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What to Look for in a Master of Social Work Program

The best MSW programs can help you become a successful social worker.

Social workers are a vital part of our social fabric, helping countless people get through difficult situations. And our need for social workers is only rising. Between now and 2024, the number of jobs for social workers is expected to grow in the U.S. at a rate that’s 12% higher than the average rate of job growth.* Many of these jobs will be filled by those who’ve recently earned a Master of Social Work (MSW). But not all MSW degrees are created equal. If you’re thinking of earning your master’s, you’ll want to make sure you’re enrolled in one of the best MSW programs. Here are a few things you should look for.


Real-World Learning Components

Social work requires you to relate to people and help them find a path forward, whether they’re struggling with their job, their family, their living situation, their health, or other difficult circumstances. The best MSW programs focus on more than academic components. They are designed to rigorously prepare you for the real-world challenges you’ll face. You should look for an MSW program that’s devoted to teaching you the competencies you’ll need to be a successful social worker. You should also verify that the MSW degree program has a proven record of graduating students who’ve mastered the competencies necessary for social work. These competencies include:

  • Applying ethical principles and critical thinking to social work practice.
  • Embracing diversity to inform your social work practice.
  • Advancing human rights along with social and economic justice.
  • Understanding human behavior. 
  • Engaging with clients or patients.
  • Performing assessments of clients or patients.
  • Intervening to help clients or patients.  

CSWE Accreditation

The best way to determine the level of credibility that stands behind a particular MSW program is to look for CSWE accreditation. CSWE stands for the Council on Social Work Education, a nonprofit organization recognized by the Council of Higher Education Association as the only accrediting agency for social work education in the U.S. Only MSW degree programs with CSWE accreditation are certified as meeting the highest standards for social work education.

When you enroll in a CSWE-accredited social work degree program, you can be certain that your coursework, assessments, and criteria for graduation have been meticulously reviewed and fully certified by outside experts in the field. It also ensures that your MSW degree meets state requirements for licensure as a social worker. In fact, you cannot sit for a state examination to become a social worker unless your Master of Social Work is from an accredited program.

Multiple Concentrations of Study

Not all social work is the same. A social worker with the military will face challenges that differ from a social worker in a hospital. And they both will have careers differing from social workers in traditional, clinical settings. Before enrolling in an MSW program, make sure the program allows you to concentrate in the field of your choice. The most popular social work fields include:

Advanced Clinical Practice
Military Social Work
Social Work in Healthcare
Social Work With Children and Families

Online Learning

There are a number of benefits to choosing an online university for your MSW degree. First, online MSW programs offer a level of convenience and flexibility unavailable in traditional, campus-based programs. Instead of setting everything aside to earn your MSW degree, you can continue working at your current job as you advance your education. If you are already a social worker, earning your MSW online can help you avoid stepping away from your career. In fact, you can continue your fieldwork while you earn your master’s.

Additionally, when you earn a Master of Social Work online, you can save time and money. Many online universities award credits for previous education, giving you a head start toward your degree. Plus, the flexible format of an MSW online program can help you accelerate your learning and graduate faster.

The world needs quality social workers. You can put yourself in position to become just that by enrolling in an online MSW program that teaches you real-world skills, provides a variety of concentrations of study, and has achieved CSWE accreditation. Walden University is the perfect start.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering a CSWE-accredited online MSW program. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.

*Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2015–2016 Edition, Social Workers, on the Internet at

Walden University’s Master of Social Work (MSW) program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), a specialized accrediting body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). CSWE’s Commission on Accreditation is responsible for developing standards that define competent preparation for professional social workers and ensuring that social work programs meet these standards.

Note on Licensure
The minimum academic credential required to obtain licensure to practice as a social worker in most states is a Master of Social Work (MSW) from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Walden University’s MSW program is accredited by CSWE.

State licensing boards are responsible for regulating the practice of social work, and each state has its own academic, licensure, and certification requirements.

Walden recommends that students consult the appropriate social work licensing board in the state in which they plan to practice to determine the specific academic requirements for licensure. Walden Enrollment Specialists can provide information relating to the state-by-state requirements for licensure. However, it remains the individual’s responsibility to understand, evaluate, and comply with all licensing requirements for the state in which he or she intends to practice. Walden makes no representations or guarantee that completion of its coursework or programs will permit an individual to achieve state licensure, authorization, endorsement, or other state credential as a social worker.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,