Masters of Social Work Degree Program in California

Jul 22, 2019

There are more than 20 schools within California that have Master of Social Work degree programs. Read an overview of 12 of the largest schools' programs, requirements and tuition info and find out which school is the right one for you.

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Essential Information

Master of Social Work (MSW) programs offer clinical training for students, so they can work directly with clients and receive professional experience. Programs also focus on developing students' research skills, and participants may be required to complete a major project or thesis. Additionally, some schools in California allow MSW students to earn a concentration, such as clinical practice, community mental health or child welfare. Students must hold a bachelor's degree before they can be admitted to graduate school. Full-time programs typically last two years, although many of the schools in California allow students to enroll as part-time students and earn their degrees in three or four years.

Read on to learn about 12 California universities that offer Master of Social Work programs that are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education

California State University - Fresno

Located in Fresno, this public university offers a Master of Social Work for students who want to help people and their communities work through social injustice problems. Students take courses in social welfare policy, human behavior, quantitative research and social work practice. This program requires students to take part in internships throughout the program, so they can develop direct experience working with populations in need. At the end of the program, students complete a master's project that allows them to apply their classroom knowledge to the real world.

California State University - Fullerton

This school in Fullerton offers a Master of Social Work degree program that can be completed in two years by full-time students or three years by part-time students. They have the opportunity to concentrate in community mental health or child welfare. This 60-credit program begins with a set of foundational courses throughout the first year, which include social welfare policy, social work research methods and social work practice. Students complete coursework specific to their chosen concentration in the second year of the program. Regardless of their concentration choice, students can expect to complete a master's project and take three credits of elective courses.

California State University - Long Beach

This university, which is located in Long Beach, allows students to concentrate in children, youth and families or older adults and families as part of the MSW program. A large part of the program involves fieldwork, which means students take part in internships at agencies to gain direct experience with communities. This program features two internships totaling 1,000 hours. Students take courses in formulation analysis of social policy, research methods, legal issues and treatments. Students must complete a thesis and also learn about research as it relates to developing interventions and treatment plans to help people.

California State University - Los Angeles

This Los Angeles-based university offers three concentration options within the Master of Social Work program. Students can focus on children, youth, women and families; aging and families or forensics. Throughout the program, students are encouraged to critically think about social issues and how research and advocacy can improve the lives of all types of people. By the end of the program, students complete a master's thesis that involves original research. Within their concentration, students take part in internships to gain professional experience.

California State University - Northridge

This Master of Social Work program in Northridge encourages students to meet the social, emotional and behavioral needs of urban communities. Students learn research-based interventions and treatments to help clients individually and on a societal level. Courses cover social work theory, practice in multicultural settings, social policy, social advocacy and social work practice with families. The final project gives students the opportunity to work on independent research studies. Much like the other schools, students take part in internships to practice their social work skills in the real world.

California State University - Sacramento

The Sacramento campus of California State University also offers a Master of Social Work program that allows students to specialize their studies through elective options. This program requires 60 credits and features foundational courses during the first two semesters and advanced concentration courses over the final two semesters. Towards the end of the program, all students can expect to complete a culminating experience. Foundational courses include social research methods, working with diverse populations and theoretical social behavior. Students are required to work at an assigned social service organization two days each week throughout their first year and three days each week during their second year.

San Diego State University

The MSW program at San Diego State University allows students to learn about social problems and ways to effectively address those issues. Students can choose to concentrate on either clinical/direct practice or administration and community development within the program. Courses cover human behavior, research methods and social welfare policy. Students must enroll in internships at San Diego-area organizations so they can work directly with clients and better understand the needs of the communities they serve. This program also requires the completion of a thesis.

San Francisco State University

This San Francisco-based university offers a Master of Social Work program that trains students to better understand the causes and effects of social justice problems in America. Internships are an integral part of the degree program. Students develop professional relationships with clients and work in real-world agencies within the San Francisco area. By the end of the program, students can get focused instruction on mental health issues, child welfare, families and groups and direct practice.

San Jose State University

Students who attend this school in San Jose can learn how to empower individuals and help them overcome social injustice problems. Within the MSW program, students can choose to concentrate on children, youth and families; aging or health and mental health. This program covers social work theory and human behavior along with research-based treatment methods to better the lives of clients. A significant portion of the program involves fieldwork, which gives students the opportunity to take part in internships and gain professional experience. In order to receive the graduate degree, students must complete a thesis.

University of California - Berkeley

This MSW program is offered through the School of Social Welfare, which is part of the Berkeley campus of the University of California. Students can choose from six fieldwork concentrations in child and family services, community mental health, gerontology services, health services and management and planning. This program features training in research methods for social work. Additional courses are required to qualify for the LCSW credential.

University of California - Los Angeles

This school is located in Los Angeles and offers a social welfare program that can teach students about the policies and practices needed to promote the wellbeing of communities and societies. Within the degree program, students can choose between the micro or macro tracks. In the micro track, students learn how to work with families, individuals and groups. The macro track teaches students how to apply social work concepts into policy, communities and organizations. Courses cover social work theory, research and cultural influences on social work. Students also take part in internships to complement their classroom studies.

University of Southern California

This private university in Los Angeles allows students to choose between five concentrations, including community, organization, planning and administration; families and children; social work and business in a global society; health and mental health. The school also offers additional sub-concentrations, including adults, schools, the military, child welfare and mental illness. Students take courses in research methods, human behavior, social work theory, assessment and interventions. This program also features a total of 1,000 hours of internship experience over the course of two sessions.

Career Requirements

To practice as a social worker in the state of California, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker license from the state Board of Behavioral Sciences is needed. Applicants who graduate with a master's degree from Council on Social Work Education-accredited schools are eligible to apply, so all of the following schools qualify. Before taking the exam, experience and additional coursework requirements must be met.

School Comparison: At a Glance

School Name School Type and Setting Master of Social Work Programs Offered Graduate Tuition (2018-2019)*
California State University - Fresno Four-year; public; large city Master of Social Work $8,021 in-state; $17,525 out-of-state
California State University - Fullerton Four-year; public; midsize city Master of Social Work $8,320 in-state; $17,824 out-of-state
California State University - Long Beach Four-year; public; large city Master of Social Work $8,232 in-state; $17,736 out-of-state
California State University - Los Angeles Four-year; public; large city Master of Social Work $8,183 in-state; $17,687 out-of-state
California State University - Northridge Four-year; public; large city Master of Social Work $8,327 in-state; $17,831 out-of-state
California State University - Sacramento Four-year; public; large city Master of Social Work $8,744 in-state; $18,248 out-of-state
San Diego State University Four-year; public; large city Master of Social Work $8,922 in-state; $18,426 out-of-state
San Francisco State University Four-year; public; large city Master of Social Work $8,694 in-state; $18,198 out-of-state
San Jose State University Four-year; public; large city Master of Social Work $9,230 in-state; $18,734 out-of-state
University of California - Berkeley Four-year; public; midsize city Master of Social Welfare $14,131 in-state; $29,233 out-of-state
University of California - Los Angeles Four-year; public; large city Master of Social Welfare $12,946 in-state; $28,048 out-of-state
University of Southern California Four-year; private, not-for-profit; large city Master of Social Work $45,561

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics.

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