The Master of Social Work (MSW) is a master's degree in the field of social work. It is a professional degree with specializations compared to Bachelor of Social Work (BSW). MSW promotes macro-, meso- and micro-aspects of professional social work practice, whereas the BSW focuses more on direct social work practices in community, hospitals (outpatient and inpatient services) and other fields of social services.
In Canada, the MSW is considered a professional master's degree and is offered through several universities. Most schools are accredited by the Canadian Association of Schools of Social Work (C.A.S.W.E.).
All students entering an MSW program are required to have a recognized bachelor's degree in a related field. Generally, students with a Bachelor of Social Work would enroll in a one-year program, whereas those with other undergraduate degrees (Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, etc.) would enroll in a two-year program.
The oldest social work program in Canada is offered at the University of Toronto through the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work. Social work students at the UofT choose from a number of specializations (i.e. gerontology, children and their families, mental health, social service administration, social justice and diversity), and have opportunities to pursue their MSW's with a variety of collaborative programs, such as Addiction Studies, Sexual Diversity Studies, and Asia-Pacific Studies, to name a few. Students could also pursue their MSW degrees in combination with either a Master of Health Science or a Juris Doctor degree.
Canadian Universities that offer the MSW:
In the United Kingdom, clinical social work could first be studied in academia as part of a certificate program beginning in 1908. Later, two and three year programs were introduced. The Tavistock Clinic in London remains the leading centre for the study of clinically oriented social work and offers programmes up to and including Professional Doctorate level. The Journal of Social Work Practice represents the main organ of research and scholarly output in this area in the UK.
In the United States, MSW degrees must be received from a graduate school that has been approved by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) should the graduate seek future licensure. The MSW typically requires two years of full-time graduate study in combination with two years (900-1200 cumulative hours) of internship, also referred to as field practicum, education, or experience. While some students obtain a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) before pursuing a master's, most MSW programs accept applicants with undergraduate degrees in a broad range of liberal arts fields. Some MSW programs provide BSW graduates with an advanced standing option, allowing them to complete an MSW in a shorter period of time (typically 1 year).
Most MSW programs allow students to choose a clinical or direct practice track, which focuses on direct practice with clients, or a macro practice track, with a focus on political advocacy, community organizing, policy analysis and/or human services management. While the clinical track tends to be more popular, there has been a resurgence in community practice concentrations recently. There are also opportunities at many universities to obtain joint degrees, such as an MSW and a Public Administration degree, MSW and Public Health, or MSW and Law. The MSW practice scope has broadened in recent years to include the specialty practice areas of geriatrics and work with veterans. In some schools the curriculum is based on a generalist model which integrates the facets of the various practice areas within social work.
The MSW is considered a terminal practice degree in the field of social work. The DSW (Doctorate of Social Work) and Ph.D in social work are the final degrees offered in the field of social work. There is no inherent difference between the DSW and the PhD; there are few DSW programs available in the United States.
Though Master of Social Work is by far the most common degree title used by graduate social work schools in the United States, it is not universal. For example, Columbia University School of Social Work offers an M.S. degree in social work, the School of Social Service Administration of the University of Chicago confers an A.M. degree, and the University of Texas confers the MSSW (Master of Science in Social Work) degree. The Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University confers the MSSA (Master of Science in Social Administration) degree.
Clark Atlanta University's Whitney M. Young School of Social work is also credited with creating the administration of social work from an Afro-centric perspective. Clark Atlanta's school of social work has also had various stalwarts in the profession affiliated with it such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Dorcas Bowles, Whitney Young, Hattie Mitchell, Naomi Ward and Rufus Lynch.
Although it is possible to be a social worker with a bachelor's degree in the United States, some fields of practice require a master's degree. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the profession will grow by 25% between 2010 and 2020. Social workers' earnings vary according to their area of specialization and work environment. The growing elderly population is resulting in accelerated job growth among gerontology social workers. Social workers with a focus on mental health and substance abuse are in high demand when offenders are directed to treatment instead of jail time, a trend that is expected to continue. The Bureau of Labor Statistics' employment projection shows that those with higher levels of education in the field tend to earn more than those with a bachelor's degree, so a master's degree could help job applicants compete in the job market.