As the Baby Boomers generation enters retirement and the later stages of life, there is a critical need for social service providers with specialized experience in working with aging populations. Elderly individuals often have complex needs related to healthcare, mental health, social connection, living independently, and navigating end of life processes. Prospective MSW students seeking a social work career with aging populations should consider the following MSW programs that provide specialized knowledge and experience in this area.
The MSW program at LSU offers students a specialization in gerontology, or the study of aging, to provide students “a broad range of fundamental issues that encompass the older adult experience.” The specialization program is offered in cooperation with LSU’s Life Course and Aging Center, an interdisciplinary research unit that showcases the university’s commitment to these issues. Students enrolled in the specialization have the option of completing 9 hours of coursework related to gerontology, or 3 hours of coursework related to gerontology and a thesis focused on a gerontology topic. This robust, interdisciplinary program aims to accomplish several goals, including ensuring students “understand the biopsychosocial, economic, administrative, service delivery, and social policy contexts of aging within the parameters of social work practice in a health care setting.”
MSW students at Boston University can choose the Lowy Specialization in Aging Practice, Policy, and Social Justice. The specialization’s focus on macro-level issues affecting aging populations is unique, as it “applies principles of social justice to analyze conditions that impact the lives of older adults and examines the role of power, privilege, and structural inequality in producing health disparities across the life course.” Students in the specialization must complete 9 hours of related coursework and an advanced field placement working with aging populations.
MSW students at Dominican University can enroll in the Gerontology Graduate Certificate in Aging Care program to gain advanced knowledge and skills in working effectively with aging populations. Dominican is one of the “16 accredited social work programs in the United States to be given a gerontology specialization grant by the Council of Social Work Education (CSWE) to implement the gerontology certificate program to prepare professionals needed to address the concerns, challenges and complex needs of aging adults.” To attain the certificate, students must complete four three-credit courses in gerontology topics, and a 2-semester field placement working with older adults.
Rutgers University offers MSW students the option to pursue a certificate in Aging and Health that allows students to focus their studies in this area without having to add additional courses to their MSW curriculum. Students who are accepted to the certificate program must complete an advanced field work placement in a setting that focuses predominantly on aging and health, specific coursework requirements that span policy, human behavior, clinical services, and health, and attend an interprofessional health event as an enrichment activity.
The University of Michigan offers advanced MSW students the opportunity to enroll in the Aging in Families and Society practice area. Students enrolled in the program are required to take three courses, “Adulthood and Aging,” “Policies and Services for the Elderly,” and “Social Work with the Elderly.” Courses focus on a variety of topics related to the unique needs of aging clients and their families, including death and bereavement, social isolation and depression, and caregiving. The practice area “prepares students to work in settings that serve older people and their families, including hospitals and outpatient clinics, senior centers, nursing homes, and planning and advocacy settings and organizations.”
Runner-Up: University of Maryland School of Social Work
The University of Maryland offers a specialization in Aging as part of its MSW curriculum. The program is available to students concentrating in both clinical and macro practice. Students are able to take courses focused on this topic, like “Aging and Social Policy and “Clinical Social Work with the Aging and their Families.” The program focuses on giving graduates an advantage in the job market, in a variety of settings focused on work with the aging.