Top 5 MSW Programs for Community PracticeA degree in social work leads to a diverse array of career options, spanning from individual practice to community-based work and policy development. Social workers who have the appropriate training and skills in macro-level practice are being hired to lead organizations, analyze and develop policy, conduct cutting-edge research, and design effective programs. For prospective social workers interested in applying social work theories and values to community practice, the following are recommended programs.

1. Sacred Heart University

Sacred Heart’s School of Social Work offers a Direct Community Practice specialization to MSW students, preparing them for positions in organizational and non-profit administration, community organizing, policy development, and advocacy, amongst others. The specialization “focuses on practice with larger client systems including large groups, organizations, and communities utilizing human behavior with specific focus on organizational and community theories and frameworks as well as leadership and management.

2. University of Illinois Jane Addams College of Social Work

The Jane Addams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois offers students a pathway to changing societal systems through a concentration in Leadership and Social Change, with a focus on both organizational and policy change. This advanced, macro-level concentration “includes a broad spectrum of practice such as planning, program development, community organizing and development, policy analysis, legislative advocacy, and program evaluation.” The Leadership and Social Change curriculum also allows students to gain related practice in international social work and social entrepreneurship.

3. Appalachian State University Department of Social Work

MSW students at Appalachian State University are able to concentrate in Community and Organizational Practice to guide their studies toward a focus on social problems and social change. This concentration emphasizes “developing and implementing services, social programs, and social policies based within the social work value system while providing leadership within communities and organizations.” Through the concentration, students have the opportunity to enroll in courses in “community organizing and development, social planning, political and social action, government and nonprofit agency administration, and resource development.” The school also supports students in advanced level field placements in leadership roles in the public, private, and non-profit sectors for them to further enhance and apply their skills.

4. Case Western Reserve University Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences

At Case Western Reserve University, MSW students in both the online and on-campus programs are able to select a concentration in Community Practice for Social Change. This macro-level concentration focuses on promoting social justice, preparing students “to lead comprehensive, social change on a broad scale” as community organizers, social planners, policy makers, researchers, and organizational leaders. Students who are a part of this concentration engage with a number of pressing societal issues, including globalization, poverty, inequality and oppression, cultural diversity, women’s issues, and human rights. Field placements provide students opportunities to apply their skills in leadership, management, program development, community-building, and community-organizing roles.

5. University of Arkansas Little Rock School of Social Work

The School of Social Work at the University of Arkansas Little Rock provides students a Management and Community Practice concentration that prepares students for macro-level practice in leadership roles. This concentration is focused on connecting theory with community-level practice, and supporting students in developing a diverse skill set that includes grant writing, program evaluation, policy analysis, and program design. Cultural competence and advocacy are also central tenets of the concentration. Amongst the numerous learning goals of the concentration is for students to develop “critical thinking skills as they apply to the processes of leadership, engagement, assessment, intervention and evaluation with individuals, groups, programs, organizations and communities.”



University of Texas Steve Hicks School of Social Work

The University of Texas’ MSW program offers a concentration in Administration and Policy Practice, preparing students to work in high-level positions in the community-based, non-profit and public sectors. Students who select this concentration are provided experiential learning opportunities through supervised field placements. The curriculum of specialized courses for the concentration assists students in developing skills in “strategic planning, grant writing, nonprofit management, human resource development, financial management, and advanced policy analysis depending on students’ professional interests.”

University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work

The University of Pittsburgh’s MSW programs offers enrolled students a concentration in Community, Organization, and Social Action (COSA), which focuses on civic engagement, activism, and community leadership for social change. Graduates from the program are employed in high-level positions across diverse sectors as policy-makers, organizational directors and administrators, foundation officers, coalition organizers, and educators. The concentration focuses on developing leaders in the field of social work who will create broad-level and far-reaching impact in their communities.


Top 5 MSW Programs for Community Practice
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Top 5 MSW Programs for Community Practice
For prospective social workers interested in applying social work theories and values to community practice, the following are recommended programs.