Smith College School for Social Work BannerWeb
The MSW Program
The Ph.D. Program
Continuing Education Programs
BCR Fellowship
Academic Resources
Smith College Studies in Social Work
The MSW Program
MSW Handbooks Related link

Related Links

The Curriculum

The Sequences

To ensure training in areas the school feels are key to a solid clinical education, courses are divided into four academic sequences: social work practice; human behavior in the social environment; social welfare policy and services; and research. The academic sessions span 10 weeks each summer with courses offered as one- or two-term offerings of five weeks each.

Social Work Practice

This sequence teaches generic skills of social work practice and specialized skills of clinical social work. It prepares students to practice in a range of settings, with different size client systems, and diverse presenting problems, from a range of practice theories and models, according to the ethical precepts and knowledge base of the profession. The practice sequence ensures that students consider the cultural and social forces that impact on clients' lives and opportunities, as well as the internal and subjective meanings of clients' experience in order to work sensitively within an integrative framework. Practice courses integrate and apply knowledge from all of the curriculum's content areas. The case study serves as the primary vehicle for accomplishing this goal, where the "case" is focused on individual, family, group, organization or community problems or needs. Since case studies and vignettes are used in all of the practice courses, it is at this level that the psychological and the social meet.

Human Behavior in the Social Environment

The psychosocial perspective serves as the primary guide in shaping the human behavior in the social environment (HBSE) curriculum. Courses focus on bodies of knowledge and theory that help to explain the intimate and extended contexts that shape human development and experience, that help explore the inner lives and psychological functioning of children and adults, and that help to explain the complex interactions between person and context. Content on individuals, families, groups, organizations, communities, culture, social structure and political and economic forces—as well as on the relationships among various groupings—is all an integral part of the HBSE curriculum.

Social Welfare Policy and Services

Social welfare policy is the context through which the public sanctions the delivery of clinical social work services and legitimizes the role of the social work profession. These courses are designed to enhance the training of clinical social work students by contributing to their knowledge of the major historical developments in the American social welfare system and their knowledge of policy developments within specific fields of practice including health, mental health, child welfare, family, aging and/or disability. Contemporary policy issues are examined in relation to economic developments, demographic changes in the population, the evolution of knowledge about public issues, technology and advances within the profession.


The research sequence teaches a wide range of content knowledge. Courses develop skills in critical thinking, in conducting qualitative and quantitative research and writing and in addressing value and ethical issues related to doing and reporting research. The required research course prepares students for the independent research project, which is done during the placement period in the final year.

Course Work

The typical course meets twice a week in classes of two hours each and provide two quarter-hours of credit each term. Courses that meets six hours a week provide three quarter-hours of credit each term. Master's students need 131 credits to graduate.

Academic Session I

In session I students are required to take the following courses:

Academic Session III

The following courses are required of all students during academic session III, along with three elective courses.
(MSW students with advanced standing status begin their coursework in Academic Session III.)

*Placement sections are based on the prior background and experience students bring to the program.

Session V

During session V, students are able to focus on specific populations or issues by selecting from the rich offering of elective courses. Students may take as few as seven or as many as ten elective courses.