Master of Social Work (MSW) Programs in Illinois

Jessica White

Written by Jessica White

Community Mental Health Worker & Case Manager

Updated & Fact Checked: 12/20/23

There are 17 master of social work (MSW) programs in Illinois. Each of these programs have been accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). The accreditation means that they each offer a high quality education, so choosing any of them would likely be a great choice if you live in Illinois or are considering living there and want to be a social worker. This article goes over each of these NJ social work programs, including the length of each program, how many credits you have to complete, the formats the programs are available in, and more. Many of these programs have excellent benefits, with some offering an online or hybrid format, expert faculty, an affordable tuition, or other features. 

So, why earn a master’s of social work in Illinois? The state of Illinois is known for the bustling city of Chicago, lower healthcare costs compared to other places in the US, and even for being the “Pumpkin Capital of the World”. The state offers a lot of variety, from big cities to important farmland that grows apples, corn, and soybeans. Earning a social work master’s degree in Illinois may give you a more competitive edge in the job market, and may even open up opportunities for leadership positions within organizations such as nonprofits, hospitals, or county agencies. Ultimately though, you are probably looking into becoming a social worker because you want to help people. As a social worker, you might provide clients with resources, give them advice, help them navigate social service systems, and provide emotional support. If you earn your master’s degree in social work, you may qualify to become an LSCW, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. LCSWs provide therapy to clients to help them cope with mental health diagnoses and the life struggles that go along with it. 

Social work can be a rewarding career on its own, but it also holds the benefit of being in high demand in most states. The BLS, Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that all variations of the social work career are expected to grow 7% over the next decade, which is faster than the average growth for other careers. When it comes to wages, the BLS states that US social workers have a median annual wage of $58,380 as of mid-2023, with the lowest 10% of social workers making less than $38,400 annually, while the highest 10% earned more than $94,910. 

When it comes to Illinois, according to O*Net Online, the state’s social work career outlook and median annual income is as follows:

Illinois Online Masters in Social Work

There are eight MSW programs in Illinois that offer an online option through which to complete your degree. Enrolling in a degree program online can be beneficial for many students, as it can often be more flexible. Some students do better in an online environment in general. Online degree programs are also beneficial for professionals who want to expand their career and income opportunities through higher education, but work throughout the day and need online programs to complete their degree. Most of these programs take place 100% online except for the possibility of a couple of campus visits throught the program and completing the required practicum at an organization in your community. 

Below is an overview of the MSW programs in Illinois that offer an online format. Several of these universities also offer the MSW program on campus as well.

Aurora University – Aurora, Illinois

  • Aurora, Illinois
  • 2 to 3 years
  • Online + In person

Program: Social Work (MSW)

Accreditation: CSWE

Number of Credits:

  • Standard Program: 60
  • Advanced Standing Program: 33

Length:

  • Standard Program: Two to three years
  • Advanced Standing Program: Three semesters to two years

Format: In person or online

Practicum Requirement:

  • Standard Program: 1,050 hours
  • Advanced Standing Program: 600 hours

GRE: Not Required

Tuition: $618 per credit hour

Program Overview:
Aurora University, founded in 1893, offers an MSW program that prepares students for clinical practice to help encourage improved outcomes and well-being for vulnerable populations through advancing social change. The standard full-time program offers a generalist curriculum in the first year, and a clinical specialization in the second year. There is also an advanced standing program where students with a bachelor’s degree in social work complete the clinical specialization curriculum.

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Chamberlain University – Chicago, Illinois

  • Chicago, Illinois
  • 2 to 3 years
  • Online

Program: Master of Social Work (MSW) Online

Accreditation: CSWE

Number of Credits:

  • Standard Program: 60
  • Advanced Standing Program: 36

Length:

  • Standard Program: Two to three years
  • Advanced Standing Program: One to two years

Format: Online only

Practicum Requirement: Number of hours not specified.

GRE: Not Required

Tuition: $695 per credit plus other fees

Program Overview:
Chamberlain University offers a flexible, fully online format for all of their programs. This includes their CSWE-accredited MSW program. There are three different tracks that students can choose from: medical social work, crisis and response interventions, and the trauma track. There is also the opportunity to design your own focus through their course selection. The student advisors at Chamberlain help students stay on track by standardizing the scheduling, and there are learning coordinators available to provide support to students once they start their practicum.

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Dominican University – Chicago, Illinois

  • Chicago, Illinois
  • 2 to 3 years
  • Online + In person

Program: Master’s in Social  Work (MSW)

Accreditation: CSWE

Number of Credits:

  • Standard Program: 60
  • Advanced Standing Program: 30

Length:

  • Standard Program: Two to three years
  • Advanced Standing Program: One to two years

Format: In person or online

Practicum Requirement: 1,080 hours

GRE: Not Required

Tuition: $850 per credit hour

Program Overview:
Dominican University’s MSW program offers multiple tracks so a student can participate in the curriculum that interests them the most. The tracks include Aging, Adulthood, & Gerontology, Children, Youth, & Family, Global Social Work Practice for Immigrants & Refugees, Health & Well-Being, Military, and School Social Work. They also offer a certificate in school social work for individuals who already have their MSW but want to increase their knowledge and skills. Additionally, students have the opportunity to complete a dual degree in social work & business administration, library & information science, or mediation & conflict resolution.

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Erikson Institute – Chicago, Illinois

  • Chicago, Illinois
  • 2 to 4 years
  • In person + Hybrid

Program: Masters of Social Work

Accreditation: CSWE

Number of Credits:

  • Standard Program: 60
  • Advanced Standing Program: 35 minimum

Length:

  • Standard Program: Two to four years
  • Advanced Standing Program: Two years

Format: In person, hybrid

Practicum Requirement: 900 hours

GRE: Not Required

Tuition: $1,030 per credit hour

Program Overview:
Erikson Institute’s MSW program offers a flexible education to social work students through online or hybrid options. The online program is only available part-time. Students have the option to choose between two tracks: Children, Adolescents, & Adults, or Infant & Early Childhood Mental Health. Students who have a bachelor’s degree in social work can bypass up to 25 credits to potentially graduate faster.

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Loyola University – Chicago Illinois

  • Chicago Illinois
  • 2 years
  • Online + In person

Program: Master of Social Work (MSW)

Accreditation: CSWE

Number of Credits:

  • Standard Program: 49
  • Advanced Standing Program: 23

Length:

  • Standard Program: Two years
  • Advanced Standing Program: One year

Format: In person or online

Practicum Requirement:

  • Standard Program: 1,000 hours
  • Advanced Standing Program: 600 hours

GRE: Not Required

Tuition: $1,045 per credit hour

Program Overview:
There are many options for social work students at Loyola University to advance their knowledge and skills in social work. When enrolled in the MSW program, there is the choice to focus on Micro Practice or Leadership, Mezzo, & Macro Practice. Students also have the option to take part in one of the many dual degree programs at Loyola. Whether for current students or MSW graduates, there are also four certificate programs. If an interested applicant does not yet have a bachelor’s degree in social work, Loyola University offers a BSW/MSW Five-Year Degree Program to complete both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in a shorter time.

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Southern Illinois University Carbondale – Carbondale, Illinois

  • Carbondale, Illinois
  • 2 years
  • Online + In person

Program: Master of Social Work

Accreditation: CSWE

Number of Credits:

  • Standard Program: 60
  • Advanced Standing Program: 30

Length:

  • Standard Program: Two years
  • Advanced Standing Program: One year

Format: Online or in person

Practicum Requirement:

  • Standard Program: 967
  • Advanced Standing Program: 607

GRE: Not Required

Tuition: $469.50 per credit hour

Program Overview:
Southern Illinois University Carbondale offers an MSW program that combines various studies, including human behavior, social work practices, policy reform, and more to provide students with an advanced level of studies. This education is intended to prepare students for leadership careers that involve combating oppression and discrimination in their communities. Students can choose between two areas of emphasis: Health/Mental Health, or Children, Youth, & Families. There is also a certificate in gerontology that can be earned alongside the social work master’s degree. The program is offered both online and in person.

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University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign – Champaign, Illinois

  • Champaign, Illinois
  • 18-48 months
  • Online + In person

Program: Master of Social Work

Accreditation: CSWE

Number of Credits:

  • Standard Program: 72
  • Advanced Standing Program: 32

Length:

  • Standard Program: 18-48 months
  • Advanced Standing Program: 12+ months

Format: Online or In person

Practicum Requirement:

  • Standard Program: Two semesters, four days a week, 30-32 hours per week.
  • Advanced Standing Program: One semester long, four days a week, 30-32 hours per week.

GRE: Not Required

Tuition: $10,404 per semester for state residents. $598 per credit hour for the online version of the program.

Program Overview:
The MSW program at University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign offers many different options for graduate-level social work students. First, students can choose between two concentrations: Leadership & Social Change, and Advanced Clinical concentration. If the Advanced Clinical concentration is chosen, there are four focus areas offered in the curriculum: Children, Youth, & Family Services, Healthcare, Mental Health, or schools. Students will complete their internship within the concentration of their choice. The program is offered in person or online, with the online program being offered part time.

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University of St. Francis – Joliet, Illinois

  • Joliet, Illinois
  • 2 to 4 years
  • Online + In person

Program: Social Work (MSW)

Accreditation: CSWE

Number of Credits:

  • Standard Program: 62
  • Advanced Standing Program: 32

Length:

  • Standard Program: Two to four years
  • Advanced Standing Program: One to two years

Format: Online or in person

Practicum Requirement: 480 hours

GRE: Not Required

Tuition: $599 per credit hour

Program Overview:
The MSW program at University of St. Francis is designed to be a flexible option for working professionals. The program offers classes online, in the evenings, and on weekends. There are two concentrations offered: advanced generalist, or school social work. Students who already have their master’s degree in social work can earn a certificate in school social work.

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CSWE Accredited MSW Programs in Illinois

All 17 MSW programs in Illinois have earned accreditation by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). The Illinois MSW programs that offer an online option were reviewed in the previous section. This section goes over the accredited MSW programs that are offered on campus only. 

The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) is the sole organization in the US responsible for awarding accreditation status to social work programs. There are many reasons to look for a CSWE accredited MSW program. The first is that accreditation shows that a school has met specific criteria of quality. This criteria was set by experts of the field who are a part of the CSWE. You can feel assured that your CSWE accreditation will adequately prepare you for your future career and any licensing exams. Employers tend to prefer candidates who have attended a CSWE accredited program as well. Also, having a degree from an accredited program may make it easier to move between states if needed after you are licensed. 

Below are additional CSWE-accredited MSW programs offered in Illinois that were not mentioned in the previous section.

Chicago State University – Chicago, Illinois

  • Chicago, Illinois
  • 2 to 4 years
  • In person

Program: Master’s of Social Work

Accreditation: CSWE

Number of Credits:

  • Standard Program: 60
  • Advanced Standing Program: 33

Length:

  • Standard Program: Two to four years
  • Advanced Standing Program: One year

Format: In person only

Practicum Requirement: 600 hours

GRE: Not Required

Tuition: Not specified

Program Overview:
Chicago State University, founded in 1867, offers a graduate level social work program that prepares students for multiple roles within social services, including supervisors and administrators or social workers. Graduates of this program may become employed at nonprofit or government organizations. The curriculum is focused on families and children, as well as how to manage human service programs through cultural competency and leadership skills. The curriculum emphasizes the importance of social and economic justice, as well as diversity. There are a couple of specializations to choose from: Program Planning & Administration, Direct Practice, or School Social Work.

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DePaul University – Chicago, Illinois

  • Chicago, Illinois
  • 2 to 4 years
  • In person

Program: MSW Program

Accreditation: CSWE

Number of Credits:

  • Standard Program: 88
  • Advanced Standing Program: 52

Length:

  • Standard Program: Two to four years
  • Advanced Standing Program: One year

Format: In person only

Practicum Requirement:

  • Standard Program: 1,030 hours
  • Advanced Standing Program: 580 hours

GRE: Not Required

Tuition: $743 per credit hour

Program Overview:
There are two concentrations to choose from in the MSW program at DePaul. These include Community Practice and Forensic Social Work. The first prepares students for leadership roles in social service organizations. The second prepares students to practice social work within organizations that include both aspects of the legal system and human services. The program is offered in person, but can be flexible for students working full-time jobs, as classes are held in the afternoons and evenings. Students also have the option to earn a dual degree in social work and Women’s and Gender Studies. DePaul University is committed to training students to provide an ethical social work practice.

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Governors State University – University Park, Illinois

  • University Park, Illinois
  • 2 to 4 years
  • In person

Program: Master of Social Work

Accreditation: CSWE

Number of Credits:

  • Standard Program: 60
  • Advanced Standing Program: 32

Length:

  • Standard Program: Two to four years
  • Advanced Standing Program: One year

Format: In person only

Practicum Requirement: 1-20 hours weekly for four semesters of field education.

GRE: Not Required

Tuition: $4,416 per semester

Program Overview:
In the MSW program at Governors State University, students can choose between two areas of specialization: Social Work Practice with Children, Adolescents, and Families, or School Social Work Practice. The first has two sub-specialization courses: mental health, or licensed child welfare practice. The second leads to a professional educators license. In the final year of the program, students will complete a master’s capstone project. Classes take place on campus in the afternoon and evening, making time for students to complete their practicum during the day.

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Illinois State University – Normal, Illinois

  • Normal, Illinois
  • 2 year
  • In person

Program: Social Work Masters

Accreditation: CSWE

Number of Credits:

  • Standard Program: 60
  • Advanced Standing Program: 30

Length:

  • Standard Program: Two years
  • Advanced Standing Program: One year

Format: In person only

Practicum Requirement: Not specified

GRE: Not Required

Tuition: $422.57 per credit

Program Overview:
At Illinois State University, there are several options for students in the MSW program to customize their education to their preferences. There are two specializations offered: Child and Family Practice, and School Social Work. Students can also earn certificates to boost their education, including Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies certificate, Social Aspects of Aging certificate, and the Child Welfare Certificate. To help afford the MSW program, Illinois State University offers scholarships and fee waivers. Per the university website, to qualify for scholarships, a student needs to have completed at least one semester of the social work courses.

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Lewis University – Romeoville, Illinois

  • Romeoville, Illinois
  • 2 to 4 years
  • In person

Program: Master of Social Work, MSW

Accreditation: CSWE

Number of Credits:

  • Standard Program: 60
  • Advanced Standing Program: 30

Length:

  • Standard Program: Two to four years
  • Advanced Standing Program: One to two years

Format: In person only

Practicum Requirement:

  • Standard Program: 1,080
  • Advanced Standing Program: 600

GRE: Not Required

Tuition: $650 per credit

Program Overview:
Lewis University, founded in 1932, has a MSW program promoting lifelong learning to their social work students. In the program, students apply what they have learned to two internships that provide real-world experience. There are a wide variety of skills taught in the program such as how to respond to complex issues, ethical behaviors, skills to help clients develop social functioning, and much more.

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Northeastern Illinois University – Chicago, Illinois

  • Chicago, Illinois
  • 2 to 4 years
  • In person

Program: Master of Social Work (MSW) Degree

Accreditation: CSWE

Number of Credits:

  • Standard Program: 60
  • Advanced Standing Program: 30

Length:

  • Standard Program: Two to four years
  • Advanced Standing Program: One year

Format: In person

Practicum Requirement: Not specified

GRE: Not Required

Tuition: $463.53 per credit hours

Program Overview:
The Department of Social Work at Northeastern Illinois University offers an active learning environment that teaches students to practice social work from a scientific approach. The goal of the program is to produce social workers who work to address the causes of socioeconomic inequality in their communities and the world from a leadership standpoint. There are two concentrations offered, including: Practice with Children, Youth, & Families, and Leadership & Change. Admissions for the standard program take place in the fall only, and admissions for the advanced standing program take place in the summer only.

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Southern Illinois University Edwardsville – Edwardsville, Illinois

  • Edwardsville, Illinois
  • 2 to 4 years
  • In person + Hybrid

Program: Social Work (MSW)

Accreditation: CSWE

Number of Credits:

  • Standard Program: 60
  • Advanced Standing Program: 30

Length:

  • Standard Program: Two to four years
  • Advanced Standing Program: One to two years

Format: In person only with some hybrid elements

Practicum Requirement:

  • Standard Program: 900 hours
  • Advanced Standing Program: 450 hours

GRE: Not Required

Tuition: $371.30 per credit hour

Program Overview:
The MSW Programs at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville offers a social work education focused on an advanced generalist practice. Students learn not only the ethics and basic skills of social work, but also theory, social work history, policy practice, and advanced theoretical application. Students in both the standard and advanced standing program have the option to attend either part-time or full-time. While the classes take place primarily in person, there are some hybrid elements to the courses, offering some flexibility.

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University of Chicago – Hyde Park, Chicago, Illinois

  • Hyde Park, Chicago, Illinois
  • 2 years
  • In person

Program: Master’s in Social Work

Accreditation: CSWE

Number of Credits:

  • Standard Program: 60
  • Advanced Standing Program: 30

Length:

  • Standard Program: Two years
  • Advanced Standing Program: One year

Format: In person only

Practicum Requirement:

  • Standard Program: 1,120
  • Advanced Standing Program: 640 hours

GRE: Not Required

Program Overview:
The MSW program at University of Chicago offers two concentrations for students to choose from depending on their career interests. These include the Clinical Concentration and the Social Administration concentration. Along with the two concentrations, students have other options to make their academic career their own, including studying abroad or earning a dual degree in public policy, divinity, or business administration. Another benefit to enrolling in this program is that classes have evening or part-time options for working professionals.  As a part of the program, students will also take part in a practicum with over 600 sites to choose from.

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University of Illinois Chicago – Chicago, Illinois

  • Chicago, Illinois
  • 2 to 3 years
  • In person

Program: Master of Social Work (MSW) Degree

Accreditation: CSWE

Number of Credits:

  • Standard Program: 62
  • Advanced Standing Program: 32

Length:

  • Standard Program: Two to three years
  • Advanced Standing Program: One year

Format: In person

Practicum Requirement:

  • Standard Program: 1,080 hours
  • Advanced Standing Program: 630 hours

GRE: Not Required

Tuition: $6,235 per semester

Program Overview:
Jane Addams College of Social Work at University offers several specializations, including Social Work within Justice Systems, Mental Health, Child & Family, Organization & Community Practice, and School Social Work. Before completing the specialization coursework, students will also complete a generalist curriculum. For those completing the part-time, three-year, night curriculum, the specialization courses will take place in the third year. Students can also choose to earn a certificate to enhance their social work master’s degree. The certificates offered are Integrated Behavioral Health Care Training Program, and Evidence-Based Mental Health Practice with Children.

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No GRE Required MSW Programs in Illinois

All 17 of the previous programs do NOT require the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) in their application process. The GRE is a standardized exam that was designed to theoretically test a student’s ability to succeed in graduate school by assessing skills in subjects like problem-solving, math, critical thinking, vocabulary, and more. However, more and more universities are opting out of requiring students to take the GRE and submit the scores in the graduate school applications. Instead, many university programs are choosing to look at a student’s real-world experience, general grades from their undergraduate program, references, and passion for the program through certain essay requirements. This tends to give programs a much more well-rounded view of what a student is capable of. Other requirements may vary by program. 

Below is a summary of MSW programs that do not require the GRE in Illinois. Each previous section has gone over the details of each.

  • Aurora University
  • Chamberlain University
  • Chicago State University
  • DePaul University 
  • Dominican University
  • Erikson Institute 
  • Governors State University
  • Illinois State University
  • Lewis University 
  • Loyola University 
  • Northeastern Illinois University
  • Southern Illinois University Carbondale 
  • Southern Illinois University Edwardsville 
  • University of Chicago 
  • University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign 
  • University of Illinois Chicago 
  • University of St. Francis

Illinois MSW Programs with Accelerated Advanced Standing Options

All 17 of the accredited MSW programs in IL offer an advanced standing curriculum. These are reviewed in more detail in previous sections. If you qualify, enrolling in an advanced standing MSW program can be beneficial in that it allows you to complete your degree in about half the time of the standard program. Many of the Illinois universities offer their advanced-standing MSW program in both a part-time and full-time format. The full-time version can generally be completed in about one year, or two to three semesters. The part-time version is usually completed in two years. Meanwhile, the standard program can be completed in two years of full-time work or three to four years of part-time enrollment. 

To qualify for advanced standing, you must have earned your bachelor’s degree in social work. Many programs also have a higher GPA requirement than they do for their standard program. There may be other requirements as well to apply for advanced standing. Overall, advanced standing can be a helpful accelerated option when going for a master’s-level social work career.

Affordable MSW Programs in Illinois

Cost is an important factor when making the decision to attend a masters of social work program. There are many factors that go into the cost of attending higher education. As a result, certain universities are more affordabl3e than others. For example, state universities are often more affordable because they receive tax dollars to subsidize some of the cost. If you live in Illinois and choose to go to a public Illinois university, your tuition may be cheaper than at a private university, since you automatically pay taxes to the state with your paycheck. Other universities may be more affordable for other reasons. You can also look into paying for your tuition through loans, grants, and scholarships. 

Below are some examples of affordable MSW programs in Illinois. These universities were reviewed in previous sections. 

  • Southern Illinois University Carbondale
    • Cost: $469.50 per credit hour plus fees
  • University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
    • Cost: $598 per credit hour plus fees
  • Aurora University
    • Cost: $618 per credit hour plus fees
  • Chamberlain University
    • Cost: $695 per credit hour plus fees

Illinois CSWE Accredited MSW Programs

University NameCityStateProgram TitleProgram URL
Aurora UniversityAuroraILMaster of Social Workhttps://aurora.edu/academics/colleges-schools/social-work/index.html
Chamberlain UniversityChicagoILMaster of Social Workhttps://chamberlain.edu/academics/online-health-professions-college/master-of-social-work
Dominican UniversityRiver ForestILMSW Degreehttps://degrees.dom.edu/msw
Erikson InstituteChicagoILMaster of Social Workhttps://www.erikson.edu/graduate-education/masters-degrees/master-social-work/
Loyola University ChicagoChicagoILMaster of Social Workhttps://www.luc.edu/socialwork/
University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaILMaster of Social Workhttps://socialwork.illinois.edu/academics/master-of-social-work/
University of St. Francis, TheJolietILMSW Programhttps://www.stfrancis.edu/social-work-msw/

Conclusion

Illinois has a lot to offer individuals who want to earn a masters degree in social work. The career is in high demand in the state, with each type of career sector growing at a faster rate than other careers in the US. You can’t go wrong choosing to attend any of the universities reviewed in this article, as they are each accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. Social work may be a challenging career, but it is also incredibly rewarding, as it helps those in your community improve their lives. For other helping careers like social work, visit the MFT Programs website to see what might be the right fit for you.