Health Sciences & Social Work

Social Work


Welcome to the Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) Program at Western Illinois University. The BSW is a specialized undergraduate professional degree that prepares graduates as generalist social workers for professional employment in social service agencies. The program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.

The social work profession is for individuals committed to the enhancement of human well-being and the alleviation of poverty and oppression through empowerment. Social workers seek to "make a difference" by helping individuals, groups, and communities restore and enhance their functioning through the development and implementation of social policies and programs to meet human needs, and through advocacy and social action which promotes social and economic justice. Social workers are concerned regarding any social situation that limits an individual's, group's or community's development, hampers effective functioning, or diminishes dignity and self-respect.

Program Mission

The mission of the social work program is to prepare competent generalist social workers who empower individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities, both locally and globally, and serve as advocates for a more socially just society. The program provides a supportive learning environment that fosters a respect for human diversity, a passion for human rights, a commitment to responsible and ethical professional practice, and a dedication to eliminating poverty and enhancing the lives of all people.

Program Goals

The acronym CARES was created to describe the characteristics of a social worker that all students should aspire to be: Competent, Advocates, Responsible, Ethical, and Service-Oriented. Students will build on this caring attitude through course work, professional development, personal growth, community service, and the field practicum to become professional social workers.

  1. To educate students who are Competent to practice at the generalist BSW level, through a curriculum built on the nine core competencies.
  2. To instill in students their duty to be Advocates who challenge injustice and actively promote the dignity and worth of all people.
  3. To produce graduates who are Responsible professionals who act with integrity.
  4. To prepare graduates who behave in an Ethical manner, continuously conscious of the implications their actions have for their clients, coworkers, and profession.
  5. To develop Service-oriented citizens engaged in their community who contribute to finding solutions for local, regional, and global issues.

Program Accreditation

The Social Work Program has been continuously accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) since 1996. The program most recently received re-affirmation of accreditation in 2017, and is scheduled to complete the next re-affirmation of accreditation in 2024.

View Student Outcome Assessments.

BSW Handbook

The BSW Handbook contains a broad range of information about the major. Current and prospective students are encouraged to download and become familiar with information in the handbook.


Getting a job after college requires experience. All social work students complete a 450-hour (15 week) practicum in a social service agency where they gain the skills to transition from student to social worker.

Admission to the Social Work Major

The Bachelor of Social Work degree is a professional degree designed to prepare graduates to work in direct practice with clients in a wide variety of social service agencies. The Council on Social Work Education, which accredits social work programs, charges each program with the responsibility of “gatekeeping” for the profession. Initially, all students entering the Social Work program are classified as Pre-Social Work majors. Enrollment in the Pre-Social Work Program does not guarantee acceptance as a candidate for the Bachelor of Social Work degree.

  • For more information about applying to the Social Work Major, see the BSW Student Handbook.
  • Update for 2021-2022 Academic Year: The Social Work Major application process will be completed through a Western Online "class" page. If you are eligible to apply to the major you will see this on your list of Fall 2021 classes in Western Online within the first 4 weeks of the semester.

Four-Year Curriculum

The curriculum for the Bachelor of Social Work degree offers liberal arts, as found in the university general education requirements, and the social work curriculum which includes a semester long practicum. This curriculum complies with the Curriculum Policy Statement of the Council on Social Work Education. Please see the University Catalog or BSW Student Handbook for more detailed information about the curriculum. As required by the Council on Social Work Education's Educational Policies and Accreditation Standards, the BSW Program does not grant course credit for life experience or previous work experience.

Social Work Courses
Foundation Courses (48 sh)

SW 100 (3sh) Introduction to Social Work
SW 212 (3sh) Human Behavior and the Social Environment I
SW 213 (3sh) Human Behavior and the Social Environment II
SW 312 (3sh) Social Work Research Methodology
SW 313 (3sh) Social Work Research Statistics
SW 315 (4sh) Generalist Social Work Practice I
SW 316 (3sh) Case Management
SW 325 (3sh) National Social Welfare Policy
SW 380 (3sh) Social Justice and Diversity
SW 415 (3sh) Generalist Social Work Practice II
SW 425 (3sh) Generalist Social Work Practice III
SW 440 (1sh) Pre-Practicum
SW 480 (13sh) Generalist Social Work Practicum

Electives (6 sh required)

SW 298 (3sh) Individual Studies
SW 331 (3sh) Social Work and Addictions
SW 332 (3sh) Social Work with Aging
SW 334 (3sh) Social Work, Disabilities, and Health
SW 335 (3sh) Domestic Violence and Social Work Intervention
SW 336 (3sh) Medical Social Work
SW 337 (3sh) Social Work in Rural Environments
SW 338 (3sh) Social Work and Mental Health
SW 340 (3sh) Topics in Social Work
SW 341 (3sh) Social Work in Child Welfare I
SW 342 (3sh)
Social Work in Child Welfare II
SW 345 (3sh) Investigations in Social Work
SW 496 (3-6sh) Senior Honors Thesis in Social Work
SW 498 (3sh) Individual Studies


1st Semester

SW 1003
SOC 100Y3
BIOL 1004
PHIL 1053
UNIV 1001

2nd Semester

POLS 1223
ENG 1803

3rd Semester

SW 2123
ENG 2803
PSY 1003

4th Semester

SW 2133
COMM 2413

5th Semester

SW 3123
SW 3253
SW Elective3

6th Semester

SW 3133
SW 3154
SW 3163
SW 3803

7th Semester

SW 4153
SW 4253
SW 4401

8th Semester

SW 48013

Student Organizations and Student Leadership

Phi Alpha

Social Work and Pre-Social Work student epresentatives are elected by their peers. Both students represent all social work students. They attend the BSW program meetings and participate in discussions about the program, policies, curriculumn, and events. They provide student perspectives during discussions and share student questions and concerns.

SW Student Representatives: Christian Torres and Kennique Tillman

The NASW Student Liaison serves as our connection to the Illinois Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). The NASW Liaison coordinates our involvement in Social Work Advocacy Day held every spring.

NASW Student Liaison: ToniSue Chatfield


Debra Allwardt, M.S.W., Ph.D., L.S.W., Associate Professor,
Katherine Perone, M.S.W., D.S.W., L.S.W., Professor, Director of Field Education,
Kaycee Peterman, M.S.W., L.C.S.W., Associate Professor,
Lori Smith-Okon, M.S.W., L.C.S.W., Assistant Professor,
Karen T. Zellmann, M.S.W., L.C.S.W., Professor, BSW Program Director,