California Certification for Social Workers: Courses and Schools

There are 21 schools in California that have accredited social worker education programs. Read an overview of 10 of the largest schools' programs, requirements and tuition info and find out which school is the right one for you.

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Essential Information

The schools mentioned in this article include six members of the California State University system, two members of the University of California system and two private, not-for-profit universities. Accredited social work programs are available at the bachelor's and master's degree levels, though a master's degree is required for licensure. One school also offers a doctoral degree. Depending on the school, students in a Master of Social Work program may be able choose a concentration in one of the following: gerontology, children and families, health services, clinical practice or community mental health. These schools also offer additional coursework for out-of-state license holders to comply with pre-licensure education and training requirements.

Career Requirements

In the state of California, social workers are required to secure state licensure, rather than certification, from the California Board of Behavioral Sciences. To become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), one must complete a Master of Social Work (MSW) program from an approved academic institution. Applicants must also have 104 weeks of supervision and a total of 3,200 hours of supervised work experience. Read on to learn about 10 postsecondary institutions in California for social worker education.


Azusa Pacific University

Located in the suburb of Azusa, east of Los Angeles, Azusa Pacific University is a private, Evangelical Christian University with a history dating back to 1899 as a small bible college. The School of Behavioral and Applied Sciences offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in social work. The undergraduate Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) program includes a 400-hour internship and can be used as a prerequisite for advanced standing toward the MSW program. Graduate students enrolled in the MSW program can choose from concentrations in clinical practice with individuals and families or community practice and partnerships. In addition to required field experience, core coursework in the MSW program includes topics such as program intervention and evaluation, micro-theory, social welfare policy and social justice.

  • Programs Offered: Bachelor of Social Work,
    Master of Social Work
  • Graduate Tuition & Fees (2012-2013): $10,480*
  • School Type & Setting: 4-year, private not-for-profit; large suburb

California State University - Dominguez Hills

Located south of Los Angeles, in the city of Carson, California State University - Dominguez Hills began as a state college in 1960, and it was approved for a university extension program in 1969. The College of Professional Studies is home to the School of Health and Human Services, which offers a 60-credit MSW program with three specialization options, including children, youth and families; community mental health; and community capacity building. Program coursework covers human behavior, social work practice and social welfare research.

  • Program Offered: Master of Social Work
  • Graduate Tuition & Fees (2012-2013): $7,361 in-state; $16,907 out-of-state*
  • School Type & Setting: 4-year, public; small city

California State University - Fullerton

The Fullerton branch of California State University opened in 1960 as a member of the state college system and became a university in 1972. The College of Health and Human Development offers a 60-unit MSW program with optional specializations ranging from aging and child welfare to community mental health. Program coursework includes topics such as human behavior, research methods, diverse populations and field instruction. Students also complete a master's project in social work under the supervision of a mentor.

  • Program Offered: Master of Social Work
  • Graduate Tuition & Fees (2012-2013): $7,461 in-state; $17,007 out-of-state*
  • School Type & Setting: 4-year, public; midsized city

California State University - Northridge

The city of Northridge is home to one of the state school system's first stand-alone colleges, later to become California State University - Northridge. The College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and the Department of Social Work offers an MSW program, open to all undergraduate degree holders who have completed appropriate coursework in the social, behavioral and biological sciences. Graduate coursework includes topics in social policy, human behavior, multicultural social work practice, urban social advocacy, family crisis and social research.

  • Program Offered: Master of Social Work
  • Graduate Tuition & Fees (2012-2013): $7,770 in-state; $17,316 out-of-state*
  • School Type & Setting: 4-year, public; large city

Humboldt State University

Located in the town of Arcata, outside of Eureka in Northern California, Humboldt State University offers an MSW through the College of Professional Studies. Undergraduate students that complete a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work can apply for advanced standing in the MSW program. Graduate coursework includes topics such as qualitative and quantitative research methods and analysis, communities and organizations, sustainability and indigenous communities. The MSW program also includes a master's project.

  • Programs Offered: Bachelor of Arts in Social Work,
    Master of Social Work
  • Graduate Tuition & Fees (2012-2013): $8,396 in-state; $17,942 out-of-state*
  • School Type & Setting: 4-year, public; remote town

San Diego State University

Founded in 1897, San Diego State University in San Diego has grown to be one of California's largest schools. The School of Social Work offers undergraduate degree programs in social work and gerontology. Graduate students can complete the traditional MSW program or pursue dual-degree options in law or public health. The MSW program provides concentration choices in direct practice/clinical or administration and community development, with program coursework covering human behavior, research methods and civic engagement.

  • Programs Offered: Bachelor of Arts in Social Work,
    Master in Social Work
  • Graduate Tuition & Fees (2012-2013): $7,844 in-state; $17,390 out-of-state*
  • School Type & Setting: 4-year, public; large city

San Francisco State University

The San Francisco campus of the state university system was founded in 1899 and was the first normal school in the country to require a high school diploma for admission. It's College of Health and Social Sciences and the School of Social Work offer an undergraduate degree in social work as well as an MSW program. Graduate coursework includes topics such as analyzing social policy, social welfare history, ethnic concepts and social work practice methods. Students also complete a master's project or thesis.

  • Programs Offered: Bachelor of Arts in Social Work,
    Master of Social Work
  • Graduate Tuition & Fees (2012-2013): $7,706 in-state; $17,252 out-of-state*
  • School Type & Setting: 4-year, public; large city

University of California - Berkeley

This state university in Berkeley has history dating back to 1869 when it was founded as the Agricultural, Mining and Mechanical Arts College. Today, the School of Social Welfare offers an undergraduate and a doctoral degree program in social welfare, along with an MSW program. The MSW features six concentration options, some of which include gerontology, health services and social services management. Program coursework covers psychopathology and social policy, as well as organizations and communities.

  • Programs Offered: Bachelor of Arts in Social Welfare,
    Master of Social Work
  • Graduate Tuition & Fees (2012-2013): $12,874 in-state; $27,976 out-of-state*
  • School Type & Setting: 4-year, public; midsized city

University of California - Los Angeles

The University of California - Los Angeles (UCLA) opened in 1919, gaining university status in the city of Los Angeles in 1927. The Luskin School of Public Affairs and the Department of Social Welfare offer undergraduate minors, a doctoral degree in social welfare and a 76-credit hour MSW program with micro or macro track options. The macro track option features courses covering organizations, community and policy, and the micro track focuses on social services for individuals, families and groups. Required MSW coursework includes topics such as community development, juvenile justice, mental health policy and welfare reform.

  • Program Offered: Master of Social Work
  • Graduate Tuition & Fees (2012-2013): $12,566 in-state; $27,668 out-of-state*
  • School Type & Setting: 4-year, public; large city

University of Southern California

An independent, private institution, the University of Southern California in Los Angeles was founded in 1880. Its School of Social Work offers an MSW with five areas of concentration that include community organization; planning and administration; social work and business in a global society; families and children; mental health; and health. Students may also choose one of five complementary sub-concentrations. Social work courses cover research, social environments and human behavior, as well as social policy and social work practice with individuals, families, groups and complex cases. Graduate students may also choose to pursue one of several dual-degree options, some of which include a doctoral degree in social work or law, a Master of Business Administration and a master's in Jewish non-profit management.

  • Programs Offered: Master of Social Work,
    Ph.D. in Social Work
  • Graduate Tuition & Fees (2012-2013): $37,500*
  • School Type & Setting: 4-year, private not-for-profit; large city

School Comparison: At a Glance

School Name School Type and Setting Social Work Degrees Offered Graduate Tuition and Fees (2012-2013)
Azusa Pacific University 4-year, private not-for-profit; large suburb Bachelor of Social Work,
Master of Social Work
$10,480*
California State University - Dominguez Hills 4-year, public; small city Master of Social Work $7,361 in-state; $16,907 out-of-state*
California State University - Fullerton 4-year, public; midsized city Master of Social Work $7,461 in-state; $17,007 out-of-state*
California State University - Northridge 4-year, public; large city Master of Social Work $7,770 in-state; $17,316 out-of-state*
Humboldt State University 4-year, public; remote town Bachelor of Arts in Social Work,
Master of Social Work
$8,396 in-state; $17,942 out-of-state*
San Diego State University 4-year, public; large city Bachelor of Arts in Social Work,
Master in Social Work
$7,844 in-state; $17,390 out-of-state*
San Francisco State University 4-year, public; large city Bachelor of Arts in Social Work,
Master of Social Work
$7,706 in-state; $17,252 out-of-state*
University of California - Berkeley 4-year, public; midsized city Bachelor of Arts in Social Welfare,
Master of Social Work
$12,874 in-state; $27,976 out-of-state*
University of California - Los Angeles 4-year, public; large city Master of Social Work $12,566 in-state; $27,668 out-of-state*
University of Southern California 4-year, private not-for-profit; large city Master of Social Work,
Ph.D. in Social Work
$37,500*

Source: *NCES College Navigator.

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