What is an MSW Degree?

A master’s degree, or MSW, offers further education and training in the professional practise of social work. In addition to clinical social work, macro social work, school social work, and military social work, there are MSW programmes that train students for employment in these areas of the field. Programs for advanced generalist MSWs also include training in clinical and large-scale practise. Additionally, there are MSW programmes that allow graduates of authorised BSW schools to continue their education in advanced standing.

Master of Social Work Programs

The graduate programme offering advanced didactic and practice-based training in the area of social work is formally known as a Master of Social Work (MSW) programme. Programs for master’s degrees in social work may alternatively be called MSSW (Master of Science in Social Work) and MSSA (Master of Science in Social Administration) programmes. The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), the only organisation that accredits bachelor’s and master’s degree programmes in social work, has approved these programmes.

General MSW Training

Students in an MSW degree study communication techniques, professional ethics, and social and behavioural science theories as they become ready for employment in the area. They are trained in the scientific application of social and behavioural theories to the practise of social work with people, families, and communities. They research social policy and social welfare programmes. Additionally, they participate in field education, a defining methodology of social work education that gives students practical experience and real-world training in social work practise.

In its Education Policy and Accreditation Standards, the CSWE lays forth recommended training practises. MSW programmes must teach students nine competencies and provide at least 900 hours of field education in order to be accredited.

  • moral and professional conduct
  • recognising and honouring differences and diversity
  • Promoting social, economic, and environmental justice as well as human rights
  • Practice-based research and practice-based research
  • knowledge of social policy
  • interacting with others in their individual, family, group, organisation, and community
  • evaluating people, families, groups, businesses, and communities
  • assisting people, families, groups, organisations, and communities
  • assessing how well practises are implemented with people, families, groups, organisations, and communities

MSW Program Types and Specializations

Many MSW programmes are created to provide further training in clinical and/or macro social work practise in addition to basic education in the general practise of social work. MSW programmes fall into three primary categories:

  1. MSW programmes in clinical social work: Students who enrol in an MSW programme with a clinical social work specialty are prepared to work one-on-one with clients, offering general social services as well as counselling. Additionally, these schools often provide the education required to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW).
  2. MSW Programs for Macro Social Work: Students who enrol in an MSW programme with a macro social work emphasis are prepared to work in community groups, governmental organisations, and other health and human services programmes as organisers, coordinators, administrators, and policy experts. Usually, these schools don’t provide the clinical training required for LCSW certification.
  3. Advanced MSW programmes for generalists: The majority of advanced generalist MSW programmes include training in both clinical and large-scale social work. To earn the experience necessary for professional progression after graduation, it is crucial for students in these programmes to complete their field education requirements in the area of practise they choose. Depending on the program’s curriculum and the state in which the student resides, these schools could provide enough training in clinical practise to qualify graduates for LCSW licensure.

Additionally, some MSW programmes include courses in other social work specialisations. These consist of:

  • Age and Adulthood
  • Practice of Child and Families
  • Substance abuse and mental health
  • Services for Active Duty and Veterans
  • Counseling in schools
  • Counseling for Grief and Trauma

Finally, graduates of Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) schools that have received CSWE accreditation may be admitted to MSW programmes with advanced standing. These programmes offer eligible applicants who have previously completed undergraduate social work training a quicker route to acquiring an MSW.

Admission Requirements for MSW Programs

Most MSW schools accept applications from graduates of bachelor’s degree programmes that have received regional accreditation. The only exceptions are Advanced Standing MSW programmes, which call for BSW degrees from candidates. Many MSW schools do not need GRE exam results, however others do. Programs that do ask for standardised test results may let candidates submit their GRE or MAT exam results.

A candidate’s undergraduate GPA, relevant job or volunteer experience, two or more letters of reference, and/or a written personal objectives statement may be considered by the admissions committees in addition to test results. For admission, candidates to certain programmes may need to have a minimum GPA or above, and for other programmes, there are multiple undergraduate requirements (typically a behaviour science and/or statistics course) that applicants must be able to show they have completed. The prerequisites for admission to MSW programmes differ per programme, therefore prospective candidates should check the requirements before applying.

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