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MSW Admission FAQ

Submitted by 21232f297a57a5a... on Fri, 11/22/2013 - 10:45am

What are the admission requirements to the MSW program?

Please click on the following link to read all of the requirements for admission to the MSW program:

What is considered as human services experiences?

You will find the answer to your question if you go to the Why a Social Work Career? page.

Does my previous work experience qualify as a human services experience?

It is up to the applicant to make the connection and articulate it more explicitly in the application. That it, why and how the social interactions associated with his/her previous work/volunteer experiences relate to social work. 

If I don't have a BSW degree, can I still apply to the MSW program?

Yes, you can still apply to the MSW program. Those who have a bachelor’s degree in a discipline other than social work apply to the 2-year MSW program. This means that those students complete a foundation year and practicum coursework (9 courses), and then proceed into their specialization year of the program (10 courses).

I don't have a BSW undergraduate degree, but can I still apply to the Distance MSW program?

Yes, you can still apply to the Distance (Leadership in the Human Services Specialization) MSW program, however, you must first complete your foundation year on campus prior to taking the Distance specialization year classes.

When looking at the requirements for admission, it states that applicants need an equivalent of 2 years of experiences in the human services field. Does this include practicum hours from the BSW program?

The MSW application review guidelines currently state that experience associated with academic credit, including practicums for a BSW for example, is NOT counted as direct sector-related experience for the purposes of admission.

It is very important that they be recorded, however, as they can be valued by application reviewers, including as voluntary and life experience.

It is important to further note that the number of hours are not considered as “all or nothing”. Those who fall short of two full years of work and/or volunteer experience are likely to still be awarded some points proportional to the maximum. For example someone with a year and a half of directly related experience may be awarded six to eight points (out of 10) by a reviewer. 

What is the cost of taking the MSW program?

Please refer to the Faculty of Graduate Studies website for information regarding fees and tuitions at:

Can I take courses for credit towards the MSW degree before I am officially admitted in order to get a head start with the program?

No, all students must take all of their coursework within their program. The core courses and option courses are linked to create a coherent program.

If I received my undergraduate degree somewhere else, will my degree be recognized?

We recognize BSW degrees from accredited schools across Canada and the United States. If you are applying for admission with a different undergraduate degree from another university, please contact the Faculty of Social Work so that we can best assess your preparation for admission to the University of Calgary.

If my native language is not English, is there an English Language proficiency requirement?

Proficiency in the English Language is essential for the pursuit and successful completion of graduate programs at the University of Calgary. Prior to admission to the Faculty of Graduate Studies, an applicant whose primary language is not English may fulfill the English language proficiency (ELP) requirement in one of the following ways: 1) by writing the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and obtaining a score of at least 580 (written test) or 92 (internet-based test); 2) by writing the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and obtaining a minimum score of 7.0; 3) by writing the Michigan English Language Battery test (MELAB) and obtaining a score of 90; 4) by successful completion of Tier 3 of the English for Academic purposes (EAP) program. Please refer to the Faculty of Graduate Studies website for further information regarding these tests and programs:
The graduate program may waive the English proficiency-testing requirement in certain circumstances, such as the possession of a baccalaureate degree or its academic equivalent from a recognized institution in which the language of instruction is English. A request to waive the ELP requirement must be submitted in writing in either word or pdf format to by December 1, with the subject line “ELP Waiver Request”. In your statement please provide a rationale for why you should be exempt from taking one of the ELP tests. The statement should also contain your legal name (as it appears in the application) and UCID number. Your UCID number will be emailed to you by the Faculty of Graduate Studies after you have submitted your application to the University of Calgary.

If my native language is not English, but English was the main language we used in most of the lectures, do I still need to take the TOFEL/IELTS exam?

If English is not your official first language, then you must provide evidence of your English Language proficiency (as indicated above in the previous Question). Special exemptions can be made on a case-by-case basis by the Director of Graduate Student Affairs

If I don’t have a 3.0 GPA, can I still apply to the MSW program?

Yes, you can still apply to the MSW program. However, in the online application you should provide a rationale for your previous low GPA. 

If I did really badly during my undergraduate degree, can I do some upgrading work to pull up my GPA? What are my options?

Yes, this is advisable. We suggest that you take courses in areas that will help ground your social work practice such as courses in psychology, sociology, philosophy, women’s studies, communication, or public health. They can be undergraduate or graduate level courses. Make sure to check for necessary pre-requisites or other departmental conditions before you register. Please note that all such coursework completed in this fashion is considered “make up” work and cannot be used for advanced credit towards a graduate degree program. In addition, successful completion of “make up” coursework does not guarantee admission to a graduate program.

What are the expectations for the statement of intent? What kind of format should I be using? What am I supposed to write in my statement of intent?

The purpose of writing an individual statement of intent is to help faculty come to know you and your suitability for success in the program. Therefore, it is best to tell us why you want to pursue an MSW, how you are prepared to be successful in the program, and what areas of social work are of particular interest to you.

Can I apply to the MSW program if I am currently in an undergraduate program?

Yes, you may still apply to the MSW program even if you have not yet completed your undergraduate degree. Acceptance into the program in this circumstance would be conditional upon successful completion of the bachelor’s degree. However, all requirements for the undergraduate degree must be completed prior to the commencement of the MSW program itself.
Applicants should be aware that  the Winter grades preceding the Fall term for which entry is sought, will be excluded from their GPA calculations due to the admission timeline. 
Applicants, who are completing their BSW while applying to the MSW program, should note that if they entered the BSW program with an Alberta Social Work Diploma, the individual courses from the Diploma program won't be included in the admission GPA calculation.

Can I apply for the MSW program through a paper application?

No, students are required to submit an online application. For more information please refer to the MSW Application Instructions page. 

Who can write a reference letter for me?

An appropriate letter of recommendation is one written by an individual who can provide an assessment of your background and capabilities with respect to the MSW program. Letters from friends, family members, colleagues, people who are currently registered in a graduate degree program, or general reference letters that are not written in support of your application to the particular graduate program are not acceptable.

How do I decide between the specializations offered?

The choice of a specialization should reflect your interests and your career aspirations. The Clinical Social Work Specialization is for those who are interested in learning the variety of clinical skills needed for working therapeutically with individual clients, or client families or clients in a group format. The Leadership in Human Services Specialization is primarily for those who are interested in working in organizational and administrative positions. The International and Community Development Specialization is for those who aim to work in community and international contexts on the social problems that plague individuals, families, communities, and countries. If you aren’t sure about which specialization might fit best with your career aspirations, contact the Faculty of Social Work to discuss your options.

How do I decide between a course-based and a thesis-based MSW program?

This choice should also reflect your future aspirations. We suggest the course-based route for those who are interested in working directly and face-to-face with people in need. The thesis-based route is intended for those who would prefer to conduct research and program evaluation in their careers.

What career options are available to me with an MSW degree?

The career settings and opportunities in Social Work are quite diverse. There are career positions for social workers in schools, in the prison system, in medical and primary health care centers, in counseling agencies, in children’s developmental programs, in homeless shelters, in child welfare, in transitional housing, in abuse programs, and elsewhere. There is even the potential to create your own position depending upon your area of interest, specialty, and background. Social Work is a profession that truly offers an amazing range of career options.

Is there any funding available?

There are awards, scholarships, grants, teaching and  research assistantships available for graduate students. Please refer to the Faculty of Graduate Studies website for further information on funding opportunities:

If I am applying for a thesis based program, will I able to substitute my research proposal statement for the statement of interest?

No, you will need to submit a separate five page research proposal in addition to the statement of intent for the thesis based program.

How do I submit my transcripts?

Applicants must arrange to have one set of official transcripts from all post-secondary institutions attended, regardless of the number of courses taken and the amount of time spent there, sent directly to the Faculty of Social Work. Official transcripts are transcripts sent directly from the issuing institution to the receiving institution. For more information go to the How to Apply section.

How can I become a registered Social Worker after my MSW degree?

You qualify for professional registration in Alberta once you have completed a social work degree or diploma. The Health Professions Act (HPA) requires anyone with a degree in social work, who is performing social work, to be registered with the ACSW. You can find an Alberta College of Social Workers (ACSW) Registration Application Package on the ACSW website at:

Complete the application package and provide all the documents and fees required in order to receive your social work practice permit. Please see the ACSW web site,, for additional information about ongoing registration requirements.

I have my MSW degree with a Leadership in the Human Services Specialization. Is it possible to get a counselling position?

Unless you have previous training and knowledge in counselling, you would not be advised to work in a counselling position with an MSW degree in the Leadership in Human Services Specialization. A social worker should limit her or his practice to areas in which the social worker has gained competence through education, training or supervised experience. See the ACSW Standards of Practice for more information:

In Alberta, only social workers who have been approved for membership on the Clinical Specialty Registry may use the title "Clinical Social Worker", but this does not limit who may practice clinical social work. It is possible to apply for membership on the ACSW Clinical Specialty Registry with an MSW degree with a Leadership in the Human Services Specialization by demonstrating equivalence by a combination of degree programs and continuing education. This must include the equivalent of a graduate level clinical social work methods class. Separate from your MSW program, our Centre for Research and Professional Development offers a Clinical Social Work Foundations online course that is approved as the equivalent of that methods class. More information about the Clinical Registry application requirements can be obtained from the Alberta College of Social Workers.

What is ethics approval and do I need to apply for it?

If you will be engaged in research that involves human participants (i.e., interviews, focus groups, administering surveys) you must successfully complete the Tri-Council's course on Research Ethics (CORE) and receive ethics approval from the University.

For information about the tutorial go to:

Once you have successfully completed the tutorial, prepare an ethics application using the form required by the University of Calgary Conjoint Faculties/Health Research Ethics Board (CFREB/CHREB).

The Conjoint Faculties Research Ethics Board (CFREB) covers researchers in Social Work. The ethics form and further information can be obtained from;

For those students whose study involves subjects recruited wholly or substantially through Alberta Health Services, you need to apply for ethics approval with the Conjoint Health Research Ethics Board CHREB. The application form and details can be obtained from:

There are two steps to the submission process. First, submit the completed ethics application to the Faculty of Social Work, SWERC committee for review. Email it to Darlene Murdoch at and cc Dr. Christine Walsh, SWERC chair at After it has been reviewed by a SWERC committee member you will be provided with feedback. Once you have made any required modifications you are then ready to submit it to the CFREB or CHREB.If you have any question as to whether or not your research requires ethics review or about the University review process, please contact an Ethics Resource Officer

Can I submit two separate applications for the MSW program offered at different locations?

No. Even though the MSW Program is being offered at different locations, it is still just one program. No more than one application can be submitted to the program.

Can I apply to more than one MSW specialization area?

No. You can only choose one specialization.

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