MSW FAQs

MSW Program Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why social work?

There are many reasons why social work is a good choice for your future.  Social work is a challenging and rewarding profession that offers national and international career opportunities.  Social workers have a strong desire to make a difference in the lives of others.  They help people with disabilities, life-threatening illnesses, inadequate housing, poverty, unemployment, substance abuse, or mental illness.  Social workers also assist people experiencing domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual assault.  MSW graduates are trained to be therapists, clinicians, advocates, policy reformers, etc.  Social Works are change agents in the lives of the individuals that they serve.  The book, 101 Careers in Social Work, is a valuable resource if you are interested in learning more about the field of Social Work and what social workers do.

What type of options do you provide for students interested in pursuing a MSW?

We offer three types of programs:

  1. Advanced Standing Program – Allows you to enroll directly in advanced and concentrated coursework if you meet certain criteria, including receiving a bachelor’s degree from an accredited bachelors of social work program within the past 7 years.
  2. MSW Campus Program – Offers full- or part-time coursework on the Urbana-Champaign campus.
  3. MSW Outreach Program – Enables you to work full-time while pursuing your graduate degree through blended online and hybrid weekend classes that meet on the Urbana campus and eventually through a one-semester commitment (typically one day a week) on campus and a two-semester internship in your home community.  The MSW Outreach Program is open to Advanced Standing students as well as students with undergraduate degrees in other fields.

Is the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s MSW accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)?

Yes, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s MSW program has been continuously accredited by CSWE since its inception almost 70 years ago.

What concentrations do you offer in the MSW Program at the School of Social Work?

As you work toward your MSW degree, you’ll achieve competency in one of two concentrations:

Leadership and Social Change

  • Emphasize social change within social service agencies and through public advocacy and social entrepreneurship
  • Assume a leadership position in public nonprofit community agencies in the US and internationally

Advanced Clinical

  • Within the Advanced Clinical concentration, students choose a focus area to specialize in:
    • Children, Youth, and Family Services
      • Identify and address the critical needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged children and families
      • Pursue a career in direct practice, research, or policy-related positions with agencies serving children and families (e.g., public and private child welfare agencies, juvenile and family courts, private foundations, and policy and research-related institutions
    •  Health Care
      • Collaborate with other health professionals in providing patient care and mobilizing family, friends, and other supportive networks on the patient’s behalf
      • Work in hospitals and clinics as well as in federal, state, and local public health centers
      • Work with physicians in private or group medical practices, on home health care teams, or with nursing, home health, and planning agencies
    • Mental Health
      • Deal with internal, interpersonal, and environmental problems that affect mental health and social functioning
      • Provide diagnostic, assessment, and  mental health services to vulnerable populations
    • School Social Work
      • Work in school settings on planned system change, consultation, and interdisciplinary teaming
      • Address the most pressing needs of public school children and their families

I am unsure about what concentration I want to study. When do I need to decide?

We ask you to declare your concentration on your application materials; however, you can also change your concentration once you begin the program if you develop an interest in a different concentration area. You must decide on your concentration by the time you enroll in spring classes. You will receive individual academic advising from a faculty advisor.

How long will it take me to complete the MSW program?

How quickly you complete the program will depend on your concentration, course load, and your status on the prerequisite and foundation requirements. For the MSW Campus Program as an Advanced Standing student, you may complete the MSW program in as little as 12 months (3 semesters). For all other students, you can complete the program in as little as 18 months if you have an undergraduate degree in a field other than social work. If you are in the MSW Outreach Program, Advanced Standing students can complete the program in 1 ½ years while all others can expect to complete this program in 2 ½-3 years.

Am I qualified to apply?

If you meet the following criteria, then you are qualified to apply:

  • A baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university
  • Evidence of personal attributes that are suitable for the profession of social work
  • A minimum grade point average of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) or better for the last sixty (60) semester hours or ninety (90) quarter hours of coursework
  • Experience in human services (paid, volunteer, research and/or internship)
  • Twenty hours of coursework in the social, and behavioral sciences, humanities, and biological sciences
  • There are a few additional requirements for International applicants.

Do I have to take the GRE (Graduate Record Examination)?

We do NOT require GRE scores for the MSW program.

My bachelor’s degree is not in social work.  Can I still apply to the program?

Absolutely. In fact, about 75% of our students have degrees other than social work, including psychology, sociology, photography, English, music, finance, philosophy, anthropology, and many others. You will just need to make sure that you have completed 20 hours of social, and behavioral sciences, humanities, and biological sciences.

When do I begin the program?

If you have a BSW from an accredited school of social work within the past seven years, you will begin the program in the fall. Students with a bachelor’s degree in any other area must begin the program in the summer session II.  Summer session II begins mid-June.

If I decide that a MSW is the graduate degree for me, how do I apply?

Applying to graduate school can be complicated; particularly when you are trying to make sure everything gets to the right place at the right time. You must submit materials to the School of Social Work as well as to the Graduate College.

  • Graduate College Application– To be completed online at www.grad.illinois.edu
  • Three (3) letters of reference (must be academic and/or professional in nature).   Letters of Reference are part of the online Graduate College Application.
  • School of Social Work Application Information Statement- To be completed and uploaded to the Graduate College Application under the “Program – Specific Questions” section. [Please note: This must be downloaded and saved to your computer prior to you opening it and completing the form. If it isn’t saved first your information will not be saved.]
  • School of Social Work Personal Statement– This document must be uploaded to the Graduate College Application under the “program specific questions” section.
  • Resume- This should include relevant education, volunteer, and work experience. The completed Resume should be uploaded to the Graduate College Application under the “resume” section.
  • Official Transcripts from all colleges/universities attended. Mail directly to the School of Social Work, 1010 W. Nevada Street, Urbana, IL 61801

How many hours of coursework will it take me to complete a MSW degree? How many of these hours are in the area of Social Work?

Advanced Standing students are required to complete a minimum of 44 hours of MSW coursework to graduate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a MSW degree.  Twelve of the 44 hours are when you are enrolled in your internship. Students without an undergraduate degree in Social Work are required to complete 72 hours of MSW coursework to graduate with a MSW degree.  Twenty-four of the 72 hours are when you are enrolled in your internship. Students take classes in the areas of advanced social work practice, policy, research, human behavior, and  a plethora of topic specific courses like trauma informed practice, family therapy seminar, cognitive and behavioral therapy, Social Work practice with groups, Social Work practice with Children and Adolescents.

 What courses are taught in the summer?

The summer courses at the beginning of the program are for students without a BSW. They are SOCW 400: Generalist Social Work Practice Methods and SOCW 451: Human Behavior and the Social Environment (HBSE) These courses are only offered during the summer and must be completed before taking advanced methods or HBSE courses.

I don’t have a BSW. How do I complete the foundation courses?

SOCW 400: Generalist Social Work Practice Methods and SOCW 451: Human Behavior and the Social Environment (HBSE I) are completed during the summer semester.  SOCW 410: Social Welfare Policy and SOCW 427: Social Work Research Methods will be completed during your first fall semester.

What if I have already completed a foundation course in another discipline, can it count?

If you completed research methods, social welfare policy or HBSE in psychology/sociology you will still be required to complete these courses through our program.  Due to accreditation guidelines, these courses are required to be completed through an accredited school of social work.

How large is the school, and what is the average class size?

Every year we enroll approximately 125 new students in our MSW Campus Program and 50 students in our MSW Outreach Program. Average class size is 25 students and the student/teacher ratio is 15:1, including courses taught by distinguished community practitioners.

Will I have to complete an internship?

The internship experience is the capstone of Social Work education.  We require our MSW students to complete an internship in their area of concentration.  Our internship experience is distinct because you will conduct your internship in a “block internship placement” occurs after you complete all your MSW coursework.  This unique “block internship placement” structure allows you to complete your MSW internship throughout urban, suburban, and rural Illinois, and there is the potential for out-of-state placements as well.  Our MSW program requires you to complete an internship in an agency where you will gain hands-on experience working with clients.  The internship allows you to put into practice all the skills that you have learned in your MSW coursework in a supportive, internship placement.  Through these hands-on learning experiences, you will be well prepared to work as a professional social worker upon graduation.

What is the structure of a MSW internship?

In your MSW internship, you will:

  • If you do not have an undergraduate degree in Social Work, you will complete a two-semester internship, working 4 days/30-32 hours per week.
  • If you are in our Advanced Standing Program, you will complete a one-semester internship, typically a 14-week extended summer internship.
  • We have numerous placement sites across Illinois and can consider out-of-state placements.
  • You will also take part in an online seminar course that integrates your internship experience with social work values, ethics, and practice.
  • You will work with a full-time faculty member whose time is devoted to working with students during their internship. This faculty member will help you both before and during your internship.

Where will I complete my internship?

You will work closely with the School of Social Work’s field education faculty to secure an internship.  You are given the opportunity to choose an internship from a variety of social service organizations based on your interests and concentration.  The agencies we work with serve a multitude of diverse populations, cultural backgrounds, and socioeconomic classes in areas including healthcare, child welfare, extended care facilities, and community advocacy agencies. MSW students have interned in schools, hospitals, mental health centers, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, and several hundred other organizations. Visit here to get a sense of the wide variety of field placement options.

What can you expect to do during an internship?

During your last semester/s of graduate studies, you will gain rich learning experiences as you are immersed in a full-time internship within an agency. Through the internship experience, you can gain great hands-on experience, which includes:

Foundation Skills

Following are just a few of the foundation skills that you will develop during your internship:

  • Assessing client and community needs
  • Obtaining social histories
  • Empowering clients, communities, and systems of all sizes
  • Contacting and using community resources
  • Offering individual, group, and family counseling
  • Conducting interviews with individuals, families, and stakeholders
  • Implementing intervention plans
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of interventions
  • Keeping concise and accurate records
  • Collaborating with colleagues
  • Managing client caseloads
  • Conducting crisis interventions
  • Advocacy

Advanced Skills

These are some of the advanced skills that you will acquire in your field education:

  • Identifying and handling ethical dilemmas
  • Developing advanced interviewing and relationship skills
  • Employing a person-in-environment perspective in assessments
  • Using literature and research to empirically validate and guide practice
  • Functioning as an autonomous practitioner
  • Planning for social policy and community organization
  • Promoting social and economic justice
  • Mobilizing coalitions for implementing social change

Is it possible to be licensed as a social worker with a MSW degree?

Yes, if you graduate from an accredited MSW program, you are eligible to take a licensing exam to become a licensed social worker (LSW).  If you work as a LSW in the field of social work and receive clinical supervision from a licensed clinical social Worker (LCSW) for approximately two years (usually full-time), you are eligible to take a clinical licensing exam to become a LCSW.

What will it cost me to study at the School of Social Work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign?

A semester of tuition for full-time graduate students in the on campus MSW Program for the 2016-2017 academic year is $7,036 per semester for residents and $14,619 per semester for nonresidents. Fees average about $1,900 per semester, and in certain cases, some fees may be waived. MSW students in the MSW Outreach Program are charged $569 a credit hour (for a 4-hour course, the charge would be $2,276).  Students in the MSW Outreach Program typically take two courses per semester.

Is financial aid available for MSW students? How are those decisions made?

The School of Social Work has a competitive financial aid program which results in several of our students receiving some type of aid that does not have to be repaid. Included in the possibilities are grants, assistantships, fellowships, stipends, tuition waivers, and endowed awards. Financial aid is available on the basis of academic merit and experience and not financial need. Some awards are for first-year students exclusively, while other forms are reserved for current students. Only full-time students on campus are eligible for financial aid.

What can you tell me about the faculty?

The faculty at the School of Social Work is comprised of a diverse group of innovative scholars who share one common trait: they are highly approachable, student-focused professors.  They hold advanced degrees in social work, law, business administration, public health, psychology, and public administration. They regularly publish in a variety of premier journals.But most of all, they are committed to teaching excellence and mentoring students for academic and professional success. Both caring and effective, they conduct research about critical issues facing Illinois and the nation, such as:

  • The quality of life of low-income families
  • The safety and well-being of abused and neglected children
  • The development of interventions for treating vulnerable adolescents and young adults with substance use disorders
  • The assessment of parenting risk in parents with mental illness

Our faculty serves the citizens of Illinois, helping to meet community needs, educating students for public service, and sharing the School’s resources with the community.

What are the advantages of a pursuing a MSW degree at our School of Social Work?

Our MSW program is ranked 17th in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. We use the latest research to inform best practice and arm you with the skills you need to be a successful leader in the field of social work – be it as a practitioner, advocate, policymaker, or community organizer.

  • We have earned a national reputation for providing excellent education
  • Our award-winning and student-focused faculty guides you through the program, helping you build the skills you need
  • Our unique internship structure allows you great input into your experience and prepares you for success in the field
  • Our vibrant student organizations and active alumni association are valuable resources for you throughout your years here and throughout your career

What are the advantages of a pursuing a graduate degree the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign?

The University of Illinois is rated by U.S. News & World Report as the 11th-best public university in the nation, and the 41st-best overall. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is where world-class academics meets thriving micro-urban diversity in the arts, culture, and technology.  With a combined population of 180,000, the twin cities feature a variety of theaters, restaurants, and concert arenas, as well as more than a dozen major museums and art galleries. The two cities also offer more than 80 parks and recreation facilities, and the University of Illinois is ranked as one of the most disability-friendly campuses in the nation. Urbana-Champaign is ranked as both a Top 10 Green City and a Top 10 Tech City.

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