Virginia Commonwealth University

M.S.W. Program

M.S.W. policies

VCU School of Social Work students must abide by all university and school policies. The following list highlights some university policies. Refer to the VCU Insider/Resource Guide [PDF] and the university bulletins for a complete listing and descriptions.

M.S.W. policies and regulations

Add/drop and withdrawal periods

After the registration period, it may be necessary for students to add to or to drop a course from their schedule of classes. Courses may be added during the first week of class for the Fall and Spring semesters, and the day after the first session of a Summer course.

A drop constitutes leaving a course or courses after initially registering for the class during advance or regular registration. Students can drop a social work course through university e-services prior to the beginning of the class or during the first week of each fall and spring semester. Contact your adviser for information concerning adding and dropping classes.

Students may withdraw from a course during the first part of each semester, as published in the university’s Academic Calendar. After the first week, dropped courses will be recorded on the permanent record as W or withdrawal.

Students should consult their adviser before dropping or withdrawing from a course. This is to ensure that students are not dropping or withdrawing from a course which is a co-requisite to current courses or a prerequisite to courses for which they plan to register during subsequent semesters. Students must contact Financial Aid if they are receiving any grants, loans or work-study funds when they withdraw from any courses or drop from full-time to part-time status. Information and appropriate forms are available online.

For more information on add/drop and withdrawal periods visit the Graduate bulletins.

Auditing courses

Students may register for a course on an audit basis if class size permits. Students auditing a course are enrolled but do not receive academic credit toward the M.S.W. degree.

For more information on auditing courses visit the Graduate bulletins.

Change of address

Students must report changes in name, address, email and phone number to the School of Social Work Office of Student Services on the third floor of the Academic Learning Commons, 1000 Floyd Ave., Richmond, VA 23284-2027, by using the school’s Personal Data Update form [PDF]. Students also must report updates to the university by visiting the VCU Student Services Center at 827 W. Franklin St., Room 104, Richmond, VA 23284 or through eServices.

Change of status: Full time/part time or campus locations

After consulting with the academic adviser, M.S.W. students must complete a Change of Status form [PDF] if they are interested in moving from full-time to part-time status or part-time to full-time status, or if they want to change campus locations. Approval of a status change will be contingent upon space availability.

Class attendance

Attendance is guided by the statement of Philosophy on teaching, learning and grading.

Students pursuing professional education are expected to attend all classes. The classroom teacher should be notified when a student expects to miss a class. The student’s adviser or the Office of Student Services in Richmond or on the Northern Virginia campus should be notified when several classes are to be missed.

Students should consult the syllabus for each course to be aware of individual instructor’s attendance requirements.

If the student will be out of class for a long period of time, possibly jeopardizing his or her academic standing, the senior associate dean will discuss the appropriate withdrawal alternatives with the student and relatives when applicable. If the student who is ill lives in a residence hall, they may notify Residential Life and Housing. The office will then notify the senior associate dean who will notify the adviser and instructors.

Continuous enrollment policy

VCU expects that all students, once admitted to a program, will enroll each semester. Students who do not register for courses for more than one calendar year must reapply for admission to the university and the degree program.

All students in the School of Social Work must notify the senior associate dean in writing when it is not possible to take at least two courses in a fall or spring academic semester. The notification must include an indication of the student’s wishes to continue in the M.S.W. program and an indication of when enrollment in courses will resume.

Course availability

The School of Social Work makes an effort to provide enough sections of courses to accommodate all students. On occasion, circumstances may make it necessary for the school to revise schedules, cancel sections and transfer students to sections different than originally registered. A student should not assume that the registered schedule will necessarily be obtained. Courses are subject to cancellation if minimum enrollment is not met.

Educational policy and accreditation standards

Visit the Council on Social Work Education to view the curriculum policy statement and accreditation standards for baccalaureate and master’s social work education.

Exception to policies

Exceptions to school or university policies may be considered in extenuating circumstances. The senior associate dean will provide information regarding requests for exceptions.


Grading is guided by the statement of Philosophy on teaching, learning and grading.

The GPA is the quantitative indicator of how well students are doing in their studies. Grades are assigned according to the letter system with the grade point values as follows: A = 4 grade points, B = 3 grade points, C = 2 grade points, D = 1 grade point, and F = O grade points (except when an F is based on pass/fail grading).

The grades of accepted transfer courses are not included in the computation of the VCU GPA, and the pass/fail grades for field instruction courses are not included.

Grade of progress (PR) - The grade of PR is an interim grade awarded for SLWK 693 Foundation Field Instruction and SLWK 793 Concentration Field Instruction. Each year’s placement is considered one course (six credits) although placements span two academic semesters and separate registration is required for each semester. The grade of PR is changed to P with credit upon completion of the field instruction placement (SLWK 694 and SLWK 794). If a student does not complete the full course, the student will be required to repeat the entire placement.

Grade of pass and fail in field instruction courses - The grade of pass (P) is awarded for M.S.W. field instruction courses to denote satisfactory completion of requirements. Courses assigned the grade of P will not be computed in the student’s GPA.

The grade of F denotes unsatisfactory completion of field instruction course requirements. It is given when the student has not demonstrated the level of social work practice, knowledge and skill appropriate for the field instruction course. A student may also receive an F for documented unprofessional behavior. A student may be removed from the field placement agency at any time by the field instructor and field placement agency for either reason. A student removed from the agency under such circumstances will be assigned a grade of F for the field instruction course. A grade of F in a field instruction course results in the student being automatically and immediately dropped from the M.S.W. program without regard to overall GPA.

Incomplete grades - The School of Social Work requires that all Incomplete grades be awarded in ways that are consistent with the university policy. To be fair to all students who are balancing work, life and academics, the spirit of the policy suggests that Incompletes should be used sparingly in only the most unusual circumstances outside the student’s control. Issues related to ineffective workload management by the student are insufficient, for example. However, an accident, death, or other significant life event in the student’s life might be sufficient depending on the timing and specific circumstances. In every case, an incomplete grade assignment form is to be fully completed by the instructor, approved by the relevant program director as well as our associate dean for academic affairs. The associate dean then tracks each pending Incomplete and ensures the terms of the agreement are fulfilled. Any instructor submitting an approved Incomplete form is agreeing to supervise the completion of student work and the posting of grades in ways consistent with this policy.

As noted in the university policy, schools are allowed to set more stringent timelines for completion than VCU does and the School of Social Work has determined that it will do so. In order to honor the assumptions of the importance of foundational coursework, course sequencing and prerequisites, the School of Social Work requires that all incomplete grades in all courses be graded by the instructor by the end of the second full week of classes in the semester immediately following the awarding of the Incomplete (second summer session, fall, spring). This policy assumes three semesters in a given year and notes any week with less than five days of classes is not a full week.

Each semester, the associate dean for academic affairs will notify faculty of the last date for submitting grades for the previous semester’s Incompletes. The university policy allows for extensions to this, but only upon prior approval by the instructor and the dean, or, in our case, the program director and associate dean. Extensions are considered only with documented evidence of extenuating circumstances and must be requested in writing seven calendar days prior to the deadline for completing pending work. When the deadline established for completing pending work arrives, the instructor shall calculate the final grade based on all completed work to date. Work not completed by the due date is awarded zero points in the calculation of the final grade.

Repeating courses - Semester credits attempted and grade points earned for all attempts are included in computing the cumulative GPA. Regardless of how often a course is repeated, it may be counted only once as credit presented toward graduation. Before repeating a course, the student should consult with the faculty adviser. Refer to the appropriate university bulletin for specific limitations and exceptions.

Transcripts - Transcripts of student academic records are issued by Records and Registration, 827 W. Franklin St., Room 104, Richmond, VA 23284, (804) 828-1349. Transcripts are issued only upon written request of the student. An online transcript request form [PDF] is available. No transcript will be issued unless all financial obligations with the university have been satisfied.

An unofficial transcript is available online from eServices and from the Student Services Center.

For additional information visit the Graduate bulletins.

Grade Review Procedure

If a student believes that a final course grade was not assigned correctly, they have a right to request a grade review (appeal). The VCU Grade Review Policy and Procedure can be found in the VCU Insider/Resource Guide.

Go to Due Process for detailed information about the procedure for initiating a formal grade review request (appeal).

In-state residency requirements

A resident of Virginia is a student who is or has been domiciled in Virginia for a period of at least one year prior to the semester which will reduce tuition charges.

For more information on in-state residency requirements visit the Graduate bulletins.

M.S.W. program academic standards

Academic standards of the School of Social Work include those related to classroom performance and attendance, as well as ethical and professional conduct.

The following are the academic standards of the M.S.W. program:

  1. A minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 at the completion of 12 credits, or at the completion of the nine-credit summer session if a student is in the advanced standing program
  2. No more than six credits with a C grade, regardless of GPA
  3. No grade of D or F regardless of GPA
  4. A grade of Pass in field instruction courses
  5. Adherence to university rules and procedures and the VCU Honor System
  6. Adherence to the professional Code of Ethics
  7. Completion of provisional or probationary requirements from an admission decision or from a previous review
  8. Acceptance into a field agency that provides an appropriate field experience
  9. Meeting professional expectations and standards, which includes generally accepted standards of professional conduct, personal integrity or emotional stability requisite for professional practice, or demonstrating professional behavior toward colleagues, faculty and staff (at school and field placement)
  10. Performing the functions of a social worker, given reasonable accommodations, including using effective interpersonal skills necessary for forming professional helping relationships

Termination for failure to meet academic standards of the M.S.W. program

Upon appropriate review, a student may be terminated from the program for:

  1. Having a GPA that drops below a 3.0 at any point in the program at or after the completion of 12 credits
  2. Having a GPA that drops below a 3.0 at or after the completion of the nine-credit summer session (advanced standing students)
  3. Earning a grade of C or below in more than six credits
  4. Earning a grade of D or F in any course
  5. Receiving a grade of F in a field instruction course
  6. Being found responsible for violating university rules and procedures or the VCU Honor System
  7. Being found responsible for violating the professional Code of Ethics.
  8. Failing to fulfill provisional or probationary requirements from an admission decision or from a previous review
  9. Rejection by three or more field agencies if, in the judgment of faculty, the placements can provide appropriate field experiences without undue inconvenience to the student
  10. Failing to adhere to professional expectations and standards, including failure to meet generally accepted standards of professional conduct, personal integrity or emotional stability requisite for professional practice, or not demonstrating professional behavior toward colleagues, faculty and staff (at school and field placement)
  11. Demonstrating an inability to perform the functions of a social worker, despite reasonable accommodations, including the failure to demonstrate effective interpersonal skills necessary for forming professional helping relationships (for example, unable to demonstrate nonjudgmental attitude, unable to allow client self-determination, etc.)


Students in the School of Social Work register for courses in consultation with their faculty adviser. Currently enrolled students register during the advance registration periods for the next semester’s classes. Students may register for day or evening courses during these periods.

Registration is held the week prior to each fall and spring semester, and late registration is held during the first week of classes for those students who miss advance registration. (A fee is imposed for late registration.)

For a list of course offerings, visit the Schedule of Classes website.

Request for refund

Questions regarding the refund policy or requests for refund forms should be directed to the Student Accounting Department.

Readmission of students terminated from the program

Readmission of graduate students is subject to university regulations as stipulated in the VCU Bulletins and is guided by the Due Process Policies and Procedures.

Statement of Philosophy on teaching, learning and grading

The statement is offered as one way to clarify and make explicit our expectations for students and faculty as well as our philosophy around teaching, learning, grading and evaluation. Review the statement.

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Structured part-time policies

Students admitted to the part time program must select a structured curriculum plan from the options provided. Sixty credits are required for the M.S.W. degree unless otherwise noted for M.S.W. options such as a certificate or dual degree. The program is designed so that students complete degree requirements within four years.

» Learn more about the part-time program options [PDF]

Student course load and credit hours

The student course load is the total number of credits for which a student is enrolled in any semester. Although a graduate student is classified as full-time for tuition purposes when enrolled in nine or more credits, the graduate student course load for a full-time M.S.W. student during the academic year is 15 hours and six hours for part-time students during the first year in the structured part-time program. The semester credit is the quantitative unit by which courses are measured. The credit is generally defined as one hour per week of lecture or not less than two hours per week of laboratory work throughout a semester. For example, a three-credit course generally means class attendance for one, two-hour and 40-minute period a week. Field instruction credits are not based on the number of hours in the placement agency — each course has three credit hours.

The School of Social Work has established academic student listservs that are used to communicate with students on a regular basis. A voluntary student activities listserv provides information to students related to employment, activities and social work-related events.

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Student records

A record for each student admitted to the School of Social Work is maintained in the Office of Student Services. The folder contains admission materials, academic histories, copies of correspondence addressed to the student, copies of field practicum evaluation forms and other materials pertinent to educational planning. Information is maintained for use by the student’s faculty adviser.

The student record is governed by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, printed in the VCU bulletins. Students wishing to review material contained in the folder may do so by contacting the associate dean.

Students with special learning needs

The VCU Office of Disability Support Services (DSS) will work with you to determine the recommended academic accommodations. For more information, call (804) 828-2253. Students with disabilities are encouraged to call the Director of Student Services in the School of Social Work at (804) 828-9335 to discuss the DSS recommended accommodations in relation to the M.S.W. curriculum requirements and program plan options.

University rules and procedures

Each member of the university community has certain responsibilities, rights and privileges. These are detailed in the VCU Rules and Procedures [PDF]. The document provides the process by which disciplinary action, including separation from VCU, may be taken against a member of the VCU community who violates the rules and procedures. The document is published in the Resource Guide, copies of which are available in the VCU Office of Student Affairs on the Monroe Park Campus and through the director at the Northern Virginia campus.

The VCU Honor System

The VCU Honor System details expectations of academic behavior and the process by which disciplinary action may be taken for violations of academic integrity, including plagiarism. The Honor System is administered through the Office of Judicial Affairs and Academic Integrity in the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Services of the university. The VCU Honor System is included in the VCU Insider/Resource Guide.

Time limit for degree study

The school time limit for completing the structured part-time program is four years. The university time limit for completing study for a graduate degree will not extend beyond a period of six years, which at the master’s level includes four years with two possible one-year extensions.

The student initiates with the adviser a request for extension of the student’s program beyond the four year limit, one year at a time. No course work may be older than six years at the time of graduation. If the student is part-time, the student and adviser must refer to the Educational Planning Form for part-time students. The form may need revising if the student’s situation has changed. Time factors in the student’s program should be identified and the plan for completion of study clearly stated.

The written request for program extension and the Educational Planning Form in the case of part-time students are forwarded to the senior associate dean. The senior associate dean reviews the student’s record for initial registration time of graduation, ensuring that the projected plan meets M.S.W. program requirements.

The senior associate dean notifies the student and faculty adviser of the decision.

Tuition and fees

Tuition and fees are set by the university and approved by the Board of Visitors.

VCU Graduate School

For detailed information on policies for graduate students, visit the VCU Bulletins.

Withdrawal from the school and VCU

If a student decides that it is necessary to withdraw completely from the university, the withdrawal should be thoroughly discussed with the adviser. The student also must complete a School of Social Work withdrawal and leave of absence form. It is the student’s responsibility to handle the withdrawal.

If a student remains out of school without an approved leave of absence, and wishes to return as a degree-seeking student, an application for readmission must be filed through the Graduate School, P.O. Box 843051, Richmond, VA 23284. Students should contact their adviser for directions on submitting an application for readmission.

For more information on withdrawing from the school and VCU visit the Graduate bulletins.