USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work Review

The University of Southern California (USC) is a private university that was established in 1880. Its total undergraduate enrollment as of 2016 was 18,810. Its current overall rank for national universities according to US News and World Report is 23. It is a highly selective university with only 18% accepted in fall 2015. Its Master of Social Work (MSW) program is ranked as one of the best for preparing clinical social workers, according to US News.

Favorite Features

Bachelor’s and master’s social work programs are accredited by the CSWE

One of the most important factors when considering a social work master’s or doctoral degree is accreditation. An accredited social work program has shown that it is the highest quality.

A major factor in favor of the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work is that all of its programs are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, or CSWE. Accreditation by this organization is critical because you will need to have graduated from a CSWE-accredited program to become a licensed clinical social worker.

CSWE accreditation means that USC’s social work programs have met high standards in the social work profession for professional social work education.

The CSWE does not accredit doctoral DSW programs because these degree programs are typically research and academic oriented.

Online MSW features 1,000 hours online and offline field education

Field education is one of the most important parts of any social work program – either online or on campus. USC social work students complete more than 1,000 hours doing field education practicums, both online and offline.

You will begin your social work field education with a Virtual Field Practicum, which is an online field program where you will gain social work skills in a more controlled environment. Experienced social work professors monitor each session, and you also have small group sessions with your fellow students. Live actors portray a social work client in a real life clinical situation.

After that, you will complete a community based practicum in your area that will further grow your social work skills. These internships are supervised, and hands on training is done with real social work clients. You will gain real world experience in many social work agency settings, and there are many possible placement sites around the globe.

The placement requirement is very important because you will be spending half of your program time working with clients in the field. This is 1,000 hours, which is three full semesters and 16 to 20 hours per week.

Accelerated, online MSW program is available

USC is unique because it offers a 37 credit, accelerated MSW program online that will allow some students to earn their degree faster than the regular program. This is done for some students by waiving the foundation classes in social work. Advanced standing is made available to very high quality applicants who have a bachelor’s degree in social work and have worked for several years in social work.

This program can be completed in only one year, so you can then obtain leadership positions in the field and advance your social work career faster.

USC is highly selective

The overall acceptance rate at USC is only 18%. This indicates that the university only accepts the highest quality students.

No GRE scores required

Many graduate schools today still require students to submit GRE scores to be considered for admission. However, research has shown that high standardized test scores are not always an indicator that a student will succeed in graduate school.

At USC, GRE scores are not required. Instead, students are evaluated based upon their statement of purpose, resume, recommendations and official transcripts.

Least Favorite Features

High tuition cost compared to salary potential

The total cost for the full MSW (not advanced standing) is $100,000+ for tuition, not including books and other expenses. This is a fairly high tuition expense when you consider that the median salary for a clinical or healthcare social worker often tops out at $70,000 or so per year in most cases. Starting out after graduate school, you will likely be earning a good deal less than that.

Is getting an MSW worth it with that tuition cost and typical salary? It depends upon your career goals and interests and personal finances. Some people interested in social work are doing only partly because of a salary; many want to work in the field because they have a passion for social work. In that case, getting this degree is worth it, even with the relatively high cost.

All classes are live online

Online degree programs are either synchronous or asynchronous, or a combination. Which works best for you will hinge upon your personal schedule and your learning style.

Synchronous classes are live and are at exact, set times. The advantage of such a setup is that you are learning as one ‘class’ with your professor. Some students find that this type of learning environment is more conducive to learning for them. Live classes also allow them to network and bond more easily with their classmates and professors.

Asynchronous classes are recorded and may be viewed on your own schedule. This type of class setup is best for students with very busy schedules. Recorded classes require self discipline because you are engaging in individual learning.

USC classes are all live, and while this is good for in some ways, it may not be appropriate for students who have a very active schedule.

The Details

General Information

  • Founded in 1880
  • Application deadline: Jan. 15
  • Application fee: $50
  • School type: Private
  • Term Schedule: Semester
  • Location: Los Angeles, California
  • Student-faculty ratio: 9:1
  • 18% overall acceptance rate, making it extremely selective

Tuition Rates

  • Master’s: Total tuition is $103,980 full time in state and out of state; $64,121 for advanced standing
  • Doctoral: $72,786 in state and out of state

Social Work Degrees

  • Master of Social Work
  • Doctor of Social Work

Social Work Concentrations

  • Adult and Healthy Aging
  • Children, Youth and Families
  • Community, Organization and Business Innovation

Class Profile

  • Total student body is 18,810 for undergraduates
  • Total enrollment for undergraduates and graduates is 43,401
  • 51% female, 49% male
  • 33% white; 17.5% Asian; 5.6 African American or black; 13% Hispanic

Graduation and Retention Rates

  • 4 year graduation rate overall is 77%
  • Retention rate for freshmen is 96%, much higher than the national average
  • Six year graduation rate is 92%

US News Rankings

  • Best national university: 23
  • Best online graduate business programs (not MBA): 6
  • Best online MBA programs: 12
  • Best social work programs: 12