A Master of Social Work degree is a professional degree. Once a person with a Master of Social Work degree completes a certain number of hours — and the number depends on the state, but is generally around 900 hours — the person can work independently. A person with a Master of Social Work can work with people in a professional setting to improve the quality of the patient’s life and wellbeing. Social work research may include human development, psychotherapy, social policy, international development, community development and program evaluation. A student may also look at baccalaureate programs and accredited masters and baccalaureate programs.

How Long it Takes to Get a Master of Social Work: A student may begin working on a Master of Social Work after he or she completes a Bachelor’s Degree. In most cases, the program takes two years. Depending on the school, a program may be extended to include additional studies, or a school may offer a fast-track program, where a student can complete the two-year degree in about a year and a half. During the schooling, the student must also complete field work. Students may also choose from a one-year extended residency program or longer programs, or may combine the Masters of Social Work with other graduate degrees.

How Much it Costs to Get a Master of Social Work: The cost of the program depends on which school the student chooses, which course of study — accelerated, typical two-year study, extended studies or studies that combine degrees. Also, the cost varies if the student chooses a non-accredited school over a campus program. It may be cheaper to get the degree from a non-accredited school, but that student’s degree may not be accepted in the work place. Some schools may charge extra for field work, while others may include the cost in the tuition.

A student may still save money by taking a combined degree. If some of the courses required for the Master of Social Work degree qualify for the second degree, the student is only paying for the course once, instead of paying again later, should the student choose another school that will not accept previous credits earned. This may happen if a student gets a Master of Social Work in one state, moves to another state, and decides to add another degree with the existing degree, or if a student gets one degree at an online school and chooses to get the second degree via a campus program later.

Also, if the student chooses to continue his or her education beyond the master’s level, there is an additional cost for the baccalaureate program and for certain accredited programs.

The Difference Between Online and Campus MSW Programs: This is highly subjective and depends on the school of choice. When choosing an online program, first make sure the school is accredited, then check the courses offered. The courses should be the same as the campus program. If you are looking at a school that does not offer the same program at a campus, compare the online school’s program with a campus program from a different school. Online programs should offer the same types of classes and field work as a campus program. The courses may be titled differently, but the content of the courses should be the same.

Accredited or Non-Accredited School: You should always choose an accredited school. Many work places will not accept a degree from a non-accredited school, and in many cases, the classes and the caliber of the professors do not meet the requirements of an accredited school. A student looking for a Master of Social Work can also get an accredited degree — Council on Social Work Education, a CSWE. As of 2012, there were 480 accredited baccalaureate social work programs, 218 accredited master’s social work programs, 24 baccalaureate social work programs in candidacy and 15 master’s social work programs in candidacy.

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