Skip to main content

Online Master of Social Work

Traditional Track

  • Clinical and Advanced Generalist
  • No Campus Visits – 100% Online
  • Flexible and Competitively Priced

Get More Program Details

  • Admission Requirements
  • Enrollment Support
  • Engaged Learning
  • Program Features
  • Current Step 1
  • Step 2
  • Step 3



Start a new career that addresses human needs and advances social justice

The Traditional Track of Cleveland State University’s online Master of Social Work (MSW) is designed for students like you who are seeking a rewarding and meaningful new career in social work. With your bachelor’s degree in any field as your foundation, and depending on your interests and goals, you can choose from two specializations — Clinical Social Worker or Advanced Generalist Social Worker. Coursework is 100% online with 900 field practicum hours in your community — no campus residencies are required. Our online MSW is offered part-time and full-time so you can seamlessly balance your professional and personal life as you earn your degree. 

Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission

Higher Learning Commission

CSWE accredited online MSW program at Cleveland State University

Council on Social Work Education

icon representing Cleveland State University's online MSW program and field placement services

Field Placement Services



CSU’s online MSW prepares you to address human needs and aspirations, issues of social and economic justice, discrimination and oppression using policy practice and advocacy in clinical and advanced generalist interventions. 

  • 100% online coursework is asynchronous.
  • No on-campus visits.
  • Study at your own pace with full-time and part-time options.
  • Complimentary field placement services for 900 experiential learning hours in your community.
  • Choose from 2 specializations:
    • Clinical
    • Advanced Generalist.
  • Certificates are available in: 
    • Chemical Dependency (Clinical specialization only)
    • Gerontology (Both specializations)
    • Veterinary Social Work (Both specializations)
  • Learn from published faculty on the cutting edge of social issues.
  • CSWE-accredited social work program.

Our experienced faculty promotes a practice-in-context perspective that embodies ethical reflection and integrates policy practice, theories of person-in-environment and evaluation of practice within specific settings. As a CSU graduate, you will have used the latest research methods and tools and will be prepared to engage in scientific inquiry and lifelong learning.

Traditional MSW

Curriculum Sample

This course presents theories that explain human behavior and inform competency-based generalist social work practice with individuals, families and groups and their relationships with communities and organizations. A multidisciplinary theoretical perspective includes theories relevant to human needs and aspirations. A contextual-systems framework captures the depth and breadth and the nature of interactions within, between and among persons and environment(s). 


This lays the theoretical groundwork for practice, policy and research by teaching fundamental concepts used in assessment, analysis and problem formulation. It also establishes the theoretical framework for the second-year specialization coursework. Generalist and specific critical perspectives are used to examine human behavior theory for assessing, intervening and evaluating people and environment transactions and for planning practice responses to enhance these relationships. (3 credits)

This is the first of two generalist practicums that students complete. Students complete 200 hours of field placement in their assigned setting under the supervision of their field instructors. The generalist practicum provides students with the opportunity to develop competencies in generalist social work practice. Students integrate and apply the knowledge, values and skills developed in their coursework to develop generalist social work competencies for engaging, assessing and intervening with individuals, families and groups in generalist practice settings. The generalist field practicum is systematically designed, supervised and coordinated. Students are evaluated on criteria by which they demonstrate generalist social work competencies. (3 credits)

This course focuses on complex issues related to disparities within diverse minority sub-populations, including the intersectionality of multiple factors that may include, but are not limited to, race and ethnicity, age, class, color, culture, disability and ability, physical and emotional challenges, gender, gender expression, immigration status, marital status, political ideology, religion/spirituality, sex, sexual orientation, and tribal sovereignty and status, socioeconomic status, as well as implicit and explicit biases. 


Students learn the extent to which cultural values and social, economic, political and cultural exclusion have oppressed, marginalized, alienated or created privilege and power for select populations expressed historically through personal, institutional and societal attitudes, language and behaviors, established practices, policies, procedures, customs and laws. 

Systems-level issues are covered, addressing disparities resulting in oppression, poverty, marginalization, alienation and historical trauma experienced by these diverse subpopulations. Students develop knowledge and skill values by gaining self-awareness and self-regulation that will manage the influence of personal biases and values in working with diverse clients and constituencies, understanding how disparities can enhance cultural competence in working with diverse populations, becoming more inclusive by using strategies designed to remove structural barriers to ensure social goods are distributed equitably and protecting human rights. (3 credits)

Students build on their understanding of the historical role of social policy in the United States by developing a solid understanding of the structure of contemporary social work and social welfare. They build on their understanding of social work ethics by learning the ethical requirements of policy practice. They develop a solid overview of the relevant laws and regulations that impact practice at the micro, mezzo and macro levels and learn the terminology necessary to think critically about the policy arena. 


They identify social welfare policies and services at the local, state and federal levels that impact well-being, service delivery and access to social services. Social workers recognize and understand the historical, social, cultural, economic, organizational, environmental and global influences that affect social policy. They come to understand the global interconnections of oppression and human rights violations and that every person has fundamental human rights such as freedom, safety, privacy, an adequate standard of living, healthcare and education. Finally, they identify, analyze, formulate and advocate for social policies that address human needs and advance social justice in a way that is consistent with human rights. (3 credits)

Learn More

We’re here for you and ready to help you with enrollment and answer your questions about the program, including tuition, admission requirements, curriculum details and more.

CSU MSW Testimonial

Field Placement Services

Experiential learning in your community is one of the most exciting and rewarding aspects of earning your degree. The experience is guided and directed by CSU faculty in collaboration with your on-site field supervisor at the agency where you complete the hours. Support to find field placement sites that align with your career goals is integrated into the program cost.


How does the field placement process work?

Your dedicated CSU field placement team collaborates with you to secure quality experiential learning sites that reflect your educational goals and desired practice specialty. They ensure all experiences meet CSWE accreditation standards, and the agencies and field instructors are approved prior to the start of your fieldwork.


How do field placement services help me?

Concurrent coursework and field experiences connect theory with practice. Field placement provides 900 hours of real-world, hands-on social work experience. Your field placement team helps coordinate required paperwork and can assist with identifying placement sites that meet program requirements as needed so you can focus on your coursework and build your skills.


How should I prepare for my field placement?

Your Student Online Experience Coach and faculty guide you through the entire process. They give you a realistic idea of the field experience to ensure you are ready to work independently in a fast-paced environment.


Can I arrange my own field experiences?

Students are strongly encouraged to conduct outreach to secure a placement site and are responsible for key parts of the placement process. However, the University is required to review and approve the agency before the start of any fieldwork.

The Difference Between Clinical and Advanced Generalist Social Work

smiling social worker in a group setting representing the online MSW programs at Cleveland State University

Clinical Social Work

Focuses on the assessment, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental illness, emotional and other behavioral disturbances

Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW) licensure varies by each state, but additional post-graduate supervised practice hours along with successful completion of the Clinical ASWB exam is required.

Accredited MSW

smiling social worker in a group setting representing the online MSW programs at Cleveland State University

Generalist Social Work

Has a range of applications within organizations, initiatives, agencies, advocacy groups, community organizations, healthcare and more

Licensure for master’s level generalist social workers varies by state and may include post-graduate practice hours, but all states require successful completion of the ASWB master’s-level exam.

Accredited MSW

Social Work by the Numbers

Number of social work jobs in 2021
9 %
Overall growth of employment for social workers through 2031
Projected job openings each year through 2031

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes. The online MSW is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Cleveland State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Non-BSW degree holders can take the traditional track on a full- or part-time basis. Full-time students can complete the program in 5 to 6 semesters (1 year and 7 months to 2 years), whereas part-time students can complete the program in 8 to 10 semesters (2 years and 7 months to 3 years and 3 months).

The traditional track of the online MSW costs $614.25* per credit hour for in-state students ($36,855.00 total* + fees) and $615.25* ($36,915.00 total* + fees) for out-of-state students. Financial aid may be available to our online students.

*Tuition rates as of 01/22/2024. Rates are subject to change. Visit for current rates.

Yes. CSU’s social work faculty are highly productive educators and researchers who have published books and numerous articles. You will gain insight and inspiration from educators at the cutting edge of social research and emerging theories of practice.

Clinical social work focuses on the assessment, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental illness and emotional and other behavioral disturbances. Advanced generalist social work has a range of applications within organizations, initiatives, agencies, advocacy groups, community organizations, healthcare and more.

Students within the Clinical Social Work specialization may earn certificates in Chemical Dependency, Gerontology or Veterinary Social Work. Those enrolled in the Advanced Generalist specialization can earn the Gerontology and Veterinary Social Work certificate.

Yes. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts a 9% increase in social work jobs through 2030 across all professional sectors.

Social workers make up the majority of mental health and behavioral health therapists, and there is professional strength in numbers. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the 2021 median pay for social workers was $50,390, with significantly higher salaries for those living in higher-cost-of-living areas and for those who are independently licensed.

This learning model develops an informed approach to practice by connecting multidisciplinary research with the competencies essential to effective social work.


Dedicated Student Support

A CSU enrollment advisor can answer your questions and guide you through the application process. Click the button below to fill out a form and start the conversation.

  • Admission Requirements
  • Curriculum Details
  • Experiential learning
  • Enrollment Support
  • Financial Aid
  • Tuition Costs