Online master's degree programs are available at several universities across the nation, including Florida State University and the University of New England. These programs are in a hybrid format. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a master's degree in social work is required for careers in clinical or public school social work (www.bls.gov). Some schools may require students to possess a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree from an accredited institution in order to apply, while others may take majors from any field but give advanced standing to those who have a BSW. These degree programs can range from 39-66 credit hours. In addition to coursework, students must complete practical experiences.
Online social work master's degree programs provide students with education in numerous relevant psychological theories and practices. At the master's degree level, students may be able to choose a specialization in such areas as individual practice, family and group practice or organizational practice. Topics covered in core and elective online courses could include the following:
- Behavioral sociology
- Patient diagnosis and treatment
- Social work administrative duties
- Social welfare programs
- Caseload management
- Patient crisis intervention
- Community welfare program development
- Family therapy social work
- Social work supervision principles
- Social science research
Practical Experience and Fieldwork
Because of regulations set forth by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), an accreditation governing board for social work degree programs, all programs must include a mandatory clinical practice component in order to be accredited (www.cswe.org). The clinical practicum is the only part of the curriculum that cannot be completed online. Students typically complete applied clinical social work practica at approved off-site locations. Required number of internships and practica may vary depending on the school and a student's existing experience.
About Online Learning
Students can complete all required theoretical coursework online. Most distance learning programs use Blackboard or similar interactive, Web-based teaching and learning platforms to deliver lectures, promote discussions and accept completed assignments.
Master of Social Work programs may combine synchronous and asynchronous formats. For synchronized sessions, students are notified in advance of specific times when they need to login to participate in live class experiences, while asynchronous components allow students to complete coursework at their pace, though deadlines for assignments are common.
Overview of Schools Offering an MSW
Florida State University
Florida State University (FSU) is located in Tallahassee, the state's capital city, and is situated in the Florida panhandle. This public, 4-year university serves a student population of almost 41,000. Tuition and fees for graduate students were $11,543 for in-state students and $25,975 for out-of-state students, as of the 2015-2016 school year.
University of New England
Located on the Maine coastline, the University of New England is a private, not-for-profit institution serving a student population of almost 8,000. In addition to its online school, this university operates two campuses in the state: its main location in Biddeford and an additional site in the city of Portland. University of New England has been accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges since the 1960s. The tuition and fees for graduate students were $23,172 during the 2015-2016 school year.
Students seeking a master's degree in social work have several options if they want to complete the program online, including Florida State University and the University of New England. While courses are available fully online, where students use web-based tools to learn and submit assignments, these programs often require an in-person clinical component.