Question: What is the difference between an MSW, MSSW and MSSA?

Answer: There is no major difference between MSW, MSSW, and MSSA programs – all three designations are recognized by the CSWE as master’s in social work programs.

For students who are interested in a career in social work, especially clinical social work, the most important consideration when choosing a masters in social work program is whether the program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). The CSWE is the only accrediting body in the United States that accredits masters level social work programs. To become a licensed clinical social worker in the US, a student must graduate from a CSWE accredited masters program. Most masters in social work programs use one of the following names for their degree programs:

  • MSW = Master of Social Work
  • MSSW = Master of Science in Social Work
  • MSSA = Master of Science in Social Administration

While each program name may have an historical meaning for the school that offers it, the CSWE does not require accredited programs to use the MSW designation. In our interview series, we asked Professor Kate Chaffin from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (which offers an MSSW) and Assistant Dean Andrea G. Porter from Case Western Reserve University (which offers an MSSA) how their schools’ programs differ from an online MSW program; both stated that there is no appreciable difference between their degree programs and an online MSW. (Please note: online master’s in social work programs do offer different curricula and concentration options for students, so programs are not exactly the same between different universities. This goes for programs with any designation: MSW, MSSW or MSSA).

Featured Online MSSA Program

Earn your online master’s in social work from Case Western Reserve University, a top-ranked school of social work.
Case Western Reserve University
  • CSWE-accredited
  • No GRE requirement
  • Complete in as few as two and a half years
  • MSSA is recognized as an equivalent to an MSW
Start earning your MSSA from CWRU today. Learn more.

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Sponsored Online Social Work Programs (No GRE Required)

Sponsored Online Social Work Programs (No GRE Required)
School Description
Fordham University Earn your Master of Social Work online from the top-ranked Fordham Graduate School of Social Service. Bachelor's required.
University of Denver Earn your Master of Social Work online from the top-20 ranked Graduate School of Social Work at the University of Denver.
Case Western Reserve University The CSWE-accredited Master of Science in Social Administration from CWRU is an online program for social work leaders.
Baylor University Complete Baylor's Master of Social Work program online in as few as 12 months and start serving vulnerable populations.
University of Southern California (USC) Apply to USC's innovative MSW program to take the next step in your social work career. GRE not required!
Simmons University Simmons University's online Master of Social Work program can be completed in as few as 16 months, and GRE scores are not required.

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Online Social Work Programs by School

Online Social Work Programs by School
School Name Program Structure Program Name Online MSW Concentrations
Arizona State University 100% Online MSW Advanced Generalist
Baylor University 100% Online MSW Clinical or Community Practice
Boise State University 100% Online MSW Advanced Social Work Practice with Individuals and Families
Boston University 100% Online MSW Clinical Social Work Practice
California State University, Northridge 100% Online MSW Generalist with an emphasis on urban family practice
California State University, San Bernardino Limited Campus Visits Required MSW Advanced Generalist with Specializations
Case Western Reserve University 100% Online MSSA - Children, Youth and Families
- Mental Health with Adults
- Community Practice for Social Change
Columbia University Limited Campus Visits Required MSSW - Advanced Clinical Social Work Practice
- Social Enterprise Administration
Edinboro University 100% Online MSW Family Social Work Practice
Florida State University 100% Online MSW Clinical Social Work Practice
Fordham University 100% Online MSW Clinical Social Work
Humboldt State University Limited Campus Visits Required MSW Generalist program that focuses on working with rural and indigenous communities
Indiana University Limited Campus Visits Required MSW Advanced Generalist Program
Louisiana State University 100% Online MSW Advanced Direct Social Work Practice
Our Lady of the Lake University 100% Online MSW Generalist program with an emphasis on the Hispanic community
Portland State University Limited Campus Visits Required MSW Community and Organizational Practice
Rutgers University 100% Online MSW Clinical Social Work
Simmons University 100% Online MSW Clinical Social Work with Specializations:
- Child and Family
- Trauma and Interpersonal Violence
- Mental Health and Addictions
- Health and Aging
Texas State University - San Marcos 100% Online MSW Administrative Leadership
The Catholic University of America 100% Online MSW Clinical Concentration
University at Buffalo (SUNY) 100% Online MSW Evidence-based practice with a trauma-informed and human rights perspective
University of Alaska Anchorage Limited Campus Visits Required MSW Advanced Generalist
University of Central Florida 100% Online MSW - Behavioral Health
- Child Welfare Services
University of Denver 100% Online MSW Mental Health and Trauma
University of Houston 100% Online MSW Clinical Practice: Health and Behavioral Health
University of New England (UNE) 100% Online MSW Clinical Practice:
- Individual, Families, and Groups (IFG)
- Community Practice: Organizational and Community Practice (OCP)
University of New Hampshire 100% Online MSW Advanced Generalist with Electives:
- Health and Mental Health
- Addictions and Substance Abuse
- Children, Youth, and Families
- Disabilities
University of North Dakota Limited Campus Visits Required MSW Advanced Generalist
University of Southern California (USC) 100% Online MSW - Families and Children
- Health
- Mental Health
- Social Work and Business in a Global Society
- Community Organization, Planning and Administration (COPA)
University of Tennessee at Knoxville 100% Online MSSW - Evidence Based Interpersonal Practice (Clinical)
- Management, Leadership and Community Practice (Macro)
Western New Mexico University 100% Online MSW Advanced Generalist with electives

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Featured Online MSSA Program

Case Western Reserve University
Earn your master’s online from the Mandel School, Case Western Reserve University’s top-10 ranked school of social work.
Get more information from CWRU.

Sponsored Online MSSA Program