MSW Curriculum

Our curriculum is a 60-credit master’s composed of 16 three-credit courses and a requirement for a field practicum designed to ensure that students master the core (foundation) and advanced practice behaviors. The curriculum is organized into content areas; each area includes one to three courses required for degree completion. These areas are:

  • Human Behavior and the Social Environment
  • Social Policy
  • Social Work Ways of Knowing and Communicating
  • Social Work Practice Learning Lab
  • Research
  • Practice Methods
  • Professional Seminar
  • "Field Education
  • Fields of Practice

We offer two Policy courses providing core policy material; three Human Behavior and Social Environment courses; a two-semester first-year Practice course: the Social Work Practice Learning Lab; and Social Work Ways of Knowing and Communicating selective course that focuses on critical thinking and research appraisal in the first semester. In addition we offer a two-course Research sequence in which students are encouraged to conduct practice-based research and a choice of Advanced Concentration of three courses in one focus of intervention or methods concentration: Clinical Practice with Individuals and Families; Group Work; Community Organization, Planning and Development; or Organization Management and Leadership; two field of practice electives; a capstone Professional Seminar and Field Practicum. Two 600-hour practicums are required for Full-Time students, or one 900-hour practicum for our extended time One-Year Residence (OYR) students.

Consistent with the centrality of field education as the signature pedagogy of the profession, we require that all our students be in practice (supervised field placement or pre-MSW practice) concurrent with the bulk of their course work. Concurrence is required for practice courses because of our view that practice learning requires testing out and rehearsing knowledge and skills in the real world.

The table below displays the 16 courses now required of
Silberman SSW students in the Full-Time and OYR Programs.

SSW 701 Social Welfare Policy and Services I
SSW 702 Social Welfare Policy and Services II
SSW 711 Human Behavior and the Social Environment I
SSW 712 Human Behavior and the Social Environment II
SSW 713 Human Behavior and the Social Environment III
SSW 717 Social Work Practice Learning Lab I
SSW 718 Social Work Practice Learning Lab 2
SSW 775 Social Work Ways of Knowing and Communicating
SSW 751 Social Work Research I
SSW 752 Social Work Research II

Methods Concentration: Students choose one of the
following series of three-course sequences

SSW 721, 722, 723 Clinical Practice with Individuals and Families I, II, & III
SSW 731, 732, 733 Group Work I, II & III
SSW 741, 742, 743 Community Organization, Planning and Development I, II, & III
SSW 781, 782, 783 Organization Management and Leadership I, II, & III
SSW 790 Professional Seminar
SSW 761, 762, 763, 764 Field Practicum – Two-Year Program
SSW 767 & 768 Field Practicum – OYR Program

Choice of two electives

Social Work Practice Learning Lab is a two-semester practice course that supports mastery of core competencies related to engagement, assessment, intervention, and evaluation with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. Taught in the first year, the lab assigns students to a community of 100-170 students; each community has a team of teachers, professors with varied expertise, assigned to it. Each lab meets for lectures and other activities and then divides into individual class sections of 20-25 students. The instructors work as a team teaching the first hour or two of the laboratory, and then each professor meets with his/her individual section for discussion and to practice what was taught in the lecture. Standardized conceptual content is taught in the individual sections using the students’ work in the agency to illuminate concepts and integrate them with students’ field experience.

The Social Work Ways of Knowing and Communicating course was specifically designed to support students in the development of competencies in critical thinking, diversity, and research, as well as to improve their professional writing and oral communication skills. In their first semester of enrollment, students are required to select one course from a menu of topical courses (e.g., youth development, trauma and co-occurring disorders, criminal justice, aging) that share common competency goals, common core units on critical thinking, information literacy, and a series of assignments that require writing, group collaboration, and oral presentations applied to a particular content area. Students learn to identify, assess, and use evidence within that particular content area.

The Policy sequence is composed of two courses; both provide students with competency-based content at the foundation level. This two-course sequence explores the history, meaning, intent, and operations of the U.S. social welfare system. The first courses identifies key ideological frameworks that shape the current public debates over social welfare policy, analyzes the structure of the social welfare system, and explores issues of poverty in the context of oppression, diversity, and social justice. The second course is organized around providing specialized content on populations or in a field of practice; e.g., child welfare, homelessness, or in the treatment of key client groups: aging, women, and immigrants. Students enroll in these courses during their first year. These courses provide students the history, lexicon, and analytic skills to understand the social welfare policy context for practice.

The Human Behavior and Social Environment is composed of three courses, the first two of which provide students with foundational material on human development and interaction through dominant theoretical perspectives. The third HBSE course provides content related to diagnosis and assessment. Students enroll in HBSE I and HBSE II during their first year in the Full-Time and OYR Programs.

The Research sequence is composed of two courses that provide students with core competency content in research. Occurring in the second year and building on skills developed in the Ways of Knowing, the research courses use a practice-based research model that requires that students use their practice interests and emerging practice wisdom to inform their research questions. We have found that students need some sophistication in practice to glean maximal benefit from the courses so that they are equipped to pursue practice-based research in their career.