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).