Founded in 1917, Virginia Commonwealth University's School of Social Work is one of the largest in the US, with a reputation that matches its size. It's one of only 39 schools in the country that offer bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in social work, and one of about 90 that offer a clinical Master of Social Work (MSW) entirely online.
There are many good reasons to check out this social work master's program beyond the fact that US News & World Report ranks it among the best schools for social work in the United States (and the best school for social work in Virginia). Students in VCU's online Master of Social Work program receive a world-class education while tapping into the school's network of more than 500 human and social service organizations. The emphasis in VCU's online MSW program is solidly on field education, which means distance learners spend less time in front of their laptops and more time accruing real-world work experience.
Ready to learn more? In this article about earning an online master's in social work at VCU, we cover:
As an online student in VCU's social work master's degree program, you can:
Like many Master of Social Work programs, the VCU admissions process isn't targeted exclusively to experienced social workers. While the school does take volunteer and professional experiences into consideration when reviewing applications, no experience is necessary.
In addition to completing the general online application through the VCU Grad portal, applicants must submit:
The School of Social Work doesn't require applicants to have majored in a specific discipline. Any four-year undergraduate liberal arts degree (or the equivalent if earned outside the US) suffices, provided an applicant has a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or greater plus one three-credit class in the behavioral sciences and one three-credit class in the social sciences. Prospective graduate students who do not meet these prerequisite criteria are sometimes admitted provisionally. They must then take the required courses during the first semester of the program.
VCU's online MSW program does not offer concentration tracks or specialization options. The program's focus is purely clinical, and the curriculum is designed around evidence-based interventions, practical social work resources, and best practices in the discipline. Students take classes like:
If this list of core courses seems short, that's because about half the curriculum in VCU's online MSW program is made up of fieldwork hours. The program's overall goal is to give students the knowledge and skills they'll need to become leaders in clinical social work, which is why hands-on learning is prioritized.
Students pursuing a master's in social work at VCU get diverse fieldwork experiences—all supported by university advisors, instructors, and liaisons. Students submit an application that includes their top five areas of practice interest; the program matches them to assignments based on interest and available opportunities. All fieldwork is supervised by experienced field instructors, and there are also field liaisons to ensure that students are successful in their placements.
VCU's School of Social Work faculty is made up of experienced social work professionals, including:
Dr. Baskind launched his social work career when he founded the suicide prevention network Help-Line of Central Connecticut. Since then, he has served as both Dean of the School of Social Work and University Ombudsman, as well as President of the Board of Directors of the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) and Chairperson of the Commission on Accreditation for CSWE. Before his tenure at VCU, he was Founding Dean of the School of Social Work and Human Services at Southern Connecticut State University. He is currently a United Way of Greater Richmond Community Building Committee member and a past member of Connecticut and Tennessee State NASW Board of Directors.
Dr. Lee has more than a decade of experience teaching in VCU's MSW and BSW programs. Her specialty is macro-level social work. She has worked with the Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on the Family and Intimate Partner Homicide Surveillance Project and with non-profit organizations as diverse as the National Kidney Foundation, American Cancer Society, United Way Services, and YWCA on program development, implementation, and evaluation. According to the VCU MSW faculty website, Dr. Lee "views teaching as both an art and a science and strives to utilize innovative methods to articulate complex concepts to students."
Clark has years of experience in clinical and macro practice, curriculum development, program analysis and evaluation, and teaching. She works to meld the latest and best teaching approaches and technologies in VCU's online curriculum. Her areas of interest include the potential of technology to build relationships and enhance the educational experience of non-traditional, at-risk, first-generation, and minority students.
The per-credit tuition for VCU's 60-credit online MSW program is $634 for in-state students and $750 for out-of-state students. Distance learners can access the same financial aid packages, grants, scholarships, and loans as students on campus.
VCU offers a range of scholarships and awards only available to its MSW students, including:
Eligibility for all forms of financial aid is based on each student's academic standing and financial needs. According to the VCU online MSW program website, most students in VCU's online MSW program qualify for some form of financial assistance.
Online Master of Social Work programs are seldom 100 percent identical to on-campus programs, but VCU's comes close. Like the full-time and part-time MSW program delivered on-campus, the online program requires students to complete 60 total credit hours of work; students complete the same number of credits per semester regardless of format. They also complete the same number of field placements, though distance learners may do slightly more fieldwork. The full-time online master's in social work program can be completed more quickly than the on-campus program, which cannot be completed in under two years.
The most significant differences between the on-campus and online MSW programs at VCU are that:
Keep in mind that while VCU has designed an online MSW program that fosters student engagement and collaborative learning, distance learners must still be motivated, self-disciplined, and capable of working independently to succeed. The flexibility built into this program can be both a blessing and a curse. Some students thrive in an asynchronous learning environment. Others find it hard to keep up.
The VCU School of Social Work has an Office of Student Success devoted to supporting students from day one until well after graduation. Every online MSW student has access to a Student Success Advisor to help them set a workable course schedule, register for core classes and certificate programs, and keep track of their progress. Before graduation, these advisors also help students tackle academic challenges, maximize the value of field experiences, and even work through personal issues getting in the way of academic success. All MSW students also have access to individualized support and attention from administrators and mentors.
After graduation, VCU MSW students can access personalized resume counseling and career support services through the school's Career Services Center and the VCU Alumni group. The school has also launched VCU Link, an online community that helps current students and alumni find career advice, connect with industry contacts, and build their professional networks.
Is the online master's in social work at VCU the right graduate program for you? Only you can make that call. However, it's clear that VCU's online MSW offers a popular, well-regarded degree in clinical social work that you can complete from home.
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