Military Social Work Master’s Programs Online

Updated: November 2020

Social workers who work in military settings typically have specialized knowledge about how to help military personnel cope with the emotional and physical challenges of their job, such as injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, strained family relationships, and difficulty finding employment after they return from service. Military social workers often work at the micro level to support and counsel military personnel; however, they can also work at the macro level by advocating for better support systems and assistance programs for active military members, veterans, and their families.

Military social workers can work in such settings as military units, the Veteran’s Bureau (an establishment of the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs), advocacy organizations, military hospitals, military schools, direct practice organizations, army medical treatment facilities, and private practice.

Individuals who are interested in becoming military social workers should research the different work settings that employ social workers in this field, to get an idea of the skills and knowledge necessary to effectively counsel, support, and advocate for military personnel. Some accredited online Master of Social Work (MSW) programs offer specializations or sub-concentrations specifically in military social work, while others may offer electives or classes that focus on working with members of the military and their families. This article provides detailed information about military social work as a career, and explains the types of online MSW programs that prepare students for working effectively with military personnel.

Accredited Online MSW Programs with a Concentration in Military Social Work

Students should note that they do not necessarily need to complete an MSW program with a concentration in military social work in order to work in this field. However, programs that offer a military social work concentration include classes that focus on the specific challenges that military personnel face, and are also designed to prepare social workers for the culture, environments, and particular social issues that military personnel encounter. This specialized education in military social work may be advantageous for students as military members can encounter very challenging physical and emotional circumstances, and may wish to work specifically with social workers who understand their background and situation.

Currently, the University of Southern California (USC). a 2U Powered Program, offers an online MSW programs with a distinct specialization in military social work.

  • University of Southern California’s Online MSW Program offers a sub-concentration in Military Social Work, which students can add onto any concentration they select within the program. To complete the sub-concentration, students must complete the following courses: Clinical Practice with the Military Family: Understanding and Intervening, Military Culture and the Workplace Environment, and Clinical Practice with Service Members and Veterans. They may also fulfill part of their field placement by working with military personnel and veterans in a variety of approved agency settings.

While the University of Southern California offers military social work online, other online MSW programs do offer electives or coursework in this field. Students who are interested in working with military personnel should check with programs that interest them to see if they offer electives in military social work.

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Careers in Military Social Work

Military social workers can support military personnel before their deployment, during their service, and as they transition back to civilian life. They can also counsel and support veterans, as well as the spouses and children of military personnel. Additionally, social workers in this field can help military personnel and their families navigate the process of applying for financial, health, education, housing, and other benefits.

Military social workers may have different responsibilities, depending on their level of education, licensure, and place of employment. For example, licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs) who specialize in military social work can provide mental health therapy to their clients, including diagnosing certain emotional, psychological, and psychosocial disorders, and developing and implementing mental health treatment plans. Non-clinical military social workers may focus on providing support to their clients before, during, and/or after they fulfill their military service by helping them find resources in their community and through the government, connecting them to support services, and helping them set goals and manage their relationships. Military social workers can also work at the macro level to advocate for better support and services for service men and women.