A professionally dressed woman talks with a woman holding a cup of coffee while another woman takes notes

Where the next step awaits

As social workers, we so often concern ourselves with the “next step” — for our clients, for our organizations, for our communities. But what about for ourselves? How can we continue to meet our calling in the face of new challenges? How can we continue to develop our voices as social workers?

In the Master of Social Work program at VCU’s School of Social Work, our students seek to answer these very questions. Through intensive, specialized course work, research and field experience, our students can truly find their focus as advanced practitioners and position themselves to make immediate impacts in the lives and communities they touch.

What we offer

Our small class sizes afford our students the room and time to connect with their teachers and each other, to fully contemplate where their true passions lie and to reflect on their shared experiences. And through it all, they’re given the tools and encouragement to embrace their own unique insights and fashion themselves into the practitioners they most want to be.

Our home in VCU’s Academic Learning Commons provides us with a centrally located hub that allows us to deliver our educational mission through state-of-the-art technology and flexible learning spaces. Also, with new graduate research space, students have access to the materials, supports and technology they need to further their own independent community-engaged research goals.

Flowing from the mission of the School of Social Work and guided by the principles of promoting social justice, human rights, diversity, cultural competence/sensitivity and ethical practice, the goals of the MSW program are:

  1. To provide for a generalist knowledge, skills, ethics, and values essential for work with individuals, families, groups, communities, and organizations.
  2. To provide for a program that prepares students for work in areas of specialization in either clinical social work or social work administration, planning, and policy practice in a range of settings.
  3. To provide for an educational environment where students apply the profession’s values and ethical principles.
  4. To provide for an educational environment where students gain a greater understanding of implications of diversity through education on identifying cultural strengths and ways to counteract individual and institutional prejudice, oppression, and discrimination.
  5. To provide for an educational environment where students apply research methods to analyze and critically evaluate professional practice, programs, and service delivery systems.
  6. To provide for an educational environment where students gain a greater understanding of advocacy and involvement in advocacy to affect social and economic justice.


Accredited by the Council on Social Work Education through 2019, an M.S.W. degree from VCU instills mastery of the knowledge, skills and values necessary for advanced social work practice.

The nine core competencies of social work education as defined by CSWE Educational and Policy Standards are:

  1. Demonstrate ethical and professional behavior
  2. Engage diversity and difference in practice
  3. Advanced human rights and social and economic justice
  4. Engage in practice-informed research and research-informed practice
  5. Engage in policy practice
  6. Engage with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities
  7. Assess individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities
  8. Intervene with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities
  9. Evaluate individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities

After one year of generalist study, students enroll in specialized courses in the concentrations of clinical social work practice or social work administration, planning and policy practice.

  • The generalist curriculum develops the skill base that fosters competencies needed to work in a variety of social work settings. The generalist curriculum includes courses in social work practice, human behavior theory, social policy, social and economic justice, research and agency-based field instruction.
  • The clinical social work practice curriculum focuses on key evidence-based interventions, including how to solve problems, resolve emotional and interpersonal conflicts, develop and use social networks and resources, and maintain achieved capacities and strengths.
  • The social work administration, planning and policy practice curriculum prepares graduates to become leaders skilled in formulating, implementing, analyzing and evaluating policies, plans and programs for complex and ever-changing local, state, national and international environments.

M.S.W. curriculum and degree requirements

Field experience

As Virginia’s oldest and most established social work educator, we’ve forged lasting connections with more than 500 community agencies throughout Richmond and the region, which allows us to offer students diverse field experiences during the generalist and specialization year.

For the M.S.W. degree program, students will experience two placements. In the generalist placement, students are expected to demonstrate generalized professional knowledge, values and skills studied in the generalist curriculum. In the second placement,  students are placed in agencies according to their area of specialization.

Find the option that works for you

The School of Social Work offers multiple program options that lead to the M.S.W., as well as several options for study combined with other programs to earn certificates or additional degrees.

Visit us

Check out our prospective student calendar for upcoming events where you can learn more about our program or contact the Office of Student Success at sswinfo@vcu.edu to receive program information.

Apply to the M.S.W. program

In addition to completing an online application through VCU Graduate Admissions, all applicants must provide three letters of reference, official transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate colleges and universities attended, a professional statement of intent and a current resume or vita. All applicants are admitted for the fall session, except for advanced standing option applicants, who begin their program in the summer session.

Admissions process and requirements

Assessment data

The M.S.W. program director conducts an annual evaluation of program outcomes based on course-embedded measures of student competency, student course evaluations, annual student self-assessments and evaluation of student competence provided by field placement liaisons. For each measure, we examine 9 course competencies mandated by our accrediting body, the Council on Social Work Education. View our most recent results:

 Summary assessment data for the M.S.W. Program

If you plan to be in a state other than Virginia while completing an online program at VCU, please note that state regulations in every state determine whether VCU may offer you a place in a course or program. VCU participates in the National Council of State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA), which allows students from NC-SARA approved states to enroll in VCU programs. If the state in which you will reside while taking online courses through this program is not approved as a SARA state, contact the compliance coordinator at online@VCU to determine whether the regulations of your state permit your enrollment at VCU. Please also note that, as a VCU student enrolled in an online program, the university-wide policies would apply to youin addition to policies and technical standards of the VCU School of Social Work

Completion of requirements for the Master of Social Work degree with a clinical concentration typically meets the educational requirement for licensure as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Virginia. Please be aware that requirements for licensure vary from state to state. Faculty and administrators in VCU’s academic programs leading to professional licensure help students learn about licensure in a variety of ways. The VCU School of Social Work Office of Student Success hosts information sessions about licensure requirements in Virginia and instructors in the clinical concentration practice courses provide learning activities on accessing information about licensure requirements in Virginia and other states.

 The VCU School of Social Work M.S.W. Program has determined that the curriculum includes applicable educational prerequisites for professional licensure or certification

  • in Virginia – as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) or a Licensed Social Worker 1 (LSW1);
  • in the District of Columbia – as a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW), Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW), and a Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW);
  • in Maryland – as a Licensed Certified Social Worker – Clinical (LCSW-C), Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW), Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW); and
  • in North Carolina – as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), a Licensed Clinical Social Worker Associate (LCSWA), a Certified Social Work Manager (CSWM), and a Certified Master Social Worker (LMSW).

Information about educational prerequisites for professional licensure or certification in other states is available from the Association of Social Work Boards.

The Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) is an organization comprised of licensing boards/agencies for all 50 states, D.C., Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the ten Canadian provinces. ASWB maintains a database of information about social work regulations and licensure requirements in other jurisdictions as a service to ASWB members and the public at http://members.aswb.org/social-work-regulations/

The database allows prospective applicants to search licensure requirements by jurisdiction, compare requirements across multiple jurisdictions, and link directly to state licensing boards for additional information and/or clarification.

If you have questions about the VCU MSW program’s current curriculum or satisfaction of a specific requirement, you may contact Melissa Stewart, Ph.D., M.S.W. Program director, at mdstewart2@vcu.edu for assistance.

The VCU M.S.W. Program has not been subject to any adverse action within the last five years.