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Evaluating Master of Social Work Programs: Questions to Ask

Choosing where to pursue your Master of Social Work (MSW) degree is one of the most important—and challenging—decisions you will make on your higher education journey. Knowing the right questions to ask can help you make an informed choice.

As you review various programs, here are some considerations to keep in mind:

Evaluating Master of Social Work Programs: Questions to Ask

Is the MSW program accredited by CSWE?

Accreditation by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) confirms that a Master of Social Work program offers curriculum that meets core social work competencies and adequately prepares students to be effective practitioners in the field. For these reasons, it’s important to consider master’s in social work programs that have achieved CSWE accreditation or candidacy status. Candidacy status indicates that an MSW program has been acknowledged by CSWE as a viable candidate for accreditation and that the institution is actively engaged in the process of pursuing accreditation. 

Will I be able to earn my degree without putting my life on hold?

If you’re a working professional, an online social work degree program can give you the flexibility to fit your studies into your current schedule. Many online MSW programs are designed for adult learners, allowing you to participate in classes weekly when it’s convenient for you. A quality distance-learning program will offer benefits such as robust student support, a nurturing academic community, and technology that enhances the learning experience. Some programs even offer academic residencies that let you meet and collaborate with peers and faculty face-to-face.

What kind of support is available for students?

From personal student success advising to career guidance to research and writing assistance, support is an essential part of a successful master’s in social work experience. As you review and compare online MSW programs, ask what specific support services are available to help students succeed.

Is this institution accredited?

When you’re evaluating Master of Social Work degree programs, choosing an institution that’s accredited can help ensure you receive an excellent education. Accreditation is a mark of high-quality curriculum and faculty, and degrees from accredited universities are more likely to be recognized and valued by employers and recruiters. Information on accrediting bodies is available at the Council for Higher Education Accreditation’s website:

Can I get licensed with this degree?

Your ability to apply for licensure depends on the requirements of your particular state. However, it is important to know that graduation from a CSWE-accredited MSW degree program is necessary for licensure as a social worker in most states. Therefore, while you’re exploring Master of Social Work programs, be sure to check your state’s requirements for licensure with the appropriate board. You can find a list at the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) website.

Is the curriculum challenging?

A Master of Social Work program should feature rigorous, relevant curriculum that not only requires graduate-level writing and critical thinking, but also addresses the most pertinent issues facing social workers today. Additionally, your online social work degree program should offer opportunities to apply your learning to situations encountered by social workers daily. For example, field practica or supervised internships enable you to gain hands-on experience in a real social work setting in your own town or community.

Is the faculty highly qualified?

At the core of every online social work degree program is its faculty. Your institution’s Master of Social Work faculty should ideally be composed of doctoral-level scholars, researchers, and leaders with practical experience in their fields and communities. Beyond having the necessary academic credentials, instructors should also understand the nuances of distance learning and excel at integrating their expertise into the online classroom. 

Are you ready to pursue your master’s in social work? Visit Walden's Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page to learn how our CSWE-accredited MSW program can help you meet your goals.