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Social Work

Administrative Unit:Social Work
College/School: College of Letters & Science
Admitting Plans:MSW
Degrees Offered:MSW
Minors and Certificates:Doctoral Minor
Named Options: Part Time MSW, Eau Claire (MSW); Part Time MSW, Madison (MSW)

Faculty: Professors Shook Slack (director), Brower, Cancian, Greenberg, Kramer, Magaña, Meyer, Robert, M. Seltzer; Associate Professors Berger, Magnuson, Moses, Schroepfer; Assistant Professors Gattis, Haley-Lock, Mahoney; Clinical Associate Professors Kohn, Sleeper; Clinical Assistant Professor Yackovich


The School of Social Work at UW–Madison is consistently ranked among the best schools of social work in the country. Faculty prepare social work professionals at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. Through the preparation of social work practitioners, scholars and educators, faculty and students explore and seek to understand the nature of social problems, their impact on vulnerable populations, and ways to critically analyze and promote the achievement of a just, equitable, healthy, and productive society.

Social work faculty are noted for their scholarly work in developing a conceptual understanding of social work practice and policy, and in producing research in important social problem areas. For example, faculty took a leadership role in the development of the generalist model of practice now used by most social work programs. Faculty members have made valuable research contributions in the fields of aging, child welfare, developmental disabilities, and family and intergenerational caregiving, as well as in educational attainment and life-course decision-making, end-of-life care for older adults and palliative care, health disparities, homelessness, poverty, social policy, welfare reform, and child support. Drawing on strong faculty, excellent students, and the resources of a world-renowned university in a community rich with social and human service programs, there is much to offer prospective students: individualized, faculty-taught field education for master's students, nationally renowned faculty with a strong interdisciplinary focus, and hands-on research training in a highly individualized program of study for doctoral students.

The school offers unique opportunities for students to receive state-of-the-art professional training through its field education program. Student practice opportunities range from experiences in institutional and community-based settings to working with families and other significant care-givers, with individuals and groups, and in policy and service delivery issues.

Mission. The mission of the School of Social Work is to enhance human well-being and promote social and economic justice for people who are disadvantaged to achieve an equitable, healthy, and productive society. The school aims to:

  • Create, advance, strengthen, and integrate interdisciplinary knowledge for students and the profession through research, scholarship, and practice.
  • Educate students to become highly skilled, culturally competent and ethical practitioners who will provide leadership for the profession of social work within the state of Wisconsin and nationally.
  • Promote change at levels ranging from the individual client to national, including empowering communities and populations that are disadvantaged and developing humane service delivery systems.
  • Create and disseminate knowledge regarding the prevention and amelioration of social problems.

The School of Social Work is one of five professional schools in the College of Letters and Science. As part of the college, the school maintains relationships with the other social studies and professional schools within the university system through interchange of faculty and students and through joint research and publication endeavors.

Master's Degree 

The MSW program (full-time and part-time) is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Full-time students attending on a full-time basis generally complete the program in two academic years; Part-time students complete it in four. Students from accredited undergraduate social work programs may be granted up to one year of advanced standing in the full-time program or up to two years advanced standing in the part-time program for comparable course work taken prior to enrollment.

MSW Program Goals
  • To provide students with generalist practice content for entry-level practice that builds upon a liberal arts perspective, reinforces the mission of the school, and fosters the values, ethics, and purposes of the profession of social work.
  • To provide students with advanced practice knowledge, skills, and values in an area of concentration to be autonomous social work practitioners prepared to confront the realities of a changing social and human services environment, and to be leaders in the development of new approaches for practice.
  • To provide students with a generalist social work framework for practice; foster a commitment to social and economic justice; and prepare students with the requisite knowledge, skills, and values for culturally competent practice.

The school's curriculum is generalist social work practice in orientation. In their courses across the curriculum, faculty interweave: content about social work values and ethics; content that promotes understanding, affirmation, and respect for people from diverse backgrounds; content on populations-at-risk, including strategies to respond to and strategies to redress risk factors; and content on social and economic justice grounded in an understanding of distributive justice, human and civil rights, and the global interconnections of oppression.

The generalist practice year curriculum emphasizes direct practice across system sizes (micro-to-macro). Students take courses in social welfare policies and services, human behavior and the social environment (including social work with ethnic and racial groups), research methods, social work practice (including foundations of generalist practice; generalist practice with individuals, families, and groups; generalist practice with organizations and communities), and a field course that includes a social work practice integrative seminar and social work field placement.

The advanced practice concentration curriculum provides an advanced generalist orientation offering advanced practice concentrations in three areas: child, youth, and family welfare; health, aging, and disability; and mental health. In each concentration, students complete an advanced practice course (e.g., interventions with children, youth, and families or family practice in foster and kinship care; advanced practice in health, aging, and disability; advanced social work practice in mental health); a social policies and services course (e.g., child welfare services or child, youth and family policies and services; health, aging, and disability policy and services; mental health policies and services); a concentration elective (e.g., child abuse and neglect, social work and adolescents, assessing and treating children and adolescents; aging and mental health, social work and developmental disabilities, social work practice in health care; psychopathology in social work, crisis intervention, family systems); an advanced macro practice course; and a concentration-focused social work field course that includes a social work practice integrative seminar and a social work field placement specific to the concentration.

Social Work Competencies and Practice Behaviors

At the conclusion the MSW program we expect students have achieved the core competencies outlined below through practice behaviors learned in classroom and field experiences. At the end of the generalist practice curriculum students are expected to evidence the identified generalist practice behaviors for each competency. At the end of the advanced practice curriculum, we expect students have achieved the competencies through both generalist practice behaviors and advanced practice behaviors in an area of concentration learned in classroom and field experiences; all of which are derived from social work knowledge, values and skills.  See the Field Handbook for more information.

School Social Work and Clinical Practice Licensure, Child Welfare Training

Students seeking preparation for licensure as a School Social Worker in the State of Wisconsin typically complete the child, youth, and family welfare concentration. Students seeking preparation for licensure as a Clinical Social Worker in the State of Wisconsin typically complete the mental health concentration. Contact full-time program  Social Work academic advisors: Mary Paulauskis (paulauskis@wisc.edu) or Belinda Velazquez (bvelazqu@wisc.edu) or part-time program advisors: Cindy McMillan (ckmcmillan@wisc.edu) or Judy Switzky (jswitzky@wisc.edu) for a complete list of requirements necessary for these credentials. Information on social work certification and licensure is presented to students periodically during the academic year and is detailed in the Concentration Handbook appendices.

Federal Title IV-E funding is available to full- and part-time MSW students for training in public child welfare. After acceptance into the school, generalist year or advanced practice year students may apply to this special program designed to prepare advanced practitioners for practice in public child welfare. Students complete a specialized curriculum within the child, youth, and family welfare concentration. Students accepted into the training program receive tuition (in- or out-of-state), a book allowance, a mileage allowance, and a monthly stipend each year they are in the program. In return, after graduation, child welfare trainees agree to work in a public child welfare position in the State of Wisconsin for each year they received funding. For complete details, contact Ellen Smith, Title IV-E program coordinator, 608-263-5612 or ecsmith4@wisc.edu.

Part-Time MSW Program

The part-time MSW program is offered on two sites: the UW–Madison campus for those in the greater Madison area and on the UW–Eau Claire campus for those who live in the northwest part of the state. The part-time MSW program is designed to allow students who are not able to pursue full-time study to work toward an MSW degree on a structured, time-extended basis.

  • Courses are offered on Saturdays at both sites
  • Fieldwork options may include place of employment
  • Traditional and advanced standing options are offered.
  • Concentrations in mental health or child, youth and family welfare are offered.

Applicants must meet the usual School of Social Work admission requirements to be accepted into the program.

Field Education Program

Generalist practice year social work students complete two semesters (256 hours per semester) of field work (SW 400, 401) concurrent with their generalist practice course work, starting in the fall semester.  Advanced practice year students complete two semesters (320 hours per semester) of field work (SW 800, 801) concurrent with their advanced practice concentration course work, beginning in the fall semester.

The field units are organized around a social problem area, a field of practice, or a major intervention method. Each unit has a range of field placement agencies and settings appropriate to its theme. The emphasis for SW 400-level placements is on a generalist perspective and direct practice experience. The focus is on learning and applying analytic and interventive skills within an ethically based, problem-focused approach.  SW 800-level field emphases are practice from an advanced generalist perspective with either a direct or indirect practice experience. The focus is on autonomous practice and advanced practice knowledge and skills in an area of concentration.

The following field units are available to generalist practice year and/or advance practice year MSW students in the full time program. These units represent more than 100 placements in agencies and organizations throughout Dane and its contiguous counties.

  • Social work practice in community agencies
  • Social work practice in community mental health agencies
  • Social work practice in county human services
  • Social work practice in developmental and other disabilities and advocacy in multicultural settings
  • Social work practice in educational settings
  • Social work practice in health
  • Social work practice in juvenile and criminal justice systems
  • Social work practice in mental health
  • Social work practice with older adults
  • Social work practice in policy and administration
  • Social work practice in public and private child welfare
  • Social work practice in public child welfare

Field units offered in the part-time MSW program at both program sites are:

  • Social work practice in community agencies
  • Social work practice in mental health

Social work applicants should be advised that state statutes require the Department of Justice to conduct background checks on all potential field students prior to the field experience. Information regarding this process is provided to students after they are accepted into the School of Social Work.

Financial Aid

Master's students are eligible for School of Social Work awards (Federal Training Grants when available, Veterans Administration stipends, Arthur Miles Scholarship, Beebe Memorial Scholarship, Katherine Benz Scholarship, Richard Schwert and Helen I. Clark Memorial Awards, Katherine Becker Norman Memorial Award, and Lois Palmer Shimpa Award). Graduate Opportunity Fellowships are designed to expand graduate education for U.S. minority group members. For complete details regarding qualifications and applications for these awards see the school's Scholarships, Awards and Fellowships on the school's website.

Ph.D. students who meet specific criteria are eligible for university awards (e.g., Advanced Opportunity Fellowship and University Fellowship). Doctoral students are also eligible for travel awards for research abroad and, once a dissertator, for the Graduate Student Collaborative's Vilas Award for professional development. All students have access to federal loans and work study. In addition, Ph.D. students are considered for graduate assistantships (i.e., teaching, research, and project assistantships)which typically cover tuition, health insurance, and provide a monthly stipend.


Online applications are available through the School of Social Work website.

Admission into the master's degree program includes the Graduate School requirement that applicants hold a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) on the equivalent of the last 60 semester hours (approximately two years of work) from an accredited university or college.

Applicants apply online to through the Graduate School's application site: Graduate School Electronic Application. A complete application includes both the Graduate School application and the School of Social Work's supplemental application forms.

In addition to their application forms prospective MSW students submit: reasons for graduate study essay, official transcripts from each university or college attended, the names and e-mail addresses of three persons who will submit letters of recommendation on the applicant's behalf, criminal background check information, and Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) scores (if applicable). The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is optional. A School of Social Work admissions committee acceptance recommendation to the Graduate School is required for unconditional admission. Prerequisites for entrance into the MSW program include: (1) completion of 30 semester credits of social science courses at the point the application is submitted; and (2) completion of an approved statistics course with a grade of C or better, taken within seven years prior to entrance into the program.

Social Work Admissions Office, School of Social Work Building, 1350 University Avenue, Madison, WI 53706-1510; 608-263-3660; fax 608-263-3836; socwork.wisc.edu
Full-time MSW Program: fulltimeprogram@socwork.wisc.edu
Part-time MSW Program: parttimeprogram@socwork.wisc.edu
Ph.D. Program: phdprogram@socwork.wisc.edu
Title IV-E Child Welfare Training Program: ecsmith4@wisc.edu