Online Social Work Programs in Pennsylvania

Social workers help Pennsylvania residents overcome a variety of problems, including drug abuse, which has become an increasingly urgent issue in the state. For example, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reported a 16.9% jump in Pennsylvania overdose deaths between 2016 and 2017.

As of May 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the largest number of Pennsylvania social worker jobs (19,440 positions) in the area of child, family, and school social work; these professionals earned a mean annual wage of $42,860. Mental health and substance abuse professionals totaled 8,640 individuals and earned a mean annual salary of $36,800. Healthcare social workers followed with a population of 7,590 workers and a mean annual salary of $51,530.

In terms of child, family, and school social work, the BLS ranks the Altoona metropolitan area among the top eight in the U.S. for highest concentration of jobs. Additionally, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh both sit in the top 10 for employment levels in mental health and substance abuse social work as well as child, family, and school social work.

Social Work Programs by Degree Level

Online Master’s in Social Work Programs

Online Doctorate in Social Work Programs

Education and Licensure Requirements for Social Workers in Pennsylvania

The State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors licenses Pennsylvania social workers under three categories: provisional social worker (PSW), licensed social worker (LSW), and licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). The following sections describe these licenses, along with their educational requirements and application processes.

Education Requirements

All applicants must hold degrees from programs accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

The PSW license requires a bachelor’s degree in social work and proof of enrollment in a master of social work (MSW) program. LSW candidates must hold an MSW.

The LCSW requires an MSW or a doctorate in social work (DSW), plus 3,000 hours of supervised practice.

Exam Application Process and Requirements

All new licensure applicants should first submit an application. Once they receive approval from the licensing board, they can register for the appropriate level of exam administered by the Association of Social Work Board (ASWB).

PSWs pay a $25 license fee and take the bachelor’s-level ASWB exam, which costs an additional $230. Licensed PSWs can provide supervised nonclinical services. LSWs pay a $25 license fee and a $230 fee to take the master’s-level ASWB exam. With a passing score, they can provide master’s-level services.

LSWs who wish to become LCSWs pay a $25 license fee and submit proof of 3,000 hours of supervised social work under an LCSW. At least 1,500 of these hours must cover assessment and consultation, family and group therapy, psychotherapy, and interventions. Applicants must complete their work experience hours within six years of earning their degrees.

LCSW candidates then take the ASWB clinical exam, which costs $260. After receiving their licences, LCSWs can provide non-supervised social work services.

Continuing Education and Licensure Renewal

PSW license holders must renew their licenses every two years up to three times, as long as they maintain enrollment in their MSW program.

LSWs and LCSWs also renew every two years at a cost of $95. They must complete 30 hours of continuing education during each renewal period, including three hours related to ethics. The board accepts up to 20 hours of online or home-study continuing education.

The Pennsylvania code lists preapproved continuing education providers, such as The National Association of Social Workers: Pennsylvania Chapter.

Featured Online Programs

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Why Choose an Online Social Work Program in Pennsylvania

Online social work degree programs offer high-quality distance learning opportunities for those who cannot attend classes in person. Online programs provide the flexibility and convenience of virtual courses, with in-person attendance required for practica, internships, and on-campus trainings.

The cost of online MSW programs in Pennsylvania is typically comparable to that of on-campus tuition, ranging from roughly $500-$1,000 per credit. However, online DSW programs could cost as much as $6,000 per course unit, which typically converts to a four credit course.

The BLS projects social worker employment to increase by 10.8% from 2016 through 2026, with the fastest growth (14.4%) occurring in healthcare social work.

Ranking Methodology

Here is our list of online social work degree programs in Pennsylvania as reported by the National Center for Education Statistics. We cover online bachelor’s in social work, online master’s in social work, and online doctorate in social work programs. All programs are regionally and CSWE accredited, and all are available entirely online.

Online Social Work Programs in Pennsylvania

Edinboro University of Pennsylvania

As one of the 14 public institutions affiliated with the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania (EU) offers a fully accredited online MSW. Administered by EU’s Department of Social Work, the course of study advances the school’s larger mission of promoting personal and intellectual development by preparing learners for work in several clinical and practice-based contexts.

EU faculty members, as part of one of the best schools for social work in Pennsylvania, boast expertise and professional experience in policy, addiction treatment, rehabilitation, foster care and adoption, veteran services, and mental health.

EU’s Online MSW Program

  • Concentrations: The program offers nine different areas of specialized competency, including ethical and professional behavior, diversity and difference, human rights and social justice, research and practice, policy practice, individual and family assessment, individual and family intervention, and individual and family evaluation.
  • Credits and Courses: Students are required to enroll in a minimum of 60 credits with an advanced standing option that waives up to nine credits. EU offers both hybrid and online program formats. The online format delivers all course material asynchronously with no on-campus requirements.
  • Completion Time: Full-time learners can expect to complete the program in two years or less, depending on their advanced standing eligibility. Those interested in completing the program on a part-time basis must develop an individualized plan of study.
  • Field Education: The online MSW program at EU requires at least 900 hours of supervised field education or 500 hours for advanced standing learners. Degree seekers typically complete these hours over four semesters across two different field education placements.
  • Transfer Policies: Transfer learners can bring up to six credits into EU.
  • Online Student Support: EU provides high-quality, 24/7 support to its online learners through technical support phone lines and a communications helpdesk.
  • Cost: $626/credit in-state; $730/credit out-of-state
  • Admission Requirements: An eligible applicant must possess an accredited undergraduate degree with a minimum cumulative 2.8 GPA and at least 21 liberal arts credits. They must also submit a professional resume, a personal statement, and two letters of reference. GRE or MAT scores are only required if the GPA is lower than 2.8.

Edinboro University of Pennsylvania is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). Edinboro University of Pennsylvania’s online social work programs are CSWE-accredited.

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Marywood University

Located in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Marywood University integrates liberal arts education with professional training to create comprehensive learning experiences for more than 3,400 graduate and undergraduate learners each year. Founded in 1915 by the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the nonprofit, Catholic-affiliated school offers an online Master of Social Work Program ideal for learners seeking careers in child welfare, behavioral health, developmental disabilities, gerontology, family services, and social work administration.

Marywood’s Online Master of Social Work Program

  • Concentrations: Marywood offers several distinct concentrations in advanced direct practice with individuals, families, groups, and communities; behavioral health; child and family studies; and administration.
  • Credits and Courses: The program involves 60 total credits distributed across a foundational curriculum, advanced study topics, and free electives. Marywood provides instruction in a blended format that combines hybrid courses with online learning.
  • Completion Time: Most full-time learners can complete the program in two years or less, depending on individual pace and summer enrollment. Part-time degree seekers may take up to three years.
  • Field Education: Marywood’s course of study provides comprehensive, hands-on field education experiences designed to mirror actual social service contexts. The program requires 920 total field placement hours split across four semesters of study.
  • Transfer Policies: Marywood only accepts transfer credits from CSWE-accredited programs. Eligible learners can transfer up to 21 credits.
  • Online Student Support: The school offers technical and design support for all its distance learning technologies.
  • Cost: $800/credit
  • Admission Requirements: An eligible applicant must hold an accredited undergraduate degree. They must also submit a professional resume, a brief personal essay, and two letters of reference, one of which should be academic. Marywood does not require GRE or MAT scores for its MSW programs.

Marywood University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). Marywood University’s online social work programs are CSWE-accredited.

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Temple University

Located in historic Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Temple University was established in 1884. Today, it provides a dynamic and enriching learning environment facilitated by expert faculty and industry leaders.

As a public research institution with full accreditation, Temple’s School of Social Work in its College of Public Health administers an online master of social work. The program enjoys all the resources and benefits of a traditional, on-campus program, making Temple one of the best schools for social work in Pennsylvania.

The course of study provides professional training in clinical skills and evidence-based practices for learners interested in working with children, the elderly, and other underrepresented groups.

Temple’s Online Master of Social Work

  • Concentrations: Temple extends concentrations in clinical practice with individuals and families, along with macro practice in organizations, communities, and policy arenas. The program also offers specializations in children and families; health and mental health; and individualized options developed in conjunction with an advisor.
  • Credits and Courses: The course of study requires 60 total credits, including foundational coursework and advanced-level study. Degree seekers can receive instruction from the same expert faculty as the on-campus program and engage with content through a combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning technologies.
  • Completion Time: Most learners can complete the program in two years of full-time study. Part-time degree seekers typically take 3-4 years, while those with advanced standing can finish in as little as 12-18 months.
  • Field Education: All learners must complete 1,050 hours of clinical education and fieldwork. This typically involves two separate placements, one during basic foundational coursework and an advanced placement designed to encourage specialization.
  • Other Requirements: Temple requires that all degree seekers participate in an orientation session and a three-day residency. Learners can complete the orientation online. The residency takes place on Temple’s main campus and must be done in person, typically between the first and second years of study.
  • Transfer Policies: Learners can transfer up to 26 credits into Temple’s online MSW program.
  • Online Student Support: Temple’s Office of Digital Education provides degree seekers with a variety of resources and support for all online programs.
  • Cost: $975/credit
  • Admission Requirements: Each applicant must possess an accredited undergraduate degree with a minimum cumulative 3.0 GPA. They must also provide a professional resume, a brief goal statement of approximately 1,000 words, and three letters of reference. This program does not require GRE or MAT scores.

Temple University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). Temple University’s online social work programs are CSWE-accredited.

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Widener University

Widener University is a private, nonprofit higher education institution located in Chester, Pennsylvania, with three affiliate campuses across the Keystone State and nearby Wilmington, Delaware. Founded in 1821 as the Bullock School for Boys, Widener now serves nearly 6,000 learners across eight different graduate and undergraduate schools.

As one of the best schools for social work in Pennsylvania, Widener’s School of Human Services Professions grants a trauma-focused online master of social work fitting for degree seekers interested in treating individuals, families, and communities.

Widener’s Online Master of Social Work

  • Concentrations: Widener’s curriculum focuses on trauma and clinical practice.
  • Credits and Courses: The program requires 64 total credits delivered in seven-week course modules. Advanced standing learners must complete 41 credits. Widener provides all course instruction completely online through asynchronous learning methods.
  • Completion Time: Full-time degree seekers can typically complete their credits in 2-3 years. Advanced standing learners with an undergraduate degree in social work can finish in two years. Part-time enrollment usually extends the program to just over three years.
  • Field Education: Enrolled degree seekers must complete a total of 680 hours of field education across two separate placements. During their first year, learners can enroll in a generalist placement, followed by a specialized experience the next year.
  • Exam Preparation: Widener’s program prepares learners to sit for both the licensed social worker exam and the licensed clinical social worker exam.
  • Transfer Policies: Qualifying degree seekers can transfer up to 27 graduate credits into the program.
  • Cost: $872/credit
  • Admission Requirements: Each eligible applicant must provide evidence of an accredited bachelor’s degree with a 3.0 minimum cumulative GPA. They must also submit a brief statement of purpose, a professional resume, and two letters of recommendation. Widener does not require GRE or MAT scores.

Widener University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). Widener University’s online social work programs are CSWE-accredited.

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University of Pennsylvania

As a private, nonprofit research school based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) has promoted a culture of innovation, entrepreneurship, and interdisciplinary collaboration since its inception in 1740.

This Ivy League institution provides instruction to over 20,000 learners annually across a combined 16 graduate, undergraduate, and professional schools. Penn’s School of Social Policy and Practice extends its online doctorate in clinical social work to advanced learners seeking to advance their training and expertise in the field.

Penn’s Online Doctorate in Clinical Social Work (DSW)

  • Concentrations: Unlike a standard, research-based Ph.D., Penn’s applied DSW program focuses on preparing degree seekers for leadership in practice and teaching.
  • Credits and Courses: This program requires 14 total credits, including core courses and proseminars. Penn provides online instruction in these courses synchronously, typically on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.
  • Completion Time: Most learners complete the program in two or three years, regardless of enrollment status. Penn considers the DSW a full-time program but allows some flexibility in scheduling.
  • Other Requirements: Each learner must complete an original dissertation project. This includes both a project proposal and a dissertation defense upon completion.
  • Transfer Policies: Penn handles transfer credits for its DSW on a case-by-case basis.
  • Cost: $6,144/credit
  • Admission Requirements: A qualifying applicant must hold an accredited graduate degree in social work and at least two years of post-MSW professional experience. They must also provide at least three letters of reference (one academic and one professional) and written responses to provided essay questions. Penn does not require GRE or MAT scores.

The University of Pennsylvania is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). The University of Pennsylvania’s online social work programs are CSWE-accredited.

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