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 MSW Program:  Frequently Asked Questions


What does an MSW allow me to do?


The MSW allows individuals to practice within a number of roles and settings.  The MSW can be an important step leading the individual to practice with individuals, families and groups in an institution, agency, or private practice setting. 


What qualities should I possess as a social worker?


Competent social workers display empathy and integrity.  In addition, they possess the capacity for critical thinking, self-reflection, respect for diversity, and a commitment to ameliorate social inequities.  Social workers use the NASW Code of Ethics as their orienting values.


How long is the MSW program?


The Regular Standing track is a 60 credit hour program that may be completed in 2 years full-time or 4 years part-time.  The Advanced Standing track is a 30 credit hour program that may be completed in 1 year full-time and 2 years part-time.


What is the Regular Standing track?


Our Regular Standing track is for those who have an undergraduate degree in a discipline other than social work or received the Bachelors of Social Work degree longer than 7 years ago.


What is the Advanced Standing track?


To qualify for this track you must meet several criteria:  First, you must have received your BSW from an accredited program within the last 7 years.  Secondly, you must have a 3.0 GPA.  Those candidates with less than a 3.0 GPA will be considered on a case-by-case basis.  In addition, you must have received Bs or better in all your social work courses and Bs or better in your undergraduate statistics and research classes.


What if I have received a BSW within the last 7 years but don’t meet the above criteria.  Can I qualify for the Regular Standing track?


No, you must re-take any social work, statistics, or research courses in which you received less than a B and get a B or better, as the Advanced Standing track is your only option.  Our accrediting body, the Council on Social Work Education, requires that no undergraduate student experience redundancy in the master’s curriculum.  That is, you cannot repeat any coursework content for which you previously demonstrated competence.


What about the liberal arts and biology requirement?


Regardless of whether you are eligible for the Regular or Advanced Standing track, you must have 30 hours of liberal arts requirements as part of your undergraduate degree to be considered for admission into the MSW program.  In addition, you must have had a class in human anatomy (Biology 111 at SIUE has the required content and may be used for comparison to determine whether the course you took covers the required content.  If you have any question regarding whether the Biology course you took covers this content, please contact Dr. Bryan Duckham, MSW Program Director at for help).


When do you offer your graduate classes?


Classes are offered one time per week on M, T, W, or Th. evenings.  Full-time students are in class 3-4 times per week while part-time students are in class 1-2 times per week.


Do you offer summer classes?


Yes, select classes are offered during the summer.


When can I start the program?


Students start the program in fall.  Those students who are admitted into the program may take summer classes prior to beginning in the fall semester.


What is the admission deadline?


Our admission deadline is always the same.  All materials must be received by February 15th. 


When can I expect to hear from you about whether I have been accepted or not?


Letters of acceptance and denial go out at the beginning of April.


What admission materials do I need to submit?


1)      All Admission materials must be sent to the Graduate School.

2)      Applications for both the Graduate School and Social Work Department. 

3)      3 letters of recommendation

4)      A personal statement.

5)      All college transcripts must be sent to SIUE (Office of Graduate Admissions, SIUE, Box 1047, Edwardsville, IL 62026-1047).  If you attended SIUE you do not have to request transcripts be sent. 



Do I need to take the GRE?




Who should my letters of recommendation be from?


You need one letter from a current or past instructor/faculty member.  One should be from someone who supervised you, preferably in a social service setting.  This is not always possible, so a letter from any supervisor in some circumstances will suffice.  The third letter should speak to your academic and professional potential.  Letters from supervisors, instructors/faculty, and colleagues, hold the most weight.  Character references from family and friends should be avoided.


What should I include in my personal statement?


You should include the following:

1)       Your reasons for wanting to pursue a career in social work as well as those formative experiences that have led you to want to help others. 

2)      Those individuals who influenced you who modeled social work values. 

3)      Any experience(s) you have had in social service, on a paid or voluntary basis. 

4)      A discussion of your commitment to social justice-provide evidence of your understanding of a social justice issue and the need to advocate for change.

5)       Discuss your strengths and weaknesses, personally and professionally.  Often, our strengths are tied to our weaknesses; in other words, our strengths can often be our weaknesses.  Awareness of this and how one works on both is an important consideration for a competent social worker.


How does the practicum work?


Students are required to do practica.  A practicum, or direct field placement in an agency or institution, allows students the opportunity to practice the theory and skills they acquire in the curriculum.  They may be split, one during the Spring semester and one during the Summer semester, or, they may both be done in a block during the Summer semester.  Advanced Standing students do 2 practica during the concentration year while Regular Standing students do 4 practica, two during the foundation year and two during the concentration year.  If admitted, you are given a list of approved practicum cites and assisted to find an appropriate practicum site.  Many agencies perform criminal background checks on practicum students.


Can I work full-time in addition to pursuing my MSW full-time? 


This is strongly discouraged.  Graduate work is demanding and rigorous.  In addition to coursework demands, students are required to do practica that are time-consuming. 


Do you offer scholarships and fellowships?


We offer a number of graduate assistantships each year.  In addition, a number of scholarships are offered through the Graduate School.


What is the Capstone Project that I would be required to do at the end of the program?


The Capstone Project, or Portfolio, is a final integrative project in which students demonstrate competency in the core areas of social work functioning.  Students assemble the best representation of their achievements through the curriculum in a binder with narrative statements that support their competency relative to the Council on Social Work Education’s standards.  Students take as their final course the Capstone class in which they are given guidance in the project.



For additional questions, please contact Dr. Bryan Duckham, MSW Program Director at



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