The program of study that leads to the Master of Social Work degree consists of 60 units. The program is available at these locations:
- University Park Campus (campus-based and some online classes)
- Virtual Academic Center (VAC) (all online classes via the Internet)
The MSW program can be completed in a full-time (four semesters) program or part-time/extended (five or more semesters) program.
The basic generalist curriculum introduces students to the range of social welfare problems and programs, and to the varieties of human behavior with which social work is concerned. At the same time, students learn the methods by which the social worker, the social agency and the organized community work with people and problems. Field instruction, under supervision in a social agency, is scheduled for two or three days a week for most students, enabling students to apply theory to practice. All content areas include content on diversity, social work values and ethics, and economic justice and populations at risk. At the completion of foundation requirements, students are expected to have acquired a sense of professional responsibility and the ability to use knowledge on behalf of the individual, the group and the community.
This curriculum is organized around three specializations:
- Children, Youth and Families (CYF)
- Adult Mental Health and Wellness (AMHW)
- Social Change and Innovation (SCI)
Students will select one of these specializations upon completion of the generalist curriculum, take required courses and electives focused on their chosen specializations. Students take six required specialization courses, a required diversity course, and three electives focused on the student's individual interests.
Specific course content includes:
Children, Youth and Families (CYF)
This specialization prepares students to address the needs of vulnerable children, youth and families from the earliest years of childhood through adolescence and the transition to adulthood. Course work focuses on promoting wellness and preventing trauma, as well as which kinds of service programs are showing the best results for families with different makeups from a variety of racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups. Students are trained to serve families in a variety of service settings, including health, mental health, early education, schools, child welfare and juvenile justice.
Adult Mental Health and Wellness (AMHW)
This specialization is focused on enhancing the health and well-being of younger and older adults within families, agencies, institutions, communities and other environments, and eliminating disparities. The curriculum offers course work in mental health and substance use, integrated primary and behavioral health care, wellness and recovery, promotion of healthy aging, social welfare policy, and program and policy evaluation and analysis.
Social Change and Innovation (SCI):
This specialization prepares students to lead bold, large-scale solutions to social problems and drive positive change in organizations, businesses and government agencies. Students can customize their learning experience by taking courses on social change, advocacy, organizational planning and development, workplace interventions, military social work, and evaluation research.
This system of curriculum offerings provides a strong educational program with a continuing commitment to a generalist base and a focused set of specialized content, in combination with a range of options to meet special interests. This program enables graduates to move into the social work community with a combination of knowledge and skills in a broad arena, as well as in-depth knowledge and skills in both practice methods and a specific client population, setting or system.
The curriculum builds on a liberal arts foundation that all entering students are required to have. The applicant should have a range of undergraduate courses in the humanities and the social and physical sciences.
The Master of Social Work degree requires a minimum of 60 semester units of courses, including field education.
The degree is not awarded solely on the basis of credits earned but also requires evidence of competence in both theory and practice. At their discretion, the faculty may require courses or fieldwork or both beyond the minimum requirements.
For most students, the master's degree program will be completed in four semesters of full-time study.
Grade Point Average Requirement
A grade point average of 3.0 (A = 4.0) is required for admission to the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. In some instances, applicants with less than 3.0 may be considered for conditional admission through a special review. An overall GPA of 3.0 for graduation from the master's degree program.