banner image

Online Master of Social Work (MSW)

Obtain Your MSW in 2-Years!

Master_in_social_work_MSW_at_Palo_Alto_University

Embark on your journey with Palo Alto University's online Master of Social Work (MSW) program.

Our innovative program, which does not require the GRE, is crafted for those dedicated to making a difference in the lives of diverse and vulnerable populations. 

Designed to fit your busy schedule, our program prepares you for a fulfilling career in clinical social work.


Applications open this September | Start your studies in Fall 2025


 

Ready to take the next step? Apply Now
Upcoming Admission Events Sign Up Here
MSW_Master_in_social_work_at_Palo_Alto_University_quote

Specialize in Culturally Informed Behavioral Health Practice.

Sub-specialize with two tracks:

  • Track 1 | Children and Youth in School and Community Settings
  • Track 2 | Adults in Public Behavioral Health Settings

Description

The Master of Social Work (MSW) program offers a specialization in Culturally Informed Behavioral Health Practice, with two tracks: Practice with Children and Youth in School and Community Settings (CY) and Practice with Adults in Public Behavioral Health Settings (PBH). The program prepares graduates for clinical practice and leadership roles in California’s public behavioral health system. The innovative curriculum is designed for practice with California’s diverse and underserved populations. The program has a full-time plan of study that is completed in two calendar years. Students attend synchronous online classes and several 3-day immersion residencies each year. 

Mission

The Master of Social Work program prepares competent and ethical advanced clinical social work practitioners and leaders for roles in behavioral health services with an emphasis on culturally informed care, application of evidence-informed interventions, and care for underserved and vulnerable populations. The program is committed to the core values of social work and promotes the purpose of the profession to eliminate poverty, enhance quality of life for all persons, prevent conditions that limit human rights, and advocate for social, racial, economic, and environmental justice for diverse individuals and communities with consideration of the context of their environment locally and globally. The program strives to meet the evolving behavioral health needs of people residing in urban and rural regions of California through the ongoing renewal of curriculum and pedagogies to include new technologies and emerging ideas, knowledge, and practices. 

Earning Potential of MSW Degree

Program Highlights


Synchronous, online classes on weekday late afternoons/evenings & Saturdays
In-person 3-day immersion residencies three times per year
In-person internships in your local California area, including employment-based
Engage with a diverse cohort of students.
Personalized faculty support to ensure every student's success.
Enjoy the advantages of small class sizes
Sub-specialize in Behavioral Health Practice with Children/Youth or Adults

Earning a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree offers numerous benefits and opens a wide range of career opportunities, making it a valuable investment for those interested in advancing their career in social work.

Who Should Apply?

  • Professionals already working in social or behavioral health services who wish to advance their careers.
  • Recent college graduates seeking a career in clinical social work.
  • Individuals with a background in sociology, psychology, child development, human services, health sciences, or other fields.

The program does not grant social work course credit for life experience or previous work experience.

Degree Requirements:

  • Coursework: Complete 88 units over 8 quarters
  • Internship
    • 900 hours of internship, with the possibility of employment-based placements. 
    • For those who wish to pursue the Pupil Personnel Services Credential (PPSC) for School Social Work in California by attending a post-master's program upon graduation, 1,000 internship hours are required.

Admissions Requirements:

  • Bachelor's Degree: Required to be from a regionally accredited institution or its international equivalent.
  • Application: Submit through PSYCAS with a fee, including a resume, statement of purpose, two letters of recommendation, and official transcripts.
  • GRE: Not required for admission.
  • Prerequisites: No specific courses are required for entry.

Advanced Standing

  • Individuals who hold a bachelor’s degree earned in the last 10 years from a social work program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education may apply for Advanced Standing.
  • Advanced Standing students complete 56 units of coursework and 450 hours of internship in 5 quarters.

Optional Certificate in Leadership and Management in Public Behavioral Health

Prepare for leadership and management roles in public behavioral health.

Courses include:

  • Public behavioral health funding
  • Political savvy and competence
  • Communication skills for middle managers
  • Leading and managing others
  • Budgeting, planning and decision-making
  • Managing operations and human resources
  • Leading quality improvement

MSW Coursework

Plan of Study for Children and Youth Track in School and Community

Practice with Children and Youth in School and Community Settings

88 total units plus 7 optional units for Leadership Certificate

Course Groups:

  • Generalist – Generalist courses
  • BBS – Courses that satisfy requirements for clinical social work licensing by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS)
  • CIBH – Specialization courses in Culturally Informed Behavioral Health Practice
  • CY Track – CY track courses (Behavioral Health Practice with Children and Youth in School and Community Settings)
  • Leadership – Optional Leadership Certificate courses
  • Elective – Elective courses

 DOWNLOAD COURSEWORK Children and Youth TRACK

*The MSW degree requires 9 total units of generalist internship during which a minimum of 450 hours of internship experience are completed. The units/internship hours may be spread out across 3 or 4 quarters.
** The MSW degree requires 9 total units of specialization internship during which a minimum of 450 hours of internship experience are completed. The units/internship hours may be spread out across 3 or 4 quarters.


Plan of Study for Adults Track in Public Behavioral Health

Practice with Adults in Public Behavioral Health Settings

88 total units plus 7 optional units for Leadership Certificate

Course Groups:

  • Generalist – Generalist courses
  • BBS – Courses that satisfy requirements for clinical social work licensing by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS)
  • CIBH – Specialization courses in Culturally Informed Behavioral Health Practice
  • PBH Track – PBH track courses (Behavioral Health Practice with Adults in Public Behavioral Health Settings)
  • Leadership – Optional Leadership Certificate courses
  • Elective – Elective courses

DOWNLOAD COURSEWORK FOR PBH TRACK

* The MSW degree requires 9 total units of generalist internship during which a minimum of 450 hours of internship experience are completed. The units/internship hours may be spread out across 3 or 4 quarters.
** The MSW degree requires 9 total units of specialization internship during which a minimum of 450 hours of internship experience are completed. The units/internship hours may be spread out across 3 or 4 quarters.


Plan of Study for Children and Youth Track – Advanced Standing

Practice with Children and Youth in School and Community Settings

56 total units plus 7 optional units for Leadership Certificate

Course Groups:

  • BBS – Courses that satisfy requirements for clinical social work licensing by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS)
  • CIBH – Specialization courses in Culturally Informed Behavioral Health Practice
  • CY Track – CY track courses (Behavioral Health Practice with Children and Youth in School and Community Settings)
  • Leadership – Optional Leadership Certificate courses
  • Elective – Elective courses

DOWNLOAD COURSEWORK FOR CY TRACK - ADVANCED STANDING

* The MSW degree requires 9 total units of generalist internship during which a minimum of 450 hours of internship experience are completed. The units/internship hours may be spread out across 3 or 4 quarters.
** The MSW degree requires 9 total units of specialization internship during which a minimum of 450 hours of internship experience are completed. The units/internship hours may be spread out across 3 or 4 quarters.


Plan of Study for Adults Track in Public Behavioral Health – Advanced Standing

Practice with Adults in Public Behavioral Health Settings

56 total units plus 7 optional units for Leadership Certificate

Course Groups:

  • Generalist – Generalist courses
  • BBS – Courses that satisfy requirements for clinical social work licensing by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS)
  • CIBH – Specialization courses in Culturally Informed Behavioral Health Practice
  • PBH Track – PBH track courses (Behavioral Health Practice with Adults in Public Behavioral Health Settings)
  • Leadership – Optional Leadership Certificate courses
  • Elective – Elective courses

DOWNLOAD COURSEWORK FOR PBH TRACK - ADVANCED STANDING

* The MSW degree requires 9 total units of generalist internship during which a minimum of 450 hours of internship experience are completed. The units/internship hours may be spread out across 3 or 4 quarters.
** The MSW degree requires 9 total units of specialization internship during which a minimum of 450 hours of internship experience are completed. The units/internship hours may be spread out across 3 or 4 quarters.


Plan of Study – Leadership & Management Certificate

13.5 total units for community professionals; 7 optional units for MSW students

DOWNLOAD COURSEWORK FOR LEADERSHIP & MANAGEMENT CERTIFICATE


This program is approved by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC). The program is not accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, but plans to submit a candidacy eligibility application to initiate the accreditation process, which if successful will lead to initial accreditation typically in three years. 

Learn about accreditation on the CSWE website.