Master of Social Work (MSW) Programs in Hawaii - Campus and Online

Hawaii is home to two schools located in state capital of Honolulu that currently offer Master of Social Work (MSW) programs: Hawaii Pacific University (HPU); and the University of Hawaii at Manoa (UH Manoa). HPU’s School of Social Work and the Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work at UH Manoa both offer MSW programs that are fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Both schools offer programs in hybrid formats that provide a mix of on-campus instruction and distance-based, online learning, and UH Manoa has a fully campus-based program as well. In addition to traditional MSW programs that do not require a bachelor’s degree in social work, both universities offer advanced standing tracks for qualified students who hold a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree from a CSWE-accredited undergraduate program.

The program offered by HPU has an advanced generalist curriculum, which means it provides training and instruction in clinical and macro practice social work. UH Manoa’s program is also an advanced generalist MSW program. However, students in the UH Manoa program have four specialization options: Children and Families; Behavioral Mental Health; Gerontology; and Health. All of the UH Manoa specializations are available to students who attend the campus-based program; however, the specialization options may be more limited for students in the hybrid program.

Further details about the MSW programs offered by HPU and UH Manoa are provided in the sections below:

Traditional MSW Programs in Hawaii

Traditional MSW programs are full-length graduate degree programs that confer a master’s degree in social work and that do not require students to hold a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) for admission. Like traditional master’s programs in many other fields, MSW programs generally consist of four semesters or eight quarterly terms of coursework and can thus be completed in roughly two years of full-time enrollment. Traditional programs that allow for part-time enrollment generally take three to four years to complete.

Students in traditional MSW programs receive general instruction in the principles and practices of social work during their first year of studies and then move on to advanced training in clinical practice and/or macro practice social work in their second year As part of this general and advanced social work training, students complete a minimum of 900 hours of site-based field education, as required by the CSWE. Both of the schools that offer MSW programs in Hawaii – Hawaii Pacific University and the University of Hawaii at Manoa – have traditional program options.

Hawaii Pacific University (HPU), a private, non-profit university with its main campus in Honolulu, offers a traditional MSW program through its School of Social Work. The program has an advanced generalist curriculum that provides training and instruction in both clinical and macro practice social work and gives students opportunities to prepare for careers in child or adult protective services, mental health, individual and family counseling, and social and human service agency administration. While most of the program’s required classes are offered on campus, they are typically scheduled in the evenings and on weekends in order to accommodate working adults, and some of the program’s courses offer classes via online instruction. The program’s 900 required hours of field education must be completed in person through two separate 450-hour internships at social work agencies approved by the program. Students who enroll full-time in the HPU traditional program can earn their MSW degree in two years; part-time students have three years to complete their degree.

The University of Hawaii at Manoa (UH Manoa), which is the flagship institution in the state-funded University of Hawaii (UH) System, has a traditional MSW program that is offered in two formats. For students who would like to attend all of their classes at UH Manoa’s campus, the university has a fully campus-based option. For students who would prefer to take courses online, UH Manoa offers a Distance Education (DE) option that combines online weeknight classes with occasional face-to-face class meetings at several locations, including the campuses of UH Hilo Hawaii Community College – Palamanui, Kauai Community College, four UH Maui College campuses, and UH West Oahu. The DE option also requires students to attend one residency at the UH Manoa campus per year.

Both of these program options offer the same curriculum: advanced generalist MSW training with specializations in Children and Families, Behavioral Mental Health, Gerontology, and Health. However, depending on when and where the DE program is being offered, students in the hybrid program may not have all four specialization options. Students in both programs are required to complete four semester-long practicums for a total of 900 hours of field education. The campus-based program can be completed in two years of full-time enrollment or three to four years of part-time enrollment. The DE program is a part-time program with a three-year completion plan.

Advanced Standing MSW Programs in Hawaii

Advanced standing MSW programs represent a pathway for students who hold a BSW degree to earn a master’s degree in social work without having to repeat the general coursework and field education that is integral to a CSWE-accredited undergraduate program in social work, but which often overlaps with the first year of a traditional MSW program. Students who are accepted into an advanced standing MSW track are credited with all or most of the courses and field education hours that comprise the first two semesters of a traditional full-length MSW program. By waiving these requirements, advanced standing programs provide qualified students with a shorter pathway to earning their MSW degree. Most advanced standing MSW program tracks can be completed in two semesters of full-time enrollment or roughly one academic year. Part-time students can complete these programs in two years. While field education requirements vary by program, most advanced standing students complete at least 450 hours of fieldwork in their MSW program.

It is important to note that admission to advanced standing programs is not automatic and may be contingent on several factors in addition to holding a BSW degree, such as having maintained a cumulative undergraduate grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or higher on a four point scale, having earned a BSW degree within the past five to seven years, and/or having professional experience in relevant social work and human services settings after their undergraduate degree. BSW program graduates who are not granted admission to an advanced standing program track may have to enroll in a traditional MSW program in order to earn their degree.

Hawaii Pacific University’s (HPU) primarily campus-based MSW program has an advanced standing track that is open to applicants who graduated with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher from a CSWE-accredited BSW degree program in the last five years. In addition, applicants must have achieved a 3.25 cumulative GPA in all undergraduate social work classes and a grade of C or better in a college statistics course. The program has an advanced generalist curriculum that includes coursework in clinical social work with individuals and groups, as well as in social welfare policy and community social work. Students who qualify for the program, which includes one 450-hour field education practicum, can graduate in one year of full-time enrollment. While the program requires students to attend campus-based classes, most classes are held in the evenings and on weekends to accommodate students who have jobs outside of school, and some courses incorporate online instruction.

The University of Hawaii at Manoa (UH Manoa) offers an advanced standing track as part of its advanced generalist MSW program with specializations in Children and Families, Behavioral Mental Health, Gerontology, and Health. Admission to the advanced standing track requires a BSW degree from a CSWE-accredited undergraduate program earned within the last seven years and a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.25 or higher on a four-point scale. The program is offered in a fully campus-based format at UH Manoa’s main campus in Honolulu, and in a Distance Education (DE) format in which students attend evening classes at alternate sites throughout the Hawaiian Islands, including at UH Hilo Hawaii Community College – Palamanui, Kauai Community College, four UH Maui College campuses, and UH West Oahu.

The advanced standing program offered by UH Manoa begins with a summer bridge course and then takes two semesters of full-time enrollment to complete. Part-time students can extend the time to completion by one or two additional semesters. Students who enroll in the DE program may not have a choice of all four of the campus-based program’s specializations, depending on when and where the program is offered.

Additional MSW Options for Residents of Hawaii

Students who are not able to attend the programs offered by HPU or UH Manoa may want to explore the options for earning their degree via an online MSW program that accepts applicants from Hawaii. Online MSW programs allow students to complete their didactic instruction online and field education hours at a local social services agency approved by the program. This means Hawaii residents have additional options for earning their MSW degree without having to relocate to another state.

While some online MSW programs require students to attend a limited number of campus visits, often referred to as residencies, intensives, or immersion sessions, there are programs that require no campus visits. For programs that do incorporate face-to-face sessions, these campus visits are generally short in duration, ranging from two or three days to a week to ten days, and students know well in advance when they are scheduled so that they can plan accordingly. These sessions can be a valuable addition to an online program, especially for students who benefit from opportunities for in-person networking, team-building, and mentorship. On, programs that require two or fewer campus visits per year are classified as online programs.

Online MSW programs are offered in traditional and advanced standing formats and give students access to a full range of specialization options, including clinical practice, macro practice, and advanced generalist practice social work. In addition, there are online MSW programs that offer training in military social work, school social work, and other specialized fields of practice. For details on MSW programs that are offered online by out-of-state schools that accept applicants from Hawaii, visit our Online MSW Programs page.

All Master of Social Work Programs in Hawaii

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