Skip Navigation

M.S.W. Program Curriculum


To ensure training in areas SSW feels are key to a solid clinical education, courses and training are divided into five academic sequences: social work practice, human behavior in the social environment, social welfare policy and services, research and field. Academic course sessions span 10 weeks each summer. Courses are offered as one- or two-term offerings of five weeks each. Between summers, the internship periods provide time for focused field education, research and the community practice project.

Social Work Practice

This sequence teaches the fundamental 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 clients’ lives and opportunities, as well as the internal and subjective meanings of clients’ experience, in order to work sensitively within an integrative framework. In practice courses, we integrate and apply knowledge from all of the curriculum’s content areas, primarily through case studies, where we focused on individual, family, group, organization, or community problems or needs.

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. The 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 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. We have designed these courses 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. We examine contemporary policy issues in relation to economic developments, demographic changes in the population, the evolution of knowledge about public issues, technology and advances within the profession.


Through the courses in the research sequence, students develop skills in critical thinking, conducting qualitative and quantitative research and writing and in addressing value and ethical issues related to doing and reporting research. In the required research course, we prepare students for the independent research project they will complete during the internship period in their final year.


Field education is at the core of our program. It provides students with extensive training and experience working with individuals, families and communities in clinical and community settings.

Required Courses

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

Session One - First summer

In Session I, students are required to take the following courses:

101/102 Social Work Practice with Individuals and Families

130 Theories of Individual Development

131 Problems in Biopsychosocial Functioning

330 Child Development or 333 Developmental Deviations in Childhood and Adolescence

133 Sociocultural Concepts

161/161 Introduction to Social Welfare Policy

190 Group Theory and Practice

191 Agency and Community Practice

Session Three - Second summer

The following courses are required of all students during Academic Session III, along with three elective courses (M.S.W. students with advanced standing status begin their coursework in Academic Session III):

301/302 Clinical Social Work Practice

331 Comparative Psychodynamic Theories for Clinical Social Work Practice

132 Family Theory for Clinical Social Work Practice

334 Racism in the United States: Implications for Social Work Practice

380/381 Social Work Research Methods (Introductory) or *382/383 Social Work Research Methods (Intermediate) or *384/385 Social Work Research Methods (Advanced)

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

Session Five - Third summer

During Session Five, 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.