6 MSW Programs with Straightforward Applications (Plus Masters in Social Work Requirements You Need to Know)!

Masters in Social Work requirements vary by program, and no doubt you’re looking for the most straightforward application procedures you can find. Check out our list of MSW programs with application requirements we found relatively simply to navigate.

We’ll also walk you through what you’ll typically need to get started on your application, as well as general MSW program requirements.

written by Shannon Fandler

MSW programs

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Master of Social Work Programs That Aren’t Such a Headache to Apply to

We found these sponsored schools to have fairly typical and straightforward requirements. Of course, you may beg to differ. But, we suggest taking the time to learn more about these schools and the MSW programs they offer!

1. Walden University

Walden University’s Master of Social Work program offers four concentrations: Advanced Clinical Practice, Military Social Work, Social Work in Health Care, and Social Work with Children and Families. Choose from Standard, Accelerated, and Advanced Standing programs, depending on your eligibility. The Advanced Standing track requires you to hold a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) from a CSWE-accredited program, plus have a minimum GPA of 3.0.

Application Requirements: Walden University has an online admissions system that requires your official transcripts (though unofficial transcripts can be used for a pre-admission evaluation); resume showing your work history; and your employment and educational histories, among other potential requirements.

2. Capella University

Capella University’s Master of Social Work program offers online and in-person learning, 15 core courses, and two elective courses. Capella’s GuidedPath learning format may allow you to take between one and three courses per ten-week quarter: potentially perfect for those in need of flexibility.

Application Requirements: In addition to your academic transcripts, a minimum GPA of 2.7, a resume, and other requirements, Capella University requires two letters of recommendation and a 3-page essay. The good news: No GRE or GMAT scores are required!

3. Our Lady of the Lake University

Our Lady of the Lake University offers two MSW programs: regular (57-credit) and advanced (30-credit). Students may pursue their studies online, or at campuses in San Antonio or the Rio Grande Valley. The program focuses on Social Work Practice with Hispanic Children and Families.

Application Requirements: OLLU has a pretty forgiving GPA requirement: you must have earned a cumulative GPA of 2.50 on all undergraduate work or 3.00 on the last 60 semester hours. Other requirements include a minimum of 30 semester hours of liberal arts courses, a personal statement, and three letters of recommendation. Keep in mind that the Advanced Standing program has stricter requirements.

4. Kean University

Master of Social Work program requirements at Kean University include 63 credits, as well as four semesters of Field Experience. Students may pursue courses like Psychopathology for Clinical Social Work Practice, Generalist Social Work Practice in a Multicultural Environment, and other key areas. The program is held on Kean’s main campus in Union, New Jersey.

Application Requirements: Applying to Kean University requires a minimum 3.0 GPA, three letters of recommendation, and a personal statement, among other requirements. However, GRE or GMAT scores may not be required!

5. The Catholic University of America

The 60-credit MSW program at The Catholic University of America is broken down into foundational knowledge (30 credits) and advanced knowledge (30 credits). Choose from Clinical, Social Change, or Combined concentrations. And, students may choose to study part-time or full-time.

Application Requirements: You’ll need the usual requirements to apply to The Catholic University of America’s MSW program. These include transcripts, a resume, three letters of reference, and a personal statement in which you have to answer several questions. GRE or GMAT scores are not required, however. And a note to those who tend to miss deadlines: the university uses a rolling admissions process and accepts admissions until the program fills up.

6. University of Denver

The University of Denver offers Master of Social Work (MSW) programs at several campuses and online. You must apply to the specific program you are interested in. Hoping to study online? MSW@Denver is a 90-credit online MSW program with a focus on areas like human development and behavior, the impact of oppression, and mental health & trauma.

Application Requirements: Check with your program of interest for specific program requirements. MSW@Denver’s admission requirements include an online application, transcripts, recommendations, and a Career Goals Statement, among other materials.

More About MSW Programs

Earning a social work degree may open the door to roles such as clinical social workers, medical social workers, private practitioners, or managers. Regardless of their expertise, most social workers choose to either work with particular populations or devote their practice to the general public. Social work jobs may be in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, substance abuse clinics, non-profit organizations, colleges and universities, or a number of other settings.

Admissions Requirements for Masters of Social Work Programs

There are typically two options for admissions to MSW programs: regular admissions or advanced standing, also referred to as employed practitioners’ admissions. The following sections describe each in more detail.

Regular Admissions into MSW Programs

The majority of MSW programs require students to have a bachelor’s degree, preferably in social work or the liberal arts, prior to starting the program. Additionally, schools may strongly prefer students to have a minimum 3.0 GPA in their undergraduate studies. However, some programs may accept students with lower GPAs provided they meet the program’s minimum requirements and preferred qualifications.

And don’t overlook MSW prerequisites. Many programs may also prefer students to have a well-rounded liberal arts background that includes study in subjects such as math, science (physical, biological, and psychological), history, social sciences, humanities, research, and the arts. Some programs may prefer applicants have one to two years’ experience as paid or unpaid employees or volunteers in human services and/or social work settings.

Many Masters of Social Work programs also have prerequisite requirements in subjects such as biology, statistics, and psychology. Programs may require students who haven’t met the programs’ prerequisites to do so prior to enrolling in the program, or during their first year. If the programs to which you’re applying have prerequisites that you haven’t met, ask immediately about the deadline to complete these requirements.

Also, students for whom English is not their first language typically need to receive a minimum score on the TOEFL or IELTS in order to be accepted into an MSW program. Minimum required scores vary by school and program, but generally fall around 550 on the paper test (TOEFL), 79 on the internet-based test (TOEFL), and 6.5 on the IELTS.

Advanced Standing or Employed Practitioners’ Admissions

Some programs may offer advanced standing or employed-practitioners’ admission to students who demonstrate especially high academic achievement, have a recent educational background in social work, and/or have worked in the field of social work for a certain amount of time. You’ll probably need to submit a resume for MSW applications to these kinds of programs.

Special or advanced standing admissions may allow students to enroll in shorter programs or even skip certain prerequisite work. Ask your admissions counselor if you are eligible for special or advanced admissions.

Coursework Requirements for Social Work Degree

Most students complete their social work degree in one and a half to three years of full or part time study. They first devote their time to fulfilling foundational requirements and then to fulfilling the requirements of a concentration. Foundational courses, typically taken within the first year of study, include study in subjects such as human behavior, social environment, social work and welfare, social dynamics, and public policy.

Concentrations, typically studied in the second and third years of study, may allow students to specialize in various areas of social work such as clinical social work, medical social work, social and community management, public social work and advocacy, and private practice social work. Also, because many programs require students to take research methodology courses in both their first and following years of study, students are sometimes asked to submit and defend a thesis or dissertation at the end of their programs.

Students getting a master’s degree in social work may choose to focus on either practical or managerial social work tracks. Students who opt to study practical social work typically learn how to work with the individuals, groups, and communities they want to directly impact. On the other hand, students who opt to study managerial social work typically focus more upon learning how to plan, organize, and administer social work.

Field Work and Internships

MSW programs may require students to complete supervised field work and an internship. Most field work and internships can be completed within one to two years depending on the program. During the year or years of their fieldwork and internships, students may be expected to work in approved and assigned agencies for a certain number of hours per week. Once they have completed their field work, internships, and academic programs, students may be eligible to apply for licensure through the state in which they wish to work and reside.

The process of obtaining state licensure to practice social work can begin at the Association of Social Work Boards website. There, students can find information on taking licensure exams, applying for states licensure through the state in which they wish to practice, and much more. Note that the requirements of applying for licensure vary from state to state, and that students applying for licensure must have completed MSW programs through accredited schools.

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  • GRE scores are not required to apply.
  • Complete the online MSW program in as few as 18 months if you have a BSW; if you do not have a BSW, the program may be completed in as few as 27 months.
  • There are two online MSW program tracks: traditional and advanced standing.
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