The University of Chicago | Graduate Admissions

School of Social Service Administration (SSA) - MA

Division: School of Social Service Administration
Degree Type:  AM

Program Description

The Master of Arts program, continuously accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and its predecessor organizations since 1919, prepares students for advanced professional practice. The School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago awards the AM degree, from the Latin artium magister. The AM is equivalent to an MSW degree.

The SSA Master of Arts program prepares students to become leaders in the field of social work. It does this by providing a sophisticated understanding of the person-in-environment and by developing competencies and practice behaviors to effect change. Individual distress is seen in social context, influenced by biological, economic, familial, political, psychological, and social factors. This perspective recognizes that economic, organizational, political, and social factors shape the work of social welfare professionals. Effective helping requires a broad understanding of possible responses, ranging from short-term strategies for gaining new resources and skills to long-term social and psychological interventions. The professional must be aware of and able to act within the web of relationships that link individual well-being with wider social and political forces to achieve social and economic justice.

Flexible program options include a full-time day program, part-time day program, extended evening program, and 15-month accelerated program.

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Application Method

Applications should be initiated through the online application. Paper applications are not accepted.


Deadlines for admissions and financial aid for the full-time and part-time (day) programs are December 1, January 15, and April 1 . We recommend that you meet the earlier deadlines because the class may fill up prior to the April deadline. 

Deadline for the 15-Month Accelerated Program only: October 15

Deadline for admissions and financial aid for the Extended Evening Program only: SSA will continue to accept applications on a space available basis through July 1.

Campus Visits

Although campus visits and interviews are not required, you are welcome to visit campus, sit in on classes, and meet with current students.

Degree Objective

SSA admits applicants the AM and PhD degrees. 

Application Requirements

  1. Online Application Forms
  2. Supplementary Statement: Applicants must submit a four page, double spaced, and typed statement that discusses the following: (1) a social problem of importance to you, and how a direct practice or policy intervention might provide a way to engage it; and (2) your specific short and long term goals, and how a social work education at SSA provides a way for you to achieve them.
  3. Transcripts: Applicants must submit a transcript from each college and graduate school they have attended. Electronic transcripts are preferred, when available.
  4. Application Fee: Applicants can pay the $60 fee electronically at the time they submit their online application. This application fee is not refundable and does not apply toward tuition or other charges.
  5. References: 3 letters of reference are required. Academic references are preferred. References can be submitted online using the online application.

Admissions Decisions

Admissions decisions are emailed in early March. Direct all questions about your application directly to the admissions office.

Program Requirements

The core curriculum is central to the educational program at the master's level. It brings together all students, whatever their career interests, for a solid introduction to the fundamentals of social policy formulation and program implementation, social research, and direct practice. The core curriculum prepares students for generalist practice through mastery of the core competencies of the profession as articulated by the Council on Social Work Education. It places particular emphasis on understanding and working with culturally diverse and economically disadvantaged populations. After completing core studies in the first year, students who choose clinical practice begin their concentration with an established awareness of the broader contexts of individual distress and helping responses, while social administration students enter their concentration with a corresponding understanding of social work intervention at the direct practice level.

Required courses in the first two quarters of the first year provide students with a common foundation of knowledge concerning social welfare issues, human development, direct practice intervention strategies, and social research and practice behaviors related to these areas of knowledge. This foundation provides the background for concentration in advanced practice in clinical work or in social administration. Fieldwork placements in the first year are continuous for three quarters. They provide direct practice experience with distressed people and the institutions established to help them.

Costs & Financial Aid

SSA makes every effort to help students by offering exceptional scholarship assistance and by facilitating other forms of financial assistance.

We offer Divisional fellowships at two levels. Both levels provide support for up to five years, are contingent on good progress, and are renewed annually.

  • Financial aid to SSA students is comprised of donor-sponsored scholarships totaling nearly $1 million annually, coupled with support from the SSA's general operating fund, the annual alumni fund drive, and various student loans funds. Aid to students from all of these sources totaled more than $4 million in the 2010-11 academic year.
  • Last year, more than 95 percent of students received scholarship awards.
  • Although scholarships are awarded for one year, 100 percent of scholarships were renewed for second-year students last year.
  • Additional scholarship and fellowship opportunities are available for second-year students, including some paid field placements (internships).
  • Students supplement SSA scholarship awards with federal and University loans and work-study.

Applicants who meet the early admission deadline (December 1) and fill out the FAFSA form will receive a preliminary letter of federal financial aid eligibility (federal student loans and work-study) a few weeks after their admission decision so that they can make an informed financial decision.