast-paced program. You can complete the regular, 60-credit-hour program in just 21 months, while Advanced Standing students could complete their required 30 credit hours in even less time. And tuition comes in at just under $8,000, making the program one of the most affordable on this list.
Average Tuition: $7,983/yr
Score: 94.07

University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Online MSW Degree Programs

UTRGV has two of the best online MSW degree programs focused on helping Latino communities.

2. University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley

Online Master of Science in Social Work

Website
The University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley is just one of two schools on this list that specializes in serving Hispanic communities. And at UTRGV, you can choose from two separate accredited online master’s of social work programs that center around the Latino population. The Direct Practice option emphasizes evidence-based practices and how they apply to the Latino community, while the Administration and Community Practice option prepares you to improve human services within this population. Note that both programs are available for Advanced Standing students only, so you’ll need your BSW if you want to enroll.
Average Tuition: $9,111/yr
Score: 95.33

University of Louisville Online MSW Degree Programs

Earning an accredited MSW online from U of L gives you the chance to choose from one of five unique concentrations.

1. University of Louisville

Online Master of Science in Social Work

Website
On this ranking, the University of Louisville stands out for the sheer number of concentrations it offers. As you pursue a top MSW degree online at U of L, you can choose from five concentrations: Alcohol and Drug Counseling, Gerontology, Mental Health, Military Social Work, and Psychosocial Oncology. The chance to refine your studies could be invaluable for students who want to pursue a specific area of social work, and some will even qualify you for special scholarships. All programs are available fully online and incorporate coursework that emphasizes practice at both the community and international level.
Average Tuition: $17,969/yr
Score: 100

Thanks for reading our ranking of the 25 best cheap MSW degrees online!

Sources:
IPEDS Data Center
College Navigator
Council on Social Work Education – Directory

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