MSW Curriculum

The MSW curriculum of the school has been developed to both reflect and promote the advances in contemporary advanced social work practice. Curriculum design and materials incorporate theory and practice approaches that have been developed throughout the country as well as those that have been created by faculty and practitioners to meet local and Asian and Pacific needs. The curriculum consists of foundation and concentration courses, practicum, research courses, and electives.

Upon graduation, students are prepared to deal with a wide variety of current and emerging human problems using an approach to practice-focused on individuals and families within mezzo and macro systems that allows the social worker to select and apply the appropriate intervention. In addition, students develop competence in working in specific problem areas so that they graduate from the program with the specific knowledge and skills necessary for advanced practice in a particular field of service.

In addition to the required courses in the foundation and concentrations, the school has developed a number of elective courses to provide knowledge in a range of areas relevant to social work practice. Electives are also available in other University departments. Students who are pursuing an MSW and another advanced degree at the University (e.g., public health, law), either simultaneously or consecutively, may apply to have up to 9 credit hours of graduate course work accepted for credit for both degree programs. Certificates may also be obtained in urban and regional planning and aging.

Foundation Courses

The foundation courses present an orientation to social work practice and provide the necessary base upon which to build the more advanced body of knowledge, practice principles, and skills offered by the concentrations. The foundation is designed to provide an integrated system of courses that collectively introduce the student to the components of the profession. There is emphasis on social work as a diversified profession with many functions and a variety of approaches.

The foundation courses present content in human behavior and the social environment, social welfare policies and services, research, social work practice, and practicum. The student thus completes the foundation prepared to intervene at the individual, family, group, organization, and community levels.

Advanced Curriculum

The advanced curriculum includes two courses focusing on the range of practice issues, intervention strategies and procedures in a specialized area of practice, advanced policy course work, one year of practicum, and the opportunity for research in the area of concentration.

The concentrations are the major focus of the advanced curriculum. They are organized around the fields of practice in which social workers are most often employed. These concentrations are in the areas of mental health, health, children and families, and gerontology. A focus on the justice system is also available. As part of the Hawaiʻi Child Welfare Education Collaboration, specialized courses in public child welfare are available in the child and family concentration. Students select a field of practice concentration by the end of their first year. In the Distance Education Option, only the Child and Family concentration area is currently available.

Various other options are available for completing the research requirement in the second year of study. All concentrations teach certain common advanced skills with a focus on individuals and families (e.g., direct intervention, expertise in functioning within organizations, assessment, interpersonal skills, and expertise in a range of social work roles). In addition, each concentration presents content specific to its field of practice. Students are required to take a minimum of one graduate social work elective course in the area of their concentration.

Concentration Electives:

Click on this link for all MSW Concentration Electives


The practicum is an integral part of the school’s total educational program and provides each student with the opportunity to apply concepts, principles, and theories learned in the classroom to practice. The major focus in the practicum is on the student’s acquisition of practice knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes in working with diverse client systems within a service setting.

Practicum is guided by curriculum goals and objectives. The practicum is further individualized by the student and the practicum instructor through the completion of a learning agreement approved by the practicum office. Students are expected to demonstrate a sense of responsibility, good judgment, responsiveness to the supervision of their work, and to demonstrate sensitivity and good interpersonal skills in professional interactions. Substandard performance in any of these areas is considered grounds for probation, suspension, or dismissal from the practicum.

The first year of practicum is considered to be a generalist approach to social work and is integrated with the student’s foundation practice courses. For second year students, practicum is integrated with their field of practice and is coordinated with the student’s concentration courses.

Practicum is available only to classified students admitted to the MSW degree program. Students are required to complete four semesters of practicum (SW 690 and SW 691 in the Foundation Year and SW 790 and SW 791 in the Concentration Year) totaling a minimum of 900 clock hours. All foundation classroom course work must be completed prior to or concurrently with the foundation practicum courses. It is strongly recommended that SW 606 and SW 690, and SW 607 and SW 691 be taken concurrently. SW 690 and SW 691 cannot be taken prior to SW 606 and SW 607, respectively.

Concentration classroom course work must be completed prior to or concurrently with the concentration practicum courses. If students elect to participate in a practicum after completing their respective foundation or concentration classroom courses, a block practicum is an option. Block practicum consists of 450 clock hours over 14 weeks. No practicum clock hour credits or waivers are given for prior paid or volunteer social work practice experience.

Students are assigned to their practicum by the practicum office. BSW graduates and more experienced students are placed in sites commensurate with their prior education and experience. All foundation year students are required to participate in a practicum orientation program, which precedes involvement in the practicum setting. The Mānoa campus practicum orientation program conducted at the school is held at the beginning of each academic semester. Student attendance at the practicum orientation program is counted toward the student’s 225 clock hours of foundation practicum.

Foundation year students attend practicum 16 hours per week for a minimum of 225 clock hours a semester and earn 3 credits per semester. Concentration year students have the option, pending approval by the practicum office, of increasing their practicum hours beyond the minimum 3 credit hours (225 clock hours) per semester requirement. They may register for 300 clock hours per semester (20 clock hours per week) and earn 4 credit hours, or 375 clock hours per semester (25 clock hours per week) and earn 5 credit hours.

Practicum courses are available to foundation and concentration year students during the fall, spring, and summer terms. The opportunity for students to take block practicum off island — on the Mainland or internationally — will be considered on an individual basis but will only be allowed for students who have completed their relevant foundation and concentration year course work. Students must contact the practicum office about other requirements for practicum site certification for settings not on the island of their graduate program. University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, rather than agency, holidays will be observed in the practicum; this includes the allotted weeks designated for vacation over the Christmas/ New Year recess and the one week spring recess.

Students participating in practicum cannot be defended or indemnified by the State of Hawaiʻi or the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in the event of any legal action. Consequently, students are required to purchase professional liability insurance through the School of Social Work. The practicum office is available to help students secure the necessary information on this matter.


Independent Study

The school encourages independent study whenever students are prepared to pursue a special interest. SW 699 Directed Reading and Research is available for this option. Students are encouraged to explore independent study with their faculty advisor. A maximum of 9 credit hours of SW 699 may be applied toward the MSW degree.

Advanced Research

Students select Plan A (thesis) or Plan B (non-thesis) to complete the advanced research requirement.

Plan A (Thesis)

This option is not currently available.

Plan B (Non-thesis)

Research projects and the research course must concern a topic related to the student's selected concentration.

Students who elect Plan B are offered three options in completing the third and/or fourth semester research requirements.
These options are:

1. One-semester course:

Semester Three or Four: SW 741 Review of Research in Social Work (3 credit hours);

2. Two-semester research project:

Semester Three: SW 743 Individual or Group Research Project-Plan B (2-3 credit hours). Once students register for SW 743, they must complete SW 744


Semester Four: SW 744 Individual or Group Research Project-Plan B (2-3 credit hours); or

3. One-semester research project:

Semester Three or Four: SW 746 Individual or Group Research Project-Plan B (3 credit hours). For students doing only a one-semester project.

Course Organization

(Mānoa campus option)

Foundation courses are generally sequenced and completed as shown in “Full-time Schedule” and “Sample Part-Time Schedules” boxes. All foundation courses must be completed before students begin concentrations. The time required to achieve the MSW through full-time study is a minimum of four consecutive fall-spring semesters.. Students may also complete their requirements through a part-time program.

Full-Time Schedule

(minimum 57 credit hours)
(Mānoa campus option)

Foundation Year
First Semester

SW 606 Social Work Practice with Individuals (3)
SW 630 Social Welfare Policy & Services (3)
SW 640 Introduction to Scientific Methods & Principles in Social Work (3)
SW 659 Human Behavior in the Social Environment I (3)
SW 690 Practicum (3)

Second Semester

SW 607 Social Work Practice with Families & Groups (3)
SW 631 Social Work Practice in Communities & Organizations (3)
SW 650 Research Designs & Data Analyses for the Evaluation of Practice Effectiveness (3) *Also required for Advanced Standing Students
SW 660 Human Behavior in the Social Environment II (3)
SW 691 Practicum (3)

Advanced Curriculum / Concentration Year & Advanced Standing
Third Semester

SW 717 Social Work Practice with Children & Families (3) or
SW 722 Social Work Practice in Health Care (3) or
SW 724 Seminar in Social Work Practice in Mental Health (3) or
SW 726 Social Work Practice with the Aged (3)
SW 741 Review of Research in Social Work (3) May be taken third or fourth semester or
SW 743 Individual or Group Research Project-Plan B (2-3) First course of a two-course sequence with SW 744 or
SW 746 Individual or Group Research Project (3) One-semester research project
SW 790 Second-Year Practicum (3-5)
Electives (V)

Fourth Semester

SW 718 Seminar in Social Work Practice with Children & Families (3) or
SW 723 Seminar in Social Work Practice in Health Care (3) or
SW 725 Social Work Practice in Mental Health (3) or
SW 727 Seminar in Social Work Practice with the Aged (3)
SW 797 Advanced Social Policy & Change (3)
SW 741 Review of Research in Social Work (3) May be taken third or fourth semester or
SW 744 Individual or Group Research Project-Plan B (2-3) Pre: SW 743 or
SW 746 Individual or Group Research Project-Plan B (3) One-semester research project or
SW 791 Second-Year Practicum (3-5)
Electives (V)

Advanced Standing Option

Advanced Standing is a possible option for applicants who already hold the BSW degree from a social work program that was accredited through the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) at the time they received the degree. Students who are admitted with Advanced Standing status will be considered to have completed the equivalent of the Foundation year of the MSW curriculum and admitted directly into the Concentration (advanced) year of the program. This program option begins in early July with a mandatory integrative seminar course and field practicum experience. Carefully review the application criteria provided in the Admissions Information section.

Distance Education Option
for Neighbor Island Residents

The MSW program is available through distance education technology to neighbor island residents in their communities. Classes are delivered via interactive television, computer-based delivery, face-to-face onsite and hybrid, or combination, approaches. The full title of our distance education option - Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work Interactive Television, Computer-Based and Hybrid Education Delivery – Online, Onscreen and Onsite (Myron B. Thompson SSW Distance Education Option) incorporates these course delivery modalities, as well as excitement about this opportunity. SSW graduates through the Distance Education Option will be awarded the MSW degree after completion of a three year program of classes, including the field practicum. All students enrolled in this option participate in the Concentration on Children and Families. The first two cohorts of neighbor island students began their MSW studies through the Distance Education Option in Summer 2007 and Summer 2008. Applications for admission to the third cohort are due by October 1, 2009. Students who are accepted will begin the degree program in late May, 2010.

More information is available at:

Part-Time Study

Students who are employed or have other extensive commitments are encouraged to consider a part-time schedule at the Mānoa campus program or for neighbor island residents, the three-year Distance Education Option.

Students are admitted to the program for the fall semester and must complete all requirements within four years of admission to the MSW program. To provide flexibility, the school makes every effort to schedule evening as well as daytime sections for required courses. Advisers will assist students to plan part-time schedules in accordance with students’ needs and the sequencing requirements of the curriculum. Flexible practicum placements and hours are contingent on the availability of such placements. Part-time students are eligible for some financial aid programs if they carry at least 4 credits.


Sample Part-Time Schedules
Distance Education students follow a three-year plan. Part-time students at the Manoa campus may choose a three-year or four-year plan
First Year
Fall SemesterSpring Semester
SW 630 (3)SW 650 (3)
SW 640 (3)SW 660 (3)
SW 659 (3)Elective (3)
Second Year
Fall SemesterSpring Semester
SW 606 (3)SW 607 (3)
SW 690 (3)SW 631 (3)
Elective (3)SW 691 (3)
Third Year
Fall SemesterSpring Semester
SW Concentration (3)SW Concentration (3)
SW 741 or Adv. Research*Adv. Research*
Elective (3)SW 797 (3)**
SW 790 (3-5)SW 791 (3-5)
First Year
Fall SemesterSpring Semester
SW 640 (3)SW 650 (3)
SW 659 (3)SW 660 (3)
Second Year
Fall SemesterSpring Semester
SW 606 (3)SW 607 (3)
SW 630 (3)SW 631 (3)
SW 690 (3)SW 691 (3)
Third Year
Fall SemesterSpring Semester
SW Concentration (3)SW Concentration (3)
Adv. Research*Adv. Research*
Elective (3)SW 797 (3)**
Fourth Year
Fall SemesterSpring Semester
SW 790 (3-5)SW 791 (3-5)
Elective (3)Elective (3)
* For the advanced research requirement, SW 741 may be taken in the fall semester for the Distance Education option or in the fall or spring semester at the Mānoa campus; or be taken in the fall or spring semester; or for the two-semester research project, SW 743 must be followed by SW 744 the next semester.)

** Mānoa campus students may take SW 797 in the fall or spring semester


MSW Waiver Program

The MSW waiver program offers incoming students the opportunity to waive foundation course requirements prior to the first semester of enrollment. If successful, the student will have a reduced number of required credits to complete for the MSW degree. Students entering as Advanced Standing may choose to take a waiver exam for SW 650 only.

The following courses may be waived by examination by all students:

SW 630 Social Welfare Policies and Services
SW 640 Introduction to Scientific Methods and Research Principles in Social Work
SW 650 Research Designs and Data Analyses for the Evaluation of Practice Effectiveness
SW 659 Human Behavior in the Social Environment I
SW 660 Human Behavior in the Social Environment II

Post-Baccalaureate Unclassified Students

(Mānoa campus option)

Students may begin a plan of study in the fall or spring semesters (post-baccalaureate unclassified status) without being formally admitted into the MSW program. Selected foundation and elective courses are open (on a space-available basis) to unclassified students. By petition to the Graduate Division, a maximum of 12 credit hours earned while in unclassified status (B grade or better is required) may be applied toward fulfillment of the advanced degree requirement.

To apply for post-baccalaureate unclassified status, please contact the Graduate Division Admissions Office at (808) 956-8544 or, or visit their website at:

Related Certificate Programs

UHM Offers a wide range of graduate certificated programs in related and complementary fields to social work. These include public administration, planning studies, international cultural studies, gerontology, conflict resolution, women's studies, and more. Please see the UHM Catalog for a complete listing.

Students pursuing graduate certificates at UHM need to meet certificate requirements set by the Graduate Division and their chosen certificate programs. Certificates require a minimum of 15 credit hours of specified courses and a 3.0 GPA in those courses. Detailed information may be obtained by writing to the appropriate graduate chairs. For more information please go to the Graduate Division Website.

Continuing Education Program

The school provides continuing education in various formats to assist practitioners in acquiring current knowledge and undertaking new professional roles. Opportunities include:

  • workshops, seminars, and symposia
  • credit courses in the MSW program
  • advanced courses intended especially for practitioners
  • training for new and continuing practicum instructors
  • training designed, under contract, for specific agency needs

For more information, please review the information on this site, or contact Jennifer Kishida, MSW and PhD Program Assistant, at or (808) 956-3831.