MSW Online Programs Without a BSW Requirement

A Master of Social Work (MSW) is an advanced degree that enables individuals to enter a variety of career pathways that involve helping people and making a difference in communities. Sometimes, individuals realize later in life that social work is their preferred career path. In these cases, they may choose to take a one-year MSW program online, without a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) requirement. Such a program allows anyone to quickly earn their master’s degree online, without needing a BSW. It serves as an alternative to traditional MSW degree programs. 

What Is an MSW?

An MSW is a graduate-level degree that provides extensive knowledge in the field of social work. Many MSW programs prefer that students earn a BSW before obtaining a master’s degree in social work. However, some programs allow individuals to earn their master’s after earning a bachelor’s degree in a different subject. 

In an MSW degree program, students gain additional knowledge in various areas, including clinical practice, community practice, and brain development. Most master’s candidates choose a specific area of specialization, enabling them to learn skills critical to becoming a social worker and working in their preferred specialty.

What Is an Accelerated MSW Program?

An accelerated MSW has a more condensed, fast-paced curriculum than a standard MSW program, allowing students to complete their coursework in a shorter period of time. Having a BSW degree can help students earn their MSW faster, but it is not required for all accelerated programs.

What Is a 1-Year MSW Online Program (No BSW Required)?

A one-year online MSW program (no BSW required) is suitable if you meet certain qualifications.

First, you should want to participate in an accelerated program and prefer online learning. Some MSW programs offer these options, allowing you to earn your degree online as quickly as possible. 

Second, as the name implies, you should not have earned a BSW during your undergraduate studies. This is common in the social work field, as many individuals only realize after undergraduate school that social work is the ideal career for them. Additionally, this type of master’s program is popular among people who have chosen their desired career later in life and may not have earned a bachelor’s in social work. 

Why Earn an MSW?

Individuals may choose to pursue an MSW degree for many reasons, including the desire to engage in a profession that helps families and individuals overcome challenges or that establishes beneficial community programs.

Benefits of an MSW Program

Earning an MSW can offer many career benefits:

  • Career advancement opportunities: An MSW qualifies you for many jobs. Obtaining your MSW, including through a one-year online program (with no BSW required), allows you to achieve more advanced positions as you gain more experience. 
  • Specialization options: An MSW often enables you to specialize in areas such as counseling, substance abuse, and senior issues. This specialization qualifies you to work in specific fields. 
  • Increased earning potential: A graduate degree in social work provides additional expertise and specialization, which can result in a higher salary and potential salary growth over time. 

Reasons to Choose an MSW Online Program (No BSW)

There are several reasons to choose from a variety of MSW online programs, including one-year programs with no BSW requirement:

  • Flexibility and convenience: Online programs offer highly flexible options, allowing you to take classes at your own schedule instead of being tied to specific class times. This flexibility and convenience make learning easier. 
  • Accessibility: Online programs allow you to complete your academic studies from the comfort of your own home. This makes earning your MSW much more convenient, especially if you have a busy work or family schedule. 
  • Cost-effectiveness: Online programs generally have lower tuition fees compared to in-person programs. You can also reduce expenses associated with commuting and purchasing supplies. 

How Much Does an Online Accelerated MSW Cost?

The cost of online accelerated MSW programs varies widely depending on the school, but it can often average between $20,000 and $70,000. 

Keep in mind that you may also need to pay for books and software programs, which may cost several hundred dollars each semester. However, online courses are generally less expensive than in-person counterparts. 

Accelerated MSW Curriculum

The accelerated MSW program has a curriculum that is similar to the traditional MSW coursework.

Core Courses for 1-Year Online MSW Programs (No BSW)

Common core courses for one-year online MSW programs without a BSW can include:

  • Human Behavior and Interactions: This course explains how people interact with each other at personal and societal levels.
  • Foundations of Social Work: This course covers the basics of social work.
  • Social and Economic Justice: This course addresses societal deficiencies and how social workers can help alleviate these issues.

MSW Electives and Specializations

Various MSW specializations are available, and they come with related coursework to provide the necessary background knowledge to complete the degree. Specializations include child care or family work, individual therapy, addiction counseling, social work practice in specific settings (such as medical care or nursing homes), criminal justice, and military social work.

MSW Fieldwork Requirements

Most MSW programs, including one-year online programs without a BSW requirement, require fieldwork. Fieldwork involves getting a placement in an accredited agency and working a certain number of hours under supervision. During this time, you will gain hands-on experience that cannot be obtained in a traditional classroom setting.

While the academic portion of your MSW is 100% online, the fieldwork usually requires you to work at the agency in question, similar to any other staff member. You may have online meetings with advisors to discuss your learning progress, and your graduate school will likely assist you in finding fieldwork opportunities through past partnerships. 

What Are the Admission Requirements for Online MSW Programs (No BSW)?

Admission requirements for online MSW programs vary among schools, but many of the key requirements are similar across programs. 

MSW Admission Requirements Without a BSW

Admission requirements for one-year online MSW programs without a BSW generally include the following application requirements:

  • Hold a B.A. or B.S. degree from an accredited four-year school.
  • Submit your transcript to the school.
  • Complete an application, including relevant questions and an admissions essay.
  • Depending on the school, you may need to obtain a certain score on a standardized test. 
  • Provide multiple letters of recommendation from academic or professional experiences. 

MSW Admission Requirements With a BSW

Programs that require a BSW have almost identical admission requirements. However, having a BSW accelerates the process as you won’t need to provide evidence of your passion or care for the field. Additionally, you may have already completed the necessary prerequisite courses, allowing you to expedite your degree completion. 

Accreditation for MSW Programs

Accreditation is important, as it ensures that all MSW programs meet basic standards and provide students with a high-quality education necessary for success in the field.

The Council on Social Work Education is responsible for accreditation of MSW programs. This council establishes requirements that all educational programs must meet and oversees the reaccreditation process to ensure schools maintain the rigorous standards. 

Schools typically indicate their accreditation status on their websites. Alternatively, you can verify a program’s accreditation through the Council on Social Work Education’s directory.

Career Options for People With MSWs

Fortunately, there are extensive career options for individuals with MSWs. 

Clinical MSW Roles

  • Licensed clinical social worker: LCSWs provide specific mental health care in various settings.
  • Therapist: With an MSW, you can work as a therapist helping people struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues. You can specialize in working with individuals, families, or individuals with addictions, among other possibilities.
  • School counselor: School counselors provide mental health care and help students navigate the educational system. 

Nonclinical MSW Roles

  • Researcher: MSW programs often include extensive research skills, qualifying you to work as a researcher for businesses. 
  • Consultant: Your MSW knowledge base can make you a valuable consultant in industries that require expertise in human interaction, such as criminal justice or the military.
  • Corporate: Many corporations hire social workers to develop programs that increase productivity or better serve their customers.

MSW Entrepreneurial Opportunities

With the right knowledge, experience, and skill sets, individuals with an MSW can start their own therapy practice or consultancy business. This entrepreneurial route offers further career growth, the ability to help more people, and increased income levels.

MSW Salary and Job Outlook

According to Payscale, the median salary for individuals with an MSW is $60,000 per year. The specific salary range varies depending on factors such as employer and experience levels. For example, social workers had a median annual salary of $55,350 in May 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), with hospital social workers earning a median salary of $66,300. 

This field is projected to grow at a rate of 7% over the next ten years, according to the BLS. This growth rate is higher than the average of all occupations nationwide. 

Scholarships and Financial Aid Information for MSW

Many schools offer scholarships for MSW programs, and it is worth inquiring about scholarship opportunities when applying. Additionally, numerous foundations provide specific scholarships for MSW candidates. Combined with federal and private loans available to graduate students, financial aid options are available to make earning an MSW more affordable. 


How Much Can You Earn With an MSW?

According to Payscale, the median annual salary for individuals with an MSW is $60,000. This salary can range up to $84,000 depending on the field you enter with your MSW. 

How Long Does It Take to Complete an MSW Program Online with No BSW Requirement?

Under normal circumstances, earning an MSW can take one to four years, depending on the program and individual circumstances. However, there are accelerated programs available, such as one-year online MSW programs with no BSW requirement. These programs are intensive and require dedication, but with proper support, you can earn your MSW in about one year. 

Is Getting an MSW Worth It?

Whether or not earning an MSW is worth it depends on your career goals. Earning an MSW requires a commitment of time and money. You will need to dedicate significant time to coursework and fieldwork, and you may have to temporarily sacrifice other personal or professional pursuits.

However, earning an MSW should be seen as an investment in your future. Obtaining an MSW can enhance your earning potential, provide additional specialization, expand your knowledge base, and open doors to careers that may otherwise be out of reach. It is clear that an MSW is an excellent degree that can advance your career in the long run. 

Can I Earn an MSW Entirely Online?

Yes, you can earn your MSW 100% online. One of the main benefits of online BSW or MSW programs is the flexibility they provide. Many online programs allow you to earn your MSW entirely online, often with asynchronous learning options. This means you can listen to lectures or go through course materials at your own pace, on your own schedule.

Additionally, there are accelerated MSW online programs available. These programs still enable you to earn your master’s online but at a faster pace. 

There are also hybrid options that may suit your needs. Hybrid programs offer a mix of online and in-person classes, allowing you to choose the most convenient format for each course. Some hybrid programs may require in-person internships as well.

What Careers Can an Individual With an MSW Pursue?

There is a wide range of career options available for individuals with an MSW. These options can be divided into clinical and nonclinical roles.

In clinical roles, individuals can become licensed clinical social workers, therapists, or school counselors. They can specialize in various areas within mental health and help individuals and families facing challenges.

In nonclinical roles, individuals with an MSW can pursue careers in research, consulting, or work in corporate settings. Their expertise in human interaction can be valuable in various industries. 

Explore 1-Year MSW Programs Online (No BSW)

An MSW can be a fantastic degree for individuals interested in careers that involve helping people or gaining insight into the human mind. In some cases, people may realize their passion for social work after completing their undergraduate studies. For those individuals, participating in an accelerated MSW program may be ideal. One-year online MSW programs without a BSW requirement offer a pathway to quickly earn a master’s degree online and enter the workforce immediately. 

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