MSW Online Option

Online Option Overview and Frequently Asked Questions

The Portland State University School of Social Work in Portland, Oregon is pleased to offer the first MSW online option in the Pacific Northwest. Nationally ranked by U.S. News and World Report, we are uniquely suited to deliver a quality academic program. Faculty based in our campus program will be collaboratively developing and delivering the curriculum with an advanced focus on Practice and Leadership with Communities and Organizations or Health Across the Lifespan. The program is uniquely designed for those who have traditionally lacked access to the MSW degree. We will offer a dynamic learning opportunity, using online curriculum, innovative teaching techniques and student directed learning in a structure that supports a family, work, school life balance. More detail about the program, admissions, and costs is outlined below. 

How does the MSW Online Option work? 
Students complete the 78 credit MSW degree over the course of 3 years, taking 6-9 credits per term (fall, winter, spring, summer).  During years 2 and 3, students complete a 16 hour/week field placement. The MSW Online Option has two advanced concentrations to choose from, Health Across the Lifespan or Practice and Leadership with Communities and Organizations.  Students follow a prescribed course sequence outlined in the Online Course Map.

Are there Information Sessions to get more information and to ask questions?
Yes.  You can sign up to attend virtually on our Information Session page.  Please contact for questions.

What is the admissions process for the Online Option?
Students follow the general MSW Program admissions process. We admit students once a year, beginning courses in fall term, and the application deadline is in early winter.

Students currently attending another accredited MSW program may apply to transfer to PSU School of Social Work Online Program. For more information see Transfer to MSW Program

How do the courses work? 
Courses are identical to what is taught in the other options, though the courses have been redesigned to fit the online delivery format. The courses are web based using our learning management system, D2L, which is similar to systems like “Blackboard.”  Our 11-week courses are broken into smaller learning modules that require students to be actively engaged in learning about 10 hours per week per course. The online curriculum allows students more flexibility as to when they complete the learning modules, though there will be significant work required each week. The online course design supports the use of more innovative teaching techniques and more student-directed learning. Students will also be expected to periodically participate in online face-to-face meetings with other students and faculty.

What is the curriculum for Practice and Leadership with Communities and Organizations?
Practice and Leadership with Communities and Organizations prepares students for careers in community practice, human services administration, policy practice, and advocacy. This is geared toward students who are currently working in the field and want to focus on developing leadership skills (for any kind of setting - clinical or community based) or who have an interest in community practice. Community practice includes individual short-term counseling, case management, and advocacy, as well as work with groups of individuals. These skills are applicable to many settings, though it will not be the best match for students wanting to focus on developing clinical (mental health) therapy skills. A full description of the sequence and a course map of all the courses is linked above.

How are field placements determined?
Students complete internships during years 2 and 3 of the Online MSW program.  It will be a collaborative process between the student and the field faculty that is similar to the process in our other programs. We will work with you to identify suitable agencies in your community that can support your development of social work skills.

During years 2 and 3 of the MSW Online program, students participate in field placement activities 16 hours each week of the term, including finals week.  Students' field schedules are individually negotiated with their field instructors and must not conflict with their classroom schedule.  Field placement sites offering student placements solely during the evening or weekend hours are rare and sometimes nonexistent.  Therefore, the School of Social Work is under no obligation to provide such placements.  Students generally need to plan to be available for placement during normal business hours maintained by the field site and during times when the professional staff are working and available to the student.  Part of the training experience involves participating in the life of the agency, attending regularly scheduled meetings, and other activities involving or sponsored by the field placement site.  Students cannot expect to complete all of their field hours during evening or weekend hours.

Students currently employed in a social service organization may be interested in the Employed Social Worker Option and more information about the requirements is available at Field Placement with Current Employer

More detailed information about the field placement process is available at the general MSW Program Field Education page.

Can I become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) if I focus on Practice and Leadership with Communities and Organizations?
This educational program will not impact your ability to become an LCSW in the State of Oregon as that license is based on your postgraduate experience and supervision. You are encouraged to review the rules on the Oregon Board of Licensed Social Workers website to get more detailed information. These rules vary in other states and you are encouraged to review the standards for your state. You can find your state board at the Association of Social Work Boards.

Will I have regular contact with faculty?
Faculty will have active involvement in the course on a weekly basis, including periodic face-to-face meetings with groups of students and/or the whole class.  These are the same faculty who teach on campus courses and in most cases will have designed the online course. 

What are the costs of the MSW Online Option?
Based on the 2019-20 tuition rates the cost of the 3-year program would be approximately $46,968 for Oregon residents and $64,672 for non-residents. These rates include the tuition, school and university standard fees, as well as a University fee for each online credit. These costs will increase in subsequent years, as tuition charges and fees go up yearly. Students interested in a career in public or tribal child welfare are encouraged to apply to the Child Welfare Education Program for tuition assistance and educational support. Information for veterans and their families is outlined at PSU Veteran Services.

Washington State Residents of the following counties - Asotin, Benton, Clark, Columbia, Cowlitz, Garfield, Klickitat, Pacific, Skamania, Wahkiakum, Walla Walla, may be eligible for in-state tuition rates and are encouraged to review the following Washington Border Policy.

The following pages provide more information about tuition, fees, and scholarships: SSW Tuition and Fees; University Tuition and Fees; School of Social Work Scholarships.

Are there any geographical restrictions on who can apply to the program?
There are no restrictions for Oregon residents. Students from outside Oregon can review the information on State Authorization for online courses, as some restrictions may apply. Out-of-state students will be charged nonresident tuition. 

Will I ever have to come to the Portland campus?
Yes, students will be expected to come to the Portland campus for 2-day intensives at the beginning of each year (late September). These intensives will allow for community building between students and faculty and allow for some face-to-face instructional time and assessment of student learning.

What Technology is needed to participate?
Courses will use the learning management system, D2L; Blackboard Collaborate; Google Hangouts; the web, and You Tube as the foundation for course delivery. You can assess whether your computer system requirements are sufficient by clicking on D2L System Check and Google Hangout System Requirements.

You will need the following technology to participate in the Online Option

  • Computer/Laptop running Windows 7 or Mac OS X 10.6 - 2GHz dual core processor or greater
  • Web cam - build in or external
  • Headset with microphone - iPhone ear buds with the built in microphone work fine
  • Broadband internet connection - minimum 1mbps outband from your computer; 2mbps inbound to your computer
  • Video camera - some type of video recording device, flip camera or built into computer
  • Software

What technology skills do I need? 
In addition to knowing how to use the above technology the basic things you should know how to do prior to entering the program are web searches, library database searches, email communication including attaching files, creating documents in MS WORD and PowerPoint or other document and presentation software, and uploading video to You Tube. PSU has tutorials for some of these at D2L tutorials and Google tutorials. You will also have an orientation to D2L, our learning management system, when you come to campus.

Is there an Advanced Standing option in the Online Program?
Yes.  You can learn more on the Advanced Standing page.  

Is it possible to complete the Certificate in Gerontology, the joint masters program in Public Health, or the Peace Corps Masters International?
Yes, but at this point courses for the gerontology certificate and MA in Public Health are only offered on the Portland campus, so students would need to come to campus.

Additional questions may be addressed at MSW Frequently Asked Questions