The Complete Guide to MSW Programs in Minneapolis

As the Twin Cities region grapples with growing inequality and social fragmentation, skilled social workers serve as first responders—stabilizing communities, nurturing development, and fighting for justice. Minneapolis‘s accredited Master of Social Work (MSW) programs prepare graduates to protect vulnerable groups through counseling, advocacy, research, and service provision.

This definitive guide explores all facets of navigating MSW programs in Minneapolis and launching social work careers where help is needed most. Let‘s get started.

Inside Minneapolis’s Top MSW Programs

The Council on Social Work Education has accredited numerous esteemed institutions providing MSW degrees in Minneapolis metro areas.

Based on selectivity, career outcomes, course offerings, research activity, and internship partnerships, these five providers stand at the top in preparing students for contemporary social work practice:

1. University of Minnesota

The University of Minnesota School of Social Work, ranked 15th nationally among public social work graduate schools, leads Minneapolis MSW programs in research activity, internship breadth, and competitiveness.

Key stats:

  • Acceptance Rate: 20%
  • Enrollment: 300 full-time MSW candidates
  • Cost: $627 per credit in-state
  • Accreditation: CSWE through 2028

CORE MSW assets include the School of Social Work Research Services office, the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare, and 400+ community partner sites offering field experience.

2. Augsburg University

Augsburg University matches students to local agencies addressing mental health, youth advocacy, homelessness, and addiction—issue areas Augsburg commits over $2 million to annually through its community engagement infrastructure.

Key stats:

  • Acceptance Rate: 50%
  • Enrollment: 53 part-time/full-time MSW candidates
  • Cost: $31,000 total tuition
  • Accreditation: CSWE through 2027

An Augsburg MSW education emphasizes cultural competencies critical in the Twin Cities urban environment via its Center for Global Education and Experience.

3. St. Catherine University

St. Kate‘s top-rated Clinical Social Work program treats Minneapolis communities as an extension of its classroom throughBeginWithCommunityConnections partnerships transforming students into field-tested professionals.

Key stats:

  • Acceptance Rate: 71%
  • Enrollment: Over 200 MSW candidates
  • Cost: $41,040 total tuition
  • Accreditation: CSWE through 2028

St. Catherine‘s Scholars Program enables deep exploration of social justice issues through collaborative capstone research.

4. St. Thomas University

The St. Thomas School of Social Work leverages relationships with 100+ community organizations to connect students‘ passions for service with sustained action.

Key stats:

  • Acceptance Rate: 50%
  • Enrollment: Over 170 full-time MSW candidates
  • Cost: $42,726 total tuition
  • Accreditation: CSWE through 2027

Between the Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law, & Public Policy and the Veritas Institute, St. Thomas delivers strong faith perspectives on social work.

5. Metropolitan State University

Metropolitan State MSW students engage with 400+ partner agencies to fulfill 400 required field experience hours focused specifically on urban systemic needs.

Key stats:

  • Acceptance Rate: 85%
  • Enrollment: 50 part-time/full-time MSW candidates
  • Cost: $8,352 yearly in-state tuition
  • Accreditation: CSWE through 2026

The program’s Foundation for Ethnic and Communal Harmony and HEALS Center promote reconciliation and healing in the community.


Gaining admission to Minneapolis’s selective top-tier programs requires planning and effort. However, the immersive community-engaged learning experiences at all five institutions deliver expertise highly valued by area health providers, nonprofits, schools, and municipalities seeking licensed social workers.

Applicants should highlight relevant internships, volunteer work, and specialized skills like crisis management, program assessment, cultural fluency, and trauma-informed counseling.

Now that we’ve surveyed notable providers, let‘s examine processes and considerations central to embarking on an MSW career path from Minneapolis roots…

Licensure and Exams

After completing MSW education components centered around interventions, human behavior, policy, research, and social work values, graduates must pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Masters exam and apply for licenses to practice as Licensed Graduate Social Workers (LGSWs) or Licensed Independent Clinical Social Workers (LICSWs).

We‘ll analyze key steps and testing insights to seamlessly transition from MSW graduation to professional Minneapolis practice.

MSW Licensure Process in Minnesota

To qualify for Minnesota social work licensure at the graduate level, candidates must:

  1. Graduate from a CSWE-accredited Master of Social Work program
  2. Pass the ASWB Masters exam with a score of at least 75
  3. Submit a license application through the Minnesota Board of Social Work
  4. Complete 4,000 hours of supervised professional practice

Applicants have one year after passing their exam to activate licenses before scores expire.

The ASWB Masters exam, offered year-round via computer-based testing, evaluates competence across areas like assessment, intervention, communication, and ethics applied in professional scenarios.

Many students describe the 170-question, 4 hour test as mentally grueling. Strong preparation is vital. Minneapolis programs provide access to in-depth exam study guides and prep courses to help candidates enter testing confidently.

Tips for Acing the ASWB Exam

  • Study incrementally over at least 4-6 weeks rather than cramming to allow thorough topic absorption.
  • Lean heavily into practice questions and sample tests mirroring actual content.
  • Master key terminology like diagnoses, social theories, therapies, legal principles, and more.
  • Review research methodology including qualitative, quantitative, mixed methods and analysis.
  • Analyze practice scenarios through ethical, clinical, evidentiary, and diversity lenses.

With concerted studying, most MSW graduates pass the ASWB exam on first attempts. Some even consider it straightforward.

Upon passing, candidates submit license applications with transcripts, supervision plans, fees ranging from $45-$115 depending on license type, and register with the Minnesota Board of Social Work.

Supervised Practice

Both LGSW and LICSW licenses then mandate a 4,000 hour/two year supervised practice period under senior social workers before independently practicing.

LICSW candidates complete 360 additional hours focused specifically on clinical diagnoses, treatment plans, and therapeutic interventions. All supervision verifies core skill development.

Through supervised practice, recent MSW graduates acclimate to agency environments and build competencies by working through real-world cases alongside experienced professionals.

MSW Career Outlook in Minneapolis

MSW graduates enter Minneapolis practice equipped to provide counseling, therapy, program coordination, consulting, research, teaching, policy reform, and management across diverse settings as needs and passions dictate.

As America‘s 15th largest metro supporting a population nearing 4 million, Greater Minneapolis offers varied opportunities to heal people, families, and communities.

MSW career prospects center around:

Mental Health and Private Practice

With anxiety disorders, depression, PTSD, and substance abuse growing amid the stresses and traumas of a post-COVID world, demand for clinical social workers and therapists thrives. 65% of Minnesota MSW students intend to practice clinical social work.

Minneapolis mental health agencies and counseling centers–and opportunities for private practice–increase staffing nearly continuously. Open positions span case managers, program coordinators, clinical supervisors, researchers, behavioral analysts, intake directors, child psychologists, rehabilitation experts, group therapists, counselors treating co-occurring disorders, and nurse/social worker hybrid roles.

The average licensed clinical social worker practicing therapy or counseling earns over $75,000 in the Twin Cities. Those in hospitals and residential treatment often earn over $90,000.

Advocacy and Policy

Passionate reformers drive change through policy advising, activism, lobbying, nonprofits, and grassroots organizing. Minnesota employs over 7,000 dedicated child, family, and school social workers working across organizations focused specifically on youth wellness and equity.

Open advocacy roles in the metro span program managers, evaluators, student support specialists, juvenile justice experts, child welfare liaisons, education specialists, Head Start coordinators, parenting course creators, grant writers, volunteers coordinators and more.

Licensed social workers in the nonprofits/advocacy sector average nearly $65,000 yearly in Minneapolis.


Overall job growth for social workers is projected to surge 12% through 2030 in Minnesota based on rising service demands–especially surrounding an aging population.

Passionate licensed MSW practitioners boast endlessly diverse options to enact change in the Twin Cities metro. The rapidly expanding economy equally supports public, private, nonprofit, and grassroots social work realms. There has never been a more opportune time for empowered Minneapolis citizens to leverage skill and compassion as forces for good through social work.

Which MSW Program is Right for Me?

In considering social work education tailored for Premier Minneapolis practice, individuals should reflect on lifestyle needs, financial standing, passions, strengths, populations served, and theoretical orientations.

Evaluate factors like:

  • Online components accommodating work schedules
  • Evening/weekend course options
  • MSW concentrations matching interests
  • Department research pursuits
  • Internship site availability
  • Program culture and peer qualities
  • Faith perspectives underlying curricula
  • Support resources offered
  • Tuition costs and financial aid

Strike a sustainable balance between program depth/prestige and affordability. An online degree from Capella University at $417 per credit provides flexibility working professionals need. However, the University of Minnesota‘s top-ranked program at $627 per credit delivers substantially stronger research opportunities, faculty expertise, and network connections.

Compare the social work environments different programs funnel graduates into. Metropolitan State University has uniquely strong relationships with urban government agencies to align students with public service careers. Students wanting teacher/social worker hybrid roles often target Concordia University‘s strong education ties.

There are no absolute "right" answers in charting an MSW course matching personality, goals and needs. Candidates should apply to multiple Minneapolis providers, schedule campus visits when possible, and deeply explore community partnerships.

Programs want students invested in the populations they aim to support. Communicate specific visions for improving mental health outcomes, stabilizing struggling groups, or enacting progressive reforms.

The terrain ahead challenges even the stoutest hearts. Having the right educational foundation makes conquering future obstacles possible. Minneapolis nurtures many paths to purpose through social work. Where will yours lead?

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