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Frequently Asked Questions

Course and Curriculum Questions

Yes, all courses are the same in terms of content and quality. The only major difference is that you are connecting virtually. The Online Campus and Residential Campus follow the same curriculums and all students have frequent opportunities to build relationships with their cohort.

Most classes are presented live at a fixed time every week. This synchronous format allows you to have a fully interactive course experience where you learn alongside your cohort members.

You will be expected to attend class at set days and times, though the sessions will be recorded for your future reference.

Degree pathways are different ways of structuring the required coursework and practicum work. The pathways are:

View a quick comparison of the pathways. Or click the links above to see full descriptions and sample course plans.

Yes, we do offer an advanced standing pathway. This option is for students who have shown an early commitment to social work education and have completed a bachelor of social work (BSW) from a CSWE-accredited social work program within the past five years.

Students in this pathway complete their degree in one year. They take a two-course summer intensive that prepares them to enter the CSSW curriculum in the fall as an Specialized Year student. They then complete classes in the fall and spring terms while also completing one practicum placement.

Fall and spring courses are 14 weeks. Summer courses are 10 weeks, with the exception of Advanced Standing summer intensive courses, which are 5 weeks.

No, students can only select one method specialization option and one field of practice option.

In the Part-Time pathway, students maintain part-time status for the entirety of the degree. In the Part-Time to Full-Time (Extended) pathway, students move into full-time status once they begin the practicum education portion of their degree.

The length of your degree program depends on a few factors, including the pathway you choose and the number of electives you complete. Here are general completion estimates for each degree pathway.

  • Two-Year: 2 years
  • Advanced Standing: 1 year
  • Part-Time to Full-Time (Extended): 3 to 4 years
  • One-Year Residency for Working Professionals (Reduced Residency): 3 years
  • Transfer: 1 year
  • Part-Time: 3 to 4 years

We do not advise you to work while you are in the MS in Social Work program, with the exception of the Part-Time pathway. Columbia’s program is demanding, and it requires an extensive time commitment. In addition to regular, synchronous class sessions and their corresponding homework, you will need to plan for 21 hours of practicum work each week for most pathways (Part-Time students complete 14 hours of practicum work each week).

In the Part-Time option, students may be able to maintain a work schedule while pursuing their degree, though some may find it challenging to balance a full 40-hour work week in addition to coursework and the practicum work. This pathway, like the other pathway options, reflects the high academic standards of Columbia University and requires a strong commitment to social work education.

Think of the MS in Social Work as one key step on the pathway towards licensure. The master’s program provides education and practicum hours, but you will need to fulfill additional requirements depending on the state where you will be applying for your license.

According to the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB), licensure requirements generally include the following steps:

  • Complete a social work degree
  • Apply for your license
  • Pass the appropriate social work licensing exam
  • Fulfill supervised practice (for clinical social work licenses or licenses to practice individually)

We encourage you to thoroughly and frequently review the guidelines for the state where you plan to work. If you would like a starting point, we have a guide to the New York State requirements here. For other states’ requirements, the Association of Social Work Boards has a portal that lets you access statutes and rules by state.

CSSW students and alumni who want to pursue licensure will find support from the Office of Advising, the Office of Career Services and Leadership Management, and the Office of Student Services. This includes online information sessions that provide overviews of the licensure process. You can view examples of those “Licensing 101” webinars, as well as other career-development events, on the career events page.

Columbia University pass rates for the ASWB master’s examination and clinical examinations far exceed the national average. You can review the pass rates for first-time test-takers here.

Yes, the Columbia Master of Science in Social Work is the same degree program as a master’s in social work (often abbreviated as an MSW). It fulfills any requirement for an accredited, graduate-level degree. The “master of science” designation reflects the deep scientific basis of our teaching and research.

Practicum Questions

For detailed information about practicum education at CSSW, please visit our Practicum Education page.

The Practicum Education Department partners with community agencies that offer exposure to social work practice in diverse settings throughout the country. They have connections to hundreds of placement sites.

With that in mind, we work hard to find practicum placements close to your home, but we cannot guarantee it. The maximum commute time allowed, from residence to agency site, is 90 minutes each way.

Yes, the Practicum Education Department is responsible for placing students at sites. They look for placements that meet each students’ interests while also providing an educationally sound environment where they can learn and practice social work.

Generalist Year students have limited choice in their practicum placement. We do take into consideration your preferences but a placement with your selection of populations and areas of interest is not guaranteed. More choice is provided in your Specialized Year.

Two-Year: 1,200 hours
Advanced Standing: 600 hours
Part-Time to Full-Time (Extended): 1,200 hours
One-Year Residency for Working Professionals (Reduced Residency): 900 hours
Transfer: 600 hours
Part-Time: 1,200 hours

Full-time students spend 21 hours, over the course of three days, at their practicum placement each week.

Students in the Part-Time pathway spend 14 hours, over the course of two days, at their practicum placement site each week.

No. Students should plan to complete their practicum during daytime business hours on weekdays. Evening and weekend practicum opportunities are not guaranteed.

  • The designated practicum days for Generalist Year students are Monday, Tuesday, and Friday. Most classes are offered on Wednesday and Thursday.
  • The designated practicum days for Specialized Year students are Monday, Thursday, and Friday.

Most classes are offered on Tuesday and Wednesday. Some students may have their practicum days vary depending on the needs and requirements of the agency site.

For most students, no, we do not place students with their current employer for practicum education. Only students in the One-Year Residency for Working Professionals (Reduced Residency) pathway have the option of using their current place of employment as their practicum placement. This is dependent on the agency and CSSW approving the arrangement to ensure the assignments are educationally sound and meet practicum requirements.

Visit our Practicum Education page for more information.

Other Questions

No, we do not require the GRE.

The Online Campus sessions are offered via Adobe Connect. The online platform is easy to use and we provide extensive technical support to students who need it.

To participate, you will need:

  • a computer with up-to-date browsers
  • internet access (hard-wired or Ethernet connection is preferred)
  • a headset with a microphone
  • a camera, either built into your device or an external attachment

For more detailed information, please review our CSSW student technology requirements page.

We offer training during the summer and at new-students orientation. Plus, all classes include a live support specialist. These specialists are former CSSW students who are available to answer your questions during and after the session.

All computer or IT related queries — e.g., change UNI password, printing dollars, anti-virus software, software training, campus computing facilities, and other basic computer support services — are handled by the CUIT Help Desk, which you can contact by phone (212) 854-1919, by email at [email protected], or by submitting a help ticket at

If you have a temporary or permanent disability, you should start by registering with Columbia University’s Disability Services. Disability Services staff will review your documentation and determine any reasonable accommodations and support services, such as note-taking assistance, extended time on exams, and access to assistive technology, after which they will notify our Office of Student Services. (Accommodations are not applicable retroactively.)

The CSSW Office of Enrollment and Student Services also has a dedicated officer who liaises with Columbia’s main Disability Services office.

Note: Our instructors and Practicum Education administrators are not able to grant disability accommodations. They are, however, obligated to ensure that you have received applicable Disability Services accommodations, with assistance from our Office of Student Services.

You can find more information about the degree offerings of our Residential Campus here.

Yes, Online Campus students can switch to the Residential Campus program. However, you may only switch before the beginning of each academic year. Please note that changing from the Online Campus to the Residential Campus may affect your tuition and fees, as well as financial aid.

For those who prefer to stay in the Online Campus, but would like to take a few in-person classes, online students may take a limited number of courses on campus each term. Please note that Residential Campus students have priority when registering for on-campus courses. Correspondingly, Online Campus students have priority when registering for online courses.

The Office of Enrollment and Student Services can provide more information about switching to the Residential Campus or taking in-person courses. Contact them via email at [email protected] or by phone at (212) 851-2436.

The school code is 002707.

  • For questions about billing and financial aid, please contact the Office of Financial Aid by phone at (212) 851-2293, by email at [email protected], or schedule an online appointment through
  • For all other questions, contact our online admissions counselors at (212) 488-1784 or [email protected].

Request information

To learn more about the Master of Science in Social Work from the Columbia School of Social Work, please fill out the fields below to download a brochure. You can also contact an admissions counselor directly at (866) 627-4750.

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