Most Affordable Online MSW Programs

On this page we highlight accredited online MSW programs that rank highly on affordability and discuss other ways to lower the cost of your master of social work. Read on to learn if these affordable online MSW programs are right for you and how to fund your master’s degree.

There’s no way around it: College is expensive. That’s especially true if you plan on pursuing a graduate degree. With inflation running rampant, you may think that you can’t afford an online MSW program, but you can. You may have to work a bit harder to find the program that fits your budget, but it’s definitely possible.

That said, there’s no better place to start your program search than right here with our guide to the most affordable online MSW programs in 2022. Below you’ll find rankings of the most affordable online MSW programs currently available, along with great information and advice to help you choose and pay for the program that’s right for you. Keep reading to see our rankings and more.

Most Affordable Online MSW Programs in 2022

While we’re focusing on affordability in this guide, price isn’t the only factor to consider when choosing your program. After all, a program that has the right price but low graduation rates ultimately might not be a good deal. That’s why we’ve based our rankings on affordability and a range of key quality metrics provided by The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. Click on the “About the Ranking” button below to learn more about how rankings are calculated. With that in mind, here are choices for the best of the best affordable online MSW programs for 2022:

About the ranking
1
Type:
Public
Cost:
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The online master of social work program at Westfield State University in Westfield, Massachusetts, is not only noted for its affordability, but with three program-length options it’s also noted for its exceptional flexibility. The traditional MSW curriculum is divided into two parts. The first year consists of 32 credits of generalist foundational social work classes along with a 400-hour hands-on practicum (internship). The second year combines required and elective advanced practice courses with a 500-hour hands-on practicum. Through elective courses and the advanced social policy course, students choose one of four specialties: Child, Youth and Family; Health Social Work; Latinx Community Health; and Substance Use and Addictions.

Westfield’s online MSW program features fully online, synchronous classes held via Zoom on Monday and Thursday evenings from 5:15 pm to 9:00 pm (Eastern Time) and additional asynchronous coursework that makes up approximately 20% of the curriculum.

Admissions requirements include a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university and a 2.8 GPA. Applicants with a bachelor of social work from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), however, can apply for advanced standing and begin their MSW studies with the second year of the curriculum, after completion of one bridge course in the summer prior to beginning their program. Note that internships may need to be completed in the Massachusetts area.

Program Highlights:

Master’s of Social Work

  • Credits: 66 (traditional); 37 (advanced standing)
  • Length: The traditional program takes two years full-time, three years accelerated part-time, or four years part-time. The advanced standing program takes one year full-time.
  • Cost: $500/credit
  • Format: Fully online with 900 in-person field practicum hours
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) (school); CSWE (program)

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation NECHE
2
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

Located in Salem, Massachusetts, Salem State University offers its partially online master of social work program with several convenient formats and study options. The traditional program is for students entering with a non-social work bachelor’s degree. The curriculum consists of foundational social work courses (equivalent to the field-related coursework typically completed in a BSW program) followed by advanced courses and electives. Full-time students complete the program in two years. Part-time students can take up to four years to complete their studies.

Both daytime and evening cohorts are offered. The evening cohort is specifically designed for students employed in the human services and related fields. Students attend two online classes on Wednesday afternoons and evenings during the spring, summer, and fall semesters. Evening cohort students also attend two in-person sessions each semester on the Salem State campus.

Students entering the program with a bachelor of social work receive advanced standing, which means they won’t have to take foundational social work courses. Both one-year full-time and two-year part-time options are available to advanced standing students.

In addition to academic coursework, all MSW students at Salem State are required to complete field education experiences in person at locations in Greater Boston, the North Shore, Merrimack Valley, and other parts of Massachusetts. Students do their field education during the academic year (16 to 20 hours weekly from September through early May) or summer (32 to 40 hours per week from mid-May through August).

Program Highlights:

Master of Social Work

  • Credits: 62 (traditional); 44 (advanced standing)
  • Length: The traditional program takes two years full-time or three to four years extended time (part-time). The advanced standing program takes one year full-time or two years extended time (part-time).
  • Cost: $499.20/credit (Massachusetts residents); $591.60/credit (out-of-state residents)
  • Format: Partially online with in-person field experiences
  • Accreditation: NECHE (school); CSWE (program)

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation NECHE
3
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

Western New Mexico University in Silver City, New Mexico, is home to a master of social work program in a fully online format, making it a particularly good choice for both out-of-state and international students. Two curriculum options are available. The Non-Advanced Standing MSW is for applicants with a non-social work bachelor’s degree. Like most traditional MSW programs, it combines foundational social work courses with advanced practice coursework. Two-year full-time and three-year part-time options are available. The second option is for students with a BSW, who enroll in the Advanced Standing MSW program consisting of the advanced social work course only. Advanced standing students can choose from three-, four-, and six-semester formats.

A major feature of the MSW program at Western New Mexico is that coursework is completed 100% online with no required campus visits. All MSW students complete field practicums at agencies located within the student’s local area. Field practicums consist of 225 practice hours per semester in the spring and fall (two semesters for advanced standing students, four semesters for non-advanced standing students) plus 22 hours weekly for approximately 10 weeks during the summer semester. Students are tasked with locating their field practicum agency. If approved, practice hours may be completed online. All students are required to participate in an online synchronous seminar each week of as part of their field practicum program.

Program Highlights:

Master of Social Work

  • Credits: 60 (non-advanced standing); 39 (advanced standing)
  • Length: The non-advanced standing program takes two or three years. The advanced standing program has three-, four-, and six-semester options.
  • Cost: $333.79/credit (New Mexico, Colorado, and El Paso residents); $424.69/credit (out-of-state residents)
  • Format: Fully online with online or in-person field practicums
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC) (school); CSWE (program)

School Services & Accreditation

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

Students in Northwest Texas and the surrounding area can earn their MSW degree through the highly affordable online master of social work program at Texas A&M University–Commerce (TAMUC). The program features coursework that is 100% online. However, students still must reside within a 500-mile radius of the university’s Commerce, Texas, campus. Like many MSW programs, TAMUC offers curriculum options for both applicants with and without a BSW. The 60-credit foundational track for non-BSW holders can be completed with one year of full-time study (four regular semesters plus one summer session) or approximately four years part-time study. Full-time students must begin their studies in the fall. Students who begin their programs in the spring or summer must choose the part-time option.

BSW degree holders will complete the one-year full-time advanced generalist track. Applicants whose BSW is more than six years old may be required to complete additional coursework to update their knowledge and skills.Regardless of track choice, all MSW students must complete substantial fieldwork practicums with one of several program-affiliated social agencies within the school’s or student’s local area.

Graduation from the MSW program requires a minimum 3.0 GPA (including at least a B in field practicum courses) and a passing score on the Social Work Comprehensive Examination. All graduates of the program are eligible for the State of Texas Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) credential.

Program Highlights:

Master of Social Work

  • Credits: 60 (foundation track); 33 (advanced generalist track)
  • Length: The foundation track takes two to four years. The advanced generalist track takes one year.
  • Cost (based on nine credits taken per semester): $407.67/credit (Texas residents); $815.67/credit (out-of-state residents)
  • Format: Fully online with in-person fieldwork practicums
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) (school); CSWE (program)

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
5
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

The master of social work at Fort Hays State University in Western Kansas not only offers Kansas residents one of the lowest tuition rates in the U.S., but it also makes those same affordable rates available for residents of 13 surrounding states. Two pathways are offered: the regular MSW pathway for non-BSW students and the advanced MSW pathway for BSW degree holders. The regular MSW pathway combines fully online academic courses with field practicums (1,200 total practice hours over four semesters) at social services agencies in the student’s local area. Full-time regular MSW pathway students begin their studies with the fall semester and finish in 1 ¾ years (two fall and two spring semesters plus one summer session).

Advanced MSW pathway students complete fully online courses and participate in 720 practicum hours over two semesters. Full-time advanced MSW pathway students begin their programs in the summer and complete their studies in one year (summer, fall, and spring semesters). Additionally, students in both pathways are required to attend 2 ½-day in-person intensives during each semester of their field practicums. Intensives are held on the school’s Fort Hays campus and at other locations in Kansas.

Program Highlights:

Master of Social Work

  • Credits: 66 (regular MSW pathway); 36 (advanced MSW pathway)
  • Length: The regular MSW pathway takes 1 ¾ years of full-time study. The advanced MSW pathway takes one year of full-time study. Part-time options are available for both pathways.
  • Cost: $298.55/credit (Kansas residents and residents in 13 surrounding states); $631.71/credit (all other U.S. residents and international students)
  • Format: Partially online with in-person fieldwork practicums
  • Accreditation: HLC (school); CSWE (program)

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
6
San Angelo, TX
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
7
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 SACSCOC
9
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services No
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
10
Greenville, NC
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

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

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
12
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
13
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

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

School Services & Accreditation

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

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
16
Type:
Public
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

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

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
18
Type:
Public
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
19
Type:
Public
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
20
Type:
Public
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
21
Type:
Public
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation NWCCU
22
Type:
Public
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services No
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC

Funding Your Online Master’s in Social Work: 5 Ways to Save

Affordability starts with program costs, but it doesn’t end there. You’re about to discover lots of potential financial aid resources available to help you bring down the price tag of your budget-friendly online MSW program. Here are five of the most popular. But don’t forget to contact the financial aid office for each program you’re considering to find out exactly what funding opportunities apply to your affordable online MSW program. You’ll never know just what financial help might be available until you ask.

  1. Apply to scholarships, grants, and fellowships created for MSW students

    Scholarships, grants, and fellowships are monetary awards made to college students to help pay for their educations. Grants are typically (but not always) awarded based on financial need of the students. Scholarships and fellowships, on the other hand, are typically (but again, not always) merit-based. What all three have in common, however, is that they are essentially “free money.” That is, they do not have to be paid back. This, of course, makes them especially appealing. To find out more about these funding opportunities for affordable online MSW programs, visit OMD’s scholarships and resources guide.

  2. Investigate work-study jobs or assistantships—even if you never set foot on campus

    Two important components of most college graduate programs are work-study and assistantship opportunities for master’s students. Work-study (most commonly Federal Work-Study) provides funding for part-time jobs for students with financial need. These jobs are usually related to the student’s academic studies or community service. Graduate assistantships are normally awarded based on the student’s scholastic accomplishments and/or specific department needs. Compensation typically consists of a combination of tuition/fee waivers and monetary stipends. You may not think that work-study positions and assistantships would be available for students in affordable online MSW programs, but you should definitely reach out to social work departments to see if positions are available.

  3. Find out if your employer offers a tuition reimbursement program

    Employer tuition reimbursement (aka employer tuition assistance) refers to programs in which employers pay a portion of an employee’s education. In most cases, the class or degree must be related to the employee’s job. Some employers require continued employment for a specific amount of time after the reimbursement period. MSW students (like those at Boston University and the University of Montana) currently employed in the social work field may find that their employer offers tuition reimbursement, so be sure to ask about availability.

  4. Sign up for a payment plan

    The common practice at most colleges and universities is to require upfront payment of a term’s tuition. However, many schools offer tuition payment plans (aka tuition installment plans) that allow students to break down the cost of their tuition and fees into monthly payments made throughout the term. Some schools even offer these plans interest free. Examples of affordable online MSW programs with tuition payment plans include Simmons University and the University of Michigan.

  5. Search out paid internships

    Virtually all MSW degree programs include substantial mandatory internships (also referred to as field practicums, field placements, or field experiences). These internships are taken with program-affiliated or approved social services agencies located in the school’s or student’s local area and almost always require in-person participation. Most internships are unpaid. However, some agencies may offer paid positions or stipends to help defray the intern’s education costs or expenses related to the internship, such as the cost of transportation to and from the field placement site

FAQs about Affordable MSW Programs

Q. What impacts the affordability of an online MSW Program?

Affordability is made up of tuition, fees, and related costs for things like books, supplies, transportation, etc. There are a variety of factors that impact program cost. The biggest include:

  • Public vs. private school: In most cases, public colleges and universities charge lower (often significantly lower) tuition rates compared with private institutions.
  • In-state vs. out-of-state student residency: Many public schools charge higher (often substantially higher) tuition rates to students who legally reside outside the school’s state borders. However, there is a growing trend to charge the same tuition rates to all online students, regardless of state residency.
  • Availability of funding opportunities: These include scholarships, grants, work-study, assistantships, and so forth.
  • Credit transferability: Some programs allow students to transfer a generous number of previously earned credits, resulting in fewer credits to be paid for in the MSW program.

Q. What is the ROI on an online MSW program?

Depending on your goals, the ROI can vary with your MSW degree. For example, if you plan to become a licensed clinical social worker, work in a school or healthcare facility, or take on higher management roles in an organization, then an MSW is a must-have. Taking on higher-level roles also means a jump in salary, and the ROI will be higher. Wages vary quite a bit by state, so compare salaries to see what your personal ROI could be. A quick search on Salary.com shows that the average salary of a LCSW, which requires an MSW, is around $74,000 per year. The average salary for a social worker with a BSW is around $60,000 per year. That’s a huge jump in annual salary for a master’s degree, meaning your affordable online MSW program will pay for itself quickly.

Q. How can I ensure that an affordable MSW program is high-quality

The foundational element of any degree program’s quality is accreditation. There are two types of accreditations to look for: institutional and programmatic. Institutional accreditation of U.S. colleges and universities is administered by a number of independent accrediting agencies recognized by the Department of Education. Programmatic accreditation of MSW programs in the U.S. is provided by the CSWE. You definitely want to confirm both types of accreditation for any affordable online MSW program you consider.

Another criteria that speaks volumes about program quality is the percentage of graduates employed in their chosen field within a year of graduation. If graduates are getting snapped up, you’ll know that they have the skills to be successful in the social work field.

Q. Is an online MSW more affordable than an in-person MSW?

That depends on a number of factors specific to both you and the program you’re considering. Some programs, for example, charge an extra per-credit or per-class fee for online courses. Others offer a discounted tuition rate for their online degrees. And, as mentioned earlier, some public schools charge higher tuition rates to students residing outside their state’s borders. You’ll also want to factor in savings on such things as the cost of transportation to and from campus and the time you’ll save with no commute.

Q. Can job experience count toward an MSW and help cut costs?

The short answer is “no,” but an explanation is required. Internships or field experiences play a major part in MSW programs, including all of the affordable online MSW programs mentioned in this guide. Their purpose is to provide students with an environment in which they develop new skills and grow professionally. This won’t happen in a job you already know how to do. That’s why prior or continuing experience in a current job is not counted toward your MSW degree. The one possible exception is if you are allowed to take on new and expanded duties in your current job. Overall though, it’s highly unlikely that your MSW program will allow prior work experience to be counted toward your degree requirements.

Q. How can I know if an affordable MSW program is right for me?

The truth is that only you can decide if an MSW degree is right for you or, beyond that, if a particular MSW program is the right program for you. Start by answering these two questions:

  • What do I want from my career, both professionally and personally?
  • Will earning an MSW degree help me reach my career goals?

If the answer to the second question is “yes,” then make a list of the program features you want. These might include:

  • A total program cost of $20,000 or less
  • Fully online coursework
  • A program length of two years or less

You get the idea. Then apply your features list to the affordable online MSW programs to find the one that comes closest to meeting your needs and preferences.