FAQ: 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, an 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 master’s 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

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. At this time, the CSWE does not accredit social work doctoral programs.

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Last updated: April 2020