Social Work

The Master of Social Work program at Northwest Nazarene University offers the working professional an opportunity to complete a master's degree through an extended program of study. This program is ideal for those with work or family responsibilities. Students admitted in the Fall at the generalist level may complete their course work in seven semesters while students admitted with advanced standing status may complete their course work in four semesters (includes summers). Generalist students admitted in the Spring will complete their course work in eight semesters while the Advanced Standing students will complete their course work in five semesters (includes summers).  Available at NNU's Nampa campus, our distance learning location in Idaho Falls, and online synchronously (for those who live more than 40 miles from either classroom location). The primary goal of the program is to prepare students for specialized social work practice in rural and small-town settings.

Students will be able to choose from two concentrations:

  • Clinical Mental Health and Addictions (CMHA)
  • Integrated Clinical and Community Practice (ICCP)

The MSW program offers courses leading to certification in School Social Work. An explanation of the certification process is available through the Department of Social Work.

Northwest Nazarene University's social work program is nationally accredited at the undergraduate and graduate level by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

Program Characteristics

Class sizes vary based on the type of course but are typically 20 students per class.

Students are enrolled using the cohort model.  However, substantial flexibility is available for those who request a part-time schedule.

Normally, students are enrolled in 10-12 credits each semester, including courses in practice, human behavior, policy, applied research, field instruction, and electives.

The methodology is based upon the assumption that the faculty and student are equally responsible for learning. Students are expected to be self-directed, goal-oriented, and interested in applied learning.

The key to applied learning is application; all students, therefore, are expected to integrate theory and academic content with knowledge from research projects, work, and practicum experiences. Evaluation of progress is based not only on the evidence of grasping content but also upon evidence of application of content in the workplace and internship setting.  All students must pass internship(s) to graduate.


Grounded in the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition, the mission of the Northwest Nazarene University MSW program is to prepare graduates for advanced micro, mezzo, and macro practice, professional leadership, and life-long learning by providing a knowledge-based and value-informed education that emphasizes advanced practice with diverse and oppressed populations living in rural and small-town communities.

Program Goals

  • To nurture in students a Christlike worldview which embraces the values and ethics of the profession, including personal integrity, global diversity, a just society, and spiritual enrichment.
  • To cultivate in students a passion for alleviating discrimination, poverty, oppression, and all other forms of injustice for at-risk populations, especially those living in rural and small-town settings.
  • To prepare students for advanced social work practice in rural and small-town settings through the presentation of a comprehensive curriculum which includes generalist and specialized content for working with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities.
  • To provide students with a quality education and field experience (internship) in a creative learning environment that promotes the development and application of the Council on Social Work Education core competencies at both generalist and specialized levels (

Student Learning Outcomes

Students who complete the program will be able to:

  • Demonstrate ethical and professional behavior.
  • Engage diversity and difference in practice.
  • Advance human rights and social, economic, and environmental justice.
  • Engage in practice-informed research and research-informed practice.
  • Engage in policy practice.
  • Engage with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities.
  • Assess individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities.
  • Intervene with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities.
  • Evaluate practice with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities.
  • Demonstrate understanding of rural social work practice.

Integrated Clinical and Community Practice (ICCP)

The purpose of this track is to combine training in a variety of fields of practice for students who are interested in clinical or community MSW practice but not exclusively psychotherapy. The track includes content on integrated behavioral health, child welfare, medical, social work, criminal justice, and macro practice. It also includes content at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels of practice in these areas. The systems mentioned typically have crossover in client population and also have similarities in practice approaches. The goal of this concentration is to help students understand how to practice in one or more of these areas of social work while also appreciating the other systems with which their clients are likely to interact. A significant focus is on brief therapy and crisis intervention. Additionally, students will gain meaningful instruction on macro social work.

Field placement (internship) opportunities for child welfare include public and private child welfare agencies, juvenile justice programs, court settings, schools, and foster care, integrated behavioral health, and adoption agencies.  Field placement opportunities for healthcare include dialysis centers, emergency rooms, community health clinics, home health and hospice agencies, and hospitals.  Field placement opportunities for criminal justice include county, state, and federal jails and prisons, juvenile justice programs, and court settings.  Students interested in macro practice can experience field placement opportunities in almost any setting.  Specific agencies providing macro-opportunities include NASW, AARP, Salvation Army, and Health and Welfare.

Students in this track will complete 600 internship hours. A student can choose to complete all 600 hours in one area of practice (child welfare, healthcare, criminal justice) or split hours between two areas of practice.  Ideally, all 600 hours should be completed in the same agency, but certain circumstances may warrant allowing a student to complete placement hours at two agencies. 

Clinical Mental Health and Addictions

This concentration prepares students to provide psychotherapy and addictions services for individuals, families, and groups in rural and small-town settings.  Students learn applicable theories for working in a behavioral health setting and have multiple opportunities to practice the application of those theories.  Students also receive knowledge and skill development to develop professional relationships with diverse clients with alcohol, drug abuse, and/or behavioral addictions.  Specific content on trauma-focused practice and play therapy is included, in addition to content on macro practice in community mental health or addictions settings.  Field placement (internship) opportunities include community mental health agencies, inpatient mental health or addictions treatment settings, outpatient substance abuse treatment, or co-occurring mental health and addictions treatment.

Internship Expectations: Students in this track will complete 600 internship hours.  A student can choose to complete all 600 hours in one area of practice (mental health or addictions) or split hours between both mental health and addictions.  Ideal placements would provide students with experience in dual diagnosis treatment.  All 600 hours should be focused on micro and mezzo practice, though students may count some macro hours as needed by their particular placement site.

Admission Requirements

Prospective students from all academic disciplines are invited to apply to the Master of Social Work program. Those admitted to the graduate social work program may be admitted with generalist status or advanced standing status, depending on the major or discipline associated with their bachelor's degree. They may apply to start in the Fall or Spring semester. Prospective students requesting admission to the program with either status must submit the following:

  1. Background check, as explained on the Social Work application website. (Any applicant with a felony involving moral turpitude will not be admitted to the program. Applicants with any felony background may be asked to provide additional information to be considered for admittance. An applicant may be denied admittance if such background would mean the applicant is unable to be licensed as a social worker in Idaho.)
  2. Proof of academic achievement. A four-year baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited college or university is a prerequisite for admission to the Northwest Nazarene University Graduate Social Work program. A minimum cumulative GPA of 2.75 is expected with a GPA of 3.0 or higher in the applicant's major field of study. Students with a cumulative GPA lower than 2.75 may be considered for admission provided that the GPA from the junior and senior years of their baccalaureate program is 3.0 or higher. (Note: Prospective students who do not meet the GPA requirement for admission may be asked to provide additional information to be considered for admittance.)
  3. Evidence of having successfully completed (grade of C or higher) a minimum of 21-semester credits from the following liberal arts areas: psychology, sociology, ecology, political science, law, economics, business, statistics, research, and oral or written communication.
  4. Evidence of potential to practice social work, such as submission of evaluation material from field supervisors in the applicant's baccalaureate program, letters of recommendation from supervisors in professional employment settings (or full-time volunteer settings, e.g., VISTA), letters of recommendation from faculty in a related field of study (e.g., religion, psychology, sociology, etc.).
  5. Advanced standing applicants who have not earned a BSW within five years of applying to the MSW program, will be required to take the generalist level courses. 
  6. Personal statement/writing sample.
  7. Basic knowledge of computer technology, including good word processing skills.
  8. Strong evidence of a fit between the applicant, the program, and the field of social work as determined through a review of application materials and participation in the departmental interview process.

Please note: Academic credit is not given for life or work experiences.

Transfer of Credits

A maximum of 25% of the credit hours required for the degree may be transferred from another regionally accredited institution. All transfer credits must have received at least a "B" letter grade and be approved by the program director. Credits must have been earned within five years preceding the date of admission.

Note: A student who has completed the entire Generalist curriculum at another university within the last five years may be permitted to transfer all Generalist courses.

Graduate Social Work Program Expectations for Student Learning

CSWE standards and the NASW Code of Ethics will be followed.

Students are expected to consult with faculty advisors to discuss learning goals and progress toward those goals during their graduate education. Students are expected to see the program coordinator for class selections.

Students are required to maintain a 3.0 or higher cumulative GPA and students must also remain in compliance with the Professional Disposition Criteria during the entire MSW program of study to remain in "good standing." Refer to academic standing and dismissal policy.

All written reports and term papers are to be prepared in a manner that reflects APA formatting with an emphasis on grammar as identified in the syllabus. Plagiarism will be dealt with through the Professional Disposition Criteria and may result in removal from the program. It will also be reported to the Office of Academic Affairs.

Specialized students (in all concentrations) must participate in counseling for 8-10 consecutive sessions with a master's level, licensed mental health provider.  These must be completed during the two semesters of the specialized internship.  The completed sessions are prerequisites to enrollment in Capstone and/ or receiving a final grade for Thesis.

An important component of the Social Work program is to challenge students' current perspectives and biases.  This is done through presentations by guest speakers, videos, or readings that might be considered objectionable or offensive to some individuals outside of an educational environment.  The issues that might be raised by these activities will be processed in class discussions.  If these activities trigger an emotional response for particular students, this can be processed privately with professors or counselors as needed.  No exceptions or alternative assignments are available nor will be accepted.

Absence Policy: Perfect attendance is expected in all courses. Though absences do not generate a specific penalty in a class, most classes include a requirement of participation.  When an absence occurs, the ability to make up work is not guaranteed (e.g., quizzes, tests, presentations, etc.).  Decisions related to making up work are at the discretion of the instructor of the class.  Any student with chronic patterns of absence will be subject to probation or dismissal based on lack of professionalism.  Students who have a major life event (birth of a child, the death of an immediate family member, military deployment, extended illness, etc.) resulting in multiple absences may request a leave from classes.  A student in this situation may petition for a grade of incomplete at which time the student may need to attend part or all of the class the next time it is offered (not re-register) or negotiate an independent study completion with his or her professor(s). An administrative withdrawal may be administered if a student misses more than 20 percent of class attendance. 

​Snow Policy: Official decisions about the closure of the Nampa campus due to weather will be communicated to all students from the Social Work office at least one hour prior to the beginning of class on a given day. Attempts will be made to make this announcement at least two hours prior. Barring closure of the Nampa campus, classes will be held regardless of weather. When inclement weather occurs in Idaho Falls, students attending class there are expected to make an informed decision about the safety of attending class on a given day. In the event that a student determines it is unsafe to attend class, the student should notify the professor at least one hour prior to the beginning of class. The student is also responsible for getting content from the professor for the missed class.

Late Work Policy: Students are expected to turn in all work on or before the due date. Students are responsible for contacting the instructor as soon as possible concerning events that may impact course requirements and deadlines. Late assignments will be marked down 10% per day and will not be accepted after five calendar days from the due date. Instructors will handle exceptions or chronically late submissions of assignments on an individual basis.

Social Media Policy: Our social media policy is as recommended by NASW Standards for Technology in Social Work Practice, 4.04 Social Media Policies. ​“When using online social media for educational purposes, social work educators shall provide students with guidance about ethical considerations. Interpretation: When using social media for educational purposes, it is important for students to understand how to use social media in a professional manner. The type of language, personal disclosures, and ways of communicating that students use for personal purposes may not be appropriate for the classroom or professional social work purposes. Social work educators should inform students about organizational policies and relevant standards related to confidentiality, demonstrating respect, academic integrity, copyright and plagiarism, maintaining appropriate boundaries, and upholding other social work ethical standards.


Generalist Standing: Students who enter the Master of Social Work program from disciplines other than social work are given Generalist Standing. Students who completed their BSW degree more than five years prior to enrollment will be expected to enter the program at the Generalist level. These students must take (or retake) courses to lay a foundation for the specialized level social work courses. These generalist courses are taken during the first three semesters of the program.  A student who received a BSW or B.A. in a related field (e.g., psychology) may request a waiver of select generalist courses, which will be assessed by the program director.  Generalist field experience may be waived for any applicant without a BSW or B.A. in social work from an accredited program who has been employed in the social work field.  NNU Generalist Standing students will take a comprehensive assessment prior to continuing to the advanced standing year.

Advanced Standing: The Advanced Standing option was developed to recognize the academic accomplishments of applicants who have completed a B.A. in Social Work or a BSW from a college or university accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. Criteria for admission to Advanced Standing status are the same as generalist status admission requirements with the addition of the following requirements:

  • Applicants must have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher for the last 90 quarter credits or last 60 semester credits in their baccalaureate program.
  • A grade of B- (2.7) or higher is required in all upper division social work classes. Any classes with anything lower than a B- will have to be re-taken NNU Generalist level.
  • Applicants must have completed their BSW within five years of enrollment in this MSW program.  Applicants who completed their degree more than five years prior to enrollment will be expected to enter the program at the Generalist level.  Depending on practice experience, Generalist Field and some Generalist courses may be waived.
  • At the time of matriculation, it is preferred that applicants have at least one year of full-time experience in the social work field, extensive volunteer experience in human services settings, and extensive experience with diverse populations. 

Continuous Enrollment

Once fully admitted to the MSW program, students must maintain "continuous" enrollment. Continuous enrollment is defined as registering for at least one credit of course work each semester until graduation requirements are fulfilled. Exceptions to this policy may be made for students experiencing highly unusual circumstances (examples: called to active military duty, hospitalization, the death of an immediate family member). Requests for exceptions must be made in writing to the MSW faculty council. Except for rare circumstances, the program must be completed satisfactorily within five years of matriculation.

Students who withdraw from school mid-semester may be subject to non-passing grades in the courses in which the student is enrolled in the session or semester of the withdrawal. Depending on the nature of the withdrawal (included but not limited to academic performance, history, and dispositional concerns versus personal circumstances), the student may be asked to meet with the program director prior to re-entry.  Re-entry into the program is not guaranteed.

Academic Standing and Dismissal Policy

  • Students must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher to remain in good standing in the MSW program at Northwest Nazarene University. If a student drops below a cumulative GPA of 3.0, the student will be placed on academic probation for the duration of one semester and receive a letter from the program director outlining the requirements of probation.  Academic probation includes an academic plan for improvement created collaboratively and signed by the student and program director. The student must earn a minimum GPA of 3.0 for the semester of probation. If the student fails to earn a minimum GPA of 3.0, if the cumulative GPA still falls below the required 3.0, or if the student fails to meet the requirements of the academic improvement plan, the student may be academically dismissed from the program. Students are notified of academic dismissal by the program director in writing.
  • Students who earn lower than a B- in two courses may be placed on academic probation as outlined above.
  • Students must pass all content classes (non-field/internship courses) with a grade of B- or better. Students who fail to meet this expectation must re-enroll and pass the class with a B- or better in order for the class to contribute toward graduation requirements by the program.
  • Students must secure a satisfactory field placement that is approved by the Field Director.  Students who are unable to meet this expectation for reasons related to the disposition policy may be academically dismissed from the program. The decision regarding removal will be made by the Field Director in consultation with the Program Director. Faculty may delay a student’s entrance into a field placement for reasons outlined in the Student Field Manual.
  • Students must pass all Field Placement courses (SOWK6570, SOWK6571, SOWK7670 & SOWK7671) with a grade of B or better.  Students who fail to meet this expectation must take SOWK6101 Professionalism 101 and pass the class with a B or better for the class to contribute toward graduation requirements by the program. A non-passing grade in field placement (SOWK6570 or SOWK7670) will result in a student being asked to meet with the full faculty.  Unless there are significant extenuating circumstances, the student will be dismissed from the program for at least one year.  
  • Cheating and plagiarism constitute unprofessional conduct and are violations of the ethical standards of the profession. Students who are found to be cheating or plagiarizing may be academically dismissed from the MSW program as identified above.
  • If a student earns a B- or below in SOWK7690 MSW Capstone she/he will be required to wait a year before retaking the course.  The student will be given a remediation plan in writing that will include recommended core courses to audit that focus on failed competencies and/or be required to repeat field placement hours. If continuing in field placement, registration is necessary. Failing MSW Capstone twice will result in automatic dismissal from the program.

Professional Disposition Assessments and Dismissal Policy

Department faculty and staff engage in a systematic and ongoing developmental review of student progress throughout the program. Any student demonstrating challenges in academic, professional, or personal development may be subject to review at any point in the program. Becoming a competent social worker is not just about academic performance. A crucial part of being a competent social worker is related to a person's professional disposition (attitude, behavior, and demeanor).  As a result, students may be subject to faculty interventions for non-academic reasons, even if their academic work is excellent. The purpose of the professional disposition assessment is to provide a framework for evaluating these crucial characteristics of students.

There are three basic principles which govern the professional disposition assessment process:

  • A progressive disciplinary approach to consequences whenever possible
  • Timely and transparent communication with a student when dispositional concerns arise
  • A process that aids the student in amelioration of the identified dispositional concerns as applicable

Examples of faculty and departmental response include but are not limited to:

  1. Meet with full faculty
  2. Behavioral contracts
  3. Required counseling
  4. Probation
  5. Delayed entry into specialized courses and/or field placement
  6. Dismissal from the program

The complete professional disposition assessment and policy are included in the Social Work Field Manual.

A student is expected to notify the program director as soon as possible in the event of a substance abuse relapse or criminal offense charge during the student's tenure in the MSW program. Upon notification of a relapse, an academic plan will be created collaboratively and will be signed by the student and the program director. Upon notification of a criminal offense charge, the student may be subject to dismissal from the program. Consideration will be given to the student based on early disclosure and the nature of the charge. 

Any form of discrimination or disrespect shown to persons on the basis of age, class, color, disability, ethnicity, family structure, gender, marital status, national origin, race, religion, or sexual orientation is contrary to the purposes and values of social work and will result in a review of the student's status.

Graduation Requirements

  1. Candidates who are accepted as generalist students must complete a minimum of 63 semester credits. Candidates who are accepted as advanced standing students must complete a minimum of 41 semester credits. 
  2. The candidate must complete program requirements with no grade lower than a B- (2.70) and a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0. 
  3. Students must pass all Field Placement courses (SOWK6570, SOWK6571, SOWK7670, & SOWK7671) and SOWK7690 Capstone with a grade of B or better.  
  4. Successful completion of track-specific comprehensive exam.
  5. The candidate must apply for the degree one full semester prior to anticipated degree completion. Deadlines: June 1 for Fall; October 15 for Spring; and January 15 for Summer. 

The program must be completed satisfactorily within five years of matriculation. In rare cases, when a student can verify that a circumstance beyond his or her control, such as serious medical problems or military duty, prevents him or her from completing the program within the five-year period, an application for "an extension of time to complete the program" may be submitted. The program director will evaluate the validity of the request and determine the best way to proceed.

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