The Online MSW Program From USC

Earn a CSWE-Accredited Master of Social Work

The USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work: a top-ranked graduate school by U.S. News & World Report (2019).

A Master of Social Work (MSW) can open doors to fulfilling careers across a range of fields, such as mental health, family counseling, and military and community advocacy. Consistently top-ranked in the social work field, the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work is the country’s most innovative social work graduate school. With part-time and full-time options, the MSW@USC is a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)-accredited online MSW program that prepares you to become a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW).


Traditional Online MSW

Study full time or part time with our 60-credit online MSW program. Choose one of three departments: Adult Mental Health and Wellness; Children, Youth and Families; or Social Change and Innovation.

Learn more about the curriculum.

Advanced Standing Online MSW

If you already earned a bachelor’s in social work, you may be eligible for our 37-credit advanced standing program. Earn your MSW online in as few as 12 months, and pursue licensure sooner.

Learn more about advanced standing.

Online MSW Admissions

To earn your MSW online, you must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. GRE scores are not required. We offer multiple start dates per year and review applications on a rolling basis.

Learn more about admissions.

Apply for an Upcoming Class

We accept applications year-round and offer multiple classes annually. Apply now to join our next class and start earning your social work degree as soon as possible.

The USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work

When the MSW@USC launched, the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work became the first elite private research university to deliver a Master of Social Work program online. Our innovative approach to social work education has prepared thousands of graduates to lead positive change for diverse populations both locally and globally. We are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) and are continually acknowledged for our expertise by universities and organizations worldwide.

Online Doctor of Social Work (DSW) Program

In just 24 months of part-time study, aspiring social innovators can earn a DSW online from the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. The DSW@USC prepares you to pursue leadership and management roles in which you can help solve pervasive social problems. You will complete weekly online classes, two in-person residencies and a capstone project addressing one of the 12 Grand Challenges for Social Work as defined by the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare. Applicants may hold a Master of Social Work from a CSWE-accredited program or a related degree including but not limited to Master of Public Administration (MPA), Master of Public Health (MPH), Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), Master of Public Policy (MPP), Master of Business Administration (MBA), Master of Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) or any professional doctorate.

Learn more about the online DSW program.

Become an LCSW With an Online MSW From USC

The online MSW program from the CSWE-accredited USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work prepares you to pursue licensure as a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). In many states, earning an MSW from a CSWE-accredited institution is one of the requirements to earn a social work license and be able to practice independently. The requirements vary by state, so it’s important to check with your state’s social work board.

Learn more about becoming an LCSW in your state.


Accredited by the Council on Social Work Education

The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) is the nation’s primary organization overseeing social work education at the undergraduate and graduate levels. CSWE offers accreditation to schools that meet its high standards for competent preparation. To achieve CSWE accreditation, a school must pass a variety of steps overseen by the CSWE Office of Social Work Accreditation, including site visits by CSWE personnel and self-studies evaluating the school’s curriculum and field education.

Because of CSWE’s high standards, many states require candidates for social work licensure to earn an on-campus or online MSW from a CSWE-accredited institution such as the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. When you earn your MSW online from a CSWE-accredited school, you receive a high-quality education that meets 21st-century standards for practice and prepares you to pursue your next step professionally.

What’s Different About the Online MSW Program?

The online Master of Social Work program has the same admissions standards, curriculum, graduation requirements, degree and diploma as the on-campus MSW program. The difference is that you will attend classes, complete coursework and engage with the USC community online.

Each seminar-style class is taught by USC faculty within a virtual classroom limited to approximately 12 students.

Interactive coursework reinforces classroom discussions and is available 24/7 both online and via a mobile app.

Comprehensive technical and academic support is available from admissions through graduation.

You will have access to USC’s libraries and career services throughout your enrollment and beyond.

Take the Next Step

Request information to learn how the MSW@USC connects you with peers, professors and support staff who will help you achieve your goal of leading positive change.


Three Departments To Choose From

As a student in the online Master of Social Work program, you will choose to study within the department that best fits your academic and professional goals. Each department offers rigorous classes, coursework and field education experiences that will prepare you for 21st-century practice within various professional settings.

During your first semester as an online MSW student, you will take the same courses as all MSW@USC students regardless of department. You will learn about human behavior and the social environment; social work practice with individuals, families and groups; the science of social work; policy and advocacy in professional social work; and applying your education in the field. Starting in your second semester and continuing through graduation, you will complete specialized research and evaluation courses and practice courses tailored to your department.

Department of Adult Mental Health and Wellness

As an online Master of Social Work student in the Department of Adult Mental Health and Wellness, you will be prepared to work directly with clients aged 18 and older, including older adults. Course topics include wellness, recovery and integrated care; explanatory theories of health and mental health; and advanced practice with complex social work cases. After completing the departmental requirements, you will be prepared to pursue employment in a variety of roles, including the following:

  • Medical or public health social worker
  • LGBT and gender therapist
  • Eating disorder therapist
  • Substance use social worker
  • Gerontology social worker
  • Wellness coach
  • Marriage and family therapist
  • Mental health counselor
  • Crisis counselor

Department of Children, Youth and Families

The Department of Children, Youth and Families prepares you to work directly with children, adolescents, parents and entire families both individually and in groups. Your education will span research and critical analysis for social work with children and families; social work practice with children and families in early and middle childhood; social work practice with adolescents, young adults and their families; and policy and macro practice in child, youth and family services. Your classes, coursework and field education will prepare you to pursue many different roles, including the following:

  • Adolescent health social worker
  • Child welfare social worker
  • Family and group therapist
  • Foster care and adoptive services social worker
  • Child protective services caseworker
  • School guidance counselor
  • Juvenile correctional probation officer

Department of Social Change and Innovation

As an online MSW student in the Department of Social Change and Innovation, you will be prepared to become a social work leader at the policy level. Your education experience will include research and evaluation for community, organization and business environments; management and organizational development for social workers; social work practice in workplace settings; policy advocacy and social change; community practice; and grant writing and program development. Possible careers to pursue after graduation include:

  • Community outreach specialist
  • Corporate social responsibility coordinator or specialist
  • Employee assistance professional
  • Fundraiser
  • Grant writer
  • Health care administrator
  • Human resources coordinator or specialist
  • Policy analyst
  • Program evaluator
  • Program manager
  • Public affairs coordinator
  • Social entrepreneur
  • Social responsibility consultant
  • Social work administrator
  • Trainer


Each department within the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work offers a unique set of electives designed to prepare you for practice in your chosen area. While enrolled in the online Master of Social Work program, you will take one general elective and two advanced electives. Here is a list of sample electives currently offered to students in the online MSW program:

  • Brief Therapy and Crisis Intervention
  • Consultation, Coaching and Social Entrepreneurship
  • Domestic Violence
  • LGBT Psycho/Social/Political Issues
  • Loss, Grief and Bereavement
  • Social Work in Juvenile Justice Settings
  • Spanish for Culturally Competent Services
  • Spirituality, Religion and Faith in Social Work Practice
  • Substance-Related and Behavioral Addictive Disorders and Recovery


Optional Program Tracks

The online MSW program offers two optional tracks designed to enrich your social work education. Current options include the Military Social Work track, which is available to all students regardless of their department. The other option is our School Social Work track, which is offered only to California-based students in the Department of Children, Youth and Families.

Military Social Work Track

The online MSW Military Social Work track immerses you in military culture and prepares you to address the unique challenges that service members, veterans and their families face every day. Particular areas of focus include post-traumatic stress disorder, trauma, reintegration and crisis intervention. After graduating and earning the required licensure, you may pursue employment in a variety of settings where you can provide family counseling, resource navigation and other services that benefit this unique population.

Learn more about the Military Social Work track.

School Social Work Track

Offered to California residents only, the online MSW School Social Work track prepares you to work with pre-K–12 students in public and private schools across the state. You will learn to address problems outside the school environment that are affecting students’ achievement in the classroom. The courses and field education you will complete as part of the track meet some of the requirements for the California Pupil Personnel Services Credential, which is required to practice school social work in the state.

Learn more about the School Social Work track.


Field Placement

Whether you are enrolled in the traditional or advanced standing online MSW program, you will complete comprehensive field training that will prepare you for real-world practice. Traditional students complete field placement in both the virtual classroom and in-person clinical settings. Advanced standing students bypass the virtual field education component and start community-based field placements during their first semester.

After completing all of your in-person field education hours, you will have learned and practiced social work skills many students don’t learn until after graduation, making you that much more prepared to pursue licensure and employment in the field.

Virtual Field Practicum (VFP)

We believe that field education is the foundation on which you will build your social work practice and that you should be prepared with advanced skills before you start working with clients face to face. If you are enrolled in the traditional online MSW program, you will spend your first semester of field education gradually building your skills and your confidence in a supportive online environment we refer to as the Virtual Field Practicum, or VFP.

Each week, you will learn how to use an advanced social work skill through a three-step process: coursework, class discussion and a simulated virtual session. During the simulated session, you will work one-on-one with an actor portraying a client. Your professor will attend each session with you, so you can pause at any time and ask for feedback or advice. After you complete the VFP, you will be prepared to start working with real clients near your community. Each VFP hour counts toward the total number of field education hours required to graduate from the online MSW program.

Community-Based Field Placement

Both advanced standing and traditional online MSW students complete in-person field education at sites near their community where they can gain real-world skills. Advanced standing students begin community-based field placements in their first semester, and traditional program students start community-based placements after completing the Virtual Field Practicum.

When it comes time for you to start your in-person education, you will work with a field placement specialist to identify and secure a USC-approved placement site where you can develop your clinical approach while benefiting real clients near your area. During each placement, you will be supervised by a licensed social work practitioner who will help you develop the skills you need to succeed after graduation.

Learn More About the Online MSW

Take the next step toward becoming a social work leader, and request information about the online MSW program today.