Social work's special contribution rests on an established body of knowledge, values and skills pertinent to understanding human relationships and the interaction between people as individuals, in families, groups, organizations, and communities.

Undergraduates in the School of Social Work receive a liberal arts education in the social and behavioral sciences and their application to human problems that prepares them to be informed citizens involved in human services or social welfare problems and policies. Students take courses in a variety of social sciences to enable them to view social welfare in its broad social, economic, and political contexts.

Social work courses offer a theoretical understanding of social problems and an introduction to practice methods used by social workers. The curriculum covers such areas as aging, family and child welfare, poverty, mental health, developmental disabilities, alcohol and drug abuse, diversity, race and ethnicity, criminal justice, oppression and social, economic and environmental justice, and at-risk populations.


The mission of the UW–Madison School of Social Work is to enhance human well-being and promote human rights and social and economic justice for people who are disadvantaged to achieve an equitable, healthy, and productive society. The school aims to:

  • Create, advance, strengthen, and integrate interdisciplinary knowledge for students and the profession through research, scholarship, teaching and practice.
  • Educate students to become highly skilled, culturally competent and ethical practitioners who will provide effective leadership for the profession of social work within the State of Wisconsin, nationally, and internationally.
  • Promote change at levels ranging from the individual to national and international policy, including empowering communities and populations that are disadvantaged and developing humane service delivery systems.
  • Create and disseminate knowledge regarding the prevention and amelioration of social problems.

Undergraduate Degree Programs

The School of Social Work offers a bachelor of social work (BSW) degree or a bachelor of arts (B.A.) or bachelor of science (B.S.) degree with a major in social welfare. The BSW and the social welfare major prepare students for further academic study or for employment in selected human service arenas. The BSW prepares students as beginning-level professional social workers. The social welfare major offers an overview of current social problems.

Honors in the Major

Honors in the Major for social welfare majors and bachelor of social work students prepare undergraduates for research and scholarship in social work. Students interested in completing the requirements for Honors in the Major should consult with and apply for admission to the program with the social work academic advisor. Majors declare their intention to enter the program no later than the end of the spring semester of the junior year. Students must make arrangements with a faculty member to sponsor their research project before being admitted to the honors program.

Requirements for Honors in the Major include the following:

  1. a signed agreement between the student and the faculty research advisor sponsoring the Senior Honors Research Thesis;
  2. completion of the majors' statistics requirement;
  3. completion of SOC WORK 650 Methods of Social Work Research;
  4. completion of one social work elective related to honors thesis research topic;
  5. completion of the Senior Honors Research Thesis (SOC WORK 681 Senior Honors Thesis and SOC WORK 682 Senior Honors Thesis);
  6. completion of SOC WORK 579 Special Topics in Social Work: Faculty Research Seminar in the fall semester of the senior year; 
  7. and, presentation of the thesis results at a department colloquium.

Honors in the Major students are expected to maintain at least a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.4 and complete the regular major requirements and an overall GPA of at least 3.3 in all courses taken at UW–Madison. Students are encouraged to apply to the Honors in the Major as early as possible, but no later than the spring semester of their junior year.

Honors in the Major Procedures

  • Meet with an academic advisor to discuss Honors in the Major requirements.
  • Determine faculty research advisor (no later than end of the spring semester of junior year). The faculty research advisor for the senior honors thesis should be consulted about the project as early as possible to formulate a topic.
  • Declare entry into Honors in the Major (no later than the end of the spring semester of junior year).
  • Submit signed Faculty Advisor Agreement form to the academic advisor.

Honors in the Major Course Requirements

By the end of the Junior Year complete:
STAT 301 Introduction to Statistical Methods3
or STAT 371 Introductory Applied Statistics for the Life Sciences
SOC/​C&E SOC  360 Statistics for Sociologists I4
PSYCH 210 Basic Statistics for Psychology3
Social Work
SOC WORK 650 Methods of Social Work Research3
Soc Work Elective (related to thesis topic)
Fall Semester of Senior Year
SOC WORK 579 Special Topics in Social Work1
SOC WORK 681 Senior Honors Thesis3
Spring Semester of Senior Year
SOC WORK 682 Senior Honors Thesis3
Thesis Presentation

Independent Work

Students with an interest in a particular area of study may develop a plan of independent work with the assistance of an interested faculty member. They may obtain information about instructors and their areas of interest from the School of Social Work website. Consent of instructor is required for the following course offerings in independent work:

Senior Honors Thesis
and Senior Honors Thesis (year-long course)
Senior Thesis
and Senior Thesis (year-long course)
SOC WORK 699 Directed Study1-3

15 Credit Rule

All students are required to fulfill the L&S requirement of 15 credits of upper-level work in the major taken in residence. Courses that count toward this requirement for Social Work and Social Welfare are:

SOC WORK 650 Methods of Social Work Research3
SOC/​C&E SOC  357 Methods of Sociological Inquiry3-4
PSYCH 225 Research Methods4
SOC WORK 457 Human Behavior and the Environment3
SOC WORK 640 Social Work with Ethnic and Racial Groups3
SOC WORK 441 Generalist Practice with Individuals, Families and Groups1-3
SOC WORK 442 Generalist Practice with Communities and Organizations1-2
SOC WORK 612 Psychopathology for Generalist Social Work Practice3
Social work electives designated as I or A.

Certificate Programs

BSW students and social welfare majors often choose the following certificate programs: American Indian studies, business, criminal justice, gender and women's studies, gerontology, global cultures, global health, LGBT studies, and religious studies.


The BSW program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). The social welfare major is accredited along with the rest of the College of Letters and Science by the Higher Learning Commission.

Graduate School

BSW students completing professional foundation courses with a grade of B or better are eligible for advanced standing in the master's program. For more information see the School of Social Work website FAQs on "Admissions: Advanced Standing & Exemptions."

Professors: Lawrence M. Berger, MSW, Ph.D.; Aaron Brower, MSW, Ph.D.; Maria Cancian Ph.D.; Jan Steven Greenberg, MSSW, Ph.D.; Betty J. Kramer,  MSSW, Ph.D.; Katherine Magnuson, Ph.D.; Marsha Mailick, Ph.D.; Daniel R. Meyer, MSW, Ph.D.; Stephanie A. Robert, MSW, Ph.D.; Kristen Shook Slack, A.M., Ph.D.

Associate Professors: Marah A. Curtis, MSW, Ph.D.; Tally Moses, MSW, Ph.D.; Tracy Schroepfer, MSW, Ph.D. 

Assistant Professors: Lauren Bishop-Fitzpatrick, Ph.D.; Alejandra Ros Pilarz, Ph.D.; Tova Walsh, MSW, Ph.D.; Yang Sao Xiong, Ph.D.

Clinical Associate Professor: Ellen Smith, MSSW

Clinical Assistant Professors: Audrey Conn, MSSW, APSW; Amanda Ngola, MSW, LCSW; Angela Willits, MSW, LCSW