Plenty of universities offer online MSWs, and each program brings its own benefits, drawbacks and quirks. The right degree program for you depends on your availability, learning preferences, budget and social work career goals. Below are some tips for narrowing down your MSW options.
Know Your Time Commitment
Will you be balancing your studies with other commitments like a job or family or both? If so, you may not have the bandwidth for a full-time master’s program. Keep in mind, however, that part-time programs typically take longer to complete. If you aim to earn your master’s degree in one to two years, we recommend studying full time.
Consider Your Future Goals
What do you want to do with your MSW? If you’re aiming to become a licensed social worker (LSW) or a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), note that each state sets its own requirements for sitting for the LSW and LCSW exams. Make sure you choose an online MSW program that fulfills your state’s education requirements for the licensing exam you plan to take.
Factor in Your Learning Style
Some distance-learning programs are available entirely online. Others follow a hybrid format, which blends in-person learning with distance education. Likewise, online courses may be asynchronous (i.e., self-paced), synchronous (i.e., involving live lectures and set class times) or some combination of the two. Think about which type of online learning environment would best suit your needs and preferences as a student.
Look at Accreditation
Accreditation verifies that a school or program meets the educational quality standards of a third-party accrediting body. Two types of accreditation exist: institutional and programmatic. Institutional accreditation applies to universities, and programmatic accreditation serves individual departments or programs. You can explore a list of all accrediting agencies through the U.S. Department of Education’s website.
When considering MSW degrees, seek an institutionally accredited university and a program that is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). The latter is particularly important if you plan to pursue licensure. All 50 states and the District of Columbia require you to hold a master’s degree from a CSWE-accredited program if you want to become an LSW or LCSW.