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Top 1-Year MSW Programs Online for 2024

Author: Ellery Weil
Editor: STEPS Staff

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A young man in a blue shirt smiles and speaks with an elderly man wearing glasses and a plaid shirt. They are indoors with a large window and curtains in the background, suggesting a friendly and supportive interaction. The young man's shirt bears the logo of his 1-Year Accelerated MSW program, indicating his dedication to earning a Master's in Social Work swiftly.

Social work can be both a career and a calling. Whatever your career as a social worker means to you, you’ll need your license before you can start working. In many states that means you’ll need to earn an MSW, even if you already hold a BSW.

Want to get started as quickly and conveniently as possible? A one-year accelerated online MSW degree may be the right fit for you. There are also options for a 1-year online MSW with no BSW, that can save you time and money while helping you earn the qualifications you need to become a licensed social worker.

Let’s look at some of 2024’s best 1-year online MSWs to learn more.

Spotlight on Accelerated MSW Programs Online

There are a variety of online MSW programs that can be completed in as little as one year, some for those with prior social work experience or relevant education, and some for those without a BSW. You’ll need to do your own research to see which 1-year online MSW best suits your interests, schedule, and budget, but we’ve compiled a few high-quality examples here to get you started.

Columbia University, an Ivy-League university with a campus in New York City, offers a variety of ways to earn your MSW online, including a year-long reduced residency program for working professionals. This program is designed for those with prior work experience in social services or related fields, and allows you to earn your MSW in a year primarily online, regardless of whether or not you hold a BSW.

Columbia also offers a year-long online MSW for BSW holders through their advanced standing program. Whichever you choose, you’ll have access to Columbia’s full suite of resources for online students, including online events, student caucuses, practicum placements in your area, and the opportunity to conduct research at the school’s many research centers.

Delivery:

  • Online
  • On-Campus
  • Hybrid
  • Part-Time
  • Full-Time

At the University of Arkansas, you can earn a fully online MSW in a year through their 39-credit Advanced Standing MSW program. This full-time intensive program, which is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), is meant for those who already have a BSW, and you will complete a part-time (22 hours per week) internship alongside your studies.

Classes are primarily asynchronous for maximum flexibility, with a few synchronous meetings with your student cohort each week to help you build connections with fellow students.

You do not need to provide GRE scores to apply for this program. Furthermore, all online students at the University of Arkansas, regardless of residency, are eligible for in-state tuition.

Delivery:

  • Online
  • Full-Time

The University of Southern California offers online MSW programs whether or not you have a BSW. For a 1-year online MSW from USC, you will need to go through their Advanced Standing program, which does require a BSW from an accredited institution. Whichever option is right for you, USC’s online MSW curriculum heavily emphasizes real-world experience, with all MSW students completing 1,000 hours of practicum experience, either in your local community or through a guided virtual practicum.

The online MSW at USC is not only accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), but it also aims to prepare you for licensure, specifically in California. Graduates of the program will be prepared to sit for exams from both the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, and the Association of Social Work Boards.

Delivery:

  • Online
  • On-Campus
  • Part-Time
  • Full-Time

Choosing a 1-Year Accelerated MSW Program: Factors to Consider

Ready to start applying? It’s important to know that not all one-year online MSW programs, accelerated online MSW programs, and others are created equally. While you’re making your list of potential schools, consider these differences between programs, your preferences, and what each school offers.

Format: Online, Hybrid, or In-person

While many accelerated MSW programs say “online,” this can mean multiple things. Some are truly 100% online, but others have in-person residency requirements or are hybrid programs, blending on-campus and online learning. Further, you may need to do an in-person practicum in your area, even if you don’t need to move to campus to complete this portion of your degree.

Learning Modalities

Even within online classes, variations in learning format can make a big difference in your experience. While many online MSW programs offer asynchronous classes to give you maximum flexibility, others use synchronous classes to better enable discussions in class and bonding with your cohort. Depending on your schedule and learning style, you may find one format works better for you than another.

Cost

Studying online for your accelerated MSW is likely to save you money, reducing the cost of relocating to campus, and making it easier to work while you study. Costs for online MSWs can vary significantly, so be sure you’re aware of tuition and fees, in-state vs out-of-state tuition, and financial aid options.

Accreditation

It’s vital to choose an accredited program for your accelerated online MSW. Accreditation means that your program has met certain standards from a recognized accrediting body and will be recognized as legitimate. In the world of MSWs, try to look for a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

Specialization Options

Many universities offer specializations within their MSW programs, including direct practice, or community organizing. Specialization options are less common in one-year online MSW programs, but if this is an option of interest, be sure to check the schools on your list.

Is an Accelerated 1-year MSW Program Right for You?

Now that you’ve done your research into accelerated one-year online MSW programs, you still might not be ready to start applying. How can you be sure you’re making the right choice? It can help to weigh the pros and cons. An accelerated online MSW is an exciting but highly intensive degree, and there are many things to consider in each column. Here’s a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of earning your MSW online at an accelerated pace.

Pros of an Accelerated MSW Program

  • Start working sooner: Ready to get started in your career as a social worker? With an accelerated MSW, you’ll finish your degree faster and be able to get your license and start working in the field sooner.
  • Savings potential: With a one-year program, you’ll only be paying for a single year of tuition, as opposed to two or more for a traditional program. You’ll also save money by studying online instead of moving to campus.
  • Advance your career faster: An MSW isn’t just a path toward licensure and a social work career. It can also be a step to even more education, like a PhD in Social Work. If you’re interested in a doctorate and an academic career, saving time on your MSW can be a savvy move.
  • Full immersion in your program for deeper understanding: As a highly intensive program, an accelerated MSW will demand full concentration and full immersion in the program. This can be a great way for you to fully understand the things you’re studying, without outside distractions.

Cons of an Accelerated MSW Program

  • Fewer school and program options: Not all schools offer accelerated online MSW programs, even among those that have strong social work departments. If you have your heart set on a particular school, be sure to check that they offer an accelerated program.
  • Time commitment/intensity: If you’re hoping to keep a paid job while completing your accelerated online MSW, be careful. Many programs have highly intense class schedules as well as a practicum, which can make it challenging to work while you study.
  • Limited specialization options: Given the intensity of the pace in an accelerated MSW, it can be hard to add a specialization, especially in a one-year program. As such, it can be tough to find accelerated MSWs with specializations, and when you do, options may be limited.
  • Less practical experience: A shorter program means you’ll have less time to work. In an MSW, which often has strong practical experience with a practicum or internship, this can mean fewer hours of hands-on experience earned before you graduate.

FAQs About Getting a 1-Year MSW

Still have some questions? Take a look at some of the most commonly asked questions about one-year online MSW programs.

Can you do a 1-year MSW program online with no BSW?

Some schools offer 1-year online MSW programs with no BSW as a prerequisite, as well as longer, non-accelerated no-BSW online MSW programs. While these are less common than “advanced standing” MSWs which require a BSW, they are available at a variety of schools, so be sure to do your research.

Is getting your MSW faster worth it?

While there are downsides to accelerated study, such as an intense pace that may make it hard to keep up with your schoolwork if you also hold a job, you will finish sooner and be able to apply for your license and start work sooner.

Is a 1-year MSW respected by potential employers?

A 1-year MSW is a legitimate postgraduate social work degree. Any prospective employer will view it as an MSW, and how this impacts your employability will depend on whether the job requires (or at least prefers) applicants to hold an MSW.

Is it more expensive to get an accelerated MSW?

It is often less expensive to get an accelerated MSW than a traditional MSW. This is because you’ll be studying for a shorter time, and only be paying one year’s tuition. Further, you can save more by studying online and eliminating relocation costs.

Is an accelerated MSW equivalent to a regular MSW?

Generally speaking, yes, an accelerated MSW is equivalent to a “regular,” or traditionally paced MSW. There is nothing that will indicate you earned your degree in an accelerated format. The only thing to keep in mind is that an accelerated MSW program may have less opportunity for specialization within the degree.

Approximately how many hours a week will you need to dedicate to studying?

You’ll need to decide how many hours a week to spend studying during your accelerated MSW, and the answer is different for everyone. You should treat studying as a full-time job in an accelerated program, as you have limited chances to make up for any mistakes with such a short time frame.

Can you work while completing an accelerated MSW?

It is possible to work during your accelerated MSW, especially if you’re studying online. However, these programs can be highly intensive and require a lot of dedication. When thinking about working during your studies, be sure to prioritize your studies and ensure you have the time to complete your coursework.

How does the curriculum differ in an accelerated MSW?

In many ways, the curriculum in an accelerated MSW is similar to a traditional MSW, including both coursework and a practicum. However, you will likely spend less time on introductory classes, have a more focused core curriculum with fewer elective opportunities, and your practicum may be shorter.