Master of Social Welfare

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.

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.

Master of Social Welfare (MSW)

The Berkeley Master of Social Welfare (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. 

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

  • For information about Advanced Standing (for students with a BSW degree) or Extended (part-time) MSW degree program options, please see the Berkeley FlexMSW Degree Progam.
  • Berkeley does not offer an online MSW degree.

Admission 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 both professional promise and leadership potential. 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.

For more information about MSW admission requirements and the application process, please visit MSW Admissions.

Tuition, Fees and Financial Aid

Students in the full-time Berkeley MSW Degree Program are assessed UC Berkeley Graduate Professional Fees, which include Professional Degree Supplemental Tuition (PDST), and student health insurance fees. For current rates please visit the Registrar’s Current Fee Schedule.

Financial assistance opportunties available to help support full-time Berkeley MSW students include:

For more information about fees, fellowships and financial aid, please also see our guide to Financing Your Graduate Degree.

Curriculum and Degree Requirements

To be eligible for degree conferral students must complete a minimum of 54 units, which include:

  • 9 units of Generalist Practice coursework required of all students.
  • At least 2 units of coursework in Diversity-sensitive and Competent Practice.
  • 6 to 8 units of Specialized Practice coursework in your chosen area of specialization.
  • 4 units of social research methods.
  • 6 to 8 units of professionally relevant elective coursework or courses needed for additional special program options.
  • 25 units of field education, which includes two years of field practicum internship and concurrent field integration seminars.

For descriptions of courses offered and specific degree requirements, please see the Berkeley Academic Guide to Social Welfare.

Specialization Areas

The Berkeley MSW curriculum is organized around areas of specialized practice in social work. Berkeley MSW students select a specific area of study at the time of application to the MSW program, and are admitted into their chosen specialization area.

Click on any of the following links to learn more about each specialization area, including curriculum, faculty, and possible field placement opportunities:

Advancing Health and Well-being across the Adult Lifespan
Promoting physical, mental and behavioral health for all adults.

Strengthening Children, Youth and Families
Promoting physical, social and emotional wellness for children, youth and their families.

Strengthening Organizations and Communities
Promoting social justice through program development, implementation, evaluation, community organizing, and policy practice.


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.