As an undergraduate degree holder already working in a human services field, you may be wondering how to advance your career and qualifications through graduate study while also balancing your job and other commitments. An online “advanced standing” Master of Social Work (MSW) program could be the ideal option to allow you to earn your MSW in just one year instead of two. Let’s explore what an advanced standing MSW involves and how it can help kickstart your career in social work.
Understanding Advanced Standing
Most accredited MSW programs in the United States offer an advanced standing option for applicants who have already completed a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) from a CSWE-accredited program within the last 5-7 years. Advanced standing is designed for individuals with experience and formal education in social work concepts and practices at the undergraduate level. It allows eligible students to waive the foundation year courses in an MSW program and move directly into the concentration curriculum.
By shortening the program length from two years (60 credit hours) to just one year (30 credit hours), advanced standing pathways ease the time commitment needed to complete an MSW while still ensuring students gain the specialized knowledge required for social work licensure and advanced clinical practice. Students take the same concentration courses as regular two-year MSW students and upon graduation meet all educational requirements.
Is an Online Advanced Standing MSW Right for You?
An online advanced standing MSW program is well-suited for working professionals and other individuals who need the flexibility of distance education. Online formats allow students to complete coursework around their existing schedules without having to take time off work or relocate for on-campus instruction.
Some key benefits of online advanced standing MSW programs include:
- Accelerated Timeline – Earning your degree in just 12 months instead of 24 reduces the financial and personal costs associated with a longer graduate program.
- Flexible Scheduling – Most courses are asynchronous, meaning you can access lectures, assignments and group discussions according to your own timetable rather than rigid class meeting times.
- Career Mobility – You maintain the ability to work full-time in your current job or relocate for new career opportunities while studying remotely.
- No Campus Attendance – Eliminates commute time and costs of attending in-person classes on a campus.
- Self-Paced Learning – Set your own learning pace within weekly due dates rather than being tied to traditional academic calendars and semesters.
- Same Curriculum – Complete the identical concentration requirements as on-campus programs leading to social work licensure.
To be a good fit, you should have strong time management, self-motivation and communication skills for remote independent study. Make sure your work or living schedule allows blocks of time for full engagement in the program.
Advanced Standing MSW Concentration Options
Most accredited programs offer several concentrations or specializations to choose from within the advanced standing pathway including:
- Clinical Practice – Focuses on therapeutic intervention, mental health treatment, and counseling individuals, families and groups. Prepares students for clinical licensure.
- Mental Health – Similar to clinical practice but with a specific emphasis on mental illness, substance abuse and community mental health services.
- Administration & Community Organization – Targets nonprofit and government agency leadership plus program planning, grant writing and policy change work.
- Families & Children – Concentrates on child welfare, foster care, adoption, family preservation and other family-based social services.
- Healthcare Social Work – Prepares students for medical social work roles in hospitals, nursing homes, hospices and other clinical settings serving patients.
Be sure any online advanced standing program you consider offers the specific concentration you need for your ideal career path and local job market. Check course catalogs and conduct virtualinfo sessions to compare options.
Graduation from an accredited advanced standing MSW program allows you to meet the educational requirements for social work licensing in all 50 U.S. states. The licensing process involves graduating, passing the ASWB Masters exam, andaccumulating professional supervision hours under a licensed clinical social worker.
With an MSW, career options span the spectrum of human services and non-profit organizations. Clinical practice roles include outpatient therapist, case manager, medical social worker, school social worker and more in both public and private settings. Macro-focused options involve administration, program development and policy work at local, state and national levels across government, non-profits and advocacy groups.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 12% growth in social work jobs through 2030, much faster than average, reflecting increased need for mental healthcare, elder services, child welfare protection and other social programs. Salaries vary by experience, licensure level and specialization but the median pay for clinical social workers with anMSW is $56,000 rising up to over $80,000 in some regions and specialties. Overall, an advanced standing MSW opens doors to career advancement and higher earnings potential compared to a bachelor’s alone.
Choosing an Accredited Online Advanced Standing Program
When selecting an online advanced standing MSW program, accreditation through the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) is non-negotiable. Only CSWE-accredited programs ensure consistent high quality standards recognized by licensing boards and employers nationwide. Some top considerations include:
- Cost of Attendance – Compare estimated total tuition and fees in-state vs. out-of-state at public schools or online vs. campus for private colleges.
- Competitive Acceptance Rate – Look at historical rates and requirements like GPA, resume, essays to assess your chances of admittance.
- Program Reputation – Research rankings, graduate outcomes and reviews about specific concentrationsyou’re interested in.
- Course Format & Technology – Evaluate learning management platforms, synchronous options, tech support, required hardware/software.
- Faculty Credentials – Check that core instructors have terminal degrees, social work practice experience.
- Field Practicum Support – Assess placement assistance, supervisor resources and documentation approaches for remote internships.
Collect all information to make a list of target schools before starting your applications for the upcoming fall semester. Funding opportunities like on-campus jobs, tuition waivers and scholarships may be different for online versus residential students too. Many top schools offer virtual info sessions to guide your decision-making.
Applying to Advanced Standing Programs
The CSWE accreditation process ensures accredited MSW programs adhere to uniform standards for admissions requirements across schools. However, acceptance remains competitive for desirable programs. Here are some application tips:
- Request Information – Use school websites to collect applications, requirements lists, deadlines well in advance.
- Personal Statement – Carefully address your interests in social work, past experience, career goals, fit with selected program themes.
- Resume – Highlight any relevant internships, volunteer work, leadership roles, awards/scholarships.
- Letters of Recommendation – Solicit letters from BSW program professors or direct supervisors emphasizing your skills, drive and suitability for the field.
- Interview – Where offered, practicing responses and researching common questions preemptively prepares for any interviews.
- GPA & Test Scores – Maintain excellent grades especially in social work major courses and aim over 3.0 usually required for acceptance. Consider GRE scores if requested.
Submit all materials before deadlines early in the year for fall admissions. Check application status frequently and communicate proactively with program coordinators as needed. Having competitive academic credentials and demonstrated commitment to social work will enhance chances. Accepted students are often notified starting in January for fall enrollment. After acceptance, focus on finalizing funding, housing, internships and any remaining logistics for an on-time transition. With preparation, persistence and hard work achieving entry into an online advanced standing MSW program is highly accomplishable.
For experienced undergraduates seeking to move their careers and qualifications forward at an accelerated pace, an online advanced standing MSW provides a convenient and flexible option. In just one academic year, you can gain specialized knowledge applicable to your area of social work practice interest through an intensive course sequence focused on your chosen concentration.
With advanced standing, logistical barriers like physical attendance, long commutes and relocating are eliminated while still completing an accredited graduate social work degree that meets licensure standards nationwide. Whether your practice aspirations involve direct clinical services, management, policy or research, an online advanced standing MSW positions you to be a leader and advocate capable of impacting lives through the social work profession.