30 Cheapest Online MSW Programs 2020

Earning your masters in social work online is a flexible way to continue your work in your present location, uninterrupted, while furthering your career. A growing number of top-level social work degrees are being offered online. Most of the MSW online programs featured in our ranking are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, and all of the programs are offered by regionally accredited colleges and universities. The four cheapest online MSW programs in our ranking cost under $10,000 per year and the vast majority of online MSW programs less than $20,000 per year. Additionally, many of the best online MSW programs are among the cheapest you will find.

One of the reasons you can find so many affordable online masters in social work degrees is that many colleges and universities offer reduced rates to online students. Some public universities even offer in-state tuition rates to online students. Combine this affordability with the flexibility of online programs, and earning your online masters in social work is a powerful, convenient, and affordable way to advance in your career. For more information about finances and the kind of opportunities available to those with a masters degree in social work online, see our FAQ at the end of the article.

Ranking the Best Online MSW Programs by Affordability

#1. University of North Dakota

Masters in Social Work Online

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UND charges all online students in-state tuition rates regardless of residency, making these the cheapest online MSW programs in the United States. Students who qualify for advanced standing can earn their degree in two years online at a part-time pace. Students who must take the foundation courses will take around three years part time to complete the degree online. Case management, crisis intervention, psychotherapy, and event planning are all among the skills you will acquire throughout this program.

  • Tuition: $8,226

#2. Saint Leo University

Masters in Social Work Online

Saint Leo University-Cheapest MSW Degrees 2020

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The 62-credit masters in social work online at Saint Leo University takes two years to complete and starts only during the fall semester. While it’s definitely among the cheapest online MSW programs currently on the market, it’s still accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. Students will take courses like human behavior in the social environment, social welfare policy, child abuse and neglect, methods of social work practice with groups, and social work research methods.

  • Tuition: $8,498

#3. Arizona State University

Masters in Social Work Online

Arizona State-30 Cheapest MSW Online Degrees

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Students at Arizona State University can take masters in social work online courses two at a time. Courses last for 7.5 weeks each, and there are a total of 20 classes in the program. Students will take courses like micro human behavior/social environment, social policy and services, macro human behavior/social environment, advanced generalist social work practice, assessment of mental disorders, and program evaluation.

  • Tuition: $8,888

#4. Western New Mexico University

Masters in Social Work Online

WNMU-30 Cheapest MSW Online Degrees

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Students who plan to complete their MSW and work in child welfare in the state of New Mexico afterward will qualify for a significant stipend ($4,000-$4,500 per semester) in return for 9 months of child welfare service for each semester the stipend is received. Students with advanced standing can complete this CSWE-accredited online MSW program in just one year. Western NM offers some of the cheapest online MSW programs out there today.

  • Tuition: $8,730

#5. University of South Dakota

Masters in Social Work Online

USD-30 Cheapest MSW Online Degrees

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Students with a bachelor’s degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited university can enter the 36-credit advanced standing online MSW in social work program. Students without a bachelor’s degree in social work will have to take all 60 credits of the program. Students will take courses like history and philosophy of social work, social policy analysis, practice with small groups, diversity and social justice in rural and urban communities, practice-informed quantitative research, and mental health: assessment and treatment.

  • Tuition: $11,283

#6. Delaware State University

MSW Online Programs

Delaware State-30 Cheapest MSW Online Degrees

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The single concentration offered in the online MSW programs at Delaware State University is advanced generalist practice. The program prepares students broadly to work in a variety of contexts with families, groups, communities, organizations, and individuals. The program does offer an advanced standing option for qualified students. Students will take courses like theories of personality and adult psychopathology, administration, management and supervision, and human behavior in the social environment.

  • Tuition: $11,376

#7. University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Masters in Social Work Online

UArk-30 Cheapest MSW Online Degrees

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The MSW online programs at UA-Little Rock are accredited by both the CSWE and the electronic campus of the southern regional education board. Students will take courses like advanced directed practice, statistics for social work, social work research methods, social welfare policies and services, assessment and differential diagnosis, and diversity and oppression.

  • Tuition: $11,490

#8. Metropolitan State University of Denver

Masters in Social Work Online

Metropolitan State Denver-30 Cheapest MSW Online Degrees

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In addition to offering one of the cheapest online MSW programs in the country, MSU Denver offers a bachelor’s in social work online as well. This makes the school a great choice for anyone who doesn’t have their bachelor’s in social work yet, as the transition from bachelor’s to the advanced standing MSW program would be very smooth. The school also gives scholarships amounting to over $600,000 every year to students who want to work in mental health, child welfare, and healthcare.

  • Tuition: $12,765

#9. University of Houston

MSW Online Programs

University of Houston-30 Cheapest MSW Online Degrees

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The online MSW program at the University of Houston was ranked #22 among top social work graduate programs by U.S. News and World Report. Students will take courses like human diversity and development, practice skills, policy in the social environment, dynamics of leadership, confronting oppression and injustice, community development, administrative practice, and research.

  • Tuition: $13,671

#10. University of Missouri-Columbia

Masters in Social Work Online

Mizzou-30 Cheapest MSW Online Degrees

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Students taking the CSWE-accredited online MSW program at the University of Missouri pay in-state tuition prices regardless of their residency status. Students will study areas like intervention with individuals, families, small groups, and communities, policy making and advocacy practice, human behavior and psychopathology, research in social work, and management of social agencies.

  • Tuition: $13,774

#11. New Mexico State University-Main Campus

Masters in Social Work Online

NMSU-30 Cheapest Online MSW Programs

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The MSW online programs at NMSU can be completed fully online in two years, or in one year by students who qualify for advanced standing. Students will take courses like practice with individuals, practice with groups, practice with organizations and communities, policy analysis and change, applied research methods, practice with families, and human behavior and the social environment.

  • Tuition: $15,860

#12. Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College

Masters in Social Work Online

LSU-30 Cheapest Online MSW Programs

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LSU is the flagship university of the public university system in Louisiana. U.S. News ranks the social work graduate program (which is the same as the online MSW program) #77 in the country. Considering it’s also one of the cheapest online MSW programs in the country, that’s a great deal! The online courses are seven weeks long. The degree can be completed from anywhere in the country because the school places students in internships at organizations local to them.

  • Tuition: $16,170

#13. Our Lady of the Lake University

MSW Online Programs

Our Lady of the Lake-30 Cheapest Online MSW Programs

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Our Lady of the Lake University offers a CSWE-accredited online MSW degree program. The advanced standing program is available to qualified students and can be completed in a little under two years. Students will take courses like social work practice, social welfare policy and services, human behavior in the social environment: social systems, and psychopathology.

  • Tuition: $16,326

#14. California State University-Northridge

Online Masters in Social Work

CSU Northridge-30 Cheapest Online MSW Programs

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CSUN’s online master’s in social work program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. All online programs are taught by CSUN faculty members who have been trained in online education. Students will take courses like psychosocial assessment and diagnostic formulation, generalist social work theory and practice, social work practice in multicultural contexts, and social welfare policy and services.

  • Tuition: $15,300

#15. Campbellsville University

Online Masters in Social Work

Campbellsville-30 Cheapest Online MSW Programs

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The online MSW program at Campbellsville is CSWE-accredited and 60 hours for most students. Students pursuing the degree with advanced standing can earn the degree taking just 30 credits. Students will take courses like psychopathology, advanced practice with children and families, leadership and supervision in social work, global policies and social programming, addictions, school social work, and clinical diagnosis and psychopharmacology.

  • Tuition: $16,770

#16. Aurora University

Online Masters in Social Work

Aurora University-30 Cheapest Online MSW Programs

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In addition to the regular online MSW program, Aurora University offers dual master’s degrees that pair social work with public health or business administration programs. Online courses are eight weeks long and most complete the 60-credit program in fewer than three years. Students will take courses like theories of human development, community practice, group work, social work perspectives on psychopathology, and clinical theory and methods.

  • Tuition: $18,000

#17. Brescia University

Online Masters in Social Work

Brescia University-30 Cheapest Online MSW Programs

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The online master’s of social work degree at Brescia is CSWE-accredited and offers advanced standing to students who hold a CSWE-accredited BSW. Students will take courses like ethical decision making in social work, social work in criminal justice, death and dying, professional writing and documentation, child abuse and neglect, practice with organizations and communities, and social welfare and policy practice.

  • Tuition: $18,000

#18. University of Alaska-Anchorage

Online Masters in Social Work

University of Alaska-30 Cheapest Online MSW Programs

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The online MSW program at the University of Alaska-Anchorage can be completed in two years by those without a BSW and just one year by those holding a qualifying BSW degree. The full program is 62 credits, while the advanced standing program is 31 credits. Students will take courses like organizations and communities, research methods, social welfare policy and services, transformational leadership in social work practice, and social policy for advanced generalist practice.

  • Tuition: $18,504

#19. Edinboro University of Pennsylvania

Online Masters in Social Work

Edinboro University of PA-30 Cheapest Online MSW Programs

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Students who hold a bachelor’s degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited university can finish their online MSW program in just 15 months. The program is available to students in all 50 U.S. states, international students, and students in the military. Graduates from this cheapest online MSW program have worked in practice settings like family-based and mental health agencies, addiction treatment centers, schools, hospitals, rehabilitation and correctional facilities, and medical and psychiatric facilities, to name a few.

  • Tuition: $18,576

#20. University of Texas at Arlington

MSW Online Programs

UTA-30 Cheapest Online MSW Programs

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The only drawback to the University of Texas online MSW program is that it’s currently only available to Texas residents. However, this is likely to change in the coming years. Texas residents who are military veterans, active duty reserves, national guard, and their spouses can apply to their program regardless of where they are living. Qualified students can apply for advanced standing and complete the degree in just 12 months. Courses utilize an 8-week format.

  • Tuition: $18,996*

#21. University of South Florida-Main Campus

Online Masters in Social Work

University of South Florida-30 Cheapest Online MSW Programs

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The University of South Florida-Main Campus online-MSW program is offered only to students who qualify for advanced standing. Students can choose between full-time and part-time options. The full-time option can be completed in around one year. Applicants must have a 3.0 or higher GPA to qualify for advanced standing, in addition to holding a BSW from a CSWE-accredited program.

  • Tuition: $19,048

#22. University of Northern Iowa

Online Masters in Social Work

University of Northern Iowa-30 Cheapest Online MSW Programs

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The University of Northern Iowa offers an MSW online degree with a specialization in trauma informed practice. The program is designed to prepare students to work with individuals, families, and groups who have a broad range of traumatic experiences. Local students can take advantage of the more than 150 partnerships the university maintains across the state of Iowa.

  • Tuition: $19,663

#23. University of New England

Online Masters in Social Work

University of New England-30 Cheapest Online MSW Programs

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The CSWE-accredited online MSW degree program at the University of New England is offered 100% online with no campus visits required. The traditional track takes a little over three years to complete, while the advanced standing track takes about 16 months. Students will take courses like integrating clinical/community practice frameworks, contemporary theory of SW practice: individuals and families, advanced social work practice with families, administration and supervision, and substance abuse: a social work perspective.

  • Tuition: $19,852

#24. Simmons University

Online Masters in Social Work

Simmons University-30 Cheapest Online MSW Programs

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91% of graduates from the MSW program at Simmons passed the ASWB exam on their first attempt in 2018. The accelerated advanced standing degree can be completed online in 16 months. The traditional degree takes two years. Students who study part time typically take 32 months to complete the program. Simmons also offers certificates in mental health practice, trauma practice, and practice with groups and families.

  • Tuition: $21,726

#25. Widener University

Online Masters in Social Work

Widener-30 Cheapest Online MSW Programs

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The full online MSW program at Widener is 64 credits. The advanced standing program is 41 credits. If you are local to the school, you have the option to opt for a dual degree program where the MSW program is online, while you also take a Master of Education program in human sexuality studies in a hybrid on-campus/online format. The online MSW program includes courses like interpersonal processes, social and economic justice, clinical social work practice with individuals, clinical social work practice with families, and social work in prisons and community reintegration.

  • Tuition: $22,300

#26. Temple University

Online Masters in Social Work

Temple University-30 Cheapest Online MSW Programs

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Students can only complete Temple’s MSW online program at a part-time pace. Temple’s social work faculty features nationally recognized experts on issues like aging, children and families, LGBTQ health, mental health, incarceration, substance abuse, and disability. Students can choose between concentrations in clinical practice with individuals and families, or macro practice in organizations, communities, and policy arenas. There are also specializations in children and families, health and mental health, and the option to design your own specialization by choosing electives in your area of interest win collaboration with your academic adviser.

  • Tuition: $22,698

#27. Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis

Online Masters in Social Work

Indiana-Purdue-30 Cheapest Online MSW Programs

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Graduates who completed their MSW online at Indiana University-Purdue University have pursued careers in geriatric case management, family services, child protective services, foster care, adult protective services, developmental disabilities, clinical social work, hospital social work, and alcohol and drug abuse. Courses include diversity, human rights, and social justice, generalist theory and practice, clinical theory and practice, executive leadership practice, and e-social work practice with groups.

  • Tuition: $23,448

#28. Florida State University

Online Masters in Social Work

FSU-30 Cheapest Online MSW Programs

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The full CSWE-accredited social work program online at FSU is 61 credits, while the advanced standing program is 39 credits. Both are available online. The GRE is not required for admission to the program if the student meets the waiver requirements. Applicants must have a 3.0 or better GPA. The traditional program requires two in-person weekends on campus during the program, while the advanced standing program does not. The traditional program can be completed part-time only in three years, while the advanced standing program can be completed in two years and is also only available part-time.

  • Tuition: $24,116

#29. Virginia Commonwealth University

MSW Programs Online

Virginia Commonwealth University-30 Cheapest Online MSW Programs

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Virginia Commonwealth University’s MSW online program offers a concentration in clinical practice. The advanced standing program can be completed in just one year of full-time study. The clinical practice concentration features courses like clinical social work practice, research for clinical social work practice, social policy, and mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders.

  • Tuition: $25,032

#30. Colorado State University-Fort Collins

MSW Programs Online

Colorado State University-30 Cheapest Online MSW Programs

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The specialization option for the MSW online degree at CSU Fort Collins take the form of certificates in advanced clinical behavioral health, conflict resolution and mediation, military and veteran culture, and preK-12 school social worker. Students will study areas like social work practice, human behavior and the social environment, social welfare policy and services, and social science research.

  • Tuition: $25,040

FAQ

How can I pay for one of these MSW programs online?

Many organizations, whether private non-profit or public sector, offer employee tuition assistance programs. The size of the assistance varies and sometimes can cover half or more of the cost of a degree! Federal assistance is available through grants and student loans (apply through FAFSA). One thing to know about FAFSA is that the earlier you apply, the higher chance you have of getting more money. There are also many private scholarships and grants up for grabs; they often target specific areas of the social work field. So do some research on what’s available to social work professionals in your area of service.

What kinds of opportunities will an MSW afford me?

Many areas of the social work field require a master’s degree for licensure, especially areas involving clinical work like counseling and therapy. Management and leadership positions also often require an MSW, along with varying levels of experience. The experience requirements are one of the reasons that online master of social work programs are so powerful. They allow you to acquire both your educational qualifications and years of experience simultaneously.

In the nonprofit and public sectors an MSW will often qualify you for administrative and management positions. You will also gain the skills to create and develop your own nonprofit organization, if that’s a goal of yours. There are also opportunities in the private sector in areas like developing corporate responsibility initiatives. Of course, you don’t want to neglect the opportunities in academia. Many experienced social work professionals become professors and/or researchers.

How much can I earn with an MSW degree online?

The median wage for a social worker is around $49,000/yr according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The highest 10% of wage earners earn over $80,000. And a master’s in social work is almost a hard requirement to enter that highest 10% of wage earners in the social work field. On average the social workers with the highest pay work in hospitals or for state/local governments.

Will an online MSW be as respected as a traditional MSW?

Like with traditional degrees, not all online master of social work degrees are created equal. However, all the degrees featured in our ranking are regionally accredited, non-for-profit universities. So that’s a good start. They’re also almost all accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, which is the foremost social work education accrediting agency. Online degrees, especially graduate level degrees, have come to be seen as the simple, sensible way to earn a graduate degree. Over the years they have gone from fringe to common. Additionally, schools tend not to specify that a degree was earned online on their diplomas, as it’s not seen by the universities as relevant information.

Are the cheapest online MSW programs lower quality than more expensive degrees?

Generally speaking, price has very little correlation to quality in higher education. While Ivy League universities might have high tuition costs, so do plenty of lower-quality universities. In the end, quality is a function of a school’s administration, hiring practices, curriculum, and resources. Public universities are able to provide incredible value primarily because they receive significant subsidies from the state and federal government. This value is even more significant when they offer online students in-state tuition rates, which are often incredibly cheap. In the end, you should do a lot of research on any school you are considering and make sure it’s a good fit for you.

Will the quality of the best online MSW programs be comparable to the quality of a traditional MSW?

Colleges and universities, generally speaking, have been taking great pains to ensure that the quality of their online programs is equal to the quality of their traditional programs. This is why most schools gradually expand their online options. Schools offering online degrees are redesigning each program to take full advantage of the online format, while making sure they don’t lose quality. There are certainly differences between online and traditional degrees, however. If you’re somebody who does better in a classroom setting, or collaborating with people face-to-face, then the online option may not be as good for you as the traditional option. Still, for some people, getting a degree online will be a better option.

Payscale College ROI

National Center for Education Statistics

FAFSA

GCD Staff
February 2020

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This concludes our ranking of the cheapest online MSW programs for 2020.