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MSW Degree Requirements

The MSW degree is conferred after all of the following requirements are met. It is recognized that students come from different academic backgrounds, which is why provision is made to waive certain foundation course requirements by examination or by advanced standing.
  1. A liberal arts background that includes the following areas of study:
    1. Logic/Analytical Thinking;
    2. Behavioral Science;
    3. Social Science;
    4. Biological Science emphasizing Human Biology;
    5. Culture

  2. Completion of at least 57 credit hours, all letter graded

  3. Completion of foundation requirements

  4. Completion of concentration requirements

  5. Completion of four semesters of practicum with concurrent mandatory Field Integration Seminars

  6. Completion of research requirements

  7. At least one seminar course
For additional academic information, the UH Mānoa Catalog should be consulted. Rules and requirements of the Office of Graduate Education apply to social work degree candidates; however, any special requirements of the School of Social Work must also be observed.

MSW Curriculum

The MSW curriculum of the school has been developed to both reflect and promote 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 Islander 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.

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 functionsand 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 field education (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:

  • Children and Families
  • Gerontology
  • Health
  • Behavioral Mental Health

Students select a field of practice concentration by the end of their first year. In the Distance Education option (see Distance Education Option for Neighbor Island Residents below or go to the Distance Education page for more information).

Various 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.

Child and Family Concentration

Child and family social work encompasses varied and complex problems and issues. Thus, the child and family concentration is designed to provide students with advanced knowledge and understanding of relevant practice theories, and evidenced based and best practices with children and families in various contextual situations. The concentration requires two advance practice courses, SW 717 and SW 718, two years of practicum in a setting serving children and/or families, and relevant electives. The concentration courses are designed for students specializing in social work with children and families. The advance practice courses build upon the foundation curriculum (SW 606, 607, 659, 660, 631) that reflects a social work practice model. The emphasis of the concentration is that of the ecological and family social work perspectives in which the child is seen in the context of family, communities, and the larger society examining the areas of engagement, assessment, intervention, and evaluation. The concentration practice courses complement the advance policy, practicum, and research courses as students not only develop deeper understanding and skills relevant to social work practice, but an appreciation for the influence of key policies governing services to children and their families as well as having the competence to critically view intervention research on their applicability on children and families given their cultural context.

Students interested in the Child and Family Concentration may contact Dr. Elizabeth Aparicio, Child and Family Concentration Chair, at eaparici@hawaii.edu.

Gerontology Concentration

The Gerontology Concentration provides students with the requisite knowledge and skill development for respectful and evidenced-based professional practice with older adults and their families in the context of the community and larger society. Building on the literature on normative aging from a life course perspective, we focus on the well-aged and common challenges to quality of life for elders—elder abuse, depression, dementia, and poverty. Special attention is given throughout the two courses to the needs of Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander elders, Asian American aged adults, older women and the frail aged.

The two required three (3) credit courses are: (1) SW 726—Social Work Practice with the Aged; and (2) Seminar in Social Work Practice with the Aged. Additionally, students must enroll in: (1) a minimum of one three (3) credit elective in aging; (2) a gerontology specific practicum setting; and (3) minimum of three (3) credits in aging research either through independent study or as an enrolled student in SW741, Review of Social Work Research.

Students have varied practicum experiences from working with the well-aged to the very frail, from home and community based services to institutional care, and in settings that provide learning experiences in practice, program planning and administrative roles. Some examples of our agency partners include but are not limited to: The State of Hawaii Executive Office on Aging, Leahi Hospital, the Elderly Affairs Division of the City and County of Honolulu, the Veterans Administration, Outpatient Clinic and Center for Aging, Kahala Nui Retirement Community, St. Francis Hospice, and Child and Family Services of Honolulu.

The curriculum of the concentration is annually reviewed by members of the Hoʻola I o na Kupuna ʻIhi (Respect our Elders) Advisory Council, composed of some of the community’s most respected gerontological social work leaders who are committed to quality gerontological social work education.

We welcome you to the aging demographic revolution! For more information, please contact Dr. Colette Browne, Professor and Chair, Gerontology Concentration, at 956-6126 or by email at cbrowne@hawaii.edu.

Health Concentration

Health social workers play a vital role in promoting the holistic wellbeing of individuals, families, groups, and communities. The bio-psychosocial-spiritual orientation to health is common to contemporary health social work practice across diverse practice settings. This orientation to holistic health contrasts with the profession’s historic beginnings in hospitals where the Western biomedical paradigm of health as the absence of disease predominated and where care focused on physical ailments, with little or no emphasis on underlying socioeconomic, psychological, relational, cultural, or spiritual issues.

In contemporary times, new and diverse opportunities have opened up in health social work due to factors such as federal, state, and local policy changes, shifting epidemiological trends of health and disease, and evolving roles of other healthcare professionals. In the 21st century, health social workers practice in community-based, state, and federal health agencies, as well as in hospitals, acute, primary, long-term, hospice, and other care facilities. In such diverse settings, health social workers provide services across the health continuum aimed at wellness promotion, prevention of disease risk, support for the treatment and control of disease conditions, treatment adherence counseling and education, as well as the design, oversight, and evaluation of organizational systems tasked with improving health and healthcare. In the health concentration, graduate students are prepared for entry into this critical and increasingly, diverse arena of social work.

Students interested in the Health Concentration may contact Dr. Lana Kaʻopua, Health Concentration Chair, at lskaopua@hawaii.edu.

Behavioral Mental Health Concentration

The Behavioral Mental Health Concentration (BMHC) is designed to expand and strengthen the knowledge and skills relevant to the critical roles social workers play in behavioral mental health. Students are challenged to develop competencies through integration of BMHC course content (SW724 and 725) with their field placement. Competency advancement areas include:

  • Ethics and professional development;
  • Clinical skills such as motivational interviewing, knowledge of the Axis I clinical disorders (DSM-IV-TR), assessment and recovery planning;
  • Research and evaluation of services;
  • National and local mental health policies and system improvement;
  • Knowledge of treatment/recovery modalities which offer consumers culturally resonant, best-evidence-based therapeutic options toward recovery and wellbeing (see www.hawaii.edu/mhsw for sample syllabi).

The BMHC’s empowerment oriented, client-centered approach purposefully addresses the recommendations of the New Freedom Commission Report on Mental Health which emphasize consumer and family participation, elimination of service barriers and implementation of excellent mental health services particularly for persons with severe and persistent mental illness.

Students interested in the Behavioral Mental Health Concentration may contact Dr. Paula Morelli, Behavioral Mental Health Concentration Chair, at morelli@hawaii.edu.

Concentration Electives:

Click on this link for all MSW Concentration Electives

Field Education

As the signature pedagogy of the Master of Social Work Education, the practicum experience provides each student the opportunity to apply concepts, principles, and theories learned in the classroom to practice at the practicum site. The major focus in the practicum is on the student’s acquisition of practice knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes while 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 foundation year of practicum is considered to be a generalist approach to social work and is integrated with the student’s foundation practice courses. The specialized (concentration) year of practicum is integrated with the student’s field of practice and is coordinated with the student’s concentration courses (Behavioral Mental Health/Child & Family/ Gerontology/Health.

Integral to the field education experience is a mandatory Field Integration Seminar that is taken concurrently with students' practicum placement. The FIS coursework builds upon the foundation curriculum for first-year students, and the concentration curriculum for second-year students. FIS is designed to assist in translating theory, research, and policy into practice and provides a space for discourse on skills acquisition, implementation, and evaluation, as well as on professional development. Seminars are offered biweekly for one hour either through the online or in-person modality. These seminars count toward the student’s total number of practicum hours each semester.

Practicum is available only to classified students admitted to the MSW degree 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. No practicum clock hour credits or waivers are given for prior paid or volunteer social work practice experience.

All foundation classroom course work must be completed prior to or concurrently with the foundation practicum courses. It is strongly recommended that SW 606 & SW 690 and SW 607 & SW 691 be taken concurrently. SW 690 and SW 691 cannot be taken prior to SW 606 and SW 607, respectively. Similarly, all concentration level course work must be completed prior to or concurrently with the concentration practicum courses.

A summer block practicum of SW 690 and 691 or SW 790 and 791 is an option for those students who elect to participate in practicum after completing their respective foundation or concentration courses. Summer block practicum consists of 450 clock hours over thirteen weeks.

Students are assigned to practicum sites by the practicum office. BSW graduates and more experienced students are placed in sites commensurate with their prior education and work experience. All students are required to participate in a practicum orientation meeting, which precedes involvement in the practicum setting. The practicum orientation meeting is held at the beginning of each semester. Student attendance at the practicum orientation program is counted toward the student’s total number of practicum hours each semester.

Foundation-year students attend practicum sixteen hours per 14 weeks for a minimum of 225 hours a semester and earn three credits per semester. Concentration-year students have the option to increase their practicum hours beyond the minimum three credit hours (225 clock hours) per semester if their agency Practicum Instructor agrees. The additional credits may be used as elective credits in the concentration area.

  • 225 clock hours per semester (16 hours per 14 weeks) = three credit hours

  • 300 clock hours per semester (20 clock hours per 15 weeks) = four credit hours

  • 375 clock hours per semester (25 clock hours per 15 weeks) = five credit hours

Practicum courses are available to students during the fall, spring, and summer terms. The opportunity for students to take a 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/or concentration year course work. Students must contact the Practicum Office about other requirements for practicum site certification for placement in agencies not on the island of their graduate program.

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa holidays, rather than agency holidays, will be observed in the practica. This includes the allotted weeks designated for semester breaks 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, the School requires that students have professional liability insurance through the School’s group professional liability coverage plan.


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

Foundation courses are generally sequenced and completed as shown in “Full-time Schedule” and “Sample Part-Time Schedules” boxes. Students enrolled in the Distance Education option follow the three-year schedule shown.

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 may be awarded to applicants who have earned a BSW degree from a social work program that was accredited through the Council on Social Work Education 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 enter directly into the concentration (advanced) year curriculum. The Advanced Standing curriculum schedule can be found under “Advanced Curriculum/Concentration Year and Advanced Standing” in the Full-Time Schedule included in this bulletin.

For further information on requirements and criteria for Advanced Standing applicants, please refer to the MSW Admissions Information section of this website.

Distance Education Option
for Neighbor Island Residents

The MSW program is available through distance education technology to neighbor island residents in their communities (Hawaiʻi, Molokaʻi, Kauaʻi, Maui, or Lanaʻi). The DE option is also available to BSW graduates residing in Guam. Classes are delivered via interactive television, computer-based delivery, face-to-face onsite and hybrid approaches. Graduates through the Distance Education (DE) option will be awarded the MSW degree after completion of the required program of classes, including field practicum. DE cohorts are not admitted every year – they are admitted in three years cycles (two years of admissions followed by one year of no admissions) such that two cohorts are always running simultaneously. The next cohort will be admitted in 2016.

Program Specifics

The purpose of this option is to extend educational opportunities to those people whose ties to their communities preclude them from enrolling in the Manoa campus-based degree program. Students remain on their home islands for the duration of the MSW program. Students are required to travel to Oʻahu once a year to attend an on-site training and to receive advising and other educational content. Faculty and staff offer guidance and assistance throughout the program including academic advising, linkages to educational opportunities such as individual research projects, and in practicum placements.

Distance education students follow the same 3-year plan offered to Manoa-based students (see part-time schedule on page 18) which includes the full four semesters of practicum. If you meet the requirements and criteria for Advanced Standing (see page 17) the DE MSW also has this option available. Although students can usually remain employed while enrolled in the DE option, they are expected to make arrangements with their employment to accommodate their practicum schedules. Classes are held primarily on weeknights, but also may be held on Saturdays, as classroom and time slots permit.

Delivery Modalities

A variety of distance education delivery modalities are utilized. Currently, the primary modes of instruction consist of HITS, Blackboard Collaborate, and Laulima. Two-way video is facilitated through the Hawaiʻi Interactive Television Service (HITS). HITS provides full-duplex "open-mic" communications among all HITS sites, broadcast-quality video, and the ability of each site to see multiple other sites simultaneously. Blackboard Collaborate is a web conferencing program that allows instructor-student collaboration in an interactive virtual classroom. Laulima is an open source course management system developed for the UH System. Content is specific to each course and arranged by the instructor. It may include various web tools from wikis to discussion forums to other online resources. Although these three tools are the mainstays of DE instruction, other technology may also be utilized by individual instructors.

Technology Requirements

It is essential for students enrolled in the DE option to have an up-to-date computer and access to the internet. For Blackboard Collaborate in particular, students must be given authorization to enter the instructor’s virtual classroom and have an internet connection at their house, installation of Java, updated video and audio drivers, and a microphone or headset. For Laulima access, students must have a UH username and password to log in and an internet connection. For more specific information about software and hardware requirements, please see: http://www.hawaii.edu/sswork/de/index.html.

Application Deadline

Applications are due on February 1, 2016.

More information is available at: http://www.hawaii.edu/sswork/de.

Part-Time Study

Students may also consider a part-time schedule to complete their degree. The Manoa campus program offers three and four-year, part-time academic plans.

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 Mānoa 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 certain 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 are eligible for waiver by examination:

  • 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 Office of Graduate Education, 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 Student Services at (808) 956-8544 or graduate.education@hawaii.edu, or visit their website at: http://manoa.hawaii.edu/graduate/content/applying-pbu-student

Transfer of Credits

No work may be transferred from another institution unless the grade is B- or higher. Grades for transferred courses are not counted in the grade point ratio required for continued registration. All transfer of credits must be processed by the first semester of enrollment into the program. Credits more than seven years old are not transferable. For further information, visit http://manoa.hawaii.edu/graduate/content/transfer-pbu-credits.

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, conflict resolution, women’s studies, and more. Please see http://www.catalog.hawaii.edu/ or http://manoa.hawaii.edu/graduate/content/graduate-programs for a complete listing.

Students pursuing graduate certificates at UHM need to meet certificate requirements set by the Office of Graduate Education and their chosen certificate programs. Detailed information may be obtained by writing to the appropriate graduate chairs. For more information, please go to the Office of Graduate Education Website at: http://manoa.hawaii.edu/graduate/content/graduate-certificate.

How to Apply

For MSW admission requirements and application information, please refer to the MSW Admissions Information section of this 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 jenkishi@hawaii.edu or (808) 956-3831.