How the Online MSW Works
There are several online MSW programs available today that are sanctioned by the appropriate accrediting agency, the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). The challenge with an online MSW is similar to that posed by a nursing program: both fields of study require extensive internship activity in local institutions. With nurses it's in a hospital or health clinic; with aspiring social workers it can be a social services agency, a local non-profit, a public health clinic, a housing agency, or a community organization. Some MSWs are placed with businesses that provide social services.
In all cases, the field work placement for an MSW has to be local, while the source of online courses may be hundreds of miles away. Placements must be approved by the school and in many cases must be arranged by the school as well. Because field work is such an important part of the MSW experience schools tend to maintain fairly stringent guidelines as to placement and supervision.
Local Placement, Long Distance Classes
One of the most successful online MSW programs in the country emanates from the University of Southern California. The MSW@USC, like all solid social work programs, offers areas of specialization: Families & Children; Mental Health; or Community Organization, Planning & Administration (COPA). There is also a unique and relevant specialization in Military Social Work: learning to work with military families and veterans. USC staff members will assist students in arranging local placement for the necessary field work required for all accredited MSW degrees.
The University of New England has an online MSW program based on the other side of the country, on the coast of Southern Maine. The UNE program is CSWE accredited, offering two choices based on the student's academic background. The Traditional Track provides the necessary basic academics for students who did not get an undergraduate degree in social work. The Advanced Track is for those who hold a bachelor's in social work and for those who have completed the Traditional Track. Options for an area of concentration are Individual, Family & Group Practice (IFG) or Organizational and Community Practice (OCP).
St. Leo University has an online MSW program available for residents of Virginia, Florida and Georgia. The undergraduate social work program at St Leo has been accredited since 1983 and the online MSW program is currently under review for accreditation. It is a two year program for those who have not completed a baccalaureate in social work; the two concentrations offered are Advanced Clinical Practice, and Management Concentration.
Florida State University developed the first online MSW program to be offered by a public university. FSU offers both an off campus MSW program (with classes taught at remote locations) and an online MSW that delivers classroom instruction over the internet. In order to qualify for the online MSW you must live in certain areas within any one of seven states: Florida, Georgia, Alabama, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Nebraska. Florida State has developed working relationships with state universities in North Dakota and Nebraska that have a network of relationships with social service agencies in the Midwest states listed. Placements in Alabama and Georgia are managed by faculty members at Florida State.