Specializations

Students may choose to specialize in one of five areas: (1) Children, Youth & Families; (2) Behavioral Health; (3) Aging; (4) Trauma & Violence; (5) Leadership in Group Work & Human Service Management (L-GWHSM).

Each of the specializations requires three courses (9 credits) and an advanced field placement within the identified field of practice. One of the courses must be the integrative course for the specialization. Other courses may be taken within the BU School of Social Work (SSW) or approved courses in other BU schools or the consortium.  

The Children, Youth & Families specialization recognizes the integration of the development of children and youth within the family unit and larger social environment. Families, in all forms, are integral to human development and manifest numerous cultural values and attributes to the next generation. Children and youth are foundational target populations in social work, particularly promotion of their healthy growth and development. Additionally, the protection of children, addressing child and family mental health through prevention and treatment programs, and community-based youth initiatives are among major practice areas within the social work profession.

Requirements:

  • Three advanced elective courses (9 credits), one of which is a required integrated seminar
  • An advanced field placement in the area of specialization

The seminar integrates theory and knowledge and their application to practice with children, youth, and families. Numerous courses are currently available in the curriculum. Additionally, appropriate courses in other BU schools and the consortium school may be used to fulfill the specialization requirements.

The Behavioral Health specialization combines theory and skill development to enable MSW graduates to promote behavioral and mental health in multiple domains, including healthcare, public health, and community-based settings. Students learn to advance health equity as members of interdisciplinary teams and prepare for professional leadership to assure health systems address social determinants of health, as well as needs of specific individuals, families, and communities. Program graduates enter the workforce understanding the unique role of social work to enhance prevention and intervention with diverse populations facing multiple challenges in an ever-changing practice environment. The specialization emphasizes a broad definition of health, including physical, psychological, and social dimensions, not just the absence of injury or disease, and seeks to reinforce core social work values including social justice, human dignity, and empowerment of individuals and communities.

Requirements:

One of the courses selected must be SSW IS 801, a 3-credit integrative seminar that will be conducted over two semesters of the student’s final MSW program year. The seminar will include mixed teaching and learning methods, in and out of the classroom, and will require a “capstone” project designed to demonstrate attainment of specialization competencies. The specialization will also require the completion of two additional courses. Students may choose any two advanced SSW electives. Students may also seek permission from the specialization coordinator to substitute applicable courses from other graduate programs at Boston University toward satisfaction of the specialization requirement. Additionally, students are required to complete an advanced field placement.

Aging is a lifelong process involving a complex interplay between biological, psychological, social, economic, and political factors. This specialization applies principles of social justice to analyze conditions that impact the lives of older adults and examines the role of power, privilege, and structural inequality in producing health disparities across the life course. Social workers play a vital role in working with individuals, families, and organizations as well as local, state, and national communities to optimize opportunities for health, economic well-being, and quality of life of older adults.

Requirements: 

  • Three advanced elective courses (9 credits), one of which is a required integrated seminar conducted over two semesters during the student’s final MSW program year
  • An advanced field placement in the area of specialization

The seminar integrates theory and knowledge and their application to practice with children, youth, and families. Advanced elective courses may include Clinical Practice with Older Adults (CP 807), Social Policy and Programs in Aging (WP 704), and HB electives with aging content (e.g., HB 849 Social Perspectives on Health and Illness, HB 723 Adult Psychopathology, Family Therapy). Additionally, appropriate courses in other BU schools and the consortium school may be used to fulfill the specialization requirements. An advanced field placement in the area of specialization is required.

Trauma exposure is nearly universal. The field of trauma has exploded in the last several decades with advances in neurobiology, increased attention to evidence-based and evidence-informed interventions in trauma, and widespread recognition of violence across multiple contexts. Because trauma is a rapidly evolving field, social workers need integrated and cutting-edge training to work with and on behalf of diverse populations who are affected by wide-ranging traumatic experiences, including gender- and race-based violence, interpersonal and/or community violence, natural disasters, combat trauma, and terrorism. Specialization students will learn the foundations of trauma-informed and multi-level practice and policy, and apply this knowledge to prevention, intervention, and policymaking to mitigate the impact of violence and trauma on individuals, families, communities, and societies.

Requirements:

A foundational “platform” course is required for this specialization, plus two advanced elective courses (9 credits). Clinical Practice students should plan to take either SSW CP 803 or SSW CP 804, as well as the Advanced Seminar in Clinical Practice (SSW CP 814). In addition to the new platform course, Macro students may select other trauma-focused electives within SSW, another BU school, or the consortium. An advanced field placement in the area of specialization is required.

Within two years of graduating, MSWs will advance to supervisory and management roles. This specialization, with pathways in Group Work and Human Service Management, is designed to prepare students to take on such leadership roles. Students in both pathways will gain important skills in the areas of assessment, planning, and prevention.

Group Work skills are essential for practice in agencies, programs, and organizations. Social work with groups serves as a bridge between individuals and systems-level intervention. Moreover, expertise in Group Work is essential for organizational and team leadership. Students in the Group Work pathway will learn to use their clinical skills and professional relationships to engage in purposeful social work group facilitation and planned activities with clients and community stakeholders. In addition, they will learn to mobilize resources in the environment.

A pathway in Human Service Management is ideal for clinical and macro students interested in organizational theory and the development of management skills for professional practice. Human Service agencies have a high-level demand for technically trained managers who understand social service delivery systems and social environments of clients served. Students in the management specialization have the opportunity to gain skills in the areas of: strategic planning, negotiation, supervision, budgeting and financial management, fundraising, and evaluation.

Upon completion of this specialization, students will be prepared to facilitate various types of group modalities, and apply management skills to achieve social change at multiple levels. The specialization is available in the second year for students who are clinical or macro majors.

Requirements:

This specialization will provide students with a focused flexibility in fulfilling the requirements. Completion of three courses (9 credits) is required. One of these courses must be the two-semester Integrative Seminar (3 credits). In the seminar, a holistic approach will be employed to introduce students to varied theories of leadership across both pathways. The intent of the seminar is to prepare students to think and practice from both clinical and macro lenses. The seminar will include the completion of a capstone project. Two other courses, in addition to the Integrative Seminar, can be selected from a list of advanced courses in the two focus areas. Finally, the second-year placement must provide opportunities for a student to undertake projects related to the specialization.