Online MSW Programs in California

Interested in online Master of Social Work (MSW) programs for students in California? The online MSW and hybrid MSW programs in this article require two or fewer campus visits per year, giving students a flexible learning experience while they earn their advanced degree. Some programs may accept students from anywhere in the U.S., so make sure to read through the criteria for each one to ensure that you meet the application requirements.

Colleges in California with online MSW programs

MSW applicants who live in California have a variety of online offerings through the California State University (CSU) system:

  • CSU Northridge offers a 100% online MSW program open to students all over the US with 24/7 access to classwork.
  • CSU San Bernardino is a fully online, part-time MSW program that is open to students from any state in the U.S.
  • Humboldt State University offers a part-time online MSW program that requires annual extended weekend campus visits.

The program cards/tables featured on this page were last updated in month year. For the most current program information, please refer to the official website of the respective school.   

Colleges in California with hybrid MSW programs

Looking for a blend of virtual classes and in-person immersion opportunities? Some CSU schools also offer hybrid program options:

  • CSU Chico offers a distributed learning, or hybrid, MSW program that students can attend online, with two to three weekend immersion sessions per semester.
  • CSU Long Beach offers a part-time hybrid MSW program that meets online each week. Students are required to attend two local field placements toward the end of the program.
  • San Jose State University (SJSU) offers a part-time hybrid MSW program open only to students living in California. In addition to attending online classes, students are required to complete an internship.

All online MSW programs require field education at a local health services agency. Programs that are 100% online do not require students to visit the campus during the program.

How to become a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) in California

Common steps to become a LCSW in California

Step 1: Earn a master’s degree in social work from a CSWE accredited program.

The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) recognizes programs that adhere to high standards and prepare students for professional practice. Out-of-state applicants must complete required coursework on California law and ethics, child abuse assessment and reporting in California, California cultures and the social and psychological implications of socioeconomic position, and suicide risk assessment and intervention.

Step 2: Fulfill additional coursework requirements.

Before you can become an LCSW, you must first register as an associate clinical worker (ASW). The following social work coursework is required for all in-state ASW applicants:

Child Abuse Assessment and Reporting [based on California law]
7 hours
Human sexuality
10 hours
Alcoholism and Other Chemical Substance Dependency
15 Hours
Spousal/Partner Abuse Assessment, Detection and Intervention
15 Hours
Aging, Long Term Care, and Elder/Dependent Adult Abuse
10 Hours
Suicide Risk Assessment and Intervention (Requirement in Effect January 1, 2021)
6 Hours Applied Experience or Coursework

Step 3: Register as an Associate Clinical Social Worker (ACSW).

When registering as an ACSW, you will need to complete a live fingerprinting scan, pass a criminal background check, and pass the California Law and Ethics Exam.

Step 4: Obtain supervised social work experience.

You will need to complete a total of 3,000 hours of social work experience over a minimum of 104 weeks (two years). This can include a combination of both clinical and non-clinical experience hours.

Step 5: Pass the Association of Social Work Board (ASWB) Clinical Exam.

Prior to registering for the exam, you must pass the LCSW California Law and Ethics Exam and have your application for licensure approved. If you do not pass the exam, you must wait 90 days before your next attempt.

Step 6: Request and obtain your LCSW License.

You must submit your request within one year after receiving your passing ASWB Exam score. Once approved, you will receive your digital license, followed by a mailed certificate. For more detailed information on becoming a LCSW in California, visit the Board of Behavioral Sciences. You can also refer to our guides on general requirements for becoming a social worker.

Does California Have Social Work License Reciprocity?

The California Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) does not offer licensure reciprocity with any other state’s licensing board. All out of state applicants must adhere to the requirements set forth by the BBS to be issued their LCSW license. For more information on out-of-state LCSW requirements, refer to the BBS’ Guide to LCSW Out of State Applicant Requirements.