Obtaining a master’s degree in social work can qualify degree holders for jobs in the field that may not be available to others, but deciding whether to pursue an on campus or online program can be difficult. Use this guide to determine the right fit for you when it comes to choosing a type of master’s program.

Admission Requirements

Online Programs: An undergraduate degree is a must, and many online universities look for applicants with a degree in liberal arts when granting admission to an MSW program.

Campus Programs: A bachelor’s degree is always required prior to beginning a graduate degree program, but not all universities require an undergraduate degree to be in social work.

Costs of Attending

Online Programs: Online MSW programs may be more expensive than traditional programs because of the limited number of universities that offer these programs. Expect to pay a minimum of $15,000 per year.

Campus Programs: Cost varies widely for on campus programs. State schools and other public universities tend to be cheaper, and it may be possible for a student to find a program that costs less than $10,000 per year. However, highly competitive programs may top $30,000 per year.

Financial Aid Availability

Online Programs: If an online MSW program has been accredited, loans that are geared toward graduate students may be available for students who qualify. Scholarships for adult learners may also be available.

Campus Programs: Low-cost student loans and scholarships may be available to students who are attending an accredited on campus university.

Length of Program

Online Programs: It generally takes between two and three years to complete an online MSW degree program.

Campus Programs: Many universities give students the option of taking a full time or part time program on campus. In general, a full time MSW takes two years to complete. A part time MSW can take up to four years to complete.


Online Programs: Courses focus on providing the community with social support services, completing clinical work and researching social work issues. Internships may be possible.

Campus Programs: On campus classes related to social work at the graduate level will focus on theory, research and clinical work in order to prepare students for their chosen career.


Online Programs: Students must have a great deal of self discipline in order to complete an online degree program. Graduate programs in social work involve difficult course material, and students are expected to lead their own academic experience when a degree is completed online.

Campus Programs: A benefit of on campus degree programs is that faculty members are available in person to discuss any issues that students may be having with the material. Faculty members are also able to provide students with a rigid class schedule to keep them on track.


Online Programs: Students who need flexibility in scheduling their classes because of work or family obligations often benefit from an online program. Flexibility in online programs means that students can complete the program on their own time.

Campus Programs: Universities often only schedule certain classes during the spring or fall semester, so completing a degree must adhere to this schedule.