Affordable Online Master’s Degrees in Social Work

A career in social work allows you the opportunity to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives by helping them solve some of their life’s biggest challenges. Social workers offer guidance and counsel to individuals of all ages and backgrounds, advise policymakers and organizations on necessary services and programs to ensure the community’s well-being, and advocate on behalf of vulnerable populations at the local, state, and national levels. Many social workers become Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) so that they can diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional disorders in a private practice. In order to become an LCSW, students must earn a master’s degree in the field.

The U.S. Department of Labor projects that employment of social workers will grow 12 percent between 2014 and 2024, which is significantly higher than the national average. This growth is fueled by a variety of factors, including an increased need for healthcare and social services. Earning an online master’s in social work will prepare you to succeed in a career as a social worker.

This guide offers an overview for earning an online master’s degree in social work, including coursework requirements and costs. Furthermore, it provides important information about the employment outlook for this profession.

Online Master’s in Social Work at a Glance

Fast Facts

Time to Complete 2 years
Credit Hours 60
Concentrations
  • Administration and Community Development
  • Advanced Generalist
  • Clinical Social Work
  • Community, Organization, and Social Action
  • Direct Practice in Aging Services
  • Direct Practice in Community Mental Health
  • Direct Practice in Health Services
  • Direct Practice with Individuals, Families, and Small Groups
  • Management & Policy
Accreditation Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)
Additional Considerations Becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker requires the completion of state requirements, including a master’s degree and supervised postgraduate clinical experience and pre-licensure courses.

40 Affordable Online Master's Degrees in Social Work
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1

Western New Mexico University

Value Score 8.64
Average Tuition $3,026
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 98%
Number of Online Programs 7
Part-time cost per credit hour $168

Silver City’s WNMU serves as a training ground for those seeking an online master's in social work (MSW). The university's non-advanced track, for those without a recent bachelor's in social work (BSW), requires 64 credits; the advanced track, for those who have recently earned their BSW, requires 44 credits. The program prepares students for careers in private practice, correctional facilities, hospitals, government agencies, schools, treatment facilities, and child welfare agencies. Distance learners use the Canvas learning management system (LMS) to explore courses like understanding rural communities, human trafficking, and psychopharmacology.

WNMU's cheap MSW online program features three start dates per year. Advanced students can earn their degree in 18 months, while those on the non-advanced track need two to three years. Applicants need an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or above, but do not need to submit exam scores. Students in the advanced program can transfer 15 credits toward their degree; non-advanced students can transfer 21 credits.

Distance learners residing in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and El Paso, Texas enjoy affordable, in-state tuition rates. Additionally, WNMU guarantees a locked-in tuition rate for all graduate students who maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA and enroll in 18 credits per year.


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2

University of South Dakota

Value Score 8.33
Average Tuition $5,264
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 43%
Number of Online Programs 4
Part-time cost per credit hour $219

Located in Vermillion, USD offers an online MSW for those who are passionate about social justice. The school's 60-credit program for non-advanced students includes 36 credits of foundation courses and 24 credits of practical and advanced coursework. Advanced degree candidates need only complete 36 credits total. Courses on both tracks include practice-informed qualitative research and mental health: assessment and treatment. In addition, distance learners must attend a weekly seminar that helps them integrate field experiences with advanced classwork.

Like most online MSW programs, USD's degree requires an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher for admission. Minnesota residents enjoy the university's affordable resident tuition rate, while seniors ages 65 and over pay only one-fourth the cost of resident tuition. South Dakota National Guard members, state employees, and teachers are eligible for a discount equal to one-half of resident tuition for some or all courses. Veterans, children of National Guardsmen who died in the line of duty, and those who are visually impaired may qualify for free tuition.


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3

University of North Dakota

Value Score 8.18
Average Tuition $7,044
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 51%
Number of Online Programs 13
Part-time cost per credit hour $293

The lack of a BSW doesn't preclude aspiring social workers from earning their MSW at UND, which offers two tracks for the degree. The 60-credit, three-year program for non-advanced degree candidates requires two visits to the school's Grand Forks campus for an intensive lab. Additionally, these students spend 500 hours in local field placements. Online courses in the curriculum include 24 credits in foundation courses like human behavior and social policy. Applications must be in for this track, which starts in January, by June 15.

UND offers its 36-credit, two-year track for advanced degree candidates in a part-time format designed for working professionals. These students must travel to campus just once for the intensive lab. Evening and weekend online classes in this track include advanced generalist practices for individuals, families, communities, and treatment groups. Applications for this program, which begins in May, are due November 15.

Both cheap online MSW programs at UND attract students who respect human diversity and are eager to assume leadership roles in their communities. Learners can transfer most college-level credits toward this degree, with the exceptions of remedial, life experience, and continuing education courses.


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4

University of Central Florida

Value Score 8.00
Average Tuition $6,916
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 38%
Number of Online Programs 22
Part-time cost per credit hour $370

In 2016, UCF launched online MSW programs to transform students into advocates for underserved populations with mental health, addiction, or homelessness challenges.

The school's part-time, nine-semester program welcomes non-advanced learners. Advanced students, however, can enroll in a four-semester track. The curricula for both tracks center on five subject areas: human behavior, policies, practice, research, and fieldwork. The three-year, 62-credit program for non-advanced learners consists of 39 credits in core/advanced courses, nine elective credits, and 14 credits of field experience. Online students complete one course per seven-week term. Additionally, each track features an optional concentration in behavioral health.

Prerequisites for this program include introductory courses in human biology, English/communications, psychology, statistics, sociology, and cultural diversity. UCF does not allow degree candidates to transfer credits or earn credits for prior life/work experience. The school's online courses aren’t available to residents in Michigan, Minnesota, and Oregon.


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5

University of Nevada-Reno

Value Score 7.36
Average Tuition $4,752
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 17%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $264

UN-Reno's MSW empowers students to respond to the needs of at-risk urban and rural populations. Graduates leave prepared to work with individuals, groups, couples, or families, autonomously or as part of a multidisciplinary team.

The 62-credit program for non-advanced students includes a three-day residency with time spent at the school's patient simulation facilities. Advanced students can complete the 32-credit online MSW program in 15 months. Ten foundation courses, required for all students, include structural oppression, elements of evidence-informed practice, and a practicum.

Admission requirements for all students include coursework in statistics and research methods in addition to a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0 and three letters of recommendation. Advanced students must also submit documentation of "outstanding performance" in a field experience. Applicants do not need to submit GRE scores.


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6

The University of Texas at Arlington

Value Score 7.27
Average Tuition $6,959
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 40%
Number of Online Programs 11
Part-time cost per credit hour $390

UTA's online MSW cohort program admits only Texas residents. The degree features three concentrations involving direct practice with children and families, mental health and substance abuse, and aging (for advanced students only).

Advanced students need complete only 38 credits to earn their degree, and can do so in two years on a part-time basis or in one year by taking classes full time. Non-advanced students must complete 61 credits, and can do so in three years on a part-time basis or in two taking classes full time. Courses include stress, crisis, and coping; treatment of addictive behaviors; and brain and behavior.

UTA's online MSW programs begin each fall. Applicants who have earned a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA qualify with an application, essay, and transcripts. A lower GPA triggers additional admission requirements.


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7

Boise State University

Value Score 7.10
Average Tuition $6,058
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 37%
Number of Online Programs 2
Part-time cost per credit hour $450

BSU features a fully online MSW program. Applicants for advanced standing must have earned their BSW within the last five years or within the last 10 years if they’ve had meaningful social work practice since graduation. All others students can apply for BSU's 61-credit MSW, which full-time students can complete in two years. Distance learners in the full MSW program take foundation courses the first year and advanced courses the second year, completing 1,000 hours of supervised fieldwork.

Advanced degree candidates can earn their MSW in one year, completing 25 credits of courses (on topics like human diversity, policy, and legislation), labs, and seminars in addition to 12 credits of supervised fieldwork totaling 600 hours. Fieldwork lasts for 14 weeks.

The best-positioned applicants to this affordable online MSW program have an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher, submit a compelling personal essay and recommendations, and boast paid or volunteer social service experience. Florida residents are not eligible for this program.


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8

University of Missouri-Columbia

Value Score 7.05
Average Tuition $8,402
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 31%
Number of Online Programs 12
Part-time cost per credit hour $350

UM-Columbia delivers its online MSW program in a part-time format. Advanced students can earn their degree in two years, while non-advanced candidates typically finish the program within three. Distance learners choose from two concentrations. Clinical practice candidates seek to work with economically disadvantaged individuals in a range of settings. Those concentrating in policy, planning, and administration endeavor to effect change at organizational and societal levels in advancement of social justice.

Foundation courses constitute 24 credits, while concentration content covering more specialized knowledge represents another 36 credits. Advanced students need only complete 39 credits total. Courses explore military culture; death, grief, and loss; domestic violence; and disability rights advocacy. To earn their degree, distance learners must complete 400 hours of fieldwork and another 680 hours in a final field practicum. Advanced students complete a total of 680 hours of fieldwork.


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9

University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Value Score 6.86
Average Tuition $7,200
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 41%
Number of Online Programs 3
Part-time cost per credit hour $300

UA-Little Rock debuted its online MSW in 2016 to groom students for leadership roles within the Arkansas social welfare system. Candidates can complete the program, with the exception of internships, entirely online. Emphasizing clinical social work practice, the degree features two concentrations: advanced direct practice working with individuals or groups at clinics, hospitals, prisons, or schools; and management and community practice, where practitioners may work as policy analysts, grant writers, lobbyists, or program directors. Distance learners take core classes in their first year and fill their second year with concentration courses. Full-time students finish the program in one year; part-time students finish in 21 months.

UA-Little Rock delivers courses in its online MSW program asynchronously using the Blackboard LMS and synchronously through Adobe Connect evening classes. Most courses start in the fall. Applicants must submit transcripts with a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0, satisfactory test scores, a narrative statement, and three reference letters. The university also considers relevant life experiences. Students can transfer up to six credits toward their MSW.


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10

Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis

Value Score 6.74
Average Tuition $8,136
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 21%
Number of Online Programs 10
Part-time cost per credit hour $339

IUPUI offers an online MSW program with a concentration in advanced generalist practice for part- and full-time students. Choosing among cutting-edge electives like eSocial work and telebehavioral health practice, distance learners prepare to assume multifaceted roles as community organizers, group facilitators, clinicians, policy analysts, and advocates. The 60-credit program contains 30 credits of core courses in addition to 30 credits in interpersonal practice courses. Non-advanced students begin their degree with an immersion experience followed by four courses that represent a generalist foundation. Advanced students can bypass this first phase, and need only complete 39 credits total. All degree candidates take five intermediate-level courses, including a 320-hour practicum. The remainder of the curriculum consists of advanced coursework.

IUPUI accepts applications on a rolling basis. Prospective students need a bachelor’s degree, coursework in statistics, and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Non-advanced applicants also need six courses in social or behavioral sciences.


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11

University of Northern Iowa

Value Score 6.70
Average Tuition $8,050
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 38%
Number of Online Programs 13
Part-time cost per credit hour $447

UNI's online MSW program focuses on Iowa’s rural and underserved communities. The degree's trauma-informed care concentration readies distance learners for work in substance abuse agencies, mental health facilities, prisons, and domestic violence shelters.

Courses include primary and secondary trauma, grant writing, fundraising, contracting, and marketing. Students move through the curriculum in cohorts, building upon existing knowledge through a prescribed sequence of courses. UNI delivers most courses Tuesday evenings; some may involve hands-on experiences at the school's Cedar Falls campus. Additionally, all degree candidates attend a two-day trauma conference on campus in the summer. Two 250-hour practicums run concurrent with classes.

UNI’s 153 partnerships in Iowa communities enrich student internships. Applicants do not need to submit exam scores, but should provide letters of reference along with a "professional statement." All distance learners at UNI pay the same affordable tuition rate.


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12

Humboldt State University

Value Score 6.64
Average Tuition $6,738
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 26%
Number of Online Programs 2
Part-time cost per credit hour $374

Permitting students to earn their MSW on their time, HSU prides itself on flexibility. The university's program focuses on compassionate advanced generalist practice in rural and Native American communities. Non-advanced candidates can earn their MSW in 24 months by taking classes full time or in 42 months on a part-time basis. Advanced students can finish the program in 12 months taking classes full time or in 24 months on a part-time basis.

HSU delivers most courses in the MSW program online asynchronously, but full-time learners attend on-campus classes two days per week. Part-time learners visit campus once annually for four days, and participate in synchronous online classes on Monday nights. Degree candidates typically devote 25 hours a week to part-time study, or 40 hours for full-time students. Non-advanced learners complete four field placements totaling 960 hours, while advanced students complete two field placements totaling 480 hours.

Applicants for advanced standing must have a minimum 3.5 GPA.


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13

University of Maine

Value Score 6.59
Average Tuition $7,524
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 27%
Number of Online Programs 11
Part-time cost per credit hour $418

Located in Orono, UMaine features an MSW online program open to residents of Maine, Vermont, and the Canadian Maritimes. In earning their degree, students develop into ethical social work professionals poised to serve as clinicians and community change agents in a range of settings. UMaine delivers this program in an entirely online or hybrid format for non-advanced degree candidates, who must complete a total of 63 credits. Advanced students can earn their 46-credit degree in two years, and all graduates are qualified for licensure.The curriculum combines asynchronous classes with live online interaction, covering subjects like adult & child psychopathology and social welfare policy.

Prospective students should submit their applications by February 1, and do not need to provide GRE scores. Out-of-state distance learners pay a more affordable tuition rate than nonresident on-campus students.


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14

Campbellsville University

Value Score 6.42
Average Tuition $7,983
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 79%
Number of Online Programs 10
Part-time cost per credit hour $444

A private, Christian university located in Kentucky, Campbellsville offers an online MSW that prepares distance learners for leadership roles in state and local government, adoption agencies, health centers, probation and parole departments, and senior care facilities. Non-advanced students enroll in a 60-credit, two-year program featuring courses like cultural competency; advanced candidates enroll in a 30-credit program and take courses like world problems & advocacy, graduating in as few as 21 months. All students need a total of 900 practicum hours to earn their MSW.

Application requirements for this cheap MSW online program include transcripts evidencing a minimum 3.0 GPA, three letters of recommendation, signed confirmation of the school's ethics code, and disclosure of any criminal history. Campbellsville provides special scholarship opportunities for military and veteran students.


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15

Salisbury University

Value Score 6.41
Average Tuition $6,660
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 32%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $448

Located in Maryland, SU delivers an online MSW program that students can complete in one to four years (depending on their standing). The 62-credit program for non-advanced candidates consists of 48 credits of virtual classroom work and 14 credits of fieldwork. The advanced program requires half the credits, in the online classroom and in the field. Degree candidates participate in weekly, supervised field placements at human services agencies in Maryland and surrounding states. Participation requires training on campus in Salisbury and in Baltimore. SU groups students into cohorts, and accepts new candidates for fall admission only. Most courses meet once weekly in late afternoon or evening, and last for seven weeks.

SU offers its MSW online program to residents of Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. All distance learners pay the same cheap online tuition, regardless of their state of residency.


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16

Texas State University

Value Score 6.38
Average Tuition $6,024
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 19%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $412

Texas State offers online MSW programs with a concentration in advanced practice leadership for those aspiring to agency-based practice in the public sector. As they complete the curriculum, students prepare to serve society’s most vulnerable clients through courses on child abuse and neglect interventions, aging, drug addiction, and spirituality. The 62-credit, part-time program for non-advanced students features fall and spring semester starts with an average completion time of four years. The advanced program begins learners on second-year content, requiring 36 hours of part-time coursework. Advanced degree candidates generally finish the program in two years.

All non-advanced students complete 20 credits in a supervised field practicum, while advanced learners complete 12 credits in a practicum. MSW program online students can specialize through their choice of electives and internships. Additionally, the curriculum offers many opportunities for collaboration on faculty research projects.


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17

Colorado State University-Fort Collins

Value Score 6.15
Average Tuition $9,348
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 40%
Number of Online Programs 21
Part-time cost per credit hour $519

While pursuing an online MSW from CSU-Fort Collins, distance learners can concurrently work toward a certificate in one of five specializations: clinical behavioral health, conflict resolution/mediation, military culture, nonprofit administration, or school social work. Online students learn to advocate for others using problem-focused interventions. Graduates leave the program primed for careers like hospice social worker, foster care worker, and rehabilitation counselor.

A three-year degree, the online MSW program for non-advanced students requires them to complete 62 credits. Advanced students can earn their degree in two years by completing 45 credits. The curriculum pairs online instruction with scheduled class time during two weekends each semester, rotating between locations in Denver and Colorado Springs. This in-person instruction allows students to practice interventions through role play within their cohort. Additionally, the program includes fieldwork requiring a 10- to 15-hour weekly commitment. Degree candidates must complete two field placements totaling 945 hours to be eligible for graduation.

To apply for the MSW program, prospective students need a minimum 3.0 GPA but do not need to submit GRE scores.


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18

Saint Leo University

Value Score 6.13
Average Tuition $8,730
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 85%
Number of Online Programs 19
Part-time cost per credit hour $485

Located in Florida, Saint Leo delivers an MSW with an advanced clinical practice concentration to empower leaders to promote economic justice and human rights. Currently, only distance learners residing in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Virginia can enroll in this program. Students meet weekly for synchronous nighttime classes in addition to one weekend seminar on campus in the summer. Degree candidates must be available for daytime internships.

A two-year degree, Saint Leo's MSW online program consists of 63 credits and features a fixed curriculum mandating that students complete courses in a certain order. Advanced distance learners can choose to earn their degree on an accelerated, one-year track. The program also features a three-year option that begins in the fall. To apply for the advanced clinical practice track, with classes beginning in the fall, prospective students must submit their application by March 30.


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19

California State University-Northridge

Value Score 6.06
Average Tuition $6,738
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 11%
Part-time cost per credit hour $374

Students in CSUN's MSW program commit themselves to serve urban families throughout the greater Los Angeles region. The two-year, full-time option features weekly asynchronous online sessions. Distance learners enroll in two eight-week courses at a time, aiming to complete 20 courses, or 60 credits. Faculty members assign degree candidates to fieldwork placements based on student preferences and agency needs, making an effort to ensure they work in different agencies each year.

Another option of CSUN's MSW program online, a part-time, three-year program consists of classes on Thursday nights (and some Saturdays) in Ventura, CA. Students on this track take three courses at a time, earning 63 credits and meeting concurrent field placement requirements totaling 16 hours per week. Applicants to the program must have earned a liberal arts degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. CSUN allows students to can transfer nine credits toward foundation requirements.


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20

Edinboro University of Pennsylvania

Value Score 5.92
Average Tuition $8,460
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 86%
Number of Online Programs 10
Part-time cost per credit hour $470

Edinboro University of Pennsylvania’s online MSW program focuses on serving families. Students must complete 60 credits and 900 hours in supervised internships to earn their degree, and typically do so in two years. Degree candidates work in field placements two days a week while taking classes. Advanced students need only complete one placement totaling 500 hours. Distance learners must locate a field placement agency, which must then earn the approval of the university's Social Work Department. Courses cover a variety of topics, like social policy practice, family diversity, and trauma theory and treatment.

Prospective students must have a minimum 2.8 GPA; advanced applicants must have earned their undergraduate degree with a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Applications for the MSW program online must be in by July 1 (or November 15 for priority consideration).


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21

Metropolitan State University of Denver

Value Score 5.83
Average Tuition $7,174
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 27%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $399

MSU Denver prepares MSW candidates to serve the needs of individuals, families, groups, and communities through a multicultural perspective. The program blends academic and field experience to teach ethical decision-making, scientific inquiry and clinical assessments, and interventions. The university boasts a 100% pass rate for graduates on the ASWB clinical licensure exam.

Like at many online MSW schools, distance learners at MSU Denver can follow a part- or full time track, depending on their standing as advanced or non-advanced. The program features two concentrations: individuals and families, which caters to aspiring advanced clinical social workers, and leadership and management, which leads to careers in grant writing or legislative advocacy. Sample courses in the program include family violence, international social work, and evidence-based mental health practice.

Colorado residents can complete the degree entirely online or in a hybrid format that involves in-person instruction. Degree candidates may have to complete synchronous activities.. Sequential coursework begins every fall. MSU Denver's affordable tuition structure features a flat rate for students who enroll in 13–18 hours of instruction per semester.


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22

Western Kentucky University

Value Score 5.40
Average Tuition $10,860
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 58%
Number of Online Programs 22
Part-time cost per credit hour $543

Located in Bowling Green, WKU offers a single concentration within its MSW program online: advanced direct practice in rural settings, serving families and communities in particular. The entirely online program features a 60-credit option for non-advanced students and a 33-credit option for advanced degree candidates. Students on both tracks can complete the curriculum on a part- or full-time basis. As with most online MSW schools, distance learners must fulfill a capstone field practicum requirement to graduate.

Applicants to the non-advanced track must have a minimum 2.75 GPA and minimum GRE exam scores of 139. Other admission requirements include a writing sample, three references, coursework in statistics, and a liberal arts background. Applicants with a substandard GPA must fulfill additional requirements. WKU offers discounted tuition rates to active-duty members of the military.


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23

Portland State University

Value Score 5.34
Average Tuition $12,816
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 15%
Number of Online Programs 4
Part-time cost per credit hour $233

PSU delivers the only accredited online MSW in the Pacific Northwest. The program, rooted in the school’s dedication to the advancement of social justice and equity, trains the social workers of tomorrow using innovative techniques and instruction methods. Candidates choose from four concentrations: practice and leadership with communities and organizations; health across the lifespan; social work with children, youth, and families; and clinical social work practice. Students in the 78-credit, three-year program take 39 credits of required courses; electives options include racial disparities and advanced anti-oppressive practice. Additionally, degree candidates complete a 16-hour weekly field placement in their second and third years.

Applicants need a minimum 2.75 GPA. PSU maintains a competitive position among online MSW schools and accepts an average of one-third of applicants to the program.


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24

Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College

Value Score 5.22
Average Tuition $8,813
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 11%
Number of Online Programs 8
Part-time cost per credit hour $439

Baton Rouge’s Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College offers a 60-credit MSW that full-time students can complete in two years. The program centers on working with individuals, groups, and communities in a range of settings including child welfare offices, substance abuse treatment centers, and gerontology facilities.

As is the case with many online MSW schools, LSU's curriculum dictates a prescribed sequence of courses. First-year students enroll in seven-week foundational courses like policy and human behavior. Distance learners also participate in two internships during the first year of the program. Degree candidates then progress to the advanced curriculum and complete a capstone experience. Advanced learners can earn their degree in one year by completing just 33 credits.

LSU's program features multiple start dates throughout the year. Applicants need a liberal arts undergraduate degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA, in addition to minimum grades in certain courses like statistics. Other admission requirements include a resume and three recommendations.


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25

The University of Alabama

Value Score 5.13
Average Tuition $10,170
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 35%
Number of Online Programs 14
Part-time cost per credit hour $604

Located in Tuscaloosa, UA delivers an MSW program that focuses on families. The degree offers two concentrations: children, adolescents, and their families; and adults and their families. The school features a 60-credit, two-year program for full-time, non-advanced students, in addition to a 42-credit, three-semester program for advanced degree candidates. Students can access the majority of coursework for both programs online, but each track includes in-person skills labs on certain weekends.

Accredited online MSW programs like UA's typically require a certain number of hours of practicum experience. The advanced program, which students can complete on a part- or full-time basis, requires 500 practicum hours and offers two start dates per year. UA adheres to priority consideration application deadlines of February 1 for the non-advanced program and September 1 for advanced students. Applicants need an undergraduate degree with an acceptable GPA and minimum MAT/GRE scores.


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26

Virginia Commonwealth University

Value Score 4.37
Average Tuition $10,710
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 9%
Number of Online Programs 11
Part-time cost per credit hour $595

VSU established its School of Social Work in 1917 to meet the needs of World War I veterans. Today, the university's MSW online program includes concentrations in clinical social work practice and social work administration, planning, and policy practice. The degree uses a blend of coursework, research, and field experience to prepare students to make an impact as advanced practitioners. Coursework encourages critical thinking, evidence-based decision-making, and ethical integrity.

The 60-credit curriculum, which distance learners can complete in two years with full-time study (or four years with part-time study), combines online study with two mandatory sessions at the university's Richmond campus each semester. Additionally, degree candidates must complete two practice internships at community agencies in Virginia or Washington, D.C. Applicants must have earned an undergraduate degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA; advanced standing applicants also complete an in-person interview.


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27

University at Buffalo

Value Score 4.24
Average Tuition $10,870
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 17%
Part-time cost per credit hour $453

UB's online MSW program incorporates trauma-informed perspectives and human rights contexts into the curriculum, both historically underrepresented in American social work practice. Courses like human behavior in the social environment involve discussion of adverse childhood experiences and their long-term impacts manifested in adults. Delivering the program on a part-time basis, UB requires non-advanced students to complete 60 credits to earn their degree. Advanced students need complete only 35 credits to earn their MSW. Additionally, distance learners must complete a certain number of hours of fieldwork (900 hours for non-advanced students and 480 hours for advanced students). Courses in UB's program may be both synchronous and asynchronous, and the school delivers online content using a customized version of the Blackboard LMS.

Applicants need a recent bachelor’s degree earned with a GPA of 3.0 or higher.


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28

Rutgers University-New Brunswick

Value Score 3.90
Average Tuition $16,272
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 17%
Number of Online Programs 16
Part-time cost per credit hour $678

RU-New Brunswick features one of America’s largest schools of social work. The school's entirely online, three-year (or two-year, for advanced learners) MSW program focuses on delivery of social work services to individuals, couples, and families, and offers convenient starts in fall and spring. In their first year, degree candidates enroll in required foundation courses to acquire knowledge and skills that can be readily applied to different settings and populations. Coursework explores topics like human behavior, psychopathology, and diversity and oppression. Additionally, students complete an advanced clinical practice curriculum consisting of an advanced research course, advanced field instruction, and electives. Distance learners complete 1,125 hours of fieldwork concurrent with academic coursework.

RU-New Brunswick delivers its accredited online MSW program only to residents of certain states. Applicants must have an undergraduate degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA in addition to a broad liberal arts background. Prospective students must provide a personal statement, but do not need to submit GRE scores.


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29

University of Hawaii at Manoa

Value Score 3.83
Average Tuition $14,232
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 14%
Number of Online Programs 10
Part-time cost per credit hour $593

Located in Honolulu, UH Manoa offers an online MSW program for residents of neighboring islands in Hawai‘i, Moloka‘i, Kaua‘i, Maui, and Lana‘i. The curriculum includes theory and practice approaches that cater specifically to the needs of the local population. The three-year program readies students for advanced practice in social work, and features two concentrations: children and families, and behavioral mental health. Available electives include cultural factors in work with Hawaiians, indigenous peacemaking, and treatment of chemical dependency. Advanced students can earn their degree in one or two years.

Degree candidates must complete 16-hour weekly practicums and visit O‘ahu once annually for on-site training. The university considers requests for off-island practicums on a case-by-case basis. Students attend class synchronously on weeknights (with occasional Saturday sessions). Admission requirements include a professional resume and letters of recommendation.


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30

Wayne State University

Value Score 3.78
Average Tuition $14,165
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 19%
Number of Online Programs 7
Part-time cost per credit hour $590

Detroit's WSU permits students to pursue their MSW degree on a part- or full-time basis. Like most online MSW programs, the first year’s curriculum emphasizes the fundamentals of social work practice. In the second year, advanced studies focus on one of two concentrations: interpersonal practice; or innovation in community, policy, and leadership. Within the first concentration, students choose from three tracks: cognitive-behavioral, family systems, and psychodynamic. The second concentration also offers three tracks: leadership, community development, and policy. Electives may include urban anthropology, cities and food, and epidemiology.

The full-time, two-year program includes two days of fieldwork and classes every week. WSU delivers courses days, nights, Saturdays, and online. Students can also opt to complete the program on a part-time basis, earning their degree in three or four years. The application deadline is March 1 for advanced learners and April 1 for non-advanced students.


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Arizona State University-Tempe

Value Score 3.75
Average Tuition $10,610
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 15%
Number of Online Programs 10
Part-time cost per credit hour $758

ASU-Tempe's online MSW program features an informed perspective on cultural diversity and Southwest populations. The school's faculty boast expertise in forensic social work, human trafficking, and Southwest borderlands issues. Graduates leave the program prepared to work as advocates and service-providers for individuals, families, and communities. The program involves an advanced generalist focus in one of three specialties: children, youth, and families; health and behavioral health; or public child welfare.

Degree candidates must complete one 480-hour internship each year. Full-time students typically earn their degree in four semesters, while those completing the program on a part-time basis generally do so in six semesters. Requiring learners to complete 45 to 60 credits, the program features multiple enrollment sessions and accelerated courses that run for just under eight weeks. The curriculum involves sequential courses and includes two synchronous seminars.

All distance learners at ASU-Tempe pay the same tuition rates, regardless of residency. Students may transfer a total of 30 credits in previous graduate study in social work completed with a grade of "B" or better.


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Our Lady of the Lake University

Value Score 3.49
Average Tuition $14,796
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 59%
Number of Online Programs 7
Part-time cost per credit hour $822

In 1942, San Antonio's OLLU established the first social work department in Texas. Today, the university continues its tradition of innovation, offering one of just three MSW programs in the nation that emphasizes service to Hispanic families and children. The MSW online program includes asynchronous coursework with specific due dates. Advanced students can earn their degree in two years, while non-advanced candidates typically complete the program in three.

Distance learners must find an agency for their practicum, but OLLU facilitates the process. Students can complete the required fieldwork with their current employer, provided that the work is separate from existing responsibilities and serves different clients under a different supervisor. Military students receive a 10% tuition discount. Admission requirements include a personal statement, a resume, and three letters of recommendation.


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University of New England

Value Score 3.39
Average Tuition $22,449
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 54%
Number of Online Programs 5
Part-time cost per credit hour $839

Located in Biddeford, Maine, UNE features a fully online MSW program designed for working professionals. As the progress through the curriculum, candidates prepare to work with individuals, families, and other groups in diverse populations. Asynchronous courses use the Blackboard LMS to explore topics like aging and health; contemporary controversies; and grief, loss, death, and dying.

The 64-credit program for non-advanced learners offers focus areas in clinical practice, community practice, and integrated practice. The 35-credit advanced track, which students can complete in just 16 months, features the same focus areas. Candidates enroll in a single course during each eight-week session, with two sessions per term. The program also includes field experience and offers three starts each year. UNE makes admission decisions on a rolling basis, but encourages prospective students to submit their applications early in a cycle.


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University of New Hampshire-Main Campus

Value Score 3.37
Average Tuition $13,500
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 17%
Number of Online Programs 2
Part-time cost per credit hour $750

Durham's UNH offers an online MSW program that prepares distance learners for careers in fields like education, mental health, substance abuse, and the military. Degree candidates choose from four concentrations: health/mental health; addictions/substance abuse; children, youth, and families; and disabilities. Students must complete 20 required courses, most of which the school delivers asynchronously, in addition to two required field internships that each last for nine months. Faculty members strive to develop a personal connection with online students by using technologies like Skype. By taking the typical course load of two courses per eight-week term, students can finish the 62-credit program in 28 months. Additionally, degree candidates may opt to concurrently pursue a certificate in intellectual and developmental disabilities.

UNH accepts applications on a rolling basis three times a year, and encourages prospective students to include evidence of relevant volunteer/work experience with their application. Applicants do not need to submit GRE scores.


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University of Louisville

Value Score 3.33
Average Tuition $11,664
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 16%
Number of Online Programs 6
Part-time cost per credit hour $649

U of L features an in-demand MSW. The program's curriculum draws on teaching methodologies like cognitive flexibility theory, critical thinking model, and Bruner’s Spiral format. The school offers optional specializations in mental health, gerontology, psychosocial oncology, alcohol and drug counseling, and military social work. Degree candidates must complete supervised practicums requiring 16 hours a week at a public or nonprofit social service agency.

Students in this entirely online MSW program must attend synchronous classes for particular courses. The 60-credit track, which non-advanced students can complete in two or three years, begins every fall; the 35-credit degree that advanced students can earn in one or two years begins in the summer and fall.

Eligible military, Reserve Component, and Kentucky National Guard members enjoy affordable, discounted tuition. U of L offers scholarship opportunities to those intending to practice in rural Kentucky in gerontology, policy, or legislative areas.


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Simmons College

Value Score 3.26
Average Tuition $20,052
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 57%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $1,114

At Boston’s Simmons College, online MSW students with non-advanced standing earn a 65-credit degree on an accelerated, full-time, or part-time basis. Advanced students can finish an accelerated program in 15, 24, or 32 months. The curriculum features advanced courses like diverse, vulnerable, and resilient populations. Degree candidates develop an individualized study plan or choose from various pathways, including trauma and interpersonal violence, child and family, health and aging, and mental health and addictions.

The cornerstone of Simmons' online MSW program, the field experience component requires 1,120 hours in an approved agency setting. The school's placement team helps students secure internships that reflect their career interests, leveraging a national network of clinical partnerships. Two field placements last 28 weeks each. Field instructors and liaisons work closely with degree candidates throughout each placement.

Part- and full-time students enroll all year long. Simmons considers pertinent work and volunteer experiences in reviewing applications.


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37

Ohio State University

Value Score 3.23
Average Tuition $11,560
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 10%
Number of Online Programs 4
Part-time cost per credit hour $723

Located in Columbus, OSU promises a transformative educational experience for students enrolling in its online advanced MSW program. The curriculum, designed for advanced working professionals, offers concentrations in mental health and substance abuse and child and youth services.

As is the case with other affordable online MSW schools, OSU delivers this program entirely online with the exception of field placements. Distance learners access course content synchronously. Full-time students can earn their degree in one year, while part-time students generally need two years.

OSU admits students on a rolling basis. Applicants do not need to submit GRE scores, but must have earned a BSW within the last five years with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Other admission requirements include proof of social work experience and a performance evaluation by a field instructor.


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University of Denver

Value Score 3.10
Average Tuition $43,164
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 28%
Number of Online Programs 15
Part-time cost per credit hour $1,199

DU's online MSW program caters to non-advanced students and features a single concentration in mental health and trauma. As they progress through the fixed curriculum, degree candidates gain a generalist perspective on social work practice with emphasis on intervention skills, cognitive approaches, trauma-informed care, and substance abuse. Cohorts of 15 to 20 students take classes using the Canvas LMS with concurrent field instruction. The program consists of asynchronous, entirely online courses, but distance learners must be online Thursday nights for collaborative learning sessions that include real-time discussion and role play.

The highlight of DU's 27-month program, supervised field internships permit students put their newly acquired knowledge into practice. Degree candidates complete one internship each year, working 12 to 15 hours per week, at schools, correctional facilities, hospitals, and community mental health centers. Admitted students with a GPA of 2.5 or above can transfer the equivalent of 30 credits toward their degree.


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39

Widener University-Main Campus

Value Score 2.80
Average Tuition $22,140
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 34%
Number of Online Programs 2
Part-time cost per credit hour $907

Chester, Pennsylvania's WU delivers an online MSW program that focuses on the role past trauma plays in mental illness. Acknowledging that suffering frequently leads to substance abuse and other social-emotional issues, the curriculum seeks to integrate a trauma-informed practice with cultural, gender, and racial sensitivity in working with diverse populations. WU offers all courses in the 64-credit program online. The degree consists of 32 credits of core courses, 23 credits in advanced concentration courses, and nine credits of electives. Degree candidates must complete two or three days of fieldwork weekly.

Students who attend classes full-time can graduate in 10 semesters, while part-time learners can finish in about three years. The university does not require online students to visit campus, but they can choose to do so to attend career fairs or graduation ceremonies. This online MSW school offers three start dates each year, and permits degree candidates to transfer up to nine credits.


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University of Southern California

Value Score 2.56
Average Tuition $39,984
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 22%
Number of Online Programs 10
Part-time cost per credit hour $1,666

At USC in Los Angeles, a virtual field practicum enhances the educational experience for online MSW students. Beginning the first week of classes, degree candidates work with a live actor playing the role of a client in crisis. Additionally, students benefit from 210 hours in intensive skills-building exercises that prepare them for three semesters of hands-on field placement. Field placement represents a significant commitment, since students will spend 16 to 20 hours a week working with clients.

Distance learners choose from three concentrations: adults and healthy aging; children, youth, and families; or community, organization, and business innovation. Elective options include global violence against women and spirituality, religion, and faith in clinical practice. Full-time students typically finish the program in four semesters; part-time students finish in six or eight semesters. USC also offers an advanced track that students can complete more quickly.

USC's affordable online MSW program doesn’t charge extra fees for out-of-state tuition. Applicants should have earned a bachelor’s degree with liberal arts coursework and a minimum 3.0 GPA, and should demonstrate an interest in social work values.


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What Will I Learn in My Master’s in Social Work Program?

An online master’s in social work prepares students for leadership positions that demand professional responsibility within the institutions and systems that safeguard the wellbeing of patients. Students enroll in coursework in social sciences and social welfare policies, strengthening their understanding of concepts like social justice and equality as they enhance their understanding of diverse communities, the challenges they face, and the interventions needed to help overcome them. Most programs also include a field education experience that allows students to apply lessons learned in the classroom to a real-world environment. The following are example courses that are commonly found in any online master’s degree in social work curriculum:

Sample Coursework

  • Human Behavior and the Social Environment An examination of the relationships between humans and social environments with a focus on how diverse populations interact with one another. Students will analyze micro- and macro-level theories to understand how they might be used to structure their professional activities.
  • Social Policy Analysis and Practice This course serves as a review of political and legislative practices, models of policy analysis, and service delivery and implementation to understand the effects on people from global, economic, and social perspectives. The course requires students to utilize the kinds of analytical abilities they will find necessary once they begin their career as a social work.
  • Organizations, Communities, and Society This class emphasizes the ways in which key stakeholders collectively work together to develop or to modify policies, programs, and practices for effective intervention. Students deepen their knowledge and understanding of the skills necessary for social work practice on organizational, community, and societal levels.
  • Practice with Individuals, Families, and Groups An introduction to task-centered and solution-focused approaches that teaches students how to engage clients in the process of change. Students complete assessments of the individuals, families, and groups with whom they work and learn how best to support those of varying genders, sexual orientations, gender identities, races, classes, and ethnicities.
  • Executive Leadership Practice This course is an overview of the management, administrative, and supervisory competencies needed for leadership positions. Some examples of necessary leadership tasks include the hiring, evaluation, and termination of their staff. Students will also enhance their understanding of working with boards of directors and developing strategic plans.

Selecting a concentration within your online master’s degree in social work online program allows you to specialize within a specific area of the field. Earning a degree with a particular concentration can prepare you to meet specific career goals. Common specializations are listed below.

Concentrations

  • Community Mental Health Enables learners to enter careers in psychiatric social work, community mental health outreach and prevention, child treatment, and substance abuse treatment. This concentration emphasizes self-help, social rehabilitation, and various types of psychotherapy for those suffering from mental illness and substance abuse.<
  • Direct Practice in Aging Services Prepares students for leadership roles in gerontological social work, one of the country’s fastest growing professions. Students learn about the psychosocial issues of aging, including mental health issues and social policies that affect the elderly.
  • Health Services Addresses health disparities, which are frequently associated with poverty and cultural/ethnic differences. Students will learn what is needed to successfully practice in healthcare systems with at-risk populations such as women, the elderly, developmentally disabled persons, and people of color.
  • Management and Planning Prepares learners to become leaders in policy development, community planning, and agency management. They are equipped to empower communities by creating, maintaining, and improving client-serving institutions.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Social Work Graduates

MASTER’S IN Social Work CAREERS

Social workers are solutions-oriented professionals who recognize the challenges that face individuals and communities. They must be able to identify problems and their root causes in order to recommend strategies to help address and overcome them. Social workers should also possess a willingness to carefully track and monitor the solutions they recommend to determine if they have achieved the desired result. Furthermore, social workers should think broadly about how they can best help improve life for a greater population by working one-on-one with individuals and by developing and advocating for the creation of beneficial programs and community resources.

Child and Family Social Worker

$46,890 Avg Annual Salary
Bachelor’s Degree Required

These professionals protect vulnerable children and families by ensuring that they receive essential services such as healthcare, food, and shelter. They also help remove children from abusive situations, arrange adoptions, and help reunite families.

Projected Growth Rate: 12%

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

$46,890 Avg Annual Salary
Master’s Degree Required

These social workers facilitate individual, family, and group therapy to help their clients positively change their behavior. LCSWs commonly work in collaboration with physicians and other healthcare professionals. This occupation requires a master’s degree.

Projected Growth Rate: 12%

School Social Worker

$46,890 Avg Annual Salary
Bachelor’s Degree Required

These professionals collaborate with teachers, parents, and school administrators to develop plans and strategies to improve students’ academic performance and social development. School social workers intervene when students are faced with various issues like chronic absenteeism or bullying.

Projected Growth Rate: 12%

Healthcare Social Worker

$44,390 Avg Annual Salary
Master’s Degree Required

These social workers help medical patients adjust their lifestyle in accordance to their medical diagnosis. They may also facilitate healthcare and support groups. Healthcare social workers tend to specialize in one particular area, such as geriatrics, hospice and palliative care, or medical care.

Projected Growth Rate: 13%

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker

$47,880 Avg Annual Salary
Bachelor’s Degree Required

These professionals Social workers help connect individuals with addictions to the services they need to overcome them. Mental health and substance abuse social workers commonly work in rehabilitation programs or within the criminal justice system.

Projected Growth Rate: 12%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Licensure and Certification

Becoming a LCSW requires a license issued by the state in which you plan to work. You can receive your LCSW license after earning your master’s degree by fulfilling state requirements, which can include an exam in addition to postgraduate experience.

  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW): This professional license authorizes a social worker to provide independent psychotherapy and other clinical services to clients. This license is required to become a clinical social worker.

JOB PLACEMENT

A master’s degree opens the door to a larger variety of career opportunities than you could have with a bachelor’s degree alone, making the decision to earn an online master’s degree in social work a prudent one. For example, only those who have earned a master’s degree in the field can become licensed, a necessary step towards becoming a LCSW who can facilitate individual, family, and group therapy. In fact, according to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, individuals with a master’s in social work earn an average of 32% more than those with a bachelor’s degree.

MASTER’S IN Social Work SALARY

Those who hold an online master’s in social work earn more annually than those with a bachelor’s degree alone. The following table showcases the variance in LCSW annual mean wage by state according to Payscale. This table highlights the five top-paying cities and states for this profession.

Top Five Highest Paying Cities, States for LCSWs (U.S. Median LCSW Salary: $54,862)
Los Angeles, California $75,933
Sacramento, California $74,028
San Diego, California $69,021
New York, New York $62,585
Miami, Florida $62,311

Source: PayScale

Financing Your Online Master’s in Social Work Program

Many students earning an online master’s degree in social work seek financial assistance to pay for their degree. A good first step is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which can help you identify loan and grant programs to help cover educational expenses. Most students are eligible for some kind of financial aid through FAFSA. You might also be eligible for scholarships, including one from the list below:

Social Work Scholarships

American Cancer Society $12,000

Supports master’s degree students who work with cancer patients and their families.

Deadline: October 16

American Indian Graduate Center Fellowship $1,000 - 5,000

Supports students enrolled in graduate and professional studies.

Deadline: June 1
Requirements: Must be enrolled full-time at an accredited institution in the U.S., demonstrate financial need, and be a member of a federally-recognized American Indian or Alaska Native group

Elmer Ediger Memorial Scholarship $1,000 - 1,200

Supports master’s degree students who work in the field of mental health developmental disabilities.

Deadline: April 1
Requirements: Must maintain a 3.25 GPA; demonstrate financial need, be members of a Mennonite, Brethren in Christ, or Mennonite Brethren congregation; be a citizen of either Canada or North America; have an interest in working in the Christian church.

Hispanic Scholarship Fund $500 - 5,000

Supports master’s degree students

Deadline: April 6
Requirements: Must be of Hispanic heritage, enrolled in a full-time accredited nonprofit program in the fall of the scholarship cycle and maintain a 2.5 GPA; be a U.S. citizen, permanent legal resident, DACA, or eligible non-citizen; complete either the FAFSA or state-based financial aid application

NAACP Agnes Jones Jackson Scholarship $2,000

Supports master’s degree students

Deadline: April 28
Requirements: Must be enrolled part-time or full-time at an accredited institution and maintain a 3.0 GPA, be a current member of the NAACP, be a U.S. citizen, be younger than age 25 by application deadline, and demonstrate financial need based on federal poverty guidelines

The Kosciuszko Foundation $1,000 - 7,000

Supports students enrolled in graduate studies

Deadline: January 16
Requirements: Must be enrolled full-time and maintain a 3.0 GPA, be either a U.S. or permanent citizen, and be of Polish descent

Vital Academic Center Dean’s Leadership Scholarship $12,500

Supports students enrolled in online master’s degree in social work programs at the University of Southern California’s Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work.

Deadline: Open
Requirements: Must maintain a 3.0 GPA and possess at least two years’ experience in human/social service leadership

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