Jun 26, 2019  
2018-19 CATALOG 

Social Work, M.S.W.

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Program of Study

The Master of Social Work (MSW) program at CSUSM is designed to develop culturally competent, ethical, and effective professionals for direct social work practice with diverse populations. The MSW program prepares students for direct practice in a variety of settings including public, private, and nonprofit agencies and organizations, in social services, child welfare services, human services, healthcare, and mental/behavioral health.

The Master of Social Work is offered through Extended Learning.


The Mission of the Master of Social Work program at California State University San Marcos is to provide an academic and professional education of the highest quality to students seeking to become committed social work professionals engaged in direct social work practice in culturally, economically, and socially diverse urban and rural environments, especially in the Southern California region. 

The MSW program specialization is advanced generalist, which prepares students for a broad scope of practice in a variety of settings. Program emphases are also available in children, youth, and family, and behavioral health.

Working primarily in public, private, and nonprofit agencies, MSW graduates help diverse individuals, families, organizations, and communities recognize their strengths, access needed resources, improve functioning, and reach their goals and full potential.


Program Goals

The following six program goals are based upon the mission of the MSW program. These goals are intended to further operationalize the mission and are applicable to both the foundation and advanced curriculum.

  1. To prepare students for evidence-based practice in private, public, and nonprofit organizations responding to social problems inclusive of poverty, mental illness, child abuse, and family instability;
  2. To prepare students who understand the impact of racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression and discrimination, and have the skills to address the social problems resulting from these forms of oppression;
  3. To prepare students who understand the role that economic, political, and various social systems contribute to social and economic justice and injustice;
  4. To provide social work practitioners equipped with relevant research, knowledge, skills, and ethical values to meet diverse social service needs in San Diego and Riverside counties;
  5. To provide practitioners who have prevention and intervention skills to assist individuals, families, and groups in achieving life goals and resolving distress;
  6. To provide practitioners who are effective change agents committed to social justice and life-long learning in increasingly complex, culturally, economically, racially, and socially diverse communities.

Student Learning Outcomes

The Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) for social workers are defined by the national accrediting body, the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) and encompass the following 9 competencies:

1. Demonstrate Ethical and Professional Behavior

2. Engage Diversity and Difference in Practice

3. Advance Human Rights and Social, Economic, and Environmental Justice

4. Engage In Practice-informed Research and Research-informed Practice

5. Engage in Policy Practice

6. Engage with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities

7. Assess Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities

8. Intervene with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities

9. Evaluate Practice with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities

Admission Requirements and Application

Admission into the Master of Social Work program requires an undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited college or university. Computer literacy is expected. The appropriateness of undergraduate preparation and relevant experience will influence admission to the program.

Specific admission criteria are:

  • Applicant must meet the general requirements for admission to graduate studies at CSUSM.
  • Overall minimum undergraduate grade point average of 3.0 in the last 60 semester (90 quarter) units completed.
  • Completion of an undergraduate course in statistics, preferably in the social and behavioral sciences.
  • TOEFL/TWE if appropriate with a minimum TOEFL score of 550 and a 4.5 on the TWE.
  • Submission of a completed MSW program application.
  • One set of official transcripts from college and universities attended with official verification of graduation.
  • A personal statement stating the applicant’s reasons for pursuing the MSW degree, describing the applicant’s relevant work/volunteer experience, and demonstrating the applicant’s past academic performance. The personal statement must conform to the guidelines as specified in the Admissions Packet.
  • Three letters of recommendation; including either two academic and one professional, or two professional and one academic reference letter. (Please note: personal references will not be accepted.)
  • A resume including volunteer, internship, or other paid or unpaid experience in social work or human services positions.
  • In accordance with Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) standards, the MSW program does not grant academic credit for previous life or work experience.

Advanced Standing Applicants
In addition to meeting the above admission requirements, advanced standing applicants:
• Hold a Bachelor of Social Work degree from a CSWE accredited institution received within the past 5 years.
• Overall minimum undergraduate grade point average of 3.5 in the last 60 semester (90 quarter) units completed.

Degree Requirements and Courses

The Master of Social Work (MSW) is a graduate program that may be completed in one, two or three years. The one-year option, or advanced standing, requires 30 units of the advanced curriculum.  The two-year program option consists of 30 units in the generalist foundation year and 30 units in the advanced year which focuses on advanced generalist practice. 

For the three-year curriculum, students will take 18 units of course work during the foundation year that is divided into fall, spring and summer semesters. During the second and third years, students will complete field internships, and will take 24 units in the second year, and then 18 units during their final year. 

Students must maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA in the MSW program, earn credit in all Field Instruction courses and Culminating Experience course(s) and earn at least a C (2.0) in all other required courses to graduate. Any units applied to the MSW program and not earned in residence at CSU San Marcos must have approval by the student’s graduate advisor and the MSW Program Director or designee. All requirements for the MSW degree must be completed within five years from starting the MSW coursework. Those students electing to complete a traditional qualitative or quantitative thesis must secure IRB approval, have supervision by a thesis advisor, and successfully complete an oral defense of their thesis. Students not doing a traditional thesis must successfully complete a comprehensive exam. 

During the program, students will complete all required hours of field experience in local and regional social services or related agencies or organizations. 

Advancement to Candidacy

The student will advance to Master’s Degree candidacy upon the completion of foundation coursework, satisfying the Graduate Writing Assessment Requirement (GWAR), and approval of a Thesis proposal by the student’s Thesis Advisor, if applicable. The GWAR may be completed either by an acceptable standardized test score for the Analytical Writing subtest of the GMAT or GRE, or a paper(s) that receive(s) a passing score as described in University policies.


Students must maintain a 3.0 GPA and a grade of at least C in all classes; if the cumulative GPA falls below 3.0 for two consecutive semesters, the student will be dropped from the program. A student who earns less than a C in any course will be allowed to repeat the course one time with the next cohort. Students may repeat up to two (2) courses, where less than a C grade was earned, in order to meet graduation requirements. Failure to pass the course a second time with a C or better will provide justification for disqualification from the program. Students must be continuously enrolled unless they apply for a leave of absence. Students who are not continuously enrolled, or who have a leave of absence of longer than two semesters, must petition the program for continuation. All requirements for the degree must be finished within five years after the beginning of any coursework in the graduate program. The program will disqualify an enrolled student whose academic achievement or field practicum performance does not meet the minimum standards of the social work profession.

Course of Study

Full-Time (2 Year) Program

Students in the advanced standing program complete Year 2: Advanced Year Courses only. Students in the full-time (2-year) program will proceed with the graduate coursework in the following manner: 

Part-Time (3 Year) Program

Students in part-time (3-year) program will proceed with the graduate coursework in the following manner:

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