California MSW Programs

Seven institutions in the state of California provide an online MSW program, with over 25 different institutions offering a campus-based or hybrid MSW program in California.

Schools in California with online MSW programs include:

  • California State University, Chico: Online Master of Social Work
  • California State University, Long Beach : Online MSW: Children, Youth, and Families
  • California State University, Northridge : Online MSW: Urban Family Studies
  • California State University, San Bernadino : Online MSW: Advanced Generalist
  • Humboldt State University : Online MSW
  • University of Southern California : Online Master of Social Work

California CSWE Accredited MSW Programs

The state of California has the largest number of accredited MSW programs that are campus based in the field of social work through the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

In total, there are 26 Master's degrees that have been reviewed and currently hold on to the designation. Of those programs, seven of them are distributed in an online or hybrid format that provides a combination of academic work completed online with minimal or no physical meetings on campus.

In general, field work is completed through internships and some programs have limitations. For example, they may restrict application review to those that live in California or the region. Students that are pursuing an online degree and have the option to fully complete the program away from campus will usually need to receive approval from the director for field placement.

Finding a Campus Based California MSW Program

14 institutions within the California State University umbrella have accreditation from the CSWE, with four of them offering at least a hybrid curriculum with the MSW option. Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Berkeley are the few locations with multiple schools that offer an accredited program.

Many globally recognized institutions - such as the University of Southern California, UCLA, and San Diego State - have social work opportunities that vary with online MSW opportunities.

University of Southern California's Online MSW

The Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work offers multiple versions of their Master of Social Work online.

  • The traditional format requires 60 credit hours with students having the option to specialize in three different departments.
  • The advanced standing option is 37 credit hours and can be completed in just one year but does require a BSW for entry among other admissions requirements.

For the advanced standing program, students are able to eliminate foundational courses to shorten the program. This requires full-time enrollment to complete in three semesters, with classes beginning in the summer and fall semesters. Eligible students must have graduated from a CSWE-accredited school in the past five years and has at least a 3.0 GPA in all social work courses.

Program Tracks and Electives

Students can choose to work in adult mental health, children and families, or social change and innovation. In addition, specialty focuses include military or school social work. Field work is possible in both a virtual format and within a community, and there is over 1,000 hours needed to fulfill the USC curriculum.

Examples of electives that students can pursue include Advanced Theories and Clinical Interventions in Health Care, Group Psychotherapy in Mental Health Settings, and Spirituality, Religion, and Faith in Clinical Practice. Application submission requirements include an updated resume, evidence of social work completion, statement of purpose, and two letters of recommendation.

San Jose State University's Online/Hybrid MSW

The College of Health and Human Sciences offers a combination degree with academic coursework online and internships being completed in person. This program is created around students that can still maintain a part-time job and this can typically be finished in two years. At the moment, this school only accepts applicants in the state of California and all internships are completed in the state.

Overview on the Campus Attendance Requirements

Students accepted into the program must attend a one-day orientation session on campus. In order to complete the program, students need to finish the 60 credit hour curriculum and pass all courses with at least a C grade. The program culminates with a capstone project that showcases what the student has learned throughout their studies.

Online Learning Environment

The university uses the Canvas learning management system to maintain course content. In the field education process, 1,200 total hours are needed and can be split over both years, which equates to 16 hours per week. These internships must be completed during the school year and are not able to be pursued during the summer.

California State University Chico's Hybrid Master of Social Work

Through the School of Social Work, students have the option of pursuing the MSW either on-campus in two years or in a blended format with two-thirds of the course content available online in a three-year time frame.

Online Learning Environment

Students have lectures through Zoom and will meet at the Chico campus two or three weekends within the semester. Over 1,200 hours of practicum experience is needed in the program, which is completed at an approved location or at the student's professional workplace.

Advanced Standing MSW Option

Instead of pursuing the three-year program, some students will quality for the one-year advanced standing version. This is only offered once every three years and students must have proven educational experience in social work at the undergraduate level. In this format, students will complete three courses in the summer, and electives will be more limited as some are only offered in the fall or spring semester.

Prior to entering the program, students should already have experience in statistics, human biology, and multicultural studies. In general, acceptance rate is roughly 50 percent when considering all of the MSW programs. The Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) score is not required, but can be helpful in the admittance process if the applicant has a lower GPA score.

California State University Long Beach's Part-Time Master of Social Work

Students have the ability to pursue the MSW at Santa Rosa Junior College and Ventura County Community College through the School of Social Work at CSU-Long Beach. This is a part-time program where students meet on Saturdays and through teleconferencing for three years, including two summers. Two different field placements will take place in the second and third years.

Online Learning Environment

Most courses are available through the teleconferencing method with a microphone requirement for students to interact with faculty and other peers. Additional course content is also distributed online. The program culminates with either a thesis project or social work project that demonstrates what the student has learned throughout the program.

Admissions Information

Admission requirements include applying to the university and specific MSW program. Eligibility needs include the completion of a Bachelor's degree with a 2.5 cumulative GPA or higher and an elementary statistics prerequisite. Prospective students will need to send transcripts, resume, personal statement, three letters of recommendation, and mark that the three-year remote program within MSW will be pursued in the application.

California State University Northridge's Online Master of Social Work

The College of Social and Behavioral Sciences offers an online MSW that can be completed in either two or three years based on full-time or part-time enrollment. While the curriculum remains the same for both formats, there are less courses taken at one time for a more convenient experience. In addition to being accredited by the CSWE, this program also has designation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

Online Learning Environment

Courses are delivered in an asynchronous format, giving students the option to attend the live lecture or view them at a different time. Live courses are generally later during the day and meet once per week. Field classes must be attended at specific times and meet for one hour per week.

In order to succeed in the program, students must go through the graduate preparation process and maintain a 3.0 cumulative GPA. 60 to 63 credit hours are needed along with 400 to 600 hours of field practice to fulfill curriculum requirements. These official figures depend on the program selected by the student and if they are eligible for transfer credit.

California State University San Bernardino's Online MSW

The School of Social Work provides both Bachelor's and Master's degrees in the field, which are available to pursue online. While the Bachelor's degree is in a hybrid format, the graduate program is fully available online or at the San Bernardino campus. The online format is similar to the three-year program on campus, which allows for students to complete the curriculum in a slower pace than the full-time two-year program.

Online Learning Environment

In this program, students will be prepared to work with youth, adults, and families that need assistance, and this can be in any industry. 60 credit hours are needed with maintaining a 3.0 GPA, and all coursework must be completed in a four-year time frame. Graduates have gone on to become practitioners, consultants, policy analysts, and more.

Advanced Standing MSW

Those with a Bachelor's degree in social work may be able to waive foundational work for advanced standing in the program. Students coming from a different accredited institution can transfer one elective course over, but the remaining curriculum must be completed at the university, including field hours. The amount of field work needed to fulfill the degree requires which program format is chosen.

Admissions Requirements

Admission to the program requires a Bachelor's degree in the general field of liberal arts from an accredited university, holding a 3.0 GPA or higher in the last 60 credit hours of the program. Applicants should have at least one year of experience or volunteer work. They also need prerequisites that meet topics in social science research methods, human behavior theory, and human biology.

Humboldt State University's Online Social Work Programs

The Department of Social Work offers their undergraduate and graduate programs in social work online, which is similar to what is available at the Arcata campus. The Master's degree is a two-year program that is geared toward part-time enrollment. Course size is limited to maximize the interaction between students and faculty members.

Field Placement and Education

Field placement is approved through the director of field education with many opportunities across California. Those studying outside of the local area will be reviewed on an individual basis and must meet with the director. For the full program, at least 960 field hours are needed to fulfill the curriculum, but that is divided in half for those enrolled in academic standing.

Online Learning Environment

Recommended technical requirements for the online program include having a modern computer with Windows or Mac operating system, the ability to use a microphone and webcam, Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox web browser, and high-speed internet access. Those relying on public access computers may run into issues when it comes to viewing live lectures, but may be able to work or view content without any issues. A CD drive may be needed to install some applications, but alternative options can frequently be downloaded.

Social Work Careers, Licensure, and Salaries in California

California offers some of the highest-paying social work positions in the United States, but is fairly competitive in all fields. Over 15,000 positions exist in the mental health and substance abuse field, which is highest of any state in the country. Overall, there are more social work positions in this state than any other overall.

Average Salary of a California Social Worker

Average salary for practice in the field of mental health and substance abuse is at an annual mean wage of $65,020, which is third-highest nationally. Much of the concentration exists in the southern portion of the state, which connects into the Las Vegas metropolitan area in Nevada.

Los Angeles has the second-largest employment for health care social workers among other metropolitan areas, but is nearly half the amount of New York City according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

California Social Work Licensure Requirements

To become a licensed social worker in the state of California, applicants must become an associate worker. There is a requirement to completing a course on state-specific law and ethics before obtaining the associate designation, and passing the examination over these subjects. Additional coursework in child abuse assessment, human sexuality, chemical abuse, and gerontology are all needed prior to licensure.

Hours of Experience Requirements

At least 3,200 hours of postgraduate supervised experience must be completed in a span of two years. Within this requirement, 2,000 hours should be dedicated to assessment and treatment of clients. 750 clock hours must be reserved for direct clinical practice with clients.

Clinical Examination Requirements

Once all education and clinical hours are met, the Association of Social Work Boards distributes a clinical exam that must be also be passed. Those that are not able to pass the exam can retake it in 90 days. After completing 18 credit hours of continuing education prior to the first renewal, 36 hours of continuing education is needed for further renewal.

Online MSW Programs in California That Are CSWE Accredited

California State University, San Bernadino

  • Program: Online MSW: Advanced Generalist CSWE Accredited
  • Specialized Area: Advanced Generalist
  • Availability: Part Time
  • Advanced Standing Option?
  • Admissions: Open to students from any state with which California has the requisite educational agreements; however, primary mission is Inland Southern California
  • Status: Online with Campus Visit

California State University, Long Beach

  • Program: Online MSW: Children, Youth, and Families CSWE Accredited
  • Specialized Area: Children, Youth, and Families
  • Availability: Part Time
  • Advanced Standing Option?
  • Admissions:
  • Status:

Humboldt State University

  • Program: Online MSW CSWE Accredited
  • Specialized Area: Program emphasizes work with Indigenous and rural communities with a particular commitment to Decolonizing Social Work and mindfulness-based practice
  • Availability: Part Time
  • Advanced Standing Option? Advanced Standing
  • Admissions:
  • Status: Online with Campus Visit

California State University, Northridge

  • Program: Online MSW: Urban Family Studies CSWE Accredited
  • Specialized Area: Urban Family Studies
  • Availability: Full Time
  • Advanced Standing Option?
  • Admissions: Open to students anywhere in the United States
  • Status: Fully Online

University of Southern California

  • Program: Online Master of Social Work CSWE Accredited
  • Specialized Area:
  • Availability: Full Time and Part Time Options
  • Advanced Standing Option? Advanced Standing
  • Admissions: Open to students anywhere in the United States
  • Status: Fully Online

California State University, Chico

  • Program: Online Master of Social Work CSWE Accredited
  • Specialized Area:
  • Availability: Part Time
  • Advanced Standing Option?
  • Admissions: Students must complete field practicum in one of 18 designated northern California counties
  • Status: Online with Campus Visit

Campus-Based California MSW Programs

Azusa Pacific University

  • Program: Master of Social Work (MSW)
  • Campus: Azusa
  • Requires 60 to 66 credit hours or less with advanced standing. Specializations available in clinical practice with different groups or leadership and advocacy. Access to hundreds of agencies in the Southern California area for field experience. Has regional accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

Brandman University

  • Program: M.S.W.
  • Campus: Irvine
  • Online program available in all 50 states with potential limitations in field experience. Curriculum focuses on foundational skills then expands to advance generalist capabilities. Waiver of foundational topics if student holds an accredited BSW degree. Application requires completion of undergraduate degree with at least a 3.0 GPA. Personal essay required in admissions that focuses on life experiences or professional work.

California Baptist University

  • Program: MSW Program
  • Campus: Riverside
  • Prerequisite needed in statistics before taking the graduate program. Foundational topics explore researching capability and how culture and environment impact human behavior. Elective social work topics include addictions counseling, professional ethics, and partner violence. Field experience requires 900 clock hours of work with an approved supervisor. Six credit hours dedicated to capstone project that applies skills toward concentration.

California State University-Bakersfield

  • Program: Master of Social Work (MSW)
  • Campus: Bakersfield
  • Specializations available in Child and Family Wellbeing, Adulthood and Aging, and Integrated Health. Field experience requires 1,000 hours of experience and weekly seminar on campus. Students admitted into advanced standing need 660 total clock hours. Application deadline is set on January 15th. Admittance only takes place in the fall semester.

California State University-Chico

  • Program: Master in Social Work (MSW)
  • Campus: Chico
  • Concentrations include mental health, gerontology, and family and youth services. 1-3 years of study depending on distribution format and prior social work education. Requires prior academics in statistics, biology, and multicultural studies. Program culminates with community project, comprehensive exam, or thesis writing. Exam option requires a writeup or oral presentation. Two workshop sessions aid in completing the examination option.

California State University-Dominguez Hills

  • Program: Master of Social Work (MSW)
  • Campus: Carson
  • 60 total credit hours needed for the degree. Foundational topics in social welfare, human behavior, and research methods. Concentrations include Community Mental Health and Community Capacity Building. Electives offer social justice issues in the field and clinical intervention practice. 16 hours of field placement needed weekly with one or two hours for the seminar. Students must hold a 3.0 cumulative GPA to continue further and graduate from the program.

California State University-East Bay

  • Program: Master of Social Work (MSW)
  • Campus: Hayward
  • 60 total credit hours needed for the program, with half focused on core subjects. Concentrations available in mental health within the community or children and family services. Up to four credit hours of electives may include family violence impact or legal issues. Can also look into current related topics or complete an independent study. Graduates gain competence in the NASW Code of Ethics and apply theory to practice. Completion must take place within a five-year time frame.

California State University-Fresno

  • Program: Master of Social Work (MSW)
  • Campus: Fresno
  • Full-time and part-time programs are available with exclusive fall semester admission. Options are available with two-year and four-year committed study. Topics include social welfare policy, quantitative and qualitative analysis, and advocacy skills. 16-21 hours needed each week for field placement based on format selected. Incoming students should have a cumulative 2.75 GPA with their Bachelor's degree.

California State University-Fullerton

  • Program: Master of Social Work (MSW)
  • Campus: Fullerton
  • 60 total credit hours needed for the curriculum. Concentrations available in child welfare, community mental health, and gerontology. Provides preparation for social services, health care agencies, and rehabilitation facilities. Available in a two-year or three-year program without the gerontology option. Courses in the three-year program offered on weekday nights.

California State University-Long Beach

  • Program: Master of Social Work (MSW)
  • Campus: Long Beach
  • Specializations in adulthood, child and family services, and integrated health. Features two and three-year traditional program options. Remote education available in the Sonoma and Ventura counties with some online opportunities. 500 clock hours needed for one or both field placement experiences. Advanced standing requires 3.0 GPA and a C or higher in elementary statistics. GRE scores are not required in the admission process.

California State University-Los Angeles

  • Program: Master of Social Work (MSW)
  • Campus: Los Angeles
  • Topics include social welfare research, mental health assessment, and evidence-based practice. 16-week courses in the fall and spring with accelerated 4-week summer courses. Summer offers preparation for field experience. Advanced standing requires accredited BSW degree with 3.0 GPA. Applications should include unofficial transcripts, updated resume, and reference letters.

California State University-Monterey Bay

  • Program: Master of Social Work (MSW)
  • Campus: Seaside
  • Course distribution is generally in late afternoon through evening on weekdays. Requires 960 total clock hours of field experience for the full program. Courses include policy analysis, substance use disorders, and generalist practice with different groups. Advanced practice options include family therapy, gerontology, and military. Features emphasis in working with Latino communities and 100 percent job placement.

California State University-Northridge

  • Program: Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)
  • Campus: Northridge
  • 12 of the 20 total courses required emphasize field experience and preparation. At least 16 hours needed for field internship each week. Advanced practice includes working with urban families and communities. One or two students work on research capstone project focusing on evidence-based practice. Culminating experience based on analysis, evaluation, or documentary.

California State University-Sacramento

  • Program: Master of Social Work (MSW)
  • Campus: Sacramento
  • Available in two-year full-time, three-year part-time, and advanced standing. Weekend program also available in part-time format with classes on Saturdays and Sundays. Concentrations available in aging, behavioral health, and youth and families. 512 hours needed in field experience for the foundational year. Specialization year requires 768 total hours of field work on Mondays through Wednesdays.

California State University-San Bernardino

  • Program: Masters in Social Work (MSW)
  • Campus: San Bernardino
  • Students complete two years worth of foundational and advanced topics in social work. Two years of study required for full-time coursework and field experience. Online format is comparable to three-year part-time format. 480 hours needed to meet foundational field work requirements. Those in advanced standing must complete 600 hours to meet requirements. May elect to dual-degree with Master's degree in Public Administration.

California State University-San Marcos

  • Program: Master of Social Work (MSW)
  • Campus: San Marcos
  • Completed in one to three years depending on standing and enrollment path. It is not recommended to work full-time during this program. No online options offered and students begin each fall semester. Admission needs include recommendation letters and resumes with work experience. Personal statement up to three pages provide explanation in accomplishments and career goals. Requires a prerequisite in statistics with a C grade or higher.

California State University-Stanislaus

  • Program: Master of Social Work (MSW)
  • Campus: Turlock
  • 60 credit hours needed in a curriculum completed over four or six semesters. Courses are generally offered in the late afternoon or evening times. Topics include human behavior, social welfare policy, and generalist work. 500 clock hours needed in two academic years. Students completing hybrid education take field experience during the summer. Concludes with graduate project, written thesis, or culminating seminar.

Humboldt State University

  • Program: Master of Social Work (MSW)
  • Campus: Arcata
  • Education focuses on social work opportunities in rural areas and on a global level. Academics are available online, but eligibility requires living in the state of California. To gain advanced standing, incoming students must have an accredited BSW degree. All social work courses must have a B grade or higher, and 3.5 cumulative GPA or higher. Graduates from this program have the academics required for state licensure.

Loma Linda University

  • Program: MSW in Social Work
  • Campus: Loma Linda
  • Students complete the program in a span of two to four years depending on availability. Hybrid program offered to students living 25 miles or further away from campus. Geared toward individuals looking for part-time enrollment and continuing professional work. No specific prerequisites, but students should have a background with liberal arts courses. Examples of career options include substance abuse counselor, community researcher, and policy developer.

Northcentral University

  • Program: MSW (CSWE Candidacy)
  • Campus: La Jolla
  • Can gain foundational and advanced concepts in social work regardless of prior discipline. Also geared toward students looking at management or leadership positions in their field. 900 total field hours for generalist format and 500 hours for advanced standing. Recommended for students to have a background in psychology or similar. GRE or GMAT scores are not required in the admission process. Interview personalized for applicants based on questions answered.

San Diego State University

  • Program: Master of Social Work (MSW)
  • Campus: San Diego
  • Concentration available in direct clinical practice, administration, and community development. Students work with individuals and groups to establish relationships and detect problems. Must have a strong understanding of regulation and ethical decision-making. Community development focuses on improving policy and eliminating inequality. Prerequisites include a statistics course with a C grade or higher. All incoming students must pass a background check.

San Francisco State University

  • Program: Master of Social Work (MSW)
  • Campus: San Francisco
  • Full-time program available only on campus and admission during the fall. Studies emphasize working with individuals, groups, and family members. Course distribution generally takes place throughout Mondays and Tuesdays. Topics include social policy analysis, research methods, and ethnic and cultural principles. 60 total credits needed to complete program with further field work requirements.

San Jose State University

  • Program: Masters of Social Work (MSW)
  • Campus: San Jose
  • Full-time and three-year formats available on campus. Online distributes courses with live sessions in the evening hours. Some courses may provide asynchronous opportunities for on-demand learning. Subjects in the foundational year offer field experience, social policy, and research methods. 60 total credit hours needed to fulfill curriculum requirements. 16 hours per week dedicated to field experience.

University of California-Berkeley

  • Program: Master of Social Welfare (MSW)
  • Campus: Berkeley
  • Concentration options in health advancement, youth and families, and community development. Between 6 to 8 credit hours reserved for concentration study. Other curriculum requirements include generalist practice, research methods, and field education. Offers advanced standing for students with a background in social work academics. Extended format distributes program over three years, including two summer semesters.

University of California-Los Angeles

  • Program: Master of Social Welfare (M.S.W.)
  • Campus: Los Angeles
  • Requires two years of full-time study to complete foundational and specialty topics. Core subjects include statistics, theory in human behavior, and field experience. Areas of emphasis include mental health, social justice, and children and families. Students looking at the final option have an opportunity to study over three years. Youth and family topics include adolescent trauma and direct public policy impact.

University of Southern California

  • Program: Master of Social Work (MSW)
  • Campus: Los Angeles
  • Three formats available with completion time between one to three years. Those continuing professional work complete seven consecutive semesters. Traditional program requires two to three years of study depending on enrollment. Specialties available in innovation, children and families, and adult wellness. May combine with advanced degrees in law, public health, and gerontology.