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Bachelor of Arts in Social Welfare

Bachelor of Arts in Social Welfare

Since 1942 Berkeley Social Welfare has offered the undergraduate major in Social Welfare leading to the Bachelor of Arts degree, under the jurisdiction of the College of Letters and Science ("L&S").

The Social Welfare undergraduate major emphasizes an education experience that is grounded in the liberal arts rather than specialized training in the profession of social work–thus its designation as a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree, and not the professional Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree. 

Berkeley Social Welfare’s undergraduate major reflects our goal to provide Berkeley undergraduate students with a broad-based introduction to America’s social welfare problems and social policies within a social science context. Students gain knowledge of organized networks of public and private social services, and the basic practice methods associated with the social work profession. In doing so, students acquire the knowledge needed to understand, address, and actively participate in the amelioration of critical social problems in American Society.

Social Welfare is a popular major, and prerequisites and enrollment controls for required courses are in place to manage student demand.  Students interested in declaring the Social Welfare major should:

  • Thoroughly explore the Social Welfare field as a major, and become familiar with the curriculum and its required sequence (see "Major Requirements" below).
  • Complete the prerequisite entry requirements as soon as possible (see "Declaring the Major" below).
  • Be aware of priority deadlines to declare the major, and file the Petition to Declare a Major no later than in the semester they plan to have completed all of the prerequisites.
Major Requirements

To earn the Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Welfare, students must satisfy all requirements of the University of California, the Berkeley campus and the College of Letters & Science. See the College's Summary of Degree Requirements for information on those and other residence and unit requirements. 

Social Welfare majors must complete four required upper-division Social Welfare courses and a minimum of five approved social science electives, totaling at least 18 units, from other departments.

  • All courses used to fulfill major requirements must be taken for a letter grade.
  • In order to graduate, Social Welfare majors must earn a minimum GPA 2.0 in ALL courses taken to fulfill major requirements.

Download the Social Welfare Major Requirements Worksheet [pdf]



Social Welfare majors must successfully complete all of the following required upper-division courses:

SOC WEL 110:  Social Work as a Profession (3 units)
Prerequisite:  Declared as a Social Welfare major (enrollment restricted to declared majors)
This first core course required for undergraduate Social Welfare majors introduces the field of social welfare and the profession of social work. Students explore the social, political, and historical contexts in which social welfare and social work have developed. Current social welfare issues are critically examined within the context of social work practice and in terms of their effectiveness in meeting needs of diverse clients and communities. Requires concurrent enrollment in discussion section.

SOC WEL 112:  Social Welfare Policy (3 units)
Prerequisite:  SOC WEL 110
This required course for undergraduate social welfare majors is designed to enhance understanding of social policies and programs in the United States, including public assistance, social insurance, social services, health and mental health.  Its focus is on the circumstances of the disadvantaged and impoverished. Students explore and begin to analyze major social welfare policies and programs, the choices involved in their formulation, and the nature of their implementation and results. Requires concurrent enrollment in discussion section.

SOC WEL 114:  Practice in Social Work (3 units)
Prerequisite:  SOC WEL 110 or consent of instructor
This course introduces students to basic social work practice skills through the generalist intervention model.  Both direct and indirect practice methods are introduced. Students are exposed to both theory and research that informs understanding of client system’s strengths, problem development, and intervention. Biophysical, psychological, environmental, social, and cultural contributions to effective and ethical social work assessment and intervention with individuals, families, and communities experiencing a range of challenges are examined. Requires concurrent enrollment in discussion section.

Focused Topic Core Course: SOC WEL 116 - Current Topics in Social Welfare OR Approved Alternate (at least 2 units)
Prerequisite:  SOC WEL 110
The Focused Topic Core Course requirement may be satisfied by taking a SOC WEL 116 Current Topics Course; OR by taking ANY upper-division Social Welfare elective class (any class other than the core classes), or approved graduate (200-level) elective course in Social Welfare. Sections of SOC WEL 116 or approved alternative courses are generally offered each Fall, Spring and Summer.



Social Welfare majors must complete a minimum of FIVE approved social science electives, totaling at least 18 upper-division units.  At least three of the five must be selected from a Primary Social Science department.  The remaining two electives may come from either a Primary or Secondary Social Science department.

Supplemental Elective Units:  Students who choose five Social Science Electives that do not total 18 units will need additional coursework to supplement the required five electives. Supplemental units can be chosen from the approved courses in either a primary or a secondary social science department, or from Social Welfare elective coursework.  Special Studies course units (e.g., group study or community service units) cannot be used to satisfy any degree requirements; thus, they may NOT be counted towards supplemental elective units. Courses taken to fulfill supplemental units may be taken on a Pass/No Pass basis.

Primary Social Science Departments:
Political Science

Upper-division Social Welfare elective and MSW-level courses may also be used as primary social science electives

Secondary Social Science Departments:

African American Studies
American Studies
Asian American Studies
Chicano Studies
City & Regional Planning
Environmental Science, Policy & Management
Ethnic Studies

Gender & Women’s Studies
Health & Medical Sciences
Legal Studies
Native American Studies
Peace & Conflict Studies
Public Health
Public Policy
Undergraduate Interdisciplinary Studies

Declaring the Major

Prerequisite Entry Requirements

Before you can petition to declare Social Welfare as your major, you must complete all of the prerequisites listed below. 

These prerequisite courses can be taken at UC Berkeley or at another university or at a community college.  For courses taken at another institution, the course title must indicate Introductory, Beginning, Elementary etc., and a transcript (unofficial is acceptable) must be presented at the time of declaring for grade verification.  High school AP scores that are high enough to provide university units can be accepted in place of a prerequisite class.  Courses at UCB that will fulfill the prerequisites are indicated below:

1) Letters & Science Reading and Composition (R&C) Requirement:
The College of Letters & Science requires two semesters of lower division work in composition - Reading and Composition (R&C), parts A and B, in sequential order. All undergraduates must complete the R&C requirement by the end of their fourth semester. For information on courses that satisfy the R&C requirement, please see

2) Introductory Psychology:
Psychology 1 or 2, or equivalent

3) Introductory Sociology:
Sociology 1 or 3AC, or equivalent

4) Quantitative Reasoning:
Any math, statistics or computer science course approved by the College of Letter's and Science to satisfy the quantitative reasoning requirement.

GPA Guideline
All prerequisite courses must be successfully completed with a minimum letter grade of C.

When and How to Declare the Major

Students wishing to declare the Social Welfare major must complete a Petition to Declare a Major form and be accepted into the major in order to be eligible for enrollment in the introductory course SOC WEL 110.  Because enrollment in SOC WEL 110 is restricted to majors, you should be declared by the time the pre-enrollment period begins ahead of the semester in which you plan to take SOC WEL 110.

  • Students who enter UC Berkeley as freshmen must declare the major by their 5th semester or prior to accumulating 80 semester units including work in progress, whichever comes first.
  • For transfer students, eligibility to declare a major begins and ends in the first semester at UC Berkeley, and all transfer students must declare in their first semester.  For this reason transfer students wishing to declare the Social Welfare major should complete the Petition to Declare application during the Golden Bear Orientation in order to be eligible to begin courses in the major in the first Fall term on campus.

Petitions to Declare are accepted and majors are declared at the beginning of each Fall and Spring Semester.  The priority deadline for submitting Petitions to Declare the Major and required supporting documentation (transcripts, etc.) is the close of business on the Friday of the 3rd week of classes each semester.  Students will be notified of their petition status as quickly as possible in order to be eligible to enroll in SOC WEL 110 in the following semester.

To Petition to Declare the Social Welfare Major:

  • Complete Google Form (will be available soon). For questions in the meantime, please contact the major advisor.
  • Complete the Petition form entirely, and attach transcript documents that verify you have satisfied all of the prerequisites.  Unofficial copies are acceptable.  Please highlight courses you are petitioning to count as satisfying any prerequisites.
Special Studies (DE-Cal, etc.)

Subject to the conditions and limitations outlined in the policies and procedures below, students may receive credit for supervised, individual or organized group independent study exploring social welfare topics not typically addressed in the existing curriculum.  The three options are listed and described below, along with links to the proposal forms required for each:

SOC WEL 97/197: Field Studies in Social Welfare
A student may propose an individual 97/197 or a group 97/197.  (The number 97 is reserved for lower-division field studies courses).  These courses will typically include community service, as well as meetings and academic assignments. Each section of a field study course (97 or 197) requires a written proposal that the sponsoring faculty member must sign and submit to the department chair for approval. 
SOC WEL 97/197 Proposal Form
SOC WEL 97/197 (Section 1) Timesheet for Community Service

SOC WEL 98/198: Group Study for Advanced Undergraduates
Directed Group Study courses (SOC WEL 98/198; the number 98 is reserved for lower-division group study courses) may be designed and taught by faculty members, or may be facilitated by undergraduate students.  Each section of a student-facilitated course (also known as a “DE-Cal” course) requires a written proposal that must be reviewed and approved by an instructor of record and the department chair, and then submitted to the Academic Senate Committee on Courses of Instruction (COCI) for review.
SOC WEL 98/198 Application Packet

SOC WEL 199: Supervised Independent Study and Research
This course is for students seeking supervised independent study and research on a social welfare topic under the direction of a Berkeley Social Welfare faculty member.  Each student enrolled in an Independent Study course (199) must have prior consent of the supervising instructor and submit a written proposal that specifies the nature of the study, the number of units to be credited, and the basis for grading.
SOC WEL 199 Proposal Form

Policies Applying to All Social Welfare Special Studies Courses

  • Faculty are required to evaluate and approve the syllabus for any proposed Special Study course.
    The syllabus and proposal is then submitted to the Academic Coordinator for final approval by the department chair.  Faculty maintain contact with student coordinators during the semester for further oversight.
  • Special Studies courses student facilitators and participating students are responsible for confirming the accuracy of all enrollments prior to each semester’s published deadline for adding and dropping courses.
    The Department will not support late adds or drops if enrollment mistakes are not resolved by that deadline.
  • Special Studies Courses must be taken on a P/NP (Passed/Not Passed) grading option only.
    Exception: students enrolled in in an Independent Study course (199) may petition the College of Letters & Science (L&S) to take the course on a letter grade basis.
  • No more than 16 units of Special Studies Courses may be used to satisfy requirements for the B.A. in Social Welfare degree.

How to Propose a Special Studies Course in Social Welfare

1) Obtain the appropriate application form/packet.
Download using the links provided above, or pick up a hard copy from the Front Desk in the Dean’s Office (120 Haviland Hall).

2) Arrange for a faculty sponsor.
Students should approach faculty members with relevant topical research interests and expertise to solicit sponsorship; consult the Berkeley Social Welfare faculty directory.  Anyone who has been approved to serve as instructor of record for a course (excluding graduate students) may sponsor a 97/197 or 98/198 course; only Berkeley Social Welfare ladder-rank faculty may sponsor a 199 Independent Study course. Please be aware that faculty members on sabbatical are generally not available to sponsor Special Studies courses.

3) Submit a syllabus or lesson plan and appropriate Special Studies Course Application Form for review and approval.
The faculty sponsor must approve the syllabus or lesson plan and sign off on the appropriate Special Studies Course Application Form.  An application will not be considered complete without the faculty sponsor’s approval signature, and no incomplete applications will be considered for review.

4) Return the original faculty-signed application for departmental approval.
Applications should be submitted to the Front Desk of the Social Welfare Dean’s Office in 120 Haviland Hall. No application will be considered after its deadline:

SOC WEL 97/197 Courses:
Due NO LATER THAN 6 weeks before the end of instruction in the previous semester
Fall 2017 Proposal Deadline: Friday, April 14th
Spring 2018 Proposal Deadline: Friday, October 27th

SOC WEL 98/198 Courses:
Due NO LATER THAN 6 weeks before the end of instruction in the previous semester
Fall 2017 Proposal Deadline: Friday, April 14th
Spring 2018 Proposal Deadline: Friday, October 27th

SOC WEL 199 Courses:
Due by 1st Week of Current Semester

Berkeley Connect in Social Welfare

Social Welfare is now a Berkeley Connect Participating Department!

Berkeley Connect is a mentoring program designed to help students build intellectual community. 

  • Meet in small groups and talk with other students about the practice of social work!
  • Get personalized mentoring!
  • Explore what you can do once you graduate!
  • Get to know Social Welfare faculty, graduate students, and alums!
  • Discover the Berkeley campus!

How? Join Berkeley Connect in Social Welfare!

Enroll in a small-group (no more than 20!) session led by an advanced graduate student mentor and receive 1 unit of credit.  No papers, exams, or outside reading!  Just lots of face-to-face interaction with others who share your passion for social action, social justice, and social change. 

Activities include:

  • Small-group discussions:  biweekly informal conversations about important ideas, texts, and methods
  • One-on-one advising with your mentor, focused on your academic questions, concerns, and aspirations
  • Special events featuring distinguished Berkeley Social Welfare faculty and alums, including a career panel
  • Excursions to visit the rich resources available to you on the Berkeley campus.

To sign up, enroll in a FALL 2017 SMALL-GROUP SECTION via CalCentral:
SOC WEL 98BC, CLASS NUMBER 40938, Tues. 4:00-5:00 p.m. (lower division)
SOC WEL 198BC, CLASS NUMBER 40945, Tues. 5:00-6:00 p.m. (transfer students)

Learn more about Berkeley Connect

Social Welfare Senior Honors Program

The Honors Program in Social Welfare (known as the Departmental Honors) provides an opportunity for qualified undergraduates majors in social welfare to study a topic of interest in depth and write a thesis on this topic.  Graduating with Honors indicates an ability to independently examine and conduct a critical analysis of a social welfare topic and to write clearly and persuasively.

A broad range of topics are possible but generally the focus is on a social problem or a social welfare intervention or a theory relevant to social work or social welfare.  Students are expected to demonstrate their thorough knowledge and critical understanding of the topic. The thesis is typically 40 pages in length, substantial enough to permit a description and detailed analysis of the topic.

The H195 course extends over two semesters. In the Fall semester, students enroll in a 1 unit (two hour) bi-weekly seminar when, under the direction of the instructor, they finalize the topic, write an abstract, prepare an outline and compile a bibliography. A thesis advisor will also be identified at this stage. To proceed to the Spring semester, students must receive an “A” grade for their work in the Fall seminar. In the Spring semester, students enroll for 3 units and write the thesis under the direction of a faculty adviser. The final draft of the thesis should be submitted to the adviser by the end of April but students are expected to submit regular drafts of their thesis chapters before then. Each student will agree a writing schedule with their adviser. The thesis is assessed by the adviser and a second reader who will assign a grade (which must be an “A” or “A+”) and designation of the level of honors to be awarded. Normally, students receive the designation of “Honors” and the designation of “High Honors” or “Highest Honors” is only awarded for exceptionally outstanding theses. In addition to completing the honors thesis, students must earn a 3.5 GPA in the major (the 4 required upper-division Social Welfare courses plus the  5 social sciences electives) and a 3.3 GPA overall to graduate with Honors.

Students who do not achieve an “A” or higher the Spring semester will be awarded a grade judged appropriate by the advisor but will not receive the degree with Honors.  Students who do not receive an “A” grade for their work in the Fall seminar will be awarded a grade judged appropriate by the instructor but will not be permitted to enroll for the Spring semester thesis writing stage of the course. Incomplete will only be awarded in exceptional circumstances and will require a formal petition as required by the School supported by medical or other appropriate documentation.

Undergraduate students in the Social Welfare major who wish to be considered for admission to the Honors Program must have achieved at least a 3.5 grade point average in at least two core courses to be considered.  They must also have completed course SW 110 and either have completed or be enrolled in course SW 112 and SW 114.

Eligible students will be contacted by the Undergraduate Adviser over the summer to determine if they want to apply. The School currently admits ten students per year to the Honors program. Those who apply will be ranked according to overall undergraduate GPA and their GPA in the major. They must also provide a brief outline of their proposed topic. Only topics for which the School has faculty advisers will be accepted. Students enrolled in the honors program must be in residence and are required to attend all prescribed classes and meetings with their advisers. 

Advising Resources for Students

Advising for Social Welfare BA Majors:
Social Welfare Dean's Office
120 Haviland Hall

Undergraduate Major Advisor: Julie Pratt
Drop-in hours for Fall 2017
Mondays and Wednesdays 2:00- 4:00 pm
Tuesdays and Thursdays 9:00- 11:00 am

For appointments outside of these hours, please e-mail

Berkeley Academic Guide: BA in Social Welfare
Undergraduate Student Handbook
Master Lists of Approved Primary & Secondary Electives

Social Welfare Major Requirement Worksheet.

Social Welfare Careers: The Undergraduate Portfolio [pdf]