Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

Misericordia student with friends


Program Chair/Program Director: Susan McDonald, MSW, Ph.D., LCW


The Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree program prepares students for professional practice with a curriculum that integrates theory with practical experience in a Social Welfare Agency. Graduates are eligible for licensing in Pennsylvania and many other states. The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredits the social work program. Students who want to earn a Master in Social Work (MSW) may be eligible for advanced standing in many graduate schools of social work throughout the United States.


The Mission of Misericordia University's Social Work Program is to prepare students for entry-level generalist social work practice with individuals, families, groups, communities and organizations. Inherent within this mission is a commitment to the development of BSW graduates who are dedicated to improving social, economic and environmental conditions among diverse populations and to promoting the Sisters of Mercy values of mercy, service, justice and hospitality.




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Admission Requirements

The criteria for admission into the Social Work program follows that of the University—a minimum high school grade point average of 2.5 and a minimum SAT requirement of 850 (combined Math and Critical Reading) if taken prior to March 5, 2016; if taken after March 5, 2016, a minimum combined score of 930 is required. In lieu of the SAT, the ACT results may be presented with a minimum required composite score of 18. However, during the second year or at the beginning of the third year, students must formally apply to the Social Work Program. Applications should be reviewed by the student with the advisor before it is submitted to the program chair.

Successful transfer applicants will typically hold a minimum collegiate grade point average of 2.0, having completed at least 15 college credits, and have a proven record of success in high school or collegiate science courses. Transfer students must also submit a formal application.

Program Requirements

A completion of 121 credits is required to earn a BSW Degree from Misericordia University. Of those, 49 credits comprise the core curriculum; completion of the social work curriculum requires 78 credits. Certain courses--such as Comparative Sociology and Introduction to Psychology--fulfill both the liberal arts core and social work requirements. This allows the social work major a greater selection of elective courses and the opportunity to pursue a minor or a certificate program.

Student must receive a grade of “C”or better in all social work (SWK) courses and maintain a minimum cumulative 2.50 G.P.A. to remain in the program.

Program Goals

The primary goals of the Social Work Program at Misericordia University are:

  1. To educate and promote the development of problem-oriented, undergraduate generalist social work practitioners whose knowledge and skills base enables them access and address problematic situations among diverse individuals, families, groups, communities and organizations.
  2. To foster students' ability to integrate the institutional and professional ideals of social justice and intervene on behalf of those discriminated against and oppressed,
  3. To enhance students critical thinking and problem solving skills for contextual understanding and intervention with all social systems.
  4. To prepare students for graduate studies and foster commitment to a process of continued professional growth.

Assessment of Student Learning Outcomes

Minors and Certificates

Social Work majors are strongly advised and encouraged to pursue minor areas of study or certificates in Child Welfare, Psychology, Gerontology, and Addictions Counseling. The Social Work Program has been responsible for the development, administration and supervision of the Child Welfare, Gerontology and Addictions Counseling Certificate and minor programs.



Social Work majors who pursue the gerontology option may complete either their junior or senior field experience, or both, in a setting serving the elderly. The Gerontology minor evolved as a response to the large number of aging services and extraordinarily large aged population in this geographical area (almost 20% of residents in Luzerne County are aged 65 or older). As our society in general continues to gray, trained personnel will be needed.

This minor consists of 15 credits in gerontology courses, including two required courses and three electives.

Required: GER 241: Introduction to Social Gerontology and GER 375: Aging Policies and Programs.

Electives: Any three – GER 341: Substance Abuse and the Aged; GER 358, Counseling the Older Adult; GER 365 Alzheimer Disease; and GER 370 Re-motivation Therapy.



Addictions Counseling

This minor consists of 16 credits in Substance abuse courses, including four required courses and two electives. These courses meet the educational criteria for the Pennsylvania Certification Board, meaning that students who achieve this certificate may, after the required number of work hours, sit for the certification exam in Pennsylvania.

Required: ADC 340a: Chemical Dependency, ADC 337: Substance Abuse Treatment, ADC 222 Drug Pharmacology (or PSY 306) and SKW 201: Professional Ethics (1 credit).

Electives: Any two – ADC 335: Substance Abuse with Special Populations, ADC 341: Substance Abuse and Aging, ADC 342: Families in Addictions and Dependency, ADC 339: Substance Abuse and Criminology, and SOC 413: Cooperative Internship (may be used as a 3 credit course with requirements prescribed and under faculty and on-site supervision).


Curriculum and Course Planner

Misericordia University's Social Work Program curriculum is organized around the primary goal of preparing competent baccalaureate-level generalist practitioners. It evolved institutionally from the Religious Sisters of Mercy's own call to compassionate service through the ministries of teaching and healing and developed according to those mandates for curricular content established by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). These mandates include a liberal arts perspective, and a professional foundation composed of required social work courses and field work designed to provide an integrated experience to educate students in the critical areas of social work values and ethics, diversity, social and economic justice, at-risk populations, human behavior and the social environment, social welfare policies and services, social work practice and research.


Download the Social Work Curriculum Planner (PDF).



More information about the curriculum sequence


The suggested course sequence outlined in the Social Work Curriculum Planner (PDF) helps to plan for the four years of undergraduate education.

In the first two years, students study courses in the liberal arts core and build knowledge in areas of diversity, writing and critical thinking, the arts, mathematics, the sciences, and history. Students also take SWK 101 in the spring semester of their sophomore year.

During junior year, students complete courses and fieldwork to build knowledge of professional intervention. These skills include the development and use of professional self, practice activities, and the evaluation of practice activities. By the end of the junior year, students will have completed Research Methods, basic practice classes, Human Behavior and the Social Environment I & II, Junior Field Instructions. A certificate and/or minor area of study will also have been declared by this time.

During the senior year, students complete senior field instruction, Methods and Processes III, the Senior Capstone Course (SWK 490) and additional social work electives. ALL work from these courses culminates in the construction and completion of their portfolios.

In summary, this sequence provides students with a foundation in human behavior and the social environment, exposure to issues of diversity, special populations and effects of oppression and discrimination through both course work and field instruction, the context of social welfare, introductory and basic practice courses, research methodology and generalist practice, and a junior level field assignment.

Students then complete the prescribed program with senior field instruction, completion of a student portfolio demonstrating achievement of program objectives, and an integrative seminar, all of which provide review and integration of classroom material with practice applications.

Course Descriptions

SWK 101 Introduction to Social Work, 3 credits

This course is an introduction to the profession of social work through an examination of the philosophical, societal, and organizational contexts within which professional social work activities are practiced. Students may explore their interests in and potential for a career in social work through this introduction of the knowledge, skills, values, and beliefs of the social work profession and by exploring the role of social workers within a variety of settings. Grounded in a social work perspective that includes a strength-based approach, this course will enhance a student's cognitive and self-assessment skills to assist students in assessing the congruence between their own values and those of the profession.



SWK 201 Professional Ethics, 1 credit

Course provides a foundation for ethical behavior and ethical decision-making in the helping professions. Various ethical codes, including APA and NASW, will be reviewed and integrated into a framework for practice with individuals, families, groups, communities and large organizations.

Fall and Spring, 5-week online format


SWK 222 Drug Pharmacology, 3 credits

A comprehensive understanding of drug pharmacology and its effect on the user. The course will include examination of such topics as classifications of drugs, synergistic effects of drugs on the body, drug tolerance and dependence, and the over-the-counter pharmaceutical industry.



SWK 232 Research Methods, 3 credits

Quantitative and qualitative research methodology, and appreciation of the scientific method as applied to the behavioral sciences and social work. The language of science, concepts, propositions, models, hypotheses and empirical laws. Analysis of concepts of the experimental, correlational and case study methods. Critical reading of research; introduction to research activities; and evaluation of interventive efforts. Also offered as SOC 232.

Prerequisite: MTH 115 or permission of instructor. Spring


SWK 251 Introduction to Social Welfare, 3 credits

Introduction to the field of social work and the social welfare system in the United States. Focuses on the historical and philosophical antecedents of present day social welfare programs and the development of social work as a profession.

Prerequisite: SOC 101 or permission of instructor. Fall


SWK 252 Social Welfare Policies and Services, 3 credits

A systems approach to the study and assessment of contemporary social welfare programs. Focuses on the interplay of social, political and economic forces that influence the planning and implementation of social welfare services.

Prerequisite: SWK 251 or permission of instructor. Spring


SWK 285 Communication Skills, 3 credits

Development of skills for helping professionals in direct work with individual clients, groups, and others. Listening for emotions, monitoring one’s own reactions and responses, building group leadership skills, and developing relationships that foster constructive change.

Prerequisites: PSY 123, SOC 101. Fall/Spring


SWK 320 Trauma and Resiliency, 3 credits

This course presents the development of trauma theory and resiliency perspectives within the field of social work. The approach to the provision of social work practice to address Post Traumatic and other traumatic sequelae of clients is based upon most current principles of trauma theory. This course is an introduction to these concepts and is not intended to be used as a treatment course.

SWK 333 Substance Abuse in the Adolescent Population, 3 credits

A study of the special problems of the adolescent substance abuser. Correlates that add impetus to the progression of the problem will be examined. Emphasis will be on early identification and detection as key components in initiating intervention strategies.



SWK 335 Substance Abuse in Special Populations, 3 credits

A multi-faceted look at the myriad of special populations affected by substance abuse. Emphasis will be on cross-cultural influences and the role they play in contributing to substance abuse.

Prerequisite: ADC 340 or permission of instructor. Summer


SWK 337 Substance Abuse Treatment Methods, 3 credits

An examination and critique of the many treatment resources and methods that have been developed during the last 20 years. Discussion will include but not be limited to such treatment methods as psychotherapy with individuals and groups, drug therapy, family and network therapy, detoxification, and behavioral therapy.

Prerequisite: ADC 340 or permission of instructor. Spring


SWK 339 Substance Abuse and Criminality, 3 credits

An examination of the correlation between substance abuse and criminality. This course will analyze the theoretical models of the substance abuse/crime relationship and its societal implications. Topics to be explored will include drugs and street crime, DUI, Interdiction, strategies, urinalysis testing, and substance abuse and family violence.



SWK 340A Chemical Addictions and Dependency, 3 credits

An introduction to the diagnosis and treatment of alcoholism. Emphasis is placed on contemporary beliefs and attitudes toward alcohol, effects upon the family and implications for treatment.



SWK 341 Substance Abuse and the Aged, 3 credits

Focuses on the use patterns, diagnosis and treatment methods specific to the aged substance abuser. Issues examined will include misuse and abuse of prescription drugs, behavior and risk factors, factors related to underdiagnosis, and relationship to depression and suicide.

Spring/Alternate years: WEC


SWK 342 Families in Addiction and Dependency, 3 credits

An introduction to the family as a dynamic system focusing on the effect of addiction pertaining to family roles, rules and behavior patterns. Discuss the impact of mood altering substances and behaviors and therapeutic alternatives as they relate to the family from a multicultural and transgenerational perspective.

SWK 350/351 Human Behavior and the Social Environment I and II, 3 credits

A life-cycle course sequence exploring the bio-psycho-social-cultural determinants of human behavior from an ecological/systems perspective. Emphasis is placed on the adaptive capacity of humans in interaction with their physical and social environments. SWK 350 examines conception through adolescence and SWK 351 young adulthood through old age.

Prerequisites: PSY 123, SOC 101 Fall/Spring


SWK 352 Adaptive Behavior, 3 credits

A life cycle course exploring the bio-psycho-social-cultural determinants of human behavior from an ecological/systems perspective. Emphasis is placed on the adaptive capacity of humans in interaction with their physical and social environments.

Prerequisites: PSY 123, SOC 101


SWK 355 Sexuality in Childhood and Adolescence, 3 credits

Overview of the emerging sexual self from early childhood through adolescence. Examination of one’s own sexual values and their relationship to acceptance of diversified sexual behaviors and lifestyles.

(On demand)


SWK 356 Developing Cultural Competence with Children and Families, 3 credits

Examination of issues involved in working with children and families from diverse cultural, ethnic, and language groups. Emphasis on awareness and understanding of one’s own cultural background, values, and beliefs, and their implications for developing intercultural effectiveness while working with others.



SWK 358 Counseling the Older Adult, 1-3 credits

A social worker practice course with emphasis on individual and group counseling techniques for older persons with emotional and social difficulties.

Prerequisite: Permission of instructor. Alternate years


SWK 360 Special Topics in Social Work Practice, 1-3 credits


SWK 361 Special Topics in Social Work Policy, 1-3 credits

Content of these courses varies from semester to semester in keeping with student and faculty interest.

Prerequisite: Permission of instructor. (On demand)


SWK 363 Child Welfare Services, 3 credits

The history and current provision of services to children in need of care because of neglect, abuse, or lack of family support.

Prerequisite: Permission of instructor. Fall


SWK 366/367/466 Social Work Methods and Processes I/II/III, 3 credits

Skills in social work assessment and intervention with micro-mezzo-macro systems. The generalist perspective and theoretical underpinnings of systems intervention will be developed and applied in the context of generalist social work practice.
Prerequisites: For SWK 353–SWK 251, SWK 285;

For SWK 354–SWK 251, SWK 285, SWK 353, social work majors only


SWK 371 Field Instruction I, 3 credits

Students work in a community agency two days per week (200 hours) for one semester, under the supervision of an agency person and a member of the social work faculty. Students participate fully in agency activities.

Prerequisites: SOC 103, SWK 251, SWK 285, SWK 353; Social Work majors only


SWK 372 Field Instruction Seminar, 1 credit

Weekly seminar for students involved in field instruction; for duration of field placement. Integration of theoretical knowledge with practical field experiences. Student case materials and experiences discussed.

Social work majors only


SWK 375 Aging Policies and Programs, 3 credits

Analysis of causes, intent, and results of policy decisions as they are experienced as programs and services for the elderly. Discussion of policies affecting income, health care, social services, and volunteerism.

Prerequisite: GER 241. Spring


SWK 390/391 Seminar, 3 credits

Analysis of special areas of social work

Prerequisite: Permission of instructor. (On demand)


SWK 392 Child Abuse and Neglect, 3 credits

A practice–oriented course for students who intend to work in a protective service role. Topics include abuse and neglect: causes, legal sanctions for intervention, treatment approaches, case planning, and services.

Prerequisite: Permission of instructor. Fall


SWK 393 Child Welfare Law, 3 credits

Examination of the laws that child welfare workers rely on to promote the rights of families and children. Topics include state and local laws that provide services to families and children, legal resources for offenders, child welfare service provision in specific areas, e.g., adoption.

Prerequisite: CWS 363 or permission of instructor. Spring


SWK 395A Permanency Planning, 3 credits

Assessment, case planning, and the provision of services in foster care, in residential facilities and for child adoption.

Prerequisite: Permission of instructor. Fall


SWK 473/474 Field Instruction Seminar, 2 credits

Weekly seminar for students involved in field instruction; for duration of field placement. Integration of theoretical knowledge with practical field experiences. Student case materials and experiences discussed.

Corequisite: Field instruction course; social work majors only


SWK 475/476 Field Instruction I-II, 3 credits

Two days a week (400 hours) for two semesters, senior social work students practice in a social service agency; practice supervised by agency representative; education directed by social work facility. Direct service to clients.

Prerequisite: Permission of field coordinator; social work majors only


SWK 477 Field Instruction IV, 3 credits

An alternative to SWK 476 in cases where block placements are more valuable. Senior social work students work full-time in an agency for 12 to 14 weeks (400 hours) for one semester. Practice supervised by an agency representative; education directed by social work faculty member. Direct service to clients.

Prerequisite: Permission of field coordinator; social work majors only


SWK 480 Independent Study, 3 credits

Special investigation of a selected topic.

(On demand)


SWK 490 Senior Integrative Seminar, 3 credits

This course is designed to serve as an integrative seminar with a capstone portfolio to the social work practice sequence. Students will demonstrate their understanding of working on micro, mezzo and macro levels of practice integrating theory, empirical research, values and skills as integral to the generalist practice of social work.

Prerequisites or Corequisites: SWK 101, SWK 366, SWK 367, SWK 466, SOC/SWK 232

Career Development

Graduates of Misericordia University’s Social Work Program are employed in both direct service and administrative roles within hospitals, children and youth agencies, aging programs, nursing homes, adolescent treatment centers, drug and alcohol programs and numerous other social service agencies. Students have also secured employment with the agency where they completed their field assignment following graduation.

Students who accept positions outside the field of social services are pleased to discover that the problem-solving and communication skills developed in their social work training are highly valued by employers.


Graduate School Opportunities

Since Misericordia University’s Social Work Program is fully accredited by the CSWE, students are afforded the opportunity for advanced standing in many Master of Science in Social Work (MSW) programs throughout the country.

For those students interested in application, contact your faculty and advisor for references. Graduates with a BSW degree from Misericordia have been admitted to Marywood University, Columbia University, University of Denver, Fordham University, University of South Carolina, New Mexico Highlands University, Bryn Mawr College and others. Students report that their undergraduate training at Misericordia University prepared them exceptionally well for graduate studies.


Social Work Club, Honor Society, and Awards

Social Work Club

Social Work Club The Social Work Program sponsors a student organization service club open to all majors on campus. The purpose of the organization is to allow students an opportunity to plan and implement academic, professional, and social programs on campus. Club activities are designed to enhance the student's awareness of the profession and the field of Social Work. The club offers field trips as well as professional programs several times during each semester. In many instances, the organization acts in an advisory capacity to the faculty with regard to issues of importance to students. Social Work club members were actively involved in the CSWE visit. Social Work majors are encouraged to join and be active within the organization.

Alpha Delta Mu, Social Work Honor Society

The Social Work Program is a charter member of Alpha Delta Mu, the National Social Work Honor Society, Epsilon Chapter. Criteria for membership:

  1. A student must be a Social Work major in an accredited Social Work program.
  2. The student must have achieved at least junior standing and completed a minimum of 30 credits at Misericordia University.
  3. The student must have a University G.P.A. of 3.25 or higher.
  4. The student must be nominated by at least two full-time social work faculty members at Misericordia University. Excellent recommendations are critical to being inducted into membership.

Application for acceptance into Alpha Delta MU (PDF).


Student Awards


  • Alpha Delta Mu Award- This award recognizes academic excellence of the graduating social work senior with the highest Grade Point Average.


  • Dr. Patricia Lewis Award- This award is given to a graduating social work senior who best exemplifies the Sisters of Mercy values of Mercy, Service, Justice, and Hospitality, and whose ethical conduct and comportment as a beginning social work practitioner merits recognition beyond the awarding of a bachelor's degree in social work.


  • Dr. James Calderone Award - This award is presented to a graduating social work senior who has shown outstanding personal and professional growth during his/her academic career at Misericordia University.


"What stands out to me in the Social Work program is that it is full of passionate faculty and eager students sharing the common ground of service and compassion to others. The Staff know how to bridge the integrative work between classroom and internships that make the learning experience personable and professional. The experience and connections held by the faculty helped me be well prepared for my graduate work, entering into Advanced Standing curriculum at a highly reputable university, and for my advanced field placement."

~ Tim Kelly '17, BSW


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