Social workers perform many types of important duties that provide support to people who are faced with difficulties in their lives. Some of these include emotional stresses, financial problems, mental health issues, family problems, alcohol and drug issues and more. Social workers help these people to handle their problems, move forward and to help them connect to valuable community resources.
While a professional may enter the social work field with a bachelor’s degree, the majority of the higher paying positions with more responsibility are available to people who earn a master’s degree in social work, or MSW. The most common MSW specialties are:
- Clinical social worker: This is also referred to as a licensed clinical social worker. They diagnose and treat mental, behavioral and emotional issues that often include anxiety and depression. Many people do not realize that the majority of licensed mental health providers in the US are not psychologists but are clinical social workers. These highly trained social workers offer individual, group, family and couples therapy and work with clients to come up with better strategies to deal with difficult situations that have to do with mental health and behavioral problems.
- Healthcare social worker: These social workers help their patients to understand their health diagnosis and to make changes to their lifestyle, healthcare and housing. For instance, they can help a person who was in the hospital for weeks or months to transition back to a regular life at home. Also, they may provide social service resource information that might include home health care options.
- Mental health and addiction social worker: They help clients also deal with mental health problems, but also substance abuse problems. They may provide information and support that can include assistance in finding support groups and 12 step programs. Clinical social workers also do many of these same things.
An MSW degree is the primary degree that most clinical and health care social workers need. A master’s degree usually takes at least two years to complete, and you should look for a program that has been accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
After you have graduated, you must sit for your state certification examination that is administered by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB). The exact requirements of your state license will vary according to state law.
MSW Curriculum Overview
As a social worker with a MSW degree, you can help to improve the quality of life for all people in underserved and/or at risk populations. Most of the best MSW programs will help you to build the knowledge and skills that you need to achieve better social justice in your area.
Many MSW programs are now offered online and offer you a combination of theory with application through online communication as well as written case studies and in person residencies. Field experiences also are required in your local area.
Many universities offer several options on how and when to complete your degree program. Typically, two years full time is the standard period to complete an MSW degree. However, some programs offer part time completion options where you can finish the program in three or four years.
For students who are current social workers and have a bachelor’s degree, you may be able to qualify for advanced standing admission. This allows you to get credit for your past social work classes, and possibly graduate in as little as one year.
The major types of MSW specialties and their curricula are listed below:
MSW – Advanced Clinical Practice
This program is designed for the experienced social worker who wants to become an advanced social worker to provide clinical care to individuals and families. This concentration stresses the perspective of the patient who is in the environment, and also is a strength based approach that features ethical principles of social justice.
Walden University offers a strong clinical social work program worth your consideration. It does feature two, four day residencies where you are required to be on campus. It also has a 12 credit field experience that takes at least two semesters to finish.
- Essential Skills for Social Work Practice
- Diversity, Human Rights and Social Justice
- Human Behavior and Social Environment
- Social Work Field Education I
- Social Work Practice Research I
- Social Policy: Analysis and Advocacy
- Supervision, Leadership and Administration
MSW – Health and Wellness
The University of Denver offers a health and wellness concentration that puts you on a path to become a health care social worker. Students study many types of practice skills, theories and modalities so that they are prepared for social work in many types of health care facilities, public health clinics and preventative healthcare environments.
This concentration allows the student to work on specific healthcare related skill sets that offer innovative approaches to providing health care social work services.
Required classes to become a healthcare social worker in this MSW program are:
- Evolving Perspectives and Trends in Health and Wellness
- Social Work Practice in Health Care
- Integrated Health Care Models and Practice
- Health Care Policy
- Mental Health and Drug Dependency Policies and Systems
- Methods for Evaluating Practices and Programs
- Field Internship
MSW – Mental Health
Loyola University Chicago offers a dynamic mental health degree specialization that provides you with the skills to help people who are dealing with stressful situations that are related to a physical or mental disability. The focus of this speciality is to work with aspiring social workers who want learn how to better deal with personal and environmental obstacles to improve clients’ life choices and aspirations.
This program also features a stress on health and mental health services that respond well to the needs of those who are mentally ill and also those confronted with physical challenges.
Your curriculum for this specialty includes:
- Social Policy in Practice
- Advanced Social Work Practice With Groups
- Family Assessment and Intervention
- Social Policy in Practice
- Treatment of Severely Mentally Ill Clients
- Clinical Social Work with Children
- Crisis Intervention
- Clinical Social Work with Older Adults
Whichever MSW degree speciality you choose, you will need to complete your clinical field hours to graduate, which normally consists of 400-750 supervised hours, and also pass your state certification examination.