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Most affordable MSW in Michigan

Marquette Campus Option

At NMU's graduate tuition rate, our 50-credit regular standing program or 36-credit advanced standing program, are some of the most affordable routes to an MSW in Michigan.

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Global Campus option at NMU

Global Campus Option

Our global campus option for distance students is zoom facilitated learning and synchronous with our traditional face-to-face courses. This is not a self-paced learning process and students will be integrated into the face-to-face classroom learning environment.

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Apply now to Northern Michigan University

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NMU's new Master of Social Work (MSW) program is an exciting opportunity for human services professionals to earn a graduate degree and take their careers to the next level.

Frequently Asked Questions

Earning an MSW degree sets graduates down a clear career path with a wide range of employment opportunities in an ever growing social work job market. According to the US Department of Labor Statistics, overall employment of social workers is projected to grow 16 percent from 2016-2026, much faster than the average for all occupations.

The MSW degree opens opportunities not available to social workers who have only obtained an undergraduate degree. This is in part due to the specialization options available to students at the graduate level, that are not available at the undergraduate or BSW-level. At NMU, MSW students can concentrate their studies in either clinical practice or policy, planning and administrative practice.

There are also governmental and organizational policies that require graduate degrees for some social work positions. The policies are written in recognition that an advanced education in social work can help to preserve the quality of services and thereby better protect the clients of those services. For example, to become a supervisor in many human service agencies, social workers are required to have an MSW. In addition, in most states in the U.S., social workers who provide counseling services in private practice, must hold a master’s degree plus licensure in the given state.  

The MSW program is currently in the process of earning accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Full accreditation is achieved through an intensive, three-year process of monitoring and review by CSWE staff and members of the Council on Accreditation. Earning a degree from a CSWE is critical for becoming licensed as a social worker in most states, including the State of Michigan. Different levels of licensing can be obtained in Michigan through the Division of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. You can learn about the benefits of becoming licensed as a social worker in the State of Michigan by contacting the National Association of Social Workers-Michigan Chapter.

The most important qualifications for entering an MSW program is passion and commitment to the values of social work profession. The National Association of Social Workers lists six core professional values in the Code of Ethics:  service, social justice, integrity, competence, importance of human relationship and the dignity and worth of the person

Other important admissions requirements include:  an undergraduate degree in social work or a **related field and a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher.

While paid work experience in social work is not required, the NMU Department of Social Work MSW Admissions committee highly value the experience of a working professional.

If you’ve earned your BSW in the last five years with a 3.25 GPA or higher, you’re eligible to apply for our Advanced Standing MSW degree track. This track is designed for students to complete the program in 12 months, starting with an accelerated summer semester, followed by two semesters of coursework in their concentration. The Advanced Standing cohort is planned to begin in Summer 2020.

**Students with a degree other than social worker must have taken the following courses prior to beginning classes:

  • a combination of courses equivalent to SW 100 Exploring Social Work and SW 230 Human Behavior in the Social Environment I

  • at least a 3 credit course in Statistics, Research Methods, or Quantitative Reasoning

  • at least a 3 credit course in Biology (must include human biology content)

  • at least 10 credits in some combination of the following content areas: Lifespan Development, Psychology and Sociology

Please contact the Social Work Department or the Graduate Admissions office for further questions about admissions requirements.  

All students in the MSW program will first spend time strengthening their competence in general practice skills before making concentration and course choices that allow them to specialize their degrees. Generalist practice will be the focus for either the first year of a Regular Standing MSW program (4 semesters) or the accelerated summer semester of the Advanced Standing program (3 semesters).

Upon completion of the generalist portion of the program, students will then be able to select from one of two concentrations for the remainder of their course work and field placement requirements. The two choices of concentration will be either Clinical Practice or Policy, Planning and Administration (PPA) practice.

Students in their concentration year will also need to select at least 8 credits of elective courses that can help them specialize their knowledge for social work practice. Students will be able to choose from courses offered at the graduate level by the social work department (i.e., Child Welfare I and Child Welfare II) as well as courses offered by other departments at NMU.  

The MSW Curriculum Grid lays out the courses required and pathways to completion for both the Regular and Advanced Standing tracks, as well as both concentrations. It includes a list of courses that have already been approved as elective choices that might fit your specialized learning goals.

The MSW Program does have a few slots available for students who would like to complete the program entirely online—as global campus students. These slots are designed primarily for students who live in rural, remote parts of the Midwest. For these potential global campus students, commuting to NMU’s campus to meet in a traditional classroom would make attending our traditional program nearly impossible. These students are also aware that there may be opportunities for them to complete their 900 hours of required field placement in their nearby community. You can contact the Social Work Department if you need help determining if global campus is an option for you.

When you apply through the graduate office website, all applicants should indicate that you intend to attend classes in Marquette, MI. If you are interested in the program as a global campus student, it is important that you indicate your interest in the Section II of the personal statement.  Upon admission, our advisors will work with these students to enroll at NMU with a global campus designation and secure a field placement site.

If you are admitted to one of the global campus student slots for the MSW Program, your letter of acceptance will indicate a global campus designation. You will then be able to work with admissions staff to complete your registration for the program as a global campus student.

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 MSW students are required to complete a minimum of 900 field hours (about 2-3 days per week in an academic semester) in a real-world setting under the instruction of a degreed social worker. At NMU, the MSW 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. Once a student is admitted to the NMU MSW Program, they will be required to complete a field placement application form as soon as possible, to allow the matching process to begin before the formal start of the program.  If a student is admitted into the Advanced Standing program, their hours from their BSW will be counted toward the 900 total hours, and they will be required to complete at least 500 hours during the fall and winter semesters.  The MSW Field Manualcomprehensively describes the field placement experience.

When students are selected for the NMU MSW program, they will be required to complete the Field Placement Application and Preference Form which must turned in upon admission the the program.  Student who will have obtained a BSW prior to program admission will also be required to submit a Supplemental Field Portfolio with their field placement application. Placement applications should be emailed to the Field Placement Coordinator. Students may be asked to complete an additional application before beginning their concentration year.

To apply for the MSW Program you will need to complete a graduate studies application through NMU’s Office of Graduate Studies. You will need to provide the names of three references and attach your undergraduate transcripts and a personal statement to your application.  There are two deadlines for applications. The first on December 1st, is for early-decision makers only.  Early decision makers are applicants who are already committed to attending NMU for their MSW, whereas regular applicants may be considering and applying to other institutions.  Regular applicants must submit their applications no later than February 1st.

Personal statements serve several important purposes. The first is to help the admissions committee determine an applicant’s understanding of and commitment to the values underlying the social work profession: service, social justice, competence, integrity, importance of human relationships, dignity and worth of the person. The second is to help determine if you are a fit for one of our global campus slots. Finally, we know that sometimes just answering the application questions doesn't provide the committee with a full enough picture for why you’d be a great fit for this program. So the personal statement is your opportunity to explain important things that wouldn't be captured in your application otherwise.  To be sure you cover all of these points in your personal statement, please use this outline to structure your personal statement.

The MSW Program at NMU is designed for full-time students. Students who plan to work full-time while completing the program may want to contact the department to discuss feasibility and our employment-based field placement policy before applying to our program.

In order to protect the interests of their clients, many human services agencies conduct full, pre-employment background investigations for all staff and volunteers.  In addition, many states will not issue licenses to social workers with certain offenses.  Therefore, persons with criminal backgrounds should carefully consider the feasibility of pursuing a career in social work.  While criminal offenses will not necessarily preclude admission to the MSW program at NMU, it may preclude placement in a field agency.  Therefore, applicants are encouraged to disclose relevant criminal history information about themselves in their personal statements.  The admissions committee will consider this information to determine if field placement in the program will be possible.

Advanced Standing is for students who have a Bachelor's in Social Work from an accreditated university. Advanced Standing students will complete their first year of courses over the summer before the Fall semester. They will join the rest of their cohort in the Fall semester to complete their second year in the program. The deadline to apply for Advanced Standing is December 1st.

Through synchronous learning, students will be integrated into the face-to-face classroom learning synchronously through Zoom. This feature of the program is not self-paced as students will learn at the same pace as students in the classroom. 

Resources

MSW Curriculum Grid

View the Master in Social Work (MSW) Curriculum Map.

Personal Statement Outline

View a personal statement outline for the MSW Application.

More about the MSW Program

1. Regular Standing Admissions

Applicants who have not previously achieve a BSW from a CSWE accredited program must have:

  • A four-year undergraduate degree from a college or university recognized by a regional accrediting association
  • personal statement demonstrating interest in social work, career goals, commitment to values and ethics of the profession, and program preferences
  • A Cumulative GPA of 3.00
  • In addition, non-BSW applicants’ transcripts will be reviewed by the program director to determine if there is sufficient preparation for MSW program content. Courses needed to demonstrate preparation are as follows:
    • a combination of courses equivalent to SW 100 Exploring Social Work and SW 230 Human Behavior in the Social Environment I
    • at least a 3 credit course in Statistics, Research Methods, or Quantitative Reasoning
    • at least a 3 credit course in Biology (must include human biology content)
    • at least 10 credits in some combination of the following content areas
      • Lifespan Development
      • Psychology
      • Sociology

       OR

Applicants who have previously achieved a BSW from an accredited program but do not meet criteria for advanced standing must have:

  • A BSW degree from a CSWE accredited program
  • personal statement demonstrating interest in social work, career goals, commitment to values and ethics of the profession, and program preferences
  • A Cumulative GPA of 3.00

2. Advanced Standing Admissions

Applicants who have previously achieved a BSW from a CSWE accredited program and wish to apply for advanced standing must have:

  • A BSW degree from a CSWE-accredited program, or recognized through its International Social Work Degree Recognition and Evaluation Services, or covered under a memorandum of understanding with international social work accreditors, ideally conferred no more than five years prior to the date of application
  • personal statement demonstrating interest in social work, career goals, commitment to values and ethics of the profession, and program preferences
  • A Cumulative GPA of 3.25 with no BSW courses falling below a B+ (3.3 GPA)

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Application Process

Students will begin by completing the NMU Graduate Admissions Application. In addition to completing the application, students will submit:

  1. Official transcripts from ALL previously attended colleges or universities: We require official electronic or mail transcripts. An official transcript is one that has been received directly from the issuing institution. It must bear the college seal, date, and signature of the registrar. Transcripts received that do not meet these requirements are not considered official. If you have not completed your Bachelor's degree, do not send transcripts until you are in your final semester and your grades have posted from the previous semester.
  2. $50 application fee - Students may pay online, mail a check or money order, or pay by credit card over the phone (906-227-1221). Applicants should pay the non-refundable application processing fee unless they:
    1. Have financial circumstances that make payment an undue hardship. To apply for a financial hardship fee waiver, please submit a brief request letter/email to graduate@nmu.edu

    2. We are a McNair Scholar at their undergraduate institution. McNair Scholars must have a letter or e-mail sent from their undergraduate institution verifying their McNair status

    3. Have already attended NMU at the same degree level for which they are applying and have not graduated with that degree

    4. Are a qualifying senior citizen with the NMU Senior Citizen Scholarship (age 62 or older and located in the Marquette area and taking on-campus classes.

  3. Letters of Recommendation - Three academic or professional letters of recommendation.
  4. Personal Statement - Please use this template for assistance. Your statement will address career goals, experience, values and ethics of profession, and program preferences.

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Application Deadlines

  • Fall semester (Regular Standing*) - February 28
  • Summer session (Advanced Standing*) - December 1
  • Fall semester Early Decision (for students with NMU as their #1 choice) - December 1

*Students can apply as a Regular Standing student or as an Advanced Standing student. This should be specified in the personal statement. To be considered an Advanced Standing student, you must have a completed a Bachelor's in Social Work from an accredited university in the last 5 years. These students will complete their first year of courses over the summer and then join the rest of their cohort in the fall. Regular standing students begin fall semester and complete the program in 2 years. Check out our admissions requirements for more information.

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Students enrolled in the NMU MSW Program will have the choice of concentrating on one of two areas: Clinical or Policy, Planning and Administration (PPA). The NMU MSW Program offers several curriculum options based on admission standing and chosen concentration.  

1. Regular Standing Option

Students admitted under Regular Standing will complete the 50-credit program beginning in fall semester over the course of two academic years, with four total semesters.  During the first year, students will focus on developing competency in generalist practice, developing proficiency in a variety of skills, knowledge, values and emotional and cognitive processes.  This knowledge base will prepare students to practice social work in a wide variety of settings and populations.  Students will develop the ability to work with all service levels, from practice with individuals and families, through community organizing and interaction with social policy.  Field placements will be selected based on the agencies ability to provide practice opportunities at many practice levels, assisting students in developing generalist practice.

During the second year of the program, students with choose between the Clinical or Policy, Planning and Administration (PPA) concentration.  Clinical students will develop entry-level proficiency in therapeutic counseling skills, including mental health therapy and diagnostics, while continuing to exercise competencies gained in the first year of the program.  Students will work with the field coordinator to select a field placement in a particular area of clinical interest, including mental health with adults, children and families, and co-occuring disorders.  In the PPA concentration, students will develop specialized skills and knowledge in policy development, community organizing and advocacy, and administration.  These students will also work with the field coordinator to select a placement site that emphasizes the area of macro practice the are most interested in.  

2. Advanced Standing Option

Students admitted under Advanced Standing will complete the 36-credit program in one calendar year, or three semesters total, beginning in summer semester.  The summer semester will focus on consolidating entry-level social work competencies and linking them to the concentration curriculum beginning in fall semester.  Beginning in fall semester, students will begin concentration courses in either Clinical or Policy, Planning and Administration (PPA).  As with the second year of the Regular Standing program, students will specialize courses and field placements in their chosen area of concentration.  

Clinical students will develop entry-level proficiency in therapeutic counseling skills, including mental health therapy and diagnostics, while continuing to exercise competencies gained in the first year of the program.  Students will work with the field coordinator to select a field placement in a particular area of clinical interest, including mental health with adults, children and families, and co-occuring disorders.  In the PPA concentration, students will develop specialized skills and knowledge in policy development, community organizing and advocacy, and administration.  These students will also work with the field coordinator to select a placement site that emphasizes the area of macro practice the are most interested in.  

CURRICULUM LAYOUT AND COURSE OPTIONS

NMU GRADUATE COURSE SEARCH 

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NMU offers a unique opportunity for field placement in an urbanized rural setting.  The field placement is incorporated into social work education and critical in the preparation of competent social work professionals. All MSW students are required by the Council on Social Work Education to complete a minimum of 900 field hours (about 2-3 days per week in an academic semester) in a real-world setting under the instruction of a degreed social worker. At NMU, the MSW field coordinator identifies organizational settings that provide individualized, hands-on experiences that allow students to practice social work skills and apply their classroom knowledge. The field coordinator matches students to specific field placements that are able to meet their learning needs.

  • Regular Standing - Students admitted under regular standing will complete two field placements while at NMU.  During their first year (fall and winter semesters), students will complete approximately 400 hours in the field practicing generalist competencies.  The second year they will complete a 500 hour placement in their area of specialization, either Clinical or in Policy, Planning and Administration (PPA).
  • Advanced Standing - Students admitted under advanced standing are able to count 400 hours of their BSW field placement toward the total 900 required field hours for an MSW.  During the advanced standing year, students will complete 500 hours in the field in their area of concentration, either Clinical or Policy, Planning and Administration (PPA).  
  • Global Campus - Students completing the program in the global campus option will be asked to assist the field instructor in finding placement options in their local area. This may consist of the student identifying local agencies that are interested in, connecting the field coordinator with local agencies, and/or directly connecting with local agencies to secure placements.  The field instructor will be actively engaged in the process, but the student's involvement will be necessary in order to select placements that will meet educational goals.  
  • Child Welfare Certificate - If a student is working toward the Child Welfare Certificate, they will be required to complete their Child Welfare placement during their first, generalist, year of placement.  The certificate will not be available for students in the Advanced Standing program due to the generalist nature of the certificate.  

Field Placement Application Process

When students are selected for the NMU MSW program, they will be required to complete the below materials and submit them to the Field Placement Coordinator as soon as possible to begin the matching process.

Regular Standing
Advanced Standing

Students will also be required to be familiar with the MSW Field Education Manual prior to beginning their placement(s).

Students seeking admission to a graduate level program must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited four-year institution or an equivalent foreign institution and satisfy the admission requirements listed below. The admission policies presented here are the minimum requirements. Specific graduate programs may have requirements that exceed these minimum levels, which you can view here. These additional requirements may include tests, valid teaching certificates, letters of recommendation, personal interviews, specific course preparation or a grade-point average above the minimum established by the Office of Graduate Education. 

Admission to graduate level coursework does not equate admission to candidacy for a graduate degree in a specific program.  The requirements and procedures for admission to candidacy are described following this section.

Applications for admission to graduate programs are reviewed by the department responsible for the program to which the applicant seeks admission.

Admission to graduate studies is granted in one of the following categories based on the qualifications and educational objectives of the applicant. Eligibility for enrollment is based solely on the applicant’s academic qualifications without regard to gender, race, marital status, color, age, religion, handicap or national origin.

  1. Regular Degree Admission is granted to the student who wishes to pursue a master’s degree and who has a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution with a minimum undergraduate grade-point average of 3.0 (A=4.0). For regular admission, a student must meet all of the admission requirements of the Office of Graduate Education, as well as any additional requirements for the program of their choice.

  2. Conditional Admission may be authorized, based upon a recommendation from the department or by the Director of Graduate Education and Research, for students who do not meet the requirements of regular admission. Conditional admission can be granted to students in their final semester or session of enrollment in an undergraduate program if the academic record is satisfactory, based on the final transcript sent by the student. The conditions for regular admission are recorded on the letter of admission that is sent to the applicant. Students who fail to meet the conditions of their admission by the completion of 12 semester hours of graduate credit are denied further registration. The determining factors for the conditions of admission are the responsibility of the assigned adviser with the endorsement of the appropriate department head and the Director of Graduate Education and Research. Students will not be granted regular admission status until all the requirements and conditions for regular admission have been met.

  3. Non-Degree Admission is granted to students who do not wish to obtain a graduate degree, but have an interest in work beyond the baccalaureate degree, or who graduated from a non-accredited undergraduate program. Included in this category are those students selecting special workshops or those who wish to pursue additional study for educational benefits. Students who are non-degree can later elect to change to a degree seeking program by submitting an application to that program. 

  4. Certification or Endorsements Admission is granted to education students seeking professional teacher certification, professional development, or endorsements but not wishing to pursue a master’s degree.  Admission for certification or endorsement in no way assures subsequent admission to a degree program. A student who wishes to later apply for regular admission to a degree program must fill out an application for that program. All admission requirements of the school and the Office of Graduate Education must also be met.

  5. Guest Student. A student enrolled in another accredited graduate school in Michigan may register for a limited number of graduate credits at Northern Michigan University under the Guest Student status. The Michigan Intercollegiate Graduate Studies (MIGS) Program is a cooperative program established by a group of Michigan Universities to provide an opportunity for "guest" graduate students to participate in unique educational opportunities throughout the state without changing their status of enrollment at their present university.

A graduate student's record remains open for three years from the date of last enrollment unless the student graduates, withdraws, or is dismissed. Graduate students who no longer have active student status must reactivate their files by completing another admission application before enrolling in graduate courses.

Applications from undergraduate students who have yet to complete course work for their bachelor's degree will only be processed if the student is in his/her final semester of undergraduate course work. Transcripts from the university that he/she currently attends should not be sent until that time. Admission to graduate programs for these students will be on a conditional basis, and the student will be required to furnish a final transcript for their undergraduate work once their final grades and bachelor's degree is conferred and listed on that transcript. The final transcript will be reviewed by the NMU academic department in which the student has conditionally been admitted, and if acceptable, the student's admission status will be changed to regular status.

Students in the NMU Social Work Department

Our mission is to prepare advanced practitioners of social work by extending the department's and profession's commitment to higher learning that promotes service, social justice, human rights, and dignity, worth and well-being of individuals, groups, families, organizations, and communities through specialized clinical and macro practice.