Degree Policies & Requirements

Degree Completion Requirements

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.

The MSW degree is awarded to candidates who:

  • Hold a bachelor’s degree from a recognized institution of higher learning;
  • Have been duly admitted to the School of Social Policy & Practice;
  • Have 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
  • Have been admitted to the program as a MSW transfer student from an accredited program and has completed eight credits at this school.

Academic Advising

An academic advisor will be assigned to each student. The advisor is available to help plan the student’s course of study, assist in course selection, provide consultation on academically related concerns, and monitor academic performance and progress. Group advising conferences with students may be held during the academic year and students will be notified of the dates and times. Students may also request individual advising meetings.

Required Non-Credit Courses

Advanced Standing Integrative Practice Seminar
All advanced standing students are required to take the Integrative Seminar in the summer immediately preceding their first year of field placement. The seminar meets weekly during the second summer session. In order to enroll in the fall, students must achieve satisfactory performance in the Integrative Practice Seminar and summer field placement.

Employed Practitioners Supervision Seminar (Field Lab)
Students the Employed Practitioners Program are required to take this non-credit seminar in the fall and spring terms of their second year of study. The class meets every-other-week.

Macro or Clinical Concentration Supervision Class
In a limited number of cases, advanced-year students may be placed in agencies where there is no available MSW field instructor. In such instances, the student is required to attend the Clinical or Macro Supervision Seminar (depending on their concentration), which meets every-other week during the academic year. Students who are required to participate in the clinical or macro supervision seminars will be given 1 ½ hours of compensatory time off from their field placement every other week.

Taking Courses in Other Departments

SP2 MSW students are permitted to take up to two electives in other Penn schools and departments. Courses taken in other schools or departments may not be counted as practice electives. Courses must be approved by the student’s academic advisor as relevant to the student’s educational plan and must have a value of one credit unit. Courses in other degree programs at the School of Social Policy & Practice (e.g., MSSP and NPL programs) are not counted towards the two-course limit.

Joint Lectures

Several sequences in the MSW program schedule sequence-wide lectures for all sections. These lectures feature experts in the field and all students are expected to attend. Joint lectures are scheduled on Monday evenings (6:30 – 8:30 PM) and students are expected to attend. Students who have extenuating circumstances that prevent them from attending joint lectures must make arrangements with their course instructors to receive the lecture content in another way.

Transfer Credits

Read the policy on Transfer Credits.

Independent Study

Independent studies provide a flexible opportunity for standing faculty and students to work together in pursuing a topic of special interest that is not sufficiently covered by other courses in the curriculum. The content of independent studies is highly specialized and, as such, requires a plan of study developed jointly by the student(s) and the supervising standing faculty member. Part-time faculty members are not eligible to offer independent studies.

Plans for independent study should include: a statement of the issues(s) to be studied; a rationale for why the identified issue(s) should be pursued via an independent study; a statement of how the independent study fits into the student’s overall educational plan; a summary of the independent study’s major learning objectives; the methods to be used in carrying out the study; a workable plan; the educational “products” that will result from the study (normally a written report or paper); and the expected date by which the independent study will be completed.

The process for arranging an independent study requires approval of both the student’s academic advisor and a standing faculty member who has agreed to conduct the independent study. The procedures to be followed are:

  • The student discusses interest in doing an independent study with the academic advisor.
  • If the advisor concurs with the student’s submission, the advisor and student will discuss potential standing faculty sponsors.
  • If a standing faculty sponsor can be located, the student and standing faculty sponsor craft the specific plan, including learning objectives, content, and structure for the course.
  • The academic advisor informs the registrar that an independent study for the student has been approved.

On the rare occasions that a student is unable to schedule a regular School course, the educational advisor makes a recommendation to the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs who will try to identify a standing or adjunct faculty member able to supervise the course delivered as an independent study.

Waiver Exams

All students are eligible to take waiver examinations for SWRK 601: History and Philosophy of Social Work and Social Welfare, SWRK 602: Human Behavior in the Social Environment, and SWRK 615: Introduction to Social Work Research prior to enrolling in those courses. The waiver exams offer the opportunity for students who believe they have already mastered the foundation content covered in these courses to demonstrate this. Students who place out of SWRK 601, SWRK 602, or SWRK 615 by successfully passing the waiver exam must take an elective course in its place.

Waiver exams are offered once per year. SWRK 601 and SWRK 602 waiver exams are offered during Pre-Orientation in August. The SWRK 615 waiver exam is offered in October. There are no makeup opportunities to take the waiver exams at other times. Advance registration is required for the waiver exams and details about the registration process for SWRK 601 and SWRK 602 are included with Pre-Orientation communications over the summer. Information about the SWRK 615 waiver exam is communicated to all students early in the Fall semester.

The waiver exam cannot be used to place out of retaking a course. Students who do not receive a satisfactory grade in SWRK 601, SWRK 602, or SWRK 615 after completing the semester-long course must retake the course and cannot substitute the waiver exam for a satisfactory course grade.

Class and Field Attendance

Courses meet once a week. Classroom learning is a fundamental component of professional education. If a student is unable to attend either class or field for other reasons, he/she should notify their class instructor(s) and/or field instructor. Most instructors have a strict absence policy; excessive absences can result in a lower course grade or course failure. Students who need to miss classes due to medical or family emergencies or other extenuating circumstances should contact their Academic Advisor as soon as possible.

Student Handbook

The SP2 Student Handbook outlines the policies pertaining to grading, registration, leaves of absence, tuition, finances, and more.

Go to the Student Handbook.