Graduate and Professional Degrees

Master of Social Work

What is social work?

A Master of Social Work (MSW) curriculum emphasizes both breadth and depth in professional education to respond to changing social work practice needs. Most MSW programs value a commitment to social justice, multiculturalism, collaboration and community empowerment. A Master of Social Work degree prepares graduates for positions in a variety of areas, including health services, child and elder family services, anti-poverty programs, and social work education and policy practice. 

Is social work for me?

Masters students in social work demonstrate a commitment to the promotion of social justice through their own work and that of the larger social work profession. Recipients of social work services include individuals and families, groups, organizations, communities, social networks and institutions. Candidates for a MSW program should demonstrate the knowledge and skills required to assess the differential needs of diverse constituents through evidence-based interventions, collaboration, critical evaluations and participation in appropriate research methods.

What options are available in the field of social work?

Social workers are present in almost all sectors of society but tend to have careers that focus on advocacy, counseling, education, and family and medical welfare. MSW degree holders are employed in hospitals, schools, universities, legal offices, government sectors, and in virtually all other areas pertaining to the humanities. You should also explore the variety of concentrations represented within the field by researching electives taught in various MSW curriculums.

Prerequisites for admittance into a Master of Social Work program

Many students choose to obtain a Bachelor of Arts in social work, but it is not necessary in order to be admitted into most MSW programs. Most schools seek to enroll well-qualified students from a diversity of backgrounds and majors while considering academic performance and potential, clarity in the applicants’ career objectives, displayed understanding of social issues, and relevant practice and experience. Many schools will also require a GRE score, but will consider issues of work/life/school balance through the evaluation of transcripts and personal essays. It is very important to research the number of practicum hours required in order to ensure that you meet the program admissions criteria. Most States require 2 years or 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience for licensure of clinical social workers. Due to some limitations on what settings unlicensed social workers may work, and some variation in the requirements to obtain a license, those interested in becoming a social worker should research requirements specific to their state (source: Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Related degrees

Still not sure if social work is for you? Consider pursuing a master's degree in one of these related fields:

  • Public Administration
  • Public Health
  • Psychology
  • Counseling