Search Google Appliance


MSW FAQs



General questions about the MSW program.

Questions about the application process.

Are all of the MSW program options at Portland State University accredited?
All options in the School of Social Work are currently accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.

Where do social workers find employment?
Graduates of our program work in a variety of settings inlcuding early intervention services; schools; juvenile and adult corrections; inpatient and outpatient mental health; child and family services; hospitals and hospice; programs serving the homeless; domestic violence and sexual assault programs; services to developmentally delayed individuals; case managment with all populations; services to older adults; substance abuse programs; and work with immigrants, refugees and veterans.

What concentrations are offered?
The Distance Option only offers the Clinical Social Work Practice concentration.

The Online Option only offers the Community and Organizational Leadership practice concentration.

The Portland Option offers students advanced course work and field placements in four concentrations:

  • Clinical Social Work Practice
  • Practice and Leadership of Community Organization
  • Social Work with Children, Youth, and Families
  • Health Across the Lifespan

Do you have an Advanced Standing Option?
The Portland Option offers an advanced standing option to individuals who have graduated from an accredited BSW program within five years of application to the MSW program. Applicants must have a GPA of 3.00 in BSW coursework, and preference is given to applicants with at least 2,000 hours of human service experience. The requisite hours can be gained through paid employment, internships and/or volunteer work. Advanced Standing applications must be postrmarked no later than January 3, 2015.

Can I work while attending the MSW program?
The School recognizes that many students will need to work part time while attending the MSW program. If you will be working while attending the program it is important to have flexible work hours to accommodate the class schedule and the field placement.

Do you offer dual masters programs with other PSU programs?
The Portland Option offers a joint master's program with the Masters in Public Health in Health Promotion or Health Management. To apply to the joint program you must complete two applications: one for the MSW program and a second for the MPH program. The MPH programs require submission of GRE scores. The dual program will require a minimum of three years to complete.

It is also possible for Portland Option students to pursue a Peace Corps Masters International while in the MSW program. Students complete 72 credits of the 78-credit MSW program, followed by two years of service in the Peace Corps. At the end of Peace Corps service, the student completes a reflection project. This is the final assignment for the dual degree. This option is open to students in the Community Based or Social Service Administration and Leadership concentrations.

See the lower half of the Study Options page for information on the MSW/MPH and the MSW/PCMI.

Does the MSW program offer any certificate programs?
Portland Option students can complete a Certificate in Gerontology in conjunction with their MSW studies. For most students, the certificate can be completed in the same time frame as the MSW program. Click here for more information on the certificate options. We also offer a study plan for students who would like to receive a school social work licensure.

Does the Distance Option allow me to earn my MSW degree online?
No. Students must attend classes at one of the distance sites. Some coursework is completed online, at each instructor's discretion.

How long does it take to complete the MSW program?
The Portland Option offers 2, 3 and 4 year options. Visit Study Options for specific information. Day and evening classes are offered on the PSU campus. We cannot guarantee that a student can take all coursework in the evening. We do not offer weekend or online courses. The school year is divided into three terms beginning in late September and ending in mid June.

The Online Option is a 3 year program. Courses are fully online, including face-to-face meetings with faculty. Students take courses during the fall, winter, spring and summer terms.

The Distance Option is a 3 year program. Class days and times vary, depending on which distance site you attend.

What type of undergraduate education will best prepare me for the MSW program?
You must have a baccalaureate degree with a liberal arts perspective from an accredited college or university to be considered for admission to the MSW program. Applicants must have successfully completed 6 quarter credits (or 4 semester credits) from each of the following three curricular areas:

  1. social and behavioral sciences;
  2. natural sciences; and
  3. humanities and fine and performing arts.

For information on specific courses, see Coursework For Liberal Arts Requirements. In addition, the undergraduate degree must include a minimum of 50 quarter credits (or 34 semester credits) from any combination of these three areas.

What is the minimum GPA for the MSW program? 
The MSW program does not have a minimum GPA requirement. We use an applicant's upper division GPA to predict the likelihood of success in the MSW program. Students are provisionally admitted to the School of Social Work pending the University's decision to admit an applicant. Applicants with an undergraduate GPA of 2.75 can be admitted to PSU as a regular degree student. Students are admitted conditionally if the undergraduate GPA is between 2.50 - 2.74. When admitted conditionally, a student has nine graded hours to achieve a GPA of 3.0.

On occasion, the School of Social Work can petition the University to admit an individual whose cumulative GPA falls below 2.50.     

Is experience in the field of social work a requirement for admission? 
In the application process, preference is given to those applicants who have volunteer, paid, or internship experiences related to social work. We hope that applicants have the equivalent of at least one year of experience at the time of application.

Do I have to undergo a criminal background check? 
Please see the Criminal Records and Disclosure to Potential Field Placements information sheet.

How much credit can I get from graduate courses I've taken in the past? 
Admitted students may petition for transfer of up to 6 quarter credit hours of graduate courses taken from the PSU School of Social Work prior to admission to the School. Petitions for transfer of these credits must be submitted during fall quarter of the first year of study after the student has consulted with his/her faculty advisor. Credits from a previous master's degree cannot be applied to the MSW program.

Is it possible to take classes prior to being admitted to the MSW program?
Occasionally, we may have space in an elective course on the Portland Campus. If a course has openings, information will be posted on our website outlining the registration process.

When are the MSW classes scheduled?
First-year Portland Option students attend classes on campus Mondays, Tuesday evenings and Wednesdays. Classes generally meet once weekly and most are scheduled in three- hour time periods. Foundation, policy, and two of the generalist practice classes are four hours. Multiple sections of most required courses are distributed in these time periods, and it is possible for the student to build a course schedule to accommodate part-time work and other responsibilities.

We encourage students to plan to be on campus more than one day a week. We cannot guarantee that a student can schedule all classes in one day.

Please visit Ashland, Bend, Eugene or Salem to determine class times and dates for each of these sites.

What is field and when will I do my field placement? 
Field is shorthand for Field Education, the internship component of the MSW program. Every student completes two nine month internships while in the MSW program. The Field Office works with each student to secure a field placement that will meet their interests and learning goals. Students are expected to spend 16 hours each week at their field placements (typically this is two full work days but individual arrangements and schedules are negotiated between the student and the field agency). Most practicum sites observe an 8 am to 5 pm work day.

Is it possible to use my job as my field placement?
The Employed Social Work (ESW) option is available to students for one of the two years of field placement. In this option, students may be able to use their social work employment site as their field placement if certain conditions are met. This option is only available one of the two years of field placement. See Field Education for more information.

How much is tuition? 
Visit Tuition, Fees and Paying For Your Education for further, detailed information on the 2013-2014 tuition and fees. Also, visit PSU Financial Aid to review information on financing your education. It is critical that you know the cost of your education and plan ahead by taking an honest look at your finances and calculating the cost of attending PSU. Although some students receive student financial aid that covers the full costs of their education, many students will receive less than the estimated cost of attendance due to federal and state fund limits and fund availability.

How difficult is it to get into the MSW program?
In the past, we have had more qualified applicants than we were able to accept. Generally, we admit one out of every three (1:3) students who apply to the Portland Option and a similar ratio in the Distance Option.


When is the application deadline?
Complete applications must be postmarked no later than February 1, 2015 for admission fall 2015. Advanced Standing applications must be postmarked no later than January 3, 2015 for admission summer 2015. Late applications are not accepted.

Can I apply to all of the options: Portland, Online and Distance?                                                                       No. Applicants can apply to only one option.

I'm filling out the coursework section of the MSW program application and have a question about which course goes under what curricular area.
View the Coursework For Liberal Arts Requirements to determine how courses are classified. We only need to see that you have successfully completed 6 quarter credits (or 4 semester credits) from each of the three curricular areas. In addition, the undergraduate degree must include a minimum of 50 quarter credits total (or 34 semester credits) from any combination of the three areas mentioned above.

I graduated from a school that used narrative transcripts. How do I calculate my GPA?
Applicants who attended institutions using non-graded transcripts do not complete the GPA sheet. The full narrative transcript should be submitted with your application. We will evaluate your academic performance based on instructor reviews.

I'm having difficulty getting one of my transcripts and fear I will not be able to submit it to you by the February 1st deadline. Should I send my application without it?
If you are unable to obtain an official transcript by the deadline, please include an unofficial student copy and submit it with your application by February 1. Once you receive the official transcript(s) send them to the MSW program to complete your admission file. Your file will be considered incomplete until we receive the official transcripts.

Do I need to take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE)?
GRE scores are not required for admission to the MSW Program. For applicants who believe their undergraduate GPA does not represent their ability to do graduate level academic coursework, GRE scores may be helpful. If you choose to take the GRE, please submit scores to the MSW program with the application packet. Applicants applying to the combined MSW/MPH options will need to take the GRE for submission with the MPH application.

I do not have an academic reference. What should I do?
If you do not have an academic reference, ask one of your references to include information on those skills you often use in work settings such as report writing, speaking, training, research, etc.

The application deadline is approaching and I'm missing one letter of reference. Should I wait until that reference arrives before I submit my application?
No. Send your application in by February 1 (January 3 for Advanced Standing) with a note about the missing reference. When the reference arrives, send it to us. We will consider your application incomplete until all materials arrive. Once we have all application materials, we will begin processing your application.


What does the Admissions Committee look at when they review an applicant's file?
Admission selection is based on:

  • academic success - past performance (GPA) and future potential;
  • relevant social work experience - extent and quality
  • references - from academic and social service professionals who can attest to your ability to succeed in a graduate program and your suitability for the profession, and
  • statement of purpose - expressing your values, beliefs, and personal congruence with the mission of social work.

When will I know if I've been admitted into the MSW program?
Applicants will be informed by email of the SSW Admissions Committee decision. Applicants are notified of decisions at end of April. Please note: Application packets must be complete before an applicant will be considered for admission.

I mailed my application and want to know if it was received. Should I call?
No. Please do not call to see if we have received your application. This only slows the process of entering applications into our database. Most years we receive more than 600 applications and it will take 3-4 weeks to open all applications and enter each one into our database.

All applicants will receive notification via email once the application has been input into our database and the initial audit is performed to determine if the application is complete. Please wait for the email notification. Additionally, we do not track any items sent individually as the application is required to be complete when submitted. Thus, it's important to follow the instructions carefully and send a complete application. If your email address changes, please email your new address to Erika Gitchell.

I decided not to attend the MSW Program at PSU. Could I have my application returned to me?
Once an application is received it becomes property of the University and may not be returned to the applicant. Additionally, we do not provide copies of the application materials to the applicant. Applicants are encouraged to make copies of their application (with the exception of the confidential letters of reference) for record keeping prior to submission. Once an applicant is admitted as a student in the MSW Program, she/he has access to a student file in which the application is kept. If a student waives the right to review the letters of reference at the application stage, those letters will not be available for a student's review.

If I am admitted can I defer my admission?
We do not offer deferment. Your application is retained for one year. If you chose to reapply to the program, you may use materials from your previous application for the next year’s application.