Accelerated MSW Programs – Get Your Master’s in Social Work Online
Accelerated MSW Programs are now easy to find by anyone who wants to specialize in helping others and getting your Master’s in Social Work online can help you launch your career faster!
People who become social workers are compassionate, understanding and care about the world and people around them.
A career in social work can be challenging, yet extremely rewarding and satisfying. U.S. News ranked social work in its top 10 of the best social service careers.
Types of Accelerated MSW Programs
Some social work programs offer a Master of Science in Social Work while others offer a Master of Social Work. There may be slight variations in terms of general requirements, but they are not markedly different and prepare you for the same careers and graduate school opportunities. Most of the time, the difference is simply a naming choice by the institution.
Social work offers a wide array of specializations, each one designed to take your career in different directions. Click on an area you’re interested in to jump to that section.
- MSW – General
- MSW – Advanced Clinical Social Work Practice
- MSW – Advanced Generalist Practice and Programming
- MSW – Aging
- MSW – Child, Youth, and Family
- MSW – Health
- MSW – Human Services Management
- MSW – Mental Health
- MSW – Organizational Leadership and Policy Practice
- MSW – Social Policy and Evaluation
- MSW – Substance Abuse
The information below will show you more about the available avenues and concentrations currently offered.
Master’s of Social Work – General
Sometimes, becoming a Master of your chosen field doesn’t necessarily entail limiting yourself to a niche field. Choosing a general concentration for your Accelerated MSW program will cover all the bases.
It will also provide you with a solid foundation to deal with people of all ages and social extracts. Finally, it will cover all the fundamental knowledge to conduct research from an anthropological, economic, psychological, and sociological perspective.
This program is remarkably useful for anyone who wishes to pursue a career in government, where positions and future priorities are hard to predict but where higher education will be demanded of anyone who wishes to advance into a decision-making post.
Master’s of Social Work – Advanced Clinical Social Work Practice
A concentration in Advanced Clinical Practice will serve anyone who wishes to merge social causes with healthcare workers, or who has prior experience helping people within a hospital setting.
This specialization will enable you to polish your clinical knowledge and to better liaise with therapists and doctors to better help their patients.
These programs place a special emphasis on designing and implementing viable care plans, as well as coordinating multidisciplinary intervention that can uplift an entire family.
They are ideal for social workers who are comfortable with clinical environments, who have a special passion for expanding healthcare access, or who wish to examine social initiatives from a health promotion perspective.
Master’s of Social Work – Advanced Generalist Practice and Programming
An advanced generalist practice program takes a prospective professional a step further than a general program or one without a concentration.
They offer a more in-depth focus on clinical practice and project design without closing on other avenues for professional development. Therefore, their curriculum offers extensive training on both clinical and macro interventions.
While any Social Work graduate is likely to wish to change their society for the better, an Advanced Generalist Practice and Program specialization will provide them with better tools to work with families, communities, and individuals alike.
They offer a well-rounded specialization for anyone who wishes to work for non-profit companies or government agencies. Avenues for further study are almost always still open, either through electives or a PhD.
Master’s of Social Work – Aging
If you wish to focus your future Social Work Career on Aging and its related issues, you can now find your own specialty niche. This will allow you to learn and focus your research on the social ills that affect different age groups, in particular the elderly.
In our current demographic climate, this is one of the social work specializations that offers the biggest room for growth.
The curriculum combines a foundation on the clinical aspects of dealing with elderly populations, as well as a deeper understanding of the available programs and avenues for help. This will allow you to advocate for your clients more efficiently, predicting their current needs as well as the future ones.
Master’s of Social Work – Child, Youth and Family
Many people across a variety of professions find that working with children and adolescents is especially rewarding, although also remarkably difficult. For social workers, specializing in Child and Youth issues offers a unique opportunity to impact future society with your everyday work.
With a concentration on Child, Youth, and Family, you will learn how to help children from unstable environments, who suffer from chronic illnesses that jeopardize their economic future, or who were born to families where the primary caretaker is temporarily absent.
This avenue of work is psychologically demanding, and will also require good team working skills. However, you will be able to coordinate different levels of care that will provide these children with healthy outlets, prevent their future incarceration, and preserve their chances of higher education.
Master’s of Social Work – Health
One of the most sought-after avenues for professional development in this field is medical social work. If you are interested in developing your career within a hospital group, insurance provider, or Health care regulatory agency, this specialty will open countless new positions and opportunities.
In a clinical setting, a social worker can provide valuable support to patients dealing with catastrophic diagnosis, as well as their families. Many specialize with specific groups, such as donor recipients, chronically-ill people, home-care service coordination, or occupational health.
Either way, this kind of program will teach you how to better coordinate with nurses, doctors, allied therapists, and the healthcare system itself. This requires empathetic, yet assertive professionals who are comfortable around medical wards and bodily fluids.
Master’s of Social Work – Human Services Management
Most of us enter the social work field thinking directly of the people whose lives we could affect. However, the task of maintaining the corporate structures and offices that make this work possible often gets overlooked.
For those who wish to become the enablers of social change, rather than the movers and shakers themselves, a concentration in Human Services Management can be a smart choice.
These programs often allow students to pursue the same core courses required for a general MSW program. In addition, they include practical seminars on labor legislation, community organization, and social administration management.
Many programs also include special electives meant to increase success when seeking grant-based funding or writing development plans.
Master’s of Social Work – Mental Health
Completing an MSW program with a focus on Mental Health will enable you to operate as a specialist psychiatric social worker. This is a relatively new profession that has quickly gained traction thanks to ongoing legislative changes and a newfound emphasis on the importance of mental health.
On a daily basis, a psychiatric social worker helps support the funding, recovery, and social reinsertion of people affected by mental health conditions. Traditionally, this has been focused on services for major psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
However, new niches are opening in this field to help patients secure funding for residential treatment, coordinate multidisciplinary care teams, or even to work with special populations like abuse victims, war veterans, and those in hospice care.
This can be a very rewarding field for people with a special commitment towards mental health issues, or who seek to work close to the healthcare system without physical involvement.
Master’s of Social Work – Organizational Leadership and Policy Practice
Focusing your Accelerated MSW on Organizational Leadership and Policy Practice will allow you to work with communities and policymakers alike in order to change the deep structures behind social justice and equality across our country.
This specialization takes a step back from working on a case-by-case basis or from dealing with people. Instead, it will offer you the tools to redesign the availability of social programs in your area, to perfect the way aid is delivered, and to implement new policies to protect vulnerable populations.
It will also provide you with a solid foundation in internal politics. Therefore, this program can also be valuable for those seeking to protect the well-being of the members of a large company or government organization.
Master’s of Social Work – Social Policy and Evaluation
Social policy and evaluation devote itself to assessing the ways social policy is implemented, with the hopes of adapting it and perfecting the way it’s delivered.
In our data-based society, this is now a necessary task across all fields in public administration – and social work and care agencies are no exception to this trend.
If you are looking to specialize in social policy and evaluation, you will gain the knowledge and techniques needed to improve equality levels in a sustainable, efficient way.
You will perfect the organizational skills that need to be followed by non-profit agencies in order to ensure each dollar is spent aiding others. In addition, some basic knowledge of administration will allow you to suggest improvements and monitor their impact at a local and national level.
Social policy and evaluation are closely linked with data analysis and public expenditure management. All three fields offer exciting opportunities for driven professionals who wish to change to continue happening beyond their daily tasks.
Master’s of Social Work – Substance Abuse
As a social worker who specializes in substance abuse, you will learn the evidence-based therapeutic techniques needed to help recovering addicts and their families.
Such a program will also allow you to coordinate funding to help people who are experiencing acute substance withdrawal, or who need immediate admission to a highly-supervised program.
You can also help patients in their long-term recovery by providing them with the tools needed to build back their lives, as well as look after the needs of close family members and dependents who may also be affected.
In the wake of today’s current opiate crisis and of a newfound understanding of the chemical processes behind addiction, an Accelerated MSW program in social work will enable you to minimize and control the different kinds of repercussions that substance abuse has on society.
Accelerated MSW Programs Overview
Social workers counsel children, families, and adults during difficult times in their lives. Poverty, abuse and violence, mental health struggles, and other trials are what social workers specialize in helping others through.
A career as a social worker is likely to be stressful and demanding, but knowing that you’re making the world better through your career is satisfying enough for many people to pursue social work as their degree of choice.
Because social work presents its own unique set of problems, it is recommended that you obtain a bachelor’s degree in social work in order to become a licensed social worker.
There are also a few related degrees, like psychology degrees, which may be accepted in the field or as entry into graduate programs in social work, but a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) is preferred.
If you’re starting from the beginning and don’t currently hold a related degree, it’s a good idea to start researching programs that offer a BSW so you can have the best opportunity to start your career as a social worker immediately after completing your degree.
After your bachelor’s degree, here are some of the topics you’ll study in your master’s level classes:
- Human Behavior
- Social Policy
- Research Methods and Practices
- The Practice of Social Work
- Social Welfare
- Diversity and Discrimination
- Family and Children Social Work
Some programs offer the opportunity to specialize or concentrate in a specific area, like family and child studies, but you’ll generally be trained to become a social worker in a variety of settings, including schools, hospitals, and even private homes. If you choose to further specialize, you’ll have to go to graduate school to do so.
In most social work programs, the last major hurdle is hands-on experience through a fieldwork requirement. This means that you’ll be required to complete a practicum component of your degree in which you clock a certain number of hours out in the field.
Your fieldwork requirement will vary depending on your institution, program and personal interests. You may have the opportunity to work in a school with children or you may be assigned to counsel people in a hospital or hospice setting.
Many programs encourage fieldwork that helps those who are disadvantaged because of minority status, socioeconomic class or physical disability.
Essentially, you’ll get to experience what it will be like to act as a social worker day in and day out. This is your opportunity to determine if a bachelor’s degree in social work is the right fit and choice for you.
You usually have to wait until the end of your program to complete this requirement, as you’ll need the skills and knowledge you’ll have learned through your coursework to competently navigate the field and ethically and responsibly interact with people in the community.
Work Outlook for MSW Graduates
Despite our higher-than-ever inequality rates (or perhaps precisely because of them), the labor market appears promising for people holding a Master’s of Social Work.
The breakdown below will provide you with a quick picture of the social work scene.
|Job Title/Specialty||Job Outlook (in 10 years)||Average Annual Salary|
|Licensed clinical social worker||+11%||$76,864|
|School social worker||+10%||$67,491|
|Social service manager||+13%||$65,320|
|Healthcare social worker||+11%||$53,760|
|Substance abuse case worker||+22%||$42,700|
The exact figures vary depending on the specialty chosen, the state, and the years of experience. However, the overall trend appears to be positive. Most professions related to social work appear to be expanding, and provide solid middle-class earnings.
Social Work Licensure
It’s important to note that not all programs will prepare you for social work licensure and that each state has its own set of requirements to become licensed. Most states will only allow you to apply for licensure if you’ve obtained your degree from an accredited institution.
The required accreditation agency varies by state, so make sure to research the requirements for the state in which you plan to work.
Some of them, for example, require national accreditation (by the Council on Social Work Education, for example), while some require or accept regional accreditation (by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, for example).
Many states give options for accrediting agencies. Not every state issue licensure for social workers who have completed only a bachelor’s degree in social work. Some states only issue licensure if a master’s or doctoral degree has been earned in social work.
In some instances, a state will grant a provisional license to someone with a bachelor’s degree as long as that person is enrolled in a master’s program and plans to pursue graduate studies in the field.
To become a licensed social worker (LSW), there are multiple steps. Most states require a background or criminal check and fingerprinting. This is essential because of the extent to which many social workers communicate with and counsel children.
An application with a fee payment usually has to be submitted well in advance of sitting for a required exam. Applicants must apply to the state-specific board (like the Pennsylvania State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors in the state of Pennsylvania) in order to sit for the test.
Be prepared to pay a hefty fee for the test ($200+) and a small fee (around $25) to apply for licensure. In many cases, the test can be taken while still completing your degree.
More advanced licensure can also be granted if additional requirements are met. To become a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), applicants must meet the minimum course and field hour requirements. Another exam will have to be applied for and passed before this license is granted and additional fees apply.
It can’t be stressed enough that requirements vary state by state, so it’s essential that you research each state in which you plan to practice in order to determine your best plan of action.
Why Earn your MSW Through an Online Accelerated Program?
Acquiring a Master’s Degree in Social Work can provide you with a significant boost in your career, both were job opportunities, and salaries are involved. However, this doesn’t erase the fact that any Master’s program is a significant investment.
Besides tuition, there are costs attached to the opportunity (or the hours not worked while pursuing the degree), as well as to commuting to class, textbooks, and even relocation expenses if you live away from school.
People pursuing an Online-based accelerated program have a legs-up when it comes to facing the initial price tag. On average, online programs tend to be cheaper than in-person ones.
Naturally, this is rapidly changing, as the prestige offered by Online MSW programs can now easily match traditional ones. Nevertheless, an online degree will offer you the opportunity to continue living and working where you are.
This can be especially productive if you are pursuing a degree at a city-based school, where living costs tend to be significantly higher.
Online programs also tend to offer more flexibility when it comes to scheduling. The ability to take classes and to study from home, even at late hours of the night, is especially valuable if you are a shift worker or if you have pre-existing family obligations.
This is why long-distance programs are often considered a great “equalizer of opportunities,” especially for adult or non-traditional learners.
Accreditation for Accelerated Online Master’s of Social Work Programs
Whenever an industry expands quickly, it becomes significantly harder for the average consumer to know exactly what they’re buying. Education is no exception to this.
One of the best ways to ensure an educational program will provide you with competitive, evidence-based knowledge is to check its accreditation. This is a process done by a third-party organization that is meant to ensure that an academic institution meets certain minimum quality standards.
For the Master’s of Social Work, there are two main types of accreditation you ought to look out for.
- Regional accreditation. Historically, regional accreditation has been the to-go process followed by top-rated schools around the country. Many regional agencies, such as the Higher Learning Commission, offer its schools simplified processes for credit transfers. Employers across almost every industry in the United States tend to look for regional accreditation first.
- The Council on Social Work Education. This is a nation-wide organization that specializes in quality control for Social Work programs. It encompasses over 750 programs, both at a Bachelor’s and a Master’s level. Because they are recognized as specialists, many non-profit companies and government agencies rely on the CSWE when hiring social workers specifically.
Ensure that your school is regionally accredited, and if the MSW program is also accredited by the CSWE, all the better.
Financial Aid for MSW Students
You’ll want to start your search for financial aid in the same place you started when earning your undergrad: the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You probably still qualify for grants and loans from the government.
You can also explore the following avenues:
- State funding. Though typically less than the federal government offers, it can be worth looking into funds your state has set aside to help residents earn a higher education.
- Private scholarships. Although fewer, Master’s scholarships also tend to attract less competition. For Social Work Programs, there are several options that cater to specific populations (such as African Americans or Latinos) or to people pursuing specific career paths. The National Association of Social Workers and the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships both offer such scholarships.
- Regional Societies for Clinical Social Work. In certain states, such as California and Colorado, the local Societies for Clinical Social Work offer bursaries and grants to prospective students. Each one has different standards and requirements before applying.
You can also ask your employer if they’d be willing to sponsor you getting your MSW.
Questions Related to Earning an MSW
Do you still have doubts? The following are just some of the most commonly asked questions regarding Master’s of Social Work Online Programs
What Is an MSW Program?
An MSW, or Master’s of Social Work, is a graduate-level course of study that is meant to prepare students to either work independently as social workers, caseworkers, or counselors.
It can also provide a start for those who are interested in conducting research or in pursuing a career in academia. Most PhD programs in Social Work require prior completion of an MSW.
How Long Is an MSW Program?
Just like most programs at a Master’s degree, a standard MSW program is designed to take approximately two years to complete. This usually encompasses between 60 and 90 credit hours. Some programs also require a certain number of clinical practice hours.
The time required to complete an MSW may vary depending on the student and the type of program. A full-time student enrolled in an Accelerated program may complete it in a year or three semesters, especially if they have been awarded credits for work experience.
Part-time programs may take between three and six years.
Which MSW Program Is the Best?
It is very hard to determine an absolute-best program around the country. The best programs will be those that have received accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education. This accreditation guarantees that the education you will receive is up to the highest standards.
Is MSW a Good Degree?
Yes, an MSW is a good degree for those in the social work field. A Master’s of Social Work is rarely the choice for those who want to enter a fast-track towards riches.
However, if you are a justice-minded person who wants to help people around your community, or if you have a lifelong passion for caring and transforming lives, then an MSW program may be your best bet.
While we rarely need a fancy degree to be kind or to help others, an MSW degree will provide you with the knowledge and connections to make a lasting impact.
Whether you want to provide holistic care to vulnerable senior citizens or redesign the available services for at-risk children at a state level, an MSW will give you the engine to fuel your own engine of change.