Jul 22, 2024  
2022-2023 Catalog 
2022-2023 Catalog [ARCHIVED 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 informed, 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 Social Work, M.S.W. is offered through the office of Extended Learning.


Grounded in principles of social and economic justice, the mission of the Master of Social Work program at California State University San Marcos is to prepare competent, committed, and conscientious social workers who engage in ethical and reflective advanced generalist practice. Responsive to a diverse and multicultural society, our program focuses on community engagement, service, advocacy, leadership, and research that enhances the well-being of individuals, families, and communities in Southern California and beyond.

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

  1. The goals of the MSW program are to prepare advanced generalist practitioners who:
    1. Identify as professional social workers committed to reflective, ethical, conscientious, and collaborative practice.
    2. Are grounded in core social work values and principles including: person in environment, strengths perspective, cultural humility, self-determination, recovery, and trauma informed approaches.
    3. Serve as leaders engaged in empathic, competent, interdisciplinary, and research-informed practice.
    4. Are committed to advancing social, economic, and environmental justice, promoting human rights, and engaging in social action that motivates and empowers culturally, economically, and socially diverse communities.
  2. Engage in research and service activities that enhance social work practice and the well-being of individuals, families, and communities.

Program Student Learning Outcomes

The Program Student Learning Outcomes (PSLOs) 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

Professional Licensure and Certification 

Notice to Students about Professional Licensure and Certification, please access https://www.csusm.edu/socialwork/licensure.html for more information.

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 personal statement prompt.
  • 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 must have:
• A Bachelor of Social Work degree from a CSWE accredited institution received within the past 5 years.
• An 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 admissions committee chair 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 Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement – Graduate Level (GWARGL) , and approval of a Thesis proposal by the student’s thesis advisor, if applicable. The GWARGL 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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