Skip to main content

Understanding the MSW Admissions Process

February 2, 2024

“Social workers are found in every facet of community life,” according to the National Association of Social Workers (whose CEO, Anthony Estreet, is a VCU M.S.W. grad), which identifies nine practice areas and 16 career types in the profession. More than 700,000 social workers practice across various fields and functions, including education, child welfare, mental health care, public policy and advocacy. They all share one characteristic: “a strong desire to help improve people’s lives” by “helping them cope.”

Social workers are currently in high demand; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects social work employment to grow 7 percent over the next decade. If you want to make a difference in people’s lives, you should be able to find a fulfilling career in social work. The profession offers many benefits, including career flexibility, a sense of purpose and opportunities for advancement. 

You can enter social work with a bachelor’s degree, but if you are interested in clinical social work, management, leadership or policy-making decisions,* you should consider planning to earn a Master of Social Work (M.S.W.) degree. You don’t have to uproot your life to add this valuable credential to your resume. Many top schools, including Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), offer M.S.W. programs online. You can complete your degree without relocating and without leaving your current job.

Are you a good candidate for VCU’s Master of Social Work Program online format? Read on to find out. 

Who Is a Good Fit for the Virginia Commonwealth University M.S.W. Program?

The VCU School of Social Work seeks current and prospective social workers committed to improving people’s lives through clinical and macro social work.* The program offers specializations in both areas, enabling students to develop their credentials through elective coursework and field placements.

The M.S.W Program online format offers both full-time and part-time options; the latter is particularly suitable for working professionals looking to advance their careers while continuing to work. If you already have a Bachelor of Social Work (B.S.W) degree, you may qualify for the 42-credit advanced-standing format (the regular-standing format requires 60 credit hours). 

VCU Master of Social Work Program Online Format Admissions Requirements

To qualify for admission to the VCU M.S.W. program, you must: 

  • Hold a four-year undergraduate degree in any major.
  • Have a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or greater; candidates with lower GPAs may still apply and may gain admission through alternate qualifications.
  • Have passed at least one three-credit class in the behavioral sciences and one three-credit class in the social sciences with a ‘C’ or above; if you have not completed these courses yet, you can still apply, provided that you meet the requirements before the program starts.)

Advanced standing candidates must meet these additional prerequisites: 

  • A B.S.W. degree from an accredited institution, no more than five years old at the date of application.
  • An undergraduate GPA of 3.0.
  • A minimum grade of ‘B’ or pass in your senior field placement; if you have not completed a senior placement, one of your letters of recommendation should be from someone who can evaluate your potential to do well in a field placement based on your performance in a work environment.

Become Part of the VCU Tradition With an Online MSW

Earn Your MSW From the South’s First School of Social Work
Find Out More

VCU Online M.S.W. Application Materials

The VCU M.S.W. Program online format admissions process is rigorous. Admissions officers evaluate applicants on four criteria: educational preparation, work experience, professional statement of intent and recommendations. The team also reviews your application for compliance with the Technical Standards and Essential Functions for Social Work Students.

To apply, you must submit the following materials: 

  • Application form, completed online.
  • Three 500-word statements of intent demonstrating your understanding of the social work profession, ethics and values, as well as your suitability for the program.
  • Evidence of social- and human services-related work and volunteer experience.
  • Academic transcripts from all undergraduate or graduate degree-granting institutions you attended. 
  • Three letters of recommendation. 
  • Case assessment and field placement details (advanced standing applicants only). 

Are You Submitting the Best Possible M.S.W. Application?

Admission to the VCU M.S.W. program is competitive. You can optimize your chances of gaining admission by following the tips below.

Are You Submitting Effective Letters of Recommendation?

VCU requires three letters of recommendation. Ask employers, faculty or others who have evaluated your work to provide them. Recommenders should be able to endorse your academic abilities, paid social work or volunteer experience. 

The best recommendations offer specific examples illustrating your skills and qualifications. They should also explain why you will succeed in the program and add value to class discussions and projects. If you are applying for the advanced standing format and have not completed a senior placement, one of your letters of recommendation should be from someone who can evaluate your potential to do well in a field placement.

Are You Composing a Compelling Statement of Intent?

Your statements of intent provide an opportunity to speak directly to the admissions committee. Use it to explain how the program aligns with your career goals and beliefs.

VCU asks applicants to answer the following three questions 

  1. Identify one value from the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) code of ethics and how it relates to your desire to complete/acquire an M.S.W. degree.
  2. Please describe your social work career goals.
  3. The School of Social Work is committed to social and racial justice. We stand against the oppression of all groups and acknowledge specifically anti-Black racism and white dominance in perpetrating institutional discrimination. Please comment on what these statements mean to you and your desire to be a social worker.

Edit and proofread your statement for clarity, spelling and grammar (and ask a trusted friend or colleague to do the same) to ensure it is error-free before submitting. 

Have You Assembled a Record of Your Social and Human Services-Related Experience?

The VCU application does not require a formal resume, but it does require a summary of your social- and human services-related experience. You can provide this information in resume format or a narrative, whichever you feel better conveys the value of your experience. A resume offers the benefit of being easier to skim, a quality many admissions officials appreciate. Regardless of your chosen format, carefully edit and proofread your work before submitting it.

Are You Consulting With a VCU M.S.W. Enrollment Advisor?

An enrollment advisor (EA) is an expert in the M.S.W. admissions process. They can advise you on how to acquire transcripts and fill out your application. They also provide guidance on financial aid and the enrollment process. Finally, EAs can offer crucial advice regarding what the VCU admissions team seeks in applicants and how best to craft your application to reflect your strengths (and address any potential weaknesses).

Why Earn Your M.S.W. Online from VCU?

VCU’s Master of Social Work Program online format teaches a broad social work skill set for working with individuals, families, communities and organizations. Through an innovative curriculum, diverse field experiences and ambitious and proactive research priorities, the School of Social Work informs today’s leaders and prepares the leaders of tomorrow with the mastery and values necessary for advanced social work practice and policy leadership.

The online program format allows you to earn your master’s degree from anywhere in the country and apply your knowledge in your community through real-world field experiences. It also offers flexibility to complete your degree over one to four years. Small class sizes and a primarily asynchronous class schedule afford our students the room and time to connect with their instructors and each other.

VCU has led social work education for over a century. It was the first school of its kind in the South, and, today, it offers one of the most extensive comprehensive social work programs in the United States. The program has a proven track record in advancing the careers of thousands of social workers. If you’re ready to take the next step in your social work career, contact an enrollment advisor to learn more or start your application

Earn Your MSW Online From a Top School of Social Work

Choose Between Clinical and Macro Social Work Specializations
Apply Now