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MSW Admission Requirements

Admission Eligibility Criteria for the MSW Program

To be eligible for admission to the Berkeley Masters in Social Welfare (MSW) Program, applicants must meet the following minimum requirements:

  • Possession of a bachelor’s degree or recognized equivalent from an accredited institution.
  • 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 (typically the first 60 semester units or 90 quarter units) of undergraduate study.
  • 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, roughly defined as al 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).
  • A course in introductory statistics, research methods, or quantitative reasoning. This requirement must be satisfied prior to matriculation if you are offered admission.
  • 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 specialization in Strengthening Organizations and Communities (SOC), the recommended minimum experience requirement is two years (4,200 hours). For examples of what is considered relevant experience, please see our Experience and Résumé Guidelines for Applicants to the MSW Program [pdf].

Applicants to Concurrent Degree Programs

Applicants to concurrent degree programs (e.g., MSW/MPH; MSW/MPP) must meet all eligibility requirements and admissions standards of both the School of Social Welfare and those of the respective joint program, including any examination requirements of other programs (GRE, etc.)

  • The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is not required for the MSW-only Program, but applicants to the MSW/MPH Concurent Degree Program, MSW/MPP Concurent Degree Program, or Combined MSW/PhD Program ARE required to take the GRE General Test. There is no minimum GRE score required.

International Applicants

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

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. Details and instructions for disclosure are sent to all newly admitted students upon acceptance of the admission offer.

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 CA BBS Criminal Convictions.

How to Contact Berkeley Social Welfare Admissions
By email: | By phone: (510) 642-9042

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