School of Social Work

MSW in Social Work

The University of Southern Maine's School of Social Work is committed to educating culturally competent social work practitioners prepared for multi-level, strengths-based practice that values social justice and the centrality of community and environment in enhancing the well-being of diverse individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. The Master of Social Work (MSW) program will educate and produce advanced social work practitioners.

The MSW program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). The School of Social Work graduate program description and requirements contained here are supplemented by the MSW Handbook, which can be accessed online at http://usm.maine.edu/swo/handbooks. It is important to recognize that students will be held to the policies and standards in this catalog, the MSW Handbook, and the Field Work Manual.

The first-year curriculum provides a broad-based introduction to the social work profession. Students take 31 credits of study. During the first semester, students complete the course, SWO 501 Multicultural Social Work, which provides a framework for integrating and centering the issue of diversity within the profession of social work. Courses taken during the foundation year are:
     SWO 501 Multicultural Social Work
     SWO 502 Critical Thinking about Human Behavior I
     SWO 503 Generalist Social Work Practice I
     SWO 504 Social Welfare Policy I
     SWO 505 Social Work Research I
     SWO 552 Critical Thinking about Human Behavior II
     SWO 553 Generalist Social Work Practice II
     SWO 554 Field Work and Field Seminar I
     SWO 555 Field Work and Field Seminar II
     One Elective Course

During the second-year (i.e. concentration year), students deepen their competency for multi-level professional practice within the advanced social work practice curriculum. Increased emphasis is placed on the development of creativity, critical thinking, valuing diversity, social and economic justice, and leadership. Students are prepared to work with individuals and families as well as organizations and communities. During the concentration year, students complete 30 additional credits including two additional semesters of field work and two electives. In consultation with their advisor, students can select graduate electives in the School of Social Work and/or other University programs. No more than six graduate credits can be taken outside the School, and elective courses should support the advanced social work practice concentration and the individual student's career goals.

Concentration year courses are:
     SWO 603 Social Work Practice III: Group Practice
     SWO 604 Social Welfare Policy II
     SWO 605 Social Work Research II: Social Data Analysis
     SWO 651 Social Work Practice IV: Individuals and Families
     SWO 652 Social Work Research III: The Research Project
          or SWO 695 Thesis Option
     SWO 654 Field Work and Field Seminar III
     SWO 655 Field Work and Field Seminar IV
     Two Elective

Time Requirements

The graduation requirement for the MSW degree is 61 credits, which can be taken in a two-year sequence or a four-year sequence. Students will be admitted as a cohort group either to the two-year or four-year sequence. In rare extenuating circumstances, an extension of the time requirement for completing the MSW program may be granted (see the Student Handbook). The foundation year(s) field placement includes 500 hours and the concentration year(s) placement 600 hours.

The advanced standing program is 30 credits which is the concentration year of the MSW program. Advanced standing students will be admitted either to the one-year or the two-year sequence. The field placement requirement for the advanced standing program is 600 hours.

Once enrolled in the program, a change in sequence requires approval of the MSW coordinator. It should be noted that the two-year sequence and the one-year sequence in the advanced standing program are highly demanding, and work other than part-time is discouraged.

Field Work

Field education is the heart of the MSW program. Professional social work education provides the necessary opportunity for students to apply and integrate classroom learning with social work practice in the community. A range of challenging field work placements exists in innovative and well-established social service agencies throughout Maine. Any decision about the suitability of a proposed placement rests with the School of Social Work.

The field work component of the MSW policies and procedures are detailed in the Field Work Manual that is available through the School of Social Work Web site. All MSW students are responsible for following the policies outlined in the manual.

Graduate Assistantships and Scholarships

A limited number of graduate assistantships are available to MSW students. Graduate assistants must carry a minimum of 6 credits of course work per semester. Duties may involve research and other projects for assisting faculty. Information on various types of scholarships and financial aid is available online at the School of Social Work Web site at http://usm.maine.edu/swo.

Program Policies

The following academic policies supplement and clarify academic policies detailed in the beginning of this catalog.

Advisement

Each student will be assigned a faculty advisor upon admission to the program. Students should maintain regular contact with their faculty advisors throughout their course of study. Additionally, students are required to meet with their advisors each semester before registering courses for a new semester. The advisement session includes discussion of career goals, progress in the program, elective course selection, and change of student status.

Grade Policy: Course Grades and GPA

Students must maintain a cumulative 3.0 GPA in all course work in the program in order to remain in good standing and be eligible for a MSW degree. Students must receive a minimum of B- grade in all courses. Students receiving a grade below B- in a core course must retake the course and receive a passing grade. Students who fall below 3.0  GPA will be placed on academic probation.  If the student fails to bring the overall GPA  up to a minimum of 3.0 by the end of the following semester, she/he may be dismissed from the MSW program. In addition, advanced standing students who fail to receive a minimum grade of a B- in a practice course will be withdrawn from field placement and may lose her/his advanced standing status. The student, upon losing the advanced standing status, may continue in the MSW program, pending the results of an Academic Review. 

Grade Policy: Incompletes

An incomplete grade must be changed to a full grade prior to progression to the next sequential course, unless an arrangement involving the student and the faculty has been agreed upon in writing. Students who do not complete the required work by the designated time will be ineligible for field practicum placement in September.

Academic Grade Appeal Policy

Refer to USM Grade Appeal Policy.

Leave of Absence and Deferment

Graduate students in the School of Social Work must be continuously enrolled in the MSW program, with at least 6 credits every semester. Students who have completed all coursework and have opted to complete a thesis are required to register for GRS 601, a non-credit course that carries a fee and entitles the student to continued access to USM computers, library, and recreational facilities. In extenuating circumstances, a student may petition for a waiver of the continuous enrollment policy; the petition must obtain the approval of the student's advisor and M.S.W. coordinator. A waiver notification will then be sent to the Office of Graduate Admissions. Students who have been accepted into the program may apply to the MSW coordinator to defer the admission for one year only. A deferment notification will be sent to the Office of Graduate Admissions. In order to maintain student status, all students must be enrolled in at least 6 credits toward the degree program, be enrolled in GRS 601, or on a formal approved leave of absence in each semester.

Non-Matriculated Status

Students may take up to 9 credits at USM on a non-matriculated basis. The following three courses are open to non-matriculated students, space permitting:  SWO 501, Multicultural Social Work; SWO 504, Social Welfare Policy I; SWO 505 Social Work Research I.  Non-matriculated students who later get accepted to the MSW program can apply these credits toward the program requirements. The program must review any graduate courses taken outside of the USM School of Social Work to consider applying toward the MSW degree.

Program Scheduling

While the School of Social Work will make every effort to maintain consistency in its course offerings, it is important to note that the scheduling of courses is subject to change at any time without advance notice.

All application materials must be sent directly to the Office of Graduate Admissions by October 15 for admission to the program in September. Notification of admission will not be made until after the deadline for applications. Applications received after the deadline will be reviewed on a space available basis until December 15. Acceptance in the graduate program is competitive.

The graduate program in social work seeks candidates whose baccalaureate preparation, scholastic achievement, professional experience, interest, motivation, and references point to the potential and capacity for success in the MSW program and professional development in social work. The MSW program does not require any exams (GRE, MAT) as part of the application. Candidates must have an earned bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university to be admitted to the MSW. program. Applicants can apply to the program while finishing the bachelor's degree, but, if accepted, enrollment will be conditional upon its successful completion. In addition to the materials described in the Admissions section of this catalog, the MSW Admissions Committee's review of applications will be based on a composite of the following standards:

  • Completion of a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college or university, with a GPA of 3.0 or above in undergraduate study and a student's major;
  • GPA of 3.0 or above in any previous graduate work in social work;
  • Personal statement of 4-6 pages following the outline provided by the School of Social Work and available through the Graduate Admissions Office Web site at http://usm.maine.edu/grad;
  • Three recent letters of reference reflecting on both academic achievement and paid or volunteer work experience relating to social services;
  • For advanced standing students, applicants must submit their previous final field evaluation received from a BSW program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. For students currently enrolled in accredited BSW programs, mid-year evaluations must be submitted with the applications. Acceptance into the MSW program will be conditional upon the receipt of the final field work evaluation.

In addition, the MSW Admissions Committee will review each applicant's undergraduate coursework to determine whether any one or more of the areas specified below are under-represented:

  • At least 18 credit hours in liberal arts such as literature, math, history, philosophy, performing arts, and humanities,
  • At least 6 of the 18 credits must be in the social sciences, preferably, psychology and sociology, and
  • A statistics course

Applicants who lack the above liberal arts courses can be accepted into the program conditionally. The expectations for meeting the conditions will be explained in the acceptance letter.

Advanced Standing

Applicants with a BSW degree from a social work program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education may apply for advanced standing within 7 years of completing a BSW degree. For example, a student graduating with a BSW in May 2010 must be accepted into and begin the MSW advanced standing program at USM no later than September 2017. Once in the program, advanced standing students are expected to follow the grade policy as delineated in the Grade Policy: Course Grades and GPA section below.

Admission Appeals

Applicants may appeal an admission decision by submitting a written appeal to the M.S.W. coordinator within 10 business days.

Transfer Students

Matriculated students who have earned graduate credits in a Council on Social Work Education accredited MSW program may transfer up to 30 credits. To transfer credits, students must enroll in the graduate program at USM within 7 years of initially earning credits from another MSW program. In order to transfer credits, the student must have received a grade of B or above.

Admissions Committee Decision and Applicant Response Timeline

Once applicants are notified of acceptance, they will have two weeks from the date on the acceptance letter to respond to the Graduate Admissions Office about attending. To secure a seat in the program, a $200 deposit must be submitted with the notification form and sent to the Graduate Admissions Office. It is the responsibility of the applicant to respond within this time period and submit a deposit in order to reserve a seat in the program.

Two Year Regular Sequence

Year 1

1st semester

  • SWO 501 Multicultural Social Work
  • SWO 502 Critical Thinking about Human Behavior I
  • SWO 503 Generalist Social Work Practice I
  • SWO 504 Social Welfare Policy I
  • SWO 554 Field Work  & Field Seminar I

2nd semester

  • SWO 552 Critical Thinking about Human Behavior II
  • SWO 553 Generalist Social Work Practice II
  • SWO 505 Social Work Research I
  • SWO 555 Field Work & Field Seminar II
  • One Elective (2) 

Year 2

1st semester

  • SWO 651 Social Work Advanced Practice IV: Individuals and Families
  • SWO 605 Social Work Research II: Social Data Analysis
  • SWO 654 Field Work & Field Seminar III
  • One Elective (2)

2nd semester

  • SWO 603 Social Work Advanced Practice III: Groups
  • SWO 652 Social Work Research III: The Research Project (or SWO 695 Thesis Option)
  • SWO 604 Social Welfare Policy II
  • SWO 655 Field Work  & Field Seminar IV
  • One Elective (2)

 

 

Four Year Regular Sequence

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Year 1

1st semester

SWO 501 Multicultural Social Work

SWO 502 Critical Thinking about Human Behavior I

2nd semester

SWO 552 Critical Thinking about Human Behavior II

SWO 505 Social Work Research I

 

Year 2

1st semester

SWO 503 Generalist Social Work Practice I

SWO 504 Social Welfare Policy I

SWO 554 Field Work & Field Seminar I

2nd semester

SWO 553 Generalist Social Work Practice II

SWO 555 Field Work & Field Seminar II

One Elective (2) 

 

Year 3

1st semester

SWO 605 Social Work Research II: Social Data Analysis

One Elective (2)

2nd semester

SWO 652 Social work Research III: The Research Project (or SWO 695 Thesis Option)

SWO 604 Social Welfare Policy II

 

Year 4

1st semester

SWO 651 Social Work Advanced Practice IV: Individuals and Families (3)

SWO 654 Field Work & Field Seminar lll

One Elective (2)  

2nd semester

SWO 603 Social Work Advanced Practice III: Groups

SWO 655 Field Work & Field Seminar IV