MSW Admission Eligibility Requirements

All Master's Degree Program Applicants

To be eligible for admission to any Berkeley Social Welfare master's degree program, applicants must meet all of the following minimum requirements:

  1. Possession of a bachelor's degree or recognized equivalent from an accredited institution.
  2. A satisfactory scholastic average, generally a minimum grade-point average of B or better (3.0 on a 4-point scale) in all coursework after the first two years of undergraduate study (typically the last 60 semester units, or last 90 quarter units).
  3. Sufficient undergraduate preparation and training for graduate study in social welfare. We seek students with significant academic preparation in the liberal arts and social sciences. Successful candidates will ideally have an academic record that roughly includes at least six courses in liberal arts and humanities (literature, language, philosophy, the fine arts, history, etc.; in any combination); and six courses in social sciences (anthropology, economics, ethnic studies, geography, history, linguistics, political science, psychology, sociology, etc.; in any combination).
  4. A college-level, introductory course in statistics completed at an accredited college or University that results in credit on an official college transcript, completed prior to matriculation into the program. A passing grade is required (C- or better), though please note that an overall grade-point average of B or better (3.0 on a 4-point scale) is preferred for all coursework, including the statistics course. 
  5. The equivalent of one full year (2,100 hours) of paid employment or volunteer experience related to social welfare or human services. For applicants to the Berkeley MSW specialization in Strengthening Organizations and Communities (SOC), the recommended minimum experience requirement is two years (4,200 hours). To satisfy the experience requirement for admission eligibility, all experience hours must be acquired by the application deadline.

Applicants to Concurrent Degree Programs

Applicants to concurrent degree programs must meet eligibility requirements and admissions standards of both the School of Social Welfare and the respective concurrent degree program, including any examination requirements.

  • For Fall 2023 admission, the The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is not required for either the Concurrent MSW/MPH or Concurrent MSW/MPP degree programs. Please visit the MPH and MPP program websites for more information on those programs' admissions requirements.
  • For admission to the Concurrent MSW/JD degree program, you must take the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) with valid writing sample, or be eligible to apply with a GRE score. See Berkeley Law's Applying for the J.D. Degree for more information.

International Applicants

For international applicants from a country or political entity where English is not the official language, a satisfactory score on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or other acceptable equivalent evidence of English language proficiency to do graduate work is required.

For the TOEFL, a minimum score of 90 is required. Acceptable TOEFL scores are from tests taken between June 1, 2021 and November 15, 2022. TOEFL tests taken after November 15, 2022, will not be valid for admission into the 2023-24 academic year.

Background Checks and Criminal History

A criminal conviction history does not automatically disqualify you for admission to the MSW program, nor is a background check required as part of the admissions application process. However, before you apply to graduate study in social work at Berkeley, you should be aware that all students accepted into the MSW program must be eligible for field placement, and for required coverage under the School's professional liability insurance policy.

Admission to the MSW program does not automatically guarantee a field education placement. After being admitted to the MSW program, students are assessed for their eligibility for field education by participating in a comprehensive, interactive process with their assigned Field Consultant. As part of this assessment, students must disclose all relevant ethical violations or legal convictions before the pre-placement process can begin. 

A criminal history may limit or possibly prevent a student's eligibility for field placement, which is required in order to successfully complete the MSW degree. Many agencies used for field placement do require a background check and/or drug screening as a condition of placement or employment. It is possible that some agencies may not accept for field placement a student with certain criminal history backgrounds or positive drug screen. Applicants to the MSW program who have concerns about a previous criminal history are encouraged to discuss their concerns with the Graduate Admissions Advisor prior to submitting their online application.

It is also possible that a criminal history could limit or prohibit a student's or graduate's ability to obtain social work licensure, a specialized credential (such as school social work), or employment in the field. The California Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS), which licenses social workers in California, evaluates all social work license applications with a prior conviction history on a case-by-case basis to determine the applicant's ability to practice with safety to the public. For more information, please visit California BBS Criminal Convictions.