Question: Are there Online Master of Social Work (MSW) Programs That Do Not Require GRE Test Scores, or Will Waive the GRE for Admissions?

Answer: Yes, there are online Master of Social Work (MSW) programs that do not require applicants to submit GRE test scores as part of the admissions process. GRE scores are required by some online MSW programs, and other programs may take GRE scores into account for those applicants who voluntarily submit them. However, there are a number of online MSW programs that extend eligibility for admissions to qualified candidates who hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university but who have not taken the GRE. Some of these programs may have a minimum required or preferred undergraduate GPA for applicants, and they may also take into account letters of recommendation and/or a personal goals statement as part of the admissions process.

The GRE or Graduate Record Exam is a standardized test designed and administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) to assess the verbal, quantitative, critical analysis, and writing skills of college graduates. Since its introduction in 1949, it has been one of several tests that have been required by many graduate schools as part of the admissions process, including many MSW programs. However, MSW admissions boards often rely on several other components of a candidate’s application, including cumulative undergraduate grade point average (GPA), prior work and volunteer experience, a personal goals statement, written answers to one or more essay questions, and/or formal letters of recommendation. Indeed, there is much evidence to suggest that MSW programs are moving away from requiring applicants to submit GRE scores. The Council on Social Work Education’s (CSWE) 2015 annual report aggregated data from 229 online and campus-based MSW programs and found that fewer than 25% relied on the GRE to assess applicants.

Admissions Requirements for Online MSW Programs

The admissions requirements for online MSW programs vary by program and by the type of program. Baseline eligibility is extended to candidates who hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university. While some programs may have one or more undergraduate prerequisites (usually a statistics, behavioral science, and/or sociology class), most programs do not require applicants to have majored in sociology or social work. The exceptions are Advanced Standing MSW programs, which are designed for and only admit graduates from CSWE-accredited Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) programs.

While there are online MSW programs that require applicants to submit standardized test scores, many of these programs will accept either the GRE or the Miller Analogies Test (MAT), a 60-minute exam that measures logical and analytical reasoning. A subset of these programs will waive the GRE/MAT requirement for applicants with a minimum GPA, which can range from 2.7 to 3.2, depending on the program.

Programs that do not require standardized test scores often rely on a candidate’s performance as an undergraduate, as well as letters of recommendation from two or three relevant professors, instructors, and/or employers. A written personal statement detailing a candidate’s educational experiences and his or her goals in regards to pursing a degree and a career in social work may also factor into the decision process. Finally, there are some MSW programs that prefer applicants who have documented experience as volunteers in community social work and/or health and human services organizations.

Prospective applicants to an online MSW program are encouraged to inquire about the program’s admissions requirements and criteria to ensure that they meet those requirements prior to submitting an application. It is important to note that admissions to online MSW programs is often selective, which means that even applicants who meet minimum standards for admissions are not guaranteed acceptance into a particular program.

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