25 Most Affordable Online MSW Programs for 2022

25 Most Affordable Online MSW Programs for 2022
Imed Bouchrika by Imed Bouchrika
Chief Data Scientist & Head of Content

Today’s average cost of a master’s degree program can be anywhere between $30,000 and $120,000 (Education Data, 2021), so it is a must to compare the most affordable online Master of Social Work (MSW) programs before deciding which university fits your budget and learning needs. Also, some schools might actually charge higher rates for distance learners and ask for fees like technology fees or online access fees that can add up to your total costs.

Online programs have become very appealing to postgraduate students, with 52% saying they will find their chosen program online at a different university rather than attending an on-campus program (Wiley Education Services, 2020). This article will provide a shortlist of some of the most affordable online MSW programs. It will cover important points such as annual tuition costs, the number of credits, coursework, and other information that can help you better plan your enrollment for this program.

Most Affordable Online MSW Programs Table of Contents

  1. University of Wyoming
  2. California State University-San Bernardino
  3. University of South Dakota
  4. University of West Florida
  5. Western New Mexico University
  6. Texas State University
  7. Delaware State University
  8. Concord University
  9. Saint Leo University
  10. University of Arkansas
  11. Humboldt State University
  12. Brescia University
  13. Boise State University
  14. University of Northern Iowa
  15. University of Missouri
  16. West Virginia University
  17. Ohio University
  18. University of Alabama
  19. University of Kentucky
  20. Loyola University Chicago
  21. Arizona State University
  22. Rutgers University
  23. Aurora University
  24. University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley
  25. California State University-Northridge

List of Most Affordable Online MSW Programs

1. University of Wyoming

Annual Tuition: $9, 000 to $17,000
Estimated Cost Per Credit: $299
Online MSW Programs: Non-advanced – 60 credits, Advanced – 31 credits
Program Length: Two to three years

The University of Wyoming’s Division of Social Work offers a 60-credit Standard and 31-credit Advanced Standing MSW Program. Coursework for both programs is carefully sequenced to ensure that students gain the necessary skills and knowledge before proceeding to the more advanced level of coursework. Graduates will be able to work competently in a wide variety of settings, including working with children and people with mental health issues—two of the top groups served by social workers, 34.8% and 26.4%, respectively (CSWE, 2018). The programs combine online and on-campus delivery.

UW’s MSW programs are competency-based and meet the accreditation standards of the Council on Social Work Education. All students must complete a capstone project as part of the requirements for the degree. The project can either be a thesis or one that involves the application of original research. This makes the program a good choice for students looking to complete a master’s degree with a practice-based capstone project rather than the traditional written dissertation.

Source: CSWE, 2018

2. California State University-San Bernardino

Annual Tuition: $10, 000 to $16,000
Estimated Cost Per Credit: $280
Online MSW Programs: Non-advanced – 60 credits, Advanced – 36 credits
Program Length: Two to three years

California State University-San Bernardino offers a variety of online MSW programs to suit the learning needs of working professionals. Students can choose from the Advanced Standing 36-unit program that can be completed in 12 months and other longer programs, such as the three-year program and a combined degree of Master of Social Work and Master of Public Administration Concurrent Degrees.

The CSUSB MSW Programs uses an advanced generalist model with a specialization. Students will need to choose a specialization in their final year. These can be social issues, client populations, or fields of practice. They then apply assignments and their research projects to their chosen specialization.

3. University of South Dakota

Annual Tuition: $10, 000 to $20,000
Cost Per Credit: $340.15
Online MSW Programs: Non-advanced – 60 credits, Advanced – 30 credits
Program Length: Two to three years

The University of South Dakota offers its online MSW to students who do not live near campus or are not able to commit to in-person lessons. Full-time and part-time enrollment are also accepted for the online programs though students must complete the degree within the maximum period of four years.

Graduates of the University of South Dakota online MSW program will have the competence to deliver clinical and therapeutic social services to their clients. Courses also focus on organizational planning, community development, and social policy analysis and advocating.

4. University of West Florida

Annual Tuition: $11, 000 to $62,000
Cost Per Credit: In-state – $384.60, Out-of-state – $1,044.24
Online MSW Programs: Non-advanced – 60 credits, Advanced – 30 credits
Program Length: Two to three years

The MSW online programs from the University of West Florida help students gain expertise in clinical social work practice; thus coursework is clinically-focused and grounded on the study of behavioral and medical healthcare. Both the traditional 60-credit program and advanced standing program combine theories and field internships to prepare students for licensure as clinical social workers in the state of Florida.

It can be costly for out-of-state students that want to enroll in the program but submitting the FAFSA form can be a great way to receive scholarships and grants. In AY 2020-21, more than half of families (56%) used scholarships, which helped cover 16% of higher education costs (Sallie Mae, 2021).

Courses follow a rotational system—meaning core courses are offered in designated semesters only. For example, the Foundational course, Human Behavior in the Social Environment is offered during fall, while the Clinical course, Psychopathology for Social Work is offered during summer.

How to get in-state tuition 2

5. Western New Mexico University

Annual Tuition: $11, 000 to $22,000
Cost Per Credit: Resident Graduate – 286.88, Non-Resident Graduate – 371.04
Online MSW Programs: Non-advanced – 60 credits, Advanced – 39 credits
Program Length: Two to three years

Western New Mexico University’s online MSW courses can be taken part-time or full time making them a good fit for professionals in the field who want to start with their postgraduate studies and still keep their current jobs. The Advanced Standing MSW is for students with a BSW, while the non-advanced program is for students that do not hold a BSW. Both programs require students to complete a field placement.

The programs also allow for some flexibility with electives, so students can supplement their knowledge on topics that actually interest them or align with their role at their workplace. Examples of electives include Advanced Social Work with the Military, Disabilities, and Empowerment, and Psychopharmacology for Social Workers. The online programs combine synchronous and asynchronous instruction.

6. Texas State University

Annual Tuition: $11,000 to $19,000
Estimated Cost Per Credit: $317.36
Online MSW Programs: Non-advanced – 62 credits, Advanced – 36 credits
Program Length: Two to three years

The MSW program of Texas State University focuses on a direct practice approach to delivering social work services to diverse individuals and families across all ages. The curriculum consists of courses that will help the student develop advanced-level leadership and administration skills that can make them more effective in their social work practice with populations receiving public services.

Students can enroll as part-time or full-time learners and take either the traditional 62-credit program or the advanced standing program. They can also further customize their learning through elective courses and intensive MSW-supervised agency-based internships. Graduates of the program are eligible for social work licensure exams.

7. Delaware State University

Annual Tuition: $13, 000 to $26,000
Cost Per Credit: $438
Online MSW Programs: Non-advanced – 60 credits, Advanced – 30 credits
Program Length: Two to three years

The MSW program of Delaware State University is offered entirely online and with one specialization in Advanced Generalist Practice with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. Students can take courses part-time or full-time, which can take to and three years to finish, respectively.

Graduates of the program will have a deeper understanding of areas such as black perspective in social work and strengths that client systems can use to facilitate positive change. The coursework also helps students learn techniques/methods in empowering individuals, families, organizations, and communities.

8. Concord University

Annual Tuition: $17,000 to $29,000
Estimated Cost Per Credit: $485
Online MSW Programs: Non-advanced – 60 credits, Advanced – 36 credits
Program Length: Two to three years

Concord University’s MSW program is delivered entirely online and prepares students for advanced generalist social work practice with a focus on rural practice. The program’s curriculum uses a conceptual framework to identify advanced knowledge and skills that cover all four dimensions of advanced generalist practice—knowledge, values, skills, and cognitive and affective reaction.

Students who finish the MSW program will be able to respond to varying social work situations with rural contexts. They will be able to assess and intervene at all levels, including families, individuals, organizations, groups, and communities. They will also qualify for leadership roles and have the knowledge and skills to analyze rural social policies and promote change in services affecting both clients and social workers.

9. Saint Leo University

Annual Tuition: $17, 000 to $34,000
Cost Per Credit: $550
Online MSW Programs: Full-time/part-time 62-credit program, Full-time/part-time Advanced Standing 32-credit program
Program Length: Two to three years

The Saint Leo University MSW online programs are available to students physically residing in the states of Florida, Maryland, Illinois, Mississippi, New Jersey, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, and Virginia. The programs have a strong thrust on evidence-based social work research methods and will equip students with the skills necessary to lead in advanced clinical social work practice.

Aside from online courses, students of the MSW programs are required to complete internship hours and attend a one-weekend seminar on campus. The courses explore social work practices in the military, psychopathology, and relationships between cultural and social environment and mental and emotional health.

10. University of Arkansas

Annual Tuition: More than $17,000
Cost Per Credit: $437.54
Online MSW Programs: Advanced – 39 credits
Program Length: One year

The University of Arkansas Advanced Standing MSW program is delivered entirely online. The program is one of the shortest paths to earning an MSW, which can be an important factor for 28% of students when it comes to choosing an online program (Wiley Education Services, 2020). It is designed only for students who can enroll full-time.

Students complete their coursework independently but are required to complete a year-long internship of 22 hours. Working students may be allowed to complete their internships at their current workplace subject to some restrictions. Completion of the MSW program can prepare students for doctorate studies.

Source: Wiley Education Services, 2020

11. Humboldt State University

Annual Tuition: more than $18,000
Estimated Cost Per Credit: $510
Online MSW Programs: Advanced – 36 credits
Program Length: One to three years

Humboldt State University’s online MSW program prepares students for advanced social work practice with a focus on rural and Indigenous communities. Through the courses, students will be able to apply disciplined, ethical, and compassionate social work practice that is responsive to the challenges and resources available in rural areas and indigenous communities. They will also be able to present historical, local, and contemporary social issues from a global perspective.

The online programs are delivered in several formats aside from the main, full-time two-year program. For example, students can choose the part-time Advanced Standing two-year Distributed Learning/online program or the Part-time 3.5-year Distributed Learning/online program. Students must live in the state of California to be eligible for the online programs.

12. Brescia University

Annual Tuition: from $18, 000 to more than $37,000
Cost Per Credit: $625
Online MSW Programs: Non-advanced – 60 credits, Advanced – 30 credits
Program Length: Two to three years

Brescia University’s online MSW program equips advanced generalist social workers with the knowledge and skills necessary for providing quality and evidence-based services to their clients. After completing the coursework, graduates will be able to address complex problems and provide therapy and interventions to individuals, families, and groups.

The MSW program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Examples of courses include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Organizational Leadership, and Appreciation of Diversity and Dynamics of Oppression. Students need to complete a capstone project as part of the requirements to earn the degree.

13. Boise State University

Annual Tuition: from $18,315 to $30,195
Estimated Cost Per Credit: $495
Online MSW Programs: Non-advanced – 61 credits, Advanced – 37 credits
Program Length: Two to three years

Boise State’s MSW online degree is delivered 100% online with no in-person lessons required. The curriculum is designed to help students gain skills they can use in advanced social work practice. With their understanding of theories and hands-on training, graduates will be able to provide quality services to individuals and families. They will also learn clinical, policy, and organizational skills needed for promoting social justice and better quality social services.

To successfully complete the program, students also need to participate in a supervised fieldwork practicum. This is 18 credits for 1,000 clock hours for the traditional program and 12 credits, 600 clock hours for the Advanced Standing program.

14. University of Northern Iowa

Annual Tuition: More than $19,000
Cost Per Credit: $517
Online MSW Programs: Advanced – 37 credits
Program Length: One year

The University of Northern Iowa Advanced Standing MSW online program is focused on preparing students on how to work with individuals, families, and groups that have experienced an array of traumatic experiences. The coursework goes beyond cognitive behavioral therapy models of practice and includes an integrative approach to clinical treatment.

Graduates of the Advanced standing program will gain skills in various cognitive and somatic-based therapies. These include sensorimotor psychotherapy, body-centered psychotherapy, and trauma-sensitive yoga, and EMDR. They will also be trained on how to assess and implement various trauma-informed approaches and policies in service organizations.

15. University of Missouri

Annual Tuition: from $19, 000 to more than $30,000
Estimated Cost Per Credit: $500
Online MSW Programs: Non-advanced – 60 credits, Advanced – 39 credits
Program Length: Two to three years

An MSW from the University of Missouri can help students expand their careers in clinical practice and qualify for leadership positions in social work planning and administration. Career prospects include Adoption Specialist, Family Advocacy Representative, and Public Health Manager.

Both the advanced and non-advanced programs are delivered 100% online; no on-campus lessons are required but students need to complete supervised work at an approved agency. Most importantly, eligibility for the online MSW is for applicants who reside in Missouri and contiguous states (Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, Tennessee, and Kentucky). Coursework includes human behavior and psychopathology, Management of social agencies, and Intervention with individuals, families, small groups, and communities.

16. West Virginia University

Annual Tuition: from $23,000 to more than $37,000
Estimated Cost Per Credit: $643
Online MSW Programs: Non-advanced – 60 credits, Advanced – 36 credits
Program Length: Two to three years

The MSW programs at West Virginia University focus on producing competent and effective social work practitioners dedicated to enhancing social well-being and quality of life, especially for the vulnerable and oppressed populations they serve. The curriculum was developed with micro, mezzo, and macro practice skills in mind that can effectively respond to the social and human issues present across a wide range of practice areas.

The programs also incorporate digital literacy for social workers so they can effectively use technology resources in their practice. Graduates of the program are eligible to pursue clinical licensure.

17. Ohio University

Annual Tuition: from $23,000 to more than $41,000
Estimated Cost Per Credit: $654 per credit (Ohio resident), $673 per credit (non-Ohio resident)
Online MSW Programs: Non-advanced – 62 credits, Advanced – 36 credits
Program Length: Two to three years

The online MSW programs at Ohio University prepare students for social work practice with a focus on rural areas. Students will be able to gain the knowledge and skills needed to better serve communities, individuals, and families across demographic groups. Graduates of the program can work competently in a variety of settings and benefit from the projected 12% job growth for social workers from 2020 to 2030 (BLS, 2021).

The curriculum was developed with real-world scenarios in mind and students need to complete field social work training to practice what they learned in their courses. Graduates of the program will be able to strengthen their creative skills in developing innovative solutions for clients with limited resources. They will also implement different methods of practice to effectively communicate with clientele.

Most Affordable Online MSW Programs 1

18. University of Alabama

Annual Tuition: more than $26,000
Cost Per Credit: $440
Online MSW Programs: Advanced, 60-credits Traditional, Part-time
Program Length: One to three years

The University of Alabama’s online MSW offers three program tracks—60-credit traditional, advanced standing, and part-time. Two concentrations are available: Social Work with Children, Adolescents and Their Families and Social Work with Adults and Their Families. The online programs are designed for working professionals that would like to pursue advanced studies in social work in a non-traditional setting. The online programs are not completely virtual and require face-to-face skills labs.

Students who graduate from UA’s MSW programs will be able to deliver evidence-based social work practice to their clients. They will also have the skills and competence to analyze, formulate, and influence social work policymaking in organizations and government and engage in culturally competent advanced social work practice with diverse groups.

19. University of Kentucky

Annual Tuition: from $27,000 to more than $45,000
Estimated Cost Per Credit: $750.50 per credit
Online MSW Programs: Non-advanced – 60 credits, Advanced – 36 credits
Program Length: Two to three years

The MSW degree at the University of Kentucky is an Advanced Generalist program designed for social work practice across the micro-macro settings. The coursework will help students gain the skills they need to effectively respond and provide appropriate services to diverse populations including the military, rural communities, and underserved groups.

Students can further customize their learning by choosing among the different specializations offered in the program. These include Child Welfare, Integrative Behavioral Health, Clinical Social Work, Military Behavioral Health, Substance Use Disorder, and Rural Population Well Being, among others.

20. Loyola University Chicago

Annual Tuition: from 28,700 to 61,500
Estimated Cost Per Credit: $1,025
Online MSW Programs: Full-time, non-advanced – 60 credits
Program Length: Two years

The MSW program at Loyola University Chicago offers advanced practice training in a variety of settings, including clinical, community, and school settings. The two-year program was also developed to include a special track for students who want to pursue leadership roles in social work.

There are two specializations students can choose from: Micro Practice or Mezzo/Macro Practice. The Micro Practice consists of clinical areas namely Advanced Clinical Practice, Certified Alcohol and other Drugs Counselor training program (CADC), Migration Studies, and Schools. On the other hand, the Mezzo/Macro Practice offers a track in Leadership, Mezzo, & Macro Practice track (LMMP). The MSW program has courses that are online or can be taken as blended learning (online and in-person).

21. Arizona State University

Annual Tuition: from 32,580 to 80, 580
Estimated Cost Per Credit: $543–$1,343
Online MSW Programs: Full-time, non-advanced – 60 credits
Program Length: Two years

A master’s degree in social work at Arizona State University teaches students how to comprehensively approach challenges faced by their clients. Students will learn how to implement effective, practical solutions through a combination of coursework and hands-on experience. They are required to participate in two, year-long field education internships to build on-the-ground insight and further develop their abilities.

Graduates of the program can qualify for high-paying positions due to the expertise they will gain in the master’s program. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported social workers’ median salary at $51,760. Based on data reported by the National Association of Social Workers, those in the professions with a Master of Social Work degree earn $13,000 more annually than those with only a bachelor’s degree (NASW, n.d.).

Most Affordable Online MSW Programs 2

22. Rutgers University

Annual Tuition: from $35,000 to more than $55,000
Estimated Cost Per Credit: $923
Online MSW Programs: Non-advanced – 60 credits, Advanced – 39 credits
Program Length: Two to three years

The MSW program at Rutgers University is offered 100% online via asynchronous learning and is designed for self-directed students that want the flexibility and convenience of online learning. Students do need to complete hours for their field placement at a social service agency during the third semester of the first year and continue until program completion.

Field education is an important component of MSW programs. Students take two types of field placement—a generalist level placement (11.25 hours/week) and advanced clinical placement for four semesters (13.5 hours/week). Graduates of the MSW programs are eligible for social work licensure in New Jersey.

23. Aurora University

Annual Tuition: More than $36,000
Cost Per Credit: $600
Online MSW Programs: Non-advanced – 60 credits
Program Length: Two to three years

Aurora University MSW program offers several concentrations that cater to students looking to customize their social work advanced studies. Currently, there are eight concentrations available: Child Welfare, Faith-Based Social Work, Forensics, Gerontology, Health Care, Leadership Administration, Military and Veteran Social Work, and School Social Work.

The programs are CSWE-accredited and can help launch students’ careers in a wide range of fields. These include occupations as a clinical social worker, forensic social work practitioner, and social service administrator. They can also qualify for nonprofit leadership roles and supervisor roles in health care services.

24. University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley

Annual Tuition: $14,666.52
Estimated Cost Per Credit: $444.44
Online MSW Programs: Advanced – 33 credits
Program Length: 12 months

The University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley online MSSW programs help prepare students for social work practice at an advanced level. There are currently three accelerated online programs: Social Work (MSSW) – Direct Practice with Latino Individuals, Families, and Groups, Social Work (MSSW) – Administration and Community Practice, and the Master of Science in Social Work 63-hour Online.

The MSSW programs are completely online and delivered asynchronously. The courses take on a direct-practice approach and teach evidence-based methods for working with at-risk populations with a focus on Latino individuals, families, and communities.

25. California State University-Northridge

Annual Tuition: More than $45,000
Estimated Cost Per Credit: $752
Online MSW Programs: Full-time, non-advanced – 60 credits
Program Length: Two to three years

California State University-Northridge’s online MSW program is a full-time 60-credit program suited to students who can commit to full-time study. The classes are delivered entirely online with the exception of asynchronous field education classes every week. The field education classes take 16 weeks.

Moreover, students must be available for their field placement scheduled Monday to Friday, 9 am to 6 pm. The program does not allow students to complete their fieldwork hours at their place of work or organization. Examples of courses for the program include Human Behavior and Social Environment, Social Work Practice in Multicultural Context, and Advanced Social Work Practice with Urban Families.

What to Expect from Online Master’s in Social Work Programs

Aside from researching how much does online MSW costs, it is also important to know about the concentrations available for your program. Students who take up an MSW program often choose between two pathways: clinical studies and social work policies and administration. The former is ideal for students who intend to work closely with families, individuals, and communities, while the latter is more focused on leadership and administrative occupations.

As for concentrations, most programs focus on mental health/behavioral health (35.9%), work with children, youths, and families (25.5%), and generalist practice (14.3%) (CSWE, 2018). Taking online MSW instead of on-campus programs offers more flexibility and convenience since most courses are delivered asynchronously. However, the disadvantage could be the lack of interpersonal contact and group work, which is also important for students specializing in social work. You can get more details about the requirements and coursework on this online MSW guide.

Source: CSWE, 2018

Is Getting Your Masters in Social Work Worth It?

Graduates of MSW can qualify for top positions in clinical social work, nonprofit organizations, and higher education. The future job market for social work professionals also looks promising as it is among the top jobs in the U.S. and globally. The median salary of social workers is $51,760 but the actual income of many professionals in this field often fluctuates based on factors like weekend and holiday work, night differential pay, and the industry they work in (BLS, 2021).

Aside from the potential income and career opportunities, earning a master’s degree in social work can help you strengthen your research and analytical skills and gain a deeper understanding of different approaches used in assisting clients, such as people with disabilities, people trapped in domestic conflicts, or individuals suffering from substance abuse.

Moreover, advanced studies can lead to specialized knowledge and skills you can use to create policies and systems that can improve social services. As Ferguson et al explained in their study “The Nature and Culture of Social Work with Children and Families in Long-term Casework,” social workers make vital contributions to supporting relationships and creating change.

The authors stated, “Social workers’ experience of working relationally with families and colleagues makes a vital contribution to the culture of the organization, how reflective and helpful it is, how much individual responsibility social workers carry for sustaining relationships and creating change, and how well supported workers, as well as families, feel.” (Ferguson et al, 2021).

Source: BLS, 2021

Choosing an Online MSW Program

Choosing an online MSW over traditional on-campus programs can be a more affordable way to pursue your postgraduate studies. Applying for students loans or scholarships is a way to finance your MSW enrollment. The important thing to remember is to choose accredited online programs from reputable colleges and universities. This will make your credentials truly valuable to organizations.

Keep in mind, too, that even if your program is affordable, a master’s degree will still be a considerable investment. Just imagine: The average debt of a master’s degree student is $71,287 after graduating (Education Data, 2021). Meantime, this guide on social work degrees provides you with more information on costs, requirements, and job opportunities in the field.

 

References:

  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) (2021). Social Workers Occupational Outlook. bls.gov
  2. Council of Social Work Education (CSWE). (2018). From Social Work Education to Social Work Practice. Retrieved from <https://cswe.org/CSWE/media/Workforce-Study/2018-Social-Work-Workforce-Report-Final.pdf
  3. Education Data (2021). Average Cost of a Master’s Degree. educationdata.org
  4. Education Data (2021). Average Graduate Student Loan Debt. educationdata.org
  5. Ferguson, H., Warwick,L., Cooner, T.S., Leigh, J., Beddoe, L., Disney, T., & Plumridge,G. (2020, February. The nature and culture of social work with children and families in long-term casework: Findings from a qualitative longitudinal study. Child & Family Social Work.https://doi.org/10.1111/cfs.12746
  6. Sallie Mae (2021). How America Pays for College 2021. salliemae.com
  7. Wiley Education Services (2020). Online College Students 2020: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences. edservices.wiley.com
  8. NASW (n.d.). Social Work Salaries. socialworkers.org

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