Learn about the difference between a MSW degree (Master of Social Work) and MSSA degree (Master of Science in Social Administration). The two social work degrees are very similar, but they do have their differences! Read the guide below to understand the similarities, differences, and program availability of the MSSA and MSW programs.

MSW vs. MSSA: What Is The Difference?

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The field of social work can be an exceptional choice for people interested in using their strengths to help others. A path to a career as a social worker can be obtained with an MSW or a MSSA degree. Below, we will break down each degree program, highlight the benefits of each, and what types of skills and education you need for each degree.

MSW and MSSA Comparison: Quick Summary

Your first opinion when looking at the MSW and MSSA may be that they are 2 totally different types of degree programs. The most widespread social work degree program currently is the MSW, with the MSSA being found less often through searches for these types of programs.

Similar Curriculum, Different Name

However, the programs can provide you with an almost identical curriculum and lead you into the same careers after completing all of the required educational and practical steps. In addition to the MSW and the MSSA, the Master of Science in Social Work (MSSA) is another degree program that is often intermingled with the preceding 2 programs.

The CSWE Values Both Degrees

According to the CSWE, each of these programs hold equal value in terms of achieving licensure after graduation. If you were to review the CSWE website for currently accredited programs available for admission (view online CSWE accredited programs), you may see a combination of different types of degree programs to choose from.

If you are perplexed about which degree program would be best suited for your career path, you can rest assured that either can help you get to the career you are working towards. Each collegiate program may have varying course titles, credit expectations, and enrollment requirements, but the end result can be licensure within each distinction.

Are There Online MSSA and MSW Programs?

There is no particular known preference for the MSW over the MSSA, with different colleges offering each type on their licensure paths. Depending on the school of your choice, there may be variations of the master's degree in the social work field. An important thing to consider is the reliability of the degree program and whether or not it can be utilized as a license resource within your state.

There are entirely online MSSA and 100% online MSW programs. Be sure to see some of the programs listed on this site that are CSWE accredited and online.

In Depth: The MSW Degree

One of the most popular degree programs responsible for advancing professionals into this line of work is the Master's of Social Work (MSW) degree.

Length of the MSW

Generally the length of the MSW is a 2-3 year program. With Advanced Standing MSW programs, you could technically complete your MSW in one year or so but you do need to have your BSW as well as meet other requirements.

The MSW can provide students with the opportunity to learn skills relevant to assessing needs in their clients, developing helpful and trusting relationships, and organizing a wide range of services for optimum growth. Pursuit of a MSW can result in careers in the field of social services, healthcare, education, or even counseling.

MSW Program Tracks

Degree programs resulting in the MSW often consist of courses surrounding the assessment of individuals, groups, and social work organizations as a whole. This program may also consist of a clinical element that includes concepts surrounding the administration of mental health services to those in need.

Social Work Licensure

The MSW is a degree program that seeks to prepare learners for licensure, so it can also include diverse practicum or field experience requirements depending on the university's requirements. This portion of your program can be monumental in your skill development prior to your licensure experience.

MSSA Overview

A popular alternative to the MSW is the Master of Science in Social Administration (MSSA). This degree program is considered an equivalent to MSW programs and can provide students with the same level of knowledge in social work-related topics.

Length of the MSSA

The MSSA can take anywhere from 2-3 years to complete and consist of courses related to human development, mental health assessment and treatment planning, and specialized topics like educational social work and medical social work. Some colleges may also include a supervised field experience requirement within their curriculum.

MSSA Program Tracks

Some universities have historically offered the MSSA as an option for individuals interested in providing support and guidance to the general public. As times have progressed and the MSW became the leader in social work degree programs, select schools have maintained their MSSA programs as the primary degree for upcoming social work students.

Social Work Licensure

Just like the MSW, the MSSA is a licensure-track degree program that requires accreditation. Students interested in becoming licensed social work professionals and are enrolled in the MSSA program can enjoy the same accreditation and licensure benefits as those enrolled in the MSW.

Online Social Work Programs

The age of technology has brought about numerous opportunities for flexible educational growth and experiences. If you are like many others interested in pursuing a master's level degree program, online degree programs may be an intriguing option to pursue along your way.

Online MSW Programs

Online MSW can be found in large numbers through a simple online search. This is the most prominent degree option between the MSW and MSSA, and is the leading degree option for new college students pursuing a career in social work.

Online MSSA Programs

Online MSSA programs can also be a reliable alternative to the well-known MSW program. Most schools offering this degree option have historically offered this program as their primary social work path, and continue to do so even as the social work field has changed the face of educational degree programs.

As you seek out online degree programs in either path, you should maintain high expectations for the accreditation of your researched programs. Most online programs list their currently accreditation on the degree website, while others may list information regarding accreditation within informational pages about the university.

A simple method for finding online and accredited degree programs in this field is through a review of the CSWE website. It currently lists actively accredited degree programs that can be filtered to show traditional and online options.

Social Work Licensure

The goal of most MSW and MSSA learners is to achieved licensed status within their state and have the ability to provide direct social services to clients in the field. This process begins with the decision to enroll in an accredited degree program.

Once you have completed your degree program, you can prepare for the Association of Social Work Board examination, which can essentially be the gateway to your licensure. This examination can test your abilities learned through practicum and supervised experience, as well as the terminology and historical knowledge gained during the degree process.

State Social Work Licensure

Each state has specific licensing requirements for different licensed titles such as the LBSW, LMSW, LCSW, and other advanced practice social work professionals. If you decide to pursue clinical designations, your experience expectations may round to about 3,000 hours post-master’s.

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The MSW and the MSSA are treated equally in terms of eligibility for licensure. The degree programs may be structured for experience and knowledge expectations found in the licensure examination, as well as for similar outlooks during the life of your career.

Social Work Career Expectations

One of the most attractive benefits to pursuing the MSW or the MSSA is that it can lead to careers in a wide range of specialized areas. When you first enroll in either program, you may be provided with the opportunity to pursue a specialized track to help narrow down your career field after graduation.

Concentration options in education, corrections, human resources, and clinical mental health are a few of the most preferred options for upcoming professionals in this field – but are not exhaustive in terms of what is available.

Social Work Specialty Careers

MSW and MSSA programs can also allow students in some areas to specialize in different aspects of social work according to preferred age group, macro social work specialties, and advanced generalist designations. Focusing your studies in one of these areas can create a more attractive resume for future career opportunities.

State agencies such as Children’s Services, Human Services, and Human Resources agencies may employ social work professionals from either degree tracks in their organizations. Private counseling agencies may also employ LMSWs to providing counseling services under the supervision of LCSWs.

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The diversity present within the career opportunities for social work degree holders may be unfounded in a majority of other degree programs. If you have dreams of entering into this field after graduation, the MSW or MSSA could be equally effective in getting you there.