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Today’s Most Affordable Online MSW Programs

Embarking on a fulfilling career in social work should be both accessible and affordable. Our guide to the most affordable online Master’s in Social Work (MSW) programs for 2024 is tailored for those dedicated to making a difference without compromising financial considerations.

Author: Michael Hoffman

Editor: Staff Editor

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A female social worker with a badge converses attentively with an elderly man in a cozy living room setting.

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 2024. 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.

2024’s Most Affordable Online MSW Programs

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 2024.

About the ranking
1
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

The Fort Hays State University Master of Social Work program offers the flexibility of an online education while providing strong hands-on clinical training. Fort Hays offers two pathways to obtain an MSW degree. The regular MSW Pathway takes two years to complete, with field practicum experiences across four regular semesters. The Advanced Standing MSW Pathway is only available to students with a bachelor’s degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited social work program and can be completed in one calendar year of academic coursework and two semesters of field practicum experience. Both pathways offer the clinical training and educational requirements students need to obtain licensure as a clinical social worker.

Program Highlights:

Master of Social Work

  • Credits: 30-66
  • Length: Varies
  • Mode: Online/hybrid
  • Accreditation: CSWE

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
2
San Angelo, Texas
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

The MSW at Angelo State University provides students with immersive instruction in an array of social issues with different populations in a wide variety of practice settings. They’ll gain valuable practical experience through field education placements and research. The comprehensive program also allows you to specialize in either advanced generalist practice or clinical practice. When you graduate, you’ll be prepared to pursue licensure as a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) or Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). Students are required to complete hundreds of hours of field education, depending on their chosen track. This degree offers a variety of tracks for students to choose the path that works best for them, including advanced generalist and clinical full- and part-time options.

Program Highlights:

Master of Social Work

  • Credits: 36-66
  • Length: One to four years
  • Mode: Online or in person
  • Accreditation: CSWE

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
3
Pembroke, North Carolina
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

The Master of Social Work program at University of North Carolina at Pembroke is designed for adult learners who need flexibility to reach their career goals. Graduates are prepared to seek careers as professional, competent social workers within an advanced generalist model. They’ll have the capacity to practice in a variety of settings with diverse client populations — utilizing resources available to the communities they serve — and have an awareness of historical and contemporary social issues. The program allows students to choose the best course of education for them and is offered fully online or in a hybrid format, part- or full-time, and with an advanced standing option.

Program Highlights:

Master of Social Work

  • Credits: 35-62
  • Length: One to three years
  • Mode: Online or hybrid
  • Accreditation: CSWE

School Services & Accreditation

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

School Services & Accreditation

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

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
6
Vermillion, South Dakota
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
7
Pensacola, Florida
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

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

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation WSCUC
9
Dover, Delaware
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation MSCHE
10
Boone, North Carolina
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
11
Charlotte, North Carolina
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
12
Greenville, North Carolina
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

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

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
14
Jackson, Mississippi
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

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

School Services & Accreditation

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

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
17
Missoula, Montana
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

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

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation WSCUC
19
San Marcos, Texas
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
20
Athens, West Virginia
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

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

School Services & Accreditation

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

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation NWCCU
23
Boise, Idaho
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

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

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
25
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
26
Troy, Alabama
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
27
Salisbury, Maryland
Type:
Public
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

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

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
29
Scottsdale, Arizona
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
30
Athens, Georgia
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
31
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation WSCUC
32
Mequon, Wisconsin
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
33
Tallahassee, Florida
Type:
Public
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
34
Gaffney, South Carolina
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
35
Baltimore, Maryland
Type:
Public
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation MSCHE
36
Houston, Texas
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
37
Marquette, Michigan
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

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

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
39
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
40
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
41
San Bernardino, California
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

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

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
43
Cedar Falls, Iowa
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
44
Memphis, Tennessee
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
45
Joliet, Illinois
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
46
Owensboro, Kentucky
Type:
Private not-for-profit
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
47
Orono, Maine
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

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

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation SACSCOC
49
Columbia, Missouri
Type:
Public
Cost:
$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation HLC
50
Buffalo, New York
Type:
Public
Cost:
$$

School Services & Accreditation

Career Services Yes
Academic Counseling Yes
Accreditation MSCHE

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.