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About social work at Calvin

Calvin College prepares its students to do more than just live in the world as successful members of society. It helps them develop the skills and virtues necessary to bring healing to a broken world.

Social work at Calvin is a fully-accredited program that combines the liberal arts, applied coursework and practical experience with biblical teaching to prepare students to be agents of renewal in the professional social work setting.


Calvin's bachelor of social work degree program (BSW) is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). The CSWE Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS) promotes academic excellence in BSW and MSW education. The EPAS specifies the curricular content and educational context to prepare students for professional social work practice. The BSW program at Calvin is a competency-based education which uses an outcome performance approach to curriculum design. Assessment is an integral part of this competency-based education. Our system of assessment is implemented annually. Click here to view the most recent summary of assessment results.


The mission of the BSW program is to prepare students for competent and effective entry-level generalist practice in social work within the context of a Reformed-Christian, liberal-arts education.

Program goals

1. To prepare students for competent and effective entry-level, generalist practice with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities.

2. To promote and develop in students an understanding of social work knowledge, values, and skills with a strengths perspective emphasis.

3. To prepare students for professional practice within the context of a Reformed Christian, liberal arts perspective—particularly its emphasis on the pursuit of interpersonal, social, and economic justice with diverse persons.

Strengths perspective

As Calvin’s BSW program has matured, we have come to believe that transforming broken relationships at all levels of society is best accomplished by practitioners focusing on and identifying the strengths of clients and the directions in which they want to apply them. We believe this “strengths emphasis,” addressed in many of the courses in the social work major, reflects the redemptive theology of a Reformed, Christian outlook.

Program overview

The BSW program includes liberal arts courses, a social work major and electives. The social work major (part of the BSW program) is composed of courses in social work theory, social policy, human behavior, statistics and research, practical knowledge and skills and a community field education.

BSW program requirements

Students planning to major in social work must apply to the BSW program. Additionally, BSW students must apply to be placed in a field education site.

Community field education experience

Everything in BSW program comes together in the community field education experience, which students take in their senior year. Each student completes a 400-hour placement in a social service agency, practicing social work with clients under the supervision of an experienced social worker.

BSW students may complete their field education requirement in the following settings:

Student opportunities

The BSW program offers opportunities to pursue honors work. Students may also apply for research assistant positions and work collaboratively with professors on a range of projects related to social work practice.

Social work faculty

Social work faculty hold graduate degrees in social work and have previous social work experience in a variety of social agencies. Sociology faculty members also teach courses in the social work major. A social work faculty member advises each BSW student.


Social work is a growing profession that is expected to grow well into the 21st century. Entry-level positions exist for BSW graduates.

More specialized positions require a master of social work (MSW). In recent years, approximately 95 percent of Calvin BSW students who applied to MSW programs were accepted, with most receiving advanced-standing status because of their coursework at Calvin.

What is social work?

Social work’s origins lie in early 20th-century efforts to meet the needs of the poor, neglected children, and exploited workers. Early social workers led in the struggle for child-labor laws, more humane working conditions, voting rights for women, and other reforms.

Today’s social workers belong to a dynamic, involved, growing profession which struggles with social concerns as varied as child abuse, drug addiction, housing and homelessness, aging, and mental illness.

Professional social workers continue to advocate for their clients and also perform a wide range of needed services, including:

  • adoption services
  • community organizing
  • counseling with patients and families experiencing traumatic illnesses.
  • rehabilitative services for emotionally or physically impaired people

They work in diverse settings such as government agencies, private industry, schools, faith-based organizations, neighborhood centers and health care organizations.