Question: Are there any MSW programs in School Social Work?

Answer: Yes, there are 69 schools of social work that offer MSW programs with a specialization in school social work. Of these schools, 14 offer online MSW programs in school social work. For students who want to earn their MSW in school social work, licensure/certification is a key consideration, as school social work licensure is different from clinical social work licensure, and states vary in terms of their requirements for school social work licensure and/or credentialing. This is particularly important for online MSW students specializing in school social work, as they must make sure that the MSW program in which they enroll prepares them for the school social work licensure requirements of their state of residence.

School social workers are trained specifically in working with children to support their mental, emotional, and social health within an academic environment; their work also encompasses collaborating with families and teachers to develop student success plans, and to both prevent and intervene in situations wherein students’ psychological, emotional, familial, or socioeconomic challenges negatively impact their performance in school. Trained specifically to work in primary and secondary school environments, school social workers must wear many different hats on the job, between counseling, intervention planning, coordinating with teachers and school administrators, and connecting students’ families to community support systems as necessary.

Due to their many important responsibilities and the fact that children’s education is regulated at the state level, school social workers typically need to earn a state-specific certificate or other credential that is distinct from a clinical social work license. In some cases, this may mean that social workers seeking school social work positions might need to earn both a clinical social work license from their state’s board of social work, behavioral science, health professions, or equivalent organization, as well as a school social work or school personnel-related credential, typically from their state’s board of education. School social work credentialing varies by each state’s board of education, which has implications for students who wish to earn their MSW in school social work online.

Licensure for School Social Workers

As mentioned previously, as school personnel working with children, school social workers are required to earn a specific credential in school social work from their state’s board of education. Each state has its own standards and practices as they pertain to school social work credentialing, and the title of the credential for school social workers also tends to vary. For example, in California, school social workers must earn a Pupil Personnel Services Credential (PPSC), while in Pennsylvania school social workers are required to hold a PK-12 School Social Worker Educational Specialist Certificate.

To illustrate the range of differences between states’ credentialing requirements for school social workers, the following table provides school social work credentialing information for three states, California, New York, and Pennsylvania. Prospective school social workers should keep in mind that the information provided before is a summary provided for informational purposes only, and that they should always consult their state’s board or department of education for the most detailed requirements for school social workers. In addition, prospective students should consult with admissions officials at each of their programs of interest, to confirm that a program’s curriculum contains the content and training required by their state’s board of education for school social work licensure/certification.

State OrganizationCredential TitleRequired Experience, Education, & Credentials
California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC)Pupil Personnel Services (PPS) Credential
  • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  • Post-baccalaureate study of at least 45 semester credits in a CTC-approved PPS program specializing in social work, including a practicum working with school-aged children
  • A recommendation from the school offering the CTC-approved PPS program the candidate attended
  • Meet a Basic Skills Requirement through passing a standardized test or taking relevant coursework
  • Clearance of a Live Scan fingerprint process
New York State Education Department (NYSED)Phase 1:Provisional Certification as a School Social Worker

After two years, social workers are eligible to apply for Phase 2

Phase 2: Permanent Certification as a School Social Worker
Provisional Certification:

  • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  • A minimum of 30 semester hours of graduate coursework in social work
  • Conferral of a MSW from a CSWE-accredited institution
  • A graduate-level social work internship wherein student works with school-age children
  • Completion of three training workshops: Child Abuse Identification, School Violence Intervention and Prevention, and Dignity for All Students Act
  • Fingerprint Clearance

Note: After holding a Provisional Certification as a School Social Worker and completing two years of full-time Pupil Personnel experience as a School Social Worker, candidates are eligible to apply for permanent Certification

Permanent Certification:

  • Obtain a Licensed Master Social Worker credential through NYSED
  • Completion of three training workshops: Child Abuse Identification, School Violence Intervention and Prevention, and Dignity for All Students Act
  • Fingerprint Clearance
Pennsylvania Department of EducationPK-12 School Social Worker Educational Specialist Certificate
  • A master’s degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited program
  • Licensure as a LCSW or LSW through Pennsylvania Department of State, Bureau of Occupational Affairs

For students who are already enrolled in an MSW program that does not fulfill the curricular and field experience requirements for the school social work credential in their state, post-MSW school social work-specific programs may be available. For example, in California, there are several schools of social work that offer post-MSW programs, such as University of California at Berkeley’s Post-Masters Pupil Personnel Services Credential Program and the Pupil Personnel Services Credential Program at San Jose State University.

MSW Programs in School Social Work

MSW programs in school social work can generally be categorized into one of the three following types:

  • MSW Programs with a Formal Specialization in School Social Work: These programs have a formal specialization, concentration or certificate in school social work, consisting of targeted courses that provide students with the training to qualify for licensure as a school social worker in their state of residence. Due to the state-specific nature of school social worker credentialing, many of these programs may state explicitly that they prepare students for a particular state’s school social work credential. For example, MSW programs in school social work in California might specifically call out the fact that they prepare students for California’s Pupil Personnel Services Credential.
  • MSW Programs with a Sub-Specialization, Track or Certificate in School Social Work: These programs have a specialization in a broader field, such as Advanced Generalist Social Work; Individuals, Families, and Groups; Child and Youth Welfare; or Transcultural Systems, while also providing an optional sub-specialization or track in school social work. As with MSW programs that offer formal specializations in school social work, MSW programs with sub-specializations in school social work tend to have coursework that prepares students for school social work credentialing in their specific state.
  • Post-MSW Graduate Programs for School Social Worker Credentialing: As mentioned previously, MSW students and graduates who want to work in school settings but who did not specialize in school social work during their MSW degree program have the option of enrolling in a post-MSW graduate program for state-specific school social worker credentialing. These programs generally consist solely of specialization coursework in school social work, and a field practicum experience in a primary or secondary school setting.

Note: Depending on the state, there may be MSW programs that offer electives in school social work without a distinct specialization or sub-specialization in school social work. Because of the stringent requirements that each state has with regards to school social worker credentialing, students specifically interested in school social work should research these programs carefully to determine if they will provide the education and training necessary for licensure in their state of residence.

Campus, Hybrid, and Online MSW Programs in School Social Work

The majority of MSW programs in school social work are campus-based programs, in that students are required to attend all or most of their classes in-person. At present, 69 schools offer campus-based MSW programs with specializations or sub-specializations in school social work (this includes programs that combine online and in-person instruction), and 14 schools offer online MSW programs.

MasterofSocialWork.com defines an online program as any program that utilizes fully online instruction and requires two or fewer visits to campus per year. Hybrid and online MSW programs typically provide students with additional scheduling flexibility and day-to-day time savings compared to fully on-campus programs that require students to commute to campus for lectures and discussion sessions.

Examples of online MSW programs in School Social Work include:

  • The University of Southern California’s Online Master of Social Work with an Area of Study in Children, Youth and Families and a Track in School Social Work: This program focuses on cultivating students’ skills in child welfare, mental health assessments, and both preventative methods and interventions to promote the well-being of students in school settings. Students of the School Social Work track take courses that cover social work in early child care and education settings, school violence prevention and intervention, and school social work practice. They are also required to complete a field placement of at least 300 hours in a school or school-related agency environment. Graduates of this program and specific track are qualified to earn their PPSC in school social work as well as a PPSC credential in child welfare attendance from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
  • Aurora University’s Online Master of Social Work with a Track in School Social Work: This program prepares students to earn their Professional Educator License (PEL), and is approved by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to prepare social workers for counseling children and their families, conducting psychosocial health assessments, and designing interventions at the individual, group, and school-wide levels for a variety of student demographics. Students take courses in social work practice with the exceptional child, reading instructional methods for school social workers, and school social work policy and practice. They are also required to complete an Advanced PEL Field Instruction.
  • The Ohio State University’s Online Master of Social Work with an Area of Emphasis in Child and Youth Services with a School Social Work Licensure Track: This program is approved by the Ohio Department of Education to prepare students for state certification as a school social worker. Students take courses in child welfare and youth services, social work intervention models, and partnership building and care coordination between school, students, parents, and community resources.

Note: Due to the variances in state requirements for school social worker credentialing, online MSW programs with a school social work concentration may not accept out-of-state students to their school social work track. Even if an out-of-state MSW program does accept their application, prospective students should always review their state’s requirements for school social workers in order to confirm that the out-of-state program will provide the necessary curricular content and field education experience to qualify for their state’s school social work credential.

Students who are interested in online MSW programs in school social work should note that online instruction has two modes: asynchronous and synchronous. Asynchronous instruction is defined as any course content that can be accessed and/or completed on students’ own schedules, as long as they abide by assignment deadlines. Examples of asynchronous instruction include self-paced course modules and discussion boards wherein students can contribute on their own time.

Synchronous instruction is defined as course content that students must attend in real-time; examples of such instruction include live video lectures and discussions, as well as virtual group projects and exams that students must attend online at a specific time. Online MSW programs in school social work vary in terms of their ratio of asynchronous to synchronous instruction. For more information these two instructional modes, including considerations and pros and cons for each, please refer to our FAQ on Instruction Methods for Online MSW programs.

Curriculum Details for MSW Programs in School Social Work

School social workers are tasked with many important responsibilities to ensure students’ safety, academic success, and mental, emotional, and social well-being. Their short-term and long-term tasks include but are not limited to the following:

  • Conduct mental and emotional health assessments of students, taking into consideration family structure, socioeconomic factors, cultural influences, interpersonal relationships, and developmental history.
  • Design and implement individual, group, and school-wide interventions to address students’ needs.
  • Provide crisis support and emergency assistance to students and school staff as necessary, including conducting risk assessments and developing staff trainings for crisis management.
  • Develop and deliver educational programming to students, teachers, and school staff regarding important issues impacting students’ mental, emotional, and behavioral health, such as depression and suicide awareness workshops, substance abuse prevention programs, sexual health seminars, and diversity and inclusion presentations.
  • Provide case management services to at-risk students and their families. Counsel students’ parents and/or caregivers to help them support their children’s educational success plan.
  • Connect students and their families to community resources that support student learning and wellness.
  • Advocate for students and promote productive collaborations between schools, community organizations, social welfare agencies, and students and their families.

MSW programs in school social work prepare students for the above tasks through targeted coursework. The majority of school social work MSW programs focus on micro-level, direct practice, as school social workers work primarily with individual students and their families, as well as student groups and teachers. However, MSW programs in school social work can also have courses on mezzo and macro-level concepts and skills such as educational program development and community partnership building. The foundational coursework for MSW programs in school social work tend to align with the coursework for MSW programs in clinical social work, advanced generalist MSW programs, and/or individual and group practice MSW programs.

Below is a chart outlining sample program requirements for an MSW program in school social work. This chart is provided for informational purposes only, and may not represent all the possible curricular requirements for MSW programs in school social work.

Curriculum ComponentExample Courses and Field Education Requirements
Core Courses
  • Human Behavior and the Social Environment
  • Social Work Research Methods
  • Social Work Practice with Individuals, Groups, and Families
  • Child and Youth Mental Health Care Practice
  • Social Work Policy and Advocacy
  • Clinical Social Work Methodologies
  • Child Welfare and Youth Services
Concentration Courses
  • Social Work Practice in School Settings
  • Social Work in Early Childhood Education
  • School Social Work Policy, Practice, and Advocacy
  • School Social Work Practice with At-Risk Youth
  • Models of School Social Work Intervention
  • Diversity, Social Justice, and Cultural Competence in School Social Work
Elective Courses
  • Trauma and Crisis Prevention, Treatment, and Intervention
  • Substance Abuse and Addictions
Field Education Requirements
  • Foundational Field Practicum with Integrative Field Seminar
  • Advanced Field Practicum with Integrative Field Seminar

Foundational Classes for MSW Programs in School Social Work

As mentioned previously, MSW programs in school social work tend to have core classes that focus on micro-level social work practice with individuals, groups, and families. Students of these programs learn about human developmental psychology, human behavior in the context of the social environment, and the foundational skills of mental health assessment, counseling, and case management. Examples of courses that students can complete as part of their foundational MSW curriculum include but are not limited to:

  • Human Behavior and the Social Environment: Human psychology and development across the lifespan, and the role that family, culture, and community play in humans’ mental, emotional, and behavioral health. Students learn to apply a human-in-environment perspective to client situations to understand the interplay of biology, psychology, and society.
  • Social Work Research Methods: The core research methods that support social workers in their identification and evaluation of client challenges and the development of evidence-based interventions. In this course, students explore the key issues that children, youth, and families experience, and evidence-based methods for addressing these issues and providing effective client support.
  • Social Work Practice with Children, Youth, and Families: Students examine and discuss the interplay between child, family, and community, and the role of the social worker in supporting the mental and physical health of children in collaboration with their family unit. How to counsel and assist families in preventing and addressing mental, behavioral, and/or socioeconomic challenges affecting children’s well-being.
  • Clinical Social Work Methodologies: The process of conducting bio-psycho-social assessments and applying the findings from these assessments to the development of effective interventions for individuals, groups, and families. Students also explore the intervention design, implementation, and evaluation cycle, during which they monitor client progress and adjust treatment plans accordingly.

Specialization Classes for MSW Programs in School Social Work

Specialization courses for MSW programs in school social work prepare individuals to apply micro-level social work methods and mezzo-level program development and client advocacy to school settings. Such courses include but are not limited to:

  • Social Work Practice in School Settings: Students explore the therapeutic frameworks for working with students in school settings. They also discuss historical and contemporary challenges in the American school system and the role of the social worker in addressing these challenges. Social work interventions and care coordination are placed in the context of student development and success.
  • School Social Work Policy, Practice, and Advocacy: School policies as they relate to the school social worker’s role, and how school social workers can serve as an advocate for students and their families. How social work policy intersects with education policy at the individual, school, and state-wide levels, and how they impact students and their families.
  • School Social Work Practice with At-Risk Youth: This course emphasizes work with youth who have experienced trauma or who are going through particular mental, emotional, and/or behavioral difficulties. Identification of and interventions for student depression, substance abuse, cyberbullying and bullying, domestic abuse, school violence, and anxiety are several of the topics covered.
  • Diversity, Social Justice, and Cultural Competence in School Social Work: Students in this course examine the important issues of diversity, social justice, multiculturalism, equity, and equality in academic environments. They discuss how to promote an open, accepting, and equitable environment for students and teachers in primary and secondary school settings.

Field Education for MSW Programs in School Social Work

MSW programs in school social work require students to complete at least one field practicum experience in a school or school-related agency environment. Specific requirements for field education hours vary by MSW program. In addition, state boards of education vary in terms of the field practicum hours they require for social workers to obtain school social work licensure or certification. As a result, students who wish to work in school social work need to identify how many practicum hours their state board of education requires for school social work credentialing, and to plan accordingly with their MSW program advisor to ensure they fulfill sufficient hours to meet those requirements in a school or school-relevant agency setting.

For more information on field education requirements for MSW programs, including the field practicum placement process and strategies for succeeding in field education, please refer to our guide: Field Education: Translating Pedagogy into Practice.

All MSW Programs in School Social Work

T Traditional programs, Advanced Standing programs, Campus programs, Hybrid programs (campus and online instruction), Hybrid-Online programs (3 to ~6 campus visits per year), Online programs (fully online to 2 campus visits per year)"]
Filter By Program Type:

California

California State University, Fresno

(Fresno)

California State University, Monterey Bay

(Marina)
Department: Department of Social Work
CSWE Accreditation Status: Fully Accredited
Programs:

San Francisco State University

(San Francisco)

Illinois

Chicago State University

(Chicago)
Department: Department of Social Work
CSWE Accreditation Status: Fully Accredited
Programs:

Governors State University

(University Park)

Illinois State University

(Normal)
Department: School of Social Work
CSWE Accreditation Status: Fully Accredited
Programs:

Lewis University

(Romeoville)
Department: Department of Social Work
CSWE Accreditation Status: Fully Accredited
Programs:

Loyola University Chicago

(Chicago)
Department: School of Social Work
CSWE Accreditation Status: Fully Accredited
Programs:

University of Illinois at Chicago

(Chicago)
Department: Jane Addams College of Social Work
CSWE Accreditation Status: Fully Accredited
Programs:

Kansas

Maryland

Morgan State University

(Baltimore)

Massachusetts

Salem State University

(Salem)
Department: School of Social Work
CSWE Accreditation Status: Fully Accredited
Programs:

Michigan

Michigan State University

(East Lansing, Lansing, Flint)

New York

Adelphi University

(Garden City, Hauppauge, New York City (Manhatten), Poughkeepsie)
Department: School of Social Work
CSWE Accreditation Status: Fully Accredited
Programs:

North Carolina

Ohio

Case Western Reserve University

(Cleveland)
Department: Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences
CSWE Accreditation Status: Fully Accredited
Programs:

Pennsylvania

Tennessee