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Shape Your Future with an Online Master of Social Work

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 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

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

Core Courses

SWK 000 – Field Work Orientation I (0 credits)

This course prepares students to enter into fieldwork. It runs over the student's first two terms (15 weeks in the program).

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.

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.

SWK 6531C, SWK 6532C – Generalist Social Work Practice Field Work I & II (6 credits)

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 6101 – 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.

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.

SWK 6201 – Social Welfare Organization

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.

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.

Concentration Courses

SWK 6033 – Community Social Work Practice I

Students who choose this specialization will gain skills, knowledge and an understanding of community social work practice within the context of diverse communities. Students learn basic and advanced practice principles, concepts, theories, models and approaches. Students learn to integrate social justice and other core values into their practice as they learn to use primary interventions such as planning and social policy, locality and community development, social action, administration, grants writing, networking and other organizing approaches.

SWK 6034 – Community Social Work Practice II

This course uses theories, models and methods of strategic practice with small- and other-sized groups, organizations and communities. Students have the opportunity to learn specific intervention tactics that contribute to achieving a practice strategy. Students are introduced to primary concepts such as client/consumer/constituent, initiatives, program planning, power, leadership, administration, participation, conflict, cooperation, motivation, agency, grant writing and policy analysis.

SWK 6535C, SWK 6536C – Advanced Field Work I & II (6 credits)

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.

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 – Social Welfare Policy

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 6905, SWK 6906 – Integrative Seminar I & II (0 credits)

This year-long capstone course is required for graduating MSW students, and is an opportunity for students to have a guided experience in integrating their learning and demonstrate their ability to apply their knowledge and skills in simulated practice. Students will attend a seminar and complete a practice project which includes continuous case conference and a simulated licensing exam. Students will demonstrate their practice competence by applying skills in work with individuals, families, groups and the community.

Elective courses

A variety of elective courses are available to online students. The following represent a limited selection of currently available options.

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.

SWK 6685 – Social Work Practice with Trauma and Interpersonal Violence

This course examines interpersonal violence in childhood and adulthood, specifically childhood sexual abuse, childhood physical abuse, intimate partner abuse (domestic violence), rape and sexual assault, and adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. With careful attention to the dynamics and consequences of trauma on victims, this course will expose students to key concepts and will teach students about individual and group intervention strategies specific to trauma, the personal effects of trauma work, the concepts of traumatic counter-transference and transference, and self-care strategies.

SWK 6686 – 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 6691 – Alcohol, Drugs and Other Addictions

This elective course introduces the student to the field of addictions and includes an overview of the policy issues, etiology, manifestations, practice settings, and treatment approaches to addiction/dependency. The course emphasizes the multiple causations of the misuse of addictive substances; the biological, social, and psychological consequences of substance abuse; and the impact of addictions on the family, community, and larger society. Particular attention is paid to the policy and programmatic responses to this social problem, the role of the courts, and differing philosophies and practices regarding treatment.

SWK 6823 – The Treatment of Eating Disorders

This advanced elective course will provide students with a comprehensive overview of eating disorders as bio-psycho-social disorders, and will focus primarily on methods and approaches to treatment within the confines of clinical social work practice. Students will gain an understanding of the etiology of eating disorders and accompanying personality issues as well as diagnostic criteria and available treatment options.

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