At $495 a credit (for in-state and out-of-state students alike), Boise State University‘s (BSU) Online Master of Social Work is one of the more affordable ways to earn a social worker master’s degree. The three-year-old program, which shares the same faculty and academic standards as the traditional on-campus program, is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). The university itself is further accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).
The BSU MSW is delivered in a 100 percent online format; no campus visits are required. Content is delivered primarily asynchronously, meaning students engage the content on their own schedules (to a point; course content is organized by week, with corresponding assignments due at fixed junctures within the academic term). A few courses — fieldwork seminars and several of the practice courses, more specifically — require a maximum of three synchronous sessions over the course of the academic term. Even here students are afforded some flexibility, with several time slots available for each synchronous session.
BSU offers a 61-credit full program MSW to students with undergraduate majors outside of social work. Qualifying students with a bachelor’s degree in social work can enter with advanced standing, which requires only 37 credits to graduate. Students may pursue the degree either full-time (full program: six semesters; advanced standing: three semesters) or part-time (full program: nine semesters; advanced standing: five semesters)
There are a couple of significant practical considerations:
- A Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in social work
- A license to practice or required social work certification
Credentials vary among careers, states, and territories. Licenses include:
- Certified Social Worker (CSW)
- Clinical Social Work Associate (CSWA)
- Licensed Advanced Practice Social Worker (LAPSW)
- Licensed Advanced Social Worker (LASW)
- Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW)
- Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
- Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW)
- Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW)
- Licensed Mental Health Professional (LMHP)
- Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)
Most of these licenses require a Master’s or Doctorate, along with additional coursework or clinical internships. ( )
A survey of 2017 social work graduates by the National Social Work Workforce Study found that social workers with Master’s degrees and Doctorates made substantially more than those with no advanced degree. ( )
- People with MSW degrees made $13,000-plus more than those with only BSW degrees
- MSWs make more in large cities or urban clusters
- People with doctorates earned $20,000 to $25,000 more than people with only MSW degrees
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Students in the full program spend their first year completing foundation courses; the second year covers advanced concepts in practice and theory. The practicum/field experience is spread out over both years. The curriculum is mostly fixed, allowing for only two electives during the second year. The only specialization available is an advanced social work practice with individuals and families within households, groups, organizations, and communities.
Students in the advanced standing program complete 25 credits in academic coursework and 12 credits in practicum/field placement. Most courses are open to students in both the full and advanced standing program; one course, Advanced Issues in Human Diversity, is open only to students in the advanced standing program.
Dr. James Beauchemin specializes in solution-focused brief therapy and wellness, college student mental and spiritual health, and integrated mind-body-spirit interventions. His work in health-related behavior modification earned him stints with NASA and the American Council on Exercise, and he is the recipient of research grants from the Solution-Focused Brief Therapy Association (SFBTA) and the National Consortium for Building Healthy Academic Communities (BHAC). For his proficiency as an instructor, Beauchemin was awarded the Ohio State University 2016 Field Instructor of the Year and 2016 BSW Excellence in Teaching awards.
Dr. Jill M. Chonody specializes in aging-related issues, with a focus on both social justice issues and the arts. Her research subjects include biases against the elderly and against subpopulations among the elderly, such as women and the LGBTQ community. Her most recent book, Social Work Practice with Older Adults (co-authored with Dr. Barbra Teater), emphasizes a strengths-based approach that incorporates both social work values and the World Health Organization’s Active Aging policy. Her first book, Community Art: Creative Approaches to Practice, offers both practical and theoretical guidance on the ways in which the arts can be used by social workers and other practitioners.
Boise State’s MSW is an entirely online program. Most content is delivered asynchronously, meaning that students have access to content on a 24/7 basis with no live (synchronous) classes to attend. However, a few courses (the fieldwork seminar and some of the practice courses) require a maximum of three synchronous (i.e. live) sessions per term; these are typically facilitated through the Zoom videoconferencing app. Course content — in the form of streaming video, discussion boards, and readings — is organized into weekly modules and is delivered via a Blackboard-based learning management system. Students complete assignments and exams within the learning management system as well.
Students interact with faculty and each other primarily through discussion boards, instant messaging, and email. Group projects and one-on-one meetings (instructors will occasionally reach out to students to request one-on-ones) are typically facilitated through teleconferencing software such as Zoom or Google Hangouts.
The program employs advisors to help students choose and schedule courses, understand the resources available to them, and manage the online learning experience. Online tutoring, coaching, and writing assistance also available from the school’s Advising and Academic Support Center. Finally, a technical support team helps students navigate the learning management system and other technology associated with online learning.
Field placements for online Boise State MSWs are coordinated by the program’s Assistant Director of Field Education and by its Field Coordinator. Through field advising appointments, students work with these university staff to identify an acceptable placement opportunity. Students in the full program are required to complete 1,000 hours of supervised fieldwork; advanced-standing students must complete 600 hours of supervised fieldwork.
Full-time full program students complete their first 400 hours of placement during the second and third semesters; the school recommends that students devote two full work days per week to the agency with which they are placed. The final 600 hours are completed during the fifth and sixth semester, typically through three full days per week at the assigned agency. Part-time students complete their first 400 hours of placement during their fourth and fifth semesters, and their final 600 hours during their eighth and ninth semesters.
Full-time advanced standing students complete 600 hours of placement during their second and third semesters, usually by working three full days per week at their agency. Part-time advanced standing students complete this requirement during their fourth and fifth semesters.
Applicants to the Boise State Online MSW must complete an application to both the Graduate College and the School of Social Work. They must have an undergraduate degree from an accredited four-year institution with an overall GPA of 3.0 or a cumulative GPA of 3.0 for their final two years’ worth of academic credits.
A completed application includes:
Students seeking advanced standing admission must have an undergraduate degree from a CSWE accredited four-year institution and a minimum GPA of 3.0 in all undergraduate social work courses (courses in which the applicant earned a grade below C must be repeated at BSU), in addition to meeting all of the other requirements listed above.
Boise State admits MSW students three times a year: Spring (courses begin in early January; application deadline is August 15); Summer (courses begin in early May; application deadline is January 15); and Fall (courses begin in late August; application deadline is April 15).
For students commencing the full MSW program in the 2019-20 academic year, Boise State estimates a total program cost of approximately $32,000: $30,195 for course credits (61 total credits at $495 per credit) and the remainder for books and fees. Estimated total cost for students in the advanced standing MSW program is just under $20,000. The cost of the program is the same for in-state and out-of-state students.
The program’s tuition and financial aid web page references a number of scholarship and aid opportunities, including: general scholarships; School of Social Work scholarships; military benefits; employer reimbursement plans; and payment plans.
Boise State’s online MSW program is only three years old, so it hasn’t had much time to build an alumni network yet. The Boise State Alumni Association, serving undergraduates and graduate alike, is over 50 years old and represents an alumni base that is over 75,000 strong. The university’s career services office offers a number of online services, including job boards and counseling via teleconference.
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