Master of Social Work


You are invited to learn more about the Master of Social Work (MSW) degree at Western Michigan University by attending a virtual information session, or scheduling an individual session with our Manager of Recruitment and Outreach.

 RSVP for an INFO SESSION  Start Your Application   More information


The WMU School of Social Work offers the MSW program in Benton Harbor, Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo. Note: While a number of courses are currently offered online due to COVID-19 safety concerns, WMU School of Social Work does not offer an entirely online degree program at this time.


Locations and Pathways

Field education

Field education is a significant, impactful and engaging part of social work education. You will practice the knowledge, skills and values of the social work program and learn to be a professional social worker in practice.

This intensive focus on field education is unique in social work education, and is what makes it our signature pedagogy. Note that most internships require daytime availability.

Learn more about fieldwork

There are several pathways to your MSW degree. Learn more here.


All program options are now available at all three locations.

Admissions requirements are the same for both the full-time and extended study advanced standing programs. When you apply, you will select a program and location. Our programs operate in cohorts, which means you will traverse your program with the same group, which builds a sense of friendship and community. However, it also means that changing programs or locations can only be considered if space becomes available in another cohort. Requests to change program or location cannot be guaranteed.

Learn more about our program options below:

Standard Master of Social Work (60 Credits)

The graduate professional program in social work at WMU prepares you for direct-service and leadership positions in the field of social welfare. It begins with a 24-hour foundation curriculum, including classes on human behavior, social policy, culture/ethnicity, research and social work practice and introduces different approaches to problem solving. This foundation will prepare you to choose between two concentrations: clinical practice or policy, planning and administration.

Field education provides opportunities for practical experience under supervision by a seasoned social work professional in a human service setting. In this program, you will complete a 400-hour internship over two semesters, followed by a 500-hour concentration internship over two more semesters.

The School of Social Work admits students once a year, with classes starting each fall. There are two different ways to schedule your program - either full-time (2 years, 12-15 credits per semester) or part-time/extended study (3 years, 6 credits per semester year-round).

Advanced Standing Master of Social Work (39 Credits)

If you received a BSW degree from a Council on Social Work Education accredited school within the last six years, with a minimum GPA of 3.25 (using the most recent 60 credits) and have only one social work course grade below a B, you are eligible to apply for the advanced standing program. This 39-credit program builds on the BSW foundation courses, allowing you to complete your MSW faster than students without a BSW.

In this program, you will complete one 500-hour internship over two semesters. 

The School of Social Work admits for this program once a year, with classes starting each summer 2 session (July). There are two different ways to schedule the program - either full-time (10 months, 12-15 credits per semester) or part-time (2 years, 6 credit per semester).


Policy, planning and administration

This concentration prepares you for leadership in government, nonprofit and community organizations and empowers you to facilitate changes in the structures and processes of organizations, communities and society to contribute to:

  • a just distribution of resources and opportunities.
  • the ability of officials and the citizenry to understand and respond appropriately to the human condition.
  • the provision of opportunities and resources to troubled or disadvantaged people to help them cope with personal and social barriers to the betterment of their condition.

Learn more

Clinical social work

This concentration prepares you for advanced clinical practice with individuals, families and groups within diverse community contexts. Clinical practice emphasizes transactions between people and environments, preparing you to develop practice knowledge and skill in

  • the promotion and enhancement of psychological, social, and biological well-being.
  • the amelioration of psychological, social, and biological dysfunction.
  • the integration of theory, practice and research knowledge.

Learn more


Built into your MSW program are nine elective credit hours. You may select any graduate-level courses relevant to your degree, or you can work toward a specialization. Most specializations are only nine credit hours and do not extend the time to graduation. 

Clinical practice students may choose any specialization. PP&A students may only choose holistic health specializations because internships required for the other specializations would likely interfere with their programs. Click below to learn more.

College of Health and Human Services collaborative specializations

  • Trauma Across the Lifespan


    Nine credit hours of approved trauma courses

    • SWRK 6500, and SWRK 6379
    • five additional credits of trauma-approved courses
    • Courses apply to MSW elective credits

    MSW Clinical Concentration Field Placement (500 hours)

    • Students complete their placement with a TALS approved organization
    • Placement must use a trauma-focused approach
    • Placement supervised by a trauma-trained clinician
    • Many placements available
  • Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy


    Five credit hours of approved trauma courses

    • SWRK 6500, 6378, 6379
    • Courses apply to MSW elective credits

    MSW Clinical Concentration Field Placement (500 hours)

    • Placement supervised by a TF-CBT-trained clinician
    • Students may simultaneously earn TALS by taking four additional trauma-approved courses
    • Many placements available
  • School Social Work

    What is school social work?

    School social work is a specialized field of practice where social workers provide support to children to help them achieve their goals. Social workers assess for learning barriers and equip the child and their family to advocate for support. With specific training in systems theory, special education law, and school law, school social workers help schools to draw connections between human development, education, justice, mental health and families.

    State approval for school social workers

    Western Michigan’s MSW program fulfills the educational component of the state requirements for approval as a school social worker. Detailed Michigan Department of Education requirements can be found at Note: If you seek approval in another state, please contact that state’s licensing board.

    Complete state eligibility requirements

    • Completed MSW degree
    • At least one interpersonal practice course (grade "B" or better)
    • Completion of school social work courses SWRK 6200, SWRK 6210, SWRK 6220 (grade "B" or better)
    • 500 hours at a qualifying internship with children (school setting preferred) 

    Temporary Approval as a School Social Worker

    • Send the Recommendation for Temporary Approval as a School Social Worker form (REC:SSW 310) to WMU School Social Work Coordinator
    • WMU will grant REC:SSW 310 if all requirements have been met (valid for 5 years)
    • Obtain a job as a school social worker (SSW). This employer will complete the REC:SSW 310 form
    • MDE will grant temporary approval as a SSW

    Approval as a School Social Worker

    • Complete one full year of employment in a school setting under the supervision of a fully approved school social worker
    • If you meet the requirements, your employer will apply for full approval status
    • The Michigan Department of Education will issue full approval
    • Maintain your approval status by remaining employed as a school social worker

    Course Offerings

    • Summer I: SWRK 6200 (hybrid) - 1 section
    • Summer II: SWRK 6200 (hybrid) - 1 section
    • Fall: SWRK 6210 (hybrid) - 1 to 3 sections
    • Spring: SWRK 6220 (hybrid) - 1 to 3 sections

    Note: Courses should be taken in the order offered. Students should contact their academic adviser or program coordinator if they need to request an exception. 

    Approval Renewal

    If you do not secure and maintain employment as a school social worker, refer to the information below for renewal options.

    • 0-5 years since school work employment:
      No refresher needed. Use original 310 University Recommendation form to apply for employment and temporary approval.
    • 6-9 years since school work employment:
      Complete a refresher course. WMU does not currently offer refresher courses. Submit verification of coursework and field placement completion or work experience verification to WMU. WMU will issue a new 310 University Recommendation form.
    • 10+ years since school work employment:
      Repeat all coursework and field placement or work experience verification, completing all steps in the approval process.

    WMU Alumni seeking school social work training

    WMU currently offers the school social work training as continuing education courses. You must have completed at least 500 hours in an approved school social work setting or worked with children under the supervision of a licensed social worker within the past five years to take the courses. After completing the courses, you can continue with the steps indicated in the chart to be approved as a school social worker. Please visit our CE page for more information -


  • Other specializations in the college

Interested in learning more about graduate trauma programs? Contact Dr. Karen VanDeusen at

The courses below are approved and satisfy requirements for the trauma specializations in the MSW program. These courses are available to all MSW students.

  • Approved graduate trauma courses
    • SWRK 6350 - Core components and Skills for trauma-Informed Practice (3 credits)
    • SWRK 6351 - Secondary Traumatic Stress and Self-Care in Trauma- Focused Practice (1 credit)
    • SWRK 6352 - Trauma and Neurodevelopment / Trauma and Neurodevelopment (1 credit)
    • SWRK 6353 - Integrating Mindfulness with Treatment for Trauma / Mindfulness (1 credit)
    • SWRK 6354 - Integrating Body-based Interventions with Treatment for Trauma (1 credit)
    • SWRK 6355 - Intimate Partner Violence: Assessment and Intervention (1 credit)
    • SWRK 6356 - Assessment and Treatment for Adult Survivors of Sexual Trauma (1 credit)
    • SWRK 6357 - Trauma and Military Social Work (1 credit)
    • SWRK 6358 - Risk Assessment and Treatment Planning for Adolescents with Sexually Abusive Behaviors (1 credit)
    • SWRK 6359 - Strengthening Trauma-Informed Organizations
    • SWRK 6361 - Intergenerational Trauma: Assessment and Intervention in Indigenous Communities (1 credit)
    • SWRK 6362 - Play Strategies for Trauma Practice with Children and Adolescents (1 credit)
    • SWRK 6363 - Black Adolescents and Trauma (1 credit)
    • SWRK 6364 - Trauma and Refugee Populations (1 credit)
    • SWRK 6365 - (pending) Trauma and Sexual and Gender Minorities (1 credit)
    • SWRK 6366 - (pending) Human Trafficking and Trauma Practice (1 credit)
    • SWRK 6378 - Integrative Seminar in Trauma-Focused Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (1 credit - available only for TF-CBT students)
    • SWRK 6379 - Integrative Seminar in Trauma Studies (1 credit - available only for TF-CBT and TALS students)
    • SWRK 6500 - Core Concepts of Child and Adolescent Trauma (3 credits)

Mission, vision and goals

The mission of the masters program is: we value scientific inquiry, service, integrity, ethics, competence and the power of justice to educate and co-create a diverse, equitable, and accessible Program focused on human rights and enhanced quality of life for persons and communities, locally and globally. 

Our vision is a learner-centered school that develops social work leaders to impact social, economic, environmental, and racial justice through excellence in research and practice.

The goals of the masters program are to:

  1. provide a professional education that prepares advanced practitioners to enhance, advocate, and support social, economic, and environmental justice and personal well-being for all people.
  2. prepare advanced practitioners who demonstrate the knowledge, skills, values, cognitive and affective processes necessary to work effectively with diverse, vulnerable, and marginalized populations. 
  3. prepare advanced practitioners who possess the needed knowledge, embrace social work values, and have the requisite skills needed to formulate and realize a vision of a just society. 
  4. prepare ethical, reflective, and competent advanced practitioners in Clinical Social Work to work with individuals, families, and groups; and in Policy, Planning, and Administration to work with organizations, communities, and institutions within a global and changing environment
  5. prepare advanced practitioners to effectively engage, assess, and intervene with individuals, families, groups, organizations, communities, and institutions by utilizing evidence-based knowledge and theories and guided by trauma informed, culturally responsive, and anti-racist models of practice.
  6. prepare advanced practitioners with the knowledge, skills, values, cognitive and affective processes necessary to engage in practice informed research and research informed practice, and the ability to evaluate social work practice at micro, mezzo, and macro system levels. 
  7. prepare advanced practitioners who are grounded in a cultural-bio-psycho-social-spiritual framework, understand the historical roots of the social work profession, and can analyze, develop, and utilize social policy to advance justice policy to advance justice.