One Year MSW Programs in California

Written by Sam Medley

people of diversity together

With 86,000 social workers, California is home to one of the nation’s largest social service networks. But while it may seem like the state doesn’t need any more social workers than it already has, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

For instance, the Public Policy Institute of California reports that about 29% of the state’s roughly 39 million residents are either impoverished or dangerously close to becoming so. On top of that, 1 in 7 California adults battle mental illness and 1 in 5 say they’ve experienced racially-motivated discrimination. And even though California is a national leader in policies that protect the LGBTQ+ community, legal safeguards aren’t always enough in day-to-day life.

This sobering state of affairs indicates that California doesn’t just need more social workers — it needs more highly-skilled social workers and needs them quickly. Enrolling in a one-year Master of Social Work (MSW) program in California can prepare you to answer that call.

One-year MSW Programs: What They Are and Common Admission Requirements

A traditional Social Work Masters degree takes about two years to earn. As the name suggests, one-year MSW programs can be completed in half that time. However, one-year programs are typically advanced standing programs meaning they’re designed for students who have already completed college-level social work courses and are ready to study more advanced topics.

Because of this, one-year MSW programs in California typically have more rigorous admission requirements than traditional programs. To enroll in a one-year program, students often need:

These requirements ensure that applicants are prepared to thrive in an accelerated learning environment and can take on high-level social work jobs upon graduation.

Haven’t earned a BSW but want to enroll in a one-year MSW program in the future? Learn more about BSW programs in California here.

Timelines and Formats

A year isn’t a long time to learn advanced social work practices. For that reason, accelerated programs are typically full-time and require students to dedicate at least 40 hours per week to their studies. But despite the fast pace, many one-year MSW programs in California are designed to accommodate busy schedules.

As a one-year MSW program student, you might take classes:

Remember — just because advanced standing MSW programs in California can be challenging doesn’t mean they can’t be flexible.

The Importance of Choosing an Accredited Program

Whether you’re searching for traditional or one-year MSW programs in California, choosing a program that teaches career-ready skills is vital. Schools that have been accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) do just that.

Schools that have been accredited by the CSWE must adhere to the organization’s rigorous staffing, fieldwork, and curriculum requirements. These requirements help ensure that all social work program graduates are ready to enter the field with ethical, evidence-based techniques.

In fact, many state licensing boards and social worker employers require their workers to have degrees from CSWE-accredited schools. For instance, to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in California, applicants must have completed courses through or earned an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program. But even if you don’t plan on becoming an LCSW, degrees from CSWE-accredited are widely regarded as the gold standard of the field.

Costs and Credit Hours

Unlike bachelor’s programs (which typically charge a yearly tuition rate), MSW programs usually charge by the unit or credit hour. At the Master’s level, most classes are worth around three units. One-year MSW programs in California generally consist of about 30 to 36 units spread out over the course of three semesters. This translates to about 10 to 12 classes total but can vary between institutions.

As of 2023, the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) lists accredited MSW programs in California that cost from about $500 to $1,000 or more per unit. These costs are subject to change. Keep in mind that you may also be responsible for paying for books, room and board, professional licensing fees, and other costs.

Worried that a one-year MSW program in California won’t fit in your budget? Learn about the many scholarship and financial aid programs open to students like you.

Common Classes Offered by One-Year MSW Programs in California

Because advanced students have already learned about the basics of social work, one-year programs mostly cover advanced topics and topics related to specialties in the field. This allows students to build their knowledge by examining complex case studies and current, real-world problems. Courses vary by program, but here are a few core classes you might take.

Advanced Social Work Practice

Building on the foundational practice skills taught in BSW programs, this course delves into more complex interventions, assessment methods, and specialized approaches for working with diverse populations.

Policy Analysis and Advocacy

While students in one-year programs have likely learned the basics of social welfare policy and advocacy, advanced classes teach students how to analyze, formulate, and implement new policies themselves.

policy analysis and advocacy

Advanced Social Work Research

This class expands on research concepts introduced in the BSW program, focusing on advanced research methodologies, data analysis techniques, and the application of research findings to inform social work practice. This often includes conducting an independent research project. Social workers who wish to pursue doctorates, PhDs, and policy-guiding roles in any number of agencies often take advanced research courses.

Supervision and Administration of Social Service Agencies

Effective social service leaders require an in-depth knowledge of supervision techniques, leadership skills, and policy development. This way, they can help their colleagues navigate complex legal and ethical situations.

Electives and Specializations

While students in one-year MSW programs in California take classes focused on advanced generalist practices, many programs also offer a number of electives and concentrations in specific areas of the field like:

Some of these specialties involve taking multiple classes and seeking additional professional credentials. But whatever path you choose, program faculty can help you design a schedule that meets your goals.

The Fieldwork Experience for Advanced Standing Students

The CSWE mandates that all accredited programs require their students to get a certain number of fieldwork hours before they graduate. For BSW students, it’s 400. For traditional MSW students without BSWs, it’s 900. Accelerated MSW programs in California sometimes require fewer fieldwork hours (often between 600 and 800 hours). This requirement varies between schools, but what doesn’t change is the quality, diversity, and impact of the fieldwork experience.

Faculty fieldwork coordinators help students find positions at agencies relevant to their goals. Then, qualified supervisors guide and observe them as they assess clients, provide services, and participate in agency meetings. If you’ve already earned a BSW, your advanced standing MSW fieldwork experience will likely be similar, but you’ll be focused on carrying out the advanced techniques you learn about in class.

Start Your Search For a One-year MSW Program in California

With a Master of Social Work, you can be prepared to take on just about any advanced role in this life-saving field. You can become an administrator, a frontline supervisor, a public policy advocate, or even an LCSW who provides mental health services to communities who would otherwise suffer in silence. No matter your goal, here are a few one-year MSW programs in California that can help you get there.

Loma Linda University

School of Behavioral Health
Formats: Full-time. On-campus.

Master of Social Work

Also offers:

San Diego State University

School of Social Work
Formats: Full-time. On-campus.

san diego state university

Master of Social Work

Also offers:

University of Massachusetts Global

School of Arts and Sciences
Formats: Full-time. Online.

Master of Social Work

Also offers:

University of the Pacific

School of Health Sciences
Formats: Full-time. Hybrid.

university of the pacific

Master of Social Work

Also offers:

University of Southern California

Suzanne Dowrak-Peck School of Social Work
Formats: Full-time. On-campus, online, hybrid, and weekend/evening class options available.

usc - university of southern california

Master of Social Work

Also offers: