Question: Are there any online MSW programs that do not require the GRE for admission?

Answer: Yes. In fact, the majority of online MSW programs do not require scored from the GRE test for admission. There are also online MSW programs that have a GRE requirement, but waive this requirement if students meet certain criteria, such as a minimum undergraduate GPA or a certain number of years of work experience in the field. As admissions requirements can change over time, applicants should always consult with a program’s admissions office for their most up-to-date requirements before applying.

Online MSW programs’ admissions requirements tend to be quite rigorous, as programs want to ensure that the students they admit are able to take on graduate-level coursework as well as demanding field practicums. With that said, most CSWE-accredited online MSW programs do not require the GRE for admission. Instead, many of these programs prioritize applicants’ personal statements, undergraduate academic performance, professional experience, and letters of recommendation. To gain an understanding of an applicant’s potential to succeed, online MSW programs want to see a holistic view of each candidate.

In addition to their traditional admissions track for candidates who do not have an undergraduate degree in social work, many online MSW programs also offer advanced standing tracks, which are only open to students who have earned their Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) from a CSWE-accredited program. For BSW graduates, advanced standing online MSW programs are advantageous because they allow students to transfer some or most of their BSW credits and field education hours into their MSW, thereby saving students time and money. In general, online MSW programs that do not require GRE scores for their traditional standing admissions track also do not require them for advanced standing applicants.

Examples of Online MSW Programs that Do Not Require the GRE

The following are examples of CSWE-accredited online MSW programs that do not require the GRE for admission:

  • The University of Southern California’s (USC) Online Master of Social Work offers specializations in Adult Mental Health and Wellness; Children, Youth, and Families; and Social Change and Innovation, as well as optional tracks in Military Social Work and School Social Work (the School Social Work track is only available to California residents).
  • Simmons University’s Online Master of Social Work has a clinical social work focus that also prepares students to promote social justice across all levels of social work intervention and advocacy. Students can choose from among four specializations: Child and Family, Trauma and Interpersonal Violence, Health and Aging, and Mental Health and Addictions.
  • Our Lady of the Lake University’s (OLLU) Online Master of Social Work focuses on supporting Hispanic communities through classes that discuss psychopathology, political advocacy, and social programming within the context of assisting Hispanic youth, families, and elders.
  • George Mason University’s (GMU) Online Master of Social Work focuses on social justice and empowerment practices to transform and support social service systems, and also emphasizes clinical social work skill-building and interdisciplinary approaches to advocating for human rights and well-being.
  • Winthrop University’s Online Master of Social Work trains students to employ empowerment practices when working with individuals, groups, organizations, communities, and social systems to address social injustices.
  • University of Kentucky’s (UK) Online Master of Social Work features a specialization in Advanced General Practice, as well as cognate areas in Clinical and Integrated Behavioral Health, which prepare students to work across diverse social work settings, from clinical practice to program development.
  • Fordham University’s Online Master of Social Work provides students with advanced areas of study including Individuals and Families, Organizations and Community, Evaluation, and Policy Practice and Advocacy. Students are also able to craft their own individualized specialization.
  • Case Western Reserve University’s Online Master of Science in Social Administration (MSSA), which for all practical purposes is equivalent to an MSW program, focuses on giving students the tools to support and promote social, political, economic, and environmental justice.
  • Regis College’s Online Master of Social Work features courses that focus on helping students develop strong clinical social work skills to design and implement interventions for individuals, groups, families and organizations, and to optimize social service programs.

Examples of Online MSW Programs that Require the GRE on a Conditional Basis

In addition to the example programs listed above that do not require the GRE for admission, there are also MSW programs that have GRE or standardized test score requirements, but waive them if students meet certain minimum GPA requirements or other standards. Below are two examples of online MSW programs that require the GRE on a conditional basis:

  • Arizona State University’s (ASU) Online Master of Social Work, which offers an Advanced Generalist concentration, requires either the GRE or the Millers Analogy Test (MAT), but waives this requirement if students earned a 3.2 or higher during their junior and senior years of their undergraduate studies.
  • Edinboro University’s Online Master of Social Work requires the GRE for admission, but waives this requirement if an applicant maintained a 2.8 overall GPA or higher during his or her undergraduate career. This program offers a clinical-focused curriculum designed to prepare students to work in diverse clinical and micro social work settings.

Admissions Requirements for Online MSW Programs

Students should note that MSW programs have selective admissions policies, which means they typically do not accept all students who meet the admissions’ criteria. This is especially true for advance standing MSW programs which often have higher admissions standards compared to traditional programs. In addition, online MSW programs that do not require the GRE for admission are no less rigorous than programs that do require applicants to submit standardized test scores.

In general, MSW programs have admissions requirements that seek to create a comprehensive picture of how well a potential student will perform in the program. Typical online MSW application components include but at not limited to:

  • A personal statement that explains the applicant’s interest in the field of social work and the program in particular, and how the applicant seeks to grow through his or her studies in the program.
  • Transcripts of all of the applicant’s previous undergraduate and graduate coursework. Many programs have overall minimum GPA requirements for students’ post-secondary coursework, and/or course-specific GPA requirements (e.g. a minimum GPA requirement of 3.0 for undergraduate classes relating to social work). Advanced standing MSW programs typically have a higher minimum GPA requirement, often as high as 3.5.
  • While traditional standing (also known as foundational) MSW programs require students to have earned a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, most do not require a bachelor’s degree in social work. With that said, some programs may prefer students who majored in a related field (such as criminal justice, human services, psychology, or sociology), while others will accept any bachelor’s degree major. For advanced standing MSW programs, students must have earned a BSW degree from a CSWE-accredited institution.
  • Two to three letters of recommendation from academic and/or professional references who can speak to the applicant’s ability to succeed in the program as well as in challenging social work settings.

In addition to the above admissions components, some online MSW programs require students to submit an academic writing sample and/or complete an interview over video chat. Furthermore, some MSW programs also require students to have completed certain prerequisite courses in order to be considered for admission. As mentioned previously, one of the best ways for prospective students to learn how to submit a competitive application to an MSW program is to contact an admissions advisor or a program director who can give them more insights on how to best submit their application.