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Master of Social Welfare (MSW)

About the Berkeley MSW Program

Since 1944, we have prepared over 11,000 social work professionals, dedicated to serving the most vulnerable members of society, for leadership positions in the public and nonprofit human service sectors.

Berkeley Social Welfare’s fully-accredited Master of Social Welfare (MSW) Program develops future leaders of the profession who are deeply prepared for multi-level social work in specific areas of practice. We provide an education built on the strongest available evidence, oriented to advancing social justice, and responsive to the changing needs of local and global communities. With a prestigious faculty and excellent students committed to public service, Berkeley Social Welfare consistently ranks among the top 10 schools of social work and social welfare in the country. 

  • We train social workers for a range of leadership and advanced practice roles in the profession.
  • We create a spirit of critical inquiry and emphasize the use of tested knowledge and theory in developing and applying intervention methods.
  • We prepare students for professional responsibility in the field of social welfare and the institutional systems that comprise it.
  • We educate students to advance social justice.

Our Mission and Goals

The Berkeley MSW Program educates students for a range of social work leadership and practice roles. Students are prepared to practice with specialized skills at specific intervention levels, and are thoroughly grounded in social science knowledge, social welfare policies, and social service organizations. Our MSW program goals are focused on three central themes of leadership development:

Leadership for Service

  • Develop visionary thought and practice leaders who are responsive to communities and individuals, draw upon the best available evidence to continuously improve social work practice and policies, and who are able to change with shifting contexts of social work.
  • Develop leaders who can flexibly and competently practice social work across multiple ecological levels.
  • Develop leaders who can engage effectively in collaboration with diverse communities; articulate social problems; and promote innovation in social welfare practices, programs and policies.

Leadership for Social Justice and Social Change

  • Develop leaders with an understanding of concepts of equality and social justice.
  • Develop leaders with the skills to promote meaningful and productive change with and in underserved communities and vulnerable populations.

Leadership for Evidenced-informed and Competency-based Practice

  • Develop leaders with the capacity to utilize research to support practice, and practice to support research, and translate the best available evidence into practice principles.
  • Develop leaders with skills to work collaboratively with numerous community partners to gather and analyze evidence that reflects the changing needs of our communities.

MSW Curriculum

The Berkeley MSW Program is currently a two-year, full-time program. All master’s students follow a prescribed, full-time (minimum 12 units per semester) program of work, preparing them for both generalist practice and specialized practice. To be eligible for degree conferral students must complete a minimum of 54 units, which includes 25 units of field education.

Starting in Fall 2020, Berkeley Social Welfare will offer two additional MSW tracks: an Advanced Standing track for students who have received a BSW from a CSWE-accredited institution within the last five years, and an Extended (Part-Time) MSW with evening and weekend classes. More information will be available in June 2019.

Areas of Study

The Berkeley MSW curriculum is organized around areas of specialized practice in social work. Berkeley MSW students select a specific area of study at the time of application to the MSW program, and are admitted into their chosen specialization area:

To see the differences and similarities between the curriculum requirements for each specialization area, view/download the "Berkeley MSW Curriculum At-a-Glance" [pdf].

For descriptions of courses offered and specific degree requirements, please see the Berkeley Academic Guide to Social Welfare.

Special Program Options

Special program options available within the MSW Program for enhanced and expanded learning:

Concurrent Masters Degree Programs


The Berkeley Social Welfare MSW Program is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), the sole accrediting agency for social work education in the United States.
Program Assessment Outcomes Survey

MSW Admissions | Resources for Current Students