Program Description | School of Behavioral Health | Loma Linda University

► Online MSW program now available--beginning Fall 2019!

Scholarships available for all incoming students

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Program Director: Kimberly R. Freeman, PhD, MSW


The profession of social work centers on improvement of the quality of life for people and the enhancement of human potential for full, productive participation in society. With this philosophy at its core, the master's degree offered by the Social Work Program (MSW) in the School of Behavioral Health emphasizes an ecological perspective that focuses on the interaction of a person or system in relation to his/her environment. Reflecting this stance is Loma Linda University's motto, "To make man whole"; and its heritage as an international leader in the delivery of services in health care and related facilities. It is the combination of these influences that has guided the development of the generalist curriculum, clinical practice specialization, and selection of practicum sites for the Social Work Program.


The mission of the Master of Social Work Degree Program at Loma Linda University is to prepare competent, ethical, and compassionate advanced social work practitioners who possess the knowledge, values, attitudes, and skills necessary for a life dedicated to whole person care in advanced practice and leadership roles within behavioral health institutions and agencies.


The goals of the Social Work Program (MSW degree) are to:

  • Instill in graduates the knowledge, ethics, values, and skills expected of professional social workers.
  • Prepare students for advanced practice with diverse populations and the advancement of social and economic justice in local, national, and international communities.
  • Equip students to integrate research and practice for advancing the profession of social work.
  • Prepare advanced social work practitioners for work in behavioral health institutions and agencies.
  • Transition students into professional roles with a commitment to life-long-learning.


Reflected in the above goals are the following nine social work competencies that describe the knowledge, values, skills, and the cognitive and affective processes that define and inform generalist and clinical practice.  

  • Demonstrate ethical and professional behavior.
  • Engage diversity and difference in practice.
  • Advance human rights and social, economic, and environmental justice.
  • Engage in practice-informed research and research-informed practice.
  • Engage in policy practice.
  • Engage with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities.
  • Assess individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities.
  • Intervene with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities.
  • Evaluate practice with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities.

Liberal Arts Preparation

The MSW curriculum is built on a liberal arts perspective. Individual applicants whose undergraduate degree does not reflect this perspective may be asked to enroll in additional courses.

Please note: Any prerequisite requirements must be completed before admission to the MSW degree program.

Program Overview

The program begins with the generalist content (first-year courses) common to all graduate social work education. The generalist practice curriculum is grounded in the liberal arts and the person-in-environment framework. Within this framework, students learn to promote social well-being, and build on the strength and resiliency of all human beings through a range of prevention and intervention practice methods when working with diverse individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. Integrated within the curriculum, students learn to apply ethical principles, critical thinking and research-informed practice at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels while also maintaining emphasis on diversity, advocacy for human rights, and social and economic justice.

The clinical practice specialization builds on the strengths-based and ecological practice perspective of the generalist curriculum by extending, expanding, and enhancing students’ ability to effectively engage in advanced clinical practice. This requires the integration of generalist and clinical practice theories and intervention methods as applied with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. Theoretical perspectives include empowerment, strengths approach, attachment, child development, risk and resiliency, trauma, cognitive neuroscience, family systems, cognitive, behavior, and psychodynamic; all of which are enhanced by the person-in-the-environment perspective. These theoretical underpinnings support student skill acquisition and development through the clinical specialization courses with a firm grounding in engagement, diagnostic assessment, problem solving, social policy, and evidenced informed treatment approaches. Students’ clinical practice experiences also attends to the needs and rights of all persons to promote social and economic justice. Clinical students also learn to be alert to and understands the importance of continuous self-reflection and practice evaluation.

Program Options

Alternate program options have been designed to address the varying needs of students. As such, the program offers a two-year option, a three-year option, and a four-year option. Students completing the two-year option cannot be engaged in regular full-time employment. An advanced standing option is also available to qualified Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree students (see below).

Beginning Fall 2016, an online hybrid (online and onsite) MSW program is offered for full-time employees of Riverside County only, as a result of a cost-shared agreement. All program requirements for the Riverside County cohort are the same as those required for the on-campus cohorts for the three-year part-time option. A separate application portal has been created for the Riverside County cohort, which requires verification of full-time employment with Riverside County. Courses for the onsite portion of this hybrid program will be taught at:

Riverside County Innovation Center
3450 Fourteenth Street
Riverside, CA 92501

Inquiries about this program should be directed to the Dr. Kimberly Freeman, MSW Program Director.

Advanced Standing for BSW Degree Students

Students who have earned a BSW degree from a Council of Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited program within the past 5 years have the opportunity to remove areas of redundancy in their education through consideration for advanced standing. In their personal statement, which is part of the application for admission to the MSW Program, BSW degree students can request consideration for advanced standing status and thus have the opportunity to complete their MSW degree in 12 months. Students completing the advanced standing track must begin the MSW Program during the Summer Quarter, which requires individuals to submit all components of their application packet by January 15 of the enrollment year (exceptions to this date will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis). Advanced standing students enrolling as part of the summer cohort are eligible to receive a scholarship covering up to 14 units, not including living expenses. Information on scholarships is updated annually. See the MSW handbook for more specific information regarding Advanced Standing and on the courses eligible for waiver.

Transfer Students

Transfer students who have taken courses in an MSW degree program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education may transfer up to 20% of the 78 units required for the M.S.W. degree at Loma Linda University, unless otherwise approved. Evaluation of all courses is conducted on a case-by-case basis using course outlines, transcripts, and course catalog entries to review and assure adequate equivalency. The Academic Standards Committee evaluates these equivalencies. The 20% transfer of units is limited to credits that have not already been applied to a degree and for which a B (3.0) or better has been recorded. Note: The grades of courses transferred do not calculate into a student’s Grade Point Average (GPA) earned while matriculating through the program at Loma Linda University.

A maximum of nine quarter units that have been previously applied to another master’s degree may be accepted as transfer credits in the areas of research methods and statistics. Individuals wishing to transfer research methods and/or statistics courses must first pass the Program's competency examination/s in these areas. Consideration is given to other course transfers on a case-by-case basis.

Professional (field) practica units are not typically transferable—review is made on a case-by-case basis. Consideration may be given if there is clear evidence that the student has met the practice competencies of the MSW degree.

No academic credit is given for life experience and/or previous work experience for any part of the MSW degree.

MSW Advancement GPA

The MSW advancement GPA provides an initial predictor used for gatekeeping. The first 12 units completed toward the MSW degree, including units acquired during nonmatriculation, must be completed with a GPA of 3.0. Students who fail to achieve this level may be dismissed from school. Students receive orientation to the process and requirements of the MSW advancement GPA during the new student orientations.

Qualifying Review

When all generalist course work is completed, students are required to pass the Program's qualifying review (see MSW Handbook). The intent of this process is to: assist faculty and students in assessment of strengths and areas for improvement, provide feedback, foster an environment of self-evaluation, and encourage heightened participation in individualized academic development.

Generalist and Clinical Practica

Field practica are regarded as an integral part of the Social Work Program as these offer students the opportunity to integrate and apply theoretical and research knowledge with social work practice and intervention skills in institutional or agency settings. Practica are designed (and selected) to provide maximum learning opportunities under the supervision of a qualified field instructor. As such, experiences are patterned to build upon one another—presenting the increasing challenges present in the continuum of generalist to clinical practice. Students complete 1,080 hours of field work in a qualified setting and 120 hours of concurrent integrated seminar for a total of 1,200 hours.

The emphasis of SOWK 757A , SOWK 757B , and SOWK 757C (480 hours of practicum and 60 hours of seminar or 9 generalist practica units) is on achieving generalist social work knowledge, values, and skills—including developing rapport with agency personnel and clients, acquiring interviewing skills, and obtaining beginning-level psychosocial assessment and intervention capabilities. The content of the concurrent seminar further supports this perspective as it provides students with opportunities to integrate their practicum experiences with their developing professional identity.

The emphasis of SOWK 787A , SOWK 787B , and SOWK 787C (600 hours of practicum and 60 hours of seminar or 12 clinical practica units) reflects the clinical practice specialization and provides the depth and breadth of learning opportunities that underpin the acquisition of advanced practice capabilities. More specifically, clinical practica experiences are expected to promote increased insight and understanding of agency and/or client systems as these build on the generalist skills achieved during the first year of study.


The program includes completion of course work in applied research. An individually authored thesis option is available for students meeting program criteria. These study options aim to develop knowledge for the advancement of social work practice and provide guided experiences in the conduct of research applicable to a variety of professional and academic settings. Guidelines for these options are provided by the Program.

Wholeness Portfolio

All students complete a wholeness portfolio during the generalist and clinical practica and seminar experiences. This review of the student's individualized objectives and professional development begins during the first year of study and culminates during the second year of study as the student completes the final quarter of the clinical practicum. This experience emphasizes the student's plans for employment, lifelong learning, and integration of the core values of Loma Linda University; and is seen as a capstone academic experience that facilitates closure and the final stage of reflection and review in the development of transitioning professional.

Combined Degrees

Students interested in completing a combined degrees curriculum with the Social Work and Gerontology programs, the Social Work and Criminal Justice programs, or the Social Work and Social Policy and Social Research programs should contact the Social Work Department directly.


The Master of Social Work Program is fully accredited by the Council of Social Work Education to provide master’s degree-level education, with the next reaffirmation to be completed in 2018.


In addition to Loma Linda University admission requirements, admission to the Social Work Program is governed by the policies and procedures established by the School of Behavioral Health. Admission requirements for the MSW Program include the following:

  1. A four-year baccalaureate degree (or its equivalent) from an accredited college or university.
  2. The MSW curriculum is built on a liberal arts perspective. Individual applicants whose undergraduate degree does not reflect this perspective may be asked to enroll in additional courses.
  3. Applicants must submit a completed application, including a personal statement; application fee; all college and/or university transcripts; and at least three letters of recommendation—preferably one of which is from an academic source and one from a work supervisor.
  4. Applicants must meet the minimum academic and professional compatibility criteria established by the program. These criteria include:
    • A cumulative undergraduate grade point average of 3.0 or above (on a 4.0 scale). Applicants with lower grade point averages will be considered if the last 45-quarter credits (30 semester units) of non-field practica course work shows significant improvement or if they have additional attributes that demonstrate preparedness and an appropriate fit for graduate social work education. Work and volunteer experiences must be verified by employer/supervisor statements on official agency stationery. Further consideration will also be given to individuals who provide evidence of additional graduate coursework, certifications, and/or training that illustrate preliminary preparation for a career in social work. Students who are admitted to the Social Work Program with a cumulative G.P.A. below 3.0 may be required to participate in individualized academic assessment and a targeted learning assistance program.
    • Demonstration, through the application and interview processes, of compatibility with the profession of social work, ability to develop and nurture interpersonal relationships, communication skills, self-awareness, professional comportment, critical thinking skills, fit with the mission and values of Loma Linda University and the Department of Social Work and Social Ecology, and the capacity to successfully complete the Master of Social Work curriculum.

Program Requirements

The MSW degree consists of 78 units of didactic course work and 21 units of professional practica experience. Students must maintain a program grade point average of 3.0 (or a letter grade of B on a 4.0 scale) and meet the knowledge, skills, and professional performance competencies outlined by the program.

All course grades should meet the minimum B (3.0) standard, which by university policy indicates satisfactory performance. Courses in which a student earns a grade below a B (3.0) may need to be repeated (or may not apply to the degree) if competency in the subject area is related to practice performance with clients, and a grade less than a 3.0 represents marginal or unsatisfactory practice performance.

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