Tailor your MSW degree to your passions with a choice of two tracks, two majors, and the option to further specialize in one of four key areas.
Consists of 65 credits which can be completed in 2 years (full-time) or in 3-4 years (part-time). Students enroll in required foundation and advanced coursework, complete a foundation field internship (480 hours) and an advanced field internship (720 hours).
Human Service Experience Track
(Offered to Online, Worcester Hybrid, and Off-Campus Program Students)
Applicants who have a minimum of two years of supervised human services experience may apply to be considered for the Human Service Experience (HSE) track.
This experience must include weekly supervision by a master’s level supervisor. Examples of human service experience can include, but are not limited to: direct client care, case management, group leadership, referral services, counseling, advocacy, and care planning.
To learn more about the application process for the Human Service Experience Track, click here.
• Students in the On-Campus Program can select either a Clinical Practice or Macro Practice major. On-Campus Clinical Practice majors may also choose to minor in Macro Practice.
• Students in the Worcester Hybrid Program can select either a Clinical Practice or Macro Practice major.
• The Off-Campus Programs at Bedford, Cape Cod and Fall River offer Clinical Practice only. Students in these programs may take Macro Practice courses online or at our Charles River Campus. Please contact your campus program director for more information.
• Students in the Online Program can select either a Clinical Practice or Macro Practice major.
Highly skilled clinical social workers are needed in a variety of settings including mental health and community health centers, hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, substance treatment centers, family services, child welfare and children’s services, schools, geriatric facilities, housing agencies, criminal justice and more.
Clinical Social Work practitioners learn how to use their professional relationships to engage in purposeful conversations and therapeutic activities while working with clients dealing with challenging life circumstances. Through course work, field education, and supplementary programs, students develop competencies in assessment and diagnosis, treatment, and prevention for a variety of emotional and behavioral problems.
Numerous social work skills, human behavior theories, and evidence-based practices are taught to inform student learning. Students study four frameworks for differential assessment and intervention: cognitive, behavioral, psychodynamic, and family systems. In addition to training in individual intervention skills, students also learn to work with families and groups as key parts of clinical practice, providing a bridge between social work with individuals and small or large systems.
Guiding principles for clinical social work practice presume the worth and dignity of all people, a strengths perspective, the need for client confidentiality, and client empowerment and self-determination in decision-making.
This program is ideal for those committed to championing change initiatives and tackling the root causes of social problems. Transform your passion into partnership with communities and organizations, drawing on the most relevant knowledge, policies, and strategies designed to improve living and social environments.
Macro social work promotes human development and social justice through work with communities and organizations. It encompasses a broad range of knowledge and skills that enable practitioners to lead and contribute to a wide array of public and private sector organizations that are dedicated to addressing critical social issues with diverse populations.
At BUSSW, macro social work education emphasizes service and action to advance core values including:
- social and economic justice
- participatory democracy
- human dignity, equality, and freedom
- respect for diversity
- community empowerment
- asset-oriented practice
Through coursework, field education, and supplementary programs, students learn theory and develop skills in community organizing, human services management, and planning and program development. Students and faculty work together to understand and develop ways to overcome racism and intersecting oppressions based on gender, class, sexual orientation, identity, ability, and other social factors.
Clinical Practice majors may also choose to minor in Macro Practice.
Interested in deepening your knowledge and expertise in a specific area of focus? Choose from one of our four specialization areas. Students pursuing specializations will enroll in advanced electives, as well as complete an integrative seminar and advanced field placement. Information about specialization requirements and coursework is available on the BU Bulletin.
Please Note: Specializations are only available through our On-Campus Program.
Children, Youth & Families
The Children, Youth, and Families specialization recognizes the integration of the development of children and youth within the family unit and the larger social environment. Families, in all forms, are integral to human development and manifest numerous cultural values and attributes that are transmitted to the next generation. Children and youth are foundational target populations in social work, with a particular focus on the 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.
- 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 co-occurring substance abuse and trauma, with special focus on the current opioid overdose crisis and other public health concerns in various community-based settings. Students learn to advance health equity as members of interdisciplinary teams and prepare for professional leadership to assure behavioral 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 addiction prevention and intervention with racial/ethnic and economically diverse populations facing multiple challenges in an ever-changing practice environment. The specialization emphasizes a broad definition of behavioral health, including physical, emotional, psychological, environmental, and other social dimensions, not just the absence of injury or disease, and seeks to reinforce core social work values including social justice, human dignity, and respect for and empowerment of individuals and communities.
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.
Lowy Specialization in Aging Practice, Policy & Social Justice
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.
- 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 & Violence
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.
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 782, 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.