FAQ

Admission

Is the Graduate Record Exam required to apply to the VCU M.S.W. degree program?

No, GRE scores are not required.

Do I need an undergraduate degree in social work to apply to your school?

No, you do not. However, a B.S.W. degree is required to be eligible for accelerated, advanced standing. Please review our admissions requirements for more information.

Can my social work job experience count toward the M.S.W. degree?

No, it cannot. This is not permitted by our accreditation body, the Council for Social Work Education. However, this job experience may strengthen your overall application.

I do not meet all the liberal arts criteria required for admissions. Will my application still be considered?

Yes, your application to the M.S.W. Program will still be considered if you do not meet all the liberal arts criteria. However, if accepted to the program, you will need to complete the courses you are missing by Aug. 1 of the year in which you are admitted to the program.

I have already started a graduate program. Can I transfer graduate credits into VCU’s M.S.W. degree program?

Yes, however, no more than 30 credits will be accepted in transfer from another accredited M.S.W. program and no more than six credits will be accepted in transfer from other graduate programs. All transfer credits must be reviewed and approved by the M.S.W. Program director prior to being accepted as part of the degree requirement. In order to be applied as credit for graduation for the M.S.W. degree, courses accepted for transfer must be no more than five years old. Visit the VCU School of Social Work Student Policy Handbook for information about procedure and the VCU Bulletins to review the transfer of credit policy

I have already taken some graduate courses as a non-degree seeking student. Can I use these as part of the total credits for the M.S.W. degree program?

Yes, we can accept up to six credits in graduate-level courses taken prior to entering the VCU M.S.W. degree program as long as they have not been applied to any other degree. However, all credits must be reviewed and approved by the M.S.W. Program director prior to being accepted as part of the degree requirement. In order to be applied as credit for graduation for the M.S.W. degree, courses accepted for transfer must be no more than five years old. Visit the VCU School of Social Work Student Policy Handbook for information about procedure and the VCU Bulletins to review the transfer of credit policy

Can I waive any foundation courses?

Students can request to waive up to three foundation courses. SLWK 609 Foundations of Research for Social Work Practice and/or SLWK 601 and 610 Human Behavior in the Social Environment I and II are eligible for waiver based upon content equivalency from prior course work. Visit the VCU School of Social Work Student Policy Handbook for information about procedure and the VCU Bulletins to review our course waiver policy.

If I’m admitted but cannot begin the program, can I defer admission?

No. You will have to reapply and be reviewed again along with all applicants in the cohort for which you reapply.

If I am admitted to the VCU School of Social Work, is an enrollment deposit required?

Yes, a $300 nonrefundable enrollment deposit is required to secure your place in the incoming class.

When can I begin the M.S.W. degree program?

All formats of regular standing begin in August and the advanced standing format begins in May.

How many students apply and how many enroll into the program each year?

We typically receive 450 to 600 applications each year and enroll an incoming class of approximately 200 regular and 25 advanced standing students.

Can I visit the School of Social Work before I apply?

The School of Social Work encourages you to participate in one of our prospective student Discovery Day events. Discovery Days give you the chance to get to know us, our program, the School of Social Work and the VCU community. Discovery Days can last anywhere from one and one-half to six hours depending on what you’re interested in experiencing.

If you are unable to attend any of our Discovery Days, we will do our best to arrange an individual meeting to discuss your interest in our M.S.W. degree program. Please email the Office of Student Success at sswinfo@vcu.edu and indicate your interest area and availability.

Applying

When is your application deadline and when will I be notified of the admissions decision?

Application deadlines and notification decisions vary depending on the format of the program you are applying to. Please see M.S.W. admissions deadlines for important dates.

Is the “Statement of Purpose” found on the application the same as the personal self-statement?

Yes. It is suggested that on the application under “Statement of Purpose” you note, “My personal self-statement is enclosed.” You may choose to upload your personal self-statement to that space, but be aware that it will lose its formatting.

If I do not have any social work experience, will my application be considered?

We consider volunteer and/or work experiences when reviewing applications. Because the M.S.W. is a professional degree, it is important that students are familiar with the field. It is strongly suggested that you begin a volunteer experience before applying to our program.

Do you accept late applications?

No, we are unable to accept applications that are received after the application deadlines.

Will my application be considered late if I am unable to have all my supplemental materials submitted by the deadline date?

Yes. Only complete application packets received by the deadline will be reviewed.

Will you notify me if any of my materials are missing?

This is a self-managed packet and you are responsible for ensuring that all materials are sent and received. You may log into your application account to see what is missing.

I am finishing my undergraduate degree this year, so my transcript doesn’t include my final courses. Do I have to wait to apply?

No, we recommend that you apply now and include the most up-to-date, official transcript from your university/college. If admitted, you will be required to submit another official transcript showing your final grades and your conferred degree.

Do I have to include transcripts if I graduated from VCU?

Yes.

Do I have to submit a transcript from a school I attended in the past if the classes are listed on my current school transcript?

Yes, you must submit official transcripts from all colleges and universities attended, even if you only completed one or two courses.

How do I decide who should write my reference letters?

We suggest you select a cross-section of references, including employers, faculty or other individuals who can speak to your academic abilities and/or related social work or volunteer experience. Consider undergraduate or graduate professors or advisers who can attest to your preparedness for an advanced degree program, people who may have supervised you in work, internships or a volunteer experience related to the field of social work. If you do not have access to such references, then you may use an employer, supervisor or someone who can evaluate your personal, professional and academic potential for graduate social work education.

What criteria are utilized in making admissions decisions?

The admissions review process involves an evaluation of each application in four broad areas: education preparation, work experience, personal statement and recommendations. The advanced standing program application process also involves an interview and timed case analysis.

How will I be notified of the admission decision?

You will be notified of our admission decision by the School of Social Work via email to the account you provided on your application. You will then be notified by the Graduate Admissions via regular postal mail to the address you provided on your application.

If I am admitted, is an enrollment deposit required?

Yes, a $300 nonrefundable enrollment deposit is required to secure your place in the incoming class.

What do current students say are the best things about VCU’s M.S.W. degree program?

The program’s national ranking; the reputation of the school’s faculty based on its research/scholarship; faculty emphasis on student advising; mentorship; and the excellence in classroom and field instruction are the things most often identified by current students and alumni.

What would current students say is the most difficult aspect of the program?

The amount and quality of the written work required in all the classes. You should plan on spending 10 to 12 hours studying weekly for each course. This time is in addition to the time you spend in the classroom. Most classes require several written assignments each semester. Strong writing skills are essential to success in the program. It is also essential to be well-prepared to balance academic demands with personal, family and work responsibilities. Good time-management skills are a must.

I’d like to get a student perspective on your program. Can this be arranged?

Yes! Our Peer Mentors are current M.S.W. students who were recently in a position similar to what you are experiencing now. 

What is the difference between social work and psychology?

One major difference is that the M.S.W. is a terminal professional degree, meaning you graduate prepared to enter the field of professional social work. Also, the philosophy of social work education, including the field experience, the profession’s emphasis on environmental systems, social justice, values and ethics also differentiates it from other disciplines.

Academics

I’m interested in learning about the M.S.W. curriculum in more detail. Where can I find this information?

I would like to find out more about specific course descriptions. Where would I find this information?

Search the VCU Courses website and scroll down to SLWK for a complete listing of all social work course descriptions.

When are classes held?

Use the interactive VCU Schedule of Classes website to view days and times of classes. The schedule may vary slightly each semester.

What are your concentration options?

After approximately 30 credits, students choose the clinical concentration or the social work administration, planning and policy practice concentration. Learn more about the concentration options on the VCU Bulletins website.

Can I get a specialized certificate and/or dual degree while in your program?

Yes, we offer several options for specialized study toward the M.S.W. degree combined with other programs, departments, certificates and schools. Learn more about the dual degree and certificate options on the VCU Bulletins website.

What are the career opportunities in social work?

The M.S.W. is a widely recognized degree and offers a wide range of career options. Our graduates are prepared to work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, mental health facilities, family service agencies, schools, criminal justice and others. Starting salaries for entry-level positions for those holding an M.S.W. are approximately $40,000. For more information on the profession of social work, please visit the National Association of Social Workers’ websites at naswdc.org and helpstartshere.org.

If admitted, will I have an adviser? How and when are they assigned?

Yes! All prospective, newly admitted and current students are assigned a student success adviser to assist them throughout the process. Contact the Office of Student Success at sswinfo@vcu.edu to connect with your adviser.

Can I take courses as a nondegree-seeking student?

No, we are unable to allow students who are not admitted to our program to take classes in the M.S.W. Program. The only exception would be for those individuals who currently hold an M.S.W. and need additional courses for licensure or school social work certification.

Program formats

What does the advanced standing interview entail?

The interviewer will assess your knowledge in the foundation content areas of human behavior, research, social justice, ethics, social welfare policy and social work practice. Your interviewer will address your readiness for accelerated graduate study and assess the support system that you have to facilitate completion of this rigorous program.

What factors should I keep in mind when considering advanced standing?

Factors that enhance success include a solid preparation for the curriculum, strong writing skills, good stress-management skills, a learning style conducive to intense course work and financial and personal support.

If I am admitted for full-time enrollment in the M.S.W. degree program and find that it is too much for me, can I transfer to part-time enrollment?

It is possible depending on space availability. You must discuss program changes with your student success advisers. Our courses are set up on a sequenced fall-spring schedule. To miss one course may set you back one full year in the program.

Can I work full time while attending classes full time?

It is very difficult, if not impossible, to work full time and be a full-time student. The part-time programs (on-campus and distance education) were designed for those students who are currently employed. Please review the M.S.W. program formats. For more information on the part-time program, see part-time M.S.W. program policies.

If I am admitted to the part-time on-campus format and then decide I want to go full time, can I do so the following year?

No, our program is designed so that the foundation curriculum of the part-time program is completed in two years. Once admitted to the part-time program, you must complete the foundation curriculum in the first two years as a part-time student. You then may enter your third year to complete your concentration curriculum as a full-time student, reducing the length of your program of study from four to three years.

Distance Education

What is the curricular and admission difference between distance education and the regular standing formats?

The only curricular difference between the distance education and regular standing format is in how distance education is delivered. Admissions standards, graduation requirements and course work are identical to the Richmond campus full- and part-time programs.

If I am admitted to distance education and then decide I want to go full time, can I do so the following year?

Because the distance education program is only part-time, you must complete the first 2 years in the part-time format either as a distance education or on-campus student.  After you have completed the first two years, you may attend as a full-time on-campus student.

How long does it take to complete the program?

Because M.S.W. distance education is currently offered only on a part-time basis, students will earn the M.S.W. degree in four years.

Can I earn my degree entirely online?

No. M.S.W. Distance Education course instruction is offered in a hybrid format, a blend of online courses taught by VCU faculty with two required in-person classes per semester offered on Saturdays. Required field education experiences are offered only through internships in local community agencies throughout Virginia and the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. For more information about field education requirements visit the Student Policy Handbook.

What is it like to earn an M.S.W. degree online?

Distance education follows an asynchronous model, meaning you are not expected to be online with your entire class at specific times. Similar to face-to-face learning, students can expect to interact with classmates synchronously in small groups on class projects and assignments. Distance education requires repeated interaction during a class week and is not intended as a program where online participation is limited to one day, or one login to class that equals the time spent in a face-to-face class. Learning in our distance education environment allows you to communicate with professors and peers via online discussions and social networking tools like Facebook.

What are the technology requirements?

Minimum computer requirements are available online. Some software is provided free to registered students. High-speed Internet access (a broadband connection such as cable, a fiber optic connection, or DSL)  is strongly recommended for ease and speed in accessing and downloading course files, viewing videos, and creating presentations. You will need a headset and a webcam or integrated camera to participate in some class activities.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of earning an M.S.W. online?

Online classes require you to be motivated, self-disciplined and capable of working both independently and as a part of a team. You will be the one responsible for setting the pace of your learning experience, including prioritizing your time and finishing assignments. The flexibility of online classes allows you to connect from your home or office, enabling you to advance your education without commuting to class. Also, highly evolved technology now offers innovative, fun and new ways of presenting course material while still fostering active and collaborative learning.

How does field education work?

To earn your M.S.W. degree, you will have to compete 1,050 hours in two approved internship/placement sites. You will intern at a nearby social service agency, government entity, school, hospital or business under the supervision of an experienced social worker to gain hands-on experience relevant to your emerging skills. Many field placement agencies require fingerprinting, criminal clearance and TB testing. Some agencies require proof of car insurance, a good driving record, a medical evaluation and/or drug testing. For more information about field education requirements, visit the VCU School of Social Work Student Policy Handbook.

Field education

What is the process for obtaining a field placement?

Field placements are assigned by the Office of Field Instruction using specific information about the student’s prior experiences and special circumstances. Students are not responsible for arranging their own field placements.

Financial resources

What is the estimated cost to attend your program?

Tuition and fees fluctuate each academic year. For the most current cost, please visit the VCU Enrollment Services website. There you can find a handy Tuition and Fees Calculator. Total cost of attendance also varies depending on your residency status, choice of housing and lifestyle.

Should I wait until I have been admitted to apply for financial aid?

No. It is best for students to apply for financial aid as soon as possible. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is available on the Federal Student Aid website each January.

How do I apply for financial aid?

Please visit the VCU Office of Financial Aid website for the most up-to-date procedures and deadlines related to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and various other financial assistance programs and options. This website also has great planning tools such as “Financial Aid Programs at a Glance” and a student budget planning worksheet.

Are assistantships available at the School of Social Work?

Yes. A limited number of graduate assistantships are awarded to incoming M.S.W. students. Assistantships are determined based on application packet materials. No separate application is necessary.

What scholarship opportunities are available to M.S.W. students?

Various scholarships are available through the School of Social Work, VCU and state and national resources to help defray the costs associated with attendance. Students applying for needs-based assistance must have completed their FAFSA. Students are discouraged from relying solely on scholarships to fund the costs associated with attending. For more information, please review the School of Social Work scholarships listing and visit the VCU Office of Financial Aid scholarships resource page.

Can I have a job while I am in school full time?

If working, our full-time students typically work part time. Due to the demanding course and field commitments, it would be very difficult to also be employed full time.

M.S.W. student experience

If admitted, what are some opportunities I might have to engage with other students?

Our Peer Mentor Program for M.S.W. students helps assist students throughout their development as professional social workers.

Our active student associations provide leadership development, educational workshops, advocacy, outreach in the local Richmond community and social opportunities to B.S.W. and M.S.W. students. You can get an idea of the activities that they currently have going on through the Facebook pages of the organizations: BSWSA, LGBTQIA and Allied Social Work Group VCU and Association of Black Social Workers.

The Office of Student Success facilitates numerous engagement opportunities and posts relevant job opportunities and announcements through the Office of Student Success Facebook page.

How many students are in the School of Social Work?

We offer three social work degrees — the B.S.W., M.S.W. and Ph.D. Each semester, we typically have 250 to 300 B.S.W. students, 400 to 500 M.S.W. students and 25 to 35 Ph.D. students in varying points of degree completion. In fall 2013, we had approximately 428 students total.

How diverse is your school and student body?

The student body at VCU and at the School of Social Work is diverse in many ways. Our students come with an incredible mix of backgrounds, life experiences and aspirations, all of which create enriching classroom and student community interactions.

What is the average size of your classes?

Classes average about 22 students per class. This varies depending upon the size of the incoming class and the number of students who elect the clinical or SWAPPP concentrations. None of our social work courses are in large lecture-style classrooms.

What support services are available to students?

The Office of Student Success assists students with financial, academic and/or emotional support from the application phase to graduation. For universitywide support services, refer to the annual resource guide provided by the university’s Division of Student Affairs.

I have a special learning need. Are there any supportive services available or exceptions to the structured curriculum?

VCU Disability Support Services will work with you to determine any necessary academic adjustment you require.

Are career services available to students and alumni of the School of Social Work?

Yes. The Office of Student Success regularly posts part-time, flexible, social work-related job opportunities on the school’s LinkedIn page. Current and recently graduated students are eligible for individualized resume and career services through VCU Career Services. There are also career services available via VCU Alumni.

If admitted, what are my graduate student housing options, both on and off campus?

Check out the on-campus Residential Life and Housing website. For off-campus housing, check out the Off-Campus Student Services page and the Graduate School Classifieds.

Where is the School of Social Work located?

The School of Social Work is located on VCU’s Monroe Park Campus on the third floor of the Academic Learning Commons at 1000 Floyd Ave., Richmond, Virginia, 23284.

Can you tell me more about the parking options?

Off-street parking is available throughout the Monroe Park Campus as well as surrounding neighborhoods. VCU Parking and Transportation also offers student parking passes for lots and decks.

What are my options for transportation around campus?

Depending on where you live, you may be able to walk or ride a bike. VCU also offers RamRide, a free shuttle that circulates between both campuses.

What recreational or athletic facilities are available to students?

VCU has several recreational facilities and programs available to students.

Where can I find information on the local scene, like restaurants, coffee shops, stores, etc.?

VCU’s Richmond page is a good starting point. You can also try VisitRichmondVA.com.