Best Master’s In Social Work Degrees 2022

Those passionate about social work can advocate for the oppressed and fight for change. Check out our ranking of the best master of social work (MSW) programs.

Updated September 14, 2022

Best Master’s In Social Work Degrees 2022

Are you ready to find your fit?

Learners often pursue master's in social work degrees to prepare for careers as licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs). Graduates can also work as family therapists and career counselors. Applicants to social work programs typically need a bachelor's degree from an accredited school. Application materials may also include recommendation letters, a resume, and test scores.

Students earning a degree in social work commonly take classes in human behavior and the social environment. They also take mental health practice and integrative technology courses. Degree-seekers work with clients during a practicum and internship.

This guide covers typical costs and classes for social work degree-seekers. The following sections also detail earning potential and licensure requirements for graduates.

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Questions About Social Work Degrees

Q. Can I get a social work degree online?

Yes. Many online social work degrees do not require any campus visits. However, learners generally complete in-person internship and practicum experiences.

Q. Do social workers need a license?

LCSWs need a degree in social work and a license. Depending on their employer and job title, other professionals in the field may not need a license.

Q. What type of social worker gets paid the most?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the highest-paid professionals in the field include social and community service managers, school and career counselors, and marriage and family therapists.

Why Get a Degree in Social Work?

People can earn a master's in social work degree to enter the growing field. The BLS projects employment for social workers to increase 12% from 2020-2030, faster than the average for all occupations. Additionally, master's degree-holders often earn higher salaries than professionals without a graduate degree.

Online education appeals to many working professionals. Students pursuing master's in social work degrees online often take classes asynchronously. These learners can schedule coursework around other responsibilities. Online learning also allows students to attend out-of-state programs without commuting or relocating.

How Much Does a Social Work Degree Cost?

Some of the best online social work degrees offer competitive tuition rates. However, graduate tuition usually costs more than undergraduate tuition. The average cost of a master's degree was $66,340 in 2021, according to the Education Data Initiative. In-state public schools generally offer the lowest tuition rates.

Working students can pursue tuition-reimbursement programs through their employer to save on costs. Students can also submit the FAFSA to apply for federal financial aid. The federal government provides grants and low-interest loans to qualifying students.

How Much Do Social Work Graduates Make?

According to the BLS, social workers earn a median salary of $51,760 per year. This figure includes licensed and unlicensed professionals. Local governments and ambulatory healthcare services offer the highest median salaries. Social workers in Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Nevada earn more than social workers in other states.

LCSWs with a master's degree often qualify for higher salaries than bachelor's degree-holders. This increased earning potential can make a graduate degree a wise investment. A master's degree in social work may also qualify graduates for management positions.

Courses in a Master's in Social Work Program

Social work degrees feature foundational coursework in topics such as human behavior and social policy and services. Most master's in social work degrees also require professional experiences classes. Students must complete up to 1,000 internship hours.

The sample curriculum below introduces three classes students often take before a practicum or internship. Available classes vary by program and can impact a student's academic experience and career options. Learners should compare prospective programs' curricula.

  • Foundations of Social Work

    This class introduces social work's impact on society. Coursework explores social workers' responsibilities, social justice, diverse communities, and ethics. Learners examine challenges that social workers face. This course prepares students for upper-division requirements.
  • Human Behavior and the Social Environment

    Social workers must understand how people develop mentally and physically throughout their lives. Students in this class examine human development from various perspectives. Coursework explores social, psychosocial, and cognitive development theories.
  • Social Welfare Policy

    Social workers use local, state, and federal social welfare programs to help clients. Degree-seekers in this course research agencies and discuss welfare policy challenges. They also analyze social workers' role in the welfare system. Learners consider how social workers advance social justice.

How to Become a Social Worker

Bachelor's degree-holders can pursue administrative social work positions. These professionals often hold an undergraduate degree in social services or psychology. However, many careers in the field require a master's degree. Master's degree-seekers develop the clinical and management skills necessary to help clients. Graduate students complete a supervised practicum and internship to meet licensure requirements.

Social workers' responsibilities vary by employer and job title. However, these professionals typically interview clients, research resources, and complete paperwork. Professionals work with clients for extended periods and track each client's progress. Social workers can specialize in an area such as families, children, schools, or healthcare.

Best Master of Social Work Degrees

#1 Best Master’s In Social Work Degrees 2022

University of California-Los Angeles

  • Los Angeles, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Learners seeking a graduate degree in social work can enroll in the master of social welfare program at the University of California Los Angeles. The master of social welfare encourages career growth through its experiential learning components. Candidates may be able to choose from campus and online enrollment options, adding flexibility for enrollees who need to work full time while in school.

The master's curriculum encourages a comprehensive understanding of social work through both theoretical and practical knowledge. Students gain real-world experience during internships and other hands-on learning opportunities. Degree-seekers can specialize their social work education by choosing electives and concentrations.

University of California Los Angeles at a Glance:

Location: Los Angeles, California

School Type: Public

Admission Rate: 12%

Graduate Tuition In State: $11,442

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $26,544

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 61%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: $18,613

Average Price After Aid: $15,718

Average Tuition
In-state
$11,442
Out-of-state
$41,196
Retention Rate
97%
Admission Rate
12%
Students Enrolled
44,371
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
5% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#2 Best Master’s In Social Work Degrees 2022

Washington University in St. Louis

  • Saint Louis, MO
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Washington University in St. Louis enrolls learners in 86 master's degrees, including a master's in social work program. The master of social work incorporates career-focused training to help students advance their professional opportunities. At the school, graduate programs offer flexible enrollment options, including schedules designed for working professionals.

During the program, learners complete a challenging curriculum that builds comprehensive knowledge of social work. Students strengthen their career-readiness through internships and hands-on learning opportunities. Faculty advisors help participants choose electives and concentrations to specialize their social work education.

Washington University in St. Louis at a Glance:

Location: Saint Louis, Missouri

School Type: Private

Admission Rate: 14%

Graduate Tuition In State: $54,250

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $54,250

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 51%

Average Tuition
In-state
$54,250
Out-of-state
$54,250
Retention Rate
97%
Admission Rate
14%
Students Enrolled
16,191
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
6% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#3 Best Master’s In Social Work Degrees 2022

University of Maryland

  • Baltimore, MD
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The master's in social work program at the University of Maryland is one of 30 master's degrees offered by the university. Students gain advanced knowledge and skills in the master of social work program. Flexible enrollment options appeal to busy enrollees balancing school with work or other responsibilities.

The program uses a rigorous curriculum that emphasizes theoretical and practical approaches to social work. Students apply their classroom knowledge through internships and hands-on learning opportunities, which also build professional connections. Learners select electives and concentrations to specialize their social work education in a specific area.

University of Maryland at a Glance:

Location: Baltimore, Maryland

School Type: Public

Graduate Tuition In State: $15,132

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $32,971

Average Tuition
In-state
$9,260
Out-of-state
$38,060
Retention Rate
Not provided
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
6,827
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
38% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#4 Best Master’s In Social Work Degrees 2022

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill enrolls learners in 84 master's degrees, including a master's in social work program. The master of social work encourages career growth through its experiential learning components. Flexible enrollment options appeal to working professionals who need to schedule classes around their other responsibilities.

The master's curriculum balances theoretical and practical approaches to social work, emphasizing a comprehensive understanding of the field. Students often complete internships and other experiential learning opportunities to build career-ready skills. Concentrations and electives let learners individualize the program based on their interests and professional goals.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill at a Glance:

Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina

School Type: Public

Admission Rate: 23%

Graduate Tuition In State: $10,552

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $28,278

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 65%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: $13,697

Average Price After Aid: $10,085

Average Tuition
In-state
$7,019
Out-of-state
$34,198
Retention Rate
96%
Admission Rate
23%
Students Enrolled
29,877
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
12% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#5 Best Master’s In Social Work Degrees 2022

University of Pennsylvania

  • Philadelphia, PA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Students interested in advancing their career can earn their master's in social work at the University of Pennsylvania. From its Philadelphia campus, the private institution offers graduate programs in several enrollment formats, including online options designed for working professionals. During the master of social work program, learners take graduate classes in social work that build on their prior knowledge in the field.

College resources and support services help master's candidates complete their degree and plan their next steps. Academic advisors recommend course selections, while financial aid counselors connect students with scholarship and grant opportunities. Master's degree-seekers also participate in tutoring sessions, counseling programs, and networking events.

University of Pennsylvania at a Glance:

Total Master's Programs: 141

Total Online Master's Programs: 3

Admission Rate: 8%

Graduation Rate: 96%

Student-Faculty Ratio: 6-to-1

Graduate Tuition In State: $36,254

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $36,254

Average Alumni Earnings After Six Years: $91,200

Average Tuition
In-state
$51,156
Out-of-state
$51,156
Retention Rate
98%
Admission Rate
8%
Students Enrolled
26,675
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
6% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#6 Best Master’s In Social Work Degrees 2022

University of Washington-Seattle Campus

  • Seattle, WA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Students interested in career advancement can earn their social work master's degree at the University of Washington. From its main campus in Seattle, the public university offers graduate programs with several enrollment options, including online programs. During the master of social work program, learners complete a challenging, graduate-level curriculum that builds an advanced understanding of social work.

Master's candidates access a generous selection of college resources and support services during their degree. Academic advisors help with course selections, while career counselors host workshops, offer internship programs, and provide career-planning services. Master's degree-seekers also attend networking and training events hosted by the university.

University of Washington at a Glance:

Total Master's Programs: 273

Total Online Master's Programs: 10

Admission Rate: 52%

Graduation Rate: 84%

Student-Faculty Ratio: 20-to-1

Graduate Tuition In State: $18,198

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $32,439

Average Alumni Earnings After Six Years: $50,300

Average Tuition
In-state
$10,370
Out-of-state
$37,071
Retention Rate
95%
Admission Rate
52%
Students Enrolled
47,576
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
8% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

#7 Best Master’s In Social Work Degrees 2022

University of California-Berkeley

  • Berkeley, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The University of California, Berkeley offers 104 master's programs, including a highly-ranked social work master's degree. The master of social welfare serves students seeking advanced education and increased career opportunities. At the school, programs offer flexible enrollment options that appeal to busy enrollees balancing school with other responsibilities.

The program uses a rigorous curriculum that emphasizes theoretical and practical approaches to social work. Students build valuable professional connections during internships and other hands-on learning opportunities. A concentration also helps learners specialize their training and pursue focused careers after completing the master's degree.

University of California, Berkeley at a Glance:

Location: Berkeley, California

School Type: Public

Admission Rate: 16%

Graduate Tuition In State: $11,442

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $26,544

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 63%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: $19,323

Average Price After Aid: $18,522

Average Tuition
In-state
$11,442
Out-of-state
$41,196
Retention Rate
97%
Admission Rate
16%
Students Enrolled
43,185
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
5% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#8 Best Master’s In Social Work Degrees 2022

The University of Texas at Austin

  • Austin, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Students interested in career advancement can earn their social work master's degree at The University of Texas at Austin. The public institution enrolls degree-seekers with a variety of options, including online delivery formats. In the master of science in social work program, learners strengthen their social work knowledge and skills through a rigorous curriculum.

Master's candidates participate in campus life and benefit from the university's support services. Academic advisors recommend course selections, while financial aid counselors connect students with scholarship and grant opportunities. Master's degree-seekers also take advantage of training and networking events.

The University of Texas at Austin at a Glance:

Total Master's Programs: 113

Total Online Master's Programs: 5

Admission Rate: 32%

Graduation Rate: 86%

Student-Faculty Ratio: 19-to-1

Graduate Tuition In State: $11,998

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $22,966

Average Alumni Earnings After Six Years: $52,200

Average Tuition
In-state
$10,824
Out-of-state
$38,326
Retention Rate
96%
Admission Rate
32%
Students Enrolled
51,090
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
25% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#9 Best Master’s In Social Work Degrees 2022

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

  • Champaign, IL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign offers 131 master's programs, including a highly-ranked social work master's degree. The master of social work program appeals to students seeking a graduate degree that will increase their career opportunities. At the school, graduate programs offer flexible enrollment options, including schedules designed for working professionals.

The master's curriculum incorporates theoretical and practical knowledge to build a comprehensive understanding of social work. Internships and hands-on learning opportunities encourage students to gain varied experience while building professional connections. Learners work with faculty advisors to choose electives or concentrations that customize the program.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign at a Glance:

Location: Champaign, Illinois

School Type: Public

Admission Rate: 59%

Graduate Tuition In State: $14,997

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $28,404

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 64%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: $15,442

Average Price After Aid: $14,660

Average Tuition
In-state
$14,188
Out-of-state
$33,127
Retention Rate
93%
Admission Rate
59%
Students Enrolled
51,605
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
39% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#10 Best Master’s In Social Work Degrees 2022

University of Southern California

  • Los Angeles, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The University of Southern California offers 199 master's degrees, including a master's in social work that earns top marks. The master of social work incorporates career-focused training to help students advance their professional opportunities. At the school, graduate programs offer flexible enrollment options, including schedules designed for working professionals.

During the program, learners gain theoretical and practical knowledge through the rigorous social work curriculum. Students prepare for the workforce with internships and other hands-on learning opportunities. Concentrations and electives let learners individualize the program based on their interests and professional goals.

University of Southern California at a Glance:

Location: Los Angeles, California

School Type: Private

Admission Rate: 11%

Graduate Tuition In State: $46,272

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $46,272

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 69%

Average Tuition
In-state
$57,256
Out-of-state
$57,256
Retention Rate
96%
Admission Rate
11%
Students Enrolled
48,321
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
17% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

Feature Image: SDI Productions / E+ / GettyImages

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