Master of Social Work

SMU’s Master of Social Work program (MSW) prepares graduates to work as respected members of interdisciplinary teams that provide health services and social services that enhance people’s quality of life.

Quick
Facts

What
We Look For

What
Makes SMU Special?

Need More
Information?

Schedule your one-on-one session about the Master of Social Work program. We will answer all your queries and provide information about the curriculum and future career opportunities.

86% of our students receive financial aid

Mission 

The mission of the Master of Social Work program is to develop ethical and culturally responsive social work professionals in healthcare whose service to and advocacy for diverse communities are rooted in deep knowledge of the systemic effects of discrimination, oppression, and stigma; are made effective through utilization of interprofessional collaboration; and are guided by principles of social justice and scientific inquiry.  

Vision 

The College of Health Sciences at Samuel Merritt University is devoted to innovation and excellence in health science education, research, and scholarship with increased engagement of underrepresented communities in all fields of the health sciences. The vision of the Master of Social Work program is to create a cadre of diverse leaders who will be catalysts for social change and transform oppressive systems in partnership with the communities they serve. 

Values

The values of the Master of Social Workers program values are based on the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethics, last updated in 2017. The core NASW values are service; social justice; dignity and worth of the person; importance of human relationships; integrity; and competence.

A Rewarding Career in Integrated Health, Behavioral Health, and Medical Social Work

The SMU Master of Social Work program (MSW) provides students comprehensive training to become integrated health, behavioral health, and medical social workers.  

This is a three-year, part-time, hybrid (online and campus-based) program. It is the goal of the program to draw a student body from the extensive cultural, ethnic, and social diversity of the Bay Area and California at large, who have experiences of living, coping, and thriving amid the sociopolitical complexities surrounding the delivery of health services. 

Samuel Merritt University received a $1,487,750 three-year grant from the California Department of Health Care Access and Information (HCAI) to start the MSW program. The award is part of the Social Work Education Capacity Expansion program to support social work education in California. 

Our program’s part-time structure is designed to support students who do not want to leave employment for full-time studies (or who have other responsibilities). The program’s flexibility will be optimized through a hybrid structure, with evening online classes that serve to reduce commuting times and weekend in-person classes. For weekend in-person classes, our Oakland campus is well served by public transportation, increasing program accessibility to students who rely on public transit. 

Graduating social workers will demonstrate both an understanding of the social determinants of health and an ability to work as effective members of interdisciplinary health services teams. Our graduates will also demonstrate competencies in applying social work practices on micro, mezzo, and macro levels to address the upstream factors that lie beyond healthcare delivery to enhance social and economic justice and reduce health disparities. 

About Samuel Merritt University 

Samuel Merritt University (SMU) is a highly regarded health sciences university with campuses in Oakland, Sacramento, Fresno, and the San Francisco Peninsula. Our new Master of Social Work (MSW) is a three-year, part-time, hybrid social work degree program based on the Oakland campus. 

SMU’s strong technology and infrastructure, as well as its extensive institutional experiences with interprofessional simulation training, will offer rich opportunities for students to apply principles of ethical decision-making and evidence utilization of effective self-awareness and self-regulation in complex and continually evolving practice situations.  

About the Master of Social Work Department 

The MSW program emphasizes ethical and effective practice through self-reflection, self-regulation, and self-care, requiring that our graduates demonstrate the ability to address internal bias and apply principles of scientific inquiry to critically analyze evidence-based strategies as they apply to diverse populations. The rich cultural diversity, as well as the deep and persistent social, racial, environmental, and economic inequities present in the greater Bay Area, establish a context that compels our commitment to advancing social justice and fundamental rights for vulnerable and marginalized individuals and communities. 

Learning will occur in a vibrant and dynamic environment of online evening and in-person weekend classroom settings. The program has been created to meet the needs of healthcare providers looking for well-trained medical and behavioral health social work providers. With our focus on integrated health, behavioral health, and medical social work, graduates of the program will be well prepared to work in settings requiring interdisciplinary team-based services that enhance patients’ quality of life. The program is designed to help graduates build strong professional networks while working to meet the needs of diverse communities across California. 

California and the Bay Area are experiencing social worker shortages. Studies continue to find a growing need for social work support in the health, behavioral health, mental health, and aging social service sectors. We see an increase in social worker positions in the region as a tool to provide services to many underserved communities while making it easier for those who need support to access health, behavioral, and social service resources they need and deserve. 

Purpose and Values of the Social Work Profession 

Our mission and values articulate the importance of developing social work professionals who are able to apply principles of logic and scientific inquiry, to critically analyze evidence-based strategies as they apply to diverse populations, and to translate this knowledge to their practice.

Importantly, our mission also outlines our core commitment to service and advocacy of social justice and fundamental rights for vulnerable and marginalized individuals and communities, producing graduates who demonstrate skills to bring about greater social, racial, economic, and environmental justice. 

Schedule an in-depth one-on-one 30-minute phone/Zoom session to answer all your queries.

Need more information? Contact, and our admission team will get back to you shortly.

Admission

  • Baccalaureate from a regionally accredited institution.
  • Minimum recommended cumulative GPA of 2.5 for the last 60 semester units. All coursework (including repeated classes) will be averaged.
  • Two letters of reference are required. The first should be from a person who has known you in an academic or professional setting. The second letter may be from an academic, professional, or clinical source.
  • All letters are to be submitted as part of the application through SocialWorkCAS.
  • Interview (as requested by SMU).
  • Personal statement.

Preferred, but not required:  

  • Statistics: An introductory statistics/quantitative research method course offered by a community college or university is recommended but not required.

Interviews

Students may be selected by SMU for an interview based upon the content of the application they submit to SocialWorkCAS. Not all candidates who meet minimum qualifications will require an interview.    

Students who need disability accommodations may request them by emailing the Disability Resource Center at drc@samuelmerritt.edu. Please give as much notice as you can. Further information about the Disability Resource Center can be found here.  

Application Fees 
Application fees are payable to Social Work’s Centralized Application Service (SocialWorkCAS). Samuel Merritt University does not charge an additional admission fee.

Non-Refundable Deposits and Fees 
Students offered admission pay a non-refundable tuition deposit of $350 to secure their seat in the class. Application fees and tuition deposits are non-refundable, whether or not the student withdraws in the first week of the term.

Tuition Calculator
There is a tuition calculator that provides a detailed summary of annual tuition, all fees for the program, and a cost estimator for the entire program.

TUITION CALCULATOR

MSW Scholarships

Scholarships are available. The awards will be made on a rolling basis. Early applications are encouraged for students interested in scholarships. Current scholarships include awards from the Social Worker Education Capacity Expansion Grant Program. Awards of $7,000 to $8,000 are available. Approximately 10 to 15 awards will be made each year for the 2023-24 and 2024-25 academic years. Complete applications on the Social Work CAS website are required before scholarships can be awarded.

Financial Aid

In addition to scholarships, financial aid is an important resource to help cover your education costs. Our financial aid office is available to work with you to put the best possible financial plan together. Available loan types: 

  • Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans 

  • Federal Direct Graduate Loans 

Please review the financial aid resources: https://www.samuelmerritt.edu/admission/affording-smu/financial-aid-and-scholarships 

Debt Forgiveness

Social workers who work for qualifying government or nonprofit organizations often qualify for the Federal Student Loan Forgiveness Program. You may want to compare the type of loans you apply for in relation to the Federal Student Loan Forgiveness Program (only certain loans qualify for debt forgiveness under this program). https://studentaid.gov/manage-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/public-service 

Applying for Federal Student Aid

To apply for federal student aid make sure you complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form each year you are in school. https://studentaid.gov/ 

Our program also has 10 Program Learning Outcomes (PLOs) that are aligned with the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE): 

  1. Demonstrate advanced practice effectiveness through competent engagement, assessment, intervention, and evaluation with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities in healthcare settings.  

  2. Apply principles of ethical decision-making and evidence utilization of effective self-awareness and self-regulation in complex and continually evolving practice situations.  

  3. Demonstrate understanding that human experiences are shaped by intersectionality of identities including but not limited to age, caste, class, color, culture, disability and ability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity and expression, generational status, immigration status, legal status, marital status, political ideology, race, nationality, religion/spirituality, sex, sexual orientation, and tribal sovereign status, and utilize practice methods that evidence respect, humility, and an understanding of how diverse and different life experiences interact on micro, mezzo, and macro levels.  

  4. Evidence knowledge that experiences of diversity and difference are critically intertwined with experiences of power, privilege, or marginalization and located in systemic effects of disproportionality, disparities, and inequities.    

  5. Demonstrate skills to work in service and advocacy of social justice and fundamental rights for vulnerable and marginalized individuals and communities in local, regional, national, and global settings.  

  6. Demonstrate understanding of social determinants of health and apply practice on micro, mezzo, and macro levels to address upstream factors that lie beyond healthcare delivery to enhance social and economic justice and reduce health disparities.  

  7. Apply principles of logic and scientific inquiry and demonstrate ability to critically analyze evidence-based strategies as they apply to diverse populations and demonstrate ability to translate knowledge to practice.   

  8. Develop, maintain, and enhance collaboration with interprofessional partners through clear and respectful understanding of roles, commitment to shared goals, and through continuous appreciative inquiry. 

  9. Apply technology ethically and effectively to advance practice outcomes. 

  10. Demonstrate self-care as an essential practice for competent and ethical social work practice.  

Our curriculum is informed by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) 2022 Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards. Our courses are designed to provide students with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to achieve our previously defined MSW mission, goals, and objectives. Classes will begin September 2nd, 2023.

Introductory and Generalist courses are taken in the first year and parts of the second year of study. These courses build the foundation for advanced specialization in integrated health/medical social work in parts of the second year and the third and final year of the program.

A Typical Course Schedule 

The SMU MSW program offers one area of specialized practice in integrated health, behavioral health, and medical social work. The focus of our program is to graduate social work professionals who are prepared for service in integrated health care (IHC) and a variety of healthcare settings.

Classes are designed to complete the part-time program in three years.

The Generalist Practice curriculum is completed in the first two years of the program and is organized around six areas: (1) Human Behavior in the Social Environment (SW601 and SW602); (2) Social Welfare Policy (SW620); (3) Introductory Research (SW6615); (4) Diversity/Race Gender & Inequality in Health (SW622); (5) Generalist Practice (SW611 and SW612); and (6) Field Seminar and Internship (SW630a and b, SW631a and b).

Our specialized practice curriculum is completed in the advanced years of the program. The specialized practice is designed to address advanced competencies in integrated health, behavioral health, and medical social work that are aligned with the nine social work competencies as defined by CSWE.

36 Month Design, 8 semesters

YearFall Semester Spring SemesterSummer Special Session
1

Semester 1

SW601 HBSE I: Human Behavior in the Social Environment I, Micro and Mezzo (3 units, Hybrid On Campus)

SW620 Intro to Social Welfare Policy (3 units, Hybrid Online)

Semester 2

SW602 HBSE II: Human Behavior in the Social Environment II,  Mezzo and Macro (3 units Hybrid On Campus)

SW615 Research Methods I: Intro to Social Work Research (3 units, Hybrid Online)

Semester 3

SW622 RGI: Racial, Gender & Inequality in Health and Mental Health (3 units Hybrid On Campus)

SW650 Elective I: Electives (3 units, Hybrid Online)

 

2

Semester 4

SW611 Generalist Practice I: Micro Practice (3 units, Hybrid On Campus)

SW630a Field Seminar I (1 unit, Hybrid On Campus or Online) Must be taken concurrently with field/practicum training.

Semester 5

SW612 Generalist Practice II: Mezzo and Macro Practice (3 units, Hybrid On Campus)

SW651: Elective II (3 units, classes may be online or on campus based on instructors’ availability)

SW631a Field Seminar II (1 unit, Hybrid On Campus or Online) Must be taken concurrently with field/practicum training

Semester 6

SW613 Advanced Micro Practice In Integrated Health/Medical Social Work (3 units, Hybrid On Campus)

SW651 Elective II (3 units, classes may be online or on campus based on instructors’ availability)

 

Field Options:Field Option A:16hrs/week 15 weeks per semester = 225-240 hrs (3 units, Agency Placements)Field Option B: Summer Block Field, Field 40hrs/week, 12 weeks in Summer = 450-480 hrs (6 units, Agency Placements)Field Option C: Extended 42-week 3 Semester Block = 425-450 hrs (6 units total, Agency Placements)
3

Semester 7

SW614 Advanced Mezzo and Macro Practice in Integrated Health/Medical Social Work (3 units, Hybrid On Campus)

SW616 Integrated Seminar: Integrated Health/Medical Social Work Research I (3 units, Hybrid Online)

SW632a Field Seminar III: Interprofessional Education (IPE) Simulation Training (1 unit, Hybrid On Campus)

Semester 8

SW617 Integrated Seminar: Integrated Health/Medical Social Work Research II (3 units, Hybrid Online)

SW633a Field Seminar IV: Interprofessional Education (IPE) Simulation Training (1 unit, Hybrid On Campus)

 

Special Summer Electives will be offered in the summer sessions*.

These electives will help prepare students to complete California BBS requirements.  Class may include:

  • Law and Ethics
  • Human Sexuality / Taking a Sexual History/Gender Affirming Care
  • Substance Abuse Treatment

*There are non-tuition special fees for some of these courses 

Field Options:Field Option A: Two Semester Placements, 16 hrs/week, 30 weeks over 2 semesters = 225-240 hrs x 2 semesters = 450-480 total hrs  (6 units total, Agency Placements)Field Option B: Summer Block Field, Field 40 hrs/week, 12 weeks in Summer = 450-480 total hrs (6 units, Agency Placements)Field Option C: Extended 42 Week 3 Semester Block, =  approximately 12 hrs/week in 3 semesters = 450-480 total hrs (7 units, Agency Placements)

 

Typical Class Schedules

Hybrid Online: Classes will meet via Zoom class sessions on weeknight evenings. Most classes will meet for two to three hours on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday evenings beginning at 6:30 PM.

Hybrid On Campus: Classes will meet for a mix of in-person and online coursework. In-person classes will be held on Saturdays at the SMU Oakland campus. On-campus courses will begin at 9:30 AM with some additional afternoon sessions if two on-campus sessions are needed (this will occur in the 3rd year of the program with both Advance practice and Simms labs occurring on same days, and some afternoon electives may be offered on campus).

Courses

  • Human Behavior and the Social Environment I
  • Human Behavior and the Social Environment II
  • Introduction to Social Welfare Policy
  • Research Methods I
  • Generalist Practice I: Foundations of Social Work-Micro Practice
  • Race, Gender & Inequality in Health and Mental Health
  • Field Seminar I
  • Field Internship I
  • Generalist Practice II
  • Research Methods II: Qualitative & Quantitative Methods
  • Field Seminar II
  • Field Internship II
  • Advanced Micro Practice in Integrated Health/Medical Social Work
  • Elective
  • Advanced Mezzo & Micro Practice in Integrated Health/Medical Social Work
  • Field Seminar III: Interprofessional Education (IPE) Simulation Training
  • Field Internship III
  • Electives
  • Integrated Seminar: Integrated Health/Medical Social Work Research II
  • Field Seminar IV: Interprofessional Education (IPE) Simulation Training
  • Field Internship IV + Clinical Rotations

Field Placements: Held at different medical, behavioral health care and nonprofit settings. All students are expected to complete 900 hours of internship placements. Students will work under the supervision of MSW providers who have a minimum of 2 years post-master’s practice experience.

Internships, also known as field work or practicums, are an integral part of social work education. The Council on Social Work Education requires that all MSW students complete at least 900 hours of field work as part of their MSW education. MSW students complete both academic courses and field practicum experiences with associated seminars. MSW students will complete 450-480 hours of a foundation field practicum and another 450-480 hours of an advanced field practicum. These two field experiences will be different placements to provide a breadth of applied social work learning. As a part-time social work program, SMU has developed three tracks that students can pursue to complete their field practicum hours. Option A completes the field education over two traditional academic years (30 weeks) in the 2nd and 3rd years of the program. Options B allows students to complete 40-hour-per-week block placements over a 12-week summer semester in the 2nd and 3rd years of the program. Option C allows working students to spread out their placement hours over three academic semesters (42 weeks). 

The three internship options are designed to support students by providing more flexibility options than most social work programs. This also reflects the school’s commitment to help students reach our program learning outcome of self-care as we support our students through the challenges many returning students have in juggling school, work, and family responsibilities.  

How Do I Find a Placement? 

Before your second year begins, you will have an opportunity to review and interview with several potential field sites. The Field Education Department will support you in finding a placement that meets the CSWE requirements and as much as possible supports your individualized schedules.  

What Types of Field Sites Will Be Available? 

This is a program focused on health social work. Our field education sites will provide training in medical social work, behavioral health social work, aging and social work, and health services and social work. Your field sites might be based in a hospital, a clinic setting, or a community-based setting. SMU is developing field agreements with sites in the East Bay area such as La Clinica and Sutter Hospital. Students who receive health stipends will be expected to complete internships in community-based health, mental health, or hospital settings. Employment-based internships will need to conform to one of the three internship options (30 weeks, 12 weeks, or 42 weeks). Employment-based options will be developed on an individual basis and in partnership with students’ employers.

Field Options 

Option A: 

Year 

Hrs Per Week 

Hrs Per Semester 

(15 weeks) 

Hrs Per Year  

2nd 

16 

225-240 

450-480 

3rd 

16 

225-240 

450-480 

   

Total: 900-960 hrs 

Option B: Summer Block 

Year 

Hrs Per Week 

Hrs Per Summer  

(12 weeks) 

Hrs Per Year

2nd 

40 

450-480 

450-480 

3rd 

40 

450-480 

450-480 

   

Total: 900-960 hrs 

Option C: Three-Semester Option Including Summer Hours 

Year 

Hrs Per Week 

Hrs Per Week  

(42 weeks) 

Hrs Per Year 

2nd 

12 

460-480 

460-480 

3rd 

12 

460-480 

460-480 

   

Total: 920-960 hrs 

For all schools of social work, practicum education (field work) is an integral part of the education experience. The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) describes field work as the central pedagogical format for social work education. CSWE requires all social work students to complete at least 900 hours of practicum experience during their MSW education. SMU’s field work begins in the second year and continues through the third year of the program. Students must be supervised by an MSW with at least two years’ post-master’s experience during their field placement. Our field office works with each student to secure a placement site and to assure that the correct field supervision is available.  

Council on Social Work Education’s Commission on Accreditation (COA) is responsible for developing accreditation standards that define competent preparation and ensuring that social work programs meet these standards. In accordance with the requirements of CSWE’s recognition body, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), the CSWE Office of Social Work Accreditation administers a multistep accreditation process that involves program self-studies, site visits, and COA reviews.  

Please note that the Master of Social Work program is delivered in a hybrid format.  Some courses are taught solely online and others require on-campus time.  Numerous courses include requirements for participating in online discussion forums and accessing course learning materials via Course Management Systems (Canvas); therefore, access to a computer and the internet is required. All students will be trained in the use of Canvas.  

Recommended internet standards include:  

  1. Reliable broadband high-speed internet connection.

  1. Recommended: 15Mbps/3Mbps (Down/Up) per household member.  

  1. Minimum: Average 2.5Mbps (Down/Up) for single user Zoom only. Please Quit/Exit all other applications while using Zoom. 

  1. Reliable Operating Systems (Recommend not to use ChromeBook). 

  1. Applications: Google Apps, MS Office, Internet Browsers, Media Player, Adobe Acrobat Reader. 

Where do students typically live? 
Students live in many surrounding areas of the Bay Area. In Oakland, students typically live near Pill Hill (the area where the campus is located), Telegraph, the Fruitvale District, and Jack London Square. Students also live in neighboring cities such as Alameda, San Francisco, and Walnut Creek. Other students commute from cities like Fremont, Hayward, and Union City. Public transportation is available from all areas. There is a parking garage for students that commute. Student discounts are available for Clipper Cards if students take BART. There is a shuttle that runs from the BART station to the campus. 

What do students do outside of school for social or community activities? 
The SF Bay Area is an amazing place, with an abundance of world-class activities. The Oakland campus is surrounded by great parks, restaurants, museums, theater, music venues, sightseeing, sporting events, etc. Community service is also a big part, with volunteer opportunities almost every weekend and many weekdays. 

What is the commute like on Bart to the school and how seamless and safe is it? 
BART is easily accessible and quick to learn if you have not taken public transportation before. By using Google Maps, it will tell you what train to hop on and what time each train will arrive at the selected BART station. In order to get to school, you would get off at the MacArthur BART station and transfer to the free Sutter Alta Bates No. 3 or No. 4 shuttle. Make sure to have your student ID on you. It is safe during the day, but like any other city, be cautious of holding your phone out, pay attention to your surroundings, and avoid using BART when it’s darker out. To pay for your BART ride, you can purchase a Clipper Card at any kiosk you find at a BART station. The school provides a student discount that you pay monthly at the ABSMC Parking & Transportation office at 3100 Summit St. Rm G615. The Clipper Card credit will be uploaded automatically to your card each month. The majority of in-person classes will be held on Saturday mornings and afternoons. Evening classes will typically be delivered as online classes.  

What is the overall safety of the area around school, Oakland, etc.? 
The area around the campus is relatively safe. Like any city, there are areas that are safer and some areas where you need to be diligent. We are fortunate to have a parking garage that is very safe. The area around the campus is seeing significant development over the past few years. Within two blocks, you will find Sprouts grocery store, Starbucks, Chipotle, and Grocery Outlet. There are also campus security guards who prevent non-student individuals from roaming onto campus. There are plenty of study spaces that are open until 10 PM and midnight. Security can also escort you to your vehicle if you do not feel like walking alone. Overall, it feels safe here, but we encourage all students to be cautious and seek support if you feel unsafe for any reason. 

What support is offered for students if they need help academically or with general advice? 
SMU offers services that students can utilize such as academic advising/coaching, peer tutoring, and more. First-year students are also paired up with a faculty adviser. SMU Student Service offers help in areas such as testing skills, study skills, and wellness.  

Where can I study on campus? 
    •    Library (there are cubicles, study rooms you can reserve, and tables where you can study with classmates) 
    •    Campus lounge (open until 12 AM) and patio with tables, chairs, and couches 
    •    Classrooms are open to students until 10 PM. 
    •    There are no 24-hour study rooms on campus yet 

Can students able to be involved in organizations in their first year? 
Students are able to take part in clubs, events, workshops, dinners, and more starting their first year. 

Is there a dress code for first years? 
There is no dress code for classes; however, students are asked to be aware of the way they present online and in the classroom. There is a requirement of professional attire for internships and clinical settings. Students should dress professionally. Please note that the SMU MSW recognizes that the definition of “professional” hair styles may vary considerably from person to person. The program will advocate that internship and clinical sites should extend respect to how different hair types may be styled.   

What is the faculty-to-student ratio? 
It is a 12:1 faculty-to-student ratio. 

News:

Samuel Merritt Receives $1.5M Grant to Begin MSW Program

Questions or Comments? Join Our Facebook Group Here

 

Testing:

GRE Scores 

Results from the GRE exam are not required or considered for admission into the MSW program. 

Internationally Educated Applicants 

Students educated abroad may apply for admission. Regardless of previous professional training and academic degrees earned, SMU MSW curriculum must be completed in its entirety. 

If your education was not part of a U.S.-based study abroad program, all international academic transcripts must be evaluated by a U.S. evaluation service that is a member of the National Association of Credential Evaluations Services (NACES) for degree, course content, semester unit equivalencies and cumulative GPAs prior to the application deadline. The evaluation must be sent to SocialWorkCAS as part of the application.  Information on NACES may be found at www.naces.org

TOEFL 

The need for the Test Of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) will be assessed based on information provided by the applicant on the application for admission. If the TOEFL is required, applicants must achieve a minimum score of 100 (Internet Based Test). Scores must be submitted during the application process. 

Our Campuses

Samuel Merritt University offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral, and nursing certificate programs at three campuses in Northern California and online.

Oakland

3100 Telegraph Ave Oakland, California 94609
800.607.6377

Sacramento

2710 N. Gateway Oaks Dr., Suite 360 Sacramento, California 95833
800.607.6377

Fresno

1791 E. Fir Avenue Fresno, California 93720
800.607.6377

San Francisco Peninsula

1720 South Amphlett Boulevard, Suite 300 San Mateo, California 94402
800.607.6377