Online MSW Programs in California

Students in California have several options when it comes to online Master of Social Work (MSW) programs. California State University’s (CSU) system offers online MSW programs and hybrid MSW programs in several locations and online: CSU Chico, CSU Long Beach, CSU Northridge and CSU San Bernardino. Humboldt State University, and San Jose State University also offer online MSW programs with separate requirements.

On, we classify any program that requires two or fewer campus visits per year as an online MSW program. There are four online MSW programs in California accepting students across the US.

University of Southern California

USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work


Master of Social Work (MSW)

The MSW@USC is the online Master of Social Work from top-ranked USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. USC offers virtual and in-person field education, and students focus on adults, youth or social change.

  •  Minimum completion time: 16 months
  • Online classes taught by USC faculty 
  • Virtual field training to build skills and confidence


Colleges in California with Online MSW Programs

If you live in California and wish to keep local but online, there are some options for your MSW program. Online MSW programs around Los Angeles are plentiful. Northwest of LA you have CSU Northridge or to the far east, you’ll find CSU San Bernardino, nestled in the mountains. Northern California is home to the online MSW program at Humboldt State University.

  • 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 with a 3-day on-campus visit each summer. with a 3-day on-campus visit each summer. CSUSB’s primary mission is student enrollment in Southern California’s inland areas but the program is open to students from any state in which California has an agreement with.
  • Humboldt State University offers a part-time online MSW program with an advanced standing option for students who received their bachelor’s in social work (BSW). Humboldt State’s online MSW program requires annual extended weekend visits to its campus and emphasizes work with indigenous and rural communities.

Colleges in California with Hybrid MSW Programs

North of Sacramento, you’ll find the northern California hybrid MSW program at CSU Chico. But if you’re still craving the city life, CSU Long Beach’s hybrid online MSW program can be found just south of Los Angeles surrounded by many southern California cities such as Huntington Beach, Irvine, Santa Ana, Anaheim and Torrance. Interested in the bay area? San Jose State University – just outside of San Francisco, offers their hybrid part-time MSW program.

  • CSU Chico offers a distributed learning MSW program which is primarily online. The program requires field practicum placement within one of the 18 designated northern California counties with two tweekend intensive visits to Chico each semester. Because of these on-campus requirements, CSU Chico’s program is classified as hybrid.
  • CSU Long Beach offers a part-time hybrid MSW program with in-person visits by faculty and classes on Saturdays offered at Santa Rosa Junior College and Ventura County Community College campuses.
  • San Jose State University (SJSU) offers a part-time online/hybrid MSW program but is only open to residents of California. They offer a fully online program to California residents as well.

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 in California

Common Steps to Become a LCSW in California

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

For any out-of-state applicants, you must pursue social work coursework on California Law and Professional Ethics, California Cultures and the Social and Psychological Implications of Socioeconomic Position, Child Abuse, and Suicide Rist and Intervention (Starting in January 2021).

Step 2: Ensure you have required additional coursework requirements met.

The following social work coursework should be included for all in-state applicants in undergraduate, graduate, or approved continuing education coursework:

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 (ASW).

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

Step 4: Obtain Supervised Social Work Experience.

For a total of 3,000 hours over a minimum of 104 weeks, ASW accrue supervised social work experience.

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

Step 6: Request and Obtain LCSW License.

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 and how to

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 will need to 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.

University of Southern California

USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work


Doctorate of Social Work (DSW)

Professionals from a variety of fields learn to develop solutions to poverty, homelessness and other social issues with USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work’s online Doctorate of Social Work. Complete the program in 28 months part time with a master’s degree.

  • Earn a doctorate from USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. 
  • Study part time without attending classes on campus. 
  • Complete the online DSW program in 28 months. 


Last updated: September 2020