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Social Work

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Change lives and aid your community

Make a difference with an accredited baccalaureate social work degree.

You already have the most important characteristic needed to be an effective social worker: compassion for others. Let Mount Mercy help develop that virtue and passion into a career that will make a difference in your community.

Through highly refined courses taught by experienced faculty and a variety of field instruction with local social service agencies, Mount Mercy’s social work major will develop your awareness of the biological, psychological and social influences that affect human behavior. 

The Social Work major is designed to give students an understanding of how people function in society, the challenges they encounter, and the social services available to them.

The program strives to develop in students an awareness of the interaction of biological, psychological, and social influences on human behavior; an understanding of the impact of prejudice, discrimination, and oppression on vulnerable groups within society; a dedication to working for social, environmental, and economic justice; and competence in entry level generalist social work practice, with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities.

This content in social welfare and social work is integrated with a liberal arts base. The primary objective of the program is to prepare students for immediate employment in social work; a secondary objective is preparation for graduate study.

My internships while a student at MMU taught me that I could bring my passions to my social work practice. This realization gave me the courage to follow my passions, and to the work I am currently developing.


Networking opportunities matter.

The Bachelor of Arts in Social Work is versatile, from one-on-one work with individuals and families, to program planning for larger community-based organizations.

Faculty advisors work directly with students to set goals, assuring success in and out of the classroom. Mount Mercy’s faculty has a wealth of experience, in practice fields such as child welfare, healthcare, public health, and political organizing, and in classroom teaching.

You’ll get the most out of your education with hands-on field experience that broadens your networking opportunities and builds your resume. Mount Mercy’s graduates give the social work program its reputation of excellence. Our students are actively recruited by employers, as well as a number of graduate-level social work programs across the Midwest.

Student learning outcomes assessment

As a social work major, you are required to complete foundation and advanced field instruction. This will take place during the fall and spring semesters of your senior year. Students have completed field placements at:

  • Juvenile Court Office
  • Abbe Center for Community Mental Health
  • Four Oaks
  • Nursing Homes
  • Domestic Violence Programs
  • Families First Counseling Services
  • Goodwill
  • Department of Human Services

Mount Mercy University’s social work program prepares successful students for licensure within the state of Iowa. Mount Mercy has not determined if the curriculum meet licensure requirements in other states. Mount Mercy’s social work program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.

What courses will I take?

Social Work Major

SW 226Social Welfare Policies and Programs3
SW 232Social Work Practice I3
SW 245Basic Helping Skills3
SW 265Diversity in America3
SW 300Human Behavior and the Social Environment3
SW 315Methods of Social Research3
SW 320Social Work Practice II3
SW 330Social Work Practice III3
SW 361Foundation Field Instruction6
SW 435Senior Seminar3
SW 461Advanced Field Instruction10
BI 123Biology of Human Concern4
CO 101Oral Communication3
PO 111Introduction To American Politics3
PS 101Introductory Psychology3
PS 224Developmental Psychology3
SO 122Introduction to Sociology3
Select One of the Following:3
SW 202
Marriage & the Family: Intimate Relationships
SW 210
Substance Abuse
SW 225
Aging In America
SW 235
Family Child Welfare
SW 250
Human Sexuality
One course from the core curriculum writing courses4
Total Hours69

Social work majors may not use SW 265 Diversity in America to satisfy the Self and Society requirement. If students take any of the required, non-program courses at other colleges or universities, they should check with program faculty to assure that the courses are equivalent to those required by the Social Work Program.

Academic Requirements

Students are reminded to review the previously stated grade requirements for courses crediting toward the Social Work major.

The following is the typical sequence of courses required for the major*:

PO 1113SW 1153SO 1223
PS 1013 CO 1013
Writing Competency4 BI 1234
Global Awareness Domain3 Historical Roots Domain3
 13 3 16
SW 2323Ultimate Questions Domain3SW 2653
SW 2453 PS 2243
Math Competency3 Expressive Arts Domain3
Fine Arts Domain3 Ultimate Questions Domain3
SW Elective or Elective3 SW Elective or Elective3
 15 3 15
SW 2323Holistic Health Domain3SW 3203
SW 3003 SW 2263
SW 3153 SW Elective or Elective3
SW Elective or Elective3 SW Elective or Elective3
SW Elective or Elective1 SW Elective or Elective1
 13 3 13
SW 3616SW Elective or Elective3SW 46110
SW 3303 SW 4353
ME 4501  
SW Elective or Elective3  
 13 3 13
Total Hours: 123

Note: Elective courses could be used for a second major, a minor, a course of interest, internship or study abroad experience.

Note: See the Curriculum section for more information on Portal, Competency, Domain, and Capstone courses.


The course offerings, requirements, and policies of Mount Mercy University are under continual examination and revision.This Catalog presents the offerings, requirements, and policies in effect at the time of publication and in no way guarantees that the offerings, requirements, and policies will not change.

This plan of study represents a typical sequence of courses required for this major. It may not be applicable to every student. Students should contact a department faculty member to be sure of appropriate course sequence.


SW 100 Social Welfare: A World View Travel Course: 3 semester hours

All countries have some form of social welfare. The policies, program structure, and availability of resources may vary, but the issues of concern are often shared. Some of these universal issues include homelessness, mental illness, juvenile delinquency, aging and long-term care, child maltreatment and domestic violence. A social worker's understanding of the US social welfare system will be enhance by exploring how other countries view social welfare problems, and work toward their solutions. This course is built as a travel course that will tour cultural and historical sites throughout selected countries, visit social service agencies, and attend lectures and complete reading specific to the country's system of social welfare. In addition to visiting social service agencies, students will participate in a a service project. The majority of student time will be directed toward experiential opportunities. Fulfills the social work elective. Additional travel costs apply. Credit can range from 1 -3 semester hours.

SW 115 Introduction to Social Work and Social Welfare: 3 semester hours

This course is an introduction to the array of people, programs, and organizations whose intent is to respond to human needs of various kinds and intensity. It deals with both professional and non-professional activities. The course provides a basic framework for understanding the ideology and operation of human service systems. In addition, the student will develop a beginning understanding of the relationship between social policy and various approaches to human service programming to meet the intent of those policies. Through exposure to the service system in Linn County and this area of the state, the student will become informed about the service needs that exist and the responses to those needs. Social Work majors who believe they have completed and equivalent to this course should contact the instructor to discuss whether they are required to take this course. (offering winter term.).

SW 202 Marriage & the Family: Intimate Relationships: 3 semester hours

This course examines intimate partner relationships and families as expressed throughout time and place in contemporary American society. It provides an analysis of intimate partnerships and families over the life course as social institutions with changing functions and structures. Attention will be given to intimate partnerships and the dynamics of interpersonal relationships across diverse groups and social settings. Students will gain insight into the influences of religion, politics, culture, education, and economics on individual and family-level well-being.

SW 210 Substance Abuse: 3 semester hours

This course describes commonly abused drugs and specific mental illnesses, how they interact, and the resulting impact on individuals, families, and communities. The course will introduce theories of the addictive process, prevention and treatment options for both substance abuse and mental illness, and the dilemma of dual diagnosis. This course is not intended to provide specific counseling of therapeutic skills, but a general knowledge base essential to social work and other disciplines. Prerequisite: SO 122, PS 101 and at least sophomore status. Exemption from prerequisites by consent of instructor.

SW 225 Aging In America: 3 semester hours

This course constitutes an overview of gerontology, including the major theories used to explain the physiological, psychological, and sociological aspects of aging. As the one inequality all people face, the study of aging and ageism - known as social gerontology - examines the transformations in the life course of older adults and the impacts on those they encounter. Drawing from an historical perspective, the course explores current issues and trends related to finances and retirement, health, living environments, social justice, and politics. Prerequisite: SO 122.

SW 226 Social Welfare Policies and Programs: 3 semester hours

This course examines the development of major social welfare policies and programs in the United States. It seeks to sharpen the student's ability to analyze the relationship of policy to social program, and the economic, political and ideological influence on policy and programs in the fields of housing, health, mental health, substance abuse, unemployment, and corrections are studied. Prerequisite: PO 111 and sophomore status.

SW 232 Social Work Practice I: 3 semester hours

This is the first course in the social work practice sequence. After examining the historical and current purposes and function of the social work profession within the context of the social welfare institution, students are exposed to an ecological systems approach to entry level generalist social work practice. Emphasized are the value and knowledge base of the profession; the nature and importance of the professional helping relationship; the bases of diversity and its role in social work practice; generalist practice with a variety of client populations and in a variety of fields of practice; and a direct and indirect intervention with both small and large systems. Students will be exposed to the general method of practice, and there is a detailed treatment of worker actions at the various stages of the method. Case studies (written and video) will stress the applicability to populations of varied racial and cultural background. There is also a 30 contact hour observation and counter component in this course. This course is prerequisite for all other social work practice courses. Prerequisite: sophomore standing.

SW 235 Family Child Welfare: 3 semester hours

This course analyzes the dilemmas and issues that confront child welfare practitioners as they carry professional roles. It will provide a theory base from which to proceed in service delivery, emphasizing the special work done in family preservation and out of the home care. Legal, social, and economic-political developments that influence this field of practice are included. Recommended: PS 124, SW 226.

SW 245 Basic Helping Skills: 3 semester hours

This is an experientially-based course focusing on the values, knowledge, and skills necessary to work in the helping professions. The course provides a model of helping, including communication and basic interview techniques for working with individuals, families, and groups. Class format offers role-plays, simulation exercises, audio-visual feedback, discussion and lecture. The course is open to all majors. First priority goes to students who need this course to complete a requirement for their major. Prerequisite: PS 101 and sophomore status.

SW 250 Human Sexuality: 3 semester hours

This course constitutes an overview of the many dimensions of human sexuality: biological, cultural, social moral, psychological, and emotional. The aim of this course is to increase students' knowledge and understanding of both the sexual individual and the sexual society in hopes that they can develop the awareness and skills to enhance their own life and the lives of those around them. Topics include sexual dysfunction, changing sex roles, sexual variations and orientation, issues of reproductive freedom, sexually transmitted diseases, and the exploration of sex and sexuality. Prerequisites: An introductory course in psychology or one in human biology or permission of the instructor. (Not offered every year).

SW 265 Diversity in America: 3 semester hours

This course takes a broad view of diversity in contemporary America. Students will explore how diversity and intersectionality shape human experiences and identity development and affect equity and inclusion. The dimensions of diversity that will be discussed as the intersectionality of factors include but are not limited to age, caste, class, color, culture, disability and ability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity and expression, generational status, immigration status, legal status, marital status, political ideology, race, nationality, religion and spirituality, sex, sexual orientation, and tribal sovereign status. Emphasis will be given to developing an understanding of the concept of intersectionality, a sensitivity to the experience of historically minoritized populations, and an appreciation of the unique identities, lived experiences, and different cultures in the United States. First priority is reserved for students who need this course to complete their major.

SW 300 Human Behavior and the Social Environment: 3 semester hours

The emphasis of this course is to provide the student with a social systems framework for analyzing and understanding the transactions between humans and the systems in their environment. Students will be expected to draw on content they have had in prerequisite courses, applying it to the framework. Their information base also will be supplemented by reading and discussion. Although the content of this course is developed within a social work framework, it is relevant to many students. Prerequisites: PS 101, SO 122, BI 123 (or equivalent), PS 124.

SW 315 Methods of Social Research: 3 semester hours

Provides an understanding of a scientific approach to knowledge building with an emphasis on teaching students to be critical consumers of research. Examines quantitative and qualitative methods and applications used in social sciences research including data analysis, program evaluation, and ethics and diversity in social worlds. Prerequisite: junior status; recommended SO 122.

SW 320 Social Work Practice II: 3 semester hours

Students will use the systems model of social work intervention to study effective generalist involvement with individuals and families. The purpose of social work at these levels and related worker roles and tasks will be emphasized. Theories of intervention will be examined for their contribution to an eclectic knowledge base appropriate to the demands of contemporary social work practice. A strengths-based orientation to practice with diverse populations is emphasized. Prerequisites: SW 232, SW 226 and present enrollment in or prior completion of SW 245 and SW 300.

SW 330 Social Work Practice III: 3 semester hours

This course examines social work practice with large systems. Students explore change models specific to working with organizations and communities. Each system is studied to understand its internal organization and functioning, and its linkages with other community systems. Special attention is also given to the role of politics: the effect of politics on social workers, clients, and human service agencies; the social worker's fit with political activism; and the strategies to affect change within the political arena. Students use their critical thinking skills to assess, implement, and evaluate change in organizational, community, and political activities; to acknowledge the presence and etiology of social, political, and economic injustices; and to recognize change opportunities that provide for empowerment of oppressed groups. Prerequisites: SW 232, SW 226, SW 300, PO 111, and current enrollment or prior completion of PO 326.

SW 361 Foundation Field Instruction: 6 semester hours

This educationally directed, field-based course is designed to provide an introduction to the application of theory to social work practice. Students will have an opportunity to experience both direct and indirect service with individuals and large and small systems. Students will spend 12 hours per week in the field placement where they will be supervised by an agency staff member and a Social Work faculty member. Students will be expected to do related readings, assignments, and recording of service delivery experiences. A concurrent seminar will meet two hours per week. This course is graded pass/fail. Prerequisites: SW 226, SW 232, SW 245, SW 300, and PO 326.

SW 435 Senior Seminar: 3 semester hours

An examination of current issues in Social work practice and social welfare policies with emphasis on integration of field experience and content covered in courses required for the social work major. Topics researched are analyzed in light of the major themes and content areas developed throughout the social work curriculum. Prerequisite: Successful completion of all other courses required for major.

SW 445 Social Work Independent Study: 3 semester hours

Limited to social work majors.

SW 461 Advanced Field Instruction: 10 semester hours

This educationally-directed practical experience builds on the junior field instruction and allows students to increase their ability to practice social work in a community agency. Students will spend 24 hours per week in the field placement where they will be supervised by an agency staff member and a social work faculty member. Students will be expected to do related readings, assignments, and recording of service delivery experiences. A concurrent seminar will meet two hours a week. The course is graded pass/fail. Prerequisites; SW 320, SW 361, and full acceptance into the major; prior completion or concurrent enrollment in SO 215.

SW 462 Senior Field II: 4 semester hours

This course is an educationally directed field experience in some aspect of generalist social work practice It will involve the student in a social service agency for 12 clock hours per week per term. Students will be expected to do related readings, recording of case or agency experiences, and meet with agency supervisors and department faculty for educational guidance. This course is graded pass/fail. This does not substitute for SW 461 and must be taken concurrently or subsequently to SW 461. It does not satisfy the elective requirement for the major. Prerequisite: permission of department faculty.

Careers in social work

Enter the field with confidence from having previous experience.

The Bachelor of Arts in social work is considered the entry level of professional practice. You will be prepared to carry out professional roles in social service agencies working with individuals, families, and groups.

You will also have preparation to carry out broader organizational and community roles. Additionally, you are eligible to apply for social work licensure in states where it is either mandatory or voluntary at the bachelor level of practice.

Students who graduate from Mount Mercy with an accredited baccalaureate social work major may be eligible for "advanced standing" in many Masters of Social Work programs. This usually allows a student to complete the MSW in a shorter amount of time than the regular program takes.

Graduates from our social work program are prepared to work in a variety of fields, including:

  • Child protective services
  • In-home family services
  • Juvenile and adult corrections
  • Substance abuse treatment
  • Programs for people with disabilities and for the elderly
  • Foster care
  • Community development

What are the next steps?

Mount Mercy offers competitive tuition and generous scholarships.

We also encourage all students to apply for federal, state, and other kinds of financial assistance.

Learn more about:

We make it easy by accepting applications year-round! No deadline, no fee, no pressure.

  1. Create your application
  2. Apply under standard admissions criteria or go "test optional"
  3. Request official transcripts from all institutions previously attended. Mail to:

  Mount Mercy University Admissions
  1330 Elmhurst Drive NE
  Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52402

For more detailed instructions on how to apply, see our Admissions page.