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What to Look for in a Master of Social Work Program
Social workers are a vital part of our social fabric, helping countless people get through difficult situations. And our need for social workers is only rising. Between now and 2031, the number of jobs for social workers in the U.S. is expected to grow at a rate of 9%, faster than the average rate of job growth.1 Many of these jobs will be filled by those who’ve recently earned a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. But not all MSW degrees are created equal. If you’re thinking of earning your master’s in social work, you’ll want to make sure you’ve carefully considered your choices in order to select the MSW program that’s right for you. Here are a few things you should look for.
Real-World Learning Components
Social work requires you to relate to people and help them find a path forward, whether they’re struggling with their job, their family, their living situation, their health, or other difficult circumstances. The best MSW programs focus on more than academic components. They are designed to rigorously prepare you for the real-world challenges you’ll face. You should look for an MSW program that’s devoted to teaching you the competencies you’ll need to be a successful social worker. Walden’s MSW degree program will help ensure you’re prepared to:
- Develop a professional orientation and identity as a social worker.
- Apply legal and ethical standards in the administration of social work.
- Apply principles of advocacy that promote cultural understanding and positive social change in individuals, communities, and society.
- Utilize evidence-based research and critical thinking skills to inform practice in meeting the needs of diverse clientele.
- Synthesize and apply theories of human growth and development to develop culturally responsive social work practices.
- Apply knowledge and skills in the areas of engagement, assessment, intervention, and evaluation with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities.
The best way to determine whether a particular MSW program meets professional standards is to look for CSWE accreditation. CSWE stands for the Council on Social Work Education, a nonprofit organization recognized by the Council of Higher Education Association as the only accrediting agency for social work education in the U.S. Only MSW degree programs with CSWE accreditation are assured of meeting standards for social work education.
When you enroll in a CSWE-accredited social work degree program, you can be certain that your coursework, assessments, and criteria for graduation have been meticulously reviewed and fully certified by outside experts in the field. It also ensures that your MSW degree meets state requirements for licensure as a social worker. In fact, you cannot sit for a state examination to become a social worker unless your Master of Social Work is from an accredited program.
Multiple Focus Areas
Not all social work is the same. A social worker with the military will face challenges that differ from a social worker in a hospital. And they both will have careers differing from social workers in traditional, clinical settings. Before enrolling in an MSW program, make sure the program allows you to select an area of focus in the field of your choice. Walden offers four focus areas:
- Child and Family
Walden also offers its MSW candidates embedded certificates. Simply take one additional course in your focus area to earn an optional certificate alongside your MSW.
Degree Completion Options
The MSW program offers three degree-completion options: Accelerated, Standard, and Advanced Standing. With the Accelerated option, you can complete your master’s in social work in a shortened time frame—a good choice if you are able to dedicate yourself to your studies full time. If you prefer more flexibility to better balance your MSW program with other commitments, the Standard option is best. Last, the Advanced Standing option is for students who have earned their Bachelor of Social Work from a CSWE-accredited institution and met specific GPA requirements. If you are eligible, the Advanced Standing option allows you to skip foundational courses and start advanced-level courses right away.
There are a number of benefits to choosing an online university for your MSW degree. Online MSW programs offer a level of convenience and flexibility unavailable in traditional, campus-based programs. Instead of setting everything aside to earn your MSW degree, you can continue working at your current job as you advance your education. If you are already a social worker, earning your MSW online can help you avoid stepping away from your career. In fact, you can continue your fieldwork while you earn your master’s.
The world needs quality social workers. You can put yourself in a position to become one by enrolling in an online MSW program that teaches you real-world skills, provides a variety of learning options, and has achieved CSWE accreditation. Walden University is the perfect start.
Walden University is an accredited institution offering a CSWE-accredited online MSW program. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.
Walden University’s Master of Social Work (MSW) program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), a specialized accrediting body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). CSWE’s Commission on Accreditation is responsible for developing standards that define competent preparation for professional social workers and ensuring that social work programs meet these standards.
Note on Licensure
The minimum academic credential required to obtain licensure to practice as a social worker in most states is a Master of Social Work (MSW) from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Walden University’s MSW program is accredited by CSWE.
State licensing boards are responsible for regulating the practice of social work, and each state has its own academic, licensure, and certification requirements.
Walden recommends that students consult the appropriate social work licensing board in the state in which they plan to practice to determine the specific academic requirements for licensure. Walden Enrollment Specialists can provide information relating to the state-by-state requirements for licensure. However, it remains the individual’s responsibility to understand, evaluate, and comply with all licensing requirements for the state in which he or she intends to practice. Walden makes no representations or guarantee that completion of its coursework or programs will permit an individual to achieve state licensure, authorization, endorsement, or other state credential as a social worker.
Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.
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