Master of Social Work Program (MSW)
MSW Program Admission Requirements
Admission decisions are based on the applicant’s undergraduate record (and graduate transcripts when applicable), experience in human services (paid, volunteer, internships), the application essay, recommendation letters and the admissions interview. Applicants to the MSW program are expected to meet the following criteria:
- A bachelors degree with a liberal arts perspective from an accredited college or university; or a bachelors degree in social work from an accredited undergraduate social work program. It is expected that a liberal arts perspective includes courses reflecting that applicants have backgrounds in several of the following areas: society, history and tradition, arts and letters, economics, formal reasoning and analysis, the living world, the physical world, and social studies.
- Courses that contain these topics include, but are not limited to, a combination of studies in each of the following areas: the humanities (languages, philosophy, religion, art history, architecture, literature, classics, speech), social sciences (psychology, sociology, anthropology, ethnic studies, gender studies, international relations, human behavior, human development, political science, communications, education, urban planning, criminal justice), and natural sciences (statistics, astronomy, biology, botany, environmental studies, genetics, nutritional sciences, physics).
- Applicants who do not have a background in liberal arts or social work may be required to take liberal arts courses prior to matriculation or may not be considered for admission.
- An undergraduate record demonstrating academic achievement; and
- Personal qualifications such as maturity, critical thinking, good judgment, oral and written communication skills, integrity, a respect for difference, capacity for self-awareness and commitment to social work values.
The School does not give course credit for life or work experience.
Note: GRE scores are not required for the MSW program.
Advanced Standing Admissions Requirements
Applicants for admission to the Advanced Standing program must have:
- A bachelors degree in social work from a CSWE accredited social work program. Completion of the undergraduate degree must be within the past five years;
- The grade of “B” or higher in all undergraduate (or graduate) social work courses;
- High academic achievement; and
- Three letters of recommendation: one (1) from the applicant’s field supervisor or practice professor, one (1) academic reference, and one (1) work recommendation. One reference letter must be from a MSW who can evaluate the applicant's performance in field placement (e.g., current or most recent practice professor or field supervisor) and specifically recommend the applicant for the Advanced Standing program.
Applicants must meet all other admission requirements for the MSW program.
Employed Practitioners Program Admissions Requirements:
Applicants for admission to the Employed Practitioners Program must have:
- A bachelors degree in liberal arts or social work from an accredited college or university;
- Two years social work experience (at the time of application) at an approved social service agency; and
- Submission of a contract among School, employing agency and applicant confirming approval of the applicant's Employed Practitioners Program plan.
Applicants must meet all other admission requirements for the MSW program.
Students are admitted to the MSW program once a year in the fall and to the full-time Advanced Standing program in July.
MSW applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Priority consideration is given to Advanced Standing applications received by January 15th; priority consideration is given to all other MSW program applications, including two-year full-time, three-year part-time, Employed Practitioners, and dual-degree programs, received by February 1st. The Advanced Standing program begins in the Summer term; all other programs begin in the Fall term.
Each applicant, who meets admission criteria, is offered an admission interview when his/her submitted application (application essay, financial plan, references, and transcripts) is complete.
Following the admissions interview, the faculty evaluates the application and makes the decision on admittance. Applicants are generally notified of the final decision within two weeks after the evaluation is completed.
Pursuant to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, as amended, in general, personally identifiable information can be disclosed to people outside the University only with the written consent of the student or alumnus involved. A statement setting forth specific University policy concerning: (1) disclosing information to people outside the University; (2) disclosing information to people within the University; (3) permitting students to inspect and review records; and (4) providing students with the opportunity to seek the collection of their records is available in the Graduate Academic Bulletin. Students in the School of Social Policy & Practice may review their records in the SP2 Admissions Office in the presence of an admissions officer. Records may not be copied. For more information and the complete Code of Academic Integrity, refer to the Graduate Academic Bulletin or the University's Privacy web site at http://www.upenn.edu/privacy.
The academic year for the MSW program is divided into two semesters of fifteen weeks each (field practice continues on a modified basis during semester and spring breaks). For the Two-Year Program four credits are required per semester for a total of sixteen credits for four semesters. These credits are divided among foundation, advanced and elective courses as prescribed in the curriculum.
All full-time students in the MSW program must be enrolled in four courses each semester unless an alternative educational plan is approved by the advisor and/or the associate dean. Students interested in taking five courses during one semester must obtain approval from their academic advisor. Additional charges will be assessed for course loads over 4 cu's. Students are not permitted to audit courses.
View the Dual Degree Programs section of the website for information about applying to individual degree programs.
Each student is assigned an academic adviser who helps the student make the maximum use of the School and University's resources for a rich academic experience. The following statement on credit and standing provides a frame of reference for students and members of the faculty for the successful completion of the various requirements of the school.
The Penn MSW program uses the system of letter grade evaluation that is used by other MA and PhD programs at the University. A cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or above is required for MSW graduation.
List three (3) references, including at least one work-related (internship, job, community service) and at least one academic reference. The third recommendation is your choice.
Advanced Standing Applicants
Following MSW program guidelines, but one reference letter must be from a MSW who can evaluate the applicant's performance in field placement (e.g., current or most recent practice professor or field supervisor).
Employed Practitioners Applicants
In addition to the reference requirements for the MSW program, you must have an authorized agency representative complete the Agency Recommendation Form.
A student who: a) withdraws; b) is requested to withdraw for failure to maintain a satisfactory scholastic standard; or c) is granted a leave of absence from a full-time division of the University during either term of the academic year will be eligible for a refund of tuition general fee in accordance with the conditions set forth below.
The effective date of separation from the University is the date on which the student files a request for withdrawal or leave of absence in the Office of the Dean. The amount of refund allowable is as follows:
Separation occurring within:
first two weeks of class: 75%
third and fourth weeks of class: 50%
fifth week of class and thereafter: 0%
A student who is required to withdraw because of violation of University regulation shall receive no refund by reason of such withdrawal.
The degree of Master of Social Work will be granted to a student who:
- Holds a bachelors degree from a recognized institution of higher learning;
- Has been duly admitted to the School of Social Policy & Practice;
- Has satisfactorily completed the prescribed program of study according to the regulations in force at the time of the student's completion of the program, within five years of the date of his/her first admission to the School; and
- Has been admitted to the program as a MSW transfer student from an accredited program and has completed eight credits at this school.
All requirements for the MSW degree must be completed within five years of the date of the student's first admission. Generally, the requirements are completed within two consecutive years. Students who leave the program for a year or more must contact the Director of Admissions in writing before returning to the program.
Credit may be granted toward the MSW requirements for work completed at any other accredited graduate school of social work in the past five years. Students who transfer from an accredited social work program having completed a full year within the last three years may be granted credit for up to one year's work. Students entering with an accredited Masters degree in a related field may be granted up to a maximum of six credits based on the overlap of the courses they have taken with the courses in our curriculum. Students who have completed some graduate work within the past three years but do not have a Masters Degree may be given up to a maximum of four credits for courses that have a high degree of overlap with our courses.
Application for credit for work completed elsewhere than at Penn must be made in writing to the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs of the School of Social Policy & Practice after the student’s acceptance to the program. Transfer of credits must be granted before the student's registration can be accepted.
Once enrolled in the School of Social Policy & Practice, credits earned concurrently from other accredited graduate schools outside the University will not be transferred unless approval was granted by the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs prior to enrolling in these courses.
Visit the Tuition & Financial Aid section of the website for complete information.