Graduate Programs

Master of Social Work Program Overview

MSW Program Mission

The mission for the MSW program at CSU is to prepare versatile leaders for professional, ethical Advanced Generalist practice in complex, diverse, and dynamic contexts. The School will provide cutting-edge, experiential education, based upon scientific inquiry, that is responsive to evolving needs of local and global communities.


MSW Program Goals

Through experiential learning, in the pursuit of social, economic, and environmental justice, the goals of the Advanced Generalist MSW program are to prepare graduates who:

  1. Serve as skilled practitioners who engage in ethical, autonomous, and multi-disciplinary practice across system levels utilizing a Person-in-Environment perspective.
  2. Serve as leaders who advance social, economic, and environmental justice, promote human rights, and engage in social action to eliminate oppressive conditions for all people.
  3. Serve as leaders that value and appreciate human relationships and diversity in its multiple forms and who model and advocate for inclusive practices and cultural humility.
  4. Practice life-long learning, engage in scientific inquiry, and utilize critical thinking to inform practice at all system levels.
  5. Critically apply relevant theories and social work values to engage, assess, intervene and evaluate practice within changing contexts at all systems levels.

MSW Program Options

There are three on-campus options. For more information visit the On-campus MSW Program section.

The off-campus (distance) options are part-time hybrid programs. For more information visit the Distance MSW Program section.


MSW/MPH Dual Degree Program

Individuals trained in both social work and public health are uniquely qualified to address some of our most challenging and complex social health issues. Public health social workers bring their expertise to issues of health equity, disaster relief, social justice and many others. Whether working in hospitals, non-profit organizations, government agencies, or other settings, public health social workers are designing, implementing and evaluating interventions that promote health at both the individual and population levels.

The MSW/MPH dual degree offered through the Colorado State University (CSU) School of Social Work, and the Colorado School of Public Health at CSU gives students the opportunity to complete both degrees in less time, and with fewer credits, than it would take to complete both degrees individually. Students who finish the program leave with the MSW and a MPH in Global Health and Health Disparities. For individuals in the 2-year MSW the dual degree takes 3 years. For individuals in the 1-year MSW the dual degree takes 2 years.

For more information visit the MSW/MPH Program section.


MSW Program Competencies

MSW Program competencies reflect the knowledge, values, and skills that are expected of advanced social work practitioners. The MSW program provides a wide range of educational opportunities that enable students to become advanced generalist social work practitioners.

The School of Social Work at CSU conceptualizes generalist/advanced generalist practice as a set of competencies (skills, knowledge, values and behaviors). The MSW curriculum is designed and delivered such that graduates will demonstrate competency in the following ten areas:

  1. Identify as a professional social worker and conduct oneself accordingly
  2. Apply social work ethical principles to guide professional practice
  3. Apply critical thinking skills to inform and communicate professional judgments
  4. Engage diversity and difference in practice
  5. Advance human rights and social and economic justice
  6. Engage in research-informed practice and practice-informed research
  7. Apply knowledge of human behavior and the social environment
  8. Engage in policy practice to advance social and economic well-being and to deliver effective social work services
  9. Respond to contexts to shape practice
  10. Engage, assess, intervene, and evaluate individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities

At the foundation level, students will successfully demonstrate 41 practice behaviors as stipulated by the Council on Social Work Education 2008 Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards. At the Concentration/Advanced Generalist level, students will successfully demonstrate 54 advanced practice skills.

(Please note that our curricular revision process using the 2015 EPAS is underway. This CSWE Accreditation page includes an overview of the 2015 EPAS, links to a comparison of the 2008 and 2015 EPAS, and the full 2015 EPAS.)


MSW Foundation Generalist Social Work

Foundation generalist social work is the focus of the first year (28-31 credit hours) of the full-time MSW program. The foundation generalist social work practice perspective is built on a liberal arts education and demands that the practitioner view both individual social functioning and the transactions between the individual and environment. The generalist perspective in social work: (1) is informed by socio-behavioral and ecosystems knowledge; (2) incorporates ideologies that include democracy, humanism, human rights, and empowerment; (3) requires a worker to be theoretically and methodologically open when approaching practice situations; (4) is client-centered and problem-focused while recognizing and building on strengths; (5) involves assessment and intervention at all system levels; (6) is research-based; and (7) requires the demonstration of ten competencies and corresponding practice behaviors as specified.

The ability to successfully perform each of the 41 practice behaviors (see Appendix B) reflected in the foundation curriculum is determined by the successful acquisition, integration, and synthesis of essential knowledge needed to develop the behavior; an ability to understanding and apply social work values and ethical guidelines to practice; ability to think critically; the acquisition of social work skills; and the demonstration of social work practice behaviors.

The knowledge, values, and skills necessary for foundation students to demonstrate ten competencies and 41 practice behaviors inform the foundation curriculum and are prerequisite to the advanced curriculum. Student success at accomplishing MSW foundation competencies are determined as follows: (1) passing grade of C or better in foundation coursework; (2) an overall minimum GPA of 3.0; (3) a grade of satisfactory in foundation field placement as determined by the field instructor and the Director of Field Education; and (4) be in good standing with the Graduate School and Colorado State University.


MSW Advanced Generalist Social Work

The concentration curriculum of the MSW program prepares students for advanced generalist social work practice. The advanced generalist social work perspective is particularly appropriate and relevant for social workers practicing in Colorado and other western states. Preparation for advanced generalist social work practice provides the knowledge, values, and skills for effective and autonomous practice with systems of all types and sizes. The advanced generalist practitioner builds upon and synthesizes knowledge and skills gained at the generalist level of practice. As a result, the advanced generalist practitioner demonstrates increased skill, decision-making, and leadership in assessing, planning, intervening and evaluating across multiple system levels (individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities).

Ability to perform a wider selection of practice behaviors also helps conceptualize the advanced generalist social work practitioner. These additional practice behaviors provide the students with increased ability to demonstrate advanced generalist competencies; integrate research into practice; increased ability to analyze value and ethical dilemmas; add greater depth to the provision of services; and provide the skills to function as more independent social work practitioners. The concentration curriculum encourages interdisciplinary collaboration in autonomous practice, and enhances the student’s ability to address issues of human rights, and social and economic justice especially with populations-at-risk. The concentration curriculum demands that students demonstrate the ability to extend their critical and creative thinking skills. Advance generalist social work knowledge, values and skills are demonstrated by students’ ability to perform 54 advanced practice behaviors.

The field internship experience begins with a foundation field placement completed concurrently with classes during the first 31 credits. The foundation field placement provides opportunities for application of foundation theory and skills in supervised practice with individuals, families, small groups, organizations, and communities. Placements are arranged in a number of locations in Fort Collins or within one hour’s commuting distance. Please be aware that some field placements have state-mandated background checks for student interns and employees.


The MSW Program does not grant social work course credit for life experience or previous work experience.