Students wishing to complete their Master’s in Social Work in California have a lot of options, both in education and job opportunities. With 39.5 million residents and 6.2 million students enrolled in public schools, California has an extremely diverse population. One quarter of the U.S. homeless population live in California alone. According to a review of the American Community Survey, of California’s total population, 15.8 percent are below the poverty line, 18.6 percent struggle with the English language, 10.6 percent are disabled, and there are nearly 150,000 unemployed veterans. Of the 12.8 million households in California, 24.5 percent include grandparents that are responsible for grandchildren under the age of 18, and despite recent healthcare policy efforts, 4.8 million Californian’s are still uninsured. California is a powerhouse for social work, and California schools certainly recognize this demand.

Why enroll in an accredited MSW program in California?

If you wish to plant your social work roots in California, it’s helpful to attend a California school, or an online program that meets California standards. Attending a school that is California-approved with ensure a smooth transition once you begin the licensing process. California only offers two licensing options that both require a Master’s in Social Work. If you wish to work in a supervised setting, you can obtain an Associate Clinical Social Worker license. However, if you with to truly be an independent clinical social worker, you must obtain a Licensed Clinical Social Worker license. According to the Board of Behavioral Sciences, the main difference between these two licenses is that you must complete 3,200 hours of supervised experience over a minimum of 104 weeks prior to obtaining a LCSW license.

Becoming a social worker in California opens the doors to a lot of opportunities. Given it’s enormous and diverse population, California has more jobs in social work than any other state. As a comparison, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, California employed 73,400 social workers in 2017, while the state of Washington only employed 13,550. Furthermore, the average salary for social workers in California is $61,514, while the average in Washington is $58,688.

California vs. Washington Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, May 2017*

Type of social worker CA number employed as of May 2017 WA number employed as of May 2017 CA average annual salary WA average annual salary
Child, family, and school 32,050 7,020 $55,830 $50,540
Healthcare 18,150 3,610 $72,770 $61,050
Mental health and substance abuse 12,600 2,170 $55,730 $54,980
Other 10,600 750 $66,300 $68,180
Total 73,400 13,550 $61,514 $58,688

*According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2018.

According to Indeed, there are currently 8,556 California social work job opportunities, while there are only 2,253 in Washington.

We certainly do not discredit the fact that social workers are needed all over the country. However, working in California provides for a higher salary and more job opportunities. In order to meet the needs of population, there are a lot of MSW programs offered in California schools, many of which specialize in the many demands and challenges California faces with its poverty levels and mental illness.

Below, we provide an outline of the many MSW program opportunities California has to offer. We have included both traditional in-person and distance learning programs.

Overview of accredited MSW programs in California

The following programs have been accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. We provide the initial accreditation date, as well as the most recent review date. All tuition costs provided assume you will finish the program within two years.

Azusa Pacific University

  • Tuition cost: $42,780
  • Initial Accreditation Date: 2007
  • Latest Accreditation Review Date: October 2015
  • http://www.apu.edu/

California State University, Bakersfield

  • Tuition cost: $32,488
  • Initial Accreditation Date: 2002
  • Latest Accreditation Review Date: June 2015
  • http://www.csub.edu/SocialWork/

California State University, Chico

  • Tuition cost: $17,572
  • Initial Accreditation Date: 2003
  • Latest Accreditation Review Date: February 2017
  • http://www.csuchico.edu

California State University, Dominguez Hills

  • Tuition cost: $16,532
  • Initial Accreditation Date: 2007
  • Latest Accreditation Review Date: February 2017
  • http://www.csudh.edu/

California State University, East Bay

  • Tuition cost: $16,548
  • Initial Accreditation Date: 2003
  • Latest Accreditation Review Date: June 2010
  • http://class.csueastbay.edu/socialwork/

California State University, Fresno

  • Tuition cost: $16,040
  • Initial Accreditation Date: 1996
  • Latest Accreditation Review Date: October 2016
  • http://www.csufresno.edu/

California State University, Fullerton

  • Tuition cost: $14,352
  • Initial Accreditation Date: 2007
  • Latest Accreditation Review Date: February 2015
  • http://www.fullerton.edu/

California State University, Long Beach

  • Tuition cost: $14,352
  • Initial Accreditation Date: 1987
  • Latest Accreditation Review Date: October 2010
  • http://www.csulb.edu/depts/socialwk/

California State University, Los Angeles

  • Tuition cost: $16,352
  • Initial Accreditation Date: 1999
  • Latest Accreditation Review Date: February 2011
  • http://www.calstatela.edu/

California State University, Monterey Bay

  • Tuition cost: $14,352
  • Initial Accreditation Date: 2010
  • Latest Accreditation Review Date: June 2011
  • https://www.csumb.edu/

California State University, Northridge

  • Tuition cost: $27,060
  • Initial Accreditation Date: 2004
  • Latest Accreditation Review Date: February 2008
  • http://www.csun.edu/msw

California State University, Sacramento

  • Tuition cost: $17,276
  • Initial Accreditation Date: 1966
  • Latest Accreditation Review Date: February 2018
  • http://www.hhs.csus.edu/SWRK/

California State University, San Bernardino

  • Tuition cost: $14,352
  • Initial Accreditation Date: 1989
  • Latest Accreditation Review Date: February 2012
  • http://socialwork.csusb.edu

California State University, San Marcos

  • Tuition cost: $71,678
  • Initial Accreditation Date: 2013
  • Latest Accreditation Review Date: June 2016
  • http://www.csusm.edu/

California State University, Stanislaus

  • Tuition cost: $15,216
  • Initial Accreditation Date: 1996
  • Latest Accreditation Review Date: June 2010
  • http://www.csustan.edu/Social_Work/index.htm

Humboldt State University

  • Tuition cost: $17,856
  • Initial Accreditation Date: 2003
  • Latest Accreditation Review Date: October 2011
  • http://www2.humboldt.edu/socialwork/

Loma Linda University

  • Tuition cost: $62,244
  • Initial Accreditation Date: 1995
  • Latest Accreditation Review Date: February 2018
  • http://www.llu.edu/science-technology/grad/socialwork/index.page

San Diego State University

  • Tuition cost: $17,844
  • Initial Accreditation Date: 1966
  • Latest Accreditation Review Date: February 2010
  • http://arweb.sdsu.edu/es/admissions/grad/programs/social_work_msw.html

San Francisco State University

  • Tuition cost: $17,384
  • Initial Accreditation Date: 1971
  • Latest Accreditation Review Date: October 2010
  • http://socwork.sfsu.edu/

San Jose State University

  • Tuition cost: $27,632
  • Initial Accreditation Date: 1973
  • Latest Accreditation Review Date: June 2015
  • http://www.sjsu.edu/socialwork/

University of California, Berkeley

  • Tuition cost: $46,852
  • Initial Accreditation Date: 1928
  • Latest Accreditation Review Date: October 2014
  • http://socialwelfare.berkeley.edu/

University of California, Los Angeles

  • Tuition cost: $33,636
  • Initial Accreditation Date: 1949
  • Latest Accreditation Review Date: October 2015
  • https://luskin.ucla.edu/social-welfare/

University of Southern California

  • Tuition cost: $103,848
  • Initial Accreditation Date: 1922
  • Latest Accreditation Review Date: February 2018
  • http://www.usc.edu/dept/socialwork/

Overview of accredited online MSW programs approved to operate in California

Below, we also provide a list of online programs that have been accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. According to the CSWE, the list of accredited online programs is not as exhaustive as the in-person learning database; this is because they rely upon those institutions that have been accredited to reach out and notify them that they would like to be added to the site. However, all of the programs below are subject to the same accreditation standards and review criteria, regardless of delivery method.

Online education is extremely useful, especially for those students that require additional flexibility. For more information about what your experience will be with online learning, check out Nooddle’s article on What to Expect from an Online Program. Still concerned? Keep reading -- How to compare online, hybrid, and distance learning MSW programs. Think online is right for you? make sure to review Noodle's comprehensive guide which explores online MSW programs.

Arizona State University

  • Tuition cost: $24,174
  • Campus visit required: No, fully online
  • Specialized Practice: Advanced Generalist
  • https://socialwork.asu.edu/MSWonline

Boise State University

  • Tuition cost: $29,245
  • Campus visit required: No, fully online
  • Specialized Practice: Individuals and Families
  • http://hs.boisestate.edu/socialwork/msw-online

Boston University

  • Tuition cost: $49,500
  • Campus visit required: No, fully online
  • Specialized Practice: Clinical Social Work Practice and Macro Social Work Practice
  • http://www.bu.edu/ssw/academics/online/

California State University, Long Beach

  • Tuition cost: $14,352
  • Campus visit required: Interactive television and online resources with frequent in-person visits by faculty; classes on Saturdays with 16-hour per week field placements during second and third academic years
  • Specialized Practice: Children, Youths, and Families
  • http://www.csulb.edu/colleges/chhs/departments/social-work/distance-education

California State University, Northridge

  • Tuition cost: $45,120
  • Campus visit required: No, fully online
  • Specialized Practice: Urban Family Studies
  • http://tsengcollege.csun.edu/programs/MSW

California State University, San Bernardino

  • Tuition cost: $36,000
  • Campus visit required: 3-day on-campus visit required each summer
  • Specialized Practice: Advanced Generalist
  • http://socialwork.csusb.edu/majorsPrograms/pdep/index.htm

Case Western Reserve University

  • Tuition cost: $89,040
  • Campus visit required: No, fully online
  • Specialized Practice: Community Practice & Social Change and Direct Practice (Child, Youths, & Families or Mental Health/Adults)
  • http://onlinesocialwork.case.edu

Columbia University

  • Tuition cost: $52,562
  • Campus visit required: No, fully online
  • Specialized Practice: Advanced Clinical Practice or Social Enterprise Administration
  • http://socialwork.columbia.edu/the-student-experience/online-campus/

Delaware State University

  • Tuition cost: $26,280
  • Campus visit required: No, fully online
  • Specialized Practice: Advanced Generalist
  • https://wilmington.desu.edu

Edinboro University of Pennsylvania

  • Tuition cost: $42,420
  • Campus visit required: No, fully online
  • Specialized Practice: Family Social Work Practice
  • http://www.edinboro.edu/academics/schools-and-departments/graduate-studies/programs/social-work/index.html

Humboldt State University

  • Tuition cost: $30,600
  • Campus visit required: Annual extended weekend on-campus intensive required
  • Specialized Practice: Program emphasizes work with indigenous and rural communities with a particular commitment to decolonizing social work and mindfulness-based practice
  • http://www2.humboldt.edu/socialwork/

Indiana University

  • Tuition cost: $41,715
  • Campus visit required: No, fully online
  • Specialized Practice: Advanced Generalist
  • http://mswdirect.iu.edu

Louisiana State University

  • Tuition cost: $59,562
  • Campus visit required: No, fully online
  • Specialized Practice: N/A
  • http://www.lsu.edu/chse/socialwork/academics/msw-online.php

Our Lady of the Lake University

  • Tuition cost: $51,699
  • Campus visit required: No, fully online
  • Specialized Practice: Direct Practice with Hispanic Children and Families
  • http://onlineprograms.ollusa.edu/msw/masters-in-social-work-online-overview

Portland State University

  • Tuition cost: $38,208
  • Campus visit required: No, fully online
  • Specialized Practice: Practice and Leadership in Communities and Organizations
  • http://www.pdx.edu/ssw/msw-program

Rutgers University

  • Tuition cost: $60,000
  • Campus visit required: No, fully online
  • Specialized Practice: Clinical Social Work
  • http://online.rutgers.edu/msw

San Jose State University

  • Tuition cost: $27,632
  • Campus visit required: No, fully online
  • Specialized Practice: Transcultural multisystems with two fields of practice: (1) Children, Youths, and Families and (2) Health and Mental Health
  • http://www.sjsu.edu/socialwork/

Simmons College

  • Tuition cost: $68,900
  • Campus visit required: No, fully online
  • Specialized Practice: Clinical Social Work, specialized areas in mental health and substance abuse; Child and Family Welfare; Trauma and Interpersonal Violence; and Health and Aging
  • http://socialwork.simmons.edu

Temple University

  • Tuition cost: $57,600
  • Campus visit required: 3-day campus visit required in August of second year to discuss field placement and begin practice course
  • Areas of Specialist Practice: Trauma, Health/Mental Health, Children and Families, Humanitarian Social Work, and Military Social Work
  • https://cph.temple.edu/msw

University of Arkansas

  • Tuition cost: $28,350
  • Campus visit required: No, fully online
  • Specialized Practice: Multi-System Life Course
  • http://socialwork.uark.edu

University of Central Florida

  • Tuition cost: $29,220
  • Campus visit required: No, fully online
  • Specialized Practice: N/A
  • https://www.ucf.edu/online/degree/master-of-social-work-msw/

University of Denver

  • Tuition cost: $47,520
  • Campus visit required: No, fully online
  • Specialized Practice: Mental Health and Trauma
  • http://onlinemsw.du.edu/

University of Houston

  • Tuition cost: $51,240
  • Campus visit required: No, fully online
  • Specialized Practice: Clinical with optional emphasis in health and behavioral health
  • http://www.uh.edu/socialwork/academics/msw/online-program

University of Louisville

  • Tuition cost: $42,840
  • Campus visit required: Online or hybrid options with no campus visit required
  • Specialized Practice: Military Social Work, Alcohol and Drug Counseling, Gerontology, Mental Health Counseling, and Psychology Oncology
  • http://louisville.edu/online/programs/masters/master-of-science-in-social-work?utm_source=cswe

University of Nevada, Reno

  • Tuition cost: $46,112
  • Campus visit required: 2-day residency requirement
  • Specialized Practice: Advanced Generalist
  • http://socialwork.unr.edu

University of New England

  • Tuition cost: $53,400
  • Campus visit required: No, fully online
  • Specialized Practice: Individual, Family, & Group Practice (clinical-based) and Organizational and Community Practice (policy-based)
  • https://online.une.edu/

University of New Hampshire

  • Tuition cost: $52,390
  • Campus visit required: No, fully online
  • Specialized Practice: Advanced Generalist
  • http://mswonline.unh.edu

University of Southern California

  • Tuition cost: $103,848
  • Campus visit required: No, fully online
  • Specialized Practice: N/A
  • http://msw.usc.edu

University of Tennessee at Knoxville

  • Tuition cost: $63,004
  • Campus visit required: No, fully online
  • Specialized Practice: Clinical or Macro (Management, Leadership, and Community Practice)
  • http://www.csw.utk.edu/mssw/index_online_mssw.htm

Walden University

  • Tuition cost: $30,375
  • Campus visit required: Online courses delivered asynchronously, custom video case studies, and two 4-day in-person residencies
  • Specialized Practice: Advanced Clinical Practice, Military Social Work, Social Work in Health Care, and Social Work with Children and Families
  • https://www.waldenu.edu/masters/master-of-social-work

Western New Mexico University

  • Tuition cost: $30,000
  • Campus visit required: No, fully online
  • Specialized Practice: N/A
  • http://www.wnmu.edu/academic/sw

Widener University

  • Tuition cost: $54,400
  • Part-time program
  • Campus visit required: No, fully online
  • Specialized Practice: Advanced Clinical with focus on trauma and its impact on mental health
  • http://www.onlineprograms.widener.edu

Finals words

If you have your eye set on California social work, there is an overabundance of programs to choose from. If you are living in another state and want to complete your education prior to moving to California, don’t be afraid to explore and check out one of the online programs mentioned above. California is certainly in need of social workers, so get started today on your journey to help make the world a better place.

Lizzie
Lizzie Perrin

Lizzie is a writer and content marketer, with experience in education, finance, public policy, and leadership. She earned a bachelor's degree in communication from UC Davis and a master's degree in public administration from CSU Bakersfield. Lizzie is also a musician and lives in California with her husband and son.