With the number of available social work jobs increasing in the next decade, many who are interested in a career in the human services are deciding to complete a Master of Social Work degree. This is a versatile degree that prepares students to be clinical social workers, mental health counselors, social workers in public systems such as schools, community organizers, and nonprofit administrators, to name a few. Most schools offer two options depending on the educational background of potential students: a regular standing track for those who have no background in social work, and an advanced standing track for those with a Bachelor’s degree in the field. Persons with a background in social work will often opt to do a Master’s degree if they are interested in hospital or clinical settings, as a graduate degree is usually required for this type of work. Below are the most affordable online programs that will lead to a Master of Social Work degree. These are the cheapest programs available. Program tuition does not include fees, so check with the institution for a list of comprehensive costs. This data comes directly from the university websites.
#1. Western New Mexico University
Located in Silver City, Western New Mexico University is a public institution with about 3,500 students. Those pursing this Master of Social Work have options for advanced or non-advanced standing, depending on
undergraduate major. For those without a background in social work, the program requires 66 credit hours for completion. Students will engage in a variety of courses taught by experienced licensed social workers, ranging from cultural competence and human behavior to research and clinical assessment. Those pursing this degree are required to take three courses on rural social work. This program emphasizes social work values of service, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, importance of human relationships, integrity, and competence. This program is available online or on-campus.
Accreditation: Western New Mexico University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Program Tuition: $19,270 Out-of-State/$16,496 In-State
#2. University of Alabama
The University of Alabama is a public research university located in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. This school offers two options for this Master of Social Work: a 42-hour degree for advanced-standing students and a 60-hour degree for those without a social work background. Although this program is primarily online, it does require some face-to-face classwork on selected Saturdays at locations across the state. Students in this program can choose between two concentrations: Children, Adolescents, and their Families, or Adults and their Families. The first year of the program is spent on core curriculum including social welfare policy, research, human behavior, and social work practice with groups and communities. The second year focuses on courses pertaining to the student’s chosen concentration. Internships are a key component throughout the program. Most students complete the program in two to three years.
Accreditation: The University of Alabama is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Program Tuition: $21,600
#3. University of South Dakota
A public institution located in Vermillion, South Dakota, the University of South Dakota currently enrolls approximately 10,000 students. They offer a Master of Social Work degree with an option for advanced standing. Advanced standing students are required to complete 36 credit hours, while regular standing students will need to complete 60 hours. This program is specifically geared toward those who are interested in working in South Dakota and the upper midwest and its surrounding regions, especially with rural, urban, and Native American communities. The school of social work is committed to a theoretical framework that applies biopsychosocial science with a strengths-based perspective using evidence based decision making processes. It is the hope that upon graduation, students will be able to offer clinical and therapeutic services, hold administrative and staff supervision roles, work in policy analysis or community planning and organization.
Accreditation: The University of South Dakota is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Program Tuition: $26,523
#4. Louisiana State University
Located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University is a public university with an enrollment of 30,000 students. Most students complete the online Master of Social Work in two to four years, depending on whether they choose to take one or two courses per module. The degree is 60 credit hours for students without a social work background, and there is also an option for advanced standing students to take fewer courses. A wide range of curriculum is required — research, policy, diversity, and ethics — and two 240-hour internships are key to this program. Those pursing this degree have the option to complete a thesis.
Accreditation: Louisiana State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Program Tuition: $28,500
#5. Humboldt State University
Located in Arcata, California, Humboldt State University is a public university of 8,700 students. Their Master of Social Work degree is designed specifically for students seeking an advanced generalist program interested in working with rural and Native American communities. Those pursuing this degree have options for full or part time, as well as traditional or advanced standing. Students can finish the program in anywhere from one to four years. Humboldt’s mission is to educate social workers who are able to meet immediate needs in southern California and at large, training them to “contribute to a community that is socially responsible, equitable, diverse and a model of community involvement for social change”. Foundation courses include social policy, data analysis, and community dynamics and relationships. Internships play an important role throughout the course of study.
Accreditation: Humboldt State University is regionally accredited by the Western Association for Schools and Colleges.
Program Tuition: $30,600
#6. Edinboro University of Pennsylvania
A public liberal arts university, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania enrolls roughly 8,000 students. Their Master of Social Work degree is designed to prepare graduates to work in social work settings ranging from addiction treatment centers, hospitals, nursing homes, and mental health agencies to schools and foster care agencies. This program has the option for regular or advanced standing — regular standing students are required to complete 60 credit hours for graduation and advanced-standing students will complete 39 hours. This is an accelerated program only, so regular standing students must complete all requirements in two years. Students will complete a variety of courses including policy, research, and human diversity as well as courses on trauma, addiction, and mental health. They will also participate in two internship placements during their time of study.
Accreditation: Edinboro University of Pennsylvania is regionally accredited by the Middle State Commission on Higher Education.
Program Tuition: $31,020
#7. University of North Dakota
Located in Grand Forks, North Dakota, UND is the state’s oldest and largest university, with 15,000 students. They offer a Master of Social Work degree that prepares students to serve as an advanced generalist social worker. This 60 credit-hour program can be completed in as little as three years. There is also an option for advanced standing for those students with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work. The courses are completely online with two visits to Grand Forks over the course of the program. It is the hope that upon graduation students will be prepared to embrace the role of change agent in social settings, strive for cultural competence and respect human diversity, understand the systems of oppression and advocate for justice, and utilize a broad spectrum of skills in a multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary professional setting. Students pursuing this degree will take courses in human behavior, generalist practice, social policy, and research methods, and will participate in two field education placements.
Accreditation: University of North Dakota is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Program Tuition: $31,651
#8. Arizona State University
Arizona State University is a public research university with five campuses across the state. They offer a Master of Social Work degree with a concentration in Advanced Generalist studies, which focuses on evidence-based, culturally sensitive practices. This program boasts a diverse faculty with expertise in child welfare, health and behavioral health, policy advocacy, and services for individuals, families, and communities. Faculty also have specific interests in gerontology, forensic social work, human trafficking, and borderlands issues, making them a unique social work program. Field education also plays an important role for those pursuing this degree. Students will need to complete 60 credit hours for graduation. Graduates will be prepared to work in direct service to individuals and groups, develop nonprofit and public programs, and create more just economic and social policies.
Accreditation: Arizona State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Program Tuition: $35,340
#9. Colorado State University
Located in Fort Collins, Colorado State university is a public research university with a total enrollment of over 30,000 students, CSU now offers many degree programs online. The online Master of Social Work program is designed to be part-time for working professionals. This degree program offers a nationally recognized advanced generalist curriculum, emphasizing socio-behavioral and ecosystems knowledge and the ways they interact with democracy, humanism, and empowerment. Students pursuing this degree will take foundation courses in social work practice, human behavior, policy and services, and social science research, as well as participate in two field education placements. Upon completion of the degree, students will be prepared to work in a variety of jobs in the social services sector with communities across the nation. 62 credit hours are required for this degree, with an option for advanced standing.
Accreditation: Colorado State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Program Tuition: $38,378
#10. Indiana University
A public university with several campuses across the state, Indiana University currently enrolls more than 110,000 students. They offer an online Advanced Generalist Master of Social Work that seeks to prepare students for a multitude of social work settings with individuals, families, and communities in diverse settings. This concentration is suited for students seeking to work in rural, suburban, and stressed urban communities. Foundation curriculum includes human behavior, social policy, and research. Students pursuing this degree have five years from the start of coursework to fulfill the requirements for the degree. Regular standing students must complete 60 credit hours, while advanced standing students will need to complete 39 hours. This program is offered completely online with the exception of one visit for orientation and an optional visit for graduation.
Accreditation: Indiana University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Program Tuition: $39,720 Out-of-State/$31,830 In-State