2019-20 Catalogs

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.

There are three different cohorts for the regular MSW program:  full time (2 years), part time (four years), low residency (3 years).  We also offer two options for Advanced Standing students:  Full time (1 year) and part time (2 years).  All students in the regular program options complete 61 credits; All advanced standing students complete the 600-level curriculum only which is 33 credits.

The first-year curriculum (foundation year) 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 Seminar I

     SWO 555 Field Seminar II

     One Elective Course

During the second-year of the full time program, (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 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 Seminar III

     SWO 655 Field Experience IV

     Two Electives


Time Requirements

The graduation requirement for the regular MSW degree is 61 credits, which can be taken in a two, three or four sequence. Students will be admitted as a cohort group either to the two-year, three year (low residency), or four year course sequence. In extenuating circumstances, an extension of the time requirement for completing the MSW program may be considered (see the MSW Student Handbook). The foundation year field placement includes 480 hours and the concentration year placement is 600 hours, each across two consecutive semesters. For low residency students, the two fieldwork placements are taken during the second and third years.  All students enrolled in fieldwork are required to take concurrently the associated practice courses. Practice and field courses cannot be taken independently.  Successful completion of foundation year fieldwork and practice is a prerequisite for entering concentration year field and practice.

The advanced standing program is 33 credits which is the concentration year of the MSW program (including three elective courses). Advanced standing students may matriculate into the program for one full-time year or two part-time years. The field placement requirement for the advanced standing program is 600 hours across two consecutive semesters, in line with the concentration year curriculum plan. It should be noted that the one-year advanced standing program is highly demanding and outside full-time employment is discouraged.

Once enrolled in the program, a change in cohort requires approval. Cohort changes must be requested by the end of fall semester for the following year in order for the School of Social Work to anticipate enrollment numbers.  Please see the MSW Student Handbook for more details about this request process.

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 through the Office of Graduate Studies. 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 USM Graduate Studies website at http://usm.maine.edu/grad/graduate-students-financial-support.

Program Policies

The following academic policies supplement and clarify those that are detailed at the beginning of this catalog.


Each student is 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 consult 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 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

Incomplete grades are granted only in extenuating circumstances at the discretion of the instructor. Students must request to be considered for an incomplete grade with the instructor well in advance of the end of a given semester. An incomplete grade must be changed to a full grade prior to progression to the next sequential course. Students who do not complete the required work by the designated time may be ineligible to take subsequent required courses and field practicum.

Academic Review Policy

Please refer to the MSW Student Handbook for a detailed description of the Academic Review Policy and Procedures as well as expectations and students rights (http://usm.maine.edu/swo/handbooks-0).

Academic Grade Appeal Policy

Refer to USM Grade Appeal Policy.

Leave of Absence

Matriculated students who have extenuating circumstances (illness, birth of a child, change in financial situation, etc.) requiring a leave of absence (LOA) from school may request this for up to one year and return without reapplying to the program. Students should discuss the request first with their advisors and submit a LOA form for approval by the MSW Program Coordinator.

Continuous Enrollment Requirement

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. In order to petition this, students must obtain the approval of their faculty advisor and the MSW Program Coordinator before being submitted to the Director and the CMHS Dean. A waiver notification will then be sent to the Office of Graduate Studies. Students who have been accepted into the program may apply to the MSW Admissions Chair to defer the admission for one year only. A deferment notification will be sent to the Office of Graduate Admissions.

Non-Matriculated Status

Students may take up to nine credits at USM on a non-matriculated basis. The following 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.  Please note that current matriculated students have priority in registering for these courses.  Non-matriculated students who are later admitted to the MSW program may apply these credits toward the program requirements. Non-matriculated students can register as non-degree graduate students through the USM Registrar's Office.

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.

Admission Information

Applicant Qualifications

  • 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.
    • GPA - 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; Applicants can apply to the program while finishing the bachelor's degree, but, if accepted, enrollment will be conditional upon its successful completion.
    • GPA of 3.0 or above in any previous graduate work in social work;
      • Test scores – none required.
        • Course work: 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 but are otherwise qualified may be accepted into the program conditionally. The expectations for meeting the conditions will be explained in the acceptance letter.
      • Advanced Standing:
        • 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 or as soon as they are received. Acceptance into the MSW program will be conditional upon the receipt of the final field work evaluation.
      • 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.

Application Procedures and Required Materials

  • Application Deadlines

On-Campus Regular and Advanced Standing Program: October 15 for fall admission

  • All application materials must be received by the Office of Admissions by October 15 for admission to the program in the following September. Applications are reviewed by the School of Social Work Admissions Committee during the fall semester and decisions are typically finalized in December with decision letters mailed during January. Because application review is not guaranteed after the deadline, applicants should be sure to submit all application materials on time. Acceptance in the graduate program is competitive.

Low-Residency Program: This is an online cohort with 2-3 scheduled face-to-face campus meetings each semester. Each cohort completes a three year program and new cohort will be admitted after that three year cycle. Please check the School of Social Work or Graduate Admissions website about the next planned admission cycle.

Applicants are required to provide the following materials:

  • Application: Online Application
  • Application fee: Waived for all applicants
  • Transcripts: Official transcripts from all colleges or universities attended, excluding the seven campuses of the University of Maine System (UMS transcripts are accessible to USM). A transcript is official when sent directly from the institution.
    • International College transcripts: In addition to an official copy of the transcript, an official evaluation of college-level transcripts from a NACES (National Association of Credential Evaluation Services) approved transcript analysis agency is required
  • Resume: Submit a resume or CV that outlines professional, volunteer, and community experience.
  • Essay:Personal statement of no more than 750 words addressing the following questions:
    • What are the reasons you want to be a social worker?
    • How do the mission and goals of the M.S.W. program at the University of Southern Maine School of Social Work fit with your career goals?
    • Describe your experiences with diversity, discrimination, and/or oppression.
    • What social issue is of particular concern to you, and why?
  • Letters of Recommendation: Three recent (within two years) professional or academic letters of reference reflecting on both academic achievement and paid or volunteer work experience relating to social services. Recommendations should be from individuals who are qualified, through direct experience with your academic or professional work, to comment on your ability to undertake graduate study and your chosen profession.  
  • Standardized test scores: None required
  • Additional items per program:Social Work applicants should submit a Program Selection Form.
  • TOEFL or IELTS: Students whose first language is not English are required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and submit official scores as part of the application process. See additional information below regarding test scores.


International Applicants

In addition to the standard application materials, international students must also provide the following materials:

  • College transcript evaluation: official course-by-course evaluation of college-level transcripts from a NACES (National Association of Credential Evaluation Services) approved transcript analysis agency
  • Declaration of Finances form accompanied by the appropriate financial documentation
  • International students whose first language is not English are required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and submit official scores as part of the application process. Only applicants with TOEFL scores of 79 or higher on the internet-based test 550 or higher on the paper-based test, or 213 or higher on the computer-based test; or IELTS scores of 6.5 or higher will be considered for admission to a graduate program. 

English Proficiency Test Scores

Official English proficiency examination scores are required from international applicants and/or applicants whose primary language is not English, unless the applicant has received a degree from an English-speaking institution. The University of Southern Maine accepts the following score reports sent directly from the testing agency.  TOEFL scores of 79 or higher on the internet-based test, 550 or higher on the paper-based test, or 213 or higher on the computer-based test; or IELTS scores of 6.5 or higher will be considered for a graduate program.

Where to send transcripts and application materials


Official transcripts and other supporting documents can be sent to:

Application Processing Center

University of Maine System

P.O. Box 412

Bangor, ME 04402-0412


Colleges and universities that participate in electronic submission of transcripts can send official transcripts to edocs@maine.edu. Resumes, essays, and other documents can also be sent to edocs@maine.edu.

For a transcript or recommendation to be considered official, it must be sent by the institution or the person writing the recommendation.

Once your application is submitted, it is important to make sure that all required documents have been received by the Office of Graduate Admission by the deadline to ensure you are considered for admission.

Admission Appeals

Applicants may appeal an admission decision by submitting a written appeal to the School of Social Work Director within 10 business days. Further information on the admission appeal process can be found at USM Admissions.

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 maintained a GPA of 3.0 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.


While students are encouraged to matriculate for the year of acceptance, it is recognized that personal circumstances may require a delay in matriculation. Admitted applicants may defer enrollment for up to one year without re-application to the program.

Please follow the links below to review course lists and curriculum sequences for each cohort.

Two and Four Year Regular Sequences and One and Two Year Advanced Standing Sequences:



Low Residency Three Year Regular Sequence