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Is an Online MSW Right for Me?

Figuring out whether to choose an online versus an on-campus MSW program can be a difficult process. Two common concerns about online MSW programs are whether your degree will be looked upon by employers as equal to campus-based programs and whether you will be eligible to obtain a license. Simply put, as long as the online MSW program you are choosing is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education,1  this should not have a negative impact on future employment or salary, nor will it be a barrier to licensure.

Among the reasons to choose an online MSW program, access, convenience, and flexibility2  may be at the top of your lists. In this regard, some key questions to consider are: Do you live a great distance from a local college or university that has an accredited MSW program? Are you working long hours at a job? Do you have primary responsibility for children? Are you the primary caregiver to a family member? Do you live overseas? Are you on active duty in the military? Do you have a disability that makes it a challenge to attend an on-campus program? If your answer is “yes” to one or more of these questions, an online program might be a worthy choice.

Maybe, now your thoughts jump to concerns about not being tech savvy or about the goodness-of-fit for you in an online learning environment. Widener’s Online MSW Program3  offers an easy to use online platform with lots of tech support for any challenges that might arise -- from “soup to nuts.” Written and video instructions offer down-to-earth language about how to access the online platform, how to create and upload videos, how to communicate with faculty, staff, and peers, and how to complete and submit assignments. Writing support for paper assignments is also available.

Widener’s online MSW program offers asynchronous instruction, allowing some flexibility about when you complete the work, along with a combination of synchronous and asynchronous interactions with faculty and peers, depending on the course and on the assignments. “In-class” interactions, such as discussion forums and small and large group meetings, enable students to develop strong connections to others. Course readings and paper assignments are generally completed as they would be in a traditional on-campus program. Due to MSW field education requirements, Widener field staff work diligently with the students to find placements close to where the students live. 

Equally important, if one of your main concerns is financial, online programs may be less expensive than their on-campus counterparts. This is the case with Widener’s online MSW Program.4 With lower operating costs and greater numbers of students enrolled, tuition may be less costly.

About the Author

Eric Stein, DSW, LSW is a Clinical Assistant Professor at Widener University’s Center for Social Work Education. He received his master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. In addition to teaching at Widener, he has taught at UPENN, Rutgers, Marywood, and Stockton University. He has been involved in the field of social work for more than 15 years in clinical and administrative positions both in Philadelphia and San Francisco. His practice has included mental health and community-based services for individuals, children, youth, and families living in marginalized and oppressed communities.

References 

 1Council on Social Work Education. “Online and Distance Education: Online and Distance Education Offerings by Accredited Programs.” Accessed December 10, 2016, http://www.cswe.org/Accreditation/Directory-of-Accredited-Programs/Online-and-Distance-Education.aspx

2 BestColleges.com. “Best Colleges Online Learning Survey: Online Student Needs, Preferences and Expectations.” Accessed December 10, 2016, http://www.bestcolleges.com/wp-content/uploads/2015-Online-Student-Needs-Preferences-and-Expectations.pdf

3 Widener University, “Online Master of Social Work (MSW) Program.” Accessed December 10, 2016, http://onlineprograms.widener.edu/msw/masters-of-social-work

4 Widener University. “Graduate Tuition and Fees: 2016-2017 Cost of Attendance: Graduate Students.” Accessed on December 10, 2016,  http://www.widener.edu/admissions/graduate/tuition.aspx