A Master of Social Work program is a graduate degree in social work that consists of rigorous educational and training requirements to produce competent social workers prepared to practice as professionals in the field. While social work encompasses a wide range of career prospects, most MSW programs prepare students for licensure as clinicians to be able to practice direct mental health services with individuals.
The requirements to obtain an MSW are typically a bachelor’s degree in social work or a related field, and an ‘advanced standing’ MSW program is for those that already have a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) and serves to be a specialized continuation of advanced studies in social work in comparison to a general MSW program. The ‘advanced standing’ track typically has a shorter degree (39 credit hours) since the general requirements are already met at the bachelor’s level. A general MSW program can be up to 60 credit hours long.
Why Should A Student Pursue An Advanced Standing MSW?
Masters in Social Work programs that offer advanced standing tracks can provide numerous benefits to students. The following are the core benefits for a student enrolling in an advanced standing program:
- An Enrollee Can Complete Their Education Faster: Most advanced standing programs eliminate many of the foundational courses that regular students have to complete as part of their traditional MSW programs.
- Advanced Standing Programs Generally Cost Less: As advanced standing students are required to take fewer courses than traditional students, MSW’s with advanced standing tracks generally cost less than traditional MSW programs.
- Advanced Standing Students May Have Fewer Field Education Requirements: As advanced standing students have already completed their BSW, they have already completed a 400+ hour field placement requirement. Due to this, many MSW programs with advanced standing tracks will decrease the field placement from two to one.
What Are The Requirements To Enroll In An Advanced Standing MSW Program?
For students to enroll in an Advanced Standing MSW, they must have completed their Bachelors in Social Work (BSW). This is a strict requirement for an advanced standing program, and generally even if students have completed their undergraduate degrees in the field of mental health they are still excluded. Another requirement is that the BSW programs must be CSWE accredited, and typically the degree must have been completed in the last five years.
CSWE Accredited Advanced Standing MSW Programs
- Grand Canyon University – This MSW program is a faith-based curriculum that focuses on competencies in ethical and professional behavior, diversity in practice, human rights and social, economic, and environmental justice, evidence-based practice, and clinical intervention. The program is offered in-person and online and consists of a 62-credit-hour curriculum. The in-person program may be better suited for working professionals as most classes are offered during evenings and weekends, which offers flexibility and accessibility to those pursuing graduate education.
- Adelphi University – With online and in-person program availability, Adelphi University offers an MSW program that has concentrations in mental health, substance use, trauma, human services management, and organizational leadership. The program has a variety of scholarship and funding opportunities available to students and the costs of online attendance are lower. Students may enroll part-time or full-time. The advanced standing program consists of 32 credit hours and is typically completed in 15 months with two residencies that could also be completed online. Students have an option of a healthcare specialization in this track.
- Colorado State University – This advanced-standing MSW program is typically completed in 12 months, over three semesters, with yearly intakes beginning in the summer term. There is no GRE requirement to apply and courses are offered on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays during the Fall and Spring semesters. The internship/residency requirements are completed concurrently with the first 31-credit hours of the program and placements are within the campus location.
- Louisiana State University – The MSW program at Louisiana State promotes an inclusive model of social work promoting the practice in diverse settings and communities. This program can be completed in-person or online, in a part-time or full-time enrollment, and offers a fast-track (one year or less for completion) and standard track (one to one-and-a-half years for completion) depending on student availability. There are also six different intake dates for the program throughout the year. To qualify for the advanced standing track, students are required to complete a minimum of 33 credit hours as an LSU student.
- Texas A&M Commerce – This program prepares students for licensure as an LMSW upon graduation. The program offers part-time and full-time enrollment options and in-person and online modalities. The advanced generalist program is typically completed within a year and consists of a 36-credit-hour curriculum, with no thesis requirement for successful completion. Field education is supported by the program through community connections available for students, and students are supported throughout the program to flourish personally and professionally.
- Columbia University – Columbia is one of the top-ranked programs in the country that offers an MSW program consisting of a curriculum focusing on human behavior, social environment and welfare, research, social work practice, and field education. A third of the curriculum (18 credits) is dedicated to field training that consists of two practicums. Students have the option of enrolling full-time, part-time, and attending classes in-person or online. With several specializations and concentrations available, this program ensures the production of competent professionals in the field of social work.
What Will I Learn
Each advanced standing MSW program has qualities that are unique to them and may vary in the specializations, training opportunities, and course offerings. Among programs that are CSWE-accredited, all programs are required to provide education and training to fulfill the nine core competencies in the field of social work. They are as follows:
- Competency 1: Demonstrate ethical and professional behavior.
Students are to be competent in professional ethics and behaviors. Familiarization with laws, regulations, and policies that inform and affect the practice of social work with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. Understanding of the legal and ethical duties, obligations, and limitations within a professional scope of practice as established by the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics, and the state board regulations to which the individual belongs.
- Competency 2: Advance human rights and social, racial, economic, and environmental justice.
Competency in social and human developmental factors and their intersection. Knowledge of social construct theoretical conceptualization and application in clinical settings. Application of advocacy against social injustices and the promotion of resources to needy populations.
- Competency 3: Engaging in ADEI practice
Understanding and familiarity with human and social development and the effects of racism and oppression that influence the individual, family, group, organization, and communities at advancing levels. Education and training over a variety of populations and environments. Students are to receive education and training that focus on cultural competence.
- Competency 4: Engage in practice-informed research and research-informed practice.
Knowledge of academic research methods and being able to use and conduct effective research that adds to the field of social work. Competency in being an informed consumer of research relevant to social work practices at a policy, clinical intervention, or advocacy level. Know how to design, analyze, critique, and synthesize current and future academic research to advance the purposes of social work.
- Competency 5: Policy practice.
Familiarity with local, state, federal, and global policies that affect the accessibility and delivery of social services. Knowledge of the history of social work theoretical foundations, and current assessment of social welfare policies. Application of critical thinking to analyze, formulate, and advocate for policies that advance social goals.
- Competency 6: Engage with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities.
Knowledge of the nature of human relationships, theoretical conceptualizations of interpersonal dynamics, theories of human behavior, and application into practice. Familiarization of application of theoretical constructs in assessment and intervention with diverse populations in a culturally and socially responsive practice with clients and constituents.
- Competency 7: Assess individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities.
Familiarity with psychological theories of assessment of human behavior and dysfunctional behaviors. Identifying strengths and barriers to social advancement and demonstrating competency in the assessment, evaluation, and intervention with appropriate planning to deal with presenting issues.
- Competency 8: Intervene with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities.
Utilizing theoretical frameworks of human behavior, interprofessional conceptualizations, and person-in-environment dynamics to conceptualize, design, and apply appropriate interventions. Utilizing evidence-based interventions to meet the needs of populations served.
- Competency 9: Evaluate practice with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities.
Evaluation of processes and outcomes relating to social work practices that improve on implemented services. Being able to select and use culturally responsive methods for evaluation, and being able to critically analyze outcomes for improving effectiveness.
What Does a MSW Graduate Do?
A graduate-level social worker could work in a variety of domains within the field, including administration, case management, education, and as a clinician in mental health. The goal of most MSW programs is to prepare students for licensure as a Licensed Master of Social Work (LMSW) that enables them to practice in all those areas as licensed professionals, as some occupations, such as those in mental health, require licensure. Initial licensure as an LMSW is a ‘probationary licensure’, during which individuals accrue supervised work experience hours and successfully complete an examination to be licensed as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). An LCSW license is independent and offers more freedom to practice as a social worker without the need for supervision. One of the core benefits of completing an advanced standing MSW program is that the path and time it takes to acquire licensure are lessened.
Social work is a field that emphasizes promoting social well-being in society. This opens up a number of roles that are found in almost every industry. Social workers can work in administration, where they are a part of policy development and implementation; in education administration and advocacy; and in clinical settings as mental health providers and case managers. Work settings typical for social workers include agencies, hospitals, government sectors, schools, private practice, inpatient and outpatient settings, rehabilitation centers, and advocacy centers.
Accreditation for Master of Social Work programs
In choosing a graduate program in social work, it is important to consider if the program is accredited. Accreditation can be viewed as a ‘seal of approval’ by the national/state board governing social work education. It ensures programs uphold the guidelines and standards for students to receive the necessary education and training, to be competent professionals in the field upon graduation. Another advantage to pursuing an accredited program is that students accrue the qualifications to obtain licensure upon graduation. This eliminates the need to obtain additional experience and education upon graduation, thus saving time and money.
The national governing body for social workers is the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) which ensures individuals have met the standards and qualifications to practice as social workers. ASWB oversees all testing and licensure processes and sets the standards for accreditation bodies to adhere to. The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) is a national accreditation body that evaluates graduate programs for meeting the educational standards and guidelines necessary to produce competent professional social workers that are ready for licensure. CSWE ensures quality in education relating to research, policy, theory, and practice of social work. The CSWE website offers a directory of accredited MSW programs that can be found here.
For individuals that have completed a bachelor’s degree in social work, finding an MSW program that offers an advanced standing option will save time and money. The following programs are not only CSWE accredited but also provide an advanced standing option for those who have completed a BSW.
Opportunities as an LMSW
The field of social work is rapidly growing, with a drastic demand for professionals in almost every industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the projected growth of social work job opportunities is at a rate of 11% over the next decade, which is much higher than the national average of other occupations. The number of projected job openings is estimated to be 12,700. Annual wages range from $31,010 to $97,300/year, with a mean of $49,130.
Choosing a career in social work comes with a lot of responsibilities, demands, and fulfillment. Knowing if this field is the right fit for you is an important consideration, as it takes a certain set of skills and values to flourish. Common work values for people in social work include valuing creating and maintaining relationships with clients, coworkers, and networking opportunities, along with a drive to be of social service. Social workers value achievement when they utilize strengths to motivate people toward a sense of accomplishment. They also value independence in work tasks and decision-making, where they are able to utilize creativity and responsibility to carry out tasks.
Work styles common to social workers include concern for others, paying attention to needs, and being of service to others on the job. An ability to have self-control and a high-stress tolerance to the nature of work they engage in. Being able to make quick decisions in times of crisis and accepting criticism and feedback. Individuals are also highly adaptable and flexible in changes within the workplace, and workflow due to the unpredictable nature of the field.
The field of social work enables you to explore careers in an in-demand service where, through the rigors of building a career, one will undoubtedly find fulfillment. As you pursue your educational and career goals, it is important to assess your personal interests, strengths, and life goals as an influential part of creating a strong foundation to build this career.
Advanced Standing MSW ProgramsThe following 71 masters in social work programs offer an advanced standing track to those individuals that have completed a bachelor's in social work. These advanced standing options will allow graduates to complete their MSWs at a faster pace than standard masters in social work enrolees.
Association of Social Work Board
Bureau of Labor Statistics
Colorado State University
Council on Social Work Education
Grand Canyon University
Louisiana State University