Our mission is to prepare advanced social work practitioners who can promote positive change through social work practice, advocacy, education, research, and leadership.

Students train in one of five areas of specialization: child welfare, gerontology, behavioral and mental health, physical health, and community and organizational leadership.

MSW students develop critical advanced social work skills through hands-on learning in their required field placement experiences. The Social Work Field Department collaborates with hundreds of field placement sites throughout the Milwaukee metro area and in greater Wisconsin to provide these experiences.

The goals of this MSW program are to prepare:

  • highly skilled advanced practitioners to work in a variety of ecological levels, including with individuals, families, groups, organizations, communities, and governments;
  • ethical practitioners guided by the principles and values of the social work profession, including dignity and worth of the person, and importance of human relationships;
  • culturally competent social workers who promote and advocate for social justice and human rights;
  • social workers who engage in critical thinking and actively apply research evidence to practice, policy, advocacy, education, and leadership;
  • social workers who conduct practice and program evaluation to advance knowledge and practice;
  • competent practitioners who specialize in one of three concentration areas: child and family welfare, gerontology, or physical, mental and behavioral health;
  • social workers who address human service needs in the state of Wisconsin and the region.

Students in the MSW program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee come from a variety of undergraduate degree backgrounds and bring with them an array of social work-related experiences. We offer an advanced standing curriculum for those who have an undergraduate degree in social work that was earned within five years of entering the MSW program.

Our program is flexible – students set their own pace in a way that meets their individual needs. It’s possible to create a part-time or full-time schedule and we offer multiple sections of required courses at a variety of times, including evening sections.

Admission to the Social Work Master’s Degree Program
  • Admission to the MSW program is limited and competitive. Factors considered in evaluating applicants are academic preparation and achievement, personal qualifications and maturity, volunteer and employment experience, and potential and aptitude for both graduate study and professional practice in social work.
  • A graduate entrance exam such as the GRE or MAT is not required for admission. An advanced standing track is available for students coming to the MSW program who have earned a BSW within the past 5 years.
  • We admit applicants only for the fall semester. The priority deadline each year for applying is January 2 (for fall 2017 applications, it will be January 3, due to the holiday).
  • Minimum Requirements for Admission to the MSW Program:
  •   An undergraduate cumulative grade point average of 2.75 or better (including undergraduate course work from all colleges attended and each attempt of any repeated courses).
  •  Satisfactory completion of at least 21 semester credits in social and behavior science areas such as psychology, sociology, political science, economics, anthropology, or their equivalent.
Applying to the MSW Program
  • We are now accepting applications for fall 2017 admission. The application is an online and automated process through the UW-Milwaukee Graduate School at this link.
  • Priority deadline for fall 2017 applications will be January 3, 2017. The second priority and final deadline will be March 1, 2017, however, applicants are strongly encouraged to apply by the first priority deadline.
  • Prospective applicants can find information about the required references, narrative statement, and resume at the links below.
  • Information about required References for MSW application
  • Information about Resume and Narrative Statement required for MSW application
  • We hold several MSW information sessions throughout the summer and fall.
  • Admission decisions for first priority deadline applicants will be determined by the end of March 2017. Admission decisions for applicants who complete their applications after January 3 will be determined after decisions for first priority applicants have been made.
Concentrations and Methods of Practice Options
MSW students choose one of five specialized concentrations. The skill and knowledge bases developed through each is described below:
  • Physical Health:
  • This concentration is designed to prepare students for advanced and clinical practice in a variety of health care settings. Students in the health concentration are prepared to address the multifaceted world of health care through coursework designed to expose them to issues of chronic health, health care delivery, health policy, and the social determinants of health across the life course.
  • Health concentration students are trained in case management and assessment skills, and the role of social work in multidisciplinary health care teams. Students develop a solid understanding of how access to health systems, policies, and programs impact health.
  • Students who graduate with a concentration in health are prepared for practice in a variety of settings from hospitals and primary care clinics, to community health settings and long term care.
  • Behavioral Health and Mental Health:
  • This concentration is designed to prepare students for advanced social work practice involving the delivery of mental health and addictions services to individuals, families, small groups, and the community.
  • Students are exposed to issues, approaches, and technologies for application in prevention, treatment, administration, and policy. These are related to risks and problems with: alcohol and other drugs, mental health and mental illness, intimate partner violence, community violence, and other behavioral health concerns across the lifespan.
  • Coursework provides students with knowledge, values, and skills to prepare them for professional practice in a variety of private and public settings related to mental health, addictions, and substance abuse.
  • Gerontology:
  • This concentration is designed to aid students in understanding the complexity of the aging process from the perspective of the individual, family, society, and social policy. The concentration will cover the physical, psychological, and social processes of aging including family roles and responsibilities, cultural diversity, social support networks, and the use of health and social services. Major developmental issues during the second half of life will be presented and interventions to facilitate adaptation to developmental change will be described.
  • Coursework will enable students to: understand late-life mental disorders; develop assessment skills; formulate, implement and evaluate treatment plans; and become aware of issues related to age and ageism as they influence social work practice.
  • Children and Families:
  • The social work profession has a long history of commitment to ensuring the well-being of children. Furthermore, professionals recognize the family system as significant in the lives of children. The family system, in its various forms, represents a significant social institution, essential to communities and society as a whole.
  • This concentration focuses on the study of family systems, child and family welfare, and interventions to enhance the lives of children and families.
  • Students in this concentration develop the advanced practice knowledge and skills necessary to provide services to children and families in a variety of settings.
  • Community and Organizational Leadership:
  • Often described as “macro” practice, this concentration is for students who are interested in social change with organizations and communities.
  • Social work within this concentration is about creating social and policy change, strengthening community and organizational systems, developing leadership skills, and addressing social injustices.
  • Students will prepare for roles in leadership and administration, program development, planning, policy, and community practice.
  • Double Concentration:
  • This is for students interested in gaining knowledge and skills relevant to both macro practice techniques and a second direct practice concentration.
  • The double concentration is a combination of community and organizational leadership and a second concentration (physical health, behavioral health and mental health, gerontology, or children and families), and may require up to an additional semester of coursework. Four semesters of field placement are required: two semesters within a direct practice field setting and two semesters of a community and organizational leadership-based field placement.
  • Students who have interests that range from direct social work practice to more leadership social work roles will benefit from this option.
  • Trauma-Informed Care: 
  • The graduate certificate in Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) is designed to provide students with knowledge to implement trauma-informed policy, supervision, and intervention within professional settings.
  • Applied Gerontology:
  • In conjunction with the Center for Aging and Translational Research and the UWM Graduate School, we offer a certificate in applied gerontology. Gerontology is an expanding area for social workers at all levels of practice. The certificate builds on the requirements of the gerontology concentration and includes additional, interdisciplinary coursework. We have also piloted a field program in gerontology that exposes students with interest in aging services to multiple agencies and types of services.
  • Certificate in Nonprofit Management:
  • Partnering with the Helen Bader Institute for Nonprofit Management, we offer social work students the option of additional coursework for a certificate in nonprofit management. This certificate builds on our requirements in macro methods (community and organizational practice) and is for graduate students primarily interested in organizational leadership and management roles.
  • Women’s Studies:
  • The graduate certificate in women’s studies is designed for students enrolled in a graduate program in any field who wish to complement their training with an additional specialization in women’s studies.
Educational Requirements for Wisconsin Credentials
  • Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment For Substance Misuse Training (SBIRT):
  • Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) is a comprehensive and integrated approach to the delivery of early intervention and treatment services for substance misuse. This training workshop is offered at no cost through a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
  • School Social Work:
  • HBSSW is one of the only graduate schools in Wisconsin to offer an approved Department of Public Instruction (DPI) school social work program. The DPI requires a license to provide social work services in Wisconsin public schools, and our program includes verifying your material and transmitting your application to DPI.
  • Substance Abuse:
  • Among our MSW options, the behavioral health concentration is for students interested in substance abuse counselor certification. The Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services approved this MSW advanced-standing curriculum as satisfying the pre-certification educational requirements for substance abuse counselors (the DSPS grants substance abuse counselor certification — not the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare).
Specialized Training
  • Youth-Oriented Substance Abuse and Trauma (YOSAT):
  • The YOSAT counseling program exposes MSW students to specialized training in both substance abuse and trauma counseling. This program is designed for those interested in careers working with children, youth, and young adults within the mental and behavioral health field. Professional development events sponsored by YOSAT give students opportunities to present program accomplishments to local mental and behavioral health care providers, and YOSAT’s directors help students land post-graduate positions at relevant local agencies.