Online Campus FAQ

As an overview to the online option, please find answers to some Frequently Asked Questions.

Where is the online option available?

Our online campus is available in all fifty states and the District of Columbia.

Are the field education requirements the same for the online campus and the residential program?

Yes, the field education requirements for the online and residential programs are the same. Whereas residential students are placed at organizations within the New York City metropolitan area, online-campus students are placed at organization in or near their own communities. To learn more about field education requirements, please see relevant FAQs for your year and program.

What is the difference between a degree earned online and one earned in New York City?

There is no difference in quality in the two degrees. The curriculum is exactly the same.

How does field education work for the online option?

In your first year of study, the Field Education Department will place you with an agency or other site in the metropolitan area closest to where you live. You will be asked to fill out a field placement form, which, along with the work experiences indicated on your resume, will help the staff members in our Field Education Department determine your first-year placement site. In addition, they will assist with your transition to the field through a Preparation for the Profession Seminar.

NOTE: Your second-year placement is determined by your choice of method area as well as field of practice, and you will have more input into the decision-making process.

What is it like to take classes online?

The online classroom is similar to the physical classroom in many ways. Classes are scheduled at a fixed time. Professors present information and students participate by raising their hands to answer questions, dividing into breakout groups for discussion, and giving short presentations.

The main differences are that sessions take place in a virtual space via Adobe Connect, and professors and students engage with one another via Webcams and microphones.

Also, before and after class, students complete their classwork using an online learning management system called Canvas, which permits them to access readings, view mini video lectures, and participate in discussion forums with their classmates.

Are there any required visits to the New York City campus?

No, students enrolled in our online program are not required to come to Columbia’s New York City campus. That said, they are welcome to visit the Columbia campus and the School of Social Work any time. We often have online-campus students at Orientation; and many also join us in New York City for graduation.

What are the technology requirements?

The online platform is easy to use. To participate in the live sessions with your professor, you will need:

  • a computer with up-to-date browsers
  • high-speed Internet access (hard-wired or Ethernet connection is preferred)
  • a headset with a microphone
  • a Webcam

In the feedback we’ve received about our online courses, students say they find the communication tools less intimidating than those used in the traditional classroom. But, just in case, we offer trainings during Orientation as well as 24/7 technical support.

What is the cost of attendance for the online campus?

Cost of attendance for our online campus can be found here.

How do I apply for financial aid?

Your first step is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Once our Financial Aid office receives your FAFSA data—which generally is not available to the School until after February 15th—we can begin the evaluation process for determining your financial aid award package. If you are applying for admission by December 1, you can expect to receive your financial aid package by early-to-mid March. Financial aid awards typically include a mix of institutional scholarships, federal loans, and other types of loans. For more information, please see Tuition & Financial Aid.

What are the admissions requirements?

Admissions requirements are the same as those for our New York City campus. For more details, go to MSW Application Requirements (PDF: 11 pages). Once you have submitted all required items, you can expect to receive an admissions decision within three to four weeks upon completion of your application.

NOTE: Admissions officers are available to walk you through every step of the application process and answer any questions you may have, via phone or Skype appointments and/or Webinars. Questions? Please contact our Admissions team at or by phone at 1-212-851-2400 (toll free: 1-855-532-5200)

How many hours a week will I need to dedicate to my studies and field work?

Students enrolled in the full-time Two-Year or Advanced Standing programs will take three or four courses each term, which requires being in class approximately 6–8 hours per week.  Part-time students in the Extended or Reduced Residency programs typically take two classes each term during their first year, spending 4-6 hours per week in live class sessions. Additionally, students will spend time outside the classroom completing readings, role plays, group projects and various assignments.

Most of our classes are synchronous, meaning you are required to sign in to the online platform at the scheduled class time, and you must be physically present at your computer for the duration of the class.

In addition, full-time students will be interning 21 hours a week or three days, generally from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., at a nearby social service agency, government entity, school, hospital or business. These internships must take place under the supervision of a field supervisor, to gain hands-on experience relevant to your social work practice. For more detailed information, please see the Field Education Manual (PDF: 110 pages).

Can I complete the degree while working full time?

If you apply for our Part-Time to Full-Time (Extended) Program, it is possible to work and study at the same time, but only during your first year. This is because as an Extended Program student, you have up to four years to complete all degree requirements (coursework and field instruction) and can take a reduced course load during your first year. Once you begin field education, however, you must enroll in the program full-time.

If you are employed in a human service organization working in direct practice, then you may be eligible to enroll in our One-Year Residency for Working Professionals (Reduced Residency) Program, which allows you to remain employed at your organization for at least the first two years of your studies, taking a reduced course load. In the third year, however, your status changes to that of full-time student as you complete the requisite course and field instruction requirements (900 hours) for earning the MSW degree. In some cases, Reduced Residency students are able to complete their final year internship at their place of employment; but many of them do not.

For more information on Part-Time to Full-Time (Extended) and One-Year Residency for Working Professionals (Reduced Residency) program options, please see CSSW Study Plans (PDF: 63 pages).

Can I earn my degree entirely online?

You can do all of your coursework online, through classes taught by Columbia School of Social Work faculty. Your field work, however, requires you to be physically present at a field placement in your metro area.

Can I switch from the online campus to the New York City campus?

Yes—but please note that you may only switch at the beginning of each academic year. You may not switch mid-term or mid-year. NOTE: A switch in programs may affect your tuition and fees, as well as financial aid package.

When is the deadline for admission, and how do I apply?

The deadline for admission differs according to program. You can find more information on fall and spring deadlines here. SEE ALSO: MSW Application Requirements (PDF: 9 pages).

Ready to apply? You may submit your materials to the Columbia School of Social Work’s Online Application Portal.

Questions? Please contact our Admissions team at or by phone at 1-212-851-2400 (toll free: 1-855-532-5200).

Still have questions?

If your questions haven’t been answered, we urge you to enter them into our Contact Us form. All forms are directed to the appropriate department. Our goal is to answer any questions submitted by prospective and current students within 24 hours.