35 Best Master’s in Social Work

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Social workers are on the front lines of compassion and support for people, families, and communities. Their job is to fight injustice, battle social imbalance, and provide comfort and services to people living on the margins of society. In the social work profession, a master's degree is considered the terminal degree – the last stop academically – though doctorate programs are out there. For many social work professionals, the Master's in Social Work fulfills two important things: the academic requirements for clinical certification in their state, and the training necessary to take an administrative or leadership position at an agency or organization.

Social workers are in high demand across the county. The field is expected to expand by 16% between now and 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Here are some median salaries estimated by the bureau: social worker, $43,801; hospice social worker, $47,672; social work supervisor, $53,884; employee assistance program counselor, $55,501; and medical social worker, $51,133.

The 35 universities and colleges listed here are the best of the best – the finest, most rigorous, and most rewarding social work programs the nation has to offer. The campuses range from coast to coast, and from big-school experiences to smaller, quieter environments. There are Ivy League schools here, along with a couple of satellite universities. All have the essential accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education. In short, there's something on this list that can work for any social work professional or newcomer. All of the traditional-track programs can be completed in two years for full-time students, but there are longer schedules for people who need to balance classes and life. Every program offers advanced standing, a one-year curriculum for those who have an undergraduate degree in social work. And every program has its version of fieldwork – the real-world experience in nearby agencies that define any social work academic program. The real-world needs more smartly prepared social workers. Here's where to start.

Ranking Methodology

The researchers and writers at Best Master's Degrees don't make recommendations based upon preference – we back our rankings with science. Here's a quick breakdown of how we organize ranking data:

  • Finances (40%)
  • Academic Rigor (35%)
  • Student Gratification (25%)

Nearly half of the data used to score each ranking involves finances and are acquired from sources such as the National Center for Education Statistics, the U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of Education, Glassdoor, and PayScale. Financial data encompasses the cost of tuition, fees, and class supplied; the average price of living; access to financial aid and social services; and lastly, the projected annual salary acquired from degree outcomes and income for loan repayment. The second-largest category of information involves the quality of education, how competitive degree applicants should be for consideration, and how exclusive a degree program is overall. The final 25% of collected data is dependent on student and alumni reviews from sources such as PayScale, Rate My Professor, and Students Review. 

Want to Learn More? 

The amount of information available for specific degrees is plentiful, and Best Master's Degrees aims to provide as many resources as we can. Check out our Methodology page for more information and resource links.

 

#35 – University at Buffalo 

Master of Social Work (MSW)

Buffalo, NY
Website

The University of Buffalo is known by several names: State University of New York at Buffalo, SUNY Buffalo, University at Buffalo, or just Buffalo. U.S. News & World Report ranks Buffalo No. 25 on its list of Best Value Schools. The publication also rated it No. 38 among Top Public Schools. Buffalo has a total enrollment of about 31,000, of whom about 10,000 are postgraduate students. The regular curriculum for Buffalo's Master of Social Work (MSW) has 60 semester credit hours, plus 900 clock hours of fieldwork in real-world agencies and programs. A bachelor's degree is required to apply; the undergraduate work should have a solid foundation in liberal arts, and a minimum GPA of 3.0 is expected. Students who earn a bachelor's degree in social work can collect the MSW with 35 credit hours of work, plus with at least 480 hours of fieldwork. Students can pursue a dual master's degree, adding public health or business administration. 

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $11,090 / $22,650

 

#34 – Arizona State University-Downtown Phoenix 

Master of Social Work

Phoenix, AZ
Website

The Master of Social Work degree at Arizona State University-Downtown Phoenix program is offered by the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions. U.S. News & World Report lists ASU Phoenix at No. 25 among Best Social Work Programs. In the traditional master's program, students devote the first year to core classes, along with a semester of field study at nearby agencies. In the second year, courses and field study are connected to areas of concentration: direct practice; advanced generalist; policy; administration; children, youth, and families; behavioral health; or public child welfare. The traditional degree calls for 960 clock hours of fieldwork. Degree applicants with a bachelor's degree in social work can forego core classes and finish the master's degree in about a year, with 480 clock hours of fieldwork. Students in the MSW program can earn concurrent advanced degrees in law or public administration. The prerequisite bachelor's degree, in social work or any other discipline, must have been completed with at least a 3.0 GPA. Applicants also must provide three reference letters, a statement of academic and career goals, and a resume.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $11,406 / $25,160

 

#33 – California State University-Los Angeles 

Master of Social Work

Los Angeles, CA
Website

California State University-Los Angeles, which runs on a quarter system, sits on a hilltop about five miles from downtown L.A. The university has a total enrollment of more than 27,000 and a postgraduate enrollment of about 3,600. Cal State LA's Master of Social Work program organizes students into cohorts, which move through the program together in curriculums that last two or three years. The MSW program requires 90 credit hours and offers three concentrations: children, youth, and families; aging and families; and forensics, which prepares graduates to work with clients whose lives intersect with the criminal justice system. The forensics concentration is offered only with the two-year cohort. The traditional degree features two field placements that total 1,080 clock hours of mentored work at agencies in the L.A. area. The MSW requires that students do a thesis, which is put together over three quarters. To apply to the MSW program, a student must have a bachelor's degree with a strong liberal arts pedigree. Students with a social work bachelor's degree can apply for advanced standing, which can be completed in one year and is offered at Cal State LA's downtown campus.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $7,176 / $16,680

 

#32 – Baylor University 

Master of Social Work (MSW)

Waco, TX
Website

Baylor University is a private Christian institution with a total enrollment of about 17,000 and a postgraduate enrollment of about 3,000. It's the world's largest Baptist university campus. The Master of Social Work (MSW) degree is offered through the Garland School of Social Work. The standard program consists of 60 semester credit hours. Credit includes two internships, also known as fieldwork, and students in the full-time schedule can complete the degree in two years. After the first year, students choose a concentration of clinical or community practice. Students also can choose a specialization such as gerontology, grief counseling, international social work, or children and family services. Students who need to take classes at a slower pace can follow a four-year program. A bachelor's degree is a prerequisite for entering the MSW program. If the degree is in social work, students can bypass courses and complete the master's with 32 hours of coursework. Full-time students in advanced standing can finish the degree in a year. Part-time advanced standing students need two years to complete the degree. Students can pursue dual master's degrees, adding divinity, theological studies, or business administration to the MSW.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $30,888

 

#31 – Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis 

Master of Social Work

Indianapolis, IN
Website

The name is a mouthful. That's why Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis is more commonly known as IUPUI. It's an Indiana University campus at which students can get Purdue degrees. IUPUI has a total enrollment of 30,000 and a postgraduate enrollment of about 8,000. The Master of Social Work program has two concentrations: "macro" practice, such as leadership, administration, and advocacy; and clinical practice with children, families, and small groups. The MSW then has five specializations that apply to classwork and field placements: community and organizational leadership; mental health and addictions; children, youth, and families; and health. Among the courses in the specializations are Practice Skills for Health Care Settings, Support Services to Diverse Populations, and Trauma Informed Practice. MSW students can get dual advanced degrees in law or public health. Applicants should supply three recommendation letters, a resume, and a statement that follows guidelines found here.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $8,568 / $23,448

 

#30 – University of Washington-Tacoma 

Master of Social Work

Tacoma, WA
Website

University of Washington-Tacoma has the advantage of sharing some of the resources of the parent campus up the highway in Seattle. But the Master of Social Work degree issued by UW-Tacoma's School of Social Work & Criminal Justice has it own pedigree. For students who prefer campuses with smaller classes and enrollments, UW-Tacoma can be a good choice; its total enrollment is about 5,000, and the postgraduate enrollment is about 700. And take note: UW-Tacoma doesn't offer a full-time master's of social work curriculum. The two options are a three-year program with evening classes, which is ideal for the working professional; and an 18-month program, referred to as advanced standing, for students who earned a bachelor's degree in social work prior to the MSW program. A GPA of at least 3.0 is required of the bachelor's, and the degree must have been completed in the last five years. Students in the three-year program start classwork in the fall. Advanced standing students begin in the winter with "bridge" coursework.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $15,510 / $27,801

 

#29 – Florida Atlantic University

Master of Social Work

Boca Raton, FL
Website

Florida Atlantic University's campus is about a 45-minute drive from Miami, along Florida's east coast. It is part of the State University System of Florida. Florida Atlantic's total enrollment is about 30,000, and its postgraduate enrollment is about 4,600. The Phyllis and Harvey Sandler School of Social Work at Florida Atlantic offers two-year and four-year course schedules for its Master of Social Work degree. The length of the program is tied to course load. Full-time students are a good fit for the two-year program, while the four-year program is better suited for students who need to take courses at a part-time pace. All master's students must have in hand a bachelor's degree with a significant liberal arts background. A bachelor's in social work allows a master's student to forego core classes and finish the degree in one to two years. Master's applicants should have a 3.0 GPA or better over the bachelor's degree's final 60 credits. The social work bachelor's, however, requires a 3.5 GPA over those last 60 credits.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $5,467 / $16,695

 

#28 – New York University 

Master of Social Work

New York, NY
Website

New York University is located in the Washington Square/Greenwich Village area of Lower Manhattan. U.S. News & World Report ranks NYU No. 30 among all national universities. The university also ranks No. 13 among Best Social Work Programs. NYU's Silver School of Social Work offers the Master of Social Work degree. NYU provides several ways to approach the degree. The traditional, two-year program consists of 65 credit hours and covers two years (fall and spring; no summer courses are required). Field learning totalling 1,200 clock hours is completed with two placements chosen from more than 600 social service agencies in the metropolitan area. A 16-month accelerated program adds summer courses to the curriculum. An international option consists of one year in New York and a year in Shanghai. Students who enter the program with an accredited undergraduate degree in social work attain advanced standing, allowing completion of 32 hours of coursework in one year. For working professionals, there's a 32-month program with classes on nights and weekends. Four dual graduate degrees are offered with the social work master's: child development, public health, law, and public administration.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $42,888

 

#27 – University of Texas at Austin 

Master of Science in Social Work (MSSW)

Austin, TX
Website

The University of Texas at Austin has a total enrollment of more than 51,000 students and a postgraduate enrollment of more than 11,000. It is the flagship campus of the University of Texas system. U.S. News & World Report ranks Texas No. 8 among Best Social Work Programs and No. 48 on its overall list of best universities and colleges. The publication also rated it No. 15 among Top Public Schools. The Master of Science in Social Work (MSSW) is issued through the Steve Hicks School of Social Work. The complete, traditional program calls for 60 credit hours and has two concentrations: administration and policy practices; and clinical social work. Curriculum lengths for finishing the degree range from two years to 3.5 years. Students who earned an accredited bachelor's degree in social work can bypass core courses and finish the master's in three to five semesters. The required fieldwork for the degree can be done in international locales. There are dual degrees available with Latin American studies, business administration, divinity, public health, public affairs, and law.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $11,742 / $22,564

 

#26 – University of Pennsylvania 

Master of Social Work

Philadelphia, PA
Website

The University of Pennsylvania, commonly known as Penn, is an Ivy League school founded by Benjamin Franklin. U.S. News & World Report ranks Penn No. 8 among all national universities. The university also ranks No. 10 among Best Social Work Programs and No. 12 among Top Value Schools. Penn has a total enrollment of about 21,000, including a postgraduate student body of about 11,000. Penn's Master of Social Work degree, offered through the School of Social Policy and Practice (known on campus as SP2), has features such as small classes (20 to 25 students), a variety of opportunities for dual graduate degrees, and options to study abroad. Students in the program can choose to do a full-time path of study, which can wrap up the degree in two years, or a part-time path, which takes three years to complete. There is also the Employed Practitioners/Reduced Residency program designed for social work professionals who can do coursework part-time; the program lasts three years. Finally, there is advanced standing, a one-year program for full-time students who have an accredited bachelor's degree in social work. Students do two semesters of field placement for the full program or one semester for advanced placement.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $34,882

 

#25 – Rutgers University-New Brunswick 

Master of Social Work (MSW)

New Brunswick, NJ
Website

Rutgers University-New Brunswick is the most established of New Jersey's three Rutgers campuses. U.S. News & World Report places Rutgers-New Brunswick at No. 17 among Best Social Work Programs. The publication also deemed it No. 17 among Top Public Schools. Rutgers-New Brunswick, a public institution located along the Raritan River, has a total enrollment of about 41,000 and a postgraduate student body of about 8,500. The Master of Social Work (MSW) program offers six specializations: children, youth, and families; mental and behavioral health; social policy; international social work; health emphasis; and LISTA (Latino/a Initiatives for Service, Training, and Assessment). Master's students also can take advantage of certifications in aging and health, addiction counselor training, violence against women and children, and promoting child and adolescent well-being. Dual degree programs are available for the social work master's plus a law degree or a master of divinity.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $17,232 / $29,304

 

#24 – Fordham University 

Master of Social Work

Bronx, NY
Website

Fordham University is a private, Jesuit-affiliated university. It is named after the Bronx neighborhood where the campus is located. Fordham has a total enrollment of 15,500 and a postgraduate student body of about 6,300. U.S. News & World Report ranks Fordham No. 25 among Best Social Work Programs. The Master of Social Work degree is offered by the Graduate School of Social Service. Students can choose among three campuses for classwork: Lincoln Center, Westchester, and Long Island. There is a two-year, full-time path to the degree, which consists of 48 credit hours of classwork and 18 credits of field-placement work. Students better suited to part-time study can do the same coursework in a three-year schedule. Students who have an undergraduate degree in social work can forego a year of core classes and one semester of fieldwork, allowing completion of the master's degree in a year. 

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $33,696

 

#23 – Florida State University 

Master of Social Work

Tallahassee, FL
Website

Florida State University is No. 99 on U.S. News & World Report's list of Best Value Schools. The publication also ranked it No. 26 among Top Public Schools. Florida State has a total enrollment of about 42,000, which includes about 9,000 postgraduate students. The regular, full-time coursework for the Master of Social Work consists of 61 semester credit hours and can be completed in five semesters, or about two years. Courses begin in August. Students who have earned a bachelor's degree in social work can take the advanced standing option, which can be completed in a year with 39 credit hours of coursework. The Tallahassee campus offers evening classes for students who need to study part-time. Students must choose between a concentration of Clinical Social Work or Social Work Leadership. The university helps students make arrangements for the required field placements. Dual degrees are available for business administration, law, public administration, and criminology/social justice.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $9,684 / $24,116

 

#22 – University of Texas at Arlington 

Master of Social Work

Arlington, TX
Website

The University of Texas at Arlington is a public institution and the fourth-largest university in Texas. UT-Arlington, or UTA, has a total enrollment of 42,000 and a postgraduate enrollment of about 12,000. The Master of Social Work program can be taken on campus as part of a cohort or as an individual student who takes classes at his or her own pace. The regular curriculum consists of 61 credit hours. Cohorts start each fall and the degree can be completed in about two years. Students who have earned a bachelor's in social science in the last six years with a minimum 3.0 GPA can take the advanced standing path, which can lead to a master's degree in 14 months. Master's students can specialize in Mental Health and Substance Abuse; Children and Families; Aging; Health; and Community and Administrative Practice. Applicants must provide three letters of recommendation and a statement about social work that follows these guidelines.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $7,898 / $18,996

 

#21 – Tulane University 

Master's Degree in Social Work 

New Orlean, LA

Website

Tulane University's main campus in uptown New Orleans is on the National Register of Historic Places. Tulane's Master's Degree in Social Work program strives to provide a strong education in "clinical-community" social service. Students are prepared to provide the level of service they envision in their professional careers, such as for individuals, families, groups, communities, or organizations. The program covers 60 semester credit hours of classwork and field study. There is a full-time, 16-month program that spans four semesters: fall, spring, summer, and one more fall. There is also a part-time program that lasts eight semesters, including two summer sessions. An undergraduate degree with a strong liberal arts aspect is required for master's applicants. Those who earned an accredited bachelor's in social work can enter advanced standing, which allows the student to forego core coursework and complete the degree in three semesters. There are joint-degree options with Tulane's School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine (MSW/MPH), the university's law school (MSW/JD), and Disaster Resilience Leadership Studies (DRLS). MSW applicants must have a GPA of at least 3.0 in undergraduate work and must supply a personal essay, two recommendation letters, and a resume.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $52,856

 

#20 – University of Pittsburgh 

Master of Social Work (MSW)

Pittsburgh, PA
Website

The University of Pittsburgh, a public institution, is located in the city's historic Oakland neighborhood. The campus landmark is the 42-story Cathedral of Learning, the second-tallest building on a university campus in the world. Pitt has a total enrollment of more than 28,000 and a postgraduate enrollment of about 9,500. U.S. News & World Report ranks Pitt No. 30 among Top Social Work Programs. When students enter the Master of Social Work program, they are asked to choose a specialization: Direct Practice with Individuals, Families, and Small Groups; or Community, Organization, and Social Action. The master's degree consists of 60 credit hours – 42 credits of classwork and 18 credits in field experience. An undergraduate degree with a strong liberal arts foundation is required to enter the MSW program. Students who can study full time – 12 to 15 credit hours a semester – can complete the degree in two years. Students who need to study part-time can finish the master's in three years or more. Students can complete the MSW in a year if they have an undergraduate degree in social work from an accredited institution.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $22,846 / $38,736

 

#19 – University of Minnesota-Twin Cities 

Master of Social Work

Minneapolis, MN
Website

The University of Minnesota is a public research institution with a total enrollment of about 47,000. Minnesota has two campuses, one in St. Paul and the other in Minneapolis, about three miles apart. U.S. News & World Report places Minnesota-Twin Cities No. 86 on its Best Value Schools ranking. The publication also rated it No. 30 among Top Public Schools. The School of Social Work, which is in the College of Education and Human Development, is on the St. Paul campus. Applicants to the traditional, full program must have earned a bachelor's degree with a strong liberal arts background; students who earned a social work bachelor's degree within seven years can take the advanced standing path, which foregoes core courses. Students choose among four specializations: Community Practice; Families and Children; Clinical Mental Health; and Health, Disability, and Aging. Applicants to the master's program should have at least a year of human-services experience. The university will take into account writing ability, the potential for leadership and advocacy, and an effective combination of ethics and values. Students can pursue dual master's degrees in Public Health, Public Policy, and Urban and Regional Planning.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $17,064 / $26,412

 

#18 – Case Western Reserve University 

Master of Social Work

Cleveland, OH
Website

Case Western Reserve University, a private institution, is located about five miles from downtown Cleveland. Case Western enrolls about 11,800 students, of whom about 6,600 are pursuing postgraduate studies. U.S. News & World Report ranks Case Western No. 42 among all national universities. The university also ranks No. 9 among Best Social Work Programs and No. 42 among Best Value Schools. The Master of Social Work is offered through the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences. The full program consists of 60 credit hours. Applicants with an undergraduate degree in social work can take the advanced standing path, which entails 36 credit hours and can be finished in a year. There is also a program for social work professionals in which classes and other study are scheduled for one weekend a month. Students can pursue several areas of interest: aging; children, youth, and families; community work for social change; mental health; service in schools; and substance abuse and recovery. 

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $45,168

 

#17 – Boston University 

Master of Social Work

Boston, MA
Website

Boston University, a private institution, is located near downtown Boston, across the Charles River from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. U.S. News & World Report ranks BU No. 10 among Best Social Work Programs. The university also places No. 46 among Top Value Schools. BU has a total enrollment of about 34,000, including about 15,000 postgraduate students. Students have several options for approaching the Master of Social Work degree. They can take classes at the Charles River campus or at three off-campus sites. There is also an onsite/online hybrid program available at BU's Worcester campus. All MSW students choose a clinical practice or macro concentration in their studies. Then there are five specializations, available only in on-campus curriculums: children, youth, and families; behavioral health; aging practice, policy, and social justice; trauma and violence; and leadership in group work and human service management. BU has relationships with more than 800 organizations for the fieldwork required for the degree. The full degree calls for 65 credit hours, which can be completed in two years of full-time work. Advanced standing students – those with an undergraduate degree in social work – can earn a master's in a year.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $52,816

 

#16 – University of North Carolina at Charlotte 

MSW Degree

Charlotte, NC
Website

The University of North Carolina at Charlotte has a total enrollment of about 30,000, including about 5,500 postgraduate students. UNC-Charlotte's social work school has a mission statement: "To foster optimal health and well-being, equal human rights, and a just society." The Master of Social Work program consists of 62 graduate credit hours of coursework, and full-time students can wrap it up in two years. Students who prefer to take courses at a slower pace can complete the degree in three years. Advanced standing students – those who have earned an accredited bachelor's degree in social work – can complete the degree in three semesters and 41 credit hours. Electives cover subjects that can expand the horizons of a social work degree: criminal justice, elementary education, gerontology, early childhood education, counseling, and special education. Degree applicants must have earned their bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0 The degree should be in a discipline in the liberal arts or liberal sciences, such as sociology, political science, or psychology.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $4,337 / $17,771

 

#15 – Washington University in St. Louis 

Master of Social Work

St. Louis, MO
Website

Though the city is in its name, Washington University in St. Louis, or WashU, is located in unincorporated St. Louis County and the suburb of Clayton. Forest Park and the St. Louis Zoo are within walking distance. WashU has a student enrollment of about 15,000 and a postgraduate enrollment of about 7,400. U.S. News & World Report ranks Washington-St. Louis No. 19 among all national universities. The university also ranks No. 2 among Best Social Work Programs and No. 20 among Best Value Schools. WashU earns its reputation among the nation's social work programs by offering a multitude of paths for classwork and field experience for Brown School's Master of Social Work program. The program's nine concentrations focus on Native American and Alaska natives; children, youth, and families; mental health; social and economic development (domestic or international); and violence and injury prevention. Its six specializations include management, policy, research, and sexual health and education. The full program consists of 60 credits of classwork and field practice. Advanced standing students – those with an accredited undergraduate degree in social work – can earn a master's degree with 44 credits. Applicants to the MSW will be assessed by their commitment to Brown School's mission, along with undergraduate GPA, relevant experience, leadership potential, and other factors.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $52,400

 

#14 – University of Chicago 

SSA Master of Arts

Chicago, IL
Website

The University of Chicago, a private institution, is located in the city's Hyde Park neighborhood. UChicago enrolls about 16,400 students, of whom about 10,100 are postgraduate students. U.S. News & World Report ranks Chicago No. 3 among all national universities. The university also ranks No. 3 among Best Social Work Programs and No. 16 among Top Value Schools. UChicago's School of Social Service Administration offers a SSA Master of Arts program, which the school describes as equal to a master of social work but with a "broader educational and experiential foundation." The goal is to understand larger social issues through people's needs and hardships. Students choose a concentration in clinical work or social administration. A global social development specialization features overseas study in China, Hong Kong, or India. Students can combine the social work master's degree with advanced degrees in public policy, business administration, or divinity. Degree applicants must have an undergraduate degree featuring a strong background in humanities, social sciences, and physical sciences or math.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $57,759

 

#13 – Ohio State University 

Master of Social Work

Columbus, OH
Website

The Ohio State University provides the quintessential big-school experience. It has an enrollment of more than 66,000, and is located in a classic college town. Ohio State is well-known for its Buckeyes sports programs, but the university also has a robust resume in academics. U.S News & World Report places Ohio State No. 13 among Best Social Work Programs and No. 56 in its overall university ranking. The publication also ranked the university No. 17 among Top Public Schools. Ohio State's Master of Social Work program begins each fall semester and can be completed in two years if classes are taken full-time. Students who take classes at a part-time pace can wrap up the degree in three to four years. There are 63 credit hours of coursework. There are several emphasis areas that will inform the classes a student takes, such as Child and Youth Services, Aging and Health, Mental Health and Substance Misuse, and Community and Social Justice. Program applicants must have an accredited bachelor's degree earned with a GPA of at least 3.0. The bachelor's degree should include at least 10 credit hours in social sciences. Applicants who achieved a bachelor's in social science within five years qualify for advanced standing, which consists of 43 credit hours, starts in the summer, and can be completed in three semesters. The required fieldwork for an MSW calls for about 900 hours for the regular degree and about 670 hours for advanced standing. Application requirements include a 3.0 GPA in all previous coursework, three letters of recommendation, a resume or CV, and a personal statement (here are guidelines for what the statement should include).

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $11,560 / $34,064

 

#12 – California State University-Long Beach 

Master of Social Work (MSW)

Long Beach, CA
Website

California State University-Long Beach is most commonly known as Long Beach State, or simply The Beach. It is the most-applied-to campus in the California State University system. Considering the university's proximity to Pacific Ocean beaches, that's not surprising. Long Beach State has a total enrollment of more than 37,700, which includes a postgraduate enrollment of about 5,500. The Master of Social Work (MSW) degree calls for 60 semester credit hours and can be completed in two years (full-time pace) or three years (part-time). There are three specializations: Adulthood and Aging, Child and Family Well-being, and Integrated Health. Students are required to perform two field placements, each during a semester, at an agency in the Long Beach area. A total of least 1,000 total clock hours are required. MSW admission has two steps: application to the full university, and a separate submission to the School of Social Work. All master's applicants must have an accredited bachelor's degree earned with a GPA of 2.5 or better. Students with a social work bachelor's, however, must meet a 3.0 GPA requirement. These students can do the master's in advanced standing, which can complete the degree in a year.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $7,176 / $16,680

 

#11 – CUNY Lehman College 

Master's of Social Work (MSW)

Bronx, NY
Website

CUNY Lehman College is a campus in the City University of New York system. It has a total enrollment of about 12,000 and a postgraduate student body of about 2,000. Note to sports fans: it's about a one-hour walk (or 15-minute Uber ride) from Lehman College to Yankee Stadium. Lehman College provides three paths to its Master's of Social Work (MSW) degree. A two-year program uses cohorts. Participants take two night classes each week and do required field placements during the day. Students are required to put in 600 clock hours of fieldwork each academic year. Lehman also offers a three-year program that doesn't employ cohorts. This approach stretches the first year of coursework in the previous path across two years. The student then takes on a full-time load in the final year. The third approach is via advanced standing for students who have an accredited social work bachelor's degree. This path calls for 600 clock hours of field placement and can be completed in a year. All degree applicants have earned a bachelor's degree. If it isn't in social work, it must contain at least 45 credit hours of courses in liberal arts. An undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0 is recommended.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $10,770 / $19,920

 

#10 – Boston College 

MSW Program

Boston, MA

Website

Boston College, a private Jesuit university, boasts a hilltop campus about six miles west of downtown Boston. BC has a total enrollment of about 14,400, which includes about 4,600 postgraduate students. U.S. News & World Report ranks BC No. 38 among all national universities. The university also ranks No. 10 among Best Social Work Programs and No. 33 among Top Value Schools. Boston College's School of Social Work offers the Master of Social Work program. Students can choose a two-year curriculum that favors full-time study, or a three-year curriculum for those who need or prefer a part-time pace. Like many social work degrees, students choose coursework that aligns with the type of career they envision. Individualized care vs. administration or advocacy are the two main branches. Then there are specializations such as global-scale service; children, youth, and families; Latino communities; and older adults and families. Half of an MSW program is fieldwork; BC has developed relationships with 1,000 agencies in the Boston area. The School of Social Work also offers three dual-degree programs: MSW plus business administration, law, or theology and ministry.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $29,412

 

#9 – University of Maryland-Baltimore County 

Master of Social Work

City, ST
Website

University of Maryland, Baltimore County is a public university with a total enrollment of about 13,700, including a postgraduate student body of about 2,500. The campus is about 60 miles from Washington, D.C. U.S. News & World Report lists UMBC at No. 17 among Best Social Work Programs. UMBC's Master of Social Work program consists of 60 semester credit hours for the traditional, two-year program. For students who have a bachelor's degree in social work, there is an advanced standing path that foregoes core courses and entails 36 credit hours. Students choose a study path of clinical work or of "macro" service, which aims at administrative or leadership roles, along with social advocacy. There are five areas of course and fieldwork specialization – community action and social policy, aging, behavioral health, families and children, and health. There also are two sub-specializations – child, adolescent, and family health; and employee assistance programs. Master's of Social Work students can pursue dual degrees in Jewish education and communal service, public health, public policy, law, and business administration.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $11,520 / $19,782

 

#8 – University of Washington 

Master of Social Work

Seattle, WA
Website

University of Washington has one of the strongest academic reputations among institutions in the Pacific Northwest. The university along the shores of Puget Sound is ranked No. 59 among all universities and colleges by U.S. News & World Report. The publication also places the university No. 20 among Top Public Schools. UW has a total enrollment of about 48,000 and a postgraduate enrollment of about 15,000. The on-campus, full-time Master of Social Work program can be completed in two years. There is a three-year, extended-degree program for students who need to take classes on a part-time schedule. Most classes meet on evenings and weekends. Applicants to the MSW program must have earned a bachelor's degree from an accredited school, and the degree must have a strong dose of liberal arts coursework. Incoming students with a social work bachelor's degree, earned with a 3.0 GPA or better, can take the degree in advanced standing, which means core classes can be skipped. An advanced standing master's can be completed in a year. Advanced-standing applicants who have at least 2,000 hours in volunteer or professional social service will receive stronger consideration.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $15,510 / $27,801

 

#7 – University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 

Master of Social Work

Champaign, IL
Website

University of Illinois is a public research institution in the twin cities of Urbana and Champaign. The campus has an overall enrollment of about 50,000, including about 16,000 postgraduate students 15,600. U.S. News & News Report gives UI a No. 13 ranking among Top Public Schools. Graduates of UI's Master of Social Work program have a 96% employment rate, according to the university. Students choose from two concentration areas: Leadership and Social Change, and Advanced Clinical. Within Advanced Clinical, there are four areas of focus: Children, Youth and Family Services; Mental Health; Health Care; and Schools. Applicants who have received a social science bachelor's degree in the last seven years can take the advanced standing path, which includes nine courses and one semester of supervised field placement. Advanced standing students can earn the degree in a year. Those with a bachelor's in any other field – and a bachelor's degree is required to enter the master's program – need to complete 14 courses and two semesters of fieldwork. Fieldwork will be chosen to match the student's area of concentration. The fieldwork time requirement is 960 clock hours over two semesters and 500 hours over one semester.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $15,068 / $28,221

 

#6 – University of Southern California 

Master of Social Work

Los Angeles, CA
Website

University of Southern California, or USC, is a private school located near downtown Los Angeles. It is well known for its Trojan athletic program and its links to the Hollywood entertainment industry, largely through its School of Cinematic Arts. U.S. News & World Report ranks USC No. 22 among all national universities. The university also ranks No. 25 among Best Social Work Programs and No. 37 among Top Value Schools. USC has a total enrollment of more than 45,600, including about 26,500 postgraduate students. The Master of Social Work degree, offered through the Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, offers four-semester, six-semester, and eight-semester curriculums that fit a student's needs and level of preparation. According to the school, a recently fine-tuned overall curriculum puts a stronger emphasis on science and leadership. Studies are organized into three areas: Adult Mental Health and Wellness; Children, Youth, and Families; and Social Change and Innovation. There is also a special track for working with active-duty military members and veterans. MSW students can study abroad in locations such as Brazil, South Africa, and Australia.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $44,712

 

#5 – University of Wisconsin-Madison 

Master of Social Work

Madison, WI
Website

University of Wisconsin alongside Madison College have a reputation for being a classic university-college town combination. U.S. News & World Report places Wisconsin No. 13 among Best Social Work Programs. The publication also ranks Wisconsin No. 15 among Top Public Schools. The university has a total enrollment of about 45,000 and a postgraduate student body of about 14,000. The School of Social Work at Wisconsin offers the Master of Social Work, which the university says employs a unique approach to the fieldwork requirement that's the centerpiece of all social work academic studies. The school organizes students into field units that are based on a specific problem, practice field, or population in social services. Each field unit has a selection of agencies and fieldwork placements that conform to the student's emphasis area. Students with a social work bachelor's degree can complete the master's program in a year. Students with a bachelor's in any other area can take a full-time path that calls for about two years of coursework, or a part-time path that takes about three years. 

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $10,728 / $24,054

 

#4 – University of Michigan 

Master of Social Work

Ann Arbor, MI
Website

Michigan earned the top ranking from U.S. News & World Report on its list of Best Social Work Programs, in addition to a No. 47 ranking among Best Value Schools and a No. 27 posting among all colleges and universities. The publication also rated Michigan No. 4 among Top Public Schools. The home of the Wolverines has an overall enrollment of about 49,000 and a postgraduate enrollment of around 16,000. Matching its high regard, Michigan's Master of Social Work program is loaded with options in terms of courses of study. Master's students pick from among nine concentration areas, ranging from community organization to global service to interpersonal practice. Master's students also can incorporate 27 months of service in the Peace Corps into their coursework. Conversely, Peace Corps veterans can earn credit toward Michigan's master's degree. There are six listed opportunities for dual degrees, ranging from law to urban planning to business administration. Students who enter the program with an accredited social work bachelor's degree can cut the required courseload from 60 credit hours to 45.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $23,128 / $46,678

 

#3 – University of California-Berkeley 

Master of Social Welfare (MSW)

Berkeley, CA
Website

University of California-Berkeley, commonly known as UC-Berkeley or Cal, is considered the flagship institution among the 10 research universities in the University of California system. U.S. News & World Report ranks UC-Berkeley No. 3 among Best Social Work Programs and No. 3 among Best Global Universities. It also checks in at No. 14 on Forbes' list of America's Top Colleges. UC-Berkeley has a total enrollment of about 42,500, including a postgraduate enrollment of about 11,600. The Master of Social Work degree is conferred by the university's School of Social Welfare. Students must take a minimum of 54 semester credits in a two-year coursework plan. Those include 25 credits in two internships in agencies in the San Francisco Bay Area. At the start of the program, MSW students choose one of three specializations: Advancing Health and Well-being Across the Adult Lifespan; Strengthening Children, Youth and Families; and Strengthening Organizations and Communities. The specializations inform the classes and field placements the students will experience. Special curriculums include a "flex" three-year schedule for part-time students and a one-year advanced standing for students who earned an undergraduate degree in social work. The minimum requirements for application to UC-Berkeley's program is a bachelor's degree and some experience in social welfare or human services. MSW students can earn concurrent advanced degrees in public health and public policy.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $11,442 / $26,544

 

#2 – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 

Master of Social Work

Chapel Hill, NC
Website

University of North Carolina's Chapel Hill campus is the flagship of the University of North Carolina system. And North Carolina has an academic reputation that matches that status. U.S. News & World Report ranks UNC No. 3 among Best Social Work Programs, No. 8 on its list of Best Value Schools, and No. 30 overall on among all universities and colleges. The publication also ranked North Carolina No. 5 among Top Public Schools. North Carolina has a total enrollment of about 29,000, including a postgraduate enrollment of about 11,000. The two-year Master of Social Work program urges students to focus on one of two career paths: direct practice, which deals with individuals, families, and communities in their economic or social environment; or community, management, and policy, which focuses on "macro" social work, namely advocacy, leadership, and administration. The full program is comprised of 62 semester credit hours of coursework. Applicants who have earned a bachelor's degree in social work can forego core courses and complete the master's with 40 credit hours. Each semester, master's students are placed into over 250 agencies in the region for the degree's fieldwork requirements.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $10,243 / $27,454

 

#1 – Columbia University in the City of New York 

MSW Program

New York, NY
Website

It's formal name is Columbia University in the City of New York, but it is best known simply as Columbia, a private, Ivy League school near Upper Manhattan. There are about 33,000 students at Columbia, roughly 24,000 of which are pursuing postgraduate studies. U.S. News & World Report ranks Columbia No. 3 among all national universities. The university also ranks No. 3 among Best Social Work Programs and No. 5 among Top Value Schools. It is one of the most exclusive universities in the U.S.; its 5.5% acceptance rate in 2018 ranks Columbia behind only Stanford and Harvard in exclusivity. The university's MSW Program emphasizes rigor and options. For instance, in the fieldwork requirement, students work at their selected agency three days a week – one day more than the minimum for an accredited social work program. And once students complete the first, foundational year of classes and field placement, there are a total of 28 specialization options for the remaining coursework. There are also several schedule designs, ranging from the traditional two-year curriculum to three-year or four-year part-time study, plus opportunities for courses abroad. There are nine advanced dual-degree possibilities, including urban planning and business administration.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $46,216