Social Work

600 Academic and Student Recreation Center

1800 SW Sixth Ave.


Two graduate degree programs are offered by the School of Social Work: a Master of Social Work (M.S.W.) degree, which is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, and a Ph.D. degree in Social Work and Social Research. The School offers Bachelor of Arts in Social Work (B.A.) and Bachelor of Science in Social Work (B.S.) degrees. The BSW Program was accredited by the Council on Social Work Education in June, 2011.

Degree Maps and Learning Outcomes

Admission requirements



Social Work and Social Research Ph.D.


The Master of Social Work (M.S.W.) program at Portland State University is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) and prepares students to become professional social workers with the knowledge, values, and skills needed to serve individuals and families, transform communities, influence social policy, and promote social and economic justice. The M.S.W. program offers foundation and advanced coursework and field training that focus on community-based learning in diverse urban and rural real-world laboratories for future social work practice. Students learn from and work collaboratively with world-class faculty who strive to support and prepare students to alleviate today's critical social problems.  

The curriculum combines concurrent on-campus coursework and field work in a range of human service organizations. Typical practice settings are mental health programs, public welfare and human service agencies, schools, hospitals and health care centers, courts, family service agencies, correctional services, community planning agencies, legislative offices, child and youth service agencies, neighborhood centers, multicultural service centers, and programs for older adults. Each student’s program of study consists of a combination of required and elective courses. The required core courses are in the following areas: (1) social work practice, (2) social justice and social work, (3) social welfare policy and services, (4) human behavior in the social environment, and (5) research. Core courses also address the following areas: economic and social justice, populations at risk, ethics and values, and diversity. Additionally, students participate in field instruction during each of the two years of full-time study.

The master's program offers students five plans for course study: (1) a traditional full-time two-year course option; (2) a part-time three- or four-year course option; (3) an advanced standing one-year option; (4) a part-time three-year distance learning option; and (5) an online part-time three-year course option.  The foundation curriculum focuses on orienting students to an understanding of practice skills and methods, research, and social policy through a social justice lens. The advanced curriculum offers students the choice of four concentration areas: Health Across the Lifespan; Children, Youth, and Families; Clinical Social Work Practice; and Communities and Organizational Leadership Practice.  The advanced curriculum offers several electives that address substance abuse, mental health, health, interpersonal violence, and theory-based and intervention-focused content.

The M.S.W. Distance Option (DO) program delivers a three-year curriculum and is available in selected cities in Oregon. Course instruction includes a combination of classroom teaching and interactive technology. In fall 2014, one new cohort of students in Salem will begin their program of study. Cohorts in Bend and Eugene will begin their second year of study, and one cohort in Ashland and another cohort in Salem will begin their third year of study. While first year of DO is course work only, second year and third year students have field placements in or near their home communities. The Ashland and Bend programs offer all classes on site. First year classes for Eugene and Salem are held on the PSU campus in Portland, and second and third years classes occur on site for these programs. Ashland and Eugene sites will recruit new students for fall 2015.

The M.S.W. Online program delivers a three-year curriculum with a focus on Practice and Leadership with Communities and Organizations. Course instruction is exclusively online using asynchronous and synchronous delivery methods, though students will be expected to come to campus for a three day orientation at the beginning of each academic year. Required courses are offered during the academic year and electives are offered in the summer. The first year of the program is course work only, while the second year and third year students have 16 hour per week field placements in or near their home communities, in addition to taking one online course. 

Students may combine the M.S.W. with a Masters in Public Health (M.P.H.). To pursue this option, applicants must apply to both programs and work closely with the departments to develop a study plan that meets the requirements of both programs. Two M.P.H. program tracks are available to students who choose the dual degree option: the Health Management and Policy track (administered through the Mark O. Hatfield School of Government) and the Health Promotion track (administered through the School of Community Health). Selecting the combined M.S.W./ M.P.H. option requires one additional year of study, on average.

A certificate in gerontology may be obtained through the Institute on Aging while the student completes requirements for the M.S.W. degree. The M.S.W. program offers a course of study to prepare students for licensure as school social workers by the Oregon Teacher Practices and Standards Commission. The School also participates in the Graduate Certificate Program in Infant and Toddler Mental Health.


The M.S.W. is a 78 credit program. The foundation coursework can be satisfied in one of two ways:

  1. Completion of a B.S.W. degree accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, plus 10 credits of bridge courses taken at PSU, and additional requirements, or
  2. Completion of a 39 credit graduate foundation course sequence at PSU, which includes the following courses: SW 511 Foundation Field Placement and Seminar (4 credits each of three terms), SW 515 Skills for the Helping Process - Groups, (3 credits), SW 520 Social Welfare History and Policy (3 credits), SW 530 Skills for the Helping Process - Individuals and Families (3 credits), SW 532 Advocacy and Empowerment (3 credits), SW 539 Social Justice in Social Work (3 credits), SW 540 Human Development Thru the Lifespan (3 credits), SW 541 Societal, Community, and Organizational Structures and Processes (3 credits), SW 550, Research and Evaluation I (3 credits), and SW 551 Research and Evaluation II (3 credits).

The advanced coursework involves an additional 39 credits of advanced graduate courses. There are required concentration courses (3 credits each of the three terms). The concentrations are either:  1) Clinical Social Work Practice, 2) Practice and Leadership with Communities and Organizations, 3) Social Work with Children, Youth, and Families, or 4) Health Across the Lifespan. An advanced field placement is required across three terms and will be 4 credits each term. A total of 18 credits are designated for advanced electives. Students may not receive credit for life experience, previous work experience, nor have any field experience or professional foundation courses waived on this basis.

Students in the M.S.W.-M.P.H. dual degree option may share a maximum of one-third of the credits needed for the smaller degree program. Consequently, students will need 119-124 credits (depending on MPH Program track) to graduate with M.S.W. and M.P.H. degrees.