MSW Curriculum | Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis
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MSW Curriculum

Our curriculum is designed to prepare you for success in the professional field. Through coursework that integrates advanced practice skills and theoretical approaches to study, our students are successfully equipped for micro-, mezzo- or macro-levels of impact.

Your courses will be taught by our outstanding faculty members, renowned for their contributions that move the fields of social work and social policy forward. Faculty bring their research back into the classroom, giving you access to cutting-edge developments in the field.

By design, our curriculum emphasizes sustainable solutions to complex problems. The flexibility of our MSW program, one of its signatures, allows you to prepare for your unique goals. You can discover more about the hallmarks of our program below:


The Brown School boasts a list of eight diverse concentrations and eight specializations. These focus areas align in traditional realms of social work, as well as drive new career paths in the field. For students whose interests lie outside these pre-determined focus areas, you can create an individualized concentration. This flexibility ensures you can seek out resources and opportunities you will need for your unique professional aspirations.

Courses for Your Desired Career

Every semester, extensive course offerings provide preparation for impact across the field. Students interested in clinical work select from a comprehensive list of population-specific practice and treatment courses. Coursework focusing on implementation, evaluations, politics and economics prepare students who want to work in community development, management or policy-related positions. A diverse list of one-credit Skill Labs — on topics including grant writing, fundraising, budget management, data management and statistical analysis software — equip you with specific skills to enhance your readiness for the job market.

Evidence-Based Approach

We know that data-driven decision making allows the field to progress in effective and sustainable ways. A commitment to evidence-based approach uniquely equips our students to assess and respond to complex data with comprehensive solutions. As such, our faculty have found that an understanding of statistics analysis is critical to every student’s success. Your foundations courses will allow you to develop this competency.

Leadership Readiness

Our graduates progress to leadership roles in a short time. In fact, most Brown School alumni who want to advance into management positions do so within two years of graduating. Our MSW curriculum ensures that you’ll take the leadership coursework that will support you as your career develops.

Required Courses

The list below includes the required courses that you’ll use to build your course of study. Any item in italics represents an opportunity to choose from a variety of courses offered within that category. Because of the flexibility and customization of each MSW degree at the Brown School, the order in which you take your courses may vary.


21 credit hours

Research Methods with Statistical Applications


Human Behavior


Social Justice and Human Diversity


Social, Economic, and Political Environment


Social Welfare Policies and Services


Social Work Practice with Individuals, Families, and Groups


Social Work Practice with Organizations and Communities


Foundation Practicum

4 credit hours

Foundation Practicum


Foundation Practicum Integrative Seminar



21 credit hours

Social Policy


Theory, Problems, and Issues


Practice Methods




Leadership and Management


*Specific course options vary according to the concentration you pursue.

Concentration Practicum

5 credit hours


9 credit hours

Elective I


Elective II


Elective III


**Use your elective credits in year one and year two to earn an optional specialization or to take other graduate coursework. Choose from a wealth of social work and public health electives, or pursue relevant courses from other WashU graduate programs.

Curriculum and required credit hours are subject to change.

Additionally, you’ll find outstanding research opportunities, as well as real-world learning experiences through practica and field-based coursework. For those who are interested in making a global impact, the Brown School offers field-based courses around the world.

If you have earned a BSW from a CSWE-accredited school, you may be eligible for advanced standing credit.