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Frequently Asked Questions

Graduates can pursue roles in a variety of growing industries and you will learn the sought-after, transferable skills employers value.

Yes. We offer deferred payment plan options. Third-party billing options are also available. Call (406) 206-6699 to discuss payment plans.

No. You’ll need to budget for textbooks and other supplies. Find out more about cost and aid.

This varies, but all faculty are dedicated to student success. They build relationships, address academic needs and provide ongoing support during field education and beyond.

Additional fees include:

  • Application fee: $60
  • Student support fee: $10 per credit hour
  • Technology fee: $7 per credit hour
  • Online learning fee: $48 per credit hour
  • Practicum fee: $343 per course (4 courses)

Yes. We are a proud Yellow Ribbon School.

Private practice placements will only be considered for MSW students going into their specialization year practicum. These placements are not available to BSW or first year MSW students since their field education focuses on generalist and not clinical practice.

Students can bring any questions or concerns to the field education team by emailing

The majority of practicum agencies do NOT offer placements that allow for evening and weekend hours – such placements are rare if not nonexistent! Services to and engagement with clients is often times limited during evening and weekend hours thus it is hard to ensure for a rich learning experience. Students need to plan to do their practicum hours during regular business hours when other agency staff are available to provide support.

Employment based practicums (EBP) can be an option as long as your place of employment is supportive of you being both in an employee AND a student role and the agency agrees to the UMSSW practicum requirements (e.g. providing weekly supervision, attending site visits, providing quality learning experiences etc.). In short – a practicum at your place of employment needs to ensure that your practicum role and tasks provide you with new and distinct learning opportunities and that the role addresses the CSWE core competencies.

Generally speaking, no, as students are encouraged to get diverse learning and practice experiences over the two practicum placements. However, sometimes students have the opportunity to stay with the same agency but take on a completely different role that allows for diverse and new learning. In that case, staying at the same agency might be an option, although students have to submit a proposal to the FEP.

In general, the FEP encourages students to consider if a specialization year placement at the same agency, employment based or not, can really offer them advanced learning opportunities and how it would challenge their professional development. The second year of practicum should offer diverse learning and practice experiences and needs to ensure that you are learning the specialization competencies as set by the UMSSW. That said, students that do have the opportunity to stay with the same agency should make sure that a second year with the organization can a) offer new and diverse learning, and b) address the 10 specialization year competencies (as detailed in the specialization year learning agreement). In that case, staying at the same agency can be an option and students must submit a “Continuation of Practicum” application via Sonia in the spring before their second-year placement. The FEP will carefully review the request and will inform the student of its decision.

No. We currently bill by term. Find out more about cost and aid.

Credits for social work practicum will only be approved if the student has completed a minimum of 450 hours of supervised practicum, practicum credits from prior institution align with UMSSW practicum credits (i.e. 4 foundation practicum credits and 2 foundation seminar credits for a total of 6 credits), and the student has documentation of a completed learning agreement and end of practicum evaluation indicating passing grade and overall hours. Partial practicum hours or credits will not be accepted, and students will be required to complete all UMSSW field education requirements without receiving transfer credit for practicum or seminar

Because the UM MSW Online program is self-supported, we cannot accept waivers/awards towards the cost of tuition.

Click here for additional information:

Yes. Our beautiful campus is located in the heart of Missoula, which is Montana’s second-largest city. Surrounded by stunning landscape, it’s an incredible place to both visit and study.

Students need to plan to do their practicum hours during regular business hours when other agency staff are available to provide support. Being present during normal business hours will allow students to be fully involved in the day to day processes of agency life, including attending staff or clinical meetings, supporting walk-in clients, shadowing other social workers, or jumping into other activities and opportunities available to them. 

Students working full-time in addition to completing 15-hours of practicum each week, are strongly encouraged to proactively discuss need for flexibility with their place of employment as field placement hours tend to primarily occur Monday – Friday 8am – 5pm. 

Many students find a part-time job that offers evening and weekend hours. This arrangement allows them to focus on their practicum, managing school workload, and ensuring ongoing income. 

Although the majority of practicums remain unpaid, more and more agencies do offer paid practicums (either hourly or via an educational stipend), and more students are able to apply for a practicum with their existing employment agency. That said, there are pros and cons to consider about paid and employment based placements, highlighted in  this article. Practicum is intended for students to be learners, make mistakes and wear different hats, and at times, paid and employment placements limit the freedom of being a learner. These placements also affect how students can set boundaries. It is a lot easier to say “no, I cannot work this shift because I have met my practicum hour limit etc.” in the student role versus being a paid staff member who is an employee first and student second. It is also important to keep in mind that should anything happen to your employment, e.g. your position is grant funded and funding runs out and the agency has to lay you off, then this simultaneously impacts your practicum.

Yes. Many of our online students hold jobs. The flexibility of our programs allows working students to meet their commitments. Learn more about working professionals with families.

This might be a requirement for your placement and is dependent upon individual agency policies. 

Please be advised that certain types of criminal convictions may lead to an agency’s inability to bring on a practicum student. It is critical that this information is proactively communicated to the FEP and any potential agency to discuss placement options and additional support needs. 

Note: As a UM student you have access to legal support via ASUM legal services. You are encouraged to utilize this support service with legal questions. 

Yes, if they are part of VA benefits.

We consider course equivalents, which could count for up to 30 credits of electives and other coursework. Request more information for details.

We offer application fee waivers to those living in Montana.

We use Moodle at the University of Montana. Our faculty is ready to help you with any questions you may have navigating your online classes. You’ll have access to 24/7 tech support as well.

No, we do not provide credits for work experience.

No. The program is asynchronous so you can complete your coursework when the time is right for you.

There’s no residency component in this program, but you will complete 900 clinical hours while in the MSW program to earn the online MSW degree. You’ll be fully supported by our field education team at all stages.

Currently, the online social work program is only offered part time.

No. We do not require an entrance exam. Find out about our admission requirements.

Those seeking advanced standing need two years of relevant experience.

We consider course equivalents, which could account for up to 30 credits of electives and other coursework.

Students complete a total of 900 hours over the course of two academic years (fall to spring). Students are in one placement for the whole 450 hours of their generalist year and a second placement for the whole 450 hours of their specialization year. Your practicum is approximately 15 hours a week between end of August and the beginning of May. 

Our students pay for school in a variety of ways. Some use employer assistance; others qualify for scholarships. You can also apply for loans and grants. Learn more about cost and aid.

Apply for the FAFSA through the online FAFSA application. The FAFSA number for UM is 002536.

Apply online. You’ll need transcripts from all schools attended. We also require two essay questions related to our social justice mission. Applicants need two years of relevant experience and a 3.0 cumulative GPA.

In short – there is never a 100% guarantee that your agency checks all the boxes BUT…you get out of your practicum experience what you put into it and are very much in the driver’s seat of your learning! One early way of figuring out if the agency is a good fit is to research potential sites. This includes reviewing the agency website, talking to other social service professionals about the agency and practicum opportunities, and if possible, reaching out to past practicum students who might be able to share insight into their experience with the agency. The interview at the agency also serves the purpose of identifying if the site and learning experiences offered meet your learning needs and hopes. Make sure to ask questions about day to day life of a practicum student at the agency, initial onboarding and training at the placement, and ongoing supervision and professional development opportunities. 

We have leave of absence policies in place for military students who are being deployed.

You can earn the online MSW degree in 3 years.

Practicum is a credit/ no credit experience and the student’s AFI (Agency Field Instructor), in addition to ongoing feedback during regular supervision and a mid-year qualitative evaluation that both the student and the supervisor complete, assigns the final grade. We use a competency scale rating system (1-5 with 1 = no competency to 5 = demonstrating competency).

Spring and Fall classes are eight weeks in length. Summer classes are seven weeks in length.

We work hard to ensure that you’ll get an answer quickly. Please see the program page for specific details.

Students are encouraged to contact a minimum of 3-5 organizations they are interested in and interview with at least 2-3 of them. This allows for more than one option as practicum placements are never a guarantee and are becoming more competitive.  You are encouraged to view the outreach and interview process as a professional development and practice opportunity – please treat it as a dry run for your future social work career and jobs you will apply to post-graduation.

You’ll complete 900 clinical hours while in the MSW program. You’ll be fully supported by our field education team at all stages. Before your practicum, you’ll attend a field orientation to familiarize yourself with the process. Additionally, you’ll be part of a 9 to 10 person group led by a dedicated field liaison who guides you through the field experience and leads seminar sessions. Other support elements include a virtual field fair, practicum panels (learn about practicum experiences from more senior students), lunch and learn sessions and more.

You’ll take a total of 30 eight-week courses. View our curriculum.

The program consists of 60 credits. Clinical and non-clinical skills and knowledge are taught from both micro and macro perspectives. We encourage you to take electives outside of social work to incorporate other disciplines into your practice.

Students receive 4 credits total for generalist year practicum (2cr. in the fall, 2cr. in the spring) and 6 credits total for specialization year practicum (3cr. in the fall, 3cr. in the spring).

Students complete a total of 900 hours over the course of two academic years (fall to spring). Students are in one placement for the whole 450 hours of their generalist year and a second placement for the whole 450 hours of their specialization year. Your practicum is approximately 15 hours a week between end of August and the beginning of May. 

Our total undergraduate enrollment is over 7,000, and we have more than 2,000 graduate students.

You will receive a personal call and an email upon acceptance.

Considering how service delivery and workplace culture has changed in the past two years during the COVID pandemic, this is an excellent question. Although it is still quite rare, we are seeing more students in fully remote and virtual practicum placements. As long as the agency/program meets all practicum requirements and the student can engage in and develop the various social work competencies, a placement can indeed be remote. Regular and supportive supervision is a critical component of a remote placement to ensure success and growth in a placement. 

Here are potential cons to consider: Limited to no actual engagement in an agency setting and thus limited learning about agency workplace culture and dynamics. What students will miss with fully remote placements is the casual office chatter and the experience of getting to know colleagues in the hallway. And, keep in mind that you are already engaging in school fully remote, and that it might be a lot to add 15 hours of a remote practicum to that each week. Lastly, client interactions are different, of course, and especially if you want to build a clinical foundation, we do not recommend starting out with remote/ telework.

We offer third-party billing options. Call (406) 206-6699 to find out more about our billing options.

No. You will be awarded the same degree that our on-campus students receive.

Yes. The program is CSWE accredited.

While online programs often offer more flexibility and allow you to study from anywhere, you will receive the same high-quality education and care no matter the modality you choose.

We are a physical campus, located in Missoula, Montana.

Please explore your program of interest.

Yes. Online students are part of the University of Montana family and are encouraged to walk at our graduation ceremonies.

Students going into their generalist year (year one) of practicum must have their Practicum Proposal Form submitted in Sonia no later than July 15 to ensure time for the agency review process and completion of required paperwork.

Students going into their specialization year (year two) of practicum must have their Practicum Proposal Form submitted in SONIA no later than July 1 to ensure time for agency review process and completion of required paperwork.

To apply for the program, you’ll need:

  • Transcripts from all schools attended
  • Two essays on questions related to social justice mission
  • 3.0 cumulative GPA

Learn more about admissions.

Your Agency Field Instructor (AFI) needs to have an MSW degree with at least 2 years of post-degree experience. If the AFI does not meet this requirement they can still serve as your AFI but additional MSW supervision needs to be arranged. This could either happen in the form of another staff member at the agency who can serve in the MSW supervisor role or, should there be no qualifying MSW at the practicum organization, the UMSSW will work with the student and provide outside MSW supervision.

As social workers, we wear many different hats, engage in practice on various levels, and utilize a diverse set of skills. Consequently, we have to be competent in an array of skills and practice behaviors. These practice behaviors and competencies are set by our accrediting body, the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) and offer a critical framework to your learning in both the classroom and your practicum experiences. Each competency describes the dimensions of knowledge, values, skills, and cognitive and affective processes that comprise the competency at the generalist level of practice, followed by a set of behaviors that integrate these components. These behaviors represent observable components of the competencies, while the preceding statements represent the underlying content and processes that inform the behaviors. 

During the field education experience, students must demonstrate learning goals and activities that allow them to work towards these competencies. This is done in a highly structured manner via the development of a detailed learning agreement which is part of the practicum course. 

Apply now to start the program in the Fall of 2023.

Think critically. Live ethically. Explore creatively. These are the ideals to which our students, faculty, researchers and staff aspire.

You’ll need a cumulative GPA of 3.0. Explore admission requirements.

Settling into a new agency with a new role naturally comes with a learning curve and at times challenges might arise. Should you run into concerns during your practicum experience, please be proactive in communicating with your AFI and your field liaison (the seminar instructor).  Students are encouraged to follow these problem solving phases should issues arise. Please refer to the MSW student handbook for exact policy details. 

Agencies that have not had one of our social work students will go through a brief agency application and review process led by the FEP. This process ensures that the agency understands all practicum requirements and is a good fit for our students. Once you’ve identified a new agency as a potential placement site, you will complete an agency proposal form that includes all agency and supervision information plus your practicum role and responsibilities. Once this form is received, the FEP will contact the agency to review that information, answer any questions the agency might have, and then share our affiliation agreement. 

We strive to make applying easy and accessible for all learners. Learn more about the admissions process.

This varies by program. Our faculty is committed to personally connecting with students to ensure everyone meets their goals.

The cost per credit is $600. You’ll need 60 credits to graduate. Find out more about cost and fees.

Sallie Mae loans are one type of financial assistance you could qualify for when filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Your generalist first year practicum is more foundational in nature and may be done at a wide range of agencies. It is intended to support the development and integration of foundational social work skills, competencies, and practice behaviors. 

Your specialization second year practicum is intended to build on the foundational experience of year one and should allow you to engage in more advanced practice tasks. Consequently, it is focused on deepening specific knowledge and skills, e.g. development and practice of clinical skills. 

You’ll need to fill out our online application to get started. Find out more about how to apply.

The University of Montana transforms lives by providing a high-quality and accessible education and by generating world-class research and creative scholarship in an exceptional place. We integrate the liberal arts and sciences into undergraduate, graduate and professional studies to shape global citizens who are creative and agile learners committed to expanding the boundaries of knowledge and to building and sustaining diverse communities.

The 1-credit seminar course (2 credits total over fall and spring) runs parallel to a student’s field education experience and provides a space to discuss practicum experiences and challenges, integrate theory into practice, and engage in a mutually-supportive teaching-learning model with other peers in practicum settings. Students take 2cr. Of generalist year seminar and 2 cr. of specialization year seminar. 

For both years of practicum, students are responsible to identify, reach out to, and interview with potential practicum agencies. Extensive support is provided throughout the process and reviewing information in this field orientation is critical to understanding the process and having all of the information needed, including email templates and talking points for agency outreach. 

  • To start the process of a generalist year (= first year) placement, all students must submit an application to the UMSSW FEP via their personal SONIA account (SONIA is the practicum software program we utilize for all practicum paperwork).
  • Once the FEP receives, reviews, and approves your practicum application, you will receive a follow up email with more information about next steps, including support services as you reach out to agencies and pursue placement options, and next steps once you have finalized a potential placement. 

Total cost for the online MSW degree is $39,900. Find out more about cost.

The University is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

UM’s FAFSA code is 002536.

Since professional social workers wear many hats, students have the opportunity to do a variety of placements with a wide range of learning opportunities. Social work practicum placements occur in settings that allow for direct service with individuals, families, and groups; for example:

  • child welfare programs,
  • behavioral health agencies,
  • domestic/sexual violence programs,
  • homelessness programs,
  • substance abuse programs,
  • correctional settings etc.

As well as in community organizing and policy focused contexts; for example:

  • city or county government and social service programs,
  • legislative offices,
  • voter mobilization programs,
  • civic engagement agencies, etc.

Some placements are more clinically focused while others are more macro-level/ advocacy focused. As long as students are able to engage in the CSWE Competencies they are likely able to get a rich learning experience.

We have a disability services team at the University of Montana, ready to address your needs. To learn more, call (406) 206-6699.

Our faculty are committed to the success of every student and available to online students continuously. Find out more about the online experience.

Practicum runs from the beginning of the first fall module/ block (generally end of August) to the end of the second spring module/block (generally beginning of May). Practicum hours must occur over the course of this timeframe and students are not able to be done with their required hours early. Hours per se are not the final determination of the student’s fulfillment of practicum requirements. Not only do you make a commitment to an agency and to clients, it takes time and a learning curve to adjust to an organization, understand your role, and develop the skills for more autonomous practice. You must have the time to engage in different types of practice interventions and to see these through to completion.

UM was founded in 1893.

Our main campus is located in Missoula, Montana.

Our representatives are available for Zoom appointments. Reach out to us to learn more about financial aid options.

The practicum agency needs to agree to assign a committed Agency Field Instructor (AFI) to the student who oversees the practicum throughout the academic year. That often times happens naturally as the program manager or director or maybe the lead clinician/ therapist is already in a supervisor role for the program and takes on student supervision. This is a great question to ask during an interview with potential practicum agencies. Per accreditation requirements, the AFI for MSW practicum needs to hold a MSW degree with at least two years of post-degree experience. If the AFI does not meet this requirement, another staff member at the agency can serve in the MSW supervisor role. Should there be no qualifying MSW at the practicum organization, the UMSSW will work with the student and provide outside MSW supervision.

Yes. Online students have access to 24/7 technical support. Find out more about technical support.

UM Students are covered by the School’s professional liability insurance (a copy is available to students on their SONIA account) and are required to carry health insurance. 

Upon graduation, you’ll meet the educational requirements for the Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) exam.

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