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2020 Best Online Master's in Social Work Degree Programs

By the GradReports team | Updated 4/1/2020

We ranked the top 25 colleges that offer an online Master's Degree in Social Work based on median starting salary of graduates. Loma Linda University tops the list with a median starting salary of $57,300 for Master's in Social Work graduates. University of Nevada – Reno has the lowest median student debt on the list, at $17,786. The rest of the schools on the list have median starting salaries in the $45,600-$57,300 range for students who earned a Master's in Social Work.

Tuition, median salaries, and median debt were reported by the U.S. Department of Education in November 2019. View our methodology for more details about these rankings or read more about the top-ranked schools.

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Salary and debt data reported by the U.S. Department of Education
Salary and debt data reported by the U.S. Department of Education
Rank School Location Annual Tuition Median Debt Median Salary
#1 #1 Loma Linda (CA) Loma Linda (CA) $29,372 $61,267 $57,300
#2 #2 San Bernardino (CA) San Bernardino (CA) $17,860 $33,348 $54,700
#3 #3 Arcata (CA) Arcata (CA) $18,613 $26,771 $53,900
#4 #4 Northridge (CA) Northridge (CA) $17,831 $41,000 $53,800
#5 #5 Anchorage (AK) Anchorage (AK) $20,500 $32,646 $51,800
#6 #6 New York (NY) New York (NY) $48,390 $76,985 $50,700
#7 #7 Los Angeles (CA) Los Angeles (CA) $45,561 $115,136 $49,900
#8 #8 Grand Forks (ND) Grand Forks (ND) $23,435 $30,774 $49,000
#9 #9 Reno (NV) Reno (NV) $20,047 $17,786 $48,500
#10 #10 Boston (MA) Boston (MA) $53,572 $50,875 $48,300
#11 #11 Bronx (NY) Bronx (NY) $34,363 $51,000 $48,100
#12 #12 Boston (MA) Boston (MA) $21,894 $69,368 $48,100
#13 #13 Saint Paul (MN) Saint Paul (MN) $26,185 $48,026 $47,800
#14 #14 Fairfax (VA) Fairfax (VA) $35,724 $41,000 $47,400
#15 #15 Portland (OR) Portland (OR) $18,420 $44,843 $47,200
#16 #16 New Brunswick (NJ) New Brunswick (NJ) $31,488 $41,000 $46,300
#17 #17 Houston (TX) Houston (TX) $18,465 $38,194 $46,100
#18 #18 Baltimore (MD) Baltimore (MD) $16,785 $41,000 $46,000
#19 #19 Little Rock (AR) Little Rock (AR) $19,790 $41,563 $46,000
#20 #20 Memphis (TN) Memphis (TN) $19,481 $37,522 $45,700
#21 #21 Iowa City (IA) Iowa City (IA) $30,277 $47,000 $45,700
#22 #22 Philadelphia (PA) Philadelphia (PA) $23,588 $50,664 $45,700
#23 #23 Honolulu (HI) Honolulu (HI) $37,982 $31,048 $45,600
#24 #24 Edinboro (PA) Edinboro (PA) $23,780 $41,000 $45,500
#25 #25 Chester (PA) Chester (PA) $22,600 $64,551 $45,500

2020 Best Colleges Highlights

Learn more about the top colleges for an online Master's in Social Work degree. You can also read student reviews of each school by clicking on the stars. Although student reviews were not used as a ranking factor in this list, we provide ratings and reviews so students can consider the experience of alumni in their decision-making process.

#1
Loma Linda (CA)
Median Salary $57,300
Median Debt $61,267
Annual Tuition $29,372

Loma Linda University's online Master of Social Work program is intended for part-time students and can be completed in three years. On campus in-person attendance on Wednesday evenings is required, but exceptions may be made for students who live more than 40 miles from campus. Upon graduation, students will be qualified to seek licensure and prepared to work effectively in a variety of social work settings. The values of compassion, integrity, excellence, freedom and justice guide the curriculum. Courses that students will take include Social Welfare History and Policy, Legal and Ethical Aspects in Health and Behavioral Health Services, and Human Behavior in a Culturally Diverse Environment. In order to complete the program, students must complete 78 quarter units.

Visit Loma Linda University's website.

#2
Median Salary $54,700
Median Debt $33,348
Annual Tuition $17,860

California State University – San Bernardino administers an online Master of Social Work program for students who live far from campus or whose employment or personal commitments make on-campus attendance impossible. Students who do not fulfill either of those conditions will likely be deemed ineligible for the online program and will be referred to the campus program. The online program requires a two-day on-campus orientation. Most students will complete the program in three years. They will take 18 course units in their first year and 21 units in their second and third years for a total of 60 units. Admissions requirements include a bachelor's degree, preferably in behavioral or social sciences, with a GPA of at least 3.0, along with at least one year of full-time employment or volunteer experience in social work.

Visit California State University – San Bernardino's website.

#3
Arcata (CA)
Median Salary $53,900
Median Debt $26,771
Annual Tuition $18,613

Humboldt State University's College of Extended Education and Global Engagement delivers a Master of Social Work program. Students can begin the program in either January or June. Synchronous sessions are held every Thursday evening, and the program also requires one four-day campus session each January. While on campus, students will participate in orientation, community building exercises, and skill development workshops. Prospective students who already have a bachelor's degree in social work are eligible to apply for advanced standing. The program focuses on training future social workers to meet the needs of Indigenous and rural communities. Students can study full-time or part-time, with full-time students able to complete the program in two years and part-time students graduating within three and a half years.

Visit Humboldt State University's website.

Median Salary $53,800
Median Debt $41,000
Annual Tuition $17,831

The Tseng College of Graduate International and Midcareer Education at California State University – Northridge offers an online Master of Social Work. Students can opt to complete the program in either two or three years, depending on how intensively they'd like to study. Most courses are asynchronous, but the program does require one synchronous session per week. The program also includes a field practicum that must be attended in-person, but the university will endeavor to place students at a practicum site that is located near the student's residence. Students will take a variety of courses, such as Urban Social Policy and Advocacy, Family Crisis, Trauma and Grief, and Social Welfare Policy and Services. Admissions requirements include an undergraduate degree with a GPA of at least 2.5, three letters of recommendation, and payment of the $70.00 application fee.

Visit California State University – Northridge's website.

#5
Anchorage (AK)
Median Salary $51,800
Median Debt $32,646
Annual Tuition $20,500

The online Master of Social Work (MSW) program offered by the University of Alaska Anchorage is only available to students who reside in Alaska, and is designed to prepare graduates to work effectively with the diverse populations that reside in the many rural communities located within the state. In 2016, the University of Alaska Anchorage ended its campus-based Master of Social Work (MSW) program, so the MSW program is currently administered exclusively through distance learning. The program can be completed in two to four years, and students who already have a bachelor's degree in social work from an accredited institution are able to apply for advanced standing, allowing them to complete the program in one or two years. Topics covered in the program include social work practice, policy, and human behavior in the social environment.

Visit the University of Alaska's Website.