Master of Social Work (MSW)

Students sitting in library

The University of Pittsburgh’s Master of Social Work (MSW) degree offers students the opportunity to become transformative change makers by elevating their knowledge and honing their skill set to become licensed clinicians, community and system leaders, entrepreneurs, policymakers, researchers, and more.

Established in 1918, Pitt’s School of Social Work (SSW) prides itself on a celebrated history of providing students with high-quality training and professional development, preparing them to be capable and influential social work practitioners. 

As a nationally-ranked social work program, our in-person MSW gives graduate students a top-tier graduate education where they can gain new skills, methodologies, and industry expertise needed to succeed as social workers and make impactful community advancements. 

MSW Program Mission and Goals

Firmly grounded in the purpose and values of the social work profession, Pitt’s MSW degree strives to prepare graduates with the necessary skills and knowledge to promote human and community well-being. Our objective is to teach students to be social workers who practice with a person-in-environment framework, a global perspective, respect for human diversity, and knowledge based on scientific inquiry. 

The program’s mission reflects the social work profession’s values of service, social justice, the dignity and worth of the person, the importance of human relationships, integrity, competence, human rights, and scientific inquiry.

The MSW program prepares students to:

  • Engage in evidence-informed advanced specialized social work practice within a multicultural society.
  • Practice according to the principles, values, and ethics that guide the social work profession.
  • Influence social policies with the goal of alleviating poverty, oppression, and social injustice, as well as advocating for human rights.
  • Practice in a manner that enhances the quality of life for all persons, locally and globally, and that advances the struggle for social, economic, and environmental justice. 
  • Practice with cultural humility. 

MSW Curriculum

The MSW degree curriculum provides students with comprehensive training to ensure they are well-versed in the core values and philosophies of social work and have a historical understanding of the profession. The curriculum includes six generalist courses to advance graduate students’ foundational knowledge of social welfare and its historical development, societal structures and human development, research methodologies, and more. 

Social work generalist courses include:

  • Generalist Social work Research 
  • Social work Practice with Diverse Populations
  • Human Behavior & Social Environment 
  • Social Welfare
  • Generalist Social Work Practice
  • Generalist Fieldwork

MSW students are required to take generalist courses. Students who qualify for advanced standing enrollment may bypass the generalist courses as their previous education dictates. 

Recommended MSW Courses of Study

MSW Specializations

Upon admission into Pitt’s MSW program, students must designate a specialization to direct their course of study. They may choose either Direct Practice or Community, Organization, and Social Action.

The specialized curricula offer students the chance to tailor their MSW degree to their unique interests and career ambitions and deepen their understanding of the social work field.

Direct Practice Specialization

The Direct Practice with Individuals, Families, and Small Groups specialization trains graduate students to become critical thinkers who are skillful at assessing, intervening, and evaluating their clients’ needs and strengths. Because direct practice social work requires social workers to be close to and serve a diverse group of clients, this specialized track equips students to be self-reflective and culturally-aware social workers. 

The Direct Practice specialization is available at Pitt's Oakland, Johnstown, and Bradford campuses.

Review the Direct Practice curriculum guide for more information about the specialization requirements.

Community, Organization, and Social Action (COSA) Specialization

Pitt’s COSA specialization prepares graduate students for leadership in community development and human services management. With an administrative and mobilization focus, students in the COSA specialization learn how to integrate macro social work best practices into organizational management in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.

The COSA specialization is offered at the University of Pittsburgh’s Oakland Campus. 

Review the COSA curriculum guide for more information about the specialization requirements.

MSW Degree Requirements

To fulfill MSW degree requirements, graduate students must complete, at minimum, 42 credits of coursework and 18 practicum credits, totaling 60 credits.

Course of Study Requirements

Each MSW specialization and individual track within the specialization has unique requirements students must meet to earn their degree. 

Find out more about each course of study requirements by reviewing the following:

​Field Education

As a part of the program, graduate students must fulfill field placement requirements each semester. During their MSW degree, students will complete 1,080 field placement hours, with each field credit totaling 60 hours at a placement site.

Explore field education FAQs, the field education schedule, and the online field directory.

MSW Certificates

Students also have the opportunity to earn an MSW certificate, which allows for a highly-personalized education and continued development of their expertise.

Certificate offerings depend upon the MSW specialization track. Direct Practice students can choose from five available certificates:

  • DP Children, Youth and Family
  • DP Gerontology
  • DP Home and School Visitor
  • DP Integrated Healthcare 
  • DP Mental Health

Students in the COSA specialization can choose from the following three certificates:

  • COSA Human Services Management
  • COSA Gerontology
  • COSA Community Organizing and Practice

​Enrollment Options

Your path to earning an MSW degree is unique. That’s why the University of Pittsburgh offers numerous enrollment options to accommodate our students and their various needs. 

Depending on the student’s individual needs, we offer:

  • Full-time enrollment
  • Part-time enrollment
  • Advanced-standing enrollment

Learn more about your enrollment options

MSW Dual Degree Programs

Graduate students are empowered to customize their educational experience by completing a dual/joint/cooperative degree. Whether you want to earn a joint MSW/MPH, MSW/MBA, MSW/MDiv, or an MSW/JD degree, Pitt offers a wide variety of joint degrees, allowing you to elevate your skills, deepen your knowledge, and flourish in your post-graduate professional career.

Discover Pitt’s MSW joint degree offerings.


During your time in the MSW program, you receive formative mentorship from Pitt’s renowned social work faculty members and have the opportunity to learn from their years of experience and expertise. 
Meet Pitt’s School of Social Work Faculty.


Admissions & Financial Aid

Prospective students pursuing admission into Pitt’s MSW program must demonstrate professional and academic abilities to complete their graduate degree. Before applying to the degree program, students should review the MSW admission requirements

To provide additional support to students pursuing their MSW, we offer a variety of scholarships and fellowships. For more information, explore Pitt’s financial aid offerings.

Pitt SSW’s Events and Information Sessions

To connect prospective students with valuable resources and information, Pitt hosts events and information sessions. Join our MSW faculty, administrators, field placement representatives, and future classmates to learn more about the application process, curriculum specifics, and financial aid opportunities.

Apply to Pitt’s MSW Program

Working as a social worker requires empathy, humility, and a well-developed specialized skill set. By earning your Master of Social Work degree, you receive extensive classroom training and field education, preparing you for evidence-based practice and advocacy for all persons. 

Be a part of the University of Pittsburgh’s legacy of excellence. Apply to the MSW program today