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    May 18, 2022  
2017-2018 Graduate Catalog 
2017-2018 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Social Work Major, MSSW

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All students in the BSSW Honors Program are eligible, but not required, to apply for conditional admission to the Five-Year BSSW/MSSW Program. Eligibility to apply for the Five-Year BSSW/MSSW Program is restricted to social work majors who have also been accepted into the BSSW Honors Program.

The process of seeking conditional admission to the Five-year BSSW/MSSW Program begins in the spring semester of the junior/third year of undergraduate study. Students seeking conditional admission to the Five-Year BSSW/MSSW Program must:

  • Submit the Five-Year BSSW/MSSW Program Application Packet either in person or electronically to the BSSW Program Director or his/her designee by April 1st of their junior/third year of undergraduate study.
  • Additionally, in order to be considered for conditional admission students must have a minimum overall GPA of 3.5.
  • Have completed or will have completed 60 credit hours of coursework which includes the following required social work courses: SOWK 200, SOWK 250, SOWK 312, SOWK 313, SOWK 315, SOWK 317, SOWK 318, and SOWK 380 by the end of their junior/third year of undergraduate study; and
  • Complete a personal interview with the BSSW Program Director or his/her designee.

Personal interviews will typically occur after the April 1st BSSW/MSSW Program Application Packet deadline and before May 1st during the junior/third year of undergraduate study. Immediately following the personal interview, the BSSW Program Director or his/her designee will notify students, in writing, of their conditional admission status.

Social Work Honors students who enroll in a 500-level course for undergraduate credit and applied to the BSSW degree may not apply the course credit towards the MSSW degree. Students are ineligible for graduate assistantships until they satisfy all requirements for the BSSW degree.

In the Five-Year BSSW/MSSW Program Application Packet, students will specify their preference for program location (Knoxville or Nashville campus or Online) and for the full-time or part-time (2 year) program. Students will also be asked to identify their preference for the Evidence-based Interpersonal Practice or Organizational Leadership specialization. Although the MSSW Admissions Committee will do its best to match students with their preferences, there is no guarantee a student will receive their preference once fully admitted.

Conditional admission to the Five-Year BSSW/MSSW Program does not guarantee admission into either the Graduate School or the MSSW program. Starting in October but NO LATER than December 1st of their senior/fourth year of undergraduate study, students must:

  • Apply for admission to the Graduate School (;
  • Submit the MSSW professional statement (submitted online with application); and
  • Submit three reference evaluation forms (submitted online with application):
  • One reference shall be from the BSSW Program Director or his/her designee;
  • One reference shall be from any previous or current social work field instructor, liaison, or coordinator affiliated with the UT College of Social Work BSSW Program; and
  • One reference shall be from any previous or current faculty member or course instructor from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Students will be fully admitted to the Five-Year BSSW/MSSW Program only after they have been accepted by both the Graduate School and MSSW program. The College of Social Work will notify students of their official admission to the Five-Year BSSW/MSSW Program and Graduate School early in the spring semester of their senior/fourth year.

A candidate will be fully admitted if they:

  • Maintained a minimum overall 3.5 GPA;
  • Earned a B+ or higher in all required Social Work Field Practice courses (SOWK 380, SOWK 480, and SOWK 481) for the BSSW Program;
  • Met all requirements for the BSSW Honors Program; and
  • Met all degree requirements for the BSSW.

Upon graduation from the BSSW Program, the BSSW Program Director or his/her designee will provide written verification to the MSSW program that all admission requirements for the Five-Year BSSW/MSSW program have been met.

Once fully admitted, students are required to complete the summer semester and specialization year (Fall and Spring semesters) of the MSSW program. Graduate hours required for the Five-Year BSSW/MSSW program total 37 credit hours.

Students who enroll in a 500-level course for undergraduate credit and applied to the BSSW degree, may not apply the course credit towards the MSSW degree. The requirements for the MSSW degree may be found in the Graduate Catalog in the College of Social Work section. Students are ineligible for graduate assistantships until they satisfy all requirements for the BSSW degree.

Course Requirements

Summer following BSSW graduation

Year 5 (Evidence-based Interpersonal Practice concentration)

Year 5 (Organizational Leadership concentration)

  • Fall requirements – total 15 credit hours as follows: SOWK 545  (3), SOWK 546  (3), elective or selective course (3), and SOWK 586  (6).
  • Spring requirements – total 15 credit hours as follows: SOWK 548  (3), SOWK 549  (3), SOWK 586  (6), elective (3)



The college offers an MSSW curriculum that is informed by state-of-the-art, cutting-edge knowledge and grounded upon core social work values and ethics. The concepts of critical thinking and evidence-based practice, complexity, culturally affirming practice, social and economic justice, and at-risk populations permeate the new MSSW curriculum. The MSSW program seeks to prepare MSSW graduates to make demonstrable improvements in the quality of life of at-risk and vulnerable populations across individuals, families, groups, organizations, communities, the state of Tennessee, the nation and internationally.

Evidence-Based Interpersonal Practice Concentration (EBIP)

The evidence-based interpersonal practice concentration prepares students for professional social work practice with individuals, groups, children/youth, and families. The goal of the concentration is to utilize evidence-based practices for the restoration, maintenance, and promotion of social functioning. Change objectives focus on the transactional relationships between individuals, groups, and families and their social environment.

The EBIP concentration prepares students for ethically informed direct practice with diverse populations. Students develop competencies in advanced assessment, relationship building/enhancement, application of goal-oriented and evidence-based interventions, evaluation of practice, and life-long professional development. Potential areas of practice include mental health, child welfare, substance abuse, health care, and other settings providing services to populations at risk.

Organizational Leadership concentration

The organizational leadership concentration is based on the underlying principles of social, economic and environmental justice. The students graduating from this concentration will be prepared to work in a variety of settings including varieties of human service agencies, schools, health care facilities, governmental entities, quasi-governmental entities, foundations, funding and membership nonprofits, and policy analysis and advocacy positions.

The goal of the concentration is to produce social workers who are critical thinkers in ethically-sound, systemic, skill-based, evidence-based practice. The social workers who graduate with this concentration will be equipped to be involved in activities such as, but not limited to, leading and managing programs and organizations, planning, asset and financial management, use of information technology, grant writing and management, coordinating, developing and evaluating direct and indirect activities for targeted at-risk populations, clients and client systems. Students will also graduate understanding advanced policy analysis and advocacy strategies.


Admission to the master’s program is based on the following.

  • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university with appropriate preparation in the social sciences. At least three-fourths of the applicant’s undergraduate work should be in the social sciences, humanities, physical sciences, and other arts and sciences subjects. Applicants must demonstrate a liberal arts perspective through course work in at least four of the following five areas – economics or mathematics; government, political science or history; sociology or anthropology; psychology; philosophy, literature, or the arts. Applicants with other academic backgrounds may request consultation to discuss ways that they can meet the requirements.
  • Submit online application to the Graduate Admissions Office. Graduate School policy requires a minimum GPA of 2.7 for admission to graduate study. Applicants falling below this average may be considered for probationary admission on the basis of supplemental evidence of the ability to perform at a satisfactory level.
  • Personal qualifications acceptable for entrance into the professional practice of social work.
  • Applicants with a GPA below 3.0 can submit current scores from the GRE General Exam to supplement their application materials. GRE scores are valid for five years from the date of the exam.

Preference is given to applicants with a GPA of 3.0 or above in their undergraduate work with substantial preparation in the social sciences. Applicants who have a prior conviction, other than a minor traffic violation, may not necessarily be denied admission to the MSSW program. However, such convictions may prevent placement in certain field practice agencies and/or licensure in certain states.

Advanced Standing

The University of Tennessee College of Social Work has an advanced standing program. Admission to advanced standing requires a BSW from an accredited program (must have graduated within five years of entry to the MSSW program); an overall undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher; and personal qualifications acceptable for entrance into the professional practice of social work. These students will follow the curriculum plan and meet all requirements of the concentration during three semesters of study in the program. The advanced standing program may be completed on either a full-time or part-time basis.

Application for admission to the advanced standing program is through the regular admission process.

Extended Study

Planned part-time programs are available in all three locations of the college. Admission requirements are the same as for full-time study. Coursework can be completed over a three- or four-year period.

Transfer Credits

Coursework equivalent to the first year of the master’s program, completed in another accredited graduate social work program, is usually accepted toward degree requirements. Applicants must meet the admission requirements of the Graduate School and the College of Social Work. Transfer courses must be approved as equivalent to required and/or elective courses taken for graduate credit and passed with a grade of B or better. An S (Satisfactory/No Credit system) for the field practicum is also accepted. In addition, transfer courses must be part of an otherwise satisfactory graduate program (B average) and be approved by the associate dean. This course work must be completed within the six-year period prior to the receipt of the degree.

A maximum of 6 credit hours from work earned in disciplines other than social work may be transferred as elective credits. The student’s academic committee must approve the request and the transfer credit must meet Graduate School requirements.

Proficiency Examination

Students interested in proficiency examinations are referred to the College of Social Work Student Handbook statement describing the procedure for applying for examination and the applicable courses.

MSSW Degree Requirements

  • The program requires successful completion of a minimum total of 60 semester credit hours. Advanced Standing requires successful completion of 37 semester credit hours.
  • Students may select a thesis or non-thesis option. Students pursuing the thesis option receive 6 credit hours for successful completion.
  • Students must successfully complete a comprehensive exam or thesis defense.
  • Students must have an overall GPA of 3.0 or better on graded courses and satisfactory performance in field.

Professional Foundation Curriculum

MSSW foundation content (first year – fall and spring semester) includes fundamental, evidence-based knowledge and skills that will prepare students to practice across client systems within a culturally affirming generalist social work context. MSSW foundation curriculum includes content in the following areas – social work practice, research, human behavior in the social environment, social policy, populations at risk and social and economic justice, values and ethics, diversity, critical thinking/evidence-based practice, and field.

Field Practice

The application of knowledge and skills is a critical aspect of a competency based, practice-oriented MSSW curriculum. The opportunity for students to practice and learn in experiential settings is provided through collaboration between the college and a wide range of social service organizations. This effort between the partners produces effective experiences that enhance the students’ professional development in their individual practice areas. Opportunities designed to meet the field practice requirement are available within Tennessee, in certain other parts of the country, and in selected international locations. Field practica are offered either concurrently with class instruction or in block format.

Foundation placements are selected through a joint process involving the student, the field coordinator, and personnel from potential internship sites. These first placements are designed to provide students with supervised generalist practice experience, which is consistent with the generalist knowledge and skill development education they receive in the classroom. Accordingly, students’ experiences are planned and designed to meet specific foundation competencies. Concentration internships build on the generalist foundation. The concentration practicum provides supervision in a practice setting selected with attention to a student’s practice interest, individual career interests, and educational needs. As with the foundation placement, students actively participate with the field coordinator and potential agency field instructors to select their concentration placement site. The concentration field placement experience focuses on the integration of social work knowledge and values while emphasizing the acquisition and development of advanced practice skills built on, but distinct from generalist, foundation skills.

Students receiving a grade of NC in field practice may not repeat the field practice.


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