10 Best colleges for social work in California

California has more social workers than any other state in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), with social workers in environments like schools, healthcare and independent practices.

 If you want to help disadvantaged communities and individuals who need social resources to lead healthier and more fulfilling lives, you might be curious about how to become a social worker in California or checking out the best colleges for social work in California to attend.

Social workers in California can be classified into several categories but the most common are:

  • Health care social workers
  • Child, family and school social workers
  • Mental health and substance abuse social workers

However, there are other types of social workers. In this article, you will get to know the Best colleges for social work in California according to universities.com.

List of the best colleges for social work in California

Below is a list of the best colleges for social work in California where you can be trained to become a social worker.

  • University of California-Berkeley
  • California State University-Fullerton
  • California State University-San Bernardino
  • San Jose State University
  • California State University-Long Beach
  • San Diego State University
  • California State University-Dominguez Hills
  • California State University-Los Angeles
  • University of Southern California
  • California State University-Sacramento

University of California-Berkeley

200 California Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720

The University of California Berkeley or UC Berkeley is a public institution that was founded in 1868.

Located in Berkeley, California, this school was the first campus that was built in the University of California System and offers over 130 academic departments and 80 interdisciplinary research groups with the business school, computer engineering, and biological sciences programs ranking in the top nationally.

UC Berkeley has a total undergraduate enrollment of around 32,000 students. They are one of the best colleges for social work in California that take classes according to a semester-based academic calendar.

Prospective students should note that California residents receive in-state tuition at a much lower rate than applicants from out-of-state. 

UC Berkeley has a history of student-based political action and discussion and was the centre of the Free Speech Movement, which began in 1964 and fueled opposition to segregation and the Vietnam War.

The graduation rate at UC Berkeley is an impressive 91.9%, thanks in part to the student-to-faculty ratio of 19:1. 

California State University-Fullerton

800 N State College Blvd
Fullerton, CA 92831-3599

California State University-Fullerton offers 1 Social Work degree program. It’s a very large, public, four-year university in a large suburb. In 2019, 106 Social Work students graduated with students earning 106 Master’s degrees.

California State University-San Bernardino

5500 University Parkway
San Bernardino, CA 92407-2393

California State University-San Bernardino offers 3 Social Work degree programs. It’s a very large, public, four-year university in a midsize city. In 2019, 140 Social Work students graduated with students earning 93 Master’s degrees, and 47 Bachelor’s degrees.

San Jose State University

One Washington Square
San Jose, CA 95192-0001

San Jose State University offers 2 Social Work degree programs. It’s a very large, public, four-year university in a large city. In 2019, 239 Social Work students graduated with students earning 168 Master’s degrees, and 71 Bachelor’s degrees.

California State University-Long Beach

1250 Bellflower Blvd
Long Beach, CA 90840-0115

California State University-Long Beach is considered as one of the best colleges for social work in California that offers 2 Social Work degree programs. It’s a very large, public, four-year university in a large city. In 2019, 352 Social Work students graduated with students earning 283 Master’s degrees, and 69 Bachelor’s degrees.

San Diego State University

5500 Campanile Dr
San Diego, CA 92182-0001

San Diego State University (SDSU) is a public research university founded in 1897 as the San Diego Normal School.

Located just south of Lake Murray in the San Diego metro, SDSU now has over 14 colleges including the Fowler College of Business and the School of Theatre, Television, and Film.

The graduation rate at SDSU is 83%, and the student-to-faculty ratio is 25:1, meaning the 33,000 students can anticipate large lecture-format classes.

SDSU is one of the best colleges for social work in California with an endowment of about $300 million and a philanthropic partner in The Campanile Foundation that oversees funding for internal and affiliated university interest groups.

The school has cultivated corporate partnerships with companies like Intel, Microsoft, and KPMG for funding and post-graduation job placement options for qualifying students.

Those interested in studying abroad should note that SDSU has partner programs in Brazil, Mexico, India, and China.  

California State University-Dominguez Hills

1000 E Victoria St
Carson, CA 90747-0005

California State University-Dominguez Hills offers 1 Social Work degree program. It’s a large, public, four-year university in a small city. In 2019, 91 Social Work students graduated with students earning 91 Master’s degrees. It is considered one of the best colleges for social work in California.

California State University-Los Angeles

5151 State University Dr
Los Angeles, CA 90032-8506

California State University-Los Angeles offers 2 Social Work degree programs. it is one of the best colleges for social work in California. It’s a very large, public, four-year university in a large city. In 2019, 373 Social Work students graduated with students earning 233 Bachelor’s degrees, and 140 Master’s degrees.

University of Southern California

University Park
Los Angeles, CA 90089

The University of Southern California is one of the best colleges for social work in California that offers 4 Social Work degree programs. It’s a very large, private not-for-profit, four-year university in a large city. In 2019, 1,441 Social Work students graduated with students earning 1,367 Master’s degrees, and 74 Doctoral degrees.

California State University-Sacramento

6000 J St
Sacramento, CA 95819-2694

California State University-Sacramento offers 2 Social Work degree programs. It’s a very large, public, four-year university in a large city. In 2019, 331 Social Work students graduated with students earning 230 Bachelor’s degrees, and 101 Master’s degrees. It is equally one of the best colleges for social work in California.

Frequently Asked Questions

Social Work means committing to everyday challenges that enable you to have a positive impact on the lives of the most vulnerable people in our society.

If you want to show up for others and pursue a Master’s degree in Social Work, one of the best places to do it is in California. These questions are asked mostly by students who attend or fished from the Best colleges for social work in California.

What are the Steps to Become a Social Worker in California?

  • Earn a CSWE-accredited Master of Social Work.
  • Complete additional required coursework.
  • Complete post-graduate field hours. 
  • Apply for licensure.

Earn a CSWE-accredited Master of Social Work


For you to be able to become a licensed social worker, you must have earned a Master of Social Work (MSW) from a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)-accredited school of social work; this includes associate clinical social worker (ACSW) and licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) requirements. 

Complete additional required coursework

In addition to an MSW, future social workers in California must ensure that they also have proof of completion for the following courses: 

  • Child Abuse Assessment and Reporting
  • Human Sexuality
  • Alcoholism and Chemical Substance Abuse and Dependency
  • Aging, Long Term Care and Elder/Dependent Adult Abuse
  • Spousal/Partner Abuse Assessment, Detection and Intervention
  • Suicide Risk Assessment and Intervention

Complete post-graduate field hours

Before you begin accruing post-graduate hours, you must register as an ACSW.

While an MSW program will require fieldwork experience to graduate, California requires 3,000 total supervised social work hours over a minimum of 104 weeks in order to become licensed as a clinical social worker.

A minimum of 2,000 hours overall must be in clinical experience, including a minimum of 750 hours performing in-person group or individual psychotherapy.

A maximum of 1,000 hours must be in non-clinical experience, in settings like client-centred advocacy, consultation, evaluation, research and workshops.

Apply for licensure.

You’ll need to pass a criminal background check, take and pass the California Law & Ethics Exam, and take and pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Clinical exam.

There are also various fees to pay and applications to fill out throughout the licensure process.

If you want, you can pursue additional certifications and continued education once you’ve become a California social worker.

What are available degree pathways to become a social worker in California?

The two social work licenses offered in California require a Master of Social Work (MSW) from an accredited school. Learn more about MSW programs in California. There are several other types of MSW programs available:

—-Online Master’s in Social Work (MSW):

There are several online MSW programs available, with locations inside the state of California and across the country, that are accredited by the CSWE.

—-Advanced Standing MSW Program:

If you have already earned your Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree, you may be able to pursue an advanced standing MSW program which builds upon your BSW coursework to graduate in less time than pursuing a full MSW program. 

—-Online Clinical Social Work (LCSW) Program:

While a clinical MSW program is not explicitly required to pursue a license as a LCSW in California, it may help when completing the required clinical exam for licensure.

—-Online MSW with No GRE:

Some universities offer admissions without requiring the GRE but may still have GPA and other requirements.

—-Doctorate of Social Work (DSW):

While a DSW program is not required for licensure as a social worker in California, it is available for social workers who wish to pursue advanced careers as university instructors, administrators or directors of social services.

What are the requirements to become an Associate Clinical Social Worker (ACSW) in California?

  • Education Requirement: Master’s degree in social work from an accredited school of social work and required coursework.
  • Field Requirement: None
  • Exams: California Law & Ethics Exam
  • Fees: $75 application fee
  • License Renewal: Registration may be renewed five times in a  six-year time span.

What are the requirements to become an LCSW in California?

  • Education Requirement: Master’s degree in social work from an accredited school of social work, verified by electronic transcripts.
  • Field Requirements: 3,000 total supervised hours, over 104 weeks (minimum).
  • Exams: California Law & Ethics Exam (if not applying as a ACSW), ASWB Clinical exam.
  • Fees: $100 application fee.
  • License Renewal: Every two years.

How much can I earn as a Social worker in California?

Social Worker CareerAnnual Mean Salary
Child, family and school Social Workers$58,540
Health care social workers$83,800
Mental health and substance abuse social workers$73,150
Others $73,620
Best colleges for social work in California: annual salary

Can I get Social work Scholarships in California?

There are so many social work scholarships for those who are aspiring to be social workers. These scholarships cover school costs, such as tuition and supplies.

There might be other financial aid options in any of the best colleges for social work in California you choose. Here are a few of those scholarships.

What do I note?

There is no social work license reciprocity in California or endorsement licensure.

Social workers who have a current out-of-state license must submit a California LCSW application, pass the California Law and Ethics Examination, have an MSW that is accredited by the CSWE and complete California-specific coursework.

In Conclusion:

Social workers help relieve people’s suffering, fight for social justice, and improve lives and communities. Most people think of social workers when they think of poverty alleviation and child welfare. Many social workers do that kind of work — and they do much more.

The primary mission of the social work profession is to enhance human well-being and help meet the basic and complex needs of all people, with a particular focus on those who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty.

If you’re looking for a career with meaning, action, diversity, satisfaction, and a variety of options, consider attending these best colleges for social work in California.

Having seen the list of the best colleges for social work in California, leave a comment below or some questions that you want answers to.

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