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Learn to make a difference

School of Social Work

The St. Thomas School of Social Work

Our Vision

We envision a world that affirms and sustains the inherent dignity and worth of all humans, that distributes resources and power equitably, and where all life flourishes.

A growing and crucial need

The need for social workers and social work educators is growing. The School of Social Work at St. Thomas provides students with individual attention, a focused learning environment and real-world application opportunities they need to make a necessary difference in the world with their degree.

Social workers are on the front lines addressing some of society's most critical issues, such as income inequality, unemployment, housing resources, health access, education disparities and more. The field needs people like you, committed to social justice and advancing the common good.

Employment in this field is expected to grow by more than 20% in the next decadefaster than average for all occupations. Health reform and demographic trends such as the aging population, increasing numbers of military and veterans, and growth of immigrant and refugee populations are driving above-average growth in the practice.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is an expected 15% employment increase in the areas of child, family and school social workers.

Degree Programs

St. Thomas provides several paths for students and professionals interested in studying social work.

Undergraduate Studies

Our BSW helps prepares confident students as they enter into generalist social work practice.


Master of Social Work

With a focus on clinical social work, this program prepares graduates to practice at the post-master’s level.


Doctor of Social Work

Designed to prepare seasoned social work faculty and experienced practitioners for university-level teaching and leadership in higher education.


Additional Offerings

MSW/JD Dual Degree

Help meet both the social and legal challenges in a variety of areas of professional practice. Earn an MSW and a JD in less time than it would take to earn these degrees separately.


Post-MSW Coursework for Licensure

If you have an MSW degree and want to complete clock hours in specific clinical knowledge areas for LICSW licensure, you may be eligible to register for courses beyond those listed above.


Continuing Education

Keep your license up to date, engage in current events and connect with other social workers through classes, events, conferences, forums and more.

A group of young professionals sitting in a circle and talking

For the common good

Field Education

Field Education is community-based, experiential, transformational learning for practice as a social worker. The School of Social Work places over 300 students into 200+ agencies and social work practice settings.


Social Work Insights

Social workers practice at many levels to make our world a better place. They work at the micro level with individuals and families to meet immediate needs and at the mezzo level with groups and organizations to build stronger communities. They also work at the macro level to advocate for important policies regionally, nationally and globally. Social workers work for human dignity and the common good.

Our programs prepare students for a variety of careers. Our Bachelor or Social Work students are trained as generalist social workers, who will be prepared for careers in:
  • Child, family and school social work
  • Community organizing and work with social action organizations
  • Gerontological social work with older adults and their families
  • Health care
  • Justice and corrections
  • Community mental health
  • Violence prevention and intervention
  • Work with military, veterans, their families, and their communities
  • Chemical dependency and substance abuse
  • Crisis intervention

Master of Social Work Careers

Our Master of Social Work students are trained as clinical social workers. Clinical social workers are employed in a wide variety of settingspublic, private, nonprofit as well as in private practiceto provide assessment, diagnosis, treatment in support of better emotional, behavioral and mental health. Clinical social work practice can include individual, couples, family and group therapies. Clinical social workers work to enhance self-determination, individual and community health, and help meet both basic and complex needs of individuals and communities.

Doctorate of Social Work Careers

Our Doctor of Social Work prepares social work faculty and experienced practitioners for university-level teaching and leadership. Our graduates teach, develop identities as scholar practitioners, write for publications and pursue social justice through service and leadership in academia and in their communities.

Our Master of Social Work program focuses exclusively on clinical social work practice. Clinical social work is the professional application of advanced social work theory and methods to help restore, maintain, and enhance bio-psycho-social-spiritual functioning in individuals, groups, families, and communities. It is built upon the foundation of generalist social work including respect for diversity, empowerment of client systems, and advocacy of social and economic justice for vulnerable populations. It utilizes the application of clinical knowledge and skills in multidimensional assessment, diagnosis and treatment of emotional, mental and behavioral disorders, conditions, and addictions with special attention devoted to a strengths and person-in-environment perspective.

Social justice is written into the code of ethics of the social work profession. Read about the 10 principles of social work for social justice that guide our work and education.

Social work is a licensed profession. Each state's licensing body establishes its own rules and regulations for getting and maintaining social work licensure in that state. The Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) provides the licensing examinations required. There are four ASWB tests: Bachelors, Masters, Advanced Generalist, and Clinical. Social work students should check with the licensing body in each state in which they plan to practice social work to make sure they are clear about the licensing requirements in that state. ASWB maintains complete contact information for every licensing board on their webpage of social work regulatory boards.

Effective in July 1987, the Minnesota legislature passed legislation that provides for licensure of social workers at four levels. The licensing statute in Minnesota is both a title and practice act, which means that all persons who use the title "social worker," and all persons who provide social work services to clients in the state, unless there are specific applicable exemptions, are covered by the law. Review the four levels of licensure:
  • Licensed Social Worker (LSW): BSW degree + Bachelors Exam
  • Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW): MSW degree + Masters Exam.
  • Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW): MSW degree + Advanced Generalist Exam + Supervised Practice (2+ years)
  • Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW): MSW degree + Clinical Exam + Supervised Practice in Clinical Settings (2+ years) + 360 hours of graduate / post-graduate clinical curriculum content
Please review the University of St. Thomas's professional licensure disclosures for the Bachelor of Arts in Social Work and the Master of Social Work.

In spring 2017, the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) selected St. Thomas clinical faculty member and coordinator of student and career services, Jane Hurley Johncox, to participate in its Path to Licensure Institute. Her selection recognized her ongoing work with our MSW student association to ensure our graduates are well-prepared for licensure success. As a scholar, she formalized and implemented our initial PTL program and continues to expand the program based on ongoing needs assessments and feedback, including supporting the development of Black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) student groups and providing resources related to professional development and licensure.

Our MSW curriculum is guided by licensure standards and we are strongly committed to our students' licensure success.

An individual who desires to practice as a school social worker in Minnesota must be licensed by the Minnesota Department of Education. For more information, contact the Minnesota Department of Education at (651) 582-8200 or search for "Related Services Licensure" on their website.

The University of St. Thomas BSW program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Our program has been accredited since March 2024, and the next review will take place in 2032. St. Thomas was previously part of a joint program with St. Catherine University that was accredited by CSWE from 1974-2019.

The St. Thomas MSW program is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Our program has been accredited since March 2024, and the next review will take place in 2032. St. Thomas was previously part of a joint program with St. Catherine University that was accredited by CSWE from 1990-2019.

The St. Thomas Doctorate in Social Work program has been approved by our institutional accrediting organization, the Higher Learning Commission. At this time, doctoral programs both DSW and PhD programs are not accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). However, in June of 2020 CSWE approved accreditation standards for practice doctorates. For further information about the piloting of the accreditation process, please review the CSWE website.

Career Resource for Students, Alumni and Employers


Handshake is a platform for students, alumni and employers to connect with job and internship opportunities, career events, and more. Employers can use the platform to post jobs and internships, to contact candidates directly, and to participate in on-campus interviews, career fairs, and recruiting events.

Alumni Testimonials

Lena Anderson, BSW
Ashley Trudell, MSW
Ryan Sheats, BSW, MSW
Rachel Girard, MSW
Danielle Lee, MSW
Headshot of Lena Anderson Headshot of Ashley Trudell Headshot of Ryan Sheats Headshot of Rachel Girard Headshot of Danielle Lee

Lena Anderson, BSW

"I have seen how useful social work practice is in all areas of my professional life and how a social work degree gives me the ability to leave my career path open and changeable."

Ashley Trudell, MSW

"I chose to come to the program based on word-of-mouth that this was a great program, but the word-of-mouth didn't do it justice! This has been an incredible experience and I wouldn't want to go anywhere else."

Ryan Sheats, BSW, MSW

"Through the Social Work classes and program, I have started to learn the skills I need to interact one-on-one, in a group, and in social policy change. I feel as though I am doing a lot of good through social work and hope to make a difference in the world."

Rachel Girard, MSW

"It's a great place with a very supportive atmosphere. The program staff members always had an open door and were willing to answer any questions that I had. I really felt like I was part of the community here."

Danielle Lee, MSW

"I think all the professors are so engaging and willing to help. They bring in so much real-world experience from the outside jobs they have."

Exterior of the Summit Classroom Building

School of Social Work Receives $1.9 Million Federal Grant

During the summer of 2021, the School of Social Work received its largest federal grant ever: $1.9 million from the U.S. Health and Resources Administration (HRSA).

Upcoming Social Work Events