If you’re pursuing a career in social work, it is likely that you have a passion for helping people and making real social change. If you’re considering taking your next step with a Master of Social Work (MSW), you will want to ensure that the program you choose will help you do just that.
The school you choose should not only be at the forefront of research and relevant fieldwork, but should also match your values. Sacred Heart University’s professors of social work took the time to answer some important questions you might have as you search for the perfect Master of Social Work (MSW) program for you.
SHOULD I GET A MASTER OF SOCIAL WORK?
You might be asking yourself, “Is an MSW the next step for me?” or “What should I look for in a social work graduate program?” or “Can I make a difference considering all of the complex problems in today’s society?”
Two professors from Sacred Heart University’s School of Social Work are here to guide you through your key questions. Read on to learn from Sacred Heart’s MSW program director Jill Manit, PhD, MSW, and clinical assistant professor Elizabeth Johnson-Tyson, LMSW.
What should I know if I want to make a difference as a social worker?
Social work, as a profession, recognizes that an individual’s environment impacts their health and well-being. This work requires a long-term commitment to justice and tenacity to jump in and stay the course in addressing today’s complex social problems. Factors such as feeling safe, access to quality education, access to healthy food and healthcare are all examples of environmental factors that carry generational impacts on the well-being of individuals and whole communities. Therefore, social workers commit to creating and influencing social structures that are equitable and responsive to such needs.
How will an MSW from Sacred Heart prepare me to address today’s complex issues?
Sacred Heart’s Master of Social Work (MSW) program aims to not only increase students’ knowledge of such issues; we push students to challenge their own world views and to critically analyze the injustice that underlies current events. Whether it is within the classroom or within internships, our students actively practice their social work skills. This may be practicing how to engage clients directly or practice in challenging an unjust policy. We fundamentally believe that, in order to tackle the complexity underlying current events, social workers must be prepared to work within a variety of settings, with a variety of people, and often without clear cut “solutions.” Our program aims to prepare students for work that demands advanced critical thinking skills, comfort with ambiguity, a commitment to collaborative work, and an ability to engage in honest self-reflection in order to continuously grow.
How have current events affected the field of social work, what does this mean for me as an aspiring social worker?
Current events, including issues prior to the election, have brought a greater attention and awareness to structural problems such as racism, white supremacy, police brutality, gender, and sexual orientation violence. With the rise of documented events on social media, there is a growing sense of awareness. The increase in people witnessing acts of racism and sexism, in turn, carries the potential to hold people and institutions accountable.
Social work has always been a profession committed to social justice and equity; it is a part of the Code of Ethics. However, the profession (like all others) has been impacted by these injustices. The good news is that our profession has recognized where we have fallen short and these movements have also served as a call to social workers to do better. Today, new generations of social work students are entering their programs more committed to social justice than we have historically seen.
The heightened sense of awareness and commitment to social justice allows us, as social work educators, to jump right in to developing student skills to enact change. We used to have to take time to instill justice as a value in our social work students, but we are finding that they now just need to deepen their commitment and get to action!
How has the field of social work changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
As with many crises, social workers are on the front lines of the pandemic. Additionally, social workers are living through the pandemic while helping others navigate this new world. Our field has long relied on the ability to build relationships and connect with people authentically, often in their home environments. Pandemic responses such as virtual meetings, closed public spaces, and social distancing fundamentally changed how we build those relationships and engage in our services. But we have adapted. By first increasing our clients’ access to technology and the internet, we were able to quickly employ virtual home visits, therapy sessions, and community organizing events. With increased access to our clients’ home environments through virtual meetings, we are getting better at understanding and assessing their needs. This allows us to be more responsive to those needs. In some ways, we have seen virtual options expand opportunities to reach broader communities and family supports for our clients and social causes.
What differentiates the School of Social Work at Sacred Heart from others?
First and foremost, it is our mission. The mission of the School of Social work is to purposefully and intentionally stand against racist behaviors, practices, and systems. We recognize that racist behaviors impact every person and their individuality such as sexual orientation, gender, or differences in ability. At the SHU School of Social Work, we inspire our students to accomplish this mission through rigorous and innovative coursework coupled with student-centered support.
Why should I pursue a career in social work?
Social problems persist and we need social workers who are ready to tackle complex problems. Social workers are needed across every aspect of the life span from birth to death and across many systems such as in schools, health care settings, judicial systems, politics, and more. This profession offers job security, flexibility, and personal fulfillment. Most importantly, social workers truly make a difference that matters.