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MSW Admissions FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about MSW Admissions

About the Berkeley MSW Program

Do you offer a part-time MSW program?

At this time, we do not offer a part-time enrollment program. All students must be enrolled full-time for two years to graduate from the program.

Do you offer an advanced standing option for students who have a BSW?

At this time, we do not offer an advanced standing program for applicants who have previously earned a baccalaureate degree in social work (BSW). Foundation courses may occasionally be waived by petition only. However, all courses for which students are waived must be replaced by other elective courses.

Do you offer the MSW degree online?

No. While we do offer several online courses, we do not have an online-only MSW degree program at Berkeley.

I've already begun my MSW studies in another program, and am interested in transferring to Berkeley. 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.

How should I choose my area of specialization? Do I have to pick only one?

All students must select one specialization area upon applying to the program, and are admitted into that area. The specializations do have a significant amount of overlap, and students with multiple interests typically have opportunities to take elective coursework related to other areas of interest. To see the differences (and similarities!) between MSW specialization areas, please see the MSW Curriculum-at-a-Glance.

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 filling out an extensive survey about previous experiences and future plans, entering students will meet one-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.

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 (BBS) and 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.

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

UC Berkeley’s MSW program is an appropriate program for seeking 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.

We normally recommend that prospective students look at our Curriculum-at-a-Glance and course offerings to get a feel for the type of work and classes they would be taking here and also look at the same documents for MFT programs or clinically-based MSW programs, using the comparison to aide them in their decision-making process.


Admissions Advising

Can I visit the School? What activities are offered for prospective students?

Yes! We love to talk with prospective applicants. Check out our schedule of Information Sessions and Recruitment Events.

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

Send us an email or give us a call:

(510) 642-9042


Admission Requirements

Do you require the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) for admission to the MSW Program?

The GRE is not required for admission to the MSW-only program.

The GRE is required for admission to the MSW/MPH, MSW/MPP, MSW/PhD, and PhD programs. There is no minimum score requirement.

What is the minimum GPA requirement? Are there exceptions?

UC Berkeley’s Graduate Division requires a minimum of a 3.0 in advanced GPA. We can occasionally petition to admit an extraordinary applicant with a GPA under 3.0; however, there is no guarantee that the petition will be accepted.

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 your last 60 semester units, or 90 quarter units).

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

No, but you must indicate in your application how you intend to satisfy this requirement. if you are offered and accept admission, you must have completed it by the time you matriculate.

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 humanities, and six courses in the social sciences

What kind of experience are you looking for in applicants? What counts as “experience related to social welfare or human services?"

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 examples of what is considered relevant experience, please see our Experience and Résumé Guidelines for Applicants to the MSW Program handout [pdf].


Application Process

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. Berkeley Social Welfare does not participate in the Social Work Centralized Application Service (SocialWorkCAS).

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 our MSW Application Process website for specific dates each year). Berkeley Social Welfare only admits for the fall semester each academic year; we do not offer spring or summer admissions.

Do you offer spring admission?

No, we do not offer spring admission. We have only one application cycle each year, taking place between September and December for admission the following fall.

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 accept any applications after the deadline?

No. Application deadlines are firm, without exception.

What time does the electronic application close on the deadline date?

At 8:59 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, the application program will close immediately, not allowing for any more edits or for any individual to press 'Submit.' If you have not pressed 'Submit' by this deadline, your application will not be considered.

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

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

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

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. All copies of transcripts must be uploaded as PDF files into the online graduate application. Both your name and the name of the issuing institution must be clearly legible. 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.

I am applying to a program that requires the GRE (e.g., PhD; MPH or MPP concurrent degree, etc.) Can I submit my application if my official GRE scores have not been received?

Yes, but your official GRE score report must be received by the application deadline. After you submit your online application, you will still be able to log in and check the status of the receipt of your GRE scores

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

Yes, but all of your letters of recommendations must be received by the application deadline. After you submit your online application, you will still be able to log in and check the status of the receipt of your recommendation letters.

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 or request a fee waiver, please visit Requesting an Application Fee Waiver.

When are applicants notified of their admission status?

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


Application Statements (Essays)

How long should my essays be? Are the page limits flexible?

Your Statement of Purpose should be 3-5 typed, double-spaced pages. Your Personal History Statement should be 1-2 typed, double-spaced pages. It is anticipated that most applicants will be able address the relevant information within these page ilmts.

As the essays are an important way of assessing your writing skills, we do suggest you practice communicating clearly and concisely in your essays. For more instructions and tips, please see "Preparing Your MSW Admissions Application Statements" [pdf]

What is the difference between the Statement of Purpose and the Personal History Statement?

The Statement of Purpose should address your aptitude and motivation for graduate study in your area of specialization, including your preparation for the field of social welfare and your future career goals. Please be specific about why Berkeley would be a good intellectual fit for you and focus more generally on your professional past and future. For more guidelines see Writing the Statement of Purpose from Berkeley Graduate Admissions.

The Personal History Statement should address your personal background and how it informs your decision to pursue a graduate degree. Please include information on how you have overcome barriers to access in higher education; evidence of how you have come to understand the barriers faced by others; evidence of your academic service to advance equitable access to higher education for women, racial minorities and individuals from other groups that have been historically underrepresented in higher education; evidence of your research focusing on underserved populations or related issues of inequality; or evidence of your leadership among such groups. For more guidelines see Writing the Personal History Statement from Berkeley Graduate Admissions.


Exams and Exam Scores

If I have concerns about my academic record, should I go ahead and take the GRE even if it’s not required for the program I am applying to? Would you consider the score when reviewing my application?

The GRE is not required for admission to the MSW-only program, and GRE scores are not considered when reviewing applications regardless of academic record.

For programs that require the GRE, what do you look for on the GRE scores?

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.

I am applying to a program that requires the GRE. What is the last date I can take the GRE for my application to be considered?

For Fall 2019 admission, the last date on which you can take the GRE and be considered for admission is November 19, 2018, two weeks before the application deadline. Test scores from later dates will not be accepted. Please note that your scores must be from within the past five years.

Where do I send GRE or TOEFL scores?

Please send all required official test scores to UC Berkeley’s Graduate Division, Institution Code 4833. You do not need to send it to a specific department or school.


Letters of Recommendation

Can I send an extra letter of recommendation?

We require three letters of recommendation, requesting that two be professional references and one be an academic reference. 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; your letters must be received by the admissions 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.

My recommender is having trouble submitting the letter. What should they do?

Please ask them to contact us directly at



What format should I use for my résumé?

Please follow the “Professional Social Work Experience” template provided in our Experience and Résumé Guidelines for Applicants to the MSW Program handout [pdf].

Is there a page limit for the résumé?

It is anticipated that most applicants will be able to cover the relevant information in one to three pages.

How should this résumé differ from my current job résumé?

On your résumé, please only include work, internship and volunteer experiences that are related specifically to the field of social welfare and/or your specialization area. Please use the specific format provided, including tabulating the number of hours of experience.


Student Life

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 Graduate Housing.

What services are available for students with disabilities?

Berkeley offers a wide range of support to and accommodations for students with disabilities. To learn more please visit the Disabled Students Program (DSP).

What services and supports are available for students who are also parents?

Berkeley offers a variety of resources to aid student parents. To learn more, including options for family housing and parent grants, please visit the Transfer, Re-entry and Student Parent Program, and the Graduate Division’s Financial Support for Student Parents web page.


Tuition, Fees and Financial Aid

How much does it cost to attend graduate school at Berkeley?

For the most current tuition and fee schedule, please visit the Registrar's Registration Fees.

Social Welfare MSW students are assessed "Graduate Professional Fees."

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 on our Student Funding page. 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 (loans), complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by the priority deadline.

Can I have a part-time job? Can I work full-time while in the program?

As Berkeley Social Welfare’s academic programs are intensive, full-time programs involving both a full academic course load and 16 (first year) or 24 (second year) hours per week of field placement, the School recommends that students refrain from employment. However, for students who do choose to seek employment, the School would recommend no more than 10 hours per week. It is not possible to complete the degree while maintaining full-time employment.

Work-study placements both on- and off-campus are an option for students receiving financial aid who are seeking employment. To learn more please visit the Work-Study Program.

How do I apply for a departmental fellowship?

Entering (newly admitted) students are considered for all available awards during the admissions review process; no additional application is required. To ensure consideration for all departmental awards available for entering students, applicants to graduate study should be sure to complete all sections of the online Graduate Application for Admissions and Fellowships including Economic Background

Do I have to pay required health insurance fees if I already have medical coverage?

No, you have the option to waive the University's plan and not pay the insurance fee if you can show comparable proof of insurance. For more information, please visit the Tang Center's Student Health Insurance Information.

How can I become eligible to pay in-state tuition?

U.S. citizens, permanent residents, or eligible non-immigrants who enter Berkeley as nonresidents and establish residency for the required year may be eligible to apply for classification as residents for tuition purposes within one year after their arrival. These students then receive the benefit of paying fees at the lower resident rate. 

The residency classification process is not automatic. You must start the process of fulfilling the residency requirements as soon as you arrive, and you must submit a residency classification petition, along with supporting documentation, prior to established deadlines. For guidelines on what to do in order to establish California residency for tuition purposes, as well as the application filing periods and forms, please visit the Registrar's Residency for Tuition Purposes page.


MSW Admissions OverviewMSW Admission Requirements | MSW Application Process