Social Work - School Social Work Masters (2023)


The School Social Work specialization gives you the skills and experience to help students when they need it the most.

You will spend one academic year in a school setting practicum placement. This experience gives you the opportunity to work collaboratively with teachers and families. Together, you will help create individualized education plans (IEPs) to address students’ needs. You will also provide counseling services for individuals, groups, and families. Sometimes students need resources outside of their school. In these situations, you will serve as an advocate for their needs.

Illinois State Board of Education requires all students pursuing the School Social Work specialization to pass the Illinois social work content exam to be eligible for the Professional Educator’s License with a School Social Work endorsement. The content exam must be passed by the end of the fall semester during your specialist practicum placement to be eligible to advance into the spring semester of your specialist practicum placement.

Our program prepares you for completion of this content exam and eligibility for the Professional Educator’s License with a School Social Work endorsement. This is the credential required in Illinois to obtain employment as a school social worker.

For Advanced Standing students, School Social Work is only offered as a two year option.

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How to Apply

University Admission Requirements

Applicants for admission to the MSW program must apply to the Illinois State University Graduate School. A student applying to a master's program must:

  • have earned a four-year bachelor's degree or its equivalent from a college or university that is accredited by the appropriate regional accrediting association, or do so within one academic year
  • present unofficial transcripts from each college or university other than Illinois State at which graduate, undergraduate, or non-degree credit was earned. The unofficial transcript should be easily readable and clearly indicate degree(s) awarded, courses and course grades for each term. If accepted, official transcripts can be emailed from the university to or mailed in a sealed envelope to: Illinois State University, Graduate School, 209 Hovey Hall, Campus Box 4040, Normal, IL 61790-4040.

International students can learn more about specific application requirements by visiting the Office of Admissions.

Additional Program Admission Requirements

The School of Social Work is committed to a holistic admissions process. This includes considering each application for the many ways the applicant may contribute to a diverse educational environment, in support of the University’s and School’s missions. Each application will be evaluated on a combination of experiences, personal and professional attributes, and academic metrics that are applied equitably to each applicant. No single criteria will be used to determine the admission status of an applicant. Experiences may include, but are not limited to, academic, employment, practicum/internship, volunteer, ministry, military, and lived experiences. Personal and professional attributes may include, but are not limited to, resilience, insight, leadership, critical thinking, problem-solving, taking initiative, proactiveness, self-reflection, and resourcefulness. Academic metrics may include, but are not limited to, transcripts, GPA, writing skills, and research experience.

Applications will open on October 1st and will close on February 15th. Only in extraordinary circumstances will the deadline be extended. Those circumstances will be determined by the MSW admissions committee and may include the need to expand the applicant pool or to accommodate growth of a program. With all possible intent, all applications will be reviewed, recommendations will be made, and decisions will be sent out via the Slate admission system by March 15th. Notifications of decisions are sent electronically though the application system to the email address the applicant used to create their application profile.

Applicants for admission to the MSW program must apply to the Illinois State University Graduate School. Students submit their application and all required application materials electronically. A student applying to this program should have a GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale in the last 60 hours of undergraduate coursework or any previous work in a master's program. Each applicant will be required to submit the same application materials, including transcripts from each institution previously attended, two academic or professional letters of recommendation, resume, written statement of interest, and video submission.

Advanced Standing

A student is eligible for Advanced Standing admission if you have completed a BSW degree from a CSWE accredited program within 8 years. Students receiving degrees from international social work programs do not qualify for Advanced Standing admissions. Applicants are asked to specify on your application if you meet the qualifications for Advanced Standing and this is verified through reviewing transcripts and the CSWE accreditation status of the undergraduate program. Advanced Standing applicants must meet all other university and program admission requirements.

Advanced Standing for International Degrees in Social Work

If an applicant to the MSW program has an undergraduate social work degree from an international program and wishes to be considered for advanced standing admissions, the applicant will need to have their degree evaluated through the International Social Work Degree Recognition and Evaluation Service (ISWDRES), an office of the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

The applicant will need to follow the Application Instructions provided by ISWDRES, which includes submitting and paying for the screening and application. If the degree is recognized, the applicant must upload the determination letter with their application to the MSW program. A determination letter from ISWDRES does not automatically guarantee the applicant admission to the MSW program.

Applicants interested in having their international degree evaluated by ISWDRES are encouraged to begin this process early, as it could take up to 45 days. To be considered for advanced standing admission, the process must be completed, and the decision received from ISWDRES prior to application submission to the MSW program. Awaiting a response from ISWDRES does not grant an applicant an extension on their application deadline to the MSW program.

An applicant with a social work degree from an international program may choose not to have their degree evaluated by ISWDRES. If an applicant with a social work degree from an international program declines to have their degree evaluated by ISWDRES, they will apply for admission to the full program, and will not be considered for advanced standing.

Criminal Background Check

Illinois State University School of Social Work completes criminal background checks for all MSW candidates and reserves the right to deny admission based on application materials, previous academic record, and records of past conduct, including but not limited to the results of a criminal background check or registration of a sex offense.

All qualified candidates for the School of Social Work will be subject to a criminal background check prior to an offer of admission. The school may refuse or revoke admission for the following: misrepresentation of self, criminal behavior, results of the national background check, and/or behavior that interferes with performing professional duties.

If admitted to the MSW program, any applicant or student with a criminal background may not be eligible for some field practicum placements. In addition, the applicant or student may not be eligible for licensure after completing the requirements for the MSW degree. Many agencies require criminal background checks as a condition for accepting a practicum placement in their program. It is the student's responsibility to inquire with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation or other professional licensure boards to determine their licensure eligibility.

Once admitted to the MSW program, you must report any new information or criminal convictions and adhere to the professional standards of the University and the School of Social Work. You must meet the criteria for professional and ethical behavior as set forth by the School of Social Work.

Applicants must submit:

  • a resume
  • 2 academic or professional letters of recommendation
  • statement of interest
  • a video response

Please note: your application will be considered incomplete and will not be reviewed if any of the required application materials are not received, including recommendation letters. It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure all required materials are received by the application due date to ensure application consideration.

Letters of Recommendation

Two letters of Recommendation should be submitted by individuals who are familiar with the academic or professional potential and achievement of the applicant. If the applicant is applying for Advanced Standing and has completed their practicum within the previous 2 years, one of the recommendation letters should be from the agency field instructor. Recommendation letters should address the following:

  • How long and in what capacity the recommender has known the applicant
  • Applicant’s abilities or potential in working with a diverse group of people, level of comfort with cultural differences, and commitment to social justice
  • Capabilities for graduate education and suitability for practice in the field of social work
  • Potential for professional growth and development, capacity for self-awareness, and sensitivity to the needs and feelings of others
  • Characteristics that could either help or hinder the applicant's development as an effective social worker
  • Other comments that might inform the committee decision

Statement of Interest

The written personal statement should be no more than 7 pages, following the current edition of APA format, using headings for each question. The written statement should address each of the following six items:

1. Please choose one of the 6 values of the NASW Code of Ethics (service, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, importance of human relationships, integrity, competence) and describe how you have incorporated this value into your personal, professional, or volunteer experiences.
2. Share how you have observed or experienced oppression or privilege individually or in systems around you. Describe examples of your actions to understand, confront, and/or undo the systems of oppression or privilege you have observed or experienced.
3. How do you think your identity will impact your role as a social worker? How do you educate yourself on issues relevant to the social work profession?
4. What is your history of academic and/or professional success? How have you addressed academic or professional challenges?
5. What opportunities have you pursued outside of the classroom to facilitate your professional growth and leadership?
6. What is your plan to be successful in graduate school? Please provide a detailed plan of how you intend to meet the demands of a rigorous graduate program, including financially, while managing your additional responsibilities and obligations.

Video Response

The video submission should be no more than 5 minutes in length.The video response should address each of the following three items:

  1. Explain why you have chosen to pursue a MSW at this time.
  2. Identify which specialization you are interested in and discuss your intended career goals.
  3. Describe an experience that has had a significant impact on your desire to pursue social work as a career path.

English Proficiency Score (international students only)

International students must have a TOEFL score of at least 79 iBT or equivalent; the minimum acceptable IELTS score is 6.5 band.

Additional Requirements

Entry into the social work program and profession is also based on legal requirements. TheClinical Social Work and Social Work Practice Actand the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethicsoutline the laws around getting your license and practicing in the field.

Application Deadlines

  • Fall (August) Term — February 15
  • Spring (January) Term — No admission
  • Summer (May/June) Term — No admission

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Graduate Assistantships

The University provides graduate assistantships as a means of financial support. They are intended as a way to facilitate a student's progress to degree while providing important professional development.


To be eligible for an assistantship a student must, generally,

  • be admitted unconditionally as a degree-seeking student into a graduate academic program, or have a minimum of 120 undergraduate hours if in an integrated degree program
  • be in good-standing
  • be enrolled full-time (typically at least 9 credit hours during the fall or spring semesters, or at least 6 hours during the summer session).


Graduate assistants receive

  • monthly wages paid in the form of either a stipend or an hourly wage
  • a waiver for 100% of tuition during a semester of appointment
  • a waiver for up to 12 credit hours of tuition for the summer term immediately following a fall or spring appointment

Costs & Funding

See Student Accounts for information on tuition and fees. Funding for graduate students is available from several different sources. Students who have been admitted from contiguous states including Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, and Wisconsin will receive in-state tuition.

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  • School of Social Work
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