Frequently Asked Questions - MSW Admissions

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. 

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

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.

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.

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.

Do you require the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) for admission to the MSW or FlexMSW programs?

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

Program Applying to: GRE Required?
Full-time MSW No
FlexMSW Advanced Standing No
FlexMSW Extended No
MSW/MPH Concurrent Degree YES
MSW/MPP Concurrent Degree YES
MSW/PhD Combined Degree Program YES

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.

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.

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).

I’m interested in clinical social work and/or in having a private practice. Is this program a good fit for me?

UC Berkeley’s MSW program is an appropriate program for seeking out LCSW licensure post-graduation. However, we are not a clinically-focused program. We are a generalist, research-based program with a focus on working with underserved and marginalized populations. Our students tend to be passionate about working for community-based agencies, public programs, and schools, doing work that ranges from policy and program implementation to individual mental health support. While you would be qualified for private practice and may gain some clinical experience in field placements and in the classroom, it is not the emphasis of the program.

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.

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.

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.

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 60 semester units, or last 90 quarter units).

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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 described in our guide to Financing Your Graduate Degree. At Berkeley, 90% of all graduate students receive some form of financial support (including loans).

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.

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 or the Latinx Center of Excellence Stipend-based Training Program, applicants should submit required supplemental materials to their online admissions applications per the MSW Admissions Application Instructions.

Where do graduate students live? What housing is available?

Berkeley's location in the highly desirable Bay Area means housing costs can be high, especially for students. Most graduate students live in off-campus rental housing in Berkeley or one of the surrounding communities. University-owned and operated housing is also offered on and off campus, for both individuals and families. For more information, please visit UC Berkeley Housing-Graduate Students.