This article has information about what an online Master of Social Work (MSW) is, and what the typical requirements are for this type of graduate degree. It also discusses why you may want to obtain this degree, and some MSW program options that feature low GPA requirements and high acceptance rates.
What Is an Online MSW?
A master’s degree in social work is an advanced degree that is typically required for social workers who work in positions related to healthcare, mental health and substance abuse. An MSW degree will provide you with the advanced social work, healthcare and mental health skills to be able to assist those in need with their mental, behavioral, health and emotional problems.
An online MSW degree usually takes at least two years to complete. After completing your degree program, you will be required to have at least two years of supervised clinical experience. Next, you must pass your state clinical exam to receive your license.
An online MSW will typically have these types of courses:
- Human Behavior and the Social Environment
- Science of Social Work
- Policy and Advocacy in Professional Social Work
- Applied Learning in Field Education
- Policy in Integrated Care
- Wellness, Recovery and Integrated Care
- Integrative Learning for Social Work Practice
- Explanatory Theories of Health and Mental Health
- Social Work Practice with Individuals, Families and Groups
What Are the Requirements for Admission for an Online MSW?
The requirements for admission to an online MSW program vary depending upon the university. Some programs will have stricter requirements for admission than others. The most common admissions requirements include the following:
- Official undergraduate transcripts. More competitive programs will require a 3.0 GPA or higher, while less selective programs may accept a 2.5 GPA or even lower.
- Some programs will require two professional and/or academic recommendations, and others may mandate three. Programs typically want to see recommendations from an academic instructor or professional who have worked with you in a social work position of some kind.
- Statement of purpose. Many competitive programs will require a long statement of purpose about a social work-related topic. Others may require a shorter writing sample on social work or another topic.
- Some competitive programs may require you to submit GRE scores, but other less competitive programs will not require scores.
- More competitive programs may want to see that you have substantial social work experience, while less demanding programs may not be concerned if you have no related experience.
Why Earn an Online MSW Degree?
Many students ask themselves whether earning a graduate degree is worth it. Some students may be passionate about becoming a clinical or healthcare social worker; it is required to have an MSW to work in these specialties. For others, it is important to consider the various benefits of earning the degree.
Fortunately, there are many solid reasons today to obtain your Master of Social Work:
The median pay for all social workers is $46,890 as of May 2016. However, many social workers with only a bachelor’s degree will earn in the lower end of the salary range, as low as $28,800. Meanwhile, social workers with a higher level of education earn $78,000 per year or even more.
The highest-paying workers in this field are clinical and healthcare social workers. You must have at least your MSW to work in these specialties. Clinical social workers actually are qualified and licensed to diagnose mental health problems, so these workers receive a higher level of pay.
Job demand for social workers overall is a solid 12% increase by 2024, which is faster than average compared to other fields. Employment growth is being caused by a higher demand for social and healthcare services. However, there is higher demand in many of the sub specialties in social work that require a master’s or higher degree.
Demand for clinical and healthcare social workers will increase by an excellent 19% by 2024, and mental health and substance abuse social workers also will see 19% more jobs. But child, family and school social workers with only a bachelor’s usually will experience only a 6% increase in demand.
There are other factors that make earning an MSW a good choice. Professionals in the field with a master’s degree will have a higher level of job security. Clinical social workers are trained and licensed to diagnose and treatment a variety of mental, emotional and behavioral problems. These professionals are actually the most numerous mental healthcare workers in the US. They will always have a high level of job security with their MSW and highly specialized skills.
Online MSW Program Options
Students who want to earn an online MSW degree with a lower GPA and high acceptance rate may want to apply at the following universities:
Walden University offers an online Master of Social Work that will help you to improve the quality of life for families, individuals and groups in underserved populations. This program has a strong emphasis on clinical practice, and will assist you in building skills and knowledge that will provide social justice to communities around the world.
Online students in Walden’s program can choose from the following concentrations:
- Advanced clinical practice
- Military social work
- Social work in healthcare
- Social work with children and families
Regardless of your track, all students must complete a minimum of 250 hours of fieldwork in each of four quarters, for a total of 1,000 hours.
Required courses are:
- Changing Lives, Changing Society: Introduction to Social Work
- Essential Skills for Social Work Practice
- Human Behavior and the Social Environment I
- Social Work Skills Lab I
- Diversity, Human Rights, and Social Justice
- Social Policy, Welfare, and Change
- Human Behavior and the Social Environment II
- Social Work Field Education I
- Social Work Field Education II
- Social Work Theory and Practice
- Advanced Clinical Social Work Practice I
- Psychopathology for Social Work
- Social Policy: Analysis and Advocacy
One of the major benefits of this online social work program is that it has achieved accreditation by the Council on Social Work Education or CSWE. This is a highly respected, specialized accreditation body that has been recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. CSWE accreditation assures students and employers that Walden’s program has achieved the highest level of quality in the social work field.
Another major benefit of the Walden program is that requirements for admission are quite reasonable:
- Bachelor’s degree with a GPA of 2.5 or higher. Students with a lower GPA can be considered on a case by case basis.
- Updated resume
- Goal statement
- College transcripts
The website does not mention that you need recommendations to be admitted. GRE scores are not required. Also not stated is the level of social work experience the university wants to see. You may not need to have any social work experience at all.
If you want to apply for the advanced standing track, you must have a bachelor’s of social work with a 3.0 GPA completed in the last six years. Advanced standing allows you to skip some of the required social work courses, if you are approved by the university.
The Master of Social Work program at Capella University will provide you with the skills and knowledge to help those who need it the most. This two year program may be completed entirely online, with your clinical fieldwork completed in an area near you.
MSW degree outcomes in this program include:
- Apply advanced social work ethical principles to guide your professional practice
- Apply critical thinking to both inform and communicate social work professional judgments
- Learn how to appreciate diversity and difference in practice
- Advance basic human rights, as well as economic and social justice
- Apply your knowledge of the social environment and human behavior
- Learn how to assess, intervene and evaluate with individual and family social work patients
Required courses include:
- Research in Social Work Practice
- Social Welfare History, Policy, and Practice
- Human Behavior and the Social Environment 1
- Micro Social Work
- Human Behavior and the Social Environment 2
- Social Policy and Planning in Human Services
- Mezzo Social Work Practice
- Macro Social Work Practice with Groups, Organizations, and Communities
- Foundation Field Practicum 1
This program currently has achieved candidacy status for CSWE accreditation. The website does not state when it will actually be accredited by the social work accreditation body.
Requirements for admission to this MSW program include:
- Official transcripts from bachelor’s program. The website does not state what the minimum GPA is.
- Letters of recommendation
- Goal statement
- Admission essay and writing sample
- Faculty interview may be required for some students
No GRE scores are required. The website also does not state if you are required to have experience in social work.
University of Missouri
The University of Missouri has a 100% online MSW and no campus visits are needed. There is a field practicum however that you must complete at an approved agency in your home town.
Most students take two online courses per semester. Students with advanced standing can complete the program in two years, while students without a social work background take three years.
Required courses include:
- Strategies of Clinical Social Work Intervention
- Fundamentals of Social Work Administration
- Psychopathology: A Social Work Experience
- Advanced Clinical Practice Selective
- Evaluative Research in Clinical Social Work Practice
- Professional Practice Seminar
- Graduate Field Practicum II
Requirements for admission to this online MSW program are:
- Completed bachelor’s degree
- Minimum GPA of 3.0 is stated on the website, but there are exceptions made for some students
- Completion of a college-level statistics course
- Resume or CV
- Three letters of recommendation
- Personal statement
- No GRE scores required
Earning an MSW is a good way to advance your social work career. This is made easier by the online MSW programs available today that have fairly lenient acceptance criteria.
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- Social Workers. (2015, Dec. 17). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm#tab-2