Getting an MSW, or Master of Social Work degree, can take a toll on any student’s wallet. Students considering such a degree should enroll in one of the cheapest online MSW programs. This article discusses the cheapest online MSW programs in 2022.
Resorting to online learning may sound less optimal than in-person classes, but online courses are truly equivalent in terms of the quality and thoroughness of material and learning. The most affordable online MSW programs for social work students are worthwhile and will land you not just a social work degree, but the foothold for having a career as a social worker. Continue reading to learn about the best online MSW programs.
A Master of Social Work (MSW) degree is a specialized degree in the field of social work. Those who earn an MSW degree are more competitive in the job market and are more qualified to advance in the field. This degree offers many professional opportunities; for example, an MSW degree will pave the way to becoming a licensed clinical social worker.
As a candidate with an MSW, you will be more desirable in the job market, be able to pursue more positions, and have more opportunities for advancement. Those who decide to pursue this degree can work in the medical, education and mental health fields, to name a few.
How Much Do Cheapest Online MSW Programs Cost?
Although the average tuition for a master’s degree is $24,712 at private universities, the cheapest online MSW programs can go as low as $15,000. If you fit the criteria for advanced standing, though, social worker degrees can be even cheaper. The price is also dependent on the school you attend and the location in which the university is located.
Cheapest Online MSW Programs Costs Breakdown
- Tuition. The first and most obvious thing you have to consider when enrolling in an online degree program for a Master of Social Work is the tuition. To ensure that you spend your money wisely, make sure to choose an affordable program that still offers advanced coursework and worthwhile lessons.
- Application fees. Aside from the tuition, the application fee for the college course should be one of your first considerations. The average application fee is around $50 but can go as high as $100, depending on the status and reputation of the college.
- Textbooks and supplies. Even though you’re not going to enroll in a physical program with in-person classes, books and supplies are still going to be a must. While taking an online degree, online students may still need to reference books and use materials for physical projects.
- Electronics. Electronics are a need for an online master’s degree. You’ll need a tablet or a personal computer (PC) to take online classes for an optimal learning environment. Make sure that your gadgets and electronics aren’t too sluggish to keep up with the workload during the program.
- Internet costs. Aside from electronics, Internet fees are something you’ll have to consider. You’ll have to make sure that your Internet is efficient because a slower pace might hinder your immersion in the online program.
What Are the Requirements for an MSW Degree?
A Master of Social Work degree can open many doors and career opportunities. When looking into completing an MSW degree, there are many factors to take into consideration, such as admission requirements, core concepts and coursework, social work licensure and job prospects.
To pursue an MSW degree you need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. As it’s the case when applying to a bachelor’s program, most MSW schools have a minimum GPA requirement. Some schools also require an essay, which is to be submitted together with personal and professional references. Additionally, certain schools require a specific number of undergraduate credits from core subjects, such as liberal arts. You will also need to submit your GRE test score.
If you recently obtained your bachelor’s diploma in social work, you may qualify for an advanced standing program, which gives you the option to complete the master’s degree in just one year.
Why You Should Attend an Online MSW Program
Taking an online MSW program offers more flexibility and affordability, which is the main contributor to choosing an online MSW program. Although a traditional program where you take in-person classes may sound optimal, an online MSW program is a good option for students with busy schedules. The flexibility allows you to manage your timetable to include personal or work events as you strive toward the programs’ completion.
Best Online MSW Program Career Options: What Jobs Can You Get With an MSW Degree?
With a Master of Social Work, there is a wide range of possibilities in private practice, with a plethora of jobs you can pursue. A career in social work is great because there are a large number of employers, including government agencies so you can fulfill your career goals.
Whether you wish to head into mental health services, child welfare, or even medical social work, social work practitioners will find many lucrative job prospects, whatever specific field it may be.
Great, high-paying jobs for social workers with an MSW include health service managers, community service managers, and many other positions. Those in managerial roles typically make some of the best income in the industry. Aside from those, social workers may also choose to take on the role of counselors or social justice advocates.
Demand for social workers with a master’s degree in mental health, substance abuse and the healthcare industry is high. The employment of social workers is expected to grow by 11 percent. Many career paths can open after obtaining your degree, but these are the most common and rewarding ones:
- Healthcare Social Worker: A healthcare worker will work in a clinic or hospital to help patients understand and adjust to their conditions. A healthcare worker often works with doctors to educate patients, families and caretakers.
- Community Health Workers and Administrators: These social workers use their background in public health to disseminate information on health that affects the community. A community health worker educates about health issues that affect community members, helping them prevent ailments or find the proper treatment.
- Clinical Social Worker: A typical career path for holders of MSW degrees is to become clinical social workers. Depending on their specialization, these professionals work directly with families, couples and groups, assessing, diagnosing and treating their conditions. These social workers help their clients find resources and services to cope with the challenges and issues they are facing.
- Public Health Administrator: A public health administrator typically works with nonprofits or government agencies, managing policies to address any public and community health issues. A public health administrator provides information to prevent and treat health problems at the local, state, regional and even national levels.
Salary Prospects for MSW Degree Holders
A master’s degree in any field is a large time and money commitment. So, wondering if it’s worth it is only natural. The good news is that an MSW degree is very likely to increase your income substantially. With your diploma in hand, you can consider a host of positions.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those with a master’s in social work earn 25 percent more than those with just a bachelor’s degree. The top 10 percent of wages in social work reaches almost $80,000 a year. Jobs in the public sector can pay much more. Social workers employed by the Department of Public Defense bring home a salary of $91,263 a year.
Can You Attend an Online MSW Program for Free?
No, you cannot attend an online Master of Social Work program for free. However, there are many ways you can pursue your education with fewer expenses, including field internships, scholarships, grants, and the like, that can help fund your education. Through these methods, graduate students can focus on full-time study rather than taking jobs to fund their education.
MSW programs that are offered free are not MSWs, but rather additional courses with certificate awards. These courses can be beneficial to your career, and you can take them before or after your MSW. A Master of Social Work requires accreditation and specific requirements, such as licensure requirements, hence it cannot be available for free to students.
Cheapest Online MSW Programs That Won’t Break the Bank
|Program and School||In-State Tuition||Out-of-State Tuition||Graduation Rate|
|Master of Social Work | University of Alabama||$440 per credit (60 credits for traditional program, 42 credits for advanced standing program)||$440 per credit (60 credits for standard program, 42 credits for advanced standing program)||68%|
|Online Master of Social Work | University of Nevada, Reno||$24,412 for regular, $12,682 for advanced standing||$46,112 for regular, $23,882 for advanced standing||54%|
|Master of Social Work Online | Boise State University||$32,030 to $32,330 for the full program, $19,550 to $19,850 for the advanced standing program||$32,030 to $32,330 for the full program, $19,550 to $19,850 for the advanced standing program||41%|
|Master of Social Work | New Mexico State University||$411.50 per credit for traditional program||$411.50 per credit for traditional program
|Master of Science in Social Work Online – Administration and Community Practice (Advanced Standing) | The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley||$14,667.52 total cost||$14,667.52 total cost||44%|
|MSW Online | Louisiana State University||$539 per credit (60 hours for traditional program, 33 hours for advanced standing)||$539 per credit (60 hours for traditional programs, 33 hours for advanced standing)||66%|
|Online Master of Social Work | University of Central Florida||$487.45 per credit (62 credits for traditional program, 32 for advanced standing)||$487.45 per credit (62 credits for traditional program, 32 for advanced standing)
|MSW Online | University of Arkansas at Little Rock||$383 per credit (60 credits)||$383 per credit (60 credits)||40%|
|MSW Degree | University of North Dakota||$747.01 per credit||$747.01 per credit||53%|
|Master of Social Work – Advanced Standing Track | Campbellsville University||$559 per credit (30 credits)||$559 per credit (30 credits)||33%|
What Are the Cheapest Online MSW Programs?
Master of Social Work | University of Alabama
University of Alabama has been producing social work professionals through its online Master of Social Work degree program. Students can take a traditional 60-credit path, an advanced standing 42-credit path, or a dual degree path. Students can choose to learn in a children’s or adult care-concentrated program through this program.
Online Master of Social Work | University of Nevada, Reno
The University of Nevada’s online Master of Social Work program is a comprehensive program that prepares students for social work licensure. Students immerse themselves in the social work profession and education through a generalist approach. Students are free to choose from their advanced standing format and traditional programs.
Master of Social Work Online | Boise State University
The MSW online program offered by BSU prepares its online students for social work practice. The students learn the right practices in organizational and clinical settings along with social policy skills. Like most Master of Social Work courses, students can choose between the advanced standing program or the traditional program.
Master of Social Work | New Mexico State University
NMSU’s program for a Master of Social Work trains students for their social work career in human services. Through their program, online students gain access to research opportunities and field education in social work. The program is an advanced generalist program and can be taken on a full-time or part-time basis.
Master of Science in Social Work Online – Administration and Community Practice (Advanced Standing) | The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
This program is one of the best online MSW programs, offered by UTRGV, and focuses on the multicultural awareness aspect of social work. Through this program, students can learn how to work with diverse populations, study organizational administration, and gain real-world hours of fieldwork. This advanced standing, comprehensive program has a length of around 12 months.
MSW Online | Louisiana State University
Louisiana State University offers an intensive, asynchronous-format, online MSW program. Online students can learn about specialist or generalist practice standards and earn graduate-level education in this program. You can take the program through one of the traditional 60-hour tracks or one of the advanced standing tracks.
Online Master of Social Work | University of Central Florida
The online MSW degree program at the University of Central Florida provides students with comprehensive social work courses. Students get educated regarding public health and public policy in this program. They learn to engage in social policy analysis and social work theory through a traditional or advanced standing track.
MSW Online | University of Arkansas at Little Rock
UA Little Rock’s online degree program is one of the cheapest online MSW programs and prepares students for advanced social work practice and leadership roles. In particular, it focuses on clinical social work and lets students complete coursework and field internships. The program completion is three years.
MSW Degree | University of North Dakota
The University of North Dakota’s MSW degree program can be taken on-campus and online. The program is synchronous and comprehensive, and students get social work field placement. The University of North Dakota offers many merit-based and need-based financial aid options, making it an excellent choice for students who are saving up.
"Career Karma entered my life when I needed it most and quickly helped me match with a bootcamp. Two months after graduating, I found my dream job that aligned with my values and goals in life!"
Venus, Software Engineer at Rockbot
Master of Social Work – Advanced Standing Track | Campbellsville University
The Campbellsville University online MSW program is a great way for students to get licensure and leadership opportunities in social work. Students can opt for a generalist program or choose an area of focus, such as clinical concentration or addiction concentration options. Aside from the foundational courses, students choose elective courses.
Options to Help Pay for the Best Online MSW Programs
Even if you get a good MSW program with what’s considered to be an affordable tuition rate, paying for it can still be a challenge. The cost of graduate school is no laughing matter, and having as many options as you can will benefit you in the long run. To help pay for your Master of Social Work program, below are three possible options to assist in paying for it.
Apply for Merit-Based Scholarships or Need-Based Grants
Applying for scholarships and grants should always be the first thing that comes to mind when cutting expenses for grad school, especially for full-time students. You can usually find a few grants or scholarship options within the university you’re applying to. The federal government may also have grants for graduate students in the social work field.
Work Part-Time While in School
Working part-time while in graduate school is also a great choice to help pay for your online degree. As an online student, you have more flexibility in your schedule, which you should take advantage of. By working part-time, students will have less of a financial burden. What’s even better is if you can get a field placement in your area of study.
Borrowing and taking loans also isn’t out of the question. As long as you manage your loans smartly and take only what you can handle repaying, taking a loan can ease your financial burden. You can find loans in universities and even social service organizations for MSWs.
Tips for Saving Money While Attending an Online MSW Program
- Consider living with your parents. If you’re taking an online degree and don’t have to live on-campus, living with your parents is a great way to save money. It saves you monthly rental expenses.
- Limit your outings. Frequently going out, going on trips, or attending social gatherings can drain your wallet faster than you think. If you cut back on the excess and unnecessary outings, you’ll find yourself with more money and savings.
- Avoid brand new items. Avoid buying brand new items, such as brand new books or materials. If you’re looking for textbooks, resource materials, or even furniture, second-hand items can suffice. If you know how to tell which second-hand items are good purchases, this should be your course of action.
- Look into fast tracks. Some of the cheapest online MSW programs may offer fast tracks. Fast tracks often require lesser tuition fees because of lesser credit hours. Fast track programs still provide you with enough education for your social work licensure, although the short timespan may make it intense.
- Advanced standing. If you’re going for a master’s degree, typically you will have had a prior college education. Advanced standing options allow you to transfer credit hours to your current program to lessen your workload. This results in cheaper tuition.
- Trim your budget. Trim your budget in the most minimal ways possible. You can negotiate your utilities or even buy groceries in bulk. It is the step where you have to become a little creative with your spending strategies.
Which Courses Are Part of the Curriculum?
The list of courses that you could be taking during a Master of Social Work degree is long. The program begins with introductory courses that focus on human behavior, social policy and clinical practice. Following these, the courses will be more in-depth and specialized. Concentrations vary among colleges, but some specializations include children, families, youth, health and aging societies. Some of the more specific course offered in MSW programs include:
- Introduction to Social Work
- Human Behavior and the Environment
- Death and Dying
- Dynamics of Racism and Oppression
- Assessment and Diagnosis
- Couple and Family Therapy
- Field Study
- Strategic planning for Public and Nonprofit Organizations
- Substance Abuse: Alcohol and other Drugs
- Social Work Services for Older Adults
After completing the coursework required for an MSW degree, you will sit the licensing exam by the Association of Social Work Boards. It is necessary to pass this exam to receive your licensed Master of Social Work certification. Regulations will vary from state to state, so check your state’s specific requirements from your local social work regulatory board.
Individuals looking to enhance their qualifications further should consider becoming a licensed clinical social worker. This certification requires two to three years of work experience after receiving an MSW degree.
Where Are the Best Schools to Earn an MSW Degree?
Along with in-person, full-time degrees, you can complete your Master of Social Work online. Students choose online programs because they are cheaper and more flexible. An online degree allows the student to maintain a good balance between their studies and other responsibilities like family or work.
They can complete their coursework at their own convenience. In addition, many online degrees offer lower tuition costs than the on-campus alternative. Online programs typically work best if you have discipline and are able to motivate yourself.
Here are some of the best universities and programs to earn an MSW degree.
A Master of Social Work from Ohio University prepares you for social work in rural areas, with the program focusing on helping people in rural environments access social work. There are three different starting dates and students can finish the program in just 24 months.
University of Denver
Start a career that promotes social change at the University of Denver. This online program focuses on social justice and the championing of oppressed individuals, families and communities. The faculty is made up of experts in social work that care about the future of the student. With a bachelor’s degree in social work, you can complete your MSW in just 18 months with an accelerated standing program. A GRE score is not required for admission. Students admitted into the MSW program can be rewarded up to $10,000 in scholarships through the university.
Students can choose between a Council on Social Work Education-accredited MSW and the MSW Advanced Standing programs. They can hone their skills and become an advanced general practitioner while learning how technology can boost their reach and efficiency. Capella University offers several scholarships, including the Doctor of Social Work scholarship which consists of $10,000.
The Diana R. Garland School of Social Work at Baylor University helps students become licensed social workers. Aiming to “prepare aspiring social workers who are called to a life of service, compassion, and leadership,” the university gives students the opportunity to enroll in either a standard or advanced program depending on their undergraduate degree. The degree, which is offered online, can be completed in 12 to 16 months, and students are given access to community internships.
Ranked in the top 25 in the US News & World Report’s 2019 list of top social work graduate schools, Fordham University allows students to attend online classes and get hands-on experience through community placements. The MSW offers advanced standing degrees for those who have already completed their bachelor’s in social work, alongside full-time and part-time options. Students can choose courses based on their interests and work with a variety of groups, including families, individuals, and organizations.
Find the Online MSW Program That’s Right for You
When scouring through the best online MSW programs, you must consider many factors to find the best fit. The price, the scope, the number of credit hours, and the focus are all vital factors. With the proper guidance and research, some of which are provided in this article, you will find an affordable online MSW program that’s right for you.
Cheapest Online MSW Program FAQ
Yes, an online MSW is worth it. It lets you get all the knowledge you need for a social worker career while providing you with flexibility unmatched by on-campus programs.
Master’s degrees in general can be difficult, whether online or on-campus and no matter what field it’s in. Therefore, online MSW can be just as challenging as in-person Master of Social Work programs.
It can be competitive depending on which program you choose. If your MSW program of choice is from one of the top universities, getting into an online MSW program may be challenging, but doable with effort.
Some online MSW programs may require you to use software supplied by the university, which may require technology fees. However, some may require you to do your research and get your sources from physical textbooks or online free sources. Overall, it depends on the degree programs and schools.
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.