Dec 09, 2022  
Graduate Catalog 2021-22 
Graduate Catalog 2021-22 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Master of Social Work (SWKM)

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Departments and Programs

Admissions and Student Services
Jennifer Klauth, Manager of Recruitment and Outreach
Room 4430, CHHS Building
(269) 387-3201

The Master of Social Work program in professional social work is designed to prepare students for direct service and leadership positions in the field of social work. The program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. The curriculum is structured as an integrated and sequential set of conceptual and practicum educational experiences. In preparing students for practice, the School of Social Work recognizes a variety of theoretical paradigms and values and welcomes the challenge and benefits of intellectual and philosophical diversity. It supports students in their personal synthesis of these paradigms and values. In addition, the School stresses development and dissemination of social work knowledge and practice skills.

All students must demonstrate mastery of a set of competencies and practice behaviors, as required by our accrediting body, the Council on Social Work Education. The graduate program prepares students for specialized and advanced levels of practice. It also incorporates a foundation curriculum, built on a liberal arts base. The foundation has two goals: 1) To provide students with the knowledge, values, and skills leading to an informed perspective on the profession of social work; and its service delivery systems, and 2) to prepare students for entry into the concentrations.

There are two concentrations in the graduate program: 1) Clinical Social Work (SWCM) and 2) Policy, Planning, and Administration (SWPM). These concentrations build on the foundation curriculum and are the vehicles through which students learn the specific advanced skills of their chosen area of concentration.

The Clinical Social Work concentration prepares students to become informed practitioners and leaders in working with individuals, families, and groups.  Practice courses in the concentration are designed to provide expert competencies in Clinical Social Work. Such competencies include the ability to assess situations, carry out appropriate interventions, and evaluate one’s own practice framework, strategies, and results when working with clients.

The Policy, Planning, and Administration concentration has four essential components: 1) Organizational leadership and management, 2) program planning, 3) analytic tools and technology, and 4) policy practice. The desired outcome of the Policy, Planning, and Administration concentration is the empowerment of practitioners to facilitate changes in organizational, community, and societal structures and processes that contribute to a just distribution of opportunities and resources.

The School of Social Work offers a 15-credit specialization in trauma practice across the lifespan. This specialization is available to MSW students who elect the Clinical Social Work concentration. The specialization consists of nine credits of elective courses focused on trauma (these are applied to the nine credits of electives required for the MSW degree) and a concentration-level field placement (6 credits, applied to the 6 credits of concentration-level field placement required for the MSW degree) that meets criteria for trauma-informed practice. Three of the nine elective credits would be met by taking one course: SWRK 6500 - Core Concepts of Child Trauma. Students who wish to pursue the trauma specialization may need to travel to Kalamazoo or Grand Rapids campus locations to complete the full nine credits of trauma-related elective courses required for the specialization.

In addition, graduate social work students have an opportunity to participate in social work-related graduate certificate programs. Included are Alcohol and Drug Abuse (SPADA), Integrative Holistic Health and Wellness, Nonprofit Leadership and Administration, Gerontology, and School Social Work.

Admission Requirements

Applicants for graduate study in social work must complete an online application that can be obtained through the School of Social Work’s home-page. In addition to the University’s requirements for admission to a master’s degree program, the following criteria will be considered:

  1. Evidence of adequate academic preparation for graduate study in social work. This includes consideration of undergraduate performance, liberal arts academic background, and proficiency in professional writing. A minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0 is required for admission into the 60 credit Full time or Extended Study MSW program unless otherwise approved by the Admissions Committee.
  2. Evidence of personal qualifications considered desirable for successful social work practice. These include motivation for a human service profession, personal maturity, and leadership ability.
  3. Students who have earned a Bachelor of Social Work from a CSWE accredited program within six years of application may apply to the 39-hour, Advanced Standing Program. Applicants must meet the following criteria:   
    • B.S.W. degree from a CSWE accredited program that was awarded not more than six years prior to the date of application to the WMU School of Social Work
    • Overall grade point average of 3.25
    • If applicant has one BSW course below a “B,” they will be required to retake an equivalent course in the MSW curriculum. Applicants are not eligible for the Advanced Standing program if they have earned more than one BSW course below a “B.”
    • One year of full-time post-BSW human service work experience is recommended
    • One of the three letters of recommendation must be from the applicants BSW program field instructor or faculty liaison.

Full time and extended study students must declare their concentration during the spring semester of their first year of study. Advanced standing students will start their concentration coursework during fall semester.

Applicants may seek admission to either the main campus program or the extended university campuses (Grand Rapids Regional Campus and Southwest Campus program). The application deadline for the full-time and part-time advanced standing programs is October 15 for early decisions (we will have a decision to you be December) and the final deadline is January 15. Admission is granted for the summer II session only for advanced standing students. All classes for the extended study programs convene during evening hours. Due to the rigorous demands of this program, those who plan to be employed full-time should apply to the part-time advanced standing program.

The early application deadline for the 60 credit hour standard MSW program, both extended study and full-time, is October 15th. The final deadline for the standard MSW program is February 15. Admission is granted for the fall semester only for applicants to the full-time and extended study programs. Full-time students begin their program in the fall semester and proceed for two calendar years. Extended study students begin their program in the fall semester and proceed for thirty-eight months. Due to the demands of this program, those who plan to be employed full-time should apply to the extended study programs.

Program Requirements

  1. The successful completion of 60 hours of credit is required for the conventional master’s degree in social work.  The degree program includes the following course credits:
    • Required Foundation Courses in the School of Social Work (21 hours)
    • Required Concentration Courses in the School of Social Work (15 hours)
    • Elective Courses in Social Work or in other University departments (9 hours)
    • Advanced Social Work Research (SWRK 6420 for 3 hours)
    • Field Education (12 hours:  6 in the Foundation and 6 in the Concentration)
  2. Students admitted to the advanced-standing program complete a minimum of 39 credit hours of required graduate courses.
  3. Field Education: Graduate field education is an essential component of social work education and provides students with an opportunity to integrate classroom learning with practice in the field. All full-time and extended-study students are required to complete two field placements for a total of 900 hours over a two-year period during the fall and spring semesters. All advanced-standing students are required to complete one field placement for a total of 500 hours during the fall and spring semesters. The field placement is considered a required course and is taken concurrently with required course work according to the advanced-standing, full-time or extended plan of study. Students are also encouraged to explore the School of Social Work’s trauma specialization or school social work specialization and the university’s certificate programs, some of which have concurrent field placement requirements. Foundation field is graded according to the regular University grading structure, and Concentration field is graded Credit/No Credit.
  4. One academic year of full-time study (up to 30 credit hours), including first-year field education, may be accepted for transfer from other accredited graduate schools of social work if the credits were earned with degree status. Anyone seeking admission as a second-year student should request program information and complete all application procedures. Where transfer credit and equivalency are being requested, the applicant’s documentation will be reviewed by the school’s curriculum committee.
  5. Students may take up to 9 hours of credit under Non-degree status before admission is offered. An additional 3 hours of credit under Non-degree status (up to a maximum total of 12 Non-degree hours) may be taken and transferred in after the student receives an offer of admission. Please contact the Manager of Recruitment and Outreach in the School of Social Work for information regarding available classes for Guest Students.

Re-Admission Criteria

In addition to the normal readmission application required by the university at large, students seeking readmission to the School of Social Work after an expired leave of absence, unapproved leave of absence, or academic dismissal must submit a new summary statement detailing the reason for their leave and proposal to successfully complete the program. Contact the Manager of Recruitment and Outreach for more details.

Program Options

Full-time and Part-time Advanced-Standing Program

Students who have earned a bachelor of social work degree from a CSWE-accredited program within six years of application may apply to the 30-credit hour, 12-month full-time or 22-month part-time Advanced-Standing program.

The full-time advanced-standing program was established in 1996 and the part-time advanced-standing in 2006. Both programs consist of 39 credit hours. In the advanced-standing programs, all foundation courses are waived. However, students take two specially designed bridge courses that prepare them for entry into the advanced concentrations, and complete a 500-hour field placement between fall and spring semesters.

Full-time MSW Program

The 60-credit hour graduate program requires 20 months of study. Depending on the concentration chosen, students take 12 - 15 credit hours during each semester and six credit hours in the Summer I session. Due to the rigorous demands of this program, those who plan to be employed full-time should apply to the Extended-study program.

Sequentially ordered, the courses are scheduled to complement and build upon field education experiences. Students must follow the program schedule as written by the School of Social Work. Variations are possible only with advisor approval.

Extended-study Programs

Financial and other considerations may make full-time study difficult for some students. To meet this need, the School of Social Work offers an Extended-study program whereby students may complete the M.S.W. degree with course work in 32-34 months. Students attend evening classes and are expected to meet the same course and degree requirements as full-time students. Applicants may seek admission to either the Kalamazoo campus, the Grand Rapids campus or the Southwest campus.

Field education takes place Fall and Spring semesters in the second and third years of the program. Field placements are usually available in the students’ home communities. For those employed in a human service agency, it may be possible to arrange for a work-study field practicum in the location that would satisfy one of the two required placements. In such situations however, it is necessary for the field education agency to have clear policies and procedures to ensure that the field experience is completely separate from the student’s regular employment. For further information please go to

Financial Aid

Financial aid is available to a limited number of qualified students. Information regarding the various types of available assistance may be obtained by contacting the Office of Student Financial Aid or the Manager of Recruitment and Outreach in the School of Social Work.

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Departments and Programs