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All About the Masters of Social Work MSW

The master's degree in social work is generally referred to as the MSW. This is a university graduate degree that will generally take around two years to complete. Each school will have their own requirements in terms of acceptance, and they will all have their own curriculum too. All of them are designed to allow you to work with different population groups and the teaching methods and objectives are reasonably similar across the country. Opting for your MSW is a great way to advance your social work career.

Basic Entry Requirements

Usually, you will need some sort of bachelor's degree in order to be accepted to the MSW program. This generally has to be a degree in liberal arts. The best degree to hold is the BSW (bachelor of social work), which may allow you to enter an Advanced Practice Degree. Nevertheless, many enter an MSW program after completing a bachelor's in sociology, psychology or anthropology.

Generally speaking, what matters more than your undergraduate degree is the passion and interest you have for the field of social work. You must demonstrate that you see it as a true lifelong career. Hence, a school will usually want to see evidence of academic interest in social work. This is not to say that you cannot be admitted if you hold an undergraduate degree in something completely unrelated like literature or chemistry. However, you will need to have some very strong convincing skills during your application process. To apply to an MSW program, you will usually have to provide transcripts of your previous education, including essays, personal statements, professional and personal letters of recommendation and reference, as well as field experience. Doing some volunteering work, particularly if you don't hold a BSW degree, can be incredibly powerful for that purpose.

Different Types of Programs

The MSW is a very focused degree. Nevertheless, you do have choices even though the requirements and parameters of your degree program are incredibly stringent, particularly when compared to the BSW. Usually, different schools have particular strengths, which is why it is so important that you spend some time reviewing which one best fits your personal needs. Make sure that the school you choose is CSWE accredited. Some of the elements that social work schools could focus on include urban studies, gerontology and poverty centers, to name but a few.

Earning Your Degree

Most schools offer a full-time MSW degree program. Part-time options may also exist and there are also online programs and hybrid programs. Usually, you will have to take part in book learning, traditional lectures, discussions and practical field experiences. During your first year, you will mainly spend some time in the classroom, before moving on to field experiences in your second year. You can also expect to have to complete an internship in the community.

Many students use their internship and turn it into a research paper or another piece of work that can be published. This is also due to the fact that more and more schools now require a capstone project like a master's thesis in order to graduate. The facts and research you will need in order to complete this can only be gained from field work. Generally speaking, you can choose your own topic, but you will have to link it back to statistical analysis and social welfare issues.

After you have completed your master's degree, you will need to pass the relevent ACSW examination. Do also find out whether you need to pass additional exams such as a jurisprudence exam. The requirement varies from one state to the next, so you must consult with your local Board in order to find out the exact requirements.

What You Can Do With Your Degree

Once you hold an MSW degree, you can apply for different types of jobs. Many choose to become a social worker for the government, working for social welfare like foster care. Others choose to work for nonprofit organizations who work with specific types of populations. Others choose therapy, with marriage and couples counseling being an up and coming field for people in social work.

An MSW Is a Stepping Stone

The basic requirement to pursue a rewarding career in social work is your MSW degree. However, that does not mean that there is nothing more to do. Many MSW graduates become even greater experts in their field, either by completing further training programs or by choosing to obtain a doctorate degree. The DSW (Doctor in Social Work) focuses on clinical experience, whereas the Ph.D. focuses more on research.

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