MSW Curriculum

Revolutionary changes in health, education and welfare systems demand a different kind of social worker. The USC School of Social Work curriculum is designed to produce social workers prepared for present and future challenges. Students need to have the knowledge, skills and attitudes for jobs that do not exist yet and areas that are emerging or evolving. We must continue to be innovative and creative, bringing our proud educational legacy into a 21st-century context that prepares graduates to anticipate and address the issues that matter most.

The school’s recently refreshed curriculum places a stronger emphasis on the science of social work and leadership, and allows for more intensive preparation within the student’s chosen department of study. The curriculum is enhanced to reflect feedback from employers and alumni, who cite a need for additional training in analyzing results, thinking critically about complex problems, embracing and managing increasing demands for accountability and data-informed decision-making, budgeting, effectively collaborating with colleagues across settings and institutions and with professionals trained in other disciplines, and navigating the Affordable Care Act. Content incorporates evidence-based and evidence-informed programs, implications of new findings in neuroscience, new directions in prevention and early intervention, as well as best practices used by social workers in a variety of fields.

What to Study

The school is organized into three departments: 1) Adults and Healthy Aging; 2) Children, Youth and Families; and 3) Community, Organization, and Business Innovations. Students will select one of these departments of study and complete one semester of foundation courses centered on the values, knowledge and skills for generalist social work practice and three semesters of courses focused on department-specific issues. Each department offers its own seven core courses, and students will choose three electives focused on their individual interests. To find out when a course is offered and to review its syllabus, please refer to the university's Schedule of Classes.

Playing the Field

As part of the MSW degree requirements, students must complete two field internships, or 1,000 hours of hands-on experience. The school also now offers a two-hour practice lab in the first semester, where students learn to apply three evidence-based interventions: Motivational Interviewing, Problem-solving Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.