University of Southern California
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Master of Social Work

The program of study which leads to the Master of Social Work degree consists of five interdependent content areas which continue for two years (four semesters or equivalent). The program is available at three locations: University Park, the Orange County Center and Skirball Center in West Los Angeles. The basic curriculum of the first year introduces students to the range of social welfare problems and programs, and to the varieties of human behavior with which social work is concerned. At the same time, students learn the methods by which the social worker, the social agency and the organized community work with people and problems. Field instruction, under supervision in a social agency, is scheduled for two or three days a week, enabling students to apply theory to practice. All content areas include content on diversity, social work values and ethics, and economic justice and populations at risk. At the end of the first year, students are expected to have acquired a sense of professional responsibility and the ability to use knowledge on behalf of the individual, the group and the community.

In the second year, the curriculum is planned to combine areas of concentration around major intervention systems with the generic base obtained in the first year of study.

The second-year curriculum plan offers five advanced practice concentrations at the University Park campus: family and children; health; mental health; community organization, planning and administration (COPA); and world of work in corporate, industrial, union and public environments social work. At both the Orange County Center and Skirball Center, selected courses in one concentration are offered. Students who attend first-year courses at the Orange County Center and Skirball Center will take some or all concentration courses at University Park. There are also four sub-concentrations at University Park: social work practice (1) with the aging; (2) with severely and persistently mentally ill; (3) in school settings, which meets the academic requirements for the Pupil Personnel Services Credential necessary for social work practice in the public schools of California; and (4) in public child welfare. Students designate their choice of concentration by the end of their first year. The basic second-year curriculum (required courses and field instruction placement) will be determined by this choice of concentration; elective courses are available as part of the second-year curriculum. Research requirements will also be related to concentrations.

This system of curriculum offerings provides a strong educational program with a continuing commitment to a generalist base and a focused set of concentrations, in combination with a range of options to meet special interests. This program enables graduates to move into the social work community with a combination of knowledge and skills in a broad arena, as well as in-depth knowledge and skills in a particular method or area of service.

The curriculum builds on a liberal arts foundation which all entering students are required to have. Specific instruction in human biology is required. In addition, the applicant should have a range of undergraduate courses in the humanities and the social and physical sciences.

General Requirements

The requirements for the Master of Social Work degree are: a minimum of 63 semester units of courses, including field education (1050 clock hours) and a research course or project which demonstrates the student's comprehension and use of methods of research appropriate to social welfare data.

The degree is not awarded solely on the basis of credits earned but requires evidence of competence in both theory and practice. At their discretion, the faculty may require courses or field work or both beyond the minimum requirements.

Time Limit

The master's degree program requires two academic years of full-time study or a structured part-time program which must be completed in a maximum of four years.

Grade Point Average Requirement

In accordance with the requirements of the Graduate School, a grade point average of 3.0 (A = 4.0) is required for admission to the School of Social Work. Likewise, the university requires an overall GPA of 3.0 for graduation from the master's degree program.

Course Requirements

Course requirements are organized in five interdependent content areas which continue throughout the two years: social work practice, social welfare, human behavior and the social environment, research and field work.

A typical first-year program includes two courses in social work practice; two courses in social welfare, policy and organizations; two courses in human behavior; two semesters of field work; two semesters of field work seminars; and one course in research methods.

Accepted applicants who believe they have had the equivalent of the school's first-year course material (SOWK 503, SOWK 505, SOWK 533, SOWK 535, SOWK 543, SOWK 545, SOWK 562, SOWK 586ab and SOWK 587ab) from an accredited B.S.W. program, and who can provide evidence through submission of course descriptions and outlines, may petition to take equivalency examinations. Students who pass these examinations need not repeat the course work and can substitute other university courses to meet degree requirements.

In the second year, students enroll in advanced practice courses organized around an area of concentration. Students must take two courses in social work practice, one course in human behavior, two special topics courses, two semesters of field instruction, one semester of research (or a two semester project), one course in social policy, and one course in community organization, planning and administration.

Academic credit is not granted for life experience or work experience in lieu of the field practicum or any other courses in the curriculum.

Field Education

Field education is an integral part of the Master of Social Work curriculum. Two year-long field education courses are required. In the foundation year the field courses include: 16 hours per week in field placement and participation in a field seminar on campus. In the concentration year, students are typically in placement 20 hours per week. Field education takes place in selected agencies and centers, located throughout the county of Los Angeles and the surrounding counties, which represent the complete range of social services. Field placements are approved on the basis of the quality of their professional practice, their commitment to social justice and to addressing social work problems, their interest in participating in professional education and their ability to make personnel and resources available. Field instructors, who are employed either by the agency or the school, are responsible for teaching students in their field placements. The assistant dean for field education is administratively responsible for all field assignments.

Each placement in field education is made on an individual basis which takes into consideration the following: geographic location, previous experiences, future goals, professional interests, special needs and stipend requirements. In these placements, students engage in selected and organized social work activities that provide practical experience in applying skills learned in the classroom.

Foundation field placement is made by the school with the view of building a generalist foundation in direct services through providing practice experiences in a continuum of modalities including work with individuals, families, small groups and communities and with a diversity of client populations and treatment issues. All students are required to spend a minimum of 15 hours per semester in macro practice.The generalist experience also encompasses a range of theoretical concepts and models to develop breadth of learning and establish a broad base for practice. This field course is a prerequisite for entry into the concentration placement.

The concentration field placement is made collaboratively by the school, the agency and the student with the view of developing the special knowledge and depth of skill needed for professional practice in a designated area of concentration. This advanced experience is designed to build on the student's foundation year and to develop knowledge and skills within the concentration area the student has selected.

Students must participate in an appropriate practice class concurrently with the field course, and in a field seminar during the foundation field course. Satisfactory performance in both foundation and advanced field courses is required for all students earning the Master of Social Work degree, including those enrolled in dual degree programs.

Southern California comprises an extensive geographic area, and public transportation is a limited resource. Students need access to an automobile for field placement.

A student must complete and receive credit for a minimum of 450 hours in the foundation year and 600 hours in the concentration year of field placement in order to be awarded the Master of Social Work degree.

Research Requirement

The research requirement consists of two courses. In the first year of study SOWK 562 is designed to impart knowledge of research methodology and statistics. In the second year, students are required to enroll in a one-semester research course or a two-semester research project.

Transfer Students

Applicants who have recently completed part or all of the first half of graduate study at a CSWE-accredited school of social work may apply as a transfer student. In addition to materials described in the section on application procedures, transfer students should forward course syllabi and a bulletin of the school for the year in which the course or courses were taken.

A maximum transfer credit of 12 semester units may be applied for those courses determined to be equivalent to USC's first-year courses or to meet the expectation of the second-year electives. The grade point average for any course taken at another school of social work must be at least 3.0 on a 4.0 grading scale. Where foundation courses are similar, but not equivalent, transfer students may be permitted to take a waiver examination for possible exemption from those courses. Transferred credit for field work will be computed on the basis of clock hours completed as well as on the breadth and depth of contents covered.