The University of Hawaiʻi began offering a social work training program to students on the undergraduate and graduate levels in September 1936. The courses were designed primarily to train employees of local social work agencies who were college graduates but lacked professional preparation. An integrated one-year program of professional graduate-level study, set up in 1940, served as the basis for the establishment of a School of Social Work. In 1942, the school was provisionally accredited by the American Association of Schools of Social Work. The School of Social Work was fully accredited in January 1948 as a one-year school, awarding a Certificate of Social Work.
A two-year graduate program leading to the master of social work (MSW) degree was approved by the Board of Regents in November 1948, and the school was fully accredited as a two-year Graduate School of Social Work by the American Association of Schools of Social Work in January 1950. In 1950, there were approximately 30 students. The school has since grown to an average enrollment of 300 students in the undergraduate and graduate programs.
The undergraduate program, leading to the degree of bachelor of social work (BSW), was approved by the Board of Regents in October 1976. The BSW program was initiated in January 1977.
In February 1991, the Board of Regents approved the provisional status of the PhD Program in Social Welfare. The program began in 1991. In May 2003, the BOR approved the permanent status of the PhD Program.
The school's BSW and MSW programs were fully reaccredited for eight years by the Commission on Accreditation of the Council on Social Work Education in 1994. The council is the national accrediting body for professional schools of social work.
In 1986, for the 50th Anniversary of the School of Social Work, a booklet which breifly shows us the history of the School of Social Work from it's infancy up until 1986 was created.