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Best Advanced-Standing Online MSW Programs

Learn how online advanced-standing MSW programs offer the ease and convenience of flexible learning while letting you earn your degree in as little as a year. Use this list of 2024’s 50 best programs to start earning you master’s today.

Author: Rebecca Newman

Editor: Staff Editor

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Two professionals, a woman and a man, collaborate on a project using a laptop in a bright office setting. they are discussing work, sitting at a desk with coffee cups and papers around.

You might meet people who assume that the field of social work is intuitive. But if you hold a bachelor’s in social work (BSW), you know that providing support and aid to our most vulnerable populations requires a highly evolved skill set. Skills that constantly change to include up-to-date, evidence-based practices, program evaluation findings, and the use of trauma-informed care.

As the field evolves, and through the advocacy of organizations like the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), the term “social worker” is protected in many states. So, unless you have a degree in social work, you cannot hold a position with that title. If you hold a BSW and pursue entry-level social work positions, you will experience professional growth within your role in the years ahead.

For most positions, however, a Master of Social Work (MSW) is the preferred or required degree for clinical, administrative, or leadership positions in the field. If you have already earned a BSW, you’re closer to your MSW than a student whose undergraduate degree is in a different area.

By building on your existing knowledge of social work theory and other foundational principles, you can accelerate your studies in an advanced standing online MSW program. Many schools offer advanced standing MSW programs online, allowing even greater flexibility in advancing your studies and growth potential.

As you consider earning a master’s degree from an online MSW program, you might have questions about cost, flexibility, vetting the best program for you, and additional application requirements, to name a few. Please read our guide to learn what you’ll need to know as a prospective advanced-standing candidate to help you make the most informed and confident decisions as you apply to online MSW programs.

Best Advanced-Standing Online MSW Programs in 2024

We’ve identified this year’s best 50 programs that offer online advanced standing MSW programs. After combing through data from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), these select schools shine in crucial factors like overall affordability, online learning availability, and student support metrics. For more information on how we calculated our rankings, check out our “About the Ranking” button below.

About the ranking
1
River Forest, Illinois
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$$

Dominican University’s MSW Advanced Standing Program allows students who have already earned a bachelor’s degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited institution to complete the MSW in nine months. Students complete 30 credit hours of coursework, including 20 hours per week of fieldwork and related field practicum courses (a total of 600 clock hours over two semesters). You can complete the program in two years of part-time study or nine months of full-time study. Coursework covers human behavior, community analysis, social welfare, and family dynamics. Students choose a track in Child Welfare, Gerontology, Military Social Work, School Social Work, Health and Well-Being, or Working with Immigrants and Refugees.

Program Highlights:

MSW with Advanced Standing

  • Credits: 30
  • Length: One to two years
  • Mode: In person
  • Accreditation: CSWE

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
2
Vermillion, South Dakota
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

University of South Dakota’s Social Work MSW Advanced Standing Track is designed for individuals with a Bachelor’s in Social Work from a CSWE-accredited program. Graduates will learn how to deliver superior clinical and therapeutic services, obtain a career in administration or supervision, or affect community and policy planning. The program curriculum teaches students how to serve a variety of populations through policy, practice, or research, taking a person-centered approach and valuing people’s unique needs, offering personalized support and working toward empowerment. Coursework is delivered online, while students also obtain hundreds of hours of hands-on field education. The Advanced Standing Track can be completed full or part time and offers the flexibility of online learning.

Program Highlights:

Social Work MSW Advanced Standing Track

  • Credits: 36
  • Length: One year
  • Mode: Online
  • Accreditation: CSWE

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
3
Kalamazoo, Michigan
Type:
Public
Cost:
$$

Western Michigan University‘s Advanced Standing Master of Social Work builds on the BSW foundational courses, so students can complete the MSW faster than students without a BSW. The program curriculum is built to develop social workers who impact social, economic, environmental, and racial justice through excellence in research and practice. Graduates are prepared to provide exceptional social service to a wide variety of communities and have the knowledge, skills, and tools they need to perform valuable, informed research. Students can choose nine elective credit hours to work toward a specialization in Trauma, Trauma-Focused CBT, School Social Work, SPADA, or Holistic Health. They are also required to complete a 500-hour internship over two semesters.

Program Highlights:

Advanced Standing Master of Social Work

  • Credits: 39
  • Length: Varies
  • Mode: In person
  • Accreditation: CSWE

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
4
Pensacola, Florida
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
5
Owensboro, Kentucky
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
6
San Angelo, Texas
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
7
Jackson, Mississippi
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
8
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
9
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
10
Pembroke, North Carolina
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
11
Anchorage, Alaska
Type:
Public
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation NWCCU
12
Winona, Minnesota
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
13
Joliet, Illinois
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
14
Florence, Alabama
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
15
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
16
Gaffney, South Carolina
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
17
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
18
Saint Leo, Florida
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
19
Mequon, Wisconsin
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
20
San Marcos, Texas
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
21
Dover, Delaware
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation MSCHE
22
Tallahassee, Florida
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
23
Athens, West Virginia
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
24
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
25
Type:
Private for-profit
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
26
Boone, North Carolina
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
27
Rock Hill, South Carolina
Type:
Public
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
28
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation WSCUC
29
Charlotte, North Carolina
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
30
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation WSCUC
31
Greenville, North Carolina
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
32
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
33
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
34
San Antonio, Texas
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
35
Marquette, Michigan
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
36
Boise, Idaho
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation NWCCU
37
Type:
Public
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation WSCUC
38
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation WSCUC
39
Salisbury, Maryland
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation MSCHE
40
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
41
Houston, Texas
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
42
Type:
Public
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
43
Buffalo, New York
Type:
Public
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation MSCHE
44
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
45
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
46
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
47
Boston, Massachusetts
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation NECHE
48
Columbia, Missouri
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
49
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation MSCHE
50
Louisville, Kentucky
Type:
Public
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC

How Does an Advanced-Standing MSW Differ From a Traditional MSW?

An MSW earned through an online advanced standing curriculum program will adhere to the same rigorous standards set forth by the Council on Social Work Education in classroom and field practicum education. Applicants with a BSW are typically expected to have earned a 3.0 GPA in any previous social work courses, although standards vary by institution.

Students whose transcripts may not meet the standard requirements may take the GRE to demonstrate aptitude, although it is typically not required for MSW programs. Some advanced standing MSW online programs require you to complete your BSW within a prescribed period for continuity.

As a student with a BSW, you already have a great knowledge base about social work theory, human behavior in the social environment, and social justice covered in the early MSW curriculum. By drawing from your previous studies, you can focus on advanced skills in your MSW programs, such as clinical skills, advocacy, research, and policy, and working with different systems, such as education and government systems.

While most MSW programs do not include a capstone project, you will execute several large projects with your field placement, including projects related to social change or program evaluation.

Who Are the Best Candidates for Advanced-Standing Online MSW Programs?

The individuals who could benefit most from an online advanced standing MSW program have already earned a BSW and want to continue to experience growth in the field and specialize further. For the BSW with work experience in the field, the ease, flexibility, and accessibility of an online advanced standing MSW program streamline the process of increasing you’re earning and professional advancement potential.

Ease, Flexibility, Accessibility

Learning online from well-respected institutions has never been easier, particularly as almost every institution defaulted to online or hybrid status during the initial stages of the COVID-19 lockdown. With increasing numbers of institutions observing how much the transition to online learning benefits their students, you can take advantage of the flexible scheduling, asynchronous and synchronous materials, and clearly defined curricula to earn your MSW.

Increased Earning Potential

While social workers are primarily motivated by their altruistic desires to help others, supporting yourself and your family are important factors. Positions that require an MSW are typically compensated at a higher pay grade than those that only require a bachelor’s or associate’s. These higher positions also offer advancement opportunities.

Increased Professional Potential

As a BSW, you may max out your ability to grow and evolve. Even professional, evidence-based models require a master’s degree to begin their training program. With a master’s degree from an accredited MSW online program, you’ll be eligible for licensure, advanced clinical supervision, and leadership roles in agencies to affect positive social change in your community.

Tougher Admissions Requirements For Advanced-Standing MSW Degrees

Standards for an advanced standing MSW are consistent with standard MSW programs, which usually include a holistic review of each student as a prospective social worker and an addition to the field while considering their demonstrated aptitude for the rigors of the institution’s curriculum.

While the GRE or other exams are not required for admission, students with a lower undergraduate GPA may take the GRE to supplement their application and demonstrate their seriousness in master’s-level studies.

Many online MSW programs also seek to accept individuals with various lived experiences for what they contribute to classroom dynamics and debate and how they will continue to affect positive change in their communities.

  • Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) from a CSWE-accredited program
  • Minimum GPA of 3.0
  • B- or better in all undergraduate social work major courses

How Long Should I Expect to Be in School?

Generally, programs can be completed between three and six semesters, depending on your schedule and status. Most online advanced standing MSW programs offer the flexibility of full- or part-time study. Your online coursework may be paced differently than your on-campus colleagues and require more discipline, mainly if your courses are offered asynchronously, and you don’t have the accountability of gathering for a course meeting.

However, every online MSW student’s program is paced by their field placement, with at least 15 hours on-site per week, allowing everyone to implement content they are covering in their courses to the populations that they serve.

Online Advanced-Standing MSW Program Concentrations

One of the benefits of being a social worker is having a plethora of choices in terms of concentration, specialization, professional trajectory, and work setting. Most online MSW program concentrations can be divided into three categories: direct practice social work (or macro/clinical social work), advanced generalist social work, and macro (or policy) social work.

Direct practice settings include settings in which you have one-on-one contact with the recipient of services and conceptualize an individual’s circumstances, presentation and treatment plan through a social work lens and set of values. Work in this area could include school social work, working with incarceration and re-entry, providing care in a substance use disorder treatment program, providing individual psychotherapy, medical social work, or other areas of direct interaction with the recipient of services.

Macro or policy social work focuses on advocacy, nonprofit organizations, and understanding leadership through social work theory and perspectives. Education and work in this area include a deeper understanding of the history of various social programs, such as housing or healthcare policy, learning skills to assume a leadership role in a nonprofit organization that provides social services, or advocating on a local, state, or federal level for improved programs to serve community needs.

Advanced generalist social workers are prepared for a wide variety of roles, which include providing services for housing, food resources, child and family services, job placement, and healthcare access. Advanced generalists may assume leadership roles in various settings or engage in program evaluations and will likely have direct contact with service recipients.

Frequently Asked Questions About Advanced-Standing Online MSW Programs

Is an advanced-standing MSW the same as an accelerated program?

In short, an advanced standing MSW is an accelerated online program. These programs consider your previous BSW coursework, allowing you to eliminate redundancy in content such as social work theory and other Council on Social Work Education requirements for a degree to speed up your advancement into a master’s degree.

Students must have already earned a BSW to engage in an advanced standing MSW program online—this should not be confused with collapsing MSW coursework into a shorter course of study.

Are internships or hands-on experience required?

Field placement is an essential requirement from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) to earn a degree in social work at the bachelor’s or master’s level. These field placements are provided at agencies or organizations that provide social work services to individuals through advocacy, assessment, intervention, counseling, or other support or needed services.

Many online MSW programs will allow you to complete your field placement in your home area after identifying an appropriate supervisor at a qualifying agency for your field practicum coursework, which you’d complete online.

What type of accreditation should a social work program hold? What license can I get with an MSW degree?

Any degree in social work should be accredited by the CSWE. This independent organization upholds curriculum and practice standards for institutions that offer instruction in social work. Pursuing a degree at an unaccredited institution puts you at risk of not qualifying for licensure in your state, limiting your ability to practice social work at your fullest potential.

What is the median salary for a person with a Master’s in Social Work?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a master’s level social worker in 2021 was $50,390, or $24.23/hour. Various factors impact social work salaries, including the type of work you complete, whether you work for a government agency or private organization, and your years of service or experience. The field is expected to grow by 12 percent by 2030, leaving plenty of room for prospective social workers to impact their communities positively.