Earning a BSW opens the door to a vibrant, rewarding career field with a growing job market. Social workers can find themselves carrying out the job they have passion for, in nearly any variety of settings. From schools, to hospitals, to nonprofit agencies, to local, state and federal government offices, to developing communities across the world, to anywhere there are people in need, social workers are trained to help their clients tap into their individual potential and connect to external resources in an effort to bring about lasting positive change. 

Social work as a profession is made up of a widely diverse group of people, playing many different roles, but we are brought together by a desire to serve others, a common set of core values, a unifying perspective on human behavior in the social environment, and even a guiding model for how we can provide the best help. We often call all that unifies us, Generalist Practice. One of the best ways to learn generalist practice is through a formal social work education. The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), is a national accrediting body whose mission it is to “ensure and enhance the quality of social work education for a professional practice.” Because of its quality, the BSW Program at NMU has earned and held CSWE accreditation for nearly 50 years. Maintaining accreditation can ensure that our graduates are ready to hold the title of “social worker” (protected by law in many states), and to fill the growing number of job openings for which the generalist social worker skill-set is critically needed.

To learn more about the social work job market, you can visit the US Bureau of Labor Statistics Social Work Job Outlook website. You can also learn more about the field of social work on the website for your state’s chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. Finally, you can find out more about what makes a quality social work education program by visiting the website for the Council on Social Work Education.

If you are interested in applying to attend NMU as an undergraduate student, in any major, your first step is to explore the NMU admissions page. There you can find contact information for admissions counselors who can walk you through the application process.

Many past students have transferred to NMU’s BSW program, and the vast majority of those have been able to complete the program and graduate within a planned, reasonable timeframe. While NMU makes transferring easier by accepting most college credit, many of the courses a student has taken at a prior institution will NOT be considered equivalent to the required courses for NMU’s BSW Program. Therefore, prior to transferring, students may want to review their own transcript and compare it to our listing of Social Work Major and Human Behavior Cluster Minor requirements (located in our BSW Program Advising Packet), using NMU’s course equivalency website. Once you’ve been admitted to NMU, your transcript will be officially evaluated by the Registrar and entered into our degree evaluation system. Social work advisors are ready to meet with transfer students to review the evaluation of their transcript, and together, create a course plan that minimizes the length of time to graduation.

New students who declare social work as a major are assigned to the pre-admission social work curriculum. Students at NMU can declare their major through MyNMU or by connecting with the Academic and Career Advising Center on campus. Students are strongly encouraged to consult with an academic advisor in planning their program. 

The Social Work major itself is divided into a pre-admission set of two courses for eight credits, and a post-admission sequence of courses for an additional 40 credit hours. In addition to the 48 credit hours of Social Work courses, students must complete a multidisciplinary Human Behavior Cluster minor. The pre-admission phase is generally for freshman and sophomore students working to meet the general education requirements, the cluster minor and the first eight credits of the social work major. Many of the courses in the cluster minor also fill general education requirements in order to accomplish both goals at the same time. 

The second and final phase of the BSW program is the upper level curriculum, which generally begins the second semester of a student’s junior year and continues through the senior year. Students must apply to the upper level curriculum, and those who are accepted continue through this sequence as a cohort group. The upper level curriculum is made up of two, four-credit practice methods courses during the winter semester of the junior year, and ten credits each semester of the senior year, which includes a 400- hour field placement in a social service agency.

The term generalist when used in social work refers to knowledge and skills that are widely transferrable across different contexts in which the profession is practiced.  Generalist social workers understand human behavior from a person-in-environment framework, studying a variety of psychological, sociological and biological theories.  Generalist methods are based on these theories and can be applied at many levels, whether social workers are intervening at the micro level, with individuals and families, or the macro level, with organizations and communities. BSW degree earners learn a model for generalist intervention (involving engagement, assessment, intervention and evaluation) that they can use effectively no matter what setting they hope to practice in, or with which population of clients they hope to work.

The BSW curriculum is designed in levels and is built around the key generalist practice principles. All social work majors are also Human Behavior Cluster minors, and completing the 28 credits of required courses in the minor serves as the Pre-Social Work curriculum of the program. Course options for completing the minor are organized into seven categories, and draw from other disciplines on campus—like psychology, sociology, and biology. Most courses on the list can also be counted to meet the requirements for the General Education program at NMU. All students in the Pre-Social Work curriculum must also complete SW 100 Exploring Social Work and SW 230 Human Behavior In The Social Environment I. On a traditional, four-year course schedule, students will complete the Pre-Social Work curriculum of the curriculum during their Junior year, enabling them to apply to begin Upper Level of the curriculum.    

Upper Level curriculum is composed by forty credits of 300 and 400-level social work courses. Courses here cover topics in research methods, direct and indirect practice methods, anti-oppressive practice and social welfare policy advocacy. Also included in Upper Level curriculum is the required field placement experience (SW 480 and SW 481). You can review the BSW Program Handbook for a detailed listing of courses and program requirements. If you have further questions, please schedule an appointment with a social work faculty advisor.  

The curriculum is designed to fit into a typical four-year, 120-credit track to graduation at NMU.

The field placement is unique to social work education, and critical in the preparation of competent social work professionals. CSWE has established very specific standards that guide the implementation of the field placement experience, whichever accredited program a student attends. All BSW students are required to complete a minimum of 400 field hours (1-2 days per week in an academic semester) in a real-world setting under the instruction of a degreed social worker. At NMU, the BSW Field Coordinator identifies organizational settings that provide appropriate, hands-on experiences that allow students to practice social work skills and apply their classroom knowledge. The field coordinator then matches students to specific field placements that are able to meet their learning needs. More information can found in the BSW Field Handbook

The NMU Social Work department and NMU Center for Native American Studies have partnered together to support students choosing to pursue education and field placements with victim services in tribal communities.  The Serving Native Survivors Circle project will offer selected students financial assistance to social work and NAS students who pursue specialization as advocates in rural tribal communities within their chosen program.  More information can be found in the Native Circle program brochure.