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Why Social Work?

I decided to apply for the Masters in Social Work (MSW) program  at Portland State University (PSU) in Oregon, because I wanted to stay locally and I was told that with an MSW education, unlike an MA/MS degree in Psychology, a person is able to put his/her name on insurance panels. I knew that I wanted to sometime in the future conduct private practice and one day become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), so there was no other choice for me to make than to apply for PSU's graduate degree. Fortunately, I was accepted to the program and the my graduation date was in June of 2003. To view more information about my experience at PSU, please visit our Social Work Page.

What is Social Work?

Social Work is a field of the social sciences that focus on social change and promotes empowerment and liberation of all human beings. The field utilizes theories of human behavior and social systems, and it intervenes at points where people interact with their environments.
 Principles of human rights and social justice are fundamental to social work (Principles taken from International Federation of Social Workers).

Specialties in Social Work

  • Social Casework (case management) is basic social work: Assessing needs and applying agency services and resources to address social, health or economic problems, such as in health, community agency and public welfare programs.

  • Medical Social Workers work with the special needs of patients and families in hospitals, long term care facilities, hospice programs, outpatient offices, rehabilitation programs and other health settings.

  • School Social Workers help with emotional, social and economic problems so students can focus on getting an education.

  • Clinical Social Workers are found in private practice or in psychiatric & mental health care settings, where they provide psychotherapy and counseling. They might also work in employee assistance programs within larger companies that have numerous employees.

  • In Administration and Management, social workers oversee the programs and systems that provide social, health and public welfare services

  • Community Organization social workers work in cooperation with the community to identify needs and to develop or improve services and systems to meet those needs.

  • In Social Policy and Research, Social Workers analyze social problems, design and conduct in depth research studies and develop ways for social programs and systems to overcome those problems.

                                                                                    [Information adapted from the National Association of Social Workers]

Degrees in Social Work

Depending on how many years of schooling you are ready to commit, there are various levels of degrees that may be of interest to you. I opted for the MSW degree because I knew that I only needed two additional years of schooling past my undergraduate degree to be able to
do the job that I want to do upon my graduation.

B.S.W =  Bachelor of Social Work - A four-year undergraduate program.
M.S.W = Masters in Social Work - A two year program in addition to a Bachelors degree (it does not have to be a continuation of a BSW)
Ph.D = Doctorate of Philosophy - A 4-6 year program concentrating on policy analysis and research. Primary focus is teaching and research.
D.S.W = Doctorate of Social Work - Same as a PhD. Description of name depends on each graduate school.

View the Social Work Code of Ethics.

What to do with a Social Work Degree?

There are a variety of careers that you can have with a Social Work Degree including mental health therapist, program evaluator, administrator, researcher, case worker, policy maker, school counselor, etc. For more information about careers in social work, please click here. A great resource for comprehensive information about the outlook for  social work jobs is the Occupational Outlook Handbook for Social Workers.

To get a general idea of different salary ranges, please click here.

Human Development Theories

Here are a few theories that  attempt to explain and describe human behavior.

Social Constructivist Theory
Attachment Theory
Psychodynamic Theory
Social Learning Theory
Systems Theory
Feminist Theory

Information-Processing Theory

Practice Theories (treatment models)
Here are several practice theories that attempt to adopt the lens of human development theories, and are specifically
used in guiding practice and intervention.

Cognitive-Behavioral Strategies
Narrative Therapy
Motivational Interviewing
Object Relations
Crisis Intervention
Family Therapy
Empowerment Therapy
Solution-Focused Therapy

Self Psychology

Applying for Graduate School

It can be hard not knowing where to apply for graduate school or know what kind of knowledge goes into applying for a program. If you want further information about what schools offer and require, you can visit our Social Work Directory  to link to various pages that hopefully will be of useful information. There are usually a couple of things that schools look during their application review, which include GRE scores, letters of recommendations, and personal statement. If you need some helpful advice on how to complete these requirements and find out about how to apply for graduate school, in general, please visit Getting Into Social Work Graduate School.

To view Social Work School Rankings 2000 of the Top 80 Schools, please click here.

Information in regard to the GRE, please click here.

Has this page triggered a need for additional reading? Visit our extensive Social Work Book Store where you further your knowledge in theory,
research, mental disorders, social work practice, etc. You cannot go wrong!

If you have any questions or comments regarding this site or psychology in general, please e-mail me,
 I would love to hear from you.  


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