Benefits of a Part-Time MSW Program

Earning a part-time Master of Social Work (MSW) degree may be beneficial for those who earned a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) and are currently working as a social worker or for those seeking to earn licensure in their state as a master’s-level social worker. This is particularly important for social workers who want to work with clients in a one-on-one mental health counseling capacity.

Social workers who already work full time or have family commitments may find part-time MSW programs convenient. This guide will cover the characteristics and advantages of these part-time programs. At the end you will find some online programs that may help you expand your credentials and grow your career.

What Is a Part-Time MSW Program?

For professionals with a bachelor’s degree, a part-time social work degree program may offer flexible classes and the opportunity to keep working throughout a master’s program. On-campus part-time MSW programs often offer evening and weekend classes to make attendance easier for working professionals. Online programs may offer synchronous or asynchronous classes; an asynchronous course schedule means lectures may be viewed at any time that’s convenient for you. 

Whether the program you choose is in person or online, a part-time schedule usually means you may only take one or two classes at a time. This means it may take more time to complete the program. Many part-time social work degree programs may be completed in approximately three years, provided you take summer courses. That time frame may or may not include the fieldwork required for program completion. 

Part-Time MSW Program Class Structure

Social work schools may set up class structure in a variety of ways. This results in variables you should consider when choosing the right program for you. For example, some programs are completely self-paced; this is a popular structure for online schools and provides maximum schedule flexibility. Other programs place new students with a cohort, which is a group of students with whom you will complete courses throughout the program. This is the standard structure for on-campus programs but is also used in some online programs.

Online Part-Time MSW Program Option

Online MSW programs are widely available and offer various specializations and class structures. While these variations may make it difficult to choose a school, they also offer social workers the ability to find a program that fits with their situation and professional goals. Online social work programs have become adept at coordinating with clinics in their remote students’ communities to facilitate fieldwork experiences.

What Are Some Advantages of a Part-Time MSW Program? 

If you’ve been thinking of pursuing an MSW but are concerned about the time commitment, a part-time online program could be the solution. Part-time MSW programs may offer several advantages for busy students.

Flexibility of Part-Time MSW Programs

Depending on which program you choose, a part-time MSW program may afford a lot of flexibility in terms of learning on your own time, logging into classes and finding the right balance for work, school and family needs. And because part-time students may only take one or two classes at a time, part-time students  may only need to commit 15-20 hours per week to their studies—about half the time commitment required of full-time students.

Part-time MSW programs offer students more time and flexibility in completing their coursework, but there is often a limit to how long students may take to complete all program requirements, including fieldwork. That time limit is often around five years; be sure to choose a program with time limitations you can realistically fulfill.

Accessibility of Part-Time MSW Programs

Working full time and continuing their education can be a concern for students, especially when it comes to balancing costs and commitments. While higher education like a master’s degree may lead to higher earnings, the opportunity costs of not working or working less and the real costs in terms of tuition may be a barrier for some students.  

A part-time master’s in social work may make navigating these challenges easier. Education accessibility is increasing, with more flexible options (like part-time and online programs) becoming available. 

Part-time programs may help working learners access master’s programs more easily, especially students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds or those who have families. 

Potential Career Advancement by Part-Time MSW Programs

Because you may apply new skills as you learn them, a part-time master’s degree in social work may open up opportunities for you to advance in your current job. While this benefit isn’t exclusive to part-time programs, they do often afford more time to learn and apply these skills. If you would rather switch social work careers or land a new job in social work, having an MSW may make those goals easier to attain. 

With a BSW, many people enjoy a long and rewarding career working in positions such as case managers. However, advancing from a BSW to MSW degree may open the door to more job options, such as:

  • Child and family social worker
  • Clinical social worker
  • Psychiatric social worker
  • Public policy social worker
  • School social worker

Another benefit of advancing your social work career is the potential to earn a higher salary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2020, the highest paid 10% of social workers earned more than $85,820 a year. The BLS does not directly attribute those higher earners to degrees, and salaries are based on many factors. But across disciplines, median pay for master’s degree holders is higher than for workers with a bachelor’s degree.