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MSW Program

Master of Social Welfare (MSW)

Berkeley Social Welfare’s MSW Program develops future leaders of the profession who are deeply prepared for multi-level social work in specific areas of practice.  We provide an education built on the strongest available evidence, oriented to advancing social justice, and responsive to the changing needs of local and global communities.

With a prestigious faculty and excellent students committed to public service, Berkeley Social Welfare consistently ranks among the top 10 schools of social work and social welfare in the country.  Since 1944, we have prepared over 11,000 social work professionals, dedicated to serving the most vulnerable members of society, for leadership positions in the public and nonprofit human service sectors.

  • We train social workers for a range of leadership and advanced practice roles in the profession.
  • We create a spirit of critical inquiry and emphasize the use of tested knowledge and theory in developing and applying intervention methods.
  • We prepare students for professional responsibility in the field of social welfare and the institutional systems that comprise it.
  • We educate students to advance social justice.

The Berkeley Social Welfare MSW Program is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), the sole accrediting agency for social work education in the United States.


Areas of Study

Berkeley's MSW curriculum is organized around five areas of specialized practice, also known as concentrations. MSW students select their concentration at the time of application to the MSW program and are admitted into their chosen area:

  • Direct Practice in Aging
  • Direct Practice in Child and Family Services
  • Direct Practice in Community Mental Health
  • Direct Practice in Health
  • Management and Planning

Explore MSW Concentrations

Applying to the MSW Program

Each year Berkeley Social Welfare endeavors to admit the most promising master's students who combine scholarly ability with demonstrated commitment and aptitude for a career in social work.

We seek students with significant academic preparation in the liberal arts, with a background which has fostered the development of a world view characterized by humanistic values, an appreciation of the historical context of present-day social realities, a critical and analytical perspective, and a sensitivity to issues of diversity and social justice in a pluralistic society.

Students entering the master's program are expected to have acquired a broad education consisting of knowledge drawn from the behavioral, social, and natural sciences, and the humanities.  Conceptual ability and the capacity to integrate knowledge from these varied fields should be demonstrated through competence in writing.

Since successful experience in the human services field provides a good test of commitment and aptitude, we seek to admit students who have begun social work or related careers and demonstrate professional promise. In addition we seek to enroll a diverse student body that substantially represents groups historically underrepresented both in the University of California and Berkeley Social Welfare.

View/Download 2015 Incoming Class Student Profile [PDF]
View/Download 2014 Incoming Class Student Profile [PDF]

Admission Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for admission to the Master of Social Welfare (MSW) Program at Berkeley, applicants must meet the following minimum requirements:

  1. (1) Possession of a bachelor’s degree or recognized equivalent from an accredited institution.
  2. (2) A satisfactory scholastic average, generally a minimum grade-point average of B or better (3.0 on a 4-point scale).
  3. (3) Sufficient undergraduate preparation and training for graduate study in social welfare.
  4. (4) The equivalent of one full year of paid employment or volunteer experience related to social welfare or human services.  For applicants to the Management and Planning (MAP) Concentration, the recommended minimum experience requirement is two years.
  5. (5) Applicants to joint degree programs (e.g., MSW/MPH; MSW/MPP) must meet the eligibility requirements and admissions standards of both the School of Social Welfare and those of the respective joint program.
  6. (6) For international applicants from a country or political entity where English is not the official language, a satisfactory score on the TOEFL exam or other acceptable equivalent evidence of English language proficiency to do graduate work is required.

Application Process

All applicants to the MSW Program complete a single, online application to UC Berkeley Graduate Division Admissions.  All application materials, including transcripts, written statements, letters of recommendation, and resume must be uploaded as PDFs into the online application by the application deadline. No paper copies are accepted. The application fee must be paid online with a major credit card.

Applicants to the MSW Program must choose their concentration area at the time of application.

For more information on our admissions requirements and process please visit Admissions.

Berkeley Graduate Division: Applying for Graduate Admission

MSW Curriculum

The Berkeley MSW Program is a two-year, full-time program.  All master’s students follow a prescribed, full-time (minimum 12 units per semester) program of work preparing them for both generalist practice and specialized practice.

Berkeley does not offer part-time or advanced standing MSW programs, or offer advanced standing status to students with a BSW degree.

All students, regardless of the baccalaureate degree(s) they hold are expected to complete the regular two-year, full time program of study. Students entering the MSW program with considerable course background in the social work field, either from BSW programs or other undergraduate majors, may request exemption from one or more of the foundation curriculum academic requirements.

To learn more about the curriculum structure, its sequence, and courses offered, please visit the Berkeley Academic Guide to Social Welfare.

View/Download a Sample MSW Program of Study [pdf]

View/Download the MSW Curriculum At-a-Glance [pdf]

Degree Requirements

To be eligible for conferral of the Master of Social Welfare (MSW) degree, students must satisfy all of the following requirements:

1. Unit Requirements: A minimum total of 48 units is required for the MSW degree, including at least  29 academic units of required and elective courses and 19 units of field education. One unit of graduate credit typically requires a minimum of three hours per week of effort on the part of the student, including time spent in class, in the field, and in reading and other preparation.

2. Field Education Requirement: A total of 19 practicum and field placement units are required for graduation, the equivalent of approximately 142 days of field work. Students receive approximately two units of field internship placement credit per semester for each full day per week spent in the field. 

3. Social Research Methods Requirement: All MSW students complete a sequence of courses in methods of social research (SOC WEL 282A & 282B), which culminates in a research project to satisfy the Berkeley master’s capstone requirement.

4. Academic Standing: To be awarded the MSW degree a student must have maintained a grade point average not lower than 3.0 (B) in all upper division and graduate academic courses undertaken in graduate residence at the University of California.


All students begin their program of study in a generalist practice foundation curriculum in the first semester, and progress sequentially to and through an advanced curriculum in one of five areas of specialized practice, also known as concentrations:

  • Direct Practice in Aging
  • Direct Practice in Child and Family Services
  • Direct Practice in Community Mental Health
  • Direct Practice in Health
  • Management and Planning

MSW students select their concentration at the time of application to the MSW program and are admitted into their chosen area.
Changing into a different concentration area once matriculated is generally not allowed.

To see how the curriculum varies between concentrations, view/download the MSW Curriculum At-a-Glance [PDF]

Explore MSW Concentrations


Field Education

Field education is frequently one of the most challenging but memorable parts of graduate social work education. Successful completion of 19 field education units is required for degree conferral.  Field practicum is generally concurrent with field seminar/section and academic classes.  The unit requirements include:

  • 17 field practicum/placement units, the equivalent of at least 140 days (1,120 hours) of agency placement.  Students receive approximately two field units per semester for each full day of the week spent in practicum, and;
  • Two field seminar units in the first year, one per semester, and attendance at 18 hours of field section in the second year. 

The overall objectives of field education in the Berkeley Social Welfare curriculum are:

  • To provide students with opportunities apply knowledge and skills acquired in classes during simultaneously sequenced real life practicum experiences in social agencies;
  • To help students achieve mastery of professional competencies through progressively immersing them into the role of professional social worker and arranging for them to be given observationally-based, structured feedback from agency field instructors;
  • To facilitate the development of strong lifelong practice learning competencies in students, including using consultation, being self-reflective, considering multiple, often conflicting sources of knowledge, applying critical thinking and ethical decision-making skills, and demonstrating effective response to common agency-based dilemmas.

We accomplish these goals by selecting, arranging, and monitoring field placements, leading field integration seminars, and working collaboratively with students, practice professionals, and academic faculty members to promote professional competency and leadership development.

Learn more about Field Education


Elective Requirement

The MSW degree requires a minimum of 48 units in approved coursework related to social welfare: 19 field education units earned in SOC WEL 400/400B and 401; and at least 29 academic units.  The number of required courses varies according to concentration area, so the number of elective units required in each area will also vary.

Elective courses include Social Welfare courses not used to fulfill other degree or specialty area requirements, as well as courses taken in other campus departments from the list of Approved Outside (Non-Social Welfare) Elective Courses or the list of Approved Diversity Courses.

View/Download MSW Elective Requirement & List of Approved Electives [pdf]

MSW Program Goals & Outcomes

MSW Program Goals

The Berkeley MSW Program educates students for a range of social work leadership and practice roles.  Students are prepared to practice with specialized skills at specific intervention levels, and are thoroughly grounded in social science knowledge, social welfare policies, and social service organizations. 

The seven goals of the MSW program are organized around three central themes focused on leadership development as articulated below.

Leadership for Service

Goal 1:  Develop visionary thought and practice leaders who are responsive to communities and individuals, draw upon the best available evidence to continuously improve social work practice and policies, and who are able to change with shifting contexts of social work.

Goal 2:  Develop leaders who can flexibly and competently practice social work across multiple ecological levels.

Goal 3:  Develop leaders who can engage effectively in collaboration with diverse communities; articulate social problems; and promote innovation in social welfare practices, programs and policies.

Leadership for Social Justice and Social Change

Goal 4:  Develop leaders with an understanding of concepts of equality and social justice.

Goal 5:  Develop leaders with the skills to promote meaningful and productive change with and in underserved communities and vulnerable populations.

Leadership for Evidenced-informed and Competency-based Practice

Goal 6:  Develop leaders with the capacity to utilize research to support practice, and practice to support research, and translate the best available evidence into practice principles.

Goal 7:  Develop leaders with skills to work collaboratively with numerous community partners to gather and analyze evidence that reflects the changing needs of our communities.


Program Outcomes

Program Assessment Outcomes Survey

Combined Degree & Certificate Programs

Combined Degree Programs
Concurrent or Dual Degree in Public Health (MSW+MPH)
Concurrent Degree in Public Policy (MSW+MPP)

Certificate Programs
School Social Work Credentials (PPSC)


Concurrent & Dual Degrees in Public Health (MSW+MPH)

Berkeley Social Welfare and the School of Public Health offer two degree plan options for interdisciplinary preparation in the fields of social welfare and public health, leading to the Master of Social Welfare (MSW) and Master of Public Health (MPH) degrees.

The Concurrent MSW/MPH Option

This three-year program option allows students to enter both degree programs simultaneously, and is designed to permit students the maximum amount of flexibility while fulfilling the requirements for both degrees. Students gain the knowledge and skills necessary to promote health, prevent disease, reduce disparities in health outcomes and enhance the delivery of health social services in the community.

All Concurrent MSW/MPH students pursue courses and field education in one of two concentrations within the School of Social Welfare and one of three concentrations within the School of Public Health:

Social Welfare

Public Health

Direct Practice in Health Services
Management & Planning

Health & Social Behavior
Maternal & Child Health
Public Health Nutrition

The two concentrations guide the curriculum of each individual student on a path unique to the combination of the two curriculums. Each concentration has a set of required courses and electives. Additionally, the concentrations shape the field education placements from both programs. Applicants must choose their concentrations at the time of application.


Prospective students seeking the Concurrent MSW/MPH apply specifically to this program at the time of application to graduate study at Berkeley.
On average 3-5 applicants are admitted each year into the Concurrent MSW/MPH program.


The Dual MSW/MPH Option

Berkeley Social Welfare and the School of Public Health jointly offer a Dual Degree Program suitable for those students preparing for careers that span both social welfare and public health. This option allows students in either Social Welfare or Public Health to pursue the two degrees simultaneously by adding the second discipline after they have been admitted to and begun studies in the first.

Students are required to meet the requirements of both degrees, and are generally able to do so in three academic years and a summer. The student’s actual program sequence is determined by the specializations chosen within each school. Students meet the breadth requirements for public health as well as specific courses required in their area of specialization. They also meet the academic requirements of their selected concentration in social welfare. Field faculty in each school help plan and coordinate field practicum placements/internship practice experiences.

Depending on individual professional objectives, students select specializations or areas of concentration as part of the application process. A distinctive feature of the UC Berkeley program is its flexibility, which allows students to tailor their academic interests from various specializations in either school. In Social Welfare students specialize in Management and Planning, Gerontology, Health, Children and Families, or Community Mental Health. Within the School of Public Health, students may select one of eight areas of specialization; most frequently chosen are Health and Social Behavior, Health Policy and Management, Interdisciplinary, and Maternal and Child Health. Students applying to the dual degree by adding either the Public Health or Social Welfare major should select their concentration carefully and not anticipate changing once admitted.


In their iniital fall semester of graduate study in either Social Welfare or Public Health, students seeking to add the Dual MSW/MPH apply to the second school for dual enrollment beginning the following fall.
MSW and MPH students are encouraged to seek advising from the School of Social Welfare and the School of Public Health before applying. An information session for students interested in adding the Dual Degree option is held at the beginning of each fall semester ahead of the application period.

Concurrent Degree in Public Policy (MSW+MPP)

Berkeley Social Welfare and the Goldman School of Public Policy (GSPP) offer a Concurrent Degree program option that blends the substantive focus and professional social work training of the Masters in Social Welfare (MSW) with the rigorous methodological tools and policy breadth of the Masters in Public Policy (MPP).

This concurrent degree program is designed to meet the pressing need for creative and skilled leaders in the human services field to tackle large and seemingly intractable social problems in the United States and elsewhere. Faculty of the schools of Social Welfare and Public Policy are convinced that leaders who will guide societies - the United States and elsewhere - to effective solutions for today’s serious social problems will require a range of skills, many of which can be found in a blending of the Social Welfare and Public Policy core competencies.

  • Complete both degrees in three years (plus one intervening summer) instead of the four it would take to earn the two degrees sequentially.
  • MSW students in the Concurrent MSW/MPP Program pursue courses and field education in the Management and Planning concentration.
  • Jointly planned social work field placement that also satisfies the public policy internship requirement.
  • A capstone Advanced Policy Analysis project reflecting each student's professional & and intellectual interests.

Students interested in the Concurrent MSW/MPP Degree Program must be admitted to both programs. Applications are reviewed by both Berkeley Social Welfare and GSPP, applying the same admissions requirements for concurrent degree students as for all other applicants.

Applicants can be considered for admission to the Concurrent MSW/MPP Degree program at the time of admission to UC Berkeley, or if they had applied to a single degree option (MSW or MPP), may apply within the first Fall semester to add the Concurrent MSW/MPP.

Currently-enrolled Berkeley MSW and MPP students who are subsequently admitted into the Concurrent MSW/MPP Degree Program have until the end of the first Fall semester to submit the “Petition to Change Degree Goal/Major” to Graduate Division with the approproate approval signatures from each school.

Prospective and current students interested in pursuing the MSW-MPP Concurrent Degree are encouraged to explore and discuss their plans with faculty advisors:


School Social Work Credentials (PPSC)

School social work is one of the fastest growing areas of social work practice. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of child, family, and school social workers is expected to grow by 15 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations.

Berkeley Social Welfare offers a curriculum in school social work practice, leading to eligibility for a recommendation from the School for the Pupil Personnel Services Credentials (PPSC) issued by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. The PPS credential is usually a requirement for employment as a school social worker in California K-12 public schools.

Berkeley Social Welfare’s fully accredited School Social Work Program educates master’s-level social workers to assist public schools in achieving their educational and developmental missions. Current MSW students are eligible to apply for and complete the PPSC Program requirements as part of their MSW degree studies at Berkeley. A Post-Master's PPSC Program option is available for social work professionals who already hold the Master’s in Social Work (MSW) degree from a graduate program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

For information on PPSC requirements and applying, please visit our School Social Work Credentialing Program.

Resources for Current Students

MSW Program Manual - includes Student Guide to Field Education

MSW Elective Requirement & List of Approved Electives

Sin Fronteras 2016 Information Sheet & Application Instructions [pdf]

General Academic Forms
Graduate Petition to Change Course Schedule - required after 3rd week of semester
Independent Study (296)/Independent Research (299) Proposal Form
"Request for Incomplete Grade" Packet

Special Program Handbooks
MSW/MPH Student Handbook
Guide to School Social Work Credentialing Program ("PPSC Handbook")

Concentration Curriculum Guides
Children & Families
Community Mental Health
Management and Planning

Graduate Division Resources
Berkeley Graduate Division: Guide to Graduate Policy

For Field Education manuals and forms, please visit Field Forms, Policies and Calendars
For graduate student funding information and resources, please visit Student Funding
For research information and resources, please visit Research