Frequently Asked Questions

What sets CSSW apart from other social work schools?
For over 120 years, the Columbia School of Social Work has been a leader in social work research, pedagogy, and practice. In 1898, the Charity Organization in New York City offered the first formal classes in “social philanthropy.” They advocated for fighting poverty and defending the rights of immigrants. To this day, our students, alumni, and faculty remain at the crossroads of science and social justice. Our preeminence is reflected in the courses the School offers and in the breadth of our MSW specialization options. Special programming tracks include a Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) training program and an accelerated program in policy practice. Columbia MSW graduates go on to become leading clinicians, administrators, policymakers, educators, entrepreneurs, and scholars.

Who are the faculty?
CSSW’s reputation is rooted in the strength, leadership, and experience of its 40 full-time faculty members in the areas of social policy, mental health and clinical science, social inequality, and global social issues. Our faculty’s research has redefined how poverty should be measured and has deepened the world’s understanding of grief, addiction, HIV/AIDS, and racial and ethnic health care disparities. Our faculty lead the social work field in sponsored research from public health agencies, including NIH. Their research is often the result of creative collaborations with colleagues in other parts of Columbia, such as the Data Science Institute, the School of Public Health, and the medical school’s Division of Narrative Medicine.
See individual faculty pages for more information.

What degrees do you offer?
We offer a Master of Social Work (MSW), which can be earned on campus or online, and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Social Work. We also offer continuing education programs for contact hours; and a few of our MSW courses are open to alumni for credit. See Degrees We Offer for more information.

Does the MSW degree require full-time study?
Most of our MSW students take two years of full-time study, but we also offer accelerated programs that enable students to earn their degrees in as little as one year or 16 months*, as well as graduated programs that allow students to complete their study in three or four years (they begin part-time, moving to full-time later). See Your MSW Pathway for more information. *Our 16-month program is not available to online campus students.

Can I earn my MSW from Columbia online?

Qualified U.S. citizens can earn an MSW from our online campus, without having to relocate to New York City. See Online MSW for more information.

What distinguishes the School’s MSW curriculum?

The School’s curriculum provides more specialization options than any other social work school in the nation. Students choose from four areas of specialization and seven fields of practice.* They also have the option of pursuing one of five minors or one of nine dual degrees with other professional schools at Columbia or in New York City. See Your MSW Pathway for more information. *Online campus students have the choice of three areas of specialization and two fields of practice.

What kinds of financial aid do students receive?
The School’s Office of Financial Aid is committed to identifying the best sources of financial support for successful applicants to the MSW program. A typical financial aid package consists of need-based scholarships, federal direct unsubsidized loans, and alternative funding options. In 2017–18, the School awarded more than $12 million in scholarships. At that time, 88 percent of full-time students received need-based awards ranging from $5,000 to $22,000. See Tuition and Financial Aid and Scholarships for more information.

What is the student body like?
The student body consists of individuals who have shown professional promise and have strong academic credentials. There are about 800 students in residence during any given term, ranging in age from early 20s to early 60s (the average age is mid-20s). About 85 percent of our student body self-identifies as female. Roughly 12–15 percent come from 30 nations besides the U.S. and speak 25 different languages. Approximately a quarter of the student community is made up of students of color (e.g., African American, Asian American, Hispanic, biracial). Most students belong to at least one of more than 20 caucuses and/or groups representing a range of social issues. See Student Life for more information.

Where is the School located?
The School is housed in an 11-story building on the corner of Amsterdam Avenue and 122nd Street in New York City—a short walk to the northeast of Columbia’s Morningside campus. The building has technologically advanced classrooms, seminar and conference rooms; a 50-seat computer lab; role-play rooms; and a 7,000-square-foot library that houses one of the world’s premiere collections in social work and social services. See Map & Directions if you plan to visit.

How does the School’s work benefit New York City?
Several CSSW faculty members and administrators are engaged in research and practice that focus on benefiting local communities and neighborhoods in New York City. Examples include alumna Jenna Tutjer’s Achievement Initiative, providing college preparation within Harlem high schools; the Justice Lab, led by senior research scientist Vincent Schiraldi, which among other initiatives focuses on the closure of Rikers Island; and the Center on Poverty and Social Policy, led by Professor Irwin Garfinkel and research scientist Christopher Wimer, which works with the Robin Hood Foundation to track poverty in New York City. See Research Centers & Programs for more information.

How many alumni does the School have and where can they be found?
CSSW has more than 20,000 alumni in the United States and all over the world. Many of them are respected leaders in the social work field and maintain strong relationships with the School. This network provides our students with an inside track to information, mentors, internships, and career opportunities. See Alumni for more information.

What kinds of jobs do graduates get?
Graduates work in diverse fields in the nonprofit, government, and corporate sectors. Many of them provide individual and family therapy/counseling. Employers actively recruit CSSW graduates because of their solid academic preparation, analytical and professional practice strengths, and their leadership. See Career Development for more information.