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Master of Social Work (MSW)

Learn to navigate complex conflicts and interactions as you work to help people in need. Enhance your skills through internships, and deepen your knowledge through specialized clinical practice.

Master the art of helping others.

Practice social work at the highest professional level. Choose your unique path, and prepare to use your skills to help individuals, families and small groups. As an MSW student, you’ll master the foundations and gain practical experience in your specific area of interest through an internship. With a code of ethics and Christian values as your guide, you’ll learn to promote diversity, human and universal rights and social and economic justice for populations at risk.

The MSW at SAU is one of 10 programs in Michigan accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. If you’ve already earned an accredited Bachelor of Social work, you may qualify for our one-year, specialized program.

The Council of Social Work Education badge

Read more about our MSW learning outcomes.

Program Stats

1-2 year program length
5 starts per year
60 credit hour generalist program

My cohort became my family, helping to keep me sane and motivated. Our professors were compassionate, intelligent, respectful, tough — and awesome! They treated us with the same care we have for others. Not only did I receive an excellent experience and education, but I learned so much about myself and my values. You will thank yourself later if you invest in this program. It changed me for the better!

-Kelli, MSW Class of 2020

Ready to get started?

Request more information and learn about online and hybrid opportunities for SAU’s MSW program.

Request Info

The MSW is offered fully online and in a virtual classroom format. For more information, fill out our inquiry form.

Start Dates and Application Deadlines

Fall 2024
Start 1 – Week of July 9 (App deadline: June 1)
Start 2 – Week of September 3 (App deadline: August 1)
Start 3 – Week of October 29 Online Only (App deadline: October 1)
Start 4 – Week of January 14 (App deadline: December 1)
Start 5 – Week of March 11 (App deadline: February 1)
(Late applications will be accepted on a case-by-case basis, and the earlier the better for internship assistance.)

Online Option

This option provides a fully asynchronous online experience, except for field experience hours. Being a fully online program, you have the most flexibility to balance work, life, and school from the comfort of your home. For more information, please contact your admissions representative or fill out a program inquiry form.

Virtual Classroom Option

This option combines online learning with face-to-face interaction. Study from home, like in an online program, while still engaging with your classmates face-to-face via Zoom. For more information, view our Virtual Classroom Video, contact your admissions representative or fill out a program inquiry form.

Spring Arbor Face to Face Option

This option of face-to-face instruction requires you to meet in a classroom only one night a week on our Main Campus in Spring Arbor, MI. It provides our most engaging in-person experience. Contact your admissions representative or fill out a program inquiry form for more information.


Graduates with the MSW degree are eligible to apply for licensure in their state of residence as a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW), Micro (Clinical). Detailed information regarding the application process, the two years of supervision, and the licensing exams are available through the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulation or from your state’s regulatory agency.

Canadian Licensure

The Canadian Association for Social Work Education (CASWE-ACFTS) has a mutual degree recognition agreement with the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) in the United States, stating that degrees from CASWE-ACFTS and CSWE accredited Bachelor and Master of Social Work programs are considered equivalent. More information is available on the CSWE website.

With this agreement in place, Canadians are able to apply to and attend an out of the country MSW program, with two important notes:

  1. If you choose to study in a country outside of Canada, you must have your degree assessed by the Canadian Association for Social Workers (CASW) for equivalency in order to register with their provincial social work licensing/regulatory body. This is an extra step to complete after you complete the program.
  2. Canadians exploring a foreign social work degree should bear in mind that Canadian social work employers and provincial/territorial social work organizations might require that foreign degrees be assessed for equivalency to a Canadian social work degree as a condition of employment or membership. This is an extra step to complete after you complete the program.

School Social Work

Spring Arbor University’s Master’s in Social Work program offers three school social work courses that are a requirement in obtaining a preliminary approval with the Michigan Department of Education for becoming a school social worker.


MSW graduates are qualified to work in a variety of roles in the following key fields:

Social services — family service agencies, foster care, legal services, referral programs, SNAP programs, Meals-on-Wheels and transportation programs

Health services — nursing homes, day care centers, community mental health centers, hospitals, housing projects and public health clinics

Programming planning — group homes, senior centers, government agencies, parks and recreation departments, educational institutions, religious organizations and correctional facilities

Clinical social work — private practice

Key Courses

SAU’s accredited MSW curriculum provides the knowledge, ethics and experiences students need to begin a career as generalist-level social worker or continue a career as specialized social worker. As a MSW student, you’ll take the following key courses:

  • SWK 510 Social Welfare Policy & Services (3)
  • SWK 512 Human Behavior in the Social Environment I (3)
  • SWK 520 Social Work Practice I: Individuals & Families (3)
  • SWK 521 Social Work Practice II: Groups, Communities & Organizations (3)
  • SWK 551 Generalist Field Internship I (3)
  • SWK 618 Psychopathology/Specialized Multi-Dimensional Assessment in Specialized Social Work Practice (3)
  • SWK 619 Clinical Social Work Practice & Theory I (3)
  • SWK 625 Clinical Social Work Practice & Theory with Families (3)
  • SWK 627 Specialized Applied Social Research (1)
  • SWK 651 Specialized Micro Field Internship I (4)

Find a complete list of MSW courses in the graduate catalog.


Bonnie Holiday, Dean, School of Social Science, Chair, Department of Social Work

Sarah Bartzen, MSW Director, Associate Professor of Social Work

Sandra Stephenson, Internship Director, Assistant Professor of Social Work

Emily Dixon, Associate Professor of Social Work

Ama Larson, Associate Professor of Social Work

Leona Mickles-Burns, Associate Professor of Social Work

Jerry Walden, BSW Director, Associate Professor of Social Work

Stacy Mack, Assistant Professor of Social Work

Lisa Marquette, Assistant Professor of Social Work

Nich Pollak, Assistant Professor of Social Work

Matthew Winner, Academic Advisor, Global and Online

Admissions Requirements

In addition to fulfilling the admissions requirements for all graduate programs, MSW applicants must submit the following information to their admissions representative: a) a current resume, b) an electronic form with the names and email addresses of three professional or academic references, c) an electronic conviction disclosure form and d) a personal statement as explained by the admissions representative. 


Applicants are required to submit three strong, professional references that attest to the applicant’s 1) intellectual competence, 2) potential for academic success, 3) ability to work with people around sensitive issues, including people from a range of diverse backgrounds, 4) possession of critical thinking and communication skills, 5) demonstrated sense of ethics and values, and 6) potential success as a professional social worker. If possible, two references should have direct knowledge of the applicant’s academic work. For applicants with a recent Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree, it is strongly recommended that one of the references has served as the applicant’s field instructor. Applicants who received an undergraduate degree several years ago should provide references in the human services field who can speak to their strengths per the above list. References from family members or fellow students will not be accepted.

Personal Statement 

Applicants are required to submit a personal statement (double-spaced, APA format, Level 1 headings) that includes each of the following items: 

  • Motivation for pursuing the MSW degree
  • Statement of professional goals
  • Demonstrated learning and growth that has taken place through professional work and volunteer experiences
  • Expectations regarding attending a Christian university for the MSW program, and the applicant’s personal integration of faith, scholarship and service
  • Research of a social problem of interest to the applicant, including perceived causes and proposed solutions (Must include at least one reliable reference and be 1.5 pages in length.) 
  • Discussion of an ethical challenge the applicant faced in professional, field or volunteer work and how it was resolved
  • Recognition of the challenges and stress related to the social work profession
  • Discussion of three specific changes that will be made to accommodate the rigor of an accelerated MSW program,  including how an internship will be possible in the applicant’s schedule
  • Discussion of how applicant will set and maintain appropriate boundaries to deal with the stresses/challenges identified

Specialized Program Admissions Requirements 

To avoid duplication and redundancy for BSW graduates, the MSW program offers a one-year, 30-credit-hour, specialized program. In order to be considered for admission to the specialized program, students must have been granted a baccalaureate degree in social work from an undergraduate social work program that was 1) accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, 2) recognized through its International Social Work Degree Recognition and Evaluation Service, or 3) covered under a memorandum of understanding with international social work accreditors at the time the degree was granted. 

To be eligible for the specialized program, the applicant must have a BSW that has been granted within six years of enrollment in SAU’s MSW program. This six-year limit may be extended to eight years if the student has subsequent BSW social work practice experience. (Such experience is to be approved by the admissions committee.) For each two years of acceptable practice experience, applicants may be granted credit of one year toward the extension of the time limit. For example, an applicant with a BSW received seven years prior to the time of enrollment in the MSW program may be granted specialized program admission if the applicant has completed two years of acceptable social work practice experience. 

Graduate Tuition & Financial Aid

View current tuition rates and fees for the MSW on our Graduate Tuition & Aid page. Learn more about applying to the MSW program and obtaining financial aid on our Graduate Admissions & Aid page.