Frequently Asked Questions about the MSW

The social work department has put together a list of frequently asked questions about the new MSW program. Click on the question below to find your answer:

What kind of career advantages does earning a Master's degree in Social Work (MSW) provide?

Who is a good candidate for an MSW?

Will there be opportunities to specialize my MSW degree at NMU?

Can I complete the MSW program at NMU entirely online?

What is a field placement?

How do I apply for the MSW program?

What should I include in the personal statement/letter of intent when completing the MSW program application?

Can I complete this program part-time?

Am I eligible to apply for the program if I have a criminal history?

What kind of career advantages does earning a Master’s degree in Social Work (MSW) provide?

Earning an MSW degree sets graduates down a clear career path with a wide range of employment opportunities in an ever growing social work job market. According to the US Department of Labor Statistics, overall employment of social workers is projected to grow 16 percent from 2016-2026, much faster than the average for all occupations.

The MSW degree opens opportunities not available to social workers who have only obtained an undergraduate degree. This is in part due to the specialization options available to students at the graduate level, that are not available at the undergraduate or BSW-level. At NMU, MSW students can concentrate their studies in either clinical practice or policy, planning and administrative practice.

There are also governmental and organizational policies that require graduate degrees for some social work positions. The policies are written in recognition that an advanced education in social work can help to preserve the quality of services and thereby better protect the clients of those services. For example, to become a supervisor in many human service agencies, social workers are required to have an MSW. In addition, in most states in the U.S., social workers who provide counseling services in private practice, must hold a master’s degree plus licensure in the given state.  

The MSW program is currently in the process of earning accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Full accreditation is achieved through an intensive, three-year process of monitoring and review by CSWE staff and members of the Council on Accreditation. Earning a degree from a CSWE is critical for becoming licensed as a social worker in most states, including the State of Michigan. Different levels of licensing can be obtained in Michigan through the Division of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. You can learn about the benefits of becoming licensed as a social worker in the State of Michigan by contacting the National Association of Social Workers-Michigan Chapter.  

Who is a good candidate for an MSW?

The most important qualifications for entering an MSW program is passion and commitment to the values of social work profession. The National Association of Social Workers lists six core professional values in the Code of Ethics:  service, social justice, integrity, competence, importance of human relationship and the dignity and worth of the person

Other important admissions requirements include:  an undergraduate degree in social work or a **related field and a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher.

While paid work experience in social work is not required, the NMU Department of Social Work MSW Admissions committee highly value the experience of a working professional.

If you’ve earned your BSW in the last five years with a 3.25 GPA or higher, you’re eligible to apply for our Advanced Standing MSW degree track. This track is designed for students to complete the program in 12 months, starting with an accelerated summer semester, followed by two semesters of coursework in their concentration. The Advanced Standing cohort is planned to begin in Summer 2020.

**Students with a degree other than social worker must have taken the following courses prior to beginning classes:
  • a combination of courses equivalent to SW 100 Exploring Social Work and SW 230 Human Behavior in the Social Environment I
  • at least a 3 credit course in Statistics, Research Methods, or Quantitative Reasoning
  • at least a 3 credit course in Biology (must include human biology content)
  • at least 10 credits in some combination of the following content areas: Lifespan Development, Psychology and Sociology
Please contact the Social Work Department or the Graduate Admissions office for further questions about admissions requirements.  

Will there be opportunities to specialize my MSW degree at NMU?

All students in the MSW program will first spend time strengthening their competence in general practice skills before making concentration and course choices that allow them to specialize their degrees. Generalist practice will be the focus for either the first year of a Regular Standing MSW program (4 semesters) or the accelerated summer semester of the Advanced Standing program (3 semesters).

Upon completion of the generalist portion of the program, students will then be able to select from one of two concentrations for the remainder of their course work and field placement requirements. The two choices of concentration will be either Clinical Practice or Policy, Planning and Administration (PPA) practice.

Students in their concentration year will also need to select at least 8 credits of elective courses that can help them specialize their knowledge for social work practice. Students will be able to choose from courses offered at the graduate level by the social work department (i.e., Child Welfare I and Child Welfare II) as well as courses offered by other departments at NMU.  

The MSW Curriculum Grid lays out the courses required and pathways to completion for both the Regular and Advanced Standing tracks, as well as both concentrations. It includes a list of courses that have already been approved as elective choices that might fit your specialized learning goals.

Can I complete the MSW program at NMU entirely online?

The MSW Program does have a few slots available for students who would like to complete the program entirely online—as global campus students. These slots are designed primarily for students who live in rural, remote parts of the Midwest. For these potential global campus students, commuting to NMU’s campus to meet in a traditional classroom would make attending our traditional program nearly impossible. These students are also aware that there may be opportunities for them to complete their 900 hours of required field placement in their nearby community. You can contact the Social Work Department if you need help determining if global campus is an option for you.

When you apply through the graduate office website, all applicants should indicate that you intend to attend classes in Marquette, MI. If you are interested in the program as a global campus student, it is important that you indicate your interest in the Section II of the personal statement.  Upon admission, our advisors will work with these students to enroll at NMU with a global campus designation and secure a field placement site.

If you are admitted to one of the global campus student slots for the MSW Program, your letter of acceptance will indicate a global campus designation.  You will then be able to work with admissions staff to complete your registration for the program as a global campus student.

What is a field placement?

The field placement is unique to social work education and critical in the preparation of competent social work professionals. CSWE has established very specific standards that guide the implementation of the field placement experience, whichever accredited program a student attends. All MSW students are required to complete a minimum of 900 field hours (about 2-3 days per week in an academic semester) in a real-world setting under the instruction of a degreed social worker. At NMU, the MSW field coordinator identifies organizational settings that provide appropriate, hands-on experiences that allow students to practice social work skills and apply their classroom knowledge. The field coordinator then matches students to specific field placements that are able to meet their learning needs. Once a student is admitted to the NMU MSW Program, they will be required to complete a field placement application form as soon as possible, to allow the matching process to begin before the formal start of the program.  If a student is admitted into the Advanced Standing program, their hours from their BSW will be counted toward the 900 total hours, and they will be required to complete at least 500 hours during the fall and winter semesters.

When students are selected for the NMU MSW program, they will be required to complete the Field Placement Application and Preference Form which must turned in upon admission the the program.  Student who will have obtained a BSW prior to program admission will also be required to submit a Supplemental Field Portfolio with their field placement application.  Placement applications should be emailed to the Field Placement Coordinator.  Students may be asked to complete an additional application before beginning their concentration year.  Visit our Field Placement page for more information.

How do I apply for the MSW Program?

To apply for the MSW Program you will need to complete a graduate studies application through NMU’s Office of Graduate Studies. You will need to provide the names of three references and attach your undergraduate transcripts and a personal statement to your application.  There are two deadlines for applications. The first on December 1st, is for early-decision makers only.  Early decision makers are applicants who are already committed to attending NMU for their MSW, whereas regular applicants may be considering and applying to other institutions.  Regular applicants must submit their applications no later than February 1st.

What should I include in the personal statement/letter of intent when completing the MSW program application?

Personal statements serve several important purposes. The first is to help the admissions committee determine an applicant’s understanding of and commitment to the values underlying the social work profession: service, social justice, competence, integrity, importance of human relationships, dignity and worth of the person. The second is to help determine if you are a fit for one of our global campus slots. Finally, we know that sometimes just answering the application questions doesn't provide the committee with a full enough picture for why you’d be a great fit for this program. So the personal statement is your opportunity to explain important things that wouldn't be captured in your application otherwise.  To be sure you cover all of these points in your personal statement, please use this outline to structure your personal statement.

Can I complete this program part-time?

The MSW Program at NMU is designed for full-time students. Students who plan to work full-time while completing the program may want to contact the department to discuss feasibility and our employment-based field placement policy before applying to our program.

Am I eligible to apply for the program if I have a criminal history?

In order to protect the interests of their clients, many human services agencies conduct full, pre-employment background investigations for all staff and volunteers.  In addition, many states will not issue licenses to social workers with certain offenses.  Therefore, persons with criminal backgrounds should carefully consider the feasibility of pursuing a career in social work.  While criminal offenses will not necessarily preclude admission to the MSW program at NMU, it may preclude placement in a field agency.  Therefore, applicants are encouraged to disclose relevant criminal history information about themselves in their personal statements.  The admissions committee will consider this information to determine if field placement in the program will be possible.