M.S.W. FAQ

Admission

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 the advanced standing program. 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 on Social Work Education. However, this job experience may strengthen your overall application.

I don’t meet all of the prerequisites since I didn’t take a biology, psychology, sociology, or math course in my undergraduate work. Will this affect my admission?

Not necessarily. Upon application, the admissions review team will determine if the courses on your transcripts complete the prerequisite requirement(s), and if this is not the case it would not hinder your acceptance to the program. Applicants that do not meet the prerequisite criteria are admitted provisionally with enough time to register for and complete the course requirement(s) at a university or community college of their choice.

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 generalist credits will be accepted in transfer from another accredited M.S.W. program, and no more than six elective 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 and have not been applied toward another graduate degree. For more information, review the transfer of credit policy in the VCU Bulletin. Please note that in order to transfer credits into the M.S.W. Program, applicant must be considered in good standing with the current graduate program and provide an official letter of good standing.

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. For more information, review the VCU Bulletin.

Can I waive any generalist courses?

Students can request to waive up to three generalist 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. Check out the VCU School of Social Work Student Policy Handbook for information about procedures and the VCU Bulletins to review our course waiver policy.

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

For on-campus students in our advanced standing and regular standing formats, the school does not allow deferral of admissions. Candidates will have to reapply and be reviewed again along with all applicants in the cohort for which they reapply. 

For online students who require a prerequisite and are admitted less than 4 months before the start of the next term, the school will allow them to defer to the subsequent term or complete the prerequisite criteria concurrently with the first semester of M.S.W. courses. View our prerequisite requirements

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

All on-campus regular standing students begin in August, and the advanced standing option begins in May. Online students are able to begin in August, January or May. View a list of application and start dates

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

Yes, our recruitment team would be happy to meet with you. Join us at one of our prospective student events. Discovery Days give you the chance to get to know the school, its programs and formats, faculty, current students and the VCU community. Discovery Days and Welcome Days can last anywhere from one and one-half hours to four hours depending on what you’re interested in experiencing.

Applicants unable to attend any of the Discovery Days, please email the Office of Student Success at sswinfo@vcu.edu to set up a meeting with an on-campus recruiter or onlinemsw@vcu.edu to speak with one of the online enrollment advisers. Fill out the interest form to request more information about the school's programs.

If I am a full-time student, will I always have daytime classes? If I am a part-time student, will I always have evening classes?

No. The M.S.W. Program cannot guarantee a specific section, instructor or time of course. Registration is based on a first-come, first served basis, based on space and instructor 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.

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

We consider volunteer and/or work experiences when reviewing applications. However, experience in the social work field is not required for acceptance into the program

Do you accept late applications?

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

How will I know if my application is incomplete?

You will be notified through the email address you used to apply through the online application system. An incomplete application must be completed within one week of submission to be considered for admission. 

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 upload the most up-to-date, unofficial transcripts from all post-secondary institutions with your online application for review purposes. If admitted, you will be required to submit an official transcript showing your final grades and your conferred degree to finalize your admission. Should your GPA fall below 3.0 by the end of your undergraduate coursework, your admission to the program may be rescinded.

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. Please note, in cases where coursework was completed during high school as part of a dual enrollment program, we do not require the transcript. If this is the case, please submit an email to mswadmissions@vcu.edu notifying that the transfer credits that appear in your college transcripts are from a high school dual enrollment program.

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: educational preparation, work experience, professional statement of intent and recommendations. The advanced standing option application process also involves a review of any prior field evaluation(s), an interview and a proctored case assessment.

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 receive an official notification from Graduate Admissions.

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; student advising; mentorship; and the excellence in classroom and field instruction are the things most often identified by current students and alumni.

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. Contact the Office of Student Success for more information at sswinfo@vcu.edu.

Where do I submit my official transcripts?

Submit official transcripts to VCU Graduate Admissions by mail to:

Virginia Commonwealth University

Attention: VCU Office of Graduate Admissions

Box 843051

Richmond, Virginia 23284-3051

Official transcripts can also be electronically submitted to gradmail@vcu.edu.

If the name on your transcripts does not match your current legal name, please inform VCU Graduate Admissions at gradmail@vcu.edu so that your transcripts can be paired with your application.

Academics

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. Elective classes are not guaranteed to be available each term or online.

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 areas of specialization options?

After approximately 30 credits, students choose the clinical area of specialization or the social work administration, planning and policy practice area of specialization. Learn more about the area of specialization options on the VCU Bulletins website. The clnical area of specialization is the only one available to online students.

Can I get a dual 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. 

Certificates:

* Available to online students.

Dual Degrees (Not available to online students):

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 (starting salaries may vary based on geographical region). For more information on the profession of social work, please visit the National Association of Social Workers’ websites at socialworkers.org and helpstartshere.org; or the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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

Yes, Office of Student Success staff assist all prospective, newly admitted and current students. Contact the Office of Student Success at sswinfo@vcu.edu.

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 format changes with your student success adviser. 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 options (on-campus and distance education) were designed for those students who are currently employed. Please review the M.S.W. Program options and contact the Office of Student Success to discuss what options may be best for you at sswinfo@vcu.edu.


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.

Can I earn my degree entirely online?

M.S.W. Distance Education course instruction is offered in a blend of synchronous and asynchronous course activities taught by VCU faculty. However, students must complete their required field placements that are offered in local community agencies throughout the region. For more information about field education requirements check out the Student Policy Handbook.

What are the technology requirements?

Minimum computer requirements are available online. Some software is provided free to registered studentsHigh-speed Internet access (a broadband connection such as cable or a fiber optic connection) 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 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. 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. Contact the Office of Student Success to discuss what options may be best for you at sswinfo@vcu.edu.

What should I expect from my required field experience in the M.S.W. degree program?

You can expect a varied set of experiences. During your field placements, you will be required to complete fieldwork at local community agencies. You will complete a field application before the semester in which your field experience is planned and where you can express your specific interests within the social work profession. This helps guide the Office of Field Education toward finding a placement that matches your particular professional and career goals.

Field education

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.

What is the best way for me to estimate tuition and fees associated with the various M.S.W. program options?

Please utilize the student accounting tuition and fees calculator. Feel free to contact the Office of Student Success at sswinfo@vcu.edu if you have questions about utilizing these resources.

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 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 25 students per class. This varies depending upon the size of the incoming class and the number of students who elect the clinical or SWAPPP areas of specialization. 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?

The office of Student Accessibility and Education Opportunity will work with you to determine any necessary academic adjustment you require. You may also contact the Office of Student Success to discuss your particular situation at socialwork.vcu.edu.

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 social media site geared towards currently enrolled students. 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.

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. The GRTC Pulse provides bus rapid transit convenient to VCU.