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Master of Social Work Course Descriptions

The online Master of Social Work (MSW) program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) and offers training in advanced clinical practice with individuals and families, group work and community practice. It is designed to accommodate unique specializations, including social work in schools, geriatric centers and military contexts. Throughout the program, students will benefit from small class sizes, individual advisement and direct field supervision, all offered by their dedicated faculty advisor.

To earn the online Master of Social Work (MSW):

  • Students must complete a total of 60 credit hours of coursework. Full-time online MSW students can complete their degree at a rate of two courses per term in as few as 2 ½ years
  • Advanced Standing students must complete 36 credit hours of concentration courses, including two electives, and can complete their degree in as few as 1 ½ years
  • Students who wish to pursue the online MSW on a part-time basis may take one course per term (roughly 15-20 hours of coursework per week). At this rate, they can complete their degree in as few as 5 years
  • Students may switch between full- and part-time course loads throughout their time in the program, as their schedule allows
  • Students earning the Gerontology and Palliative Care Embedded Certification or the Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor (CASAC) Credentialing are required to complete three electives. Those with Advanced Standing may opt to take an additional elective to earn a specialization

Unless otherwise noted, all courses are 3 credit hours. Please note: Course offerings and sequence are subject to change.

Core Courses

SWK 6001, SWK 6002 – Field Work Orientation I & II (0 credits)

This course prepares students to enter into field work. It runs over the student's first two terms.

SWK 6003 – Generalist Social Work Practice I

This course provides students with introductory knowledge of social work methodology within the context of agency-based practice. The focus is to help students build professional relationships and assessment skills, and for the student to gain an understanding of how to help people in any setting using a multiplicity of skills grounded in an ecological systems approach (15 weeks in length).

SWK 6004 – Generalist Social Work Practice II

This course builds upon material covered in Generalist Practice I and focuses on designing interventions based on bio-psycho-social-spiritual assessments and theories of practice. It provides a deeper exploration of clinical work with individuals, families, groups and communities (15 weeks in length).

SWK 6531C, SWK 6532C – Generalist Social Work Practice Field Work I & II (3 credits each)

The purpose of these courses is to develop social work competencies through the professional relationship with clients. First-year students have placements in an agency where they acquire and hone practice skills, apply knowledge and values in their practice with clients and constituents and develop engagement, assessment, intervention and evaluation skills. First-year students are required to be in a field placement for a minimum of 600 hours during the academic year—21 hours per week.

SWK 6100 – Human Behavior and the Social Environment

This course emphasizes the reciprocal and transactional influences between people and their environments in the context of biophysical, familial, institutional, societal and social factors. The emphasis is placed on differences and similarities in the life experience and lifestyles of men and women and underrepresented groups.

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SWK 6135 – Cultural Diversity

This course is designed to heighten students' knowledge, awareness, skill and understanding of differences among people, and to raise students' consciousness of and sensitivity to complexities resulting from difference. Ethnicity and race will be studied in the context of power and powerlessness, racism, sexism, homophobia, heterosexism, classism and ageism.

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SWK 6201 – Social Welfare and Social Change

This course begins preparing students to function as informed and competent professional practitioners who implement social policies and programs and, where appropriate, work towards policy change. Students learn the contextual framework of the social work profession and the history, social structures and social processes necessary for the development of practice competency within the policy arena.

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SWK 6401 – Social Work Practice and Evaluation Research

This course imparts to students an understanding and appreciation of a scientific, analytic approach to building knowledge for practice and for evaluating service delivery. Students will learn the relationship between single-subject research and practice, the fundamentals of the language of social work research, the elements of research designs, data analysis techniques used in single subject research, skills required to use research literature and how to communicate research concepts.

SWK 6013 – Advanced Clinical Practice with Individuals and Families I

This advanced clinical practice course is designed to help students develop conceptual, practical, theoretical and ethical frameworks that will inform their clinical skills with individuals, families and couples in social service agencies. Specific practice theories are explored for their applicability to a refined assessment of client needs. Students formulate therapeutic interventions based on assessments that include an appreciation of the impact of the social, political and agency context; race, ethnicity, social class and status, gender, sexual orientation, age, abilities and religion; professional values and ethics; and relevant practice research findings on the populations they serve. Along with Advanced Field Work I, this course continues to build an integration of theory with practice, and reinforces the importance of ongoing practice evaluation.

SWK 6014 – Advanced Clinical Practice with Individuals and Families II

In this course, students will acquire a theoretical framework for specific practice approaches and will develop a better understanding of the critical components of the biopsychosocial and spiritual assessment of individuals and families. This course focuses on integrating practice theory with actual practice experiences, applying a range of intervention techniques with a range of client populations, and examining the complex nature of the client/worker relationship. There is particular emphasis throughout on professional values and ethics, issues of diversity, at-risk populations and social justice. The course specifically uses the family, different normative psychosocial stages and particular diagnostic categories to elucidate the integration of clinical theory and practice.

SWK 6535C, SWK 6536C – Advanced Field Work I & II (3 credits each)

Students select one of the following specializations: (a) clinical social work practice with individuals and families; (b) clinical social work practice with groups; (c) community social work. Second-year students have field placements in agencies with assignments in their area of concentration in order to deepen their skills in their professionally purposeful relationships with individuals and families, with groups or with communities.

SWK 6111 – Psychosocial Pathology

This course focuses on the distinctions between what is commonly thought to be normal and that which is viewed as “abnormal” behavior. The basic premise of the course is that all assessments of psychosocial pathologies must take into consideration three elements of behavior: 1) symptoms; 2) level of functioning; and 3) social and cultural diversity.

SWK 6133 – Philosophical Foundations of Social Work

This course is designed to challenge students to confirm, confront and articulate their own values and spiritual and philosophical beliefs. The philosophical content, anchored in Jewish social thought, helps students to develop a philosophy of helping. Such philosophical themes as spirituality, the dual nature of the human being, conflicting conceptions of time, good and the problem of evil, and loss and suffering are studied from the value perspectives of Judaism, other religions and philosophies and social work.

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SWK 6134 – Social Work Values and Ethics

This course focuses on value conflicts and ethical dilemmas in social work practice. Value conflicts are identified, converted into ethical dilemmas, illuminated through ethical theory and resolved through ethical decision-making models. This course reinforces the commitment to prepare social workers of diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds to learn how to reason and deal with the complexities of moral and ethical issues in practice, policy and society.

SWK 6210 – Advanced Policy Advocacy

This course focuses on policy analysis, policy practice and advocacy. The course is divided into three components: an overview of social work roles in policy practice and the organizational context in which such practice often takes place, the process of policy formulation and implementation and the skills needed to influence policy decisions with particular attention to advocacy. Issues concerning the promotion of social and economic justice, as well as the value and ethical issues that social workers confront in social welfare policy development and implementation activities, are explored.

SWK 6402 – Applied Methods in Social Work Research

This course focuses on problem formulation, conceptualization and operationalization of variables; use of measurement instruments; logic of research design including sampling and design selection; ethical and legal issues; quantitative and qualitative modes of observation; analysis of data; use of computers and computer programs; and research report writing. The student participates in an individual research project and learns the basics of conducting social work research.

SWK 6023 (3 credits): Advanced Group Work Practice I

The social group work specialization provides students with the knowledge base to develop individual cognitive and behavioral change through small groups. Prevention and rehabilitative practice approaches are taught for dealing with individual social and psychological problems. Emphasis is also on using the group work method for enhancing normal individual growth and development in community and school settings. A major emphasis in the sequence is development of the professional self to assure the evolution of disciplined practice based on purpose, sanction, knowledge, values and skills. The course is integrated with field learning through case presentations, group simulations and class discussion. Field practice is in a variety of clinical and community settings, such as mental health clinics, substance abuse facilities, hospitals, child welfare agencies, homeless shelters, domestic violence programs, community centers, public schools and settlement houses.

SWK 6024 (3 credits): Advanced Group Work Practice II

Students will be able to demonstrate the use of group work skill to move the group process toward successful conclusion. Students will apply differing group models in a variety of settings and with diverse populations. All learning will include attention to the importance of values and ethics in group work practice. Students will also learn the principles of consultation for the development of group services for social work agencies. The course is integrated with field practice through case presentations, group simulations and class discussion.

SWK 6900 – Culminating Project (0 credits)

The Culminating Project is written during the student’s final semester and is the expounding of an idea, or set of ideas, encountered during the student’s education for professional practice. Written under the guidance of a mentor, the Culminating Project is an opportunity to integrate all aspects of the student’s total experience including the acquisition of knowledge, the field practice and the development of the professional self.

Elective Courses

SWK 6678 – Trauma-Informed Child Welfare Practice

This course will introduce students to the core concepts informing evidence-based assessment and intervention for traumatized children and adolescents who are in the child welfare system. Strength-based practice will be highlighted along with a focus on the identification of protective and promotive factors that foster resiliency and post-traumatic growth. The course will highlight the role of development, culture and empirical evidence in trauma-specific assessment, referral and interventions and will address the level of functioning of primary caregiving environments and assess the capacity of the community and the child welfare system to facilitate restorative processes.

CASAC Electives

SWK 6691 – Practice with Addictions I

Social Work 6691 is designed to increase student knowledge and skills for addressing addictive phenomena and its relation to social work practice issues. Students’ values are explored, and cognitive and affective processing of macro, meso and micro level practice concerns are covered.

SWK 6791 – Social Work Practice with Addictions II

Social Work 6791 is designed to increase student knowledge and skills for addressing addictive phenomena and its relation to social work practice issues. Ethics and students’ values are explored throughout, and cognitive and affective processing of macro, meso and micro level practice concerns are covered.

SWK 6891 – Social Work Practice with Addictions III

Social Work 6891 is the third of three courses in Addiction. Like the previous two, it is designed to increase student knowledge and skills for addressing addictive phenomena and its relation to social work practice issues. Ethics and students’ values are explored throughout, and cognitive and affective processing of macro, meso and micro level practice concerns are covered.

Gerontology and Palliative Care Electives

SWK 6825 – Palliative Care: Social Work Practice with Serious Illness

This course will provide a comprehensive study of issues related to palliative and end-of-life care. This course will integrate an Interdisciplinary approach to caring for individuals facing life-limiting and serious chronic illness and their families from medical, psychosocial, legal and ethical perspectives.

SWK 6686 – Social Gerontology

This course builds upon knowledge of biology and psychosocial development of the middle and late stages of adulthood and highlights the contemporary manifestations of ageism. The course identifies the core knowledge base necessary for working with older adults and their families, and explores the theoretical underpinnings, attitudinal factors and ethical and economic aspects of social gerontology that are relevant to understanding this field of practice.

SWK 6702 – Coping With Loss

This course is designed to explore aspects of social work practices with clients experiencing loss and grief in a variety of situations. Areas of study include skills of assessment and treatment which are explored using films and personal and case materials. Strategies and interventions in working with a culturally diverse array of vulnerable populations confronting loss, for whom services and programs need to be planned, are highlighted.

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