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School of Social Work

Social Work Professional & Technical Standards


Master's and Bachelor's Degree Programs

The professional and technical standards outlined below are required for completion of programs from the School of Social Work at The University of Southern Mississippi. These standards describe the physical, cognitive, emotional and behavioral requirements of social work students. They are designed to provide an overview of non-academic criteria required for students to fully participate in all aspects of coursework and the field practicum.

Professional Performance Standards

The School of Social Work recognizes that preparation for professional practice requires more than scholastic achievement. The program expects students to exhibit behaviors that are consistent with professional performance. Such behavior is expected not only in the classroom but throughout the University and the larger community. Some specific examples of professional performance standards are outlined below. 

Students must demonstrate:

  • A commitment to the goals of social work and to the ethical standards of the profession, as specified in the NASW Code of Ethics.
  • The essential values of social work including the respect for the dignity and worth of every individual and his/her right to a just share of society’s resources (social justice).
  • Behaviors that are in compliance with program policies, institutional policies, professional ethical standards, and societal laws in classroom, field, and community.
  • Responsible and accountable behavior by knowing and practicing within the scope of social work, respecting others, being punctual and dependable, prioritizing responsibilities, attending class regularly, observing deadlines, completing assignments on time, keeping appointments or making appropriate arrangements, and accepting supervision and criticism in a positive manner.
  • A commitment to serve in an appropriate manner all persons in need of assistance, regardless of the person’s age, class, race, religious affiliation (or lack of), gender, disability, sexual orientation and/or value system.


Professional Standards

1. Performance


  • Plans and organizes work effectively.
  • Turns in assignments complete and on time.
  • Keeps scheduled appointments (advisement, field work interviews, etc.).
  • Makes arrangements for his/her special needs.
  • Develops increasing levels of knowledge and skills with awareness of integration as demonstrated through class participation, assignment and field performance.


  • Appears to demonstrate a pattern of:
  • Poor organizational skills.
  • Demonstrates inability to take initiative toward increasing knowledge and skills relevant to performance demands.
  • Requests for extension on assignments and exams.
  • Turning in field and/or class assignments late or incomplete.
  • Excessive absences from class per class syllabus.
  • Non-response to program communications.
  • Multiple absences from field placement.

2. Conduct/Behavior


  • Demonstrates ability to work cooperatively with others.
  • Actively participates in class discussion groups/role plays.
  • Shows respect for others’ opinions.
  • Is open to feedback from peers/faculty.
  • Is able to accept constructive criticism.
  • Actively participates in field work supervision sessions.
  • Demonstrates a willingness to understand diversity of people regarding race, color, gender, age, creed, ethnic or national origin, disability, political orientation sexual orientation, and populations at risk.
  • Conducts him/herself according to the NASW Code of Ethics.


  • Appears to create conflict in class which impedes learning and /or building effective relationships.
  • Uncooperative/unwilling to participate in class activities.
  • Consistently late for class, or leaves class early.
  • Consistently late for field placement.
  • Sleeps during class periods.
  • Disrupts class process by talking to others.
  • Uses derogatory language or demeaning remarks.
  • Difficulty in listening, e.g.: (overly sensitive, externalizes blame, distorts communications).
  • Appears unwilling/unable to accept feedback.
  • Responds in a defensive manner.
  • Consistently argumentative
  • Monopolizes class discussions.
  • Consistently complains about class workload to the point of impeding class process.
  • Unwilling/unable to develop an understanding of people different from oneself.
  • Inability to separate his/her personal values from professional values and responsibilities.
  • Inability to recognize the impact of personal values and behaviors of others.
  • Inadequate maturity, readiness, and/or ability for generalist practice; for example, evidence of excessive anxiety, grandiosity, passivity, etc.
  • Discriminatory behavior or harassment towards other on the basis of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, religion etc.
  • Physical action directed at clients, faculty, staff, or fellow students.
  • Unethical professional behavior (e.g., sexual contact with a client).
  • Inappropriate dress or adornment.
  • Academic misconduct (see Statement on Academic Integrity).
  • Takes little initiative in exploring areas of learning growth.

3. Emotional Self-Control  (Self-Understanding)


  • Uses self-disclosure appropriately (e.g., students seems to have an insight, and self-awareness, and has resolved the issue he/she is sharing).
  • Appears to be able to handle discussion of uncomfortable topics.
  • Deals appropriately in class with issues which arouse emotions.
  • Demonstrates an awareness of one’s own personal limits.
  • Understands the effect of one’s behavior on others.


  • When engaged in self-disclosure, the student appears to be working through unresolved issues and/or avoiding client issues.
  • The student appears to overreact to, or resent feedback (e.g., takes it personally).
  • Appears unable/unwilling to control emotional reactions.
  • Possible alcohol/drug abuse, mental health issues.
  • Verbal threats directed at clients, faculty, staff, or students.
  • Demonstrates impaired judgment, decision-making, or problem-solving skills.
  • Consistent failure to demonstrate ability to form effective client/social worker    relationship.
  • Appears judgmental, abrupt in manner or unapproachable.
  • Expects perfection of self and others.
  • Pushes “own agenda” rather than listening to client.
  • Consistently “glosses over” or ignores discussion of uncomfortable topics.
  • Crosses boundaries; doesn’t recognize them

4. Communication Skills


  • Shows consistency in written communication. Written assignments demonstrate: good spelling, appropriate use of punctuation, clear structure, paragraphing, good organization, follows logical sequence. Demonstrates the ability to use citations (A.P.A style).
  • Demonstrates ability to write effectively in records.
  • Demonstrates ability to summarize, identify major points and document succinctly
  • Shows command of the English language.
  • Abides by College Academic Standards.
  • Demonstrates use of critical thinking skills.


  • Written work is frequently vague, shows difficulty in expressing ideas clearly and concisely.
  • Work appears to have been hastily prepared and not proof read.
  • Student has many errors in the areas of spelling, punctuation, structure, etc., and does not make effort to show improvement.
  • Appears to have plagiarized the work of others.
  • Written work is excessive and/or inadequate regarding the purpose of the work; E.g. (case notes vs. term paper)


  • Is able to clearly articulate ideas, thoughts, concepts, etc.
  • Has working proficiency of the English language even when English is not the student’s primary language.


  • Difficulty communicating so that others can hear or understand.
  • Lacks working proficiency of the English language when communicating.


Technical Standards

Technical Standards may be met with, or without, accommodations. The University complies with the requirements of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Requests for accommodations should be directed to the Office for Disability Accommodations (ODA) and follow established university policies and procedures. For more information, contact ODA at


The University of Southern Mississippi

Office for Disability Accommodations

118 College Drive # 8586

Hattiesburg, MS 39406-0001

GULF COAST ADDRESS:                        

The University of Southern Mississippi on the Gulf Coast

Office for Disability Accommodations

730 East Beach Blvd

Long Beach, MS    39560

Voice Telephone: 601.266.5024 or 228.214.3232
Fax: 601.266.6035

Individuals with hearing impairments can contact ODA using the Mississippi Relay Service at 1.800.582.2233 (TTY) or email ODA at odaFREEMississippi.


1. Observation: Students must be able to:

  • Accurately observe clients to effectively assess their situations. 
  • Have the sensory and motor abilities to carry out effectively the necessary assessment activities.

2. Communication: Students must be able to:

  • Communicate effectively with other students, faculty, staff, clients and other professionals, and exemplify a willingness and ability to listen to others.
  • Demonstrate effective communication in presentations, written assignments, small group settings, and through electronic means.
  • Perceive and interpret nonverbal communication.
  • Use spoken and writ­ten English to understand the content presented in the program.
  • Comprehend reading assignments and search and evaluate the literature.
  • Demonstrate competency in writing skills.

3. Sensory and Motor Functions: Students must have sufficient sensory and motor abilities to:

  • Attend class and complete the required number of hours during their field practicum.
  • To attend and perform safely and satisfactorily in the classroom and in social work agency settings.
  • Transportation to field placements if none is available on campus.

4. Intellectual, Conceptual, Integrative and Quantitative Functions: Students must have the ability to:

  • Think critically, analyze and interpret objective and subjective data, and apply effective problem solving skills. These skills allow students to make proper assessments, use sound judgment, appropriately prioritize therapeutic interventions, and measure and report client outcomes.
  • Demonstrate cognitive ability to effectively use and apply program’s knowledge/skills.

5. Self- Awareness: Students must exhibit:

  • Knowledge and openness to learning how one’s values, attitudes, beliefs, emotions and past experiences affect thinking, behavior and relationships.
  • Willingness to examine and change their behavior when appropriate and  work effectively with others in subordinate positions as well as with those in authority.

6. Emotional and Mental Stability: Students must demonstrate the ability to:

  • Deal with current life stressors through the use of appropriate coping mechanisms effectively by using appropriate self-care and developing supportive relationships with colleagues, peers, and others. 
  • Effectively use help for medical or emotional problems that interfere with academic and clinical performance.

Statement of Understanding

I understand that although I am admitted to the social work program at The University of Southern Mississippi, if my professional development is not deemed satisfactory by the social work faculty Student Performance Committee, the program has the right and responsibility to request re-evaluation of my suitability for the social work program and make a decision regarding my progression in the program.

I hereby agree to abide by the standards outlined in this document. I have read, understand and acknowledge receipt of the Social Work Professional and Technical Standards.

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School of Social Work

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School of Social Work

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