Grad Program: Clinical Social Work
Clinical social work is often referred to as micro social work, a concentration on the mounting social problems affecting individuals or small groups (macro social work focuses on psychosocial issues facing larger groups like communities and organizations). Clinical social workers play a supportive role, providing mental health services to help diagnose, treat, and prevent mental, behavioral, and emotional disorders at the micro level (individuals, families, and groups). Child abuse, homelessness, substance abuse, and urban decay are just a few of the issues social workers tackle.
Graduate students in social work who plan to become clinical practitioners will take additional clinical course work, do fieldwork in a clinical setting under the supervision of an experienced clinical social work and will, upon graduation, complete a minimum amount (two years) of supervised clinical social work employment.
When you’re considering which schools to apply to for your master’s degree and subsequent license to practice social work, location can be important. Schools in certain regions may emphasize social work needs specific to that region. For example, schools in urban areas may offer classes and field study that differ from those offered by schools in rural areas. Some schools may want to recruit students who plan to stay and work in the area so that they can help improve the surrounding community.
Students typically complete their master’s coursework in clinical social work in two years of full-time study. Part-time programs typically take three to four years to complete. Unlike other master’s programs, some clinical social work programs do not require their students to complete a master’s thesis, which can be good news to those who dread grueling research projects. However, graduate students are required to complete hours of demanding field study (at least 900 hours) before graduation. Students find that it makes them more prepared for what they’ll face once they enter the profession.
Those wishing to pursue careers in teaching and research go on to obtain their Ph.D.s in the field. Many schools offer dual master’s and Ph.D. programs; so if this is your goal, look out for programs that offer you a full course of study.
- What is the school’s attrition rate? How many first-year students make it to graduation?
- Is the school accredited by the Council on Social Work Education? (If it isn’t, you won’t be able to apply for a professional license after graduation.)
- Is the school’s geographic location conducive to your area of interest?
- Does the school have a job placement program?
- How does the school rank among other schools offering the same program?