Master's Degree in Social Work

MSW students at UWM 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.

MSW Program Mission and Goals

The mission of the UWM MSW Program is to prepare advanced social work practitioners who can promote positive change through social work practice, advocacy, education, research, and leadership.

This is accomplished through training in one of three areas of specialization: child welfare, gerontology, and behavioral health. The values of this program align with the mission of the UWM Social Work Department.


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 UWM come from a variety of undergraduate degree backgrounds and bring with them an array of social work-related experiences. An Advanced Standing curriculum is offered for those whose undergraduate degree is Social Work and has been earned within five years of entering the MSW program.

The MSW program offers students flexibility. Students can set their own pace through the program in a way that meets their individual needs – either part-time or full-time schedules are possible. Multiple sections of required courses are offered at a variety of times, including evening sections.


To learn more, contact:
Amy Kirby
(414) 229-6486

Download MSW Brochure

Admission to the Social Work Masters 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 to students coming to the MSW program with an earned BSW within the past 5 years. The deadline for application is January 2, each year (unless January 2 is a weekend, then it will be the Monday after). Applicants are admitted only for the Fall semester each year.
  • 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.
How to Apply
The admissions cycle for Fall 2015 is now closed. We admit new MSW students to start the program in the Fall semester only each year. Applications for Fall 2016 admission will open September 15, 2015. Please check back to this web page for more information about how to apply.
Concentrations and Methods of Practice Options
Students select a concentration and methods area at the beginning of the MSW program. This enables them to enroll in the appropriate courses and to arrange suitable field placements.
  • Physical, Behavorial, and Mental Health: Course work provides students with knowledge, values, and skills to prepare them for professional practice in a variety of private and public settings related to physical health, mental health, addictions and substance abuse. Students will be prepared for delivery of health, 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, cognitive and physical disabilities, physical illness, and other behavioral health concerns across the lifespan.
  • Child and Family Welfare: Students will develop the advanced practice knowledge and skills necessary to provide services to children and families in a wide variety of settings. The family system represents a significant social institution, essential to communities and to society. This concentration focuses on the study of family systems, child and family welfare, and interventions to enhance the lives of children and families.
  • Gerontology: Course work 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. Students will learn 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.
  • Direct Practice: Students who wish to deal with the changing impact of interpersonal and social problems on individuals, families, and groups through direct service should choose this specialty.
  • Macro Practice: This method is for students who are interested in planned change with organizations and committees. Students will prepare for roles in planning, policy practice, administration, program development and community practice.
  • Double Methods: Students who are interested in gaining knowledge and skills in working with individuals, families, groups, communities, and organizations may want to consider this option, which involves taking methods coursework and field experience in both Direct Practice and Macro Practice and may require 4-5 additional credits. Coursework for the second method is taken instead of other course electives. Four semesters of field are required for all Double Methods students with two semesters for Direct Practice experience and two semesters of Macro Practice experience.
  • 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, inter-disciplinary coursework. We have also just 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 program 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: The Behavioral Health Concentration is for MSW 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. The program is designed for those looking for 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. YOSAT’s directors help students land post-graduate positions at relevant local agencies.