Earning Your Degree

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How long will it take to complete the program?

Full-time MSW@USC students can earn a Master of Social Work degree in four consecutive semesters. Students can also complete the program in a three-year (part-time to full-time) accelerated program or as a four-year part-time option. The MSW program requires the completion of 60 units. There is now an Advanced Standing option as well. Visit our Advanced Standing FAQs for more information.


How many hours per week will I need to dedicate to the program?

You can expect to spend 75-90 minutes per class per week participating in discussions, attending online lectures and meeting with peers in study groups. In addition, you should also take into account time spent studying, completing assignments and reading material. As part of the program, you will also work 20 hours a week in the community at your field placement.


How many courses will I take each semester?

The number of course units you take per semester is dependent upon whether or not you are full-time or enrolled in a part-time option.  As a full-time student, you will take 15 units in your first semester and work 20 hours per week in your field placement. As a part-time student, you will take six units in your first semester and begin your field placement in your third semester.  For a complete breakdown of course units, review the Curriculum Snapshot for the sequence of classes.


What type of courses will I take?

The first year of the Master of Social Work program provides a common base of knowledge, skills and values by introducing theories, issues and practice methods that deal with individuals and their environment. In the second year of study, you will receive advanced training in one of five concentration options: Mental Health; Families and Children; Community Organization, Planning and Administration (COPA); Social Work and Business in a Global Society; or Health. You can also choose a sub-concentration in military social work to complement your coursework. Please review the Curriculum Snapshot for the sequence of classes.


If I select the military sub-concentration will I be ready to work in a military setting immediately upon graduation?

Yes. You will be well prepared to serve the military population (active duty, veteran, military families). In addition to your three required military courses, you will participate in field experience that provides clinical practice with this specific population. You will either be placed at an agency with an identified military population or at a concentration-specific agency and participate in a Virtual Clinical Experience (VCE). VCE is a guided learning experience in the online classroom. You will meet with your classmates and a faculty member in small groups to work through simulated cases with military clients (played by actors). You will also be supported to build service capacity at your agency for an unidentified military population in your community.

Students in a non-military field practicum will also embark on an Internship with a Military Lens (IML). Supervised by a field instructor, students identify underserved military audiences in their community and build capacity at their agency to provide services. With less than 50 percent of service members and their families served by the Veterans Health Administration, IML offers students a great opportunity to build unique and important services in their community.


Can I transfer units from another MSW or counseling program?

Yes. Up to 12 hours of coursework completed within seven years at the time of application and from another Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited school of social work can be considered for transfer credit. The courses must be equivalent to USC’s curriculum and passed with a 3.0 grade or better. For more details,visit our Transfer Applicants page (once its added). Not all applications for transfer credit are accepted.


Can I complete the MSW@USC while still holding a full-time job?

It is not recommended for you to work full time while enrolled in this program. Earning an MSW degree through the Virtual Academic Center requires a great deal of time and commitment. You will need to consider all of your obligations such as employment, family and educational needs to determine if holding a full-time job is possible while attending class, studying and working 20 hours a week at your assigned field placement. You will be required to work at least one eight-hour day during regular business hours (Monday–Friday, 8 a.m.–5 p.m.) at your field placement. If you need to complete your field placement during evening/weekend hours, securing a field placement site may be delayed due to the limited number of agencies that provide appropriate supervision during those hours.


Can I earn my degree entirely online?

No. The MSW@USC is a blend of online instruction taught by USC faculty in real-time over the Internet and hands-on field education experiences in local communities. Visit our field education FAQs for more information about the experience offered in your local community.


Are there any required visits to the USC campus?

No. USC has no campus or residency requirements, but you are welcome to visit campus anytime. As a USC student, you have access to all of its facilities. All students enrolled in the MSW@USC receive a USC ID card and can participate in commencement with other USC School of Social Work students.


Who teaches the classes?

All classes are taught by distinguished USC faculty whose research and teaching have made them leaders in their respective fields. In fact, the professor-to-student ratio is 12:1.


How much interaction can I expect to have with my professors?

In addition to the interactive class sessions over the Internet, professors maintain regular online office hours where you can engage in one-on-one video chats with professors. Faculty is also available and responsive through email and by telephone.


Do I have to take any prerequisite courses?

There are no prerequisite courses; however, all applicants must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution and at least 18 hours of liberal arts coursework.


How does field education work?

To supplement classroom learning, you will work 20 hours a week at a nearby social service agency, government entity, school, hospital or business under the supervision of an experienced social worker to gain hands-on experience relevant to your emerging skills.  To earn your Master of Social Work degree, you will have to complete 1,000 hours in the field. For more information, review our field education FAQs


Can I complete the MSW@USC if I relocate internationally during the course of the program?

It will be very difficult to complete the program if you move overseas during matriculation. The School of Social Work will decide on a case-by-case basis and attempt to find an international placement, but there is no guarantee that a placement site will be secured for you to complete your degree. In this situation, you may be required to take a leave of absence.


Can international students apply to the MSW@USC program?

Yes. International students and U.S. citizens living abroad are eligible to apply for the MSW@USC program beginning with the fall 2014 semester. International students must attend on a part-time basis. Application requirements are different for international students. Click here for a full list of requirements.


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