Best Online Master’s in Social Work Programs [No GRE]

You can forget all about the GRE — these online MSW programs don't require test scores at all. Get started today!
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Meg Embry is a writer at BestColleges covering all things career and education related. An award-winning journalist and editor, she has lived and worked in Canada, the Netherlands, and the United States....
Updated on September 6, 2023
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Tyler Epps is an editor for BestColleges. He writes and edits content about higher education, specializing in degree planning and college rankings. He is passionate about helping students prepare for college and navigate their educational journey. He...
Learn more about our editorial process is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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  • There are many online MSW programs that don't require applicants to submit GRE scores.
  • These programs tend to prioritize other indicators of program-readiness, like work experience, recommendations, and essays.
  • Select a program with an MSW specialization that matches your passion and career goals.

Looking for an online MSW program that doesn't require the GRE? We've got you covered.

Because let's be for real: The things that make you a great social worker — like your emotional intelligence, passion for justice, and devotion to helping others — don't always translate to being a great test-taker.

But there are a ton of great online programs available to help you get your master's degree and advance your social work career — without ever having to fuss over the GRE.

A master's degree in social work is a must-have if you want to qualify for licensure, open a private practice, or apply for clinical positions.

Online MSW Programs With No GRE Requirements

Online MSW programs typically take two years of full-time study to complete. In the first year, you'll take foundational social work courses exploring theories, ethics, and history. In year two, you'll concentrate on a more specialized practice area.

Some of the most common MSW specializations include:

Your MSW specialization will impact your field and career path, where you work, and who you work with. This is why it's so important to pick a concentration that aligns with your interests, values, and goals as a social worker.

1. Administration and Management

This specialization prepares you for leadership positions in social service, nonprofit, healthcare, and government organizations. You will learn useful program management and supervisory skills, including budgeting and finance, grant administration, and organizational strategy. You'll also study policy development.

Social workers with an MSW in administration and management make an average annual salary of $74,000 (Payscale, February 2023).

Featured Administration and Management Programs

2. Child Welfare

An MSW specialization in child welfare prepares you to serve vulnerable children and families at risk of harm, neglect, or abuse. You will also learn how to advocate for policy changes to support this population.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage in May 2021 was $49,150 for child, family, and school social workers.

Featured Online Master's in Social Work Programs

3. Community Services

Social workers who specialize in community services provide direct patient care, as well as community support. They engage in community organizing, program development, policy making, and resource advocacy to ensure that community members get what they need to thrive.

The median annual pay for social workers employed in community services and local government is $61,190 (BLS, May 2021).

Featured Community Services Programs

4. Corrections

A corrections specialization prepares social workers to serve people involved in the criminal justice system. That can include the incarcerated, people on probation or parole, or those reintegrating into society after incarceration.

The median annual salary for all types of social workers, including those working in corrections and prisons, is $61,190 (BLS, May 2021).

Featured Corrections Programs

5. Gerontology

Geriatric social workers specialize in helping elderly individuals and their families. They provide clients with social, physical, emotional, and mental health support. They often work in hospitals, nursing homes, community organizations, and outpatient settings.

The median annual pay for social workers providing individual and family services is $46,640 (BLS, May 2021).

Featured Gerontology Programs

6. Healthcare

Medical social workers collaborate with healthcare professionals to address clients' medical, social, and emotional needs. They advocate for patients and connect them to resources that support their health and well-being.

Medical and healthcare social workers make a median annual salary of $60,840 a year (BLS, May 2021).

Featured Healthcare Programs

Criminal justice social workers (sometimes called forensic social workers) support individuals and families who are involved in the criminal justice system. They may also provide guidance to law enforcement and legal personnel.

The BLS reports that the median salary for all other social workers, which includes forensic social workers, was $61,190 a year as of May 2021.

Featured Legal and Criminal Justice Programs

8. Mental Health Services

MSW students who specialize in mental health services learn to provide therapy, counseling, and case management services for people and groups living with mental health conditions. They also advocate for policies promoting better mental health in their communities.

Mental health social workers make a median annual salary of $49,130 (BLS, May 2021).

Featured Mental Health Services Programs

9. Public Health and Policy

Social workers focused on public health and policy look for the root causes of health disparities within their communities. They address poverty, access, and environmental issues that impact health and well-being, and develop policies to improve public health.

Healthcare social workers make a median salary of $60,840 a year (BLS, May 2021).

Featured Public Health and Policy Programs

10. School Social Worker

Social workers who serve in schools provide crucial support for K-12 students, families, and educators. They are experts in childhood trauma, development, and mental health. As a school social worker, you will get to help children thrive.

School social workers earn a median annual salary of $49,150 (BLS, May 2021).

Featured School Counseling Programs

11. Substance Misuse Counseling

Social workers who get a concentration in substance misuse provide services to individuals impacted by drugs, alcohol, and other forms of addiction. They get jobs in specialized treatment programs, hospitals, mental health centers, and government agencies.

Addiction social worker jobs pay a median salary of $49,130 a year (BLS, May 2021).

Featured Substance Misuse Counseling Programs

Careers Opportunities in Social Work

Social workers who choose to specialize in a certain area of social work can access higher-paying, niche roles.

As a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), you can also open a private practice — which allows you to pick your clients and set your rates. This can be a lucrative, flexible, and rewarding career path for entrepreneurial-minded professionals.

Many social workers go on to become program managers or directors who oversee programs and budgets. The pay can be pretty good, too: Social and community service managers working in local government agencies earn a median annual salary of $93,420 a year (BLS, May 2021).

MSW Career and Salary Outlook

Here are some popular careers for social workers with an MSW:

8 Popular Jobs for an MSW Degree
Careers Average Annual Salary
Child and Youth Social Worker $58,000
Social Service Manager $60,680
Mental Health Program Manager $62,400
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) $62,600
Social Work Supervisor $63,800
Behavior Analyst $68,340
Executive Director, Nonprofit $71,210
Social Work Professor $89,830
Source: Payscale, 2023

MSW vs. BSW Salary Comparison

Social workers with a bachelor's degree (BSW) qualify for entry-level jobs in the field. People with a master's degree (MSW) qualify for licensure and advanced practice positions.

Average BSW Base Salary

$43,400 per year

Source: Payscale

Average MSW Base Salary

$51,930 per year

Source: Payscale

According to Payscale, the average pay range for a social worker with a BSW is $31,000-$64,000 per year as of March 2023. Payscale reports that the average pay range for a social worker with an MSW is $39,000-$79,000 per year as of March 2023.

The BLS reports that the top 10% of earners in social work (typically, those with advanced degrees) made more than $82,840 per year in May 2021.

DSW vs. MSW Salary Comparison

While an MSW can give you access to clinical positions that pay as much as $79,000 per year, a DSW can tip your salary into the six-figure range.

A DSW may also qualify you for high-paying roles like clinical director, which can pay up to $133,000 per year (Payscale, March 2023). Or, you can work as a public relations and fundraising manager, which can pay as much as $204,430 per year (BLS, May 2021).

Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Social Work Programs Without GRE Requirements

Do all MSW programs require the GRE?

Nope! There are many high-quality online MSW programs that do not require the GRE for admission. Many online programs also offer you the flexibility to fit school into your schedule, save money, and finish quickly.

Why do some MSW programs not require the GRE?

Many MSW programs do not require the GRE because it may be an obstacle to applicants who have neither the time nor the money to prepare for the exam. These MSW programs often prioritize other markers of potential academic success (like work experience, GPA, strong recommendations, and admissions essays) over GRE or GMAT test scores.

What is a good GRE score for MSW programs?

A “good” GRE score will depend on the specific requirements and priorities of each MSW program. Make sure to research each school's expectations — and then exceed them.

Here's how social work graduate students performed on the GRE from 2015-2022, according to a recent GRE Worldwide Test Taker Report:

GRE Mean Test Scores for Entering Social Work Graduate Students
GRE Test Section Mean Score
Verbal Reasoning 152.7
Quantitative Reasoning 150.6
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