MSW Admission Eligibility Requirements

Students entering the Berkeley Social Welfare master's program are expected to have acquired a broad education, consisting of significant academic preparation in and 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.

Minimum Eligibility Requirements for Admission to the Social Welfare MSW Program

To be eligible for admission to the Berkeley Social Welfare MSW degree program, applicants must fully meet all of the following minimum requirements. Please be aware that satisfying these minimal standards, however, does not guarantee your admission. Since the number of qualified applicants far exceeds the number of places available, each year we are unable to accommodate many well-qualified applicants.

1. Bachelor's Degree

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree or recognized equivalent from an accredited institution in the United States. The baccalaureate degree must be conferred prior to the beginning of classes.

2. Satisfactory Scholastic Average (GPA)

Applicants must have 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 for Graduate Study in Social Work

Applicants should have sufficient undergraduate preparation and training to demonstrate readiness for pursuing professional graduate study in social work.

While there is no minimum preparation requirement in any specific major or area of study (such as number of courses or units), successful applicants will typically have acquired significant academic preparation in the liberal arts and humanities (e.g., literature, language, philosophy, the fine arts, history, etc.) and behavioral or social sciences (e.g., anthropology, economics, ethnic studies, geography, history, linguistics, political science, psychology, sociology, etc.). Please note these examples of coursework areas are not exhaustive.

4. An Introductory Course in Statistics

A college-level introductory course in statistics is required.

Applicants must have completed this course requirement, or be in the process of completing it (i.e., currently enrolled) by the time the application for admission is submitted.

  • The course must be completed at an accredited college or university that results in credit on an official college transcript. Online courses that earn credit on an accredited college or university transcript meet this requirement. Receiving a score of 5 on an AP Statistics exam also satisfies this requirement.
  • 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.
  • Applicants must provide evidence of completing this requirement, or of applicable coursework in progress, by providing the college transcript that displays the statistics course grade and credits earned (or current course enrollment status, if in progress at the time of application).

5. Relevant Social Work or Human Services Experience

Applicants to the Social Welfare MSW program must have the equivalent of one full year (2,100 hours) of paid employment or volunteer experience related to social welfare or human services, or in a position requiring skills relevant to work with underserved or marginalized populations.

  • To satisfy the experience requirement for admission eligibility, all experience hours must be acquired by the application deadline.
  • To be counted toward satisfying the minimum experience requirement of 2,100 hours, the résumé uploaded to the online application for admission must include all of the following information:
    • Name and Location of Organization
    • Position Title
    • Start Date to End Date
    • Hours per Week and Total Hours Worked.
  • For some examples of relevant experience that is typical of successful applicants to the MSW program, please visit Experience and Résumé Guidelines for MSW Applicants.
  • Documentation of experience submitted with an admissions application may be verified by departmental admissions staff. UC Berkeley reserves the right to withdraw or rescind an offer of admission if any part of an application, including documentation of relevant professional experience, contains misrepresentations.

Applicants to Concurrent Degree Programs

Applicants to established concurrent degree programs must meet all eligibility requirements and admissions standards of both Berkeley Social Welfare and those of the respective concurrent degree program, including any examination requirements of other programs (GRE, etc.). The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is not required for the MSW-only Program.

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, 2022 and November 15, 2023. TOEFL tests taken after November 15, 2023, will not be valid for Fall 2024 admission eligibility.

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 social work practicum placement, and for required coverage under the School's professional liability insurance policy. For this reason, students must disclose all relevant ethical violations or legal convictions upon admission as part of the first-year practicum placement process.

A criminal history may limit or possibly prevent a student's eligibility for a social work practicum placement, which is required in order to successfully complete the MSW degree. Many agencies used for practicum 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 social work practicum 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 staff 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 social work. 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.

Notice Regarding Professional Licensure and Certification

University of California programs for professions that require licensure or certification are intended to prepare the student for California licensure and certification requirements. Admission into programs for professions that require licensure and certification does not guarantee that students will obtain a license or certificate. Licensure and certification requirements are set by agencies that are not controlled by or affiliated with the University of California and licensure and certification requirements can change at any time.

The University of California has not determined whether its programs meet other states’ educational or professional requirements for licensure and certification. Students planning to pursue licensure or certification in other states are responsible for determining whether, if they complete a University of California program, they will meet their state’s requirements for licensure or certification. This disclosure is made pursuant to 34 CFR §668.43(a)(5)(v)(C).

For information regarding social work licensure in California, please visit the Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS).