Your MSW Pathway

Columbia School of Social Work offers more degree options than any other social work school. To assist you in making the best choices for you, we created this overview page focused on the three main steps (two required, one optional) that will put you on the pathway to a Columbia MSW and a satisfying social work career.

1) Choose a Platform and a Program (Mandatory)

Most students select our Two-Year full-time residential program, but we offer a number of alternatives as well as an online learning platform.

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2) Choose a Social Work Specialization (Mandatory)

Students select one of four practice methods to concentrate on in their second year (three of which offer special programming tracks), along with one of seven fields of practice.

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3) Choose a Dual Degree or Minor (Optional)

We offer nine dual degree programs in partnership with other Columbia University graduate schools and affiliates, along with six minors.

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1) Choose a Platform and a Program

2 Platforms

On Campus
Live in the New York City metro area and attend classes at the School of Social Work Building, a few blocks away from the main Columbia University campus in Morningside Heights. Your field assignment will be with one of the 800+ agencies and organizations in the School’s ever-expanding network, including hospitals, courts, substance abuse clinics, prisons, community health clinics, and international governmental organizations such as the UN.
Receive a world-class education from the Columbia School of Social Work without coming to campus, from anywhere in the United States. In your second year, you can pursue a method area concentration in Advanced Clinical Practice, Policy Practice, or Social Enterprise Administration. You can also choose a field of practice in Health, Mental Health and Disabilities, or Family, Youth and Children’s Services. Most classes are live (synchronous), though professors utilize a “flipped classroom” model for teaching. While coursework is completed online, you will do your field education in person, most likely in the metropolitan area closest to where you live. Read more about how the online platform works here.

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7 Programs


(On-Campus and Online)

Our full-time Two-Year program, consisting of two years of consecutive fall and spring semesters, is the most frequently chosen path. As a student in the Two-Year program, you spend two days each week in the classroom and three days each week in the field. In your first year, you receive a foundation in major social work practice methods, social work research, and psychological and social theory. In the second year, you select a concentration area and field of practice for more specialized training and fieldwork. A wide range of elective courses helps you to develop additional expertise in areas such as family or group interventions; treatment of children, adolescents and young adults; responding to trauma; working with veterans and their families; or managing a nonprofit agency. By the time you graduate, you are prepared for advanced social work practice in the area of your choice.

For First Year FAQs, click here.
For Second Year FAQs, click here.


(On-Campus Only)

A popular alternative to the Two-Year Program is the full-time 16-Month Program. As a 16-Monther, you begin full-time study in January (spring semester) and are able to complete the requirements for the MSW in four consecutive terms by continuing through the summer. Requirements mirror those of our Two-Year Program: four terms of consecutive full-time enrollment, and the same number of classroom credits and field education hours.


  • The 16-month Program cannot be taken online. All other programs are available both residentially and online.
  • Compared to students in the Two-Year Program, 16-Monthers are more limited in their minor and dual degree options.

For more information and FAQs, click here.

Advanced Standing

(On-Campus and Online)

The Advanced Standing Program is a path designed for those who have earned a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) from a Council on Social Work Education-accredited social work program. (Applicants must have received the BSW degree within the five years prior to applying to Columbia.) As an advanced-standing student, you are on an accelerated track and can earn your MSW in just one year. The program begins with a summer intensive that prepares you to enter the CSSW curriculum in the fall as a second-year student, with a specialized program of courses and field work.

For Advanced Standing FAQ, click here.


(On-Campus and Online)

The Extended Program is the ideal pathway for those who would like to combine part-time with full-time study. It allows you to complete the course and field instruction requirements for your MSW program in three or four years. In the first year, you take a reduced course load and have no field work. In your final two years, you continue to take a reduced course load while adding the field instruction component. Students who opt for this program appreciate having the flexibility to balance other responsibilities, such as work or childcare, while easing into full-time graduate studies. NOTE: Once you begin field education, you must plan to be at your placement site three days per week (21 hours). Weekend or evening only placements are not available.

For more information and FAQs on the Extended Program, click here.

Reduced Residency

(On-Campus and Online)

Our Reduced Residency Program is a path designed for those who already have more than two years of full-time experience in a social services agency. As a Reduced Residency student, you can continue working at your agency full-time while taking classes part-time for the first two years. In year three, you may be able to remain at your agency to complete your field requirement. Some students, however, choose to leave their agency for a placement arranged by the School. NOTE: If you are working at an agency that has hosted a Columbia student for a field placement, you may be eligible for a 50% tuition discount.

For more information and FAQs on the Reduced Residency Program, click here.


(On-Campus and Online)

The Transfer Program is the path for those who have already completed a full year of field and course work at another CSWE-accredited graduate school of social work in the United States within five years of the term for which you apply. Students who are accepted into the Transfer Program can expect to complete their studies within one year. You will enter the School as a second-year student and follow the second-year course of study in your chosen method area concentration and field of practice.

Since Transfer students enter the program as a second-year student, applicable FAQs may be found here.

Five-Term International

(On-Campus Only)

The International Students Program is the preferred pathway for international students who are unfamiliar with the U.S. social welfare system and who speak English as a second language. It requires five terms of attendance (the extra term is in the summer between your first and second years). As an international program student, you will be enrolled in a Professional Immersion Seminar during your first (fall) term and then begin field education and corresponding practice courses in the subsequent spring term. You will continue with field education and courses during the summer term (late May through the end of July or early August).

NOTE: Depending on your language proficiency level, you may also be invited to attend a special six-week course for non-native English speakers, called “English for Professional Purposes: Social Work,” during the summer before your first term starts. This course includes English-language instruction (speaking, reading, writing, and comprehension) as well as an introduction to key concepts in social work and social work institutions (e.g. self awareness, the U.S. social system, social welfare policy, and an overview of social services).

For more information and FAQs on the International Students Program and special summer course, click here.

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