Frequently Asked Questions - MSW Admissions

MSW Admissions

About the MSW Program

What might an example weekly schedule look like for an MSW student?

Berkeley MSW students are typically in class three days a week, and field placement two days a week, in the first year. In the second year, students are usually in field placement three days a week, and in classes two days a week. Full-time students are expected to be available for both class and field placement Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. You can see sample plans of study on the specialization and program pages of our Master’s Degrees and Certificates website, and get a feel for the class schedule by visiting the Berkeley Academic Guide (select “Class Schedule” in the green menu bar).

Can I transfer into your MSW Program from an MSW Program at another school?

No, we do not accept transfer students into any of our graduate programs.

Is it possible to switch specializations once you are admitted to the program?

Because Berkeley Social Welfare admits students to an MSW degree program by specialization area, changing specializations after admission and prior to matriculation to the program is not allowed. In extenuating circumstances, first-year students may petition for a change of specialization area upon consultation with their faculty adviser or field consultant; however, the ability to grant a change is not guaranteed and rarely approved.

Can I skip some social welfare elective courses and choose electives from other departments?

It is possible to take elective courses outside the School of Social Welfare; however, you also still must satisfy the elective requirements for the MSW degree. Some departments may also have enrollment restrictions that could affect course availability for students from other departments. For details on the elective degree requirement, including lists of approved courses in other departments, please see the MSW Student Handbook > MSW Degree Requirements.

Can I become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)?

All students who complete an MSW at UC Berkeley are eligible, upon graduation, to register with the California Board of Behavioral Sciences to begin pursuing licensure. Licensure is a process that starts post-MSW and generally takes two to four years. Licensing goes through the Board of Behavioral Sciences in California and is separate from the university. Our program prepares you for licensing through classes, workshops and a solid education. Our graduates have the highest pass rate of the licensing exam in the state.


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).

Field Placements

How are field placements chosen? How much input will I have in this decision?

First-year field placements are chosen through a collaborative and individualized process between entering students and their field consultants. After completing an extensive survey about previous experiences and future plans, new students meet on-on-one with their field consultant before being sent to an assigned interview at an appropriate field placement.

Second-year students select field placements more independently, yet still under the guidance of their field consultants. Students have access to a large database of possible placement sites that hold relationships with UC Berkeley, eventually selecting several at which to interview. To learn more please visit Field Education.

Is it possible to do my field placement at a current workplace?

Students are permitted to be placed in an agency where they are or have been employed under certain circumstances usually related to the agency being able to provide substantial new learning related to identified competencies. For more information please see Guide to Field Education for MSW Students > Field Placement in an Employing Agency.

Is the field placement paid or unpaid?

Most field placements are unpaid internships, although some agencies may offer a small stipend, or participate in the federal Work-Study Program.

Admissions Advising

How do I contact you to make an admissions advising appointment or ask a question?

Send an email to

We offer 15 minute advising appointments for the Fall 2023 admissions cycle. When requesting an advising appointment, please be sure to include all questions and relevant information in your email so we can prepare and advise accordingly.

Admissions Requirements

What is considered “sufficient undergraduate preparation and training for graduate study in social welfare?”

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. We seek students with significant academic preparation in the liberal arts, roughly defined as at least six courses in Liberal Arts, and six courses in Social Sciences.

How recent do your undergraduate credits have to be (within last 5 years, 10 years, etc.)?

There is no time limit or expiration window for your undergraduate degree conferral to be considered eligible for admission to graduate study. The only exception is if you are eligible to apply for the FlexMSW Advanced Standing program, which requires a professional baccalaureate (BSW) degree within the past five years.

Do you require the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) for admission to the MSW and Concurrent Degree programs?

The GRE is required as shown below only for certain degree programs:

Program Applying to: GRE Required?
Full-time MSW No
MSW/MPP Concurrent Degree Optional; GRE or quantitative resume; view details
MSW/MPH Concurrent Degree Optional
MSW/PhD Combined Degree Program Optional
PhD Optional

For programs that require the GRE, there is no minimum score required, and students are admitted with a wide range of GRE scores. The median verbal score is generally in the 70th-80th percentiles. The quantitative score is also considered; for all programs, successful applicants score at the 50th percentile or higher.

Do I need to have completed the introductory statistics course requirement before I apply?

No, but if you are offered and accept admission, you must have completed it by the time you matriculate. 

If you have yet to complete or enroll in a course, California Virtual Campus is a great resource that lists online courses offered at colleges and universities in California. You can also look at online courses at Excelsior CollegeUCB ExtensionUniversity of MassachusettsPortage Learning, and/or University of Phoenix

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). Applicants must provide evidence of completing this requirement for admission by providing the college transcript that displays the statistics course grade and credits earned. Receiving a 5 on an AP Statistics exam also satisfies the requirement.

How do I calculate my advanced GPA?

Please calculate your advanced GPA using only courses that counted toward your undergraduate degree. You should include all coursework after the first two years of undergraduate study (typically the last 60 semester units, or last 90 quarter units).

Do post-baccalaureate courses taken at a community college after I’ve graduated count towards the advanced GPA?

While post-baccalaureate coursework (including community college and extension programs) may be an indicator of your potential for academic success, it is not included in the advanced GPA calculation for admission eligibility.

Application Questions

How do I apply to the MSW Program?

All applicants to graduate study at Berkeley apply for graduate admission online, through the UC Berkeley Graduate and Professional Application for Admission. A separate application to the School of Social Welfare is not required. 

When should I apply for admission?

The online application becomes available in early September each year, and the application deadline is typically on or around December 1 each year (see MSW Admissions for current specific dates).

Berkeley Social Welfare admits for the fall semester only each academic year; we do not offer spring or summer admissions.

Is it beneficial to apply early? Do you do “rolling admissions” or are applications reviewed only after the application deadline?

We only begin reviewing applications after the submission deadline. We do recommend starting your application early so you have plenty of time to double-check everything before you click “Submit” and pay the application fee.

When are applicants notified of their admission status?

Applicants to the MSW program can expect to be notified of their admission status by March 15.

How can I qualify for and/or apply for an application fee waiver?

United States citizens or permanent residents and California AB540 students may request an application fee waiver under certain eligibility criteria. International applicants must pay the application fee; they cannot be granted a fee waiver. Application fee waivers are administered directly by the Berkeley Graduate Division. To learn more about eligibility criteria or to request a fee waiver, please visit Requesting an Application Fee Waiver.

I am having technical trouble with the online application. Who should I speak to?

Technical issues with the online application should be addressed to the UC Berkeley Graduate Division Admissions Office at

Do you offer admission deferrals?

No. Offers of admission are valid only for the year they are made. Successful applicants who accept an offer of admission and then must later decline or withdraw must reapply in a future admissions cycle.

Are interviews part of the application process?


Eligible applicants who include a supplemental application for the Child Welfare Scholars (CWS) stipend-based training program in their online admissions application are invited to a panel interview with Berkeley MSW Program faculty and county child welfare agency representatives as part of the selection process for the CWS stipend program, but this is a separate process from admission.

Concurrent Degree Programs

If you apply to a concurrent degree program, are you also considered for just a full-time MSW?

Although you can only apply to one single degree program option at a time, there is a question on the Program Page of the online application that will allow you to indicate if you wish to be considered for EITHER the MSW or the other degree (e.g., MPH or MPP) if you are not offered admission to the Concurrent Degree Program.

Experience and Résumé

What type of “social work experience" are you looking for? What counts as "related experience?"

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.

We are looking for experience working directly with and on behalf of people and communities in need, including those experiencing social and emotional distress, vulnerable or marginalized populations, and those who are historically under-served.

For more information on the experience requirement and examples of relevant experience, please see Experience and Résumé Guidelines for MSW Applicants.

GRE and TOEFL Scores

I am applying to a degree program that requires the GRE. Where do I send the GRE scores?

Please have your GRE scores sent electronically directly to UC Berkeley’s Graduate Division, institution code 4833. You do not need to send it to a specific department or school.

Recommendation Letters

Can I submit my application if all my letters of recommendation have not been received?

Yes. After you submit your online application, you will still be able to log in and check the status of your recommendation letters.

Can I send an extra letter of recommendation?

We require three letters of recommendation, requesting that two be professional and one be academic. However, we will accept four letters, provided that they all are unique and different perspectives on your fit for our program. Our letter of recommendation deadline is strict; all letters must be received by the admissions application deadline. You may decide to request an extra letter from a fourth recommender in order to ensure that at least three are received by the deadline.

Would having only one professional and two academic letters of recommendation be okay? Alternately, what if I haven't been in school for a while and don't have close contact with a former professor?

The most important thing regarding recommenders is that you choose those who can speak to your promise as a professional social worker, and attest to your potential to succeed in a rigorous graduate professional degree program.

We ask for two professional references, and one academic reference. However, not having this specific mix will not make you ineligible to apply. If you don’t have an academic reference, then additional professional references are absolutely acceptable.

We recommend reaching out to past professors even if you have not been in touch with them since graduation. If you are not able to get a hold of any past professors, there are two paths that are commonly acceptable. Some applicants will take a community college class or other education/training course, relevant to the MSW, and request a letter from that professor. Or, you may request a third professional letter of recommendation from someone with an MSW or related degree who could speak to your academic merits and ability to handle graduate level coursework.

Tuition, Fees and Financial Aid

How do Social Welfare graduate students pay for school?

Educational financing needs are diverse and will vary according to individual circumstance. In addition to a personal contribution to pay for graduate school, most graduate students receive some form of financial assistance through a combination of resources listed on our Fees and Financial Aid departmental website. At Berkeley, 90% of all graduate students receive some form of financial support (including loans).

How do I apply for a departmental fellowship or stipend training award?

All applicants to graduate study at Berkeley Social Welfare are automatically considered for all available awards during the admissions review process. To ensure consideration for all possible awards, all applicants to graduate study should complete the "Economic Background" section of the online Graduate and Professional Application for Admission.

To be considered for the Child Welfare Scholars Program, applicants should submit required supplemental materials to their online admissions applications per the MSW Admissions Application Instructions.

How do I apply for financial aid?

To apply for need-based fellowships and federal student aid, complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by the priority deadline.

If I just moved to California, how do I become eligible to pay in-state tuition?

For complete information about what is required to establish California residency, please visit the Registrar’s Residency for Tuition Purposes website.


Where do I send my transcripts? Do they have to be official copies?

All copies of transcripts must be uploaded as PDF files into the Academic History section of the online graduate application.

For your application to graduate study, transcripts do not have to be official copies and do not need to be sent to the School of Social Welfare. Transcripts DO need to be legible, and MUST show degrees conferred (if any), the institution’s name, and your full name.

If you are offered and accept admission, official transcripts will be required by the Graduate Division and they will provide you with instructions for submitting official copies to them directly.