Social Work

Why Boston University’s Online MSW Is Tough to Beat

Why Boston University’s Online MSW Is Tough to Beat
Image from Unsplash
Nedda Gilbert profile
Nedda Gilbert July 22, 2019

One of a handful of top-10 social work programs offering the MSW online, Boston University delivers quality content and prestige alongside flexible scheduling and other conveniences.

Article continues here

If you’re looking for a prestigious Master of Social Work (MSW) you can earn online, Boston University‘s School of Social Work (BUSSW)__ has to be on your short list.

Ranked tenth in the nation by US News and World Report for the second year running in 2019, Boston University’s social work program is one of only three top-10 programs to offer its Master of Social Work (MSW) online (Columbia University and Case Western University are the other two).

BUSSW Program Highlights

  1. BUSSW delivers its course content both synchronously and asynchronously. Students can access asynchronous content, which includes recorded lectures, simulations, third-party videos, podcasts, and discussion boards, at all times, day and night. Synchronous—i.e. live and teleconferenced—classes meet weekly for 60 to 90 minutes, always on a Sunday or Monday night; students must register for these mandatory sessions in advance, as each section has a 15-student capacity.
  2. Students can complete this part-time program in two to three years over nine semesters. Students take one course per seven-week term during the first year, and two courses per term subsequently. Fieldwork internships occur during the second and third years. Those holding a bachelor’s degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited school may receive advanced standing; such students typically complete the part-time program over six semesters.
  3. BUSSW also offers a hybrid/online option. At BUSSW’s Worcester Campus, students spend their first four semesters meeting weekly in live classes at the Worcester campus location; they then transfer to the online program for semesters five through nine. The School of Social Work is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE); the university itself is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).


“I Want to Be A Social Worker!”

University and Program Name Learn More


BUSSW integrates a focus on diversity, ethics, populations-at-risk, and social and economic justice throughout its MSW curriculum.

Three program tracks

  • Traditional Online Track: This track consists of 65 credits, which can be completed in three years over nine semesters (fall, spring, and summer). Students complete two field internships for a total of 1,200 placement hours.
  • Human Service Experience Online Track (HSE): This track is designed for those with a minimum of two years of supervised human services experience. Students on the HSE track complete 65 credits in three years over the course of nine semesters (fall, spring, and summer). A single 1,000-hour field internship is required.
  • Advanced Standing: This track consists of 40 or 43 credits. Students fulfill one field assignment of 1,000 hours, completed over three semesters.

Unlike many online programs that offer only a clinically focused curriculum online, BUSSW also offers a second, non-clinical major. The two professional practice majors offered are:

Clinical practice major

Clinical social workers focus on the mental health and overall well-being of those they serve. They often help individuals through challenging circumstances. Through coursework and field training, students in this major learn how to perform assessment and diagnosis, and they develop competencies for the treatment and prevention of various emotional and behavioral issues. Students also learn how to manage the therapeutic relationship with their clients.

MSWs who graduate with this major often work in such settings as:

  • Mental health centers
  • Private practice
  • Hospitals
  • Substance disorder treatment facilities
  • Hospice
  • Schools
  • Geriatric centers

Macro practice major

Macro social work attracts those who want to shake up the world. These individuals are interested in championing change and addressing social problems on a larger scale than is possible through one-on-one therapy. Macro social workers work in community empowerment and outreach, public policy and planning, and in public and private agencies.

The macro social work education track emphasizes service and action in:

  • Social and economic justice
  • Participatory democracy
  • Human dignity
  • Equality and freedom
  • Respect for diversity
  • Community empowerment

Students in each major may also add a minor in the other.


BUSSW staff includes a field team dedicated to MSW field placements. A well-developed international network allows the school to arrange fieldwork for students in their home communities.

In assigning field placements, BUSSW engages students in a unique collaborative process that involves the student, the student’s academic advisor, and the field education team in finding the best field opportunity. While the school manages the placement process and makes the final decision, student input is solicited and students do have some say over where they complete this requirement.

For students working full-time, their place of employment may serve double duty, earning them credit as an official field placement. The field placement office determines whether a student’s place of employment meets the requirements for fieldwork credit.

Admissions Requirements

Befitting an online program, BUSSW aspirants complete their applications online. The school does not require standardized testing nor a minimum GPA for traditional standing or human services applicants. Advanced standing applicants must have a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0.

A completed application includes:

  • Official transcripts from all undergraduate institutions attended, including study abroad institutions
  • A three-to-four page double-spaced essay evaluated for writing ability and interest; the essay should address the following prompt: “Discuss why you believe the Boston University School of Social Work is best suited to meet your graduate education needs. How do you believe you will manage the rigorous demands of coursework and field education during graduate study? If you have low or inconsistent grades in undergraduate (or graduate) study or have attended multiple schools to earn a degree, please discuss any issues you may have faced to help us better understand your academic background. Identify your strengths and areas in need of improvement that are relevant to the social work profession. What inspires you to pursue this profession? If you have clear career goals, please tell us what type of work you see yourself engaged in after earning the MSW?”
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • A résumé or CV
  • A phone or Skype interview, if requested by the school

Human Services candidates should have a minimum of two years of supervised human services experience, verified by both the employer and BU, to be considered for the Human Service Experience (HSE) track.

Faculty Spotlight

Professor Ellen Devoe

Clinical Practice Professor, Director, Ph.D. Program in Social Work, Founding Director, Trauma Certificate Program

Professor DeVoe’s areas of expertise include military families and veterans, and trauma and violence. Her work focuses on the impact of domestic and community violence on children and families and on developing interventions to minimize the resulting trauma. She recounts that the events of September 11th brought a new purpose and refinement to her work; she refocused on “intervention research,” studying how trauma affects parents, including military veteran parents and families.

As a leading expert in this area, Devoe’s research has been supported by:

  • The National Institute of Mental Health
  • The Centers for Disease Control
  • The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
  • The Department of Defense

She also serves on the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering & Medicine Consensus Committee on the Wellbeing of Military Families.

For the last ten years, Devoe has worked with the Department of Defense in developing and overseeing Strong Families Strong Forces; this program is aimed at support military personnel and their families through their cycles of deployment and reintegration to civilian life.

Professor Lenette Azzi-Lessing

Chair of Social Welfare Policy and Assistant Professor

Professor Lenette Azzi-Lessing specializes in children, youth and families; community engagement; program evaluation methods; and social policy and poverty. Azzi-Lessing is particularly committed to ensuring the well-being of children and their families with a focus on children in the child protective system, and to improve the circumstances of those living in poverty.

Honing her expertise before arriving at BUSSW, Dr. Azzi-Lessing was a professor of social work at Wheelock College, where she was founder and director of its graduate certificate program in early childhood mental health and faculty leader of the university’s Partnership for Early Childhood Development in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. A tireless advocate for children at risk, Azzi-Lessing has been a member of the Child Welfare League of America’s National Joint Commission and co-chaired the League’s Committee on Prevention, Protection, and Family Preservation for several years. She has also served on the advisory board to the National Center for In-Home Services for Children and Families.

Nationally Recognized Research Centers

BUSSW boasts two research centers that serve as a primary source for innovation and advancement in social work practice:

  • Center for Innovation in Social Work & Health:__ The Center for Innovation in Social Work & Health (CISWH) aims to improve community health locally and globally by engaging social work, public health, medicine, and other disciplines in cost-effective prevention and intervention strategies that transform urban health care.
  • Center for Aging & Disability Education & Research:__ The Center for Aging & Disability Education & Research (formerly the Institute for Geriatric Social Work) endeavors to prepare and strengthen the workforce for an aging society. Located at BUSSW, the center “builds upon the school’s historical expertise in the aging field and gerontological teaching, research, and training.”

Start Dates and Admissions Deadlines

BUSSW admits students three times a year for terms starting in September, January, and May. Applications are due approximately seven weeks prior to the start date; contact the school for exact deadlines, which change from year to year.

Tuition and Financial Aid

For students commencing the MSW program in the 2019-20 academic year, BUSSW charges $850.00 a credit. The school cautions that this rate is not guaranteed for the duration of the program; fees typically rise by $25 per credit each tuition year.

Traditional standing students in the online track must complete 65 total credits at $850.00 per credit. There is also a fixed price of $60 per semester for student fees. Estimated total cost for the online MSW program is $56,000.

Students who pursue the online/hybrid option at the Worcester campus pay less due to the associated fees with the in-person portion. The hybrid program charges $726 per credit for the first 18 credits on-campus with a total estimated cost of $13,000. The second year is spent in the online program and costs $39,950. This offers approximately $10,000 in savings over the online format.

The BUSSW financial aid page provides a number of ways to fund the online degree including loans, work study, and employer reimbursement plans.

Alumni network and career placement

BUSSW offers a robust alumni network of over 9,000 social workers along with a busy schedule of ongoing networking events. A dedicated alumni web page provides a complete list of all the ways to stay connected.

The BUSSW career development office delivers workshops on licensure, resume writing, and interviewing; it also hosts a MSW Alumni and Student mixer to forge career connections. Additionally, the University Career Center offers digital resources to assist students in their job search.

Questions or feedback? Email

About the Author

Ms. Nedda Gilbert is a seasoned clinical social worker, author, and educational consultant with 25 years of experience helping college-bound and graduate students find their ideal schools. She is a prolific author, including The Princeton Review Guide to the Best Business Schools and Essays that Made a Difference. Ms. Gilbert has been a guest writer for Forbes and a sought-after keynote speaker on college admissions. Previously, she played a crucial role at the Princeton Review Test Preparation Company and was Chairman of the Board of Graduate Philadelphia. Ms. Gilbert holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University and is a certified interdisciplinary collaborative family law professional in New Jersey.

About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

To learn more about our editorial standards, you can click here.


You May Also Like To Read

Categorized as: Social WorkSocial Work & Counseling & Psychology