Master of social work

The central mission of the master of social work program is the preparation of students for advanced social work practice and leadership in the following areas: clinical mental health; community practice; families and children; health, disability and aging. See MSW program mission statement.

Our program places particular importance on preparing social work professionals—case managers, policy analysts, clinicians, and community organizers—to have a practical understanding of how power and privilege, and their opposites, shape the roles that all of us play in society.

We strive to create a learning environment that is diverse in all aspects, and we use this environment to help all students develop the sensitivity and skills necessary to work effectively in diverse communities.

Our program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

School of Social Work students share their experiences in the department. Since opening in 1917, School of Social Work "challenges students in the best way possible," encouraging constant learning and growth, and providing resources and education necessary for students to succeed.
Anna Lifson
The University of Minnesota's MSW program quickly emerged as my top choice, due to the strong reputation of the program, the connections available through a research-intensive institution, and the relative affordability. I'm very happy with my choice!

Anna Lifson, MSW
Alumni 2017

Program outline

Program options

Our MSW program offers a full-program option for students who have not completed a bachelor's in social work (BSW) or an advanced standing consideration for students who have completed a CSWE-accredited BSW degree in the last seven years and earned a grade of B or higher in their foundation courses. (Any foundation course that was graded a B- or below will have to be retaken in our program.) Students in both program options can choose from full- or part-time study.


MSW courses are scheduled all day Thursday–Saturday. Some courses are also offered on Monday–Wednesday evenings. MSW students will not be able to take courses exclusively during weekday business hours, or exclusively during evening and Saturday hours.

Students can often create a course schedule that meets their needs. All students, however, will have at least some evening courses during their time as a graduate student. Most students will have Saturday courses at some point in their graduate career.

Students taking a field practicum are generally expected to be in field on Mondays–Wednesdays. Some field placements offer evening and weekend hours, but almost every field placement will require some time in the agency during regular Monday–Friday business hours.

Important note for advanced-standing students who choose the clinical mental health concentration:
The advanced-standing curriculum is designed to be completed in three semesters (summer-fall-spring, or fall-spring-summer). For advanced-standing students who choose the clinical mental health concentration, the semester that they start the MSW program will depend on when they choose to do their field practicum. The options are:

  • Advanced-standing CMH students who want to do their field practicum during the fall and spring semesters must start taking classes in the summer semester so they can complete the prerequistes for field. They should plan to complete about six to seven credits in the summer session.
  • Advanced-standing CMH students who want to do a summer field practicum, can begin taking classes in either the summer or the fall semester. Their summer field practicum will be nine credits.
  • In all cases, a student may not begin as a degree-seeking student unless all required pre-requisites (human biology and statistics, and sometimes writing) have been completed successfully.
  • Concentrations

    All MSW students choose a concentration from one of the following areas:

    Clinical mental health

    Learn contextually based approaches to mental health diagnostic assessment, treatment and practice evaluation, with a strong focus on client systems experiencing significant mental health risk.

    Community practice

    Improve the effectiveness and responsiveness of human service systems to mobilize groups for social change and to serve as catalysts for sustainable development and social justice.

    Families and children

    Work with families and children in a range of settings and organizations, as well as influence relevant organizational structures and policies.

    Health, disability, and aging

    Work with people affected by distinct and interconnected issues related to health, disability and aging.

    Program highlights

    Field instruction

    Partnering with social work agencies around the Twin Cities and throughout neighboring states, the field instruction brings your classroom learning into practice. Field placement hour totals range from 600 to 960 hours, depending on your program option.

    Dual degrees

    The school offers dual degree programs with two nationally recognized departments at the University of Minnesota–the School of Public Health and the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. The dual degrees offered are Master of Social Work/Master of Public Policy (MSW/MPP), Master of Social Work/Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MSW/MURP), Master of Social Work/Master of Public Health (MSW/MPH).

    Curriculum grounded in social justice

    Our program rests on the principle that a just society is one that provides for the basic human needs of all citizens and that all persons should have equal opportunities to share in society’s social, political, and economic goods.

    Diverse student body

    Our graduate students come from Minnesota, across the nation, and from around the world, giving the learning and research experience depth and breadth in lived experiences and perspectives. Our student body and environment helps all students develop the sensitivity and skills necessary to work in diverse communities.

    Program handbooks and forms


    MSW class schedules

    Clinical content

    Our clinical content chart documents how coursework meets the requirements for the Minnesota social work license. This is intended only as a guide, and requirements are also often met through continuing education and workshops. You can compare this chart to the Minnesota Board of Social Work requirements.

    MSW program assessment data 2018 [PDF]