The MSW curriculum includes three distinct levels through which students progress toward the advanced degree in social work. Upon admission, students enter an Immersion experience followed by four courses that constitute the generalist foundation of social work practice. Students who have already achieved a Bachelor of Social Work degree may be granted a waiver of this Immersion/Foundation curriculum if they are offered Advanced Standing status.
The second level of preparation is the Intermediate curriculum which entails 5 courses that all students take in common, including a field practicum course of 320 hours. The purpose of the Intermediate curriculum is to prepare students with more breadth and depth in their knowledge base (theories that underlie social work practice). In addition, the Intermediate curriculum serves to advance their critical thinking and foundation practice skills for entry into very specialized fields of practice, or concentrations.
Within the first 30 credit hours that constitute the Immersion/Foundation/Intermediate curriculum, the MSW Program offers multiple scheduling paths. These include full-time and part-time options on the IUPUI, IUSB, and IU Online (MSW Direct) campuses and part-time only options on the IUN, IUS, IUE, and IPFW campuses. Students generally enter the first half of their educational experience with a cohort of other students who are following the same sequence of classes. When entering concentration year courses, class times vary depending on the concentration choice.
Following the Intermediate curriculum, students enter into one of five concentrations. Four of the concentrations are direct practice/clinical in nature: Children, Youth and Families; Health; Mental Health and Addictions; and School Social Work. The fifth concentration, Leadership, has a macro focus, including preparation of students for roles in supervision, administration, policy advocacy and community planning.
The courses in the concentration year are offered throughout the entire week; day and evening hours as well as Saturdays. It is imperative that each student understand that the concentration year schedule will be driven by the individual choice of specialization, not by her/his entering cohort. Therefore, each student can anticipate that in the final year of coursework, she/he may be taking classes during the daytime, evenings and/or weekends.
Part-time students are accepted into the MSW program on a three year schedule. The first year of course work is spread over two years. The final year students are full-time. This means that part-time students must be prepared to complete a 2-semester practicum during the day, or a full-time block practicum along with coursework, during their concentration year.
If any student requests to spread the third or concentration year over two years in order to continue or proceed part-time, all course work must be completed entirely before the practicum ends. This may mean that the start of practicum semesters are delayed. This is a major point in planning schedules. Please remember that all MSW degrees must be completed within five years of matriculation.
The best way for students to appreciate the scope of practice within each concentration is to speak to a faculty member who practices and teaches in that area. The IUSSW Faculty and Staff Directory, found on the IUSSW website (www.socialwork.iu.edu), provides information that might guide students to the appropriate instructors.
Not all concentration course work is available on each campus. The five concentrations currently offered along with the campuses on which they are delivered are:
- Mental Health/Addictions (IUPUI, IUSB, IUN, IPFW, IUB)
- Children, Youth and Families (IUPUI, IPFW, IUS)
- School Social Work (IUPUI, IUN)
- Health (IUPUI, IUN)
- Leadership (IUPUI)
- Advanced Generalist (IUE, MSW Direct)
Here, in a nutshell, is an overview of each concentration:
Children, Youth and Families Concentration
Students in this concentration understand at an advanced level mandates of the children, youth, and family serving systems and learn to effectively intervene within the current framework of state and federal legislation. They are able to assess the impact of trauma and assess for risk and resilience with children, youth, and families and design effective interventions that build on best-practices and strengths with individuals, families and communities. They identify and apply interventions that address trauma, risk and resilience in advanced practice with children, youth, and families. They evaluate the impact of the forms, mechanisms, and consequences of oppression and discrimination in the systems that impact children, youth, and families, including the impact on people of color, women, lesbian women and gay men, and other populations at risk as well as those groups distinguished by age, ethnicity, culture, class, religion, region, gender identity, and physical or mental ability.
Students who elect to practice in the health arena, apply the knowledge and skills of advanced social work practice to build and work effectively with multi-disciplinary teams that include physicians, nurses, dentists, psychiatrists and other health care professionals. Students learn the medical terminology to conduct bio-psycho-social assessments based on myriad disease entities and patient dynamics. As social workers, they understand how healthcare is financed in the United States, analyze how financial resources for healthcare affect individual patient care, and advocate for change that improves access for all individuals regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity or other factors.
Mental Health & Addictions Concentration
Students in this concentration assess mental health and addictions issues from person-in-environment, consumer focused, strengths-based, recovery-oriented, and other relevant perspectives. Competence in formulating intervention, prevention, or support and maintenance plans collaboratively with clients. Students gain preparation to serve as case managers, counselors, clinicians, and advocates for and with mental health and addictions consumers. Also, they are able to seek, discover, and evaluate relevant research studies and apply findings in evidence-based social work practice. Within the context of their practice, they conduct empirical evaluations of the effectiveness of interventions and services.
School Social Work Concentration
Social workers in school systems function in an environment where the primary purpose is education and socialization. When primary and secondary school students exhibit behaviors and problems that impede their academic and social progress, they may benefit from interventions that social workers are prepared to deliver. The commitment to utilizing social workers in school settings ebbs and flows, often dictated by fiscal resources for education in general. Nonetheless, preparation of students to enter this field of practice remains a priority for the School of Social Work. Students who enter this field are prepared with clinical skills for working with children and adolescents and their families; with team-building skills for working with school administrators and teachers; and, community skills to garner the resources necessary to promote a safe, secure environment for those served in the school system.
Often students with some experience in human services seek to prepare themselves for supervisory and administrative roles in one of the systems represented in the other concentrations or in some other arena of practice. By selecting the Leadership concentration, students opt to immerse themselves in an educational experience focused predominantly on indirect and macro-level practice. The skills set in this concentration includes strategic planning, grant writing, financial management and budgeting, advanced policy analysis and advocacy, community organizing and development, among others.