Question: What is the difference between a 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 MSW PROGRAMS (NO GRE REQUIRED)

FEATURED ONLINE MSW PROGRAMS (NO GRE REQUIRED)
SCHOOL DESCRIPTION
Fordham University An Online MSW with a Future-Focused Curriculum
University of Denver A Social Justice–Focused Online MSW
University of Southern California (USC) Top-Ranked Program with Multiple Concentrations and Options
Simmons University Top-Ranked Clinical Social Work Program with Specializations

These schools offer online MSW programs with 100% online instruction - no campus visits required

Sponsored MSW Programs


Online MSW Degree Programs by School

Online MSW Degree Programs by School
SCHOOL NAME PROGRAM STRUCTURE PROGRAM NAME ONLINE MSW CONCENTRATIONS
Arizona State University (T) 100% Online MSW Advanced Generalist
Boise State University (T,A) 100% Online MSW Advanced Social Work Practice with Individuals and Families
Boston University(T, A) 100% Online MSW Clinical Social Work Practice
California State University, Northridge (T) 100% Online MSW Generalist with an emphasis on urban family practice
California State University, San Bernardino (T) Limited Campus Visits Required MSW Advanced Generalist with Specializations
Case Western Reserve University (T, A) 100% Online MSSA Community Practice for Social Change; Direct Practice with two specialization options: Children, Youth and Families (CYF) or Mental Health/Adult (MHA)
Columbia University (T) Limited Campus Visits Required MSSW Advanced Clinical Social Work Practice; Social Enterprise Administration
Edinboro University (T, A) 100% Online MSW Family Social Work Practice
Florida State University (T, A) 100% Online MSW Clinical Social Work Practice
Fordham University (T, A) 100% Online MSW Clinical Social Work
Humboldt State University (T, A) Limited Campus Visits Required MSW Generalist program that focuses on working with rural and indigenous communities
Indiana University (T, A) Limited Campus Visits Required MSW Advanced Generalist Program
Louisiana State University (T, A) 100% Online MSW Advanced Direct Social Work Practice
Our Lady of the Lake University(T, A) 100% Online MSW Generalist program with an emphasis on the Hispanic community
Portland State University (T) Limited Campus Visits Required MSW Community and Organizational Practice
Rutgers University (T) 100% Online MSW Clinical Social Work
Saint Leo University (T, A) Limited Campus Visits Required MSW Advanced Clinical Practice
Simmons University(T, A) 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 (T, A) 100% Online MSW Administrative Leadership
The Catholic University of America (T) 100% Online MSW Clinical Concentration
University at Buffalo (SUNY) (T, A) 100% Online MSW Evidence-based practice with a trauma-informed and human rights perspective
University of Alaska Anchorage(T, A) Limited Campus Visits Required MSW Advanced Generalist
University of Central Florida (T) 100% Online MSW Behavioral Health; Child Welfare Services
University of Denver (T) 100% Online MSW Mental Health and Trauma
University of Houston (T,A) 100% Online MSW Clinical Practice: Health and Behavioral Health
University of Louisville (T, A) 100% Online MSSW Generalist with your chose of advanced topics: Alcohol and Drug Counseling, Gerontology, Mental Health, Psycho-Social Oncology
University of New England (UNE) (T, A) 100% Online MSW Clinical Practice: Individual, Families, and Groups (IFG); Community Practice: Organizational and Community Practice (OCP)
University of New Hampshire (T) 100% Online MSW Advanced Generalist with Electives: Health and Mental Health; Addictions and Substance Abuse; Children, Youth, and Families; Disabilities
University of North Dakota (T, A) Limited Campus Visits Required MSW Advanced Generalist
University of Southern California (USC)(T, A) 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 (T, A) 100% Online MSSW Evidence Based Interpersonal Practice (Clinical); Management, Leadership and Community Practice (Macro)
University of Texas - Arlington(T, A) 100% Online MSSW Direct Practice with Children and Families
Western New Mexico University(T, A) 100% Online MSW Advanced Generalist with electives
Widener University (T) 100% Online MSW Clinical Social Work Specializing in Trauma


(T) = School offers an online MSW program for traditional students
(A) = School offers an online MSW program for advanced standing students

* Currently, 41 states will accept a doctoral degree in social work (either a Ph.D. or DSW) in lieu of an MSW to meet licensing requirements to become a licensed clinical social worker. At this time, the CSWE does not accredit social work doctoral programs.

More FAQs about Online MSW Programs