General Information About the Master of Social Work Degree

The primary mission of the social work profession is to enhance human well-being and help meet the basic human needs of all people, with particular attention to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty. A historic and defining feature of social work is the profession's focus on individual well-being in a social context and the well-being of society. Fundamental to social work is attention to the environmental forces that create, contribute to, and address problems in living.

Social workers promote social justice and social change with and on behalf of clients. "Clients" is used inclusively to refer to individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. Social workers are sensitive to cultural and ethnic diversity and strive to end discrimination, oppression, poverty, and other forms of social injustice. These activities may be in the form of direct practice, community organizing, supervision, consultation, administration, advocacy, social and political action, policy development and implementation, education, and research and evaluation. Social workers seek to enhance the capacity of people to address their own needs. Social workers also seek to promote the responsiveness of organizations, communities, and other social institutions to individuals' needs and social problems.

The mission of the social work profession is rooted in a set of core values. These core values, embraced by social workers throughout the profession's history, are the foundation of social work's unique purpose and perspective: service, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, importance of human relationships, integrity and competence.

[Excepted from the NASW Code of Ethics Preamble]

MSW Program of Study at CSLA

The School of Social Work prepares BASW and MSW students for skilled professional practice in socially, culturally and economically diverse urban communities. Our strength-based program educate generalist social workers who are committed to social and economic justice and are able to facilitate change and growth at all levels of practice.

The Master of Social Work degree is a rigorous course of study, comprised of 90 quarter units. The demands of the academic course work and the educationally focused field work sequence are strenuous and require a high degree of concentration and attention. The full time model of the MSW program is designed to allow students to complete the program in two years. Due to the intensity of the program and its multiple requirements, students enrolled in the full time (2 year) program are expected not to work in addition to their full time MSW enrollment. Students in the full time two year program take classes all day on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The Three year model of the program is designed to allow more flexibility. Students in the three year program take classes one evening a week form 6:00 to 10:00 pm and on Saturdays form 8:00 am to 12:00 noon including Summer Quarter.

The MSW program offers three concentrations: Children, Youth, Women, and Families (CYWF), Aging and Families (AF) and Forensics (FSW).

The Children, Youth, Women, and Families (CYWF) concentration provides students the opportunity to increase their scope and depth of knowledge and skills for advanced social work generalist practice with children, youth, women, and families. Although CYWF concentration is focuses on prevention, crisis intervention and short- term treatment with Children, Youth, Women, and Families, the scope is larger than just public child welfare. Required courses in this concentration prepare students to assume practice and leadership roles and responsibilities in such public child welfare programs as child protection, placement and adoption, school based services, and in major public service systems including mental health, physical health and corrections.

The Aging and Families (AF) concentration provides students the opportunity to increase their scope and depth of knowledge and skills for social work practice with older adults and their families at the individual, community, and broader social-political levels. The demographics of aging is increasingly drawing attention within the field of social work due to the dramatic growth of the older population in the United States especially among the oldest age segment (those over 85 years). It is estimated that by 2030, as the peak of the Baby Boomers will be 65 years old. The average life expectancy has surpassed 75 years, and many older adults are a part of four and even five generational families.

The aging of the population affects all generations. Course work in the Aging and Family concentration prepare students to assume practice and leadership roles and responsibilities in such settings as community agencies, social service, mental health organizations; health care and long-term care institutions; federal, state and local government agencies, including the aging network supported by the Older Americans Act; retirement communities; academic and other educational and research settings; and business and industry. For additional information regarding Geriatric Social Work, click the link below.

Forensic Social Work Concentration is ONLY available in the 2 Year Program.

The Forensic Social Work (FSW) serves people who interact with the criminal justice system. This includes students working with individuals, families, and groups within institutional and community systems in order to bring about positive change through advocacy, empowerment and interventions for offenders and victims in various settings.

Typically, social workers within this system work with both victims and offenders. These clients are notably from ethnic minority cultures and lower socioeconomic backgrounds who are over represented in the system.

Graduates of the Forensic Social Work program will be able to advocate at the policy level to improve service delivery systems and to guide practice with involuntary clients. Specifically, forensic social workers may work in: child custody, correctional facilities (including jails and prisons), courts, criminalistics (crime scenes—including man-made disasters, such as 9-11), forensic mental health hospitals, domestic violence (including child and partner abuse), juvenile justice system (including probation and residential settings such as the California Youth Authority), legal issues (expert witness testimony), law enforcement, DCFS and victim assistance programs.

Below are the schedules for the full-time (two year) and three year programs. For additional information on Forensic Social Work, click on the link below.

Entering cohorts for each program are expected to adhere to the designated classes in the pattern shown below. Classes taken each quarter are not chosen by the student, except for electives. In addition, once an applicant is accepted into a concentration, he/she WILL NOT be allowed to switch their area of concentration.

Masters Thesis

Students are required to complete a master’s thesis, which covers three quarters of work. Students will have an opportunity to study in-depth a research question of interest to them in their concentration. The thesis project provides students with the opportunity to conduct a research study using primary or secondary data. At the close of thesis students will prepare a Poster Board presentation and will be given an oral exam. Thesis is completed in the second year in both programs

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Graduate Fieldwork

The students are required to complete 21 units of educationally focused field work at selected social work/social service agencies in surrounding communities. Each student has two fieldwork placements (in two different agencies) during the course of study. First year placements focus on direct service. Second year placements may focus on direct service or on administration/ management activities. In both the first and second year field placements, students are required to have a macro experience.

The first placement involves 480 hours of fieldwork in a community setting while second-year placements require 600 hours. For the full time program, first year students are in field 16 hours a week (two days a week Monday and Wednesday). Second year students are in field 20 hours a week (three days a week Monday, Wednesday and Friday). For the Three year program, students will have their field internships in their second and third year of the program. The fieldwork sequence encompasses a total of 1080 hours. The schedule for the academic year model of fieldwork parallels the University academic year, with field placement beginning in September and continuing through mid-June. Students take concurrent course work and a field seminar.

Students need to have daytime hours available for fieldwork placements. Field education hours are typically completed during the daytime in the regular work week (Monday through Friday 8am to 5pm).Three year students need to have at least two 8-hour days available during the work week (Mon. - Fri.) from 8:00 am to 5`:00 p.m. for fieldwork placements as no weekend or evening hours are available. Students who are employed are expected to be available for field placements during regular business hoursThere are no weekend hours available for fieldwork.

Please be advised that a completed criminal clearance is required since most public human service agencies and many non-profit private human service organizations are requiring criminal background checks for student interns. Many fieldwork agencies also require the applicant to have a physical (which may or may not include a drug screen), and/or take the Minnesota Multi-phasic Personality Inventory (MMPI). Although any of these might not preclude you from entering field, it will affect the type of agency you are assigned.

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Admission Requirements to the MSW Program

Admission to the Master of Social Work Program is based on meeting the academic qualifications required of all graduate students in the College of Health and Human Services in addition to an evaluation of the applicant's potential for advanced practice in the profession of social work. Please keep in mind that the application process is highly competitive so you may wish to focus on more than just the minimum requirements. For example, an applicant with two years of work experience and a 3.25 grade point average (GPA) would be seen as a stronger applicant than one with one year of work experience and a 2.75 GPA.

The minimum requirements are:

1. A bachelor's degree with a liberal arts background from an accredited college or university. All applicants must have a liberal arts background, although a specific degree in this area is not required. We define this broad orientation as knowledge in which critical thinking is developed through studies of social and behavioral sciences, and the humanities. For example individuals applying for the program could come from among the following areas:

  • Social Work or Human Services (e.g. Child Development, Nursing, Rehabilitation, Home Economics)
  • Liberal Arts (e.g., Human Biology, Physiology, Political Science, History, Economics, Psychology, Sociology, Human Development, Anthropology, Ethnic Studies, Women's Studies, Humanities, Philosophy, Literature, Art, Music)

Students from more technical areas may be considered for admission. The decision will depend on the applicant’s particular qualifications and background as described in the application.

2. A grade point average of at least 2.75 in the last 90 quarter units or last 60 semester units (4 point scale). This is not the cumulative GPA (see enclosed guidelines for calculating GPA at the end of this packet). If your courses are from colleges or universities that use non-traditional grading (i.e., pass/no pass for all courses--no letter grades), please submit your transcripts early with the narratives so that we may assist you in calculating your GPA.

***Note:Courses taken after your initial GPA is calculated by the University, including prerequisite courses, may be counted in the final GPA so please be sure that courses taken after this calculation is done will not place you below the minimum 2.75 GPA requirement and disqualify your admittance into the program.

3. Completion of three prerequisites-one course in human biology, and 8 quarter units, or 6 semester units, of upper division social science courses (such as social work, psychology, sociology, ethnic studies, political science, anthropology, history). The following describe the nature of appropriate course work:

  • Human Anatomy/Physiology/Biology. This course needs to include a survey of human brain and body functioning. A lab is not required. Please note that general biology courses without this content do not fulfill this requirement.

An applicant must receive a passing grade in the course in order for it to count as one of the prerequisites. A passing grade is defined as either a letter grade of "C" or better or "credit/pass" in a pass/fail or credit/no credit system. The human biology prerequisite may be taken at a community college, state college, or university, and units do not need to be transferable You may submit your application while completing these prerequisites as long as you have completed at least 2 of the 3 prerequisites by the time your file is to be reviewed and you have documented your specific plans to complete the last (listing the term the course will be taken, the institution, and the exact course title and description). If an applicant is admitted into the program, he/she must complete all prerequisites before entering the program in Fall. Enclosed in the packet is a prerequisite equivalency listing (this link activates your word processor and opens a document saved as Rich Text Format).

If the course you have taken is not on this list but you believe the course covered the appropriate content, you will need to submit a course syllabus to the MSW Office for further review. You do not have to obtain the actual syllabus from when the course was taken. You may submit the current syllabus by contacting that department/school and asking them to fax or mail the current syllabus for that class to you or the MSW Admissions Office at (323) 343-5009 with your name and telephone number on it. The School will make a decision on whether the course will count for the specified prerequisite. If a decision is made that the course will not count, you will be required to take the appropriate class to fulfill the prerequisite. Please be sure to gain approval of all prerequisites not listed on the prerequisite equivalency list before taking a course as some courses may not suffice. Do not wait until the last minute to complete prerequisites because applicants admitted into the program will not begin the program if they have not successfully completed all prerequisites by early September. The School Will Not allow incoming students to take outstanding prerequisites concurrent with MSW coursework.

Syllabi for the two upper division social science courses are not necessary if course titles and numbers on the transcript(s) reflect social science content and course level.

4. Good academic standing at the last college or university attended;

5. The Graduate Record Exam The Graduate Record Exam (General). Applicants must complete the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and submit the official report of their test scores (taken within the last 5 years) or a copy of it with their application. They must also list the GRE scores on the MSW application form. If you take the computer-based test, you may write down the scores that are displayed on the screen at the end of the test (you must write them down for yourself as a printout will not be given to you at that time) and provide us with these scores (each section). We can use these preliminary scores to complete your file until the official report comes later, which can save you two or more weeks of waiting to complete your file. For GRE exam information, contact the Cal State LA Testing Office at (323) 343-3160, the GRE Center at (800)GRE-CALL, or visit them at The Cal State LA Institution Code is 4399 and the social work school code is 5001The GRE may be waived for applicants who already possess a master’s degree or PhD from an accredited institution/program. The GRE may also be waived for applicants who have a minimum 3.25 GPA in the last 90 quarter units or 60 semester units. If you are unsure of your GPA after you have calculated it according to the guidelines, please contact the MSW Office for further assistance. If an error is made on your calculation and your GPA is found to be below a 3.25, you will be required to take the GRE before your file will be reviewed.

6. Work experience in social services or human services is not required but highly desirable; and

7. Submit a complete and signed MSW application form, Statement of Commitment Form, your personal statement, three references on the Reference Form, GRE scores, and official transcripts before the admissions period closes ( see "Admission Procedure" for more detailed information). Also, if a letter of good standing, field evaluation, and/or syllabi are required in your situation, it must be submitted before admission closes.

Applicants are accepted on the basis of their academic preparation, breadth of background and professional experience and evidence of promise in the field of social work. Applicants should have a demonstrated ability to successfully complete graduate level academic work, including the ability to write clearly and professionally; the ability to locate, absorb, categorize, and use information from disparate sources; the ability to critically analyze theoretical concepts; and the ability to merge theory with practice. Applicants should be intellectually able, emotionally mature, interested in working with people and potentially capable of assuming the significant responsibilities which are inherent in professional social work practice.

Meeting the academic requirements alone does not guarantee admission to the graduate program in social work; maturity, experience and professional promise are equally important. Professional promise includes social consciousness and commitment to the values of the profession and the specific mission of the program, personal readiness, motivation and ability to relate as an effective helping person to individual, organizational and societal needs. The autobiographical statement, letters of reference and the oral interview (if so requested) should give evidence of the applicant's personal suitability for the profession of social work.


Admission Procedure: Applications are accepted for Fall Quarter only. The applicant is responsible for ensuring that the School of Social Work has received all application information.

Step 1: The applicant must complete all forms and submit Items 1-7 listed above as a complete packet. Send application material to:

MSW Program Office
School of Social Work
California State University Los Angeles
5151 State University Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90032-8164

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A. School of Social Work Application Form

B. A typewritten personal statement of 6-8 pages addressing the questions provided (see our Personal Statement Form for further instructions) with the MSW Application Form.

C. Three letters of reference completed on enclosed Reference Form (see our Reference Form for further instructions) It is recommended that one reference be an academic source, another be a professional source, and the last be either an academic or professional source.

D. One official, sealed transcript issued within the last year from all colleges and universities attended showing at least an acceptable baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university (if you attend Cal State LA, and have submitted transcripts in the past, you are still required to submit all transcripts to the School of Social Work).

E. GRE Test Scores (General) listed on the application and an official score report or a copy of it; and

F. If applicable, a letter of good standing, a copy of field evaluations, and/or syllabi for prerequisite courses needing further review.

Step 2: When you apply to the School, you need to apply simultaneously but separately to the University. The California State University Post-baccalaureate and Graduate Admission application can be accessed at, Please check the University Application dates to ensure that you apply for the correct quarter (Fall). You will need to supply with your CSU application one set of official transcripts from all colleges and universities attended and a $55.00 application fee. If you have any questions please contact the Office of Admissions and University Outreach at (323) 343-3901.

Step 3:If your application file is complete, your file will be sent to the School faculty reviewers. You will receive a letter indicating your file is complete so please enclose two self-addressed stamped envelopes. If your file contains most of the required items and is close to being complete, we will send a letter indicating which items are missing and that we will hold your file from being reviewed until all missing items are received. We will not send you a second letter if after the first letter your file is still incomplete. If your file is complete and you have received a letter regarding completion, it usuallytakes 4 to 8 weeks for the faculty to make a recommendation.

Step 4:Following review by the School faculty reviewers of the submitted information, potential admittees may be contacted for an oral interview.

Step 5: You will be notified by mail of the decision by the School. In addition, the Office of Admissions and University Outreach will use the materials you submitted in Step 2 for an evaluation of your application. This Office ensures all University admission criteria are met and then informs the Associate Dean of the College of Health and Human Services. Both offices will then notify you by mail of your status.

*NOTE: For admission into the MSW program, the applicant must be admitted by the University, the College of Health and Human Services and the School of Social Work. Acceptance to the program by the School of Social Work does not ensure admission to the University and/or the College nor does admission to the University ensure admission to the College and/or the School.

Monitoring Completion of Application Files: The applicant is responsible for submitting a complete file. If applicants include all or almost all of the required items the School will notify (only once) applicants in writing of any missing items as well as when application files are complete so please provide two self-addressed, stamped envelopes with your completed application packet. Please keep track of the items you have sent in (if you did not send a complete packet). On the MSW application there is a checklist of all items needed to ensure that applicants have prepared a complete application. We also recommend that you make a copy of all of your application material for your personal file, except for the letters of reference and official transcripts which need to stay sealed. You may not have access to your application material once you have submitted them to the School of Social.

Admission Deadline: : We will begin the review and evaluation process for those applicants interested in entering the MSW program in Fall. The School uses a rolling admission process in which complete applications will continue to be taken until all spaces are filled. Spaces are limited so we encourage you to complete your file as soon as possible. The sooner you complete your file, the sooner your file will be reviewed for admittance. Once all the spaces are filled, admission closes for that academic year. Please note two important deadlines:

  • The priority deadline of February 1st in which all complete MSW applications received by that date will be reviewed for the Fall term.
  • The final deadline of March 15th . for those applications received after the February 1st date. Only complete files will be reviewed Applications that are not complete or are received after the program application period has closed will not be reviewed.
  • If you are an international student, please see the section below on International Admissions for the appropriate deadline.

International Admissions: Applicants with an international degree must apply during the early part of the application periodto provide adequate time for processing their application. The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) examination is required by Cal State LA. Applicants with an international degree must apply to the University and the School of Social Work simultaneously but separately. The timeframe for international students to apply to the University and School is November 15 to March 1 only. Call International Admissions for more details on applying to the University at (323) 343-3901.

Tuition: As of the Fall Quarter 2006, the registration fee is $1222.75 per quarter for graduate students with California residency taking 6.1 units or more per quarter. For example, an MSW student with CA residency in the full-time program would expect to pay approximately $7,500.00 in registration fees for the two-year program according to this figure. For nonresidents, the fee is $1222.75 per quarter (6.1 units or more) with an additional cost of $226.00 per unit. Part-time students with CA residency could expect to pay approximately $12,600.00 in registration fees for the three-year program. These figures may change for future terms.

Financial Aid and Stipends: Applicants interested in financial aid, will be required to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the academic year. The priority deadline is usually March 2nd. The FAFSA allows applicants to apply for loans and state grants. Even though an applicant may not have a decision regarding admittance into the program, it would be in the applicant’s best interest to submit the FAFSA within the priority deadline anyway. This is recommended to ensure that financial aid is already under consideration once the applicant is admitted.

You may also contact the Student Financial Services Office by calling (323) 343-6260 for general financial aid information. Please keep in mind that you will be asked to complete a Certification of Graduate and Post-Baccalaureate Student Status form in order to receive a financial aid notification letter. This requires the signature of the designee appointed by Associate Dean of the College of Health and Human Services. This form will not be signed until an applicant is accepted into the MSW program by the School AND all outstanding items for admissions have been completed (i.e. all five prerequisites, receipt of official transcripts, posting of one's bachelor degree, etc).


Title IV-E Program: The California Social Work Education Center (CalSWEC) program offers two-year stipends for up to $18,500 per year for full-time MSW students interested in pursuing a career in public child welfare (PCW). Students who receive this stipend are required to work at an approved Title IV-E PCW agency for two years upon graduation. Only students in the full-time tow year CYWF program are eligible to apply. Students in the three-year CYWF program who are also current Department of Children and Family Services workers may apply for the CalSWEC part-time stipend program which covers tuition, books, and some mileage expenses. A work agreement similar to the one for the full-time stipend program is also expected from recipients of the part-time stipend program.


CalSWECII is a collaborative effort between Mental Health agencies and the Schools of Social Work to move toward a state-of-the-art, culturally competent system that promotes recovery/wellness for adults and seniors with severe mental illness and for children with serious emotional disorders and their families. Funded through the California Department of Mental Health with Proposition 63 funds, CalSWEC II provides financial support to MSW students in exchange for a commitment to work in a county public mental health agency or a community based organization under contract to a county public mental health agency in the state of California. The program provides a training stipend of $18,500 per year for final year students who will be completing their 2nd year Field Placement.

Students employed in public or private agencies must be on a full-time leave from those agencies, and must demonstrate an interest in and commitment to mental health services as described in the Mental Health Services Act.

IUC Program: The InterUniversity Consortium (IUC) program is designed to increase the number of master’s level social workers in LA County Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS). This is a one year stipend of $18,500 for which students must work at LA County DCFS for one year upon graduation.

The Geriatric Social Work Leadership Internship: This grant offers integrated field curriculum and training experience in the full continuum of geriatric care. The program is funded by a collaborative of agencies serving older adults. The grant is offered to MSW students in the second or third year of the Aging and Families concentration. The one year award amount is $4,000.

The M. Earl and Flora C. Grant Endowment Award: This award is provided through the Applied Gerontology Institute. The award of $1,000.00 is given in support of graduate students who are specializing in service to the elderly. Please go to the Cal State LA Applied Gerontology website for specific information and application.

Cal State LA International Graduate Student Tuition Waiver Program: The International Graduate Student Tuition Waiver Program provides tuition waivers for selected international graduate students, for up to 24 units per academic year. The actual support enables an international student to waive the nonresident portion of their fees for a maximum of 12 units for the Fall, Winter and or Spring Quarters.

Student applications are reviewed by a committee and are selected on the basis of their academic record, letters of recommendation and an essay which outlines their goals and objectives and the need for financial assistance. Applications for the program are available during the spring Quarter for the Health and Human Services Associated Dean’s Office which is located in Fine Arts room 130. HHS Deans Office.

Graduate Equity Fellowship Program: This program is designed to increase the number of Master's degrees awarded to economically disadvantaged CSU students, especially those students from groups that are underrepresented among graduate degree recipients in their area and those who are disabled. Grant stipends may be up to $1,500 per quarter starting in the second year. Students must be eligible for Financial Aid. Students in the full-time and part-time programs may apply but must pay full tuition (6.1 units or more) during that academic year. The academic portion of the application is available from the Graduate Studies and Research Office, Administration Building room 710. The financial portion of the application is the FAFSA, available in the Center for Student Financial Aid, Student Affairs building, room 124.