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State of Wisconsin Credentials


The Helen Bader School of Social Welfare (HBSSW) offers a program of graduate studies in social work. As a department in an urban research university, the mission of the Department of Social Work is to promote positive change through social work research, scholarship, education, and community partnerships. The Department promotes the values of the social work profession through a commitment to social justice and diversity, a dedication to public service, and an emphasis on individual and community well-being. The goal of the MSW program is to prepare graduates with specialized knowledge and skills for advanced practice and leadership with diverse populations and communities.

In furtherance of its mission, the goals of the Social Work Department are:

  1. To educate students to become highly skilled, culturally competent, and ethical social workers and to provide leadership for the practice of social justice.
  2. To create and disseminate knowledge leading to social work and inter-disciplinary innovations.
  3. To engage in research and apply results that inform social work policy, practice, advocacy, education, and future research.
  4. To collaborate with community partners in promoting evidence-informed practice, educational and research partnerships, and social and economic justice.

HBSSW offers students access to the University computer system, special interview training rooms, and specialized audiovisual materials.

The MSW curriculum is designed to prepare students for advanced-level professional Social Work practice, and builds upon a solid base of coursework in human behavior, practice methods, research, and policy. The MSW program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and can prepare students for state certification requirements.

Admission Requirements 

Application Deadlines

Application deadlines vary by program, please review the application deadline chart for specific programs. Other important dates and deadlines can be found by using the One Stop calendars.


Applications will be made to both the Graduate School and the MSW program via a single application in the UWM Graduate School Panthera system. The MSW program accepts applications for the Fall semester only. MSW applications open in the Panthera system October 1. For priority consideration, applications are due by January 3. Second priority applications are due by the final deadline of March 1.  Applicants must meet Graduate School and MSW program requirements for admission, including:

  1. Undergraduate grade point average of 2.75 or better.
  2. Completion of at least 21 semester credits in the social and behavioral sciences (i.e., psychology, sociology, political science, economics, anthropology, and/or their equivalents).
  3. Submission of a program application which includes two letters of recommendation, a narrative statement, and a comprehensive professional resume.

Please see complete requirements and instructions for applying on the MSW program web page before starting an application.

Credits and Courses

The MSW program requires a minimum of 34 graduate credits for students admitted to the Advanced Curriculum. Students may be required to complete up to 22 credits to fulfill the Professional Foundation prior to beginning the Advanced Curriculum. The minimum 34 Advanced Curriculum credit requirements are distributed as follows:

SOC WRK 722Field Instruction II3
SOC WRK 821Field Instruction III3
SOC WRK 822Field Instruction IV 13
SOC WRK 711Direct Social Work Practice I3
SOC WRK 712Advanced Practice and Leadership in Organizations and Communities3
SOC WRK 795Evaluation of Social Work Practice and Programs3
SOC WRK 851Social Issue and Policy Analysis:3
Select 13 credits of graduate social work electives 213
Total Credits34

The capstone requirement is satisfied by SOC WRK 822.


Electives outside of social work can be approved by advisor.

Professional Foundation

Students admitted into the graduate social work program without having earned a bachelor’s degree from an accredited social work program within the past 5 years are required to fulfill the Professional Foundation prior to Advanced Curriculum coursework (see below for exemptions). The purpose of the Professional Foundation is to orient students to the profession and to provide a knowledge, values and skills base in preparation for the Advanced Curriculum. Coursework in the Professional Foundation is not included in the 34 Advanced Curriculum credits required for completion of the MSW degree. The Professional Foundation courses are:

SOC WRK 604Social Systems and Social Work Practice3
SOC WRK 662Methods of Social Welfare Research3
SOC WRK 665Cultural Diversity and Social Work3
SOC WRK 705Individual Behavior and Social Welfare3
SOC WRK 708Social Work Methods I: Individuals and Families3
SOC WRK 709Social Work Methods II: Groups, Organizations and Communities3
SOC WRK 721Field Instruction I3
SOC WRK 750Social Welfare Policy Development and Implementation3
Total Credits24


Students who have, within the 5 years preceding admission, completed coursework which substantially duplicates Professional Foundation courses may apply to the MSW Program Coordinator for an exemption from the relevant courses. Exemption examinations are also offered on a scheduled basis for these courses. Exemption of the field experience (SOC WRK 721) may be permitted under special employment experience circumstances and only by permission of the Director of Field Programs. Students interested in securing an exemption should request course exemption forms upon notification of admission to the program.

All requests for exemptions must be made at the time of initial enrollment. Exemption requests will not be accepted following the end of the first semester of coursework.

Elective Pathways

The MSW Program at UWM is anchored in core courses that build knowledge and skills in crucial advanced social work competencies. Students will build Advanced Generalist competencies related to social work practice with individuals, families, groups, organizations and communities, as well as knowledge and skills in the areas of social welfare policy, social justice, and evaluation of practice and programs. 

Traditional Program Students (Campus-based) 

Beyond the curriculum core, students may choose electives that build a pathway of emphasis for their MSW Degree in areas related to child and family well-being, behavioral and mental health, gerontology, physical health, school social work, clinical social work practice, substance abuse counseling and trauma-informed care. Alternately, students can also choose to build a pathway with varied electives of their choice to broaden and diversify their knowledge and skills across multiple areas of advanced social work practice.

With careful faculty advising, students are able to develop a course of study that builds upon their individualized interests, experiences and strengths.

Online Program Students

Online Program students will take a standard set of elective courses built into their cohort's course plan. Elective courses are selected to represent a spectrum of advanced topics relevant to broad-based social work practice.  

Additional Requirements


MSW students will work with the MSW Advisor for course and curriculum planning, including appropriately sequenced courses and electives for meeting a student’s desired pathway. Additionally, all students will be assigned a faculty member advisor with whom they may consult regarding career pathway development and professional guidance and support.

Time Limit

Students admitted directly into the Advanced Curriculum must complete all degree requirements within seven years of initial enrollment; students required to complete any portion of the Professional Foundation must complete all degree requirements within seven years of initial enrollment.