Social work in schools

Back to School with School Social Work logo by NASWDid you know...

  • School social workers, school counselors, school psychologists and school nurses are frequently the first to see children who are sick, stressed, traumatized & who may act out, or may hurt themselves.
  • Students are 21 times more likely to visit school-based health centers for treatment than anywhere else.
  • Schools that employ more school-based mental health providers see improved attendance rates, lower rates of suspension or other disciplinary incidents, expulsion, improved academic achievement, career preparation and graduation rates. 
  • Almost half of the total social work workforce works in schools with children. 

More than 10 million students are in schools without school social workers. The social, emotional & behavioral needs of these students aren't being met. Want to change that? Consider becoming a school social worker! School social work is a specialized field of practice within the social work profession that according to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) "acts as the connection for school, home, and community services to help children with emotional, developmental, and educational needs." School social workers work as part of interdisciplinary support teams in public and private schools, preschool programs, and in some cases social service agencies and residential centers for children. Learn more from NASW

Individuals employed as school social workers in Michigan must meet the criteria set forth by the Michigan Department of Education in the Public School Code. Specifically, they must have earned a Master of Social Work degree, which includes a minimum of 500 clock hours of supervised social work practicum experience. In addition, school social workers must have demonstrated knowledge/competence in four additional areas: 1) child psychopathology 2) diagnosis, assessment and testing, 3) educational disabilities and their impact on children and families, and 4) the practice of social work in educational settings. Learn more about School Social Work in Michigan


Temporary approval by the State Department of Education is required for employment as a school social worker. Faculty of the School of Social Work who granted the Master of Social Work degree to the applicant recommends temporary approval to the State Department of Education. Evidence of the knowledge and competencies outlined in the "State Rules and Regulations for School Social Work" must be on file with the University. Wayne State University, Master of Social Work graduates who have fulfilled requirements to meet the Temporary Approval, can apply to have a SSW-310 University Recommendation completed. Prospective job applicants then can provide this form as proof of eligibility for temporary approval. Once the applicant has received an offer of employment, the employing school district then completes the lower portion of the SSW-310 and forwards it to the State of Michigan, Department of Education.


Applicants must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Obtained a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree
  • Completion of a minimum of 500 hours of graduate-level fieldwork with children in a school or children, youth and family setting. Please note that students who enter the MSW program with Advanced Standing and enroll in a two-day a week field placement must complete an additional 50 clock hours to meet this 500-hour requirement.
  • Completion of ONE of the three Interpersonal Practice tracks. The theory track courses include content on child psychopathology and other developmental challenges, which is required for the State of Michigan Temporary Approval. In each track, students are also exposed to content on practice methods with children/families, violence, substance abuse, and a range of other topics that broaden their knowledge and skill base for work in the schools:
    • Cognitive/Behavioral Track - SW8340 and SW8350 (8 cr.)
    • Family Systems Track - SW 8380 and SW 8390 (8 cr.)
    • Psychodynamic Track - SW 8360 and SW 8370 (8 cr.)
  • Completion of the following required courses: All students taking SW 8180 and SW 8330 or their equivalents beginning in the Fall of 2015 must earn a letter grade of B or above in each class to earn Temporary Approval.
    • Social Services in the Schools - SW 8180 (3 cr.)
    • Psychosocial Assessment of Children and Youth - SW 8330 (3 cr.)

For those who already have an MSW degree, but did not meet the above requirements upon graduation, the requirements for Temporary Approval for Michigan School Social Workers may be satisfied by:

  • Completing at least 500 hours of post-graduate experience with children, youth and families under the supervision of an LMSW social worker
  • Completion of the required content areas of SW in the school setting, Psychopathology and Psychosocial Assessment of Children & Youth and the Interpersonal Track courses if these were not previously taken 

Refresher workshops do not satisfy the content area requirements for students who had not previously met requirements for temporary approval. Please note that continuing education and refresher courses do not meet the requirement for the MSW degree.


How to apply for graduate admissions status:

  • A student who has never been formally admitted to a graduate program at Wayne State University must file an initial Graduate application with the University Admissions Office using the online application. The student will select 'Non-Degree Social Work' for the academic program and major. Official transcripts of all college-level work, both undergraduate and graduate, are to be sent directly to the University Admissions Office by the institution where the applicant was enrolled. Students must pay any associated admission application fees.  ​ 
  • A student who has already been admitted as a WSU graduate student and who is in good standing must request a Change of Status with the School of Social Work Office of Admissions and Student Services by sending an email to noting they wish to return and enroll in post-master coursework.

How to apply for temporary approval for Michigan Social Workers:

  • Complete the Request for From SSW-310 application
  • Upon submission of your application, if eligible, you will receive a Temporary Approval Letter in about 3-5 weeks

Obtaining the Temporary Approval allows one to apply for School SW positions. If you obtain a school social work position in a Charter or Traditional Public School, after one year, your HR representative will apply to the ISD or the State of Michigan for full approval. Make sure they DO THIS! Get a copy of it for your records.

The Temporary Approval is valid for five years. If a school social work position is not obtained, the refresher course is required, followed by reapplication for the Temporary Approval, which is then valid for another five years. After this time, if one does not obtain a school social work position, one would need to retake the classes and reapply for Temporary Approval.


Students must complete the following specified courses (4 in total) to complete the request that a SSW-310 form is submitted on their behalf:

  • SW 8180
  • SW 8330
  • ONE of the following three Interpersonal Practice tracks with coordinating courses:
    • Cognitive/Behavioral Track: SW 8340 & SW 8350
    • Family Systems: SW 8380 & SW 8390, formerly SW 8540/8610 & SW 8780/8790
    • Psychodynamic: SW 8360 & SW 8370

PLEASE NOTE - Non-Degree Status is ineligible for financial aid; therefore, please be mindful when you apply for this status as you will be responsible to pay all tuition fees.

Register now


Karen Weiner
Temporary Approval Coordinator