The MSW program (full-time and part-time) is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Full-time students attending on a full-time basis generally complete the program in two academic years; Part-time students complete it in four. Students from CSWE-accredited undergraduate social work programs may be granted up to one year of advanced standing in the full-time program or up to two years advanced standing in the part-time program for comparable coursework taken prior to enrollment.

MSW Program Goals

  • To provide students with generalist practice content for entry-level practice that builds upon a liberal arts perspective, reinforces the mission of the school, and fosters the values, ethics, and purposes of the profession of social work.
  • To provide students with advanced generalist practice knowledge, skills, and values in an area of focus to be autonomous social work practitioners prepared to confront the realities of a changing social and human services environment, and to be leaders in the development of new approaches for practice.
  • To provide students with a generalist social work framework for practice; foster a commitment to social, economic and environmental justice; and prepare students with the requisite knowledge, skills, and values for culturally competent practice.

The school's curriculum is generalist social work practice in orientation. In their courses across the curriculum, faculty interweave: content about social work values and ethics; content that promotes understanding, affirmation, and respect for people from diverse backgrounds; content on populations-at-risk, including strategies to respond to and strategies to redress risk factors; and content on social, economic and environmental justice grounded in an understanding of distributive justice, human and civil rights, and the global interconnections of oppression.

The generalist practice year curriculum emphasizes direct practice across system sizes (micro-to-macro). Students take courses in social welfare policies and services, human behavior and the social environment (including social work with ethnic and racial groups; and psychopathology for generalist practice), research methods, social work practice (including generalist practice with individuals, families, and groups; and generalist practice with organizations and communities), and a field course that includes a social work practice integrative seminar and social work field placement.

The advanced curriculum offers an advanced generalist specialization with areas of focus in: aging; child, youth, and family welfare; health; and mental health. The advanced generalist specialization requires that students complete an advanced practice course (e.g., advanced practice in health; aging and mental health; interventions with children, youth, and families; psychopathology for social work practice in mental health); a social policies and services course (e.g., child welfare services or child, youth and family policies and services; health, aging, and disability policy and services; mental health policies and services); an advanced macro practice course; and advanced generalist social work field course that includes a social work practice integrative seminar and a social work field placement specific to the student's area of focus.

Individualized subfocus areas are also available and are constructed with assistance from the academic advisors.

Social Work Competencies and Practice Behaviors

At the conclusion the MSW program we expect students have achieved the core competencies outlined below through practice behaviors learned in classroom and field experiences. Graduates should be able to:

  • Demonstrate ethical and professional behavior
  • Engage diversity and difference in practice
  • Advance human rights and social, economic and environmental justice
  • Engage in practice-informed research and research-informed practice
  • Engage in policy practice
  • Engage with individuals, families, groups, organizations and communities
  • Assess individuals, families, groups, organizations and communities
  • Intervene with individuals, families, groups, organizations and communities
  • Evaluate practice with individuals, families, groups, organizations and communities

At the end of the generalist practice curriculum sequence, students are expected to evidence the identified generalist practice behaviors for each competency. At the end of the advanced year, students are expected to have achieved the competencies through both generalist practice behaviors and advanced practice behaviors in the advanced generalist specialization with an area of focus learned in classroom and field experiences—all of which are derived from social work knowledge, values, and skills.

School Social Work and Clinical Practice Licensure, Child Welfare Training

Students seeking preparation for licensure as a school social worker in the State of Wisconsin typically complete the child, youth, and family welfare focus area. Students seeking preparation for licensure as a clinical social worker in the State of Wisconsin or State of Minnesota typically complete the mental health focus area. Contact the full-time program social work academic advisors or part-time program advisors (see contact information on the program website) for a complete list of requirements necessary for these credentials. Information on social work certification and licensure is presented to students periodically during the academic year and is detailed in the Advanced Generalist Specialization Handbook appendixes.

Federal Title IV-E funding is available to full- and part-time MSW students for training in public child welfare. After acceptance into the school, generalist year or advanced practice year students may apply to this special program designed to prepare advanced practitioners for practice in public child welfare. Students complete a specialized curriculum within the child, youth, and family welfare concentration. Students accepted into the training program receive tuition (in- or out-of-state), a book allowance, a mileage allowance, and a monthly stipend each year they are in the program. In return, after graduation, child welfare trainees agree to work in a public child welfare position in the State of Wisconsin for each year they received funding. For complete details, contact the Title IV-E program coordinator (contact information available on the program website).

Part-Time MSW Program

The part-time MSW program is offered on two sites: the UW–Madison campus for those in the greater Madison area and on the UW–Eau Claire campus for those who live in the northwest part of the state. The part-time MSW program is designed to allow students who are not able to pursue full-time study to work toward an MSW degree on a structured, time-extended basis.

  • Courses are offered on Saturdays at both sites.
  • Fieldwork options may include place of employment.
  • Traditional and advanced standing options are offered.
  • Focus Areas in: aging, health or health and aging; child, youth and family welfare; or mental health are offered.

Applicants must meet the usual School of Social Work admission requirements to be accepted into the program.

Field Education Program

Generalist practice year social work students complete two semesters (256 hours per semester) of field work (SOC WORK 400 Field Practice and Integrative Seminar I, SOC WORK 401 Field Practice and Integrative Seminar II) concurrent with their generalist practice coursework, starting in the fall semester.  Advanced practice year students complete two semesters (320 hours per semester) of field work (SOC WORK 800 Field Practice and Integrative Seminar III, SOC WORK 801 Field Practice and Integrative Seminar IV) concurrent with their advanced practice concentration coursework, beginning in the fall semester.

The field units are organized around a social problem area, a field of practice, or a major intervention method. Each unit has a range of field placement agencies and settings appropriate to its theme. The emphasis for SW 400-level placements is on a generalist perspective and direct practice experience. The focus is on learning and applying analytic and interventive skills within an ethically based, problem-focused approach.  SW 800-level field emphases are practice from an advanced generalist perspective with either a direct or indirect practice experience. The focus is on autonomous practice and advanced practice knowledge and skills in an area of concentration.

The following field units are available to generalist practice year and/or advance practice year MSW students in the full time program. These units represent more than 100 placements in agencies and organizations throughout Dane and its contiguous counties.

  • Social work practice in community agencies
  • Social work practice in community mental health agencies
  • Social work practice in county human services
  • Social work practice in intellectual and other disabilities
  • Social work practice in educational settings
  • Social work practice in health
  • Social work practice in juvenile and criminal justice systems
  • Social work practice in mental health
  • Social work practice with older adults
  • Social work practice in policy and administration
  • Social work practice in public and private child welfare
  • Social work practice in public child welfare

Field units offered in the part-time MSW program at both program sites are:

  • Social work practice in community agencies
  • Social work practice in child and family welfare: public, private and educational settings
  • Social work practice in aging and/or health (depending on student demand)
  • Social work practice in mental health

Social work applicants should be advised that state statutes require the Department of Justice to conduct background checks on all potential field students prior to the field experience. Information regarding this process is provided to students after they are accepted into the School of Social Work.

Master's students are eligible for School of Social Work awards (Federal Training Grants when available, Veterans Administration stipends, Arthur Miles Scholarship, Beebe Memorial Scholarship, Katherine Benz Scholarship, Richard Schwert and Helen I. Clark Memorial Awards, Katherine Becker Norman Memorial Award, Lois Palmer Shimpa Award, and several others). Graduate Opportunity Fellowships are designed to expand graduate education for U.S. minority group members. For complete details regarding qualifications and applications for these awards, see Scholarships, Awards and Fellowships on the school's website.

Ph.D. students who meet specific criteria are eligible for university awards (e.g., Advanced Opportunity Fellowship and University Fellowship). Doctoral students are also eligible for travel awards for research abroad and, once a dissertator, for the Graduate Student Collaborative's Vilas Award for professional development. All students have access to federal loans and work study. In addition, Ph.D. students are considered for graduate assistantships (i.e., teaching, research, and project assistantships) which typically cover tuition, health insurance, and provide a monthly stipend.

Minimum Degree Requirements and Satisfactory Progress

To make progress toward a graduate degree, students must meet the Graduate School Minimum Degree Requirements and Satisfactory Progress in addition to the requirements of the program.

Master's Degrees

MSW, with available named options Part Time MSW Eau Claire, and Part Time MSW Madison

Minimum Graduate Degree Credit Requirement

30 credits

Minimum Graduate Residence Credit Requirement

16 credits

Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) Requirement

Half of degree coursework must be in graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide.

Prior Coursework Requirements from: Graduate Work from Other Institutions

Graduate credits in equivalent foundation/generalist courses completed with a grade of B or better taken at CSWE-accredited MSW programs may be used to fulfill the Minimum Degree Credit Requirement. In general, coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to the MSW Program may not be used to satisfy degree credit minimums. Graduate credits from other MSW programs/institutions may not be used to fulfill the Minimum Residence Credit Requirement.

Prior Coursework Requirements from: UW–Madison Undergraduate

MSW students who have received BSWs from CSWE accredited programs may count 7 credits of their undergraduate coursework in the BSW program. UW–Madison BSWs may count only those courses numbered 300 or above toward their minimum graduate degree credit requirement. Coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to the MSW program may not be used to satisfy credit requirements.

Prior Coursework Requirements from: UW–Madison University Special

On a case-by-case basis Generalist/Foundation Social Work courses numbered 300 or above taken as a UW–Madison Special student may be used to fulfill degree requirements. No more than 15 credits generalist/foundation credits may be used for this purpose.

Credits per Term Allowed

15 credits

Program-Specific Courses Required

First-year MSW students complete generalist/foundation practice courses unless granted an exemption:

SOC WORK 400 Field Practice and Integrative Seminar I2-6
SOC WORK 401 Field Practice and Integrative Seminar II2-6
SOC WORK 441 Generalist Practice with Individuals, Families and Groups1-3
SOC WORK 442 Generalist Practice with Communities and Organizations1-2
SOC WORK 605 The Field of Social Work2
SOC WORK 606 Social Policy2
SOC WORK 640 Social Work with Ethnic and Racial Groups2-3
SOC WORK 650 Methods of Social Work Research2-3
SOC WORK 711 Human Behavior and the Environment2
SOC WORK 712 Psychopathology for Social Work Practice in Mental Health3

In general, generalist practice/ foundation courses must be completed before beginning advanced practice courses.

Second-year MSW students: complete advanced courses as outlined in the MSW Program Concentration Handbook.

Overall Graduate GPA Requirement

3.00

Other Grade Requirements

Grades of C are accepted only if they are offset by an equal number of credits of A. Candidates who receive more than two grades of C (in courses that do not extend beyond one term) or a grade of D or F while in the program will be dropped from the MSW Program. Candidates who receive a grade of C in the Field and Integrative Seminar courses may continue only with permission of the faculty and may not offset the grade with a grade of A. (This policy does not apply to grades received for courses taken to meet the statistics prerequisite while in the program).

Probation Policy

The Graduate School regularly reviews the record of any student who earned grades of BC, C, D, F, or Incomplete in a graduate course (300 or above), or grade of U in research credits. This review could result in academic probation with a hold on future enrollment or in being suspended from the Graduate School.

Advisor / Committee

All masters candidates are assigned to the social work academic advisors.

Assessment and Examinations

None

Time Constraints

Full-Time Program students matriculating through the Full-Time MSW program on a part-time basis must enroll in a minimum of two courses each semester and complete one full-time semester of at least 8 credits. Candidates who withdraw from the Full-Time Program without having completed at least 8 credits must reapply for admission to the program. Students who withdraw from the Part-Time MSW Program without having completed at least 6 credits must reapply for admission to the Part-Time Program.

Master's degree students who have been absent for five or more consecutive years lose all credits that they have earned before their absence. Individual programs may count the coursework students completed prior to their absence for meeting program requirements; that coursework may not count toward Graduate School credit requirements.

Language Requirements

None

Online applications are available through the School of Social Work website.

Admission into the master's degree program includes the Graduate School requirement that applicants hold a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) on the equivalent of the last 60 semester hours (approximately two years of work) from an accredited university or college.

Applicants apply online to through the Graduate School's application site: Graduate School Electronic Application. A complete application includes both the Graduate School application and the School of Social Work's supplemental application forms.

In addition to their application forms prospective MSW students submit: reasons for graduate study essay, official transcripts from each university or college attended, the names and e-mail addresses of three persons who will submit letters of recommendation on the applicant's behalf, criminal background check information, and Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) scores (if applicable). The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is optional. A School of Social Work admissions committee acceptance recommendation to the Graduate School is required for unconditional admission. Prerequisites for entrance into the MSW program include:

  1. completion of 30 semester credits of social science courses at the point the application is submitted; and
  2. completion of an approved statistics course with a grade of C or better, taken within seven years prior to entrance into the program.

Knowledge and Skills

  • Engage diversity and difference in practice.
  • Advance human rights and social, economic, and environmental justice.
  • Engage in practice-informed research and research-informed practice.
  • Engage in policy practice.
  • Engage with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities.
  • Assess individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities.

Professional Conduct

  • Demonstrate ethical and professional behavior.

Additional Learning Goals

  • Intervene with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities.
  • Evaluate practice with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities.

Faculty: Professors Robert (director), Berger, Brower, Cancian, Greenberg, Kramer, Magnuson, Mailick, Meyer, Shook Slack; Associate Professors Curtis, Haley-Lock, Moses, Schroepfer; Assistant Professors Bishop-Fitzpatrick (2017), Glass, Ros Pilarz, Walsh, Xiong. A complete list of all faculty and staff in the school is available here.