Graduate Program Social Work

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Social Work Master's Degree Overview

A master’s degree in social work from PSU will prepare you to challenge systems of oppression, build racial equity and social justice, and embark on a fulfilling career as a social worker. The Portland State University School of Social Work is ranked among the best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report and is the only public MSW degree offered in Oregon accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.

Throughout our 78 credit (46 for advanced standing) curriculum, you will acquire skills to work with individuals, as well as groups. You will also use social theories to analyze how service users, as well as social work practitioners, are empowered, and sometimes constrained by community and organizational structures. Completion of the program prepares MSW social workers to provide advanced practice and leadership in: clinical mental health, communities and/or organizations, healthcare and aging, and services to children and families.

The mission of the Portland State University MSW program is to educate students for advanced leadership and practice that recognizes and dismantles systems of oppression; builds racial equity and social, political, and economic justice; and advances the well-being of diverse individuals, families, groups, organizations, communities, and tribal nations. We endeavor to deliver a social work education that is critically informed, theoretically driven, empirically supported, reflexive, ethical, vigilant and resistive to colonial, heteropatriarchal, classist, and white supremacist agendas.


We are proud to offer social work classes with enough flexibility to make it possible for you to gain your social work degree when and where it’s convenient. The MSW Program is a 78-credit program (Advanced Standing – 46 credits) which can be completed in Portland, Eugene, Central Oregon or Online. The curriculum combines coursework and two 500-hour (16 hr/week) field education placements (Advanced Standing – 1 field placement) in a range of human service organizations.


While completing the MSW Portland Program, students have the option of completing a specialization track within the MSW Program, or participating in a certificate program or dual-degree program.

The School Social Work Licensure track offers a course of study that will lead to the Oregon Preliminary School Social Work License. The Preliminary School Social Work License is designed for students who wish to pursue work as a social worker in k–12 schools upon graduation from the MSW program.

The Graduate Certificate in Gerontology is an interdisciplinary course of study offered in collaboration with the Institute on Aging in the College of Urban and Public Affairs.

The Master of Public Health/Master Social Work Dual Degree option offered in collaboration with the OHSU—School of Public Health offers two tracks: Health Management and Policy Track, or Health Promotion Track.

Degree Details

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Social Work Master's Degree: Why PSU?

Portland State University is recognized as a national leader in community engagement. Our Master of Social Work program is ranked among the best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. We are a strong and collaborative program led by world-class faculty, passionate researchers, and dedicated staff. We are here to support and prepare you to alleviate today's critical social problems.

As PSU's motto, "Let Knowledge Serve the City" suggest, our students use their education to serve their communities through field-based learning and practice. These experiences provide students with an opportunity to gain social work skills, in a professionally supervised, educationally-based environment. As Oregon's first and only public MSW program, we have over 50 years of experience cultivating relationships with community partners.

We embolden students on their personal and academic journeys with a rich environment to experience and explore. As we grow and innovate our program through more and more flexible course options for gaining your MSW, we are continually developing new relationships with agencies across the state, region, and country.

What can I do with a Master's degree in Social Work?

Our graduates have gone on to launch successful, exciting careers that have real-world impact! Recent graduates have taken positions in a few of the following areas: mental health, substance abuse and addictions, children youth and families, child welfare, policy development and advocacy, community organizing, housing and homelessness, education, criminal justice, health care and health challenges, veterans and military, aging and disability services, organizational and program leadership, equity and human rights, research.

Online Master's degree in Social Work Option

Earn your Master of Social Work degree online and prepare to become a professional social worker in PSU’s top-ranked graduate program. Our comprehensive, rigorous and affordable master’s degree is grounded in our commitment to advance social justice and equity. You will learn, share and collaborate alongside fellow students in a supportive and flexible online learning environment as you: 

  • Work closely with respected faculty. You'll take the same courses with the same faculty as in our on-campus program. 
  • Connect with classmates. Throughout the year there will be opportunities to build relationships with faculty and others in your cohort. All courses include regular faculty office hours, weekly discussions with classmates, and collaborative learning activities.
  • Complete an internship in your community. We will help you identify a local social service agency for a supervised field placement and support you throughout your internship.

Our online MSW graduate program prepares you for individual practice and leadership jobs in one of the nation’s fastest-growing professions

Featured Courses

  • SW 539 Social Justice in Social Work
  • SW 541 Societal, Community and Organizational Structures and Processes
  • SW 530/SW 531 Practice with Individuals & Families
  • SW 532 Advocacy and Empowerment
  • SW 520 Social Welfare History and Policy
  • SW 515 Skills for the Helping Process - Groups

Featured Electives

  • SW 555 Perspectives on Mental Health Disorders
  • SW 525 Poverty and Policies
  • SW 553 Research for Racial Justice
  • SW 522 Trauma Informed Care
  • SW 516 Motivational Interviewing


Portland State University is fully accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

The Master of Social Work program is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and ranked in the top 20% of MSW programs by US News and World Report.