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 60 semester 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 from 6:00 to 9:00 pm and on Saturdays form 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Additional information about our MSW program 

Graduate Fieldwork

The students are required to complete 12 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 August and continuing through mid-May. 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 hours. There 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.

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., Political Science, History, Economics, Psychology, Sociology, Human Development, Anthropology, Ethnic Studies, Women's Studies, Humanities,)

Students from more technical areas may be considered for admission if they complete the three prerequisites. 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. 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, 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 research methods and statistics, 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:

Research Methods and Statistics. This prerequisite can be met with any elementary or introductory statistics course from a community college or university. To see if a course you have taken satisfies the statistics prerequisite please refer to this CSULB extensive lis

 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. 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.

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

6. To apply to the MSW program you will need to complete the online university application.  The MSW application is imbedded in the university online application in quadrant four. You will need to upload your personal statement, three references on the Reference Form, resume, and unofficial transcripts before the admissions period closes January 15thAlso, 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 personal statement, letters of reference and the oral interview (if so required) should give evidence of the applicant's personal suitability for the profession of social work.

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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: Complete the university online application including quadrant four. Upload all required documents which include the personal statement, resume, unofficial transcript, letter of good standing if the applicant was enrolled in any other graduate program. You will also need to provide the name and email address for the three individuals who will be completing your references. Back to top

A. University application 

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 to be sent to the Office of Admissions and Recruitment (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).  You will also need to upload an unofficial copy of your transcript with your online application.

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

Step 2: The California State University Post-baccalaureate and Graduate Admission application can be accessed at https://www2.calstate.edu/apply  Please check the University Application dates to ensure that you apply for the correct semester (Fall). You will need to supply with your CSU application one set of official transcripts from all colleges and universities attended and a $70.00 application fee. If you have any questions please contact the Office of Admissions and University Outreach at (323) 343-3901.

Step 3: Following application review by the School faculty reviewers, potential applicants may be contacted for an oral interview.

Step 4: You will be notified by either email or post mail of the decision by the School of Social Work. 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: The applicant is responsible for submitting a complete file. Incomplete applications will not be reviewed.

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 November 15th in which all complete MSW applications received by that date will be reviewed for the Fall term.
  • The final deadline of January 15th for those applications received after the November 15th 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 period to provide adequate time for processing their application. The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) examination is required by Cal State LA. The timeframe for international students to apply to the University and School is December 1st. Call International Admissions for more details on applying to the University at (323) 343-3901.

Tuition: As of the Fall Quarter 2020, the registration fee is $4,108 per semester for graduate students with California residency taking 6.1 units or more per semester. For example, an MSW student with CA residency in the full-time program would expect to pay approximately $16,432.00 in registration fees for the two-year program according to this figure. For nonresidents, the fee is $4,108.00 per quarter (6.1 units or more) with an additional cost of $396.00 per unit. Part-time students with CA residency could expect to pay approximately $24,648.00 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.

STIPEND AND SCHOLARSHIPS OPPORTUNITIES

CalSWEC 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 two year program are eligible to apply. Students in the three-year program who are also current Department of Children and Family Services workers may apply for the CalSWEC three year stipend program which covers tuition, books, and mileage expenses. A work agreement similar to the one for the full-time stipend program is expected from recipients of the three year stipend program.

Los Angeles County Mental Health Stipend  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, the mental health stipend 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.

UCCF Program: The University Consortium for Children and Families (UCCF) is a federally funded program and partnership between the County of Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and seven Masters of Social Work programs in Southern California. Under the Title IV-E provision of the Social Security Act, the goal is to improve the professional preparation of public child welfare workers. The collaborative offers a DCFS Internship Program for MSW students interested in child welfare and provides $18,500 per year for two years. Similar the CalSWEC students who receive this stipend are required to work at DCFS Los Angeles county agency for two years 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.

Graduate Student Non-Resident Student Tuition Waiver Program: A limited number of non-resident tuition fee waivers or tuition fee reductions may be granted to non-resident graduate students who are either domestic non-resident students or citizens of a foreign country.

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.

For more information regarding funding opportunities for graduate students