Top 3 Areas to Focus Your MSW in 2019

For those pursuing an MSW in 2019, consider these three focus areas that will help maximize your education — and ability — to create change as a social worker.

In 2019, three focus areas are particularly significant to the social work profession and society as a whole this year: Clinical Practice, Community Practice, and Special Populations.

For those interested in supporting individuals in need, empowering individuals and communities to realize their goals, and working to alleviate the most pressing problems facing society today, pursuing a career in social work offers a promising path toward achieving these aims in 2019.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the United States population will need the support of 109,700 additional social workers by 2026.* 

While all accredited Master of Social Work (MSW) programs offer students a firm foundation and training in social work values, ethics, theoretical frameworks, and approaches to practice, there are many opportunities to further refine and enhance the MSW educational experience.

1. Clinical Practice

The demand for clinical social workers is on the rise, making 2019 a great time to choose a clinical focus area for your MSW degree. Clinical social workers, who are able to fulfill roles in mental health and substance abuse, healthcare, schools, and child and family practice, can expect to have very good job prospects, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The projected growth rate for mental health and substance abuse social workers is 19%, healthcare social workers is 20%, and child, family, and school social workers is 14% by 2026 – meaning that new positions in each of these clinical areas of practice are opening each year.

Spotlight: Programs of Study for Clinical Practice

Programs of study for MSW students focused on clinical practice usually center on direct practice skills, such as assessment and intervention, and evidence-based theories and models. For example, Sacred Heart University offers a core course called “Clinical Assessment and Diagnosis” and Baylor University offers a core course called “Advanced Clinical Theories and Models.”

View Career Outlook, In-Demand Career Paths, and Top MSW Programs >

 

2. Community Practice

As social policies and programs that impact the most vulnerable populations continue to undergo rapid changes, social workers with a focus in community practice are needed to help analyze, develop, and implement best practices for working with marginalized community groups. A focus in community practice can lead to a wide range of professional positions, all of which provide the opportunity for social workers to focus on the most pressing social issues of 2019.

Projected Growth By Field:

  • Social Assistance – 27%
  • Policy & Government – 10.6%
  • Community & Rehabilitation Services – 8%

The central focus of community practice is macro-level concerns and oppressive conditions that must be addressed in order to achieve a more equitable, socially just society for all. Community social workers approach this task through a variety of strategies for community empowerment.

A community practice focus is well-suited to MSW students interested in bringing about change at the societal level. For those interested in working with community members to transform their communities for the better, a focus on community practice will prepare students for the challenging, exciting, and rewarding work of social change.

Spotlight: Programs of Study for Community Practice

Elective offerings often include courses that focus on methodological and theoretical approaches to community engagement and social change. For example, Winthrop University offers a course called “Leadership and Empowerment Practice.” This degree is designed to help students to improve lives and communities as competent, specialized social workers.

 

View Career Outlook, In-Demand Career Paths, and Top MSW Programs >

 

3. Special Populations of Interest

Perhaps now more than ever, social work practitioners are recognizing the unique strengths, needs, and experiences of ethnic, religious, racial and sexual minority populations, people with disabilities, older adults, immigrants and refugees, and other groups that are socially marginalized based on identity categories. A program of study that focuses on these “special populations” is one way to develop expertise in providing social work services to these groups.

Projected Growth By Field:

  • Social Assistance – 27%
  • Policy & Government – 10.6%
  • Community & Rehabilitation Services – 8%

Spotlight: Programs of Study for Special Populations of Interest

Programs of study for MSW students focused on a special population of interest generally include coursework that provides students’ an understanding of the historical and political issues impacting the population of focus.

Additional coursework might focus on treatment and diagnosis, such as Widener University’s course on “Sexual Dysfunction and Treatment” as part of its Human Sexuality focus. Further courses often provide knowledge related to working with members of the population of focus across the lifespan.

 Our Lady of the Lake University’s focus on Hispanic families includes a course called “Social Work Practice with Hispanic Youth” and “Social Work Practice with Hispanic Elders.”

 

View Career Outlook, In-Demand Career Paths, and Top MSW Programs >

 

Top 3 Areas to Focus Your MSW in 2019