What to Think About: Masters of Social Work (MSW)

By: Meg


Why would you want to get a MSW? If you’re interested in Social Work, it’s definitely something to think about. In order to be a social worker, you have to actually have a degree in Social Work. You can do that with a Bachelor’s, but if that’s not an option, you can get an MSW.

If you do have a BSW, you can think about advancement potential. In order to do independent counseling or get into administration, you’ll need a Master’s. Chances are you’ll only need 1 year of full-time course work to get there, though!


First thing to check when you are looking at MSW programs is whether they’re accredited or not. If they aren’t, you won’t be able to get a job as a social worker. It’s not worth your time. Check http://www.cswe.org/ to make sure the schools you’re looking at are accredited.

Field Placement

Social Work programs will all have some kind of field placement/internship. These are required to get your license, so it’s important not to skip over. There are usually two placement experiences, one the first year and one the second year. If you have a BSW, you’ve already done something similar. The one thing not all programs have in common is how you get to your placements. Some programs assign you to them, while others have you find them by yourself. There’s a lot of variation to be had. I’ve heard of several programs who assign your first year internship, then you find your second year experience. When you’re assigned an internship you don’t have a lot of choice, but you will definitely have one set up with an organization your school trusts. On the other hand, if they leave you on your own to set it up, you might end up scrambling trying to get everything approved.

Focus (or not)

Some schools have a very general approach, and your focus would come in mostly during field placement. UMD’s MSW program is very generalized. There are a few classes that pertain to working with Native American culture, but they make sure that you’re prepared for whatever focus you end up in, even if it changes. Other programs may have a focus in child and family, adolescents, mental health, substance use, etc. If you know your focus, you might think of going to a school within that, so long as it also has a generalized base. You want to make sure that you have the skills if your goals ever change.

There’s a lot to consider when thinking about Graduate School. If you want help figuring it out, stop by Career and Internship Services and set up an appointment with a counselor. You could also stop in to the Social Work office to ask about it.

Of Possible Interest:

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Careers in Social Work

By: Sadie

As you may have read in my previous post about social work, I discussed what exactly social work is, what social workers handle in their profession, and what the social work program is like here at UMD. Today, I’m going to talk about some of fields you can go into after you graduate with a social work degree, education requirements for social work, and certain disciplines that intersect with social work.

Careers in Social Work

So, if I graduate with a social work degree do I have to be a social worker?

The answer is no. This is something that I questioned before I decided to pursue a social work major. I didn’t want to be limited to only being able to be a social worker.

Here are some of the places that social workers practice:

  • Hospitals
  • Schools
  • Criminal Justice Systems
  • Government Agencies (i.e. services to children and families, services to adults, financial assistance)
  • Mental Health Clinics
  • Private Practice
  • Policy (i.e. Local City Council, State Legislature, Congress)
  • Residential Treatment Centers/Group Homes/Shelters, etc.
  • Community Agencies that address domestic violence, homelessness, community development, disabilities, etc.

Is having my bachelors degree enough to get a career in any of these professions?

For some, but not all. Depending on the type of field you want to go into you may need to go through more schooling. If you decide to further your education you can get a Masters of Social Work (MSW), your Ph.D. or Doctrine of Social Work (DSW), or you can get certain licensures.

What could I minor in, or double major in with a social work degree?

Many disciplines intersect with social work. Psychology, Sociology, History, Biology, Psychiatry, Economics, and Political Science are all majors or minors that compliment a social work degree.

Here are some other helpful sources that go more in-depth with what you can do as a career with a Bachelor of Social Work:

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Discovering the World of Social Work

By: Sadie

Coming into UMD I was convinced that I was majoring in Psychology, but it was only until I started searching for a minor that I discovered the Social Work program. My dream career is to be a school counselor, so I thought pursuing a Psychology degree was the most suitable for me. I was conflicted in choosing a minor because I wanted something to compliment my Psychology major that would also help me pursue a counseling career. I started talking to the career counselors and with my career goal in mind they started throwing ideas at me. One of which was social work. I was asked “why don’t you major in social work, but keep psychology as your minor?” and that’s exactly what I did. After talking with my family about possibly switching they weren’t exactly thrilled. They were frightened by the title “social work.” They thought of social work as a career that is very stressful, takes away kids as a living, and has very low income. At first I was scared, but after reviewing the coursework, I saw that all of it revolved around subjects that I’m interested in. I also sat down with Kathy Heltzer, a faculty member in the Department of Social Work, who also played a role in my decision. All in all, I ignored my families remarks, educated them about the program and what I could do with a Social Work major, and eventually made the leap to declare Social Work as my major. The following is a peek into what it means to be a social worker and what the Social Work program at UMD is like.

What is Social Worker?

The National Association of Social Workers, or NASW, does a nice job describing exactly what it means to be a social worker.

  • Social workers help individuals, families, and groups restore or enhance their capacity for social functioning, and work to create societal conditions that support communities in need.
  • The practice of social work requires knowledge of human development and behavior, of social, economic and cultural institutions, and of the interaction of all these factors.
  • Social workers help people of all backgrounds address their own needs through psychosocial services and advocacy.
  • Social workers help people overcome some of life’s most difficult challenges: poverty, discrimination, abuse, addiction, physical illness, divorce, loss, unemployment, educational problems, disability, and mental illness. They help prevent crises and counsel individuals, families, and communities to cope more effectively with the stresses of everyday life.

Social Work Program:

The Bachelor of Social Work (B.S.W) program here at UMD is within the College of Education and Human Service Professions, or CEHSP. Something interesting about this program is that almost 80% of instruction is online, so if you’re uncomfortable with minimal face-to-face time this might not be the major for you. Although, I didn’t think I could ever take an online class because I love interacting with others and forming relationships with my teachers, but I ended up taking two online courses this semester and have loved it. Another awesome thing about this program is that it requires evidence of volunteering in the community. They want you to get out, make connections, and learn in a different way other than just learning through a textbook. Lastly, if you earn a baccalaureate degree in social work, you can then earn your M.S.W or Master of Social Work through UMD after one more year. The less time and money spent on school the better, right?!

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Career Planning for Social Sciences

Are you one of the many students on the UMD campus with a social science major? Odds are, you are. Our campus offers an array of social science majors ranging from Anthropology to Psychology to Cultural Entrepreneurship to Political Science. We’ve put together a few resources to help you through the career planning process. Included are: what you can do with your major and general job/internship search information. Have fun working on your career plan!

Social Science majors

Internship Programs: a lot of companies have internship programs that happen every year. We have listings (Minnesota, Regional, National) of some of these companies on our Internships page to get you started with your search.

What can I do with a major in… Anthropology; Criminology; Cultural Entrepreneurship; Linguistics; Political Science; Psychology; Social Work; Sociology; Women’s Studies

What are recent UMD Grads doing: Anthropology; Criminology; Cultural Entrepreneurship; Linguistics; Political Science; Psychology; Social Work; Sociology; Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies

Other Helpful Career Planning Articles