MSW Program > Program Description
The Master of Social Work (MSW) Program is designed to prepare social workers for leadership roles in developing and providing services to individuals, families, groups, communities and organizations. Our MSW program is one of the oldest and most well-respected social work programs in the country. Students can apply to the Advanced Standing (full-time), Two-Year (full-time), Three-Year (part-time) and Employed Practitioners (part-time) programs. The MSW Program is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.
The two-year MSW program is designed for students who have chosen to pursue a graduate social work degree and are prepared to matriculate on a full-time basis. Participants in the Two-Year Program are in classes two days a week (enrolled in four classes per semester) and in field placement three days a week.
During the first year of study in the Two-Year Program, students are required to take seven foundation courses (SWRK 601, SWRK 602, SWRK 603, SWRK 604, SWRK 611, SWRK 612, and SWRK 614) and one elective.
In the second year of study, students select a method of concentration (clinical or macro practice). Students are required to take: a research course each semester (SWRK 715 and a research option); two required advanced practice courses and field placement (Clinical: SWRK 704 & SWRK 714 or Macro: SWRK 708 & SWRK 718), SWRK 713 (in the spring semester) and three elective courses (two in the fall and one in the spring). Students must take one practice elective in their selected area of concentration. Academic advisors help students develop individualized plans of study and advise on elective courses both within the School and the University (students may take up to two elective courses within Penn's professional and graudate schools with approval from their academic advisor).
The three-year MSW program is designed for students who have chosen the profession but are not prepared to matriculate on a two-year basis. Participants in the three-year program must meet the same admission requirements as those for full-time students. Students admitted to this program are assisted by academic advisors who help them develop individualized plans of study.
The standard three-year MSW program includes six semesters and two summers for courses. The School does not guarantee that current employment can be used as a field placement, but it is available in some cases (see also Employed Practitioners Program).
Those already employed full time in a social work agency may be able to work toward an MSW without leaving their jobs, providing that:
- they have been employed by the agency for at least six months prior to beginning field placement and have passed the probationary period to be considered a permanent employee;
- the agency will provide opportunities for learning that meet the requirements of a field practicum in professional education; and
- the agency will provide a staff person with an MSW and at least two years of post-masters experience to serve as a field instructor.
Students in the three-year MSW program should meet with the Director of Field Education early in their first year of study to discuss field placement arrangements. Students should not make their own field placement arrangements.
This program is designed for exceptional BSW students who have graduated from a CSWE-accredited BSW program within the past five years. A limited number of students are accepted into this program. Students in Advanced Standing begin graduate studies in the summer, followed by two semesters of full-time study in the academic year. In order to enroll in the fall, students must satisfactorily complete the two (2) required summer courses and achieve satisfactory performance in the no-cost Integrative Practice Seminar and field placement.
This three-year program is designed for experienced working professionals who have been employed full-time in an approved social service agency, under the supervision of an MSW, for two years and want to pursue a master of social work degree on a part-time basis.
Students accepted into this program take two courses per semester (including summers). In the second year of study (Pre-Residency Year), students must complete a Field Lab during the fall and spring semester. In the third year of study (Residency Year), students must fulfill 900 hours of supervised field placement at their place of employment from September to May.
All courses in the MSW program are grouped according to five content areas. These are American Racism and Social Change, Human Behavior in the Social Environment (HBSE), Research, Social Policy, and Social Work Practice.
The School's emphasis on education-for-use receives practical expression in the field practice component of the curriculum. Learning by doing, in conjunction with theoretical learning and supervision by a qualified field instructor, has long been recognized as the most effective way to acquire competence and skills in social work practice.
Visit our Field Education pages to learn more.