Bachelor of Social Work - BSW Degree
GMercyU’s CSWE-accredited BSW degree is a practical, hands-on program for those who want to dedicate their careers to helping others.
And your help is needed — job growth for this field is predicted to grow 9% through 2031, faster the national average.
Once you complete your BSW degree and pass your Pennsylvania social work exam, you can apply for licensure through the State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists, and Licensed Professional Counselors.
Or, you can complete your master of social work degree in just one year instead of two, since you’ll be eligible for advanced standing in CSWE’s master’s degree programs.
GMercyU’s history is rooted in service to the community. In our BSW program, you’ll prepare for generalist social work focused on economic and social justice concerns, from homelessness to community violence, substance abuse, organizational diversity, and child welfare. You’ll learn to work with individuals and communities in urban, suburban, and rural areas.
Our BSW program proudly offers these unique components:
A phased structure of simulations designed to grow your skills, learn from your mistakes in a safe environment, and build your confidence.
- Sophomores engage in classroom social work role-playing.
- Juniors participate in group simulations. (Here's one example.)
- Seniors engage in 1:1 simulations that coincide with the senior year field experience to further hone their skills.
An emphasis on trauma-informed care. Led by expert faculty Janice Nuss, DSW, LCSW with more than 25 years of experience in trauma-informed care, BSW students have the opportunity to participate in a trauma-informed care elective, professional workshops offered by leading clinicians in the field, and field placements working with trauma survivors.
A focus on international service projects. Our students learn to advocate and serve locally, as well as on a global level. For example, juniors and seniors can participate in an interprofessional global outreach course that features a spring break service trip with Mustard Seed Communities in Jamaica, where students engage with pregnant teens and individuals with developmental disabilities in a cross-cultural context. In 2019-20, our students successfully raised funds to purchase a clean-water tank for a family experiencing poverty in Haiti.
More BSW program highlights include:
- Courses taught by highly experienced faculty (no teaching assistants) who are devoted to mentoring our students
- Fulfilling and exciting field experience opportunities in both suburban and urban locations
- Opportunities to network at events, such as the annual National Association of Social Workers Conference
- Co-curricular organizations such as Social Work and Psychology Club, Best Buddies, and Sigma Phi Sigma that provide experiential service learning opportunities to BSW students
- Alternative Spring Break and other service learning programs to further supplement your hands-on experience
- Opportunities to take part in advocacy, like this event
You’ll also gain a head start on your master of social work degree. Due to our CSWE accreditation, graduates of GMercyU’s BSW program have the eligibility for advanced standing in CSWE masters programs, which will take a full year off the time to complete your masters of social work (MSW). You may also choose to pursue a graduate degree in pastoral counseling, school counseling, clinical counseling, and applied behavioral sciences. GMercyU offers an accelerated master of school counseling.
In addition to required general education courses, BSW students must complete the following courses in order to earn their bachelors in social work.
|SWK201||Introduction to Social Work|
|SWK202||Human Behavior in the Social Environment|
|SWK203||Difference and Diversity|
|SWK205||Human Behavior and the Social Environment II|
|SWK212||Counseling and Communication Skills|
|SWK241||Marriage and Family Systems|
|SWK301||Generalist Social Work Practice|
|SWK304||Social Work Policy and Administration|
|SWK305||Mental Health Practice|
|SWK400||Social Work Research Methods|
|SWK435||Social Work Field Placement I (5 credits)|
|SWK436||Social Work Field Placement II (5 credits)|
|SWK445||Field Placement Seminar I (1 credit)|
|SWK446||Field Placement Seminar II (1 credit)|
Social Work Electives (Choose 2)
|SWK491||Interprofessional Global Outreach|
|SWK306||Death and Dying|
|SWK307||Issues in Gerontology|
|SWK308||Addictions, Dynamics and Interventions|
Social Work Prerequisites
|SOC 100||Principles of Sociology|
A minimum of 120 credits is required for the bachelors in social work (BSW) degree.
This social work program requires a criminal background check and may require certain immunizations and other clearances in order to participate in field experiences.
Increase the value of your degree as a social work major by adding an undergraduate minor that best suits your personal and professional goals.
Here’s a closer look at just a few of the courses you’ll take as a GMercyU Social Work major.
SWK-206 Introduction to Trauma-Informed Care
This course is designed to introduce students to the meaning of trauma, the incidence and prevalence of trauma and the effects of trauma on human development. Students will learn what it means to provide client centered care in a trauma informed manner, and will be provided an introduction to evidence based trauma treatments. Active participation of students in this class will include open discussion of material presented as well as practical application of the course material. Self-assessment, awareness and growth are central to the student experience in this course
SWK-299 Interprofessional Global Outreach
The goal of interprofessional education is to prepare future healthcare providers and professionals to work together as a team to improve patient and population health care. This includes engaging in foundational research on interprofessional education/collaborative practice; the use of interprofessional collaborative practice models to provide better care for clients. Service learning provides an opportunity for health care providers to learn more about health vulnerabilities that communities face and gain firsthand experience of working with underserved populations. Service learning uses experiential learning, reflection and reciprocal learning to increase student awareness of community health needs. This course includes international service learning in Jamaica over spring break.
SWK-304 Social Work Policy and Administration
This course provides an awareness of societal response to social problems. It will explore how political, economic, and institutional thought contribute to public response by the social welfare system. Students will explore societal response on the micro-level by designing an agency to meet various societal needs, exploring management skills and administration inhuman service agencies. Students will learn about various agencies and their administrative needs including hiring, state and government regulations, and team building. Areas of study will include planning, goal setting, decision-making, leadership, conflict resolution, budgeting and fiscal management.
SWK-435 Social Work Field Placement I
After consultation with Director of Field Placements advanced students will be provided direct experience in selected supervised settings in social work agencies and programs. The field placement aims to provide a service to the community and enable the student to acquire the skills, experience, and knowledge necessary for the choice of a career.
For all Social Work program course descriptions, please refer to the undergraduate catalog.
Catch up on the latest Social Work Program news below:
At a time when global social workers are needed more than ever, fewer students share the desire to pursue a career in international social work. In true Mercy fashion, Gwynedd Mercy University and the Conference for Mercy Higher Education have collaborated on designing and implementing international Social Work curriculum for small, private institutions who possess insufficient resources and student enrollment rates to support global learning opportunities for Bachelor of Social Work students. The program is funded by the Council on Social Work Education Katherine A. Kendall Institute.
Goals of the Collaborative
- Build a faculty and student global learning community
- Provide opportunities for Social Work student collaboration across Mercy universities
- Promote ethical international partnerships that enhance reciprocal mutually beneficial communityengaged service and global learning opportunities, at home and abroad
- Advance human rights through the inclusion of global learning framework in Social Work curriculum
Wade Luquet, PhD
Position: Social Work Program Director, Professor
Did You Know? Dr. Luquet is the founder of GMercyU’s BSW program. In October 2020, he received the prestigious Educator of the Year Award from the Pennsylvania chapter of the NASW.
Janice Nuss, DSW, LCSW
Position: Social Work Assistant Professor and Director of Field Education
Did You Know? Dr. Nuss has more than 25 years of experience in the fields of behavioral health, trauma-informed care, and developmental disabilities.
Maria T. Weidinger, ACSW, LSW
Did You Know? In 2019, Weidinger received the Social Worker of the Year award from the NASW-PA.
Satisfaction comes with knowing your work has meaning in the lives of others, and few professions offer as much meaning as social work.
—Social Work Program Director Wade Luquet, PhD
Built into the BSW program, every senior in the program participates in field experience with guidance and mentorship from Assistant Professor and Director of Field Education Janice Nuss, DSW, LCSW. You’ll complete 400 hours at an organization that best fits your specific interests and learning goals. Afterward, you’ll participate in 1:1 simulations back in the classroom to test and reinforce your new skills and expertise.
Our students have gained field experience at these organizations and more:
- Access Services
- BucksMont Collaborative
- Caring Hospice
- Catherine’s Cupboard
- Christ’s Home
- Episcopal Community Services
- Family Promise of Montgomery County
- Indian Creek Foundation
- Lenape Valley Foundation
- Montgomery County Human Services
- Peace Valley Recovery Center
- Philadelphia Youth Sports Collaborative
- RJ Leonard Foundation
- Variety Club
With solid job growth expected in this field, the demand for social workers may continue to grow due to COVID-19. “The need will continue to be great for social workers in hospitals, assisted-living facilities, rehabilitation centers, and schools. As has been true after other pandemics and economic downturns, professionally trained social workers may be a key to helping people find their way in the new economy,” said BSW Program Director Dr. Luquet. Read more here.
Top Jobs for Social Work Majors
Health Care Social Workers
Description: These professionals help people transition from the hospital back to their homes by helping them better understand their diagnosis and how to best move forward. They may help patients make lifestyle changes, learn how to manage their illnesses, and/or make necessary accommodations in their homes to help them live independently.
Education Required: A bachelor of social work degree
Salary: The median annual salary for this role in the U.S. in 2021 was $60,840.*
Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW)
Description: Licensed Clinical Social Workers provide counseling and therapy to individuals and families who experience illness, substance abuse, or other trauma. They hold the most advanced social work credentials and can clinically evaluate, assess, and diagnose mental illness.
Education Required: A master’s degree of social work and state license
Salary: The median annual salary is $60,459 but depending on where you live, you can earn more than $80,000.*
Community Social Workers
Description: These professionals identify unmet needs in communities or other large groups of people. They conduct assessments and refer residents to community resources.
Education Required: A bachelor of social work or related degree
Salary: The median annual wages for social and community social workers (or “service managers”) in the U.S. in 2021 was $74,000.*
More career ideas for social work majors include:
- Adult Day Care Worker
- Alcohol Counselor
- Care Manager
- Client Advocate
- Drug Abuse Counselor
- Case Worker
- Child Abuse Worker
- Child Advocate
- Community Action Worker
- Community Organizer
- Community Outreach Worker
- Crisis Intervention Counselor
- Eligibility Counselor
- Family Support Worker
- Group Home Worker
- Halfway House Counselor
- Intake Interviewer
- Juvenile Court Liaison
- Life Skills Instructor
- Neighborhood Worker
- Parole Officer
- Probation Officer
- Rehabilitation Case Worker
- Residential Counselor
- Residential Manager
- Social Service Aide
- Social Service liaison
- Social Service Tech
- Social Work Assistant
- Youth Worker
*This is just a partial list and not meant to limit you.
The Griffin Edge is comprised of five touchpoints -- Excellence, Engagement, Experience, Empathy, and Encouragement -- that become the cornerstones of your Distinctive Mercy Experience as a full-time undergraduate student.
The Griffin Edge includes an e-portfolio for documenting your GMercyU educational and extracurricular experiences (no matter your major), reflecting on those experiences, and receiving feedback from faculty. It's designed to help you take ownership of your educational journey and chart the right career path for you. It will also help you learn how to talk about your college experiences in meaningful ways — and that can make all the difference in a job interview.
For example, a student might say in a job interview: "I conducted research at the undergraduate level."
A Griffin Edge student might say: "The opportunity to conduct my own research alongside expert faculty taught me the importance of being exact in my data collection and analysis. I was even able to present my findings at our annual research conference! I know this is the career for me."
Learn more about the Griffin Edge here.
GMercyU’s BSW program prepares our students for careers and lives filled with meaning and purpose. Meet recent graduates below.
Meghan Chasar '22
Current Position: Master of Social Work Student
As a Social Work major, Meghan completed two research projects on trauma-informed care; she presented both at conferences. She also interned at the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services. "My favorite project there allowed me to participate in the Crisis Intervention Specialist (CIS) program training with law enforcement officers," Meghan said. Today, she is earning her Master of Social Work degree in the Advanced Standing Program at Bryn Mawr. Learn more about Meghan's experience.
Brianna McDonald '22
Current Position: Program Coordinator, Philadelphia Youth Sports Collaborative
While at GMercyU, Brianna completed various research projects, grants, and proposals, and traveled to Jamaica for a service trip. She also interned with the Philadelphia Youth Sports Collaborative, providing middle school students with after-school programs and activities in a safe environment. After graduation, Brianna decided to take a year off to work, accepting a job with PYSC, before going to graduate school. Learn more about Brianna's experience.
Brian Irwin '20, MSW
Current Position: Social Worker at Buckingham Valley Nursing and Rehab
Brian is currently earning his Master of Social Work degree, having entered the program with advanced standing. He plans to work as a medical social worker and obtain his license to become a licensed social worker (LSW). "GMercyU’s BSW program prepared me so much for my master’s degree schooling, especially my Human Behavior & Social Environment course — it informed me on people’s behaviors in specific environments, which is very important in this field.” Read more about Brian's experience to learn how his GMercyU field placement inspired him to earn his master's.
Carlisle Dixon ’20, MSW
Current Position: Clinical Therapist at Concern Counseling Services
The pandemic hit right as Carlisle's field experience began with Indian Creek Foundation, which serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. As they moved to telehealth services, Carlise helped plan and modify lesson plans, offered feedback for improvement, and ran check-ins with group members, all while completing research she started on assessment tools prior to the shutdown. After graduation, she earned her Master of Social Work in the Advanced Standing Program.
"At GMercyU, I was able to find my true self and see all the things I am capable of doing. I learned that social work is not going to be an easy job, that some days may be a challenge and to always take care of myself. I was able to see more of what social work is — what it is you truly do, not just the stereotypes you hear.” Read more about Carlise’s experience.
Read more Griffin Success Stories.
NEW: With GMercyU's new Counseling and Interpersonal Relations minor, you'll gain a valuable specialization to prepare you for graduate school or entry-level positions in the field. Learn more on our undergraduate minors page.
At GMercyU, we strive to make a quality education accessible to all through financial aid, scholarships, and grants. As a military-friendly university, we welcome service members and participate in all VA educational benefits programs.
*Gwynedd Mercy University’s Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Educations’ Commission on Accreditation.
Accreditation of a baccalaureate or master’s social work program by the Council on Social Work Education’ Commission on Accreditation indicates that it meets or exceeds criteria for the assessment of program quality evaluated through a peer review process. An accredited program has sufficient resources to meet its mission and goals and the Commission on Accreditation has verified that it demonstrates compliance with all sections of the Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards.
Accreditation applies to all program sites and program delivery methods of an accredited program. Accreditation provides reasonable assurance about the quality of the program and the competence of students graduating from the program.
For more information about social work accreditation, you may contact Accreditation.
Find information on Gwynedd Mercy University's Bachelor of Social Work Program 2021 Assessment Outcomes here. View 2020 Assessment Outcomes here.
*Licensure: This program was designed to meet the licensure requirements of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. If you reside in a different state, you should carefully review your home state’s licensure requirements prior to enrolling in this program. For more information, please visit our Program Licensure Requirement page.