Admissions Frequently Asked Questions

About the MSW program

Why should I pursue a master’s degree in social work?
If you care about changing the world for the better, a degree in social work will give you the skills and experience to make a real difference in the lives of individuals and society as a whole. It prepares you for a wide variety of career paths — in the public, private and nonprofit sectors — and the flexibility to move from one setting to another with ease.

How long will it take to earn my MSW degree?
You can complete the MSW program in two years (four semesters), three years (six semesters) or four years (eight semesters). We also offer advanced standing for high-achieving candidates who hold a BSW. Alternative class formats, including weekend courses and distance-learning opportunities, offer even more flexibility. However, field education hours are only available during the weekday for the semesters you participate in field education.

What practice areas are offered?
You may choose from three departments of study, including 1) Adults and Healthy Aging; 2) Children, Youth and Families; and 3) Community, Organization, and Business Innovation. Students can also select an option in a particular area to further customize their academic experience, which requires two additional courses. Examples of options include Child and Adolescent Mental Health, Juvenile Justice, Military Social Work, Public Child Welfare, School Social Work, Older Adults and Systems of Recovery from Mental Illness.

What dual degree options are available?
We partner with five other prestigious professional schools at USC, in addition to Hebrew Union College, to offer eight options for a concurrent degree. While obtaining your MSW, you can earn a law degree, MBA or master’s in gerontology, Jewish nonprofit management, planning, public administration, public health or PhD direct. A dual degree option requires separate admission to each program.

Can I switch from the two-year program to the three- or four-year program once I’m enrolled or vice versa?
If you are enrolled in the two-year program, yes, you can request a change to the three- or four-year program. However, if you are enrolled in the three-year or four-year program, you must request a change to the two-year program BEFORE the add/drop deadline because of field hours and corresponding courses. All switches prior to the first semester’s add/drop deadline are possible, but require the approval of the assistant dean of admissions and scholarship programs. All switches after the first add/drop deadline must be made through your academic advisor.

Do you offer the MSW program at locations other than Los Angeles?
Yes. The MSW program is also available online through the Virtual Academic Center. The online program offer the same MSW program and same faculty at the University Park campus. Not all departments and corresponding classes are available on all platforms.

What orientation activities does the school provide for new students?
We require all new students to attend orientation sessions that introduce you to campus resources, support services, curriculum, financial aid, field instruction and technology. New students also participate in a community immersion experience in which faculty-led teams explore Southern California’s urban neighborhoods to help students begin thinking about the influence communities and social networks have on people’s lives. An international student advisor also is available to help foreign students become oriented to the school.

Is student housing available?
Yes. Around the University Park campus, USC Housing offers a wide variety of housing options for graduate students, from residence halls to apartments. Most MSW students do not live in university housing since the Los Angeles area has numerous interesting communities in which to live, many within a reasonable commuting distance from USC. If you decide to apply for housing, we recommend that you meet the earliest application deadline for the MSW program so that you can receive your admission decision as early as possible — housing applications may only be submitted once you have been admitted to USC.

About applying for admission

What are the admission requirements?
Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university, with a minimum of 18 units of interdisciplinary liberal arts coursework. We strongly prefer at least a 3.0 cumulative undergraduate GPA. The USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work does not require the GRE. For more about what we look for in an applicant, please read the admission criteria.

What type of undergraduate degree do I need?
An interdisciplinary liberal arts background, spanning both social and biological sciences, is the ideal preparation for the MSW program, but you are encouraged to apply even if your bachelor’s degree was not in the liberal arts. We accept all majors.

Do I need to take the GRE?
No, it is not required for admission to the MSW program.

What are the requirements for international applicants?
In addition to meeting the criteria for admission, international applicants must submit official academic records for all university-level studies completed abroad and at U.S. institutions, evidence of English-language proficiency and documentation certifying your ability to meet the cost of attendance each year you are in the United States.

What is the cost of the program?
For tuition costs, please review the Estimated Tuition & Financial Aid document. Many additional finacial aid resources are also available.

How can I pay my enrollment confirmation deposit?
An email will be sent to accepted students with a link to pay your deposit. Payment will be required to confirm your seat. A credit card must be used to pay the $280 deposit.

What scholarships are available?
USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work offer multiple scholarships based on financial need, scholastic achievement and leadership qualities. Scholarships are awarded in varying amounts to students who meet certain qualifications. You can review our Scholarship page for information on applying. We also encourage you to seek other opportunities online through search engines, federal agencies, private foundations and organizations.

What is the application deadline?
Please visit the MSW Admissions Deadlines page for the current admissions, financial aid and scholarships apply-by dates. We have three MSW application deadlines, in addition to a late application deadline. International, transfer and dual-degree applicants must apply by the priority deadline to allow time for processing additional paperwork. To be considered for the Dean's Leadership Scholarship, applicants must apply to the MSW program and for this scholarship by the priority deadline. Some applicants also find this earlier timeline helpful if they are applying to other programs or if they simply want to plan for next year as soon as possible.

Do I need to submit all my application paperwork by the admissions deadlines?
All supporting documents for your application must be post-marked by the deadline. Please visit the MSW Admissions Deadlines page for the current admissions, financial aid and scholarships apply-by dates.

I need to send in my transcripts to complete my application. Where do I send them?
Send them to Graduate Admissions at:
    University of Southern California
    Office of Graduate Admissions
    University Park Campus
    Los Angeles, CA 90089-0915
Sending them directly to Graduate Admissions will allow for a quicker processing of transcripts. Electronic transcripts may be sent to rtimmins@usc.edu from authorized providers.

If admitted, can I defer my enrollment?
No, we do not grant deferments.

When will I be notified of a decision?
Decision letters are sent to desired candidates within two to four months after the application is complete via email to our domestic and international applicants. 

Can I transfer credits from other graduate programs?
Transfer applicants must have at least a 3.0 cumulative grade point average from an accredited school of social work program. University policy only allows us to accept 12 transfer credits.

What about concurrent enrollment?
A student in a Graduate School degree program may not enroll for credit at this university and elsewhere simultaneously without advance permission from the dean of the degree program. Learn more about concurrent enrollment.