Our Mission

The Bachelor of Arts in Social Work (BSW) Program at the University of Southern Maine School of Social Work provides justice-oriented students with the knowledge, skills, and experience they need to serve their communities as advanced social work practitioners. Students with a BSW can become licensed at the LSW level in the State of Maine. We are proud to be accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.

This major consists of 49 credits in required social work courses with an additional 24 credits of foundation courses completed in other departments. To major in social work, all students must maintain a 2.5 overall cumulative grade point average, and a grade of C (2.0) or better in all major and foundation classes. BSW students must also receive a grade of C or better in their WRI I and WRI II core courses. 

On this page, you will find information about the curriculum and frequently asked questions and answers about the program. Using the left-hand navigation bar, you can find detailed information on student policies/handbooks, student clubs and student resources, our staff and faculty, research, field placements, social work licensure, and events in the School of Social Work. 

If you have any additional questions, please email the Interim BSW Coordinator, Dr. Natallie Gentles-Gibb, at natallie.gentlesgibbs@maine.edu.

Fall 2023 BSW Orientation

To view the presentation from the fall 2023 Bachelors of Arts in Social Work (BSW) orientation please click here [PDF].

BSW Curriculum Information

Generally speaking, BSW students complete  many foundation, elective, and core courses prior to taking most social work courses. Our intentional design of the curriculum involves prerequisites for many of our courses. You can find detailed information on prerequisites, what semester courses are typically offered, and more in the course catalog. It is very important to meet with your professional or faculty advisor prior to course registration each semester to ensure your course plan will keep you on track with your intended graduation date.

SWO150: Professional Writing Lab – 1 cr. (fall only)
SWO201: Introduction to Social Work – 3 cr.
SWO250: Introduction to Social Welfare – 3 cr.
SWO270: Human Behavior in the Social Environment I (fall only)
SWO333: Social Work Research I – 3 cr. (fall only)
SWO334: Social Work Research II – 3 cr. (spring only)
SWO350: Social Welfare Policy – 3 cr.
SWO365: Examining Oppression and Valuing Diversity
SWO370: Human Behavior in the Social Environment II (spring only)
SWO393: Methods of Social Work Practice I – 3 cr. (spring only)
SWO402: Methods of Social Work Practice II – 3 cr. (fall only)
SWO403: Methods of Social Work Practice III – 3 cr. (spring only)
SWO411: Field Work I – 3 cr. (fall only)
SWO412: Field Work II – 6 cr. (spring only)
One (1) 300-level or above Social Work (SWO) Elective – 3 cr.

Additional Information

Prerequisites for SWO393: Methods of Social Work Practice I

SWO393 is a pivotal course students must complete prior to entering Field Work. Prerequisites for SWO393 include: All ‘Foundation Requirements’ listed above, SWO 201, SWO 250,  SWO 270, SWO 365, and SWO 370; at least 60 credits anticipated at the end of the previous fall semester;  grade of C or higher in all required social work and foundation courses; and an 2.5 GPA.

Field Work Requirement & Expectations

While you are enrolled in SWO 393 in the Spring of your junior year, you will work with our manager of field education to identify a field placement for your senior year. In your senior year, you will be placed in one social service agency where you will complete 400 hours each semester, or about 14 hours each week, across the academic year. For more information on BSW Field Work, visit: mycampus.maine.edu/group/usm/bsw-field-information

ECO101: Introduction to Macroeconomics – 3 cr.
POS101: Introduction to American Government – 3 cr.
PSY100: Introduction to Psychology – 3 cr.
SOC100: Introduction to Sociology – 3 cr.

Choose one:
MAT120: Introduction to Statistics – 4 cr.
LOS120: Statistics for Informed Decision Making – 3 cr.
PSY201: Statistics in Psychology – 3 cr.

No more than 2 courses can come from the same subject area. Preferably 200 level or higher, with a few exceptions (CRM 100, WGS 101, SOJ 101)

Select three (3) Social Science courses from any of the following departments:

ANT – Anthropology
CRM – Criminology
ECO – Economics
FSP – Food Studies Program
GEO – Geography
PHI – Philosophy
POS – Political Science
PSY – Psychology
RCE – Race & Ethnic Studies
SOC – Sociology
SOJ – Social Justice
SBS – Social Behavioral Sciences
WGS – Women & Gender Studies
SWO – Social Work-(Can take a second SW elective to count here)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Many of our students are drawn to social work because they want to have a positive impact in people’s lives.  Social Work as a field is rooted in social justice, and social workers hold many jobs in which they partner with clients to improve their lives. Social workers with a BSW may work in areas such as family support, mental health support, rehabilitation, residential care, outreach, community education and organization, and advocacy with multiple populations (such as young children and their families or people of any age struggling with addictions or homelessness). If you are interested in working clinically with individuals, groups, families, or couples, you will need to pursue a graduate degree and then associated licensure in social work, counseling, or school counseling, depending on your goals.

Yes. The BSW program in social work prepares the student for the professional practice of social work at the entry level. Our social work curriculum was re-accredited in 2021 by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), the national accrediting body for Schools of Social Work, for eight years. In order to be eligible for licensure at the Bachelor’s level or to apply to an MSW program in the future, CSWE requires that your BSW comes from an accredited program.

No. Our BSW program prepares students for generalist social work practice. Grounded in a commitment to professional ethics, social and economic justice and the empowerment of client systems at all levels, generalist social work practice is built upon core competencies as outlined in the Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards of the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). The competencies relate to: professional identity, ethical practice, critical thinking, diversity, human rights and social justice, research, human behavior and the social environment, social policy, evolving contexts of social work practice, and professional interventions at multiple levels. With a generalist social work education, you will be prepared to work with individuals, groups, families, organizations, and communities. While some MSW programs do have specific concentrations in a particular area, our MSW program is a generalist program without specializations.

If you have a particular career aspiration in mind, such as work with the elderly, refugees, corrections, child and family services, health care, etc., your faculty advisor can help you to select appropriate foundation and elective courses that will assist you in preparing for jobs in these areas.

Based on the policies of our accrediting body, the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), you cannot receive required course credit or waiver for life or professional or military work experience. You may however go to the Office of Prior Learning and ask about receiving prior learning credit, which may be counted as elective classes or additional credits towards the 120 needed for graduation.

At this point in time, no required social work courses are offered on the weekends. Some classes are offered in the evenings (at 5 pm) to accommodate students who work during the daytime. However, we do not have enough faculty to offer all courses during both the day and the evening times. While we try our best to schedule as many late classes as possible, there will be some courses that must be taken during the day. Your social work classes will be offered once weekly in 2.5 or 2.75 hour time blocks. Currently, BSW courses are on Mondays or Wednesdays from 9:30 am – 12:15 pm, 2- 4:45 pm, and 5-7:30 pm.

Our BSW program is a face-to-face program, and we do not currently have an online option for completing the program. That said, there will occasionally be online offerings of some sections of some courses. These courses may be offered as asynchronous (no live online or face to face meetings at all), or may have a meeting component to them (online or face-to-face in the classroom). These occasional offerings vary by semester, so be sure to look at the course offerings for each semester and discuss this with your advisors.

Students transferring to USM from another college or university must first have their college transcript evaluated by the Office of Transfer Affairs. These credits will then be added directly into our system. Once you are accepted into USM, you will meet with a professional advisor to assist you in planning for your coursework. If you have completed social work classes at another institution, these will need to be evaluated by the BSW program coordinator and the related content committees within our school per requirements for coursework set by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). If we are unable to accept a course as a social work required class, we will likely be able to accept it in the place of required electives, or as general electives towards the 120 credits required for degree completion. For questions about this, speak with your professional or faculty advisors, or with the BSW program coordinator (caroline.shanti@maine.edu).

Advising in the School of Social Work is a mutual process of exploring career objectives, reviewing requirements, designing the best possible combination of required courses and electives, determining proper course sequencing, and facilitating a collaborative relationship between the student and the School. 

At USM, we use what we call a dual advising model. This means that you have two advisors assigned to you. One is a professional advisor, who you will meet with for your intake (ACS) appointment when you enter the school. You will primarily work with this advisor until you hit 54 credits, or start your junior year in our BSW program. These advisors can help you with questions related to course work planning as you move through the core curriculum and your BSW required courses. 

Once you have more than 54 credits, you are asked to meet with your faculty advisor as your primary advisor. These are all full-time faculty in the field of social work, and they are here to assist you in exploring your interests in the field as well as your social work required courses. Our courses have many prerequisites, and to ensure that you are taking courses in the proper order it is important that social work majors meet with their advisors on a regular basis, once a semester at a minimum. If you do not know who your advisors are, you can check in your student center in MaineStreet in the advising box. We are all here to assist you in being successful in the program, and you are encouraged to email your advisors whenever you have questions!

We have a BSW listserv that we ask all active students in the major to sign up for. This is an important way to stay connected to the school, as we send out important messages a few times a semester.    To join the BSW listserv, click on this link. Once on the linked page, fill in your name and USM email address and hit ‘subscribe’. You will receive a confirmation email that you will need to open and hit the confirmation link within. After that, you will be subscribed!

There are multiple events of different types planned in the school each semester. You can access our calendar of events through the ‘School of social work events’ link on the drop down menu on our website. Or, you can access the page through this link, with the option to bookmark it for easy access.

To major in social work, all students must maintain a 2.5 cumulative grade point average and a grade of C or better in all major and foundation courses. Once at the level of applying for methods/field work (entering SWO 393) students must maintain the 2.5 GPA and a C or better in all required social work and foundation courses to complete the  major. If your GPA falls below the required level, you will be placed on academic outreach or probation, and will work with your advisors to stay in the major as possible. And if this happens to you, do not worry! We have had students fall below the required GPA and recover, or take some time off and return to us when it is a better time to meet the demands of the program. We want to work with you!

The students of the School have organized a Social Work Student Organization (SWSO). The organization seeks to facilitate communication between students and faculty, ensure student involvement in School activities, provide for professional growth, and respond to issues and problems in the community. Student representatives may attend faculty meetings and may serve as advisory members on the SSW’s curriculum committee. Within the School, a chapter of the Phi Alpha Honor Society also exists.

There are formal procedures for the adjudication of student grievances in instances where a student believes that his or her rights have been denied or violated. Grievances from students can be brought forward based on grading practices, discrimination or harassment, or termination from a field practicum. The student might first make an appointment to speak to the faculty member or other person against whom you wish to file a grievance. If that is not possible, or if the issue is not resolved, it then goes to the Coordinator of the BSW program, and, if the issue is still not resolved, the final point of appeal is to the Director of the School.

Grade disputes that cannot be resolved between faculty and the student are handled by the Dean of the College of Management and Human Service. Claims of discrimination or harassment are brought to the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity.

Student complaints regarding the field work placement are handled within the School of Social Work. These issues are first addressed with the student’s field faculty liaison who will involve the supervisor at the field placement and the field work coordinators. A variety of options will be explored and this may be accomplished through the Academic Review procedure which brings a number of viewpoints to the table. This process is explained further in the Field Work Manual and the School of Social Work Student Policies on our website (on the drop down menu on the left of our main page).

In the Spring of your junior year, you will complete a 20 hour service-learning internship as a part of your SWO 393 course. You will learn more about this in class, and be prepared to know you will need to complete these hours at your assigned site outside of class hours. These placements are arranged through your professor in this course in collaboration with our office of service learning and volunteering. In order to advance to SWO 393 (Social Work Methods I) and then Field Work, students must have junior status, have completed multiple prerequisites, have a 2.5 cumulative grade point average, and a grade of C (2.5) or better in all major and foundation classes. Students may also be evaluated as to their suitability to the profession. You must complete SWO 393 with a grade of C or better to advance to your internship placement in your final year in the program. 

Every student who has successfully reached their final year is placed in an internship for the entirety of the academic year through our Office of Field Education.  Each student is placed in a community social service agency selected and approved by the Field Work Coordinators. You will learn about this and meet our Manager of Fieldwork Education in your SWO 393 course in the Spring of your junior year. Field work placements only begin in the fall and students continue into the second semester in the same agency. By the end of the second semester of field work (the student’s last semester of school), each student is expected to have completed 400 hours of work in the assigned agency. Generally this breaks down to 12-14 hours a week during the  fall and semesters. The majority of these placements are unpaid, and are completed during regular working hours. Your social work classes will be held on Mondays and Wednesdays, which is meant to assist you in planning your hours in your internships on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. We know that many of our students are working part-time or full-time jobs in addition to caring for families, loved ones, animals, and other responsibilities.

A large number of community agencies in the Southern Maine area have been most generous in their collaboration with the School of Social Work and in providing supervision of students. All students should refer to the Field Work Manual for more information and guidelines governing field work. Students have input into their choice of agencies, and you will meet with our wonderful Office of Field Education staff to select your internship from our list of approved placements. Please be aware that students are not permitted to arrange their own placements. If there is a specific site you are interested in, or if you are interested to pursue a placement in your current place of employment, please reach out to our Manager of Field Education to explore this no later than January of your junior year (when you are entering SWO 393).

Students are strongly discouraged by the accrediting body from using their employment site for a field practicum because field placement is intended to expose students to a new learning experience and environment. Both the student and the employing agency and supervisor are apt to experience role confusion with the addition of a field practicum relationship. Also, the expectations of a placement relationship and a work relationship are different (field placement is focused on student learning rather than agency service).
Students might be less likely to take a critical/objective stance toward their agencies or to question agency policies. However, occasionally students are able to construct a placement that also fits into their job responsibilities. If a student wants to propose this, and the agency is willing to engage in a specific contract with the School of Social Work, the student must first consult with one of the Field Work Coordinators.

Our BSW graduates are eligible for the LSW license after degree completion. This is an exam you apply to take through the State Licensing Board. The LSW is not required by every job, and is still an important credential that many of our students seek. Access the latest information on the LSW license (LS) through this link or directly at:
https://www.maine.gov/pfr/professionallicensing/professions/state-board-social-worker-licensure/licensing. The information on other licenses you will see on this page are for students who have completed their MSW degree. 

Our BSW curriculum also fulfills the requirements for the Mental Health and Rehabilitation Technician in Community Integration (MHRT/C). Once you have completed your BSW, you submit your application for your MHRT/C certificate through the Muskie school. You can find complete details on this process on our website in the social work licensure and certificates section.

Students who receive their BSW from an accredited undergraduate program in social work have a quicker pathway to an MSW than students who do not have a BSW. To access this, you may apply to an accredited graduate school of social work as an Advanced Standing student. This means that you will only complete your specialization year of courses, which can be completed in one year taking a full course load or in two years taking a reduced course load. Without a BSW and without advanced standing status, the MSW takes two years to complete with a full course load or four years with a reduced course load.

As a BSW student, you are eligible to apply to an MSW program as an Advanced Standing student from the last semester of your senior year (when you are completing your internship placement and your field and practice classes) up to 6 years after completion of your BSW. 

 At USM, our MSW application deadline is November 15. Many other schools have a Spring application deadline, so it will be important to start exploring programs you are interested in during your BSW career. In our program, the MSW program coordinator will visit practice courses in your junior (SWO 393 in the Spring) and senior (SWO 402 in the fall) years to talk about the Advanced Standing option and application process. You can also ask your faculty advisors about this or reach out directly to the MSW program coordinator (rachel.casey@maine.edu).