Specializations

Students may choose to specialize in one of five areas: (1) Children, Youth, and Families; (2) Behavioral Health, Health Care, and Public Health Practice; (3) Aging; (4) Trauma and Violence; (5) Leadership in Groups, Organizations, and Communities.

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 (BUSSW) or approved courses in other BU schools or the consortium.  

The Children, Youth, and 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, Health Care, and Public Health Practice specialization combines theory and skill development to enable MSW graduates to promote health in multiple domains, including health care, public health, and mental and behavioral health. 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:

  • Three 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

One of the courses selected must be 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. Students may choose any two additional courses from the menu of advanced SSW electives. The Behavioral Health, Health Care, and Public Health Practice specialization may also consider select non-SSW courses in which students may be registered to count toward the two courses that are required in addition to the above referenced integrative seminar. In addition, students are required to enroll in an Advanced Field Education placement, totaling 8 credits over two semesters, that will advance understanding of the specialization’s principles and attainment of its competencies. Placements will be arranged by the Field Education Department to meet the requirements of the specialization. 

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 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:

  • Three courses (9 credits), one of which is a required Advanced Seminar in Clinical Practice (CP 814)
  • An advanced field placement in the area of specialization

Three advanced elective courses (9 credits), one of which is a required Advanced Seminar in Clinical Practice (CP 814). Students should also plan to take either CP 803 or CP 804. The third course may be another elective within BUSSW, another BU school, or the consortium. An advanced field placement in the area of specialization is required.

The concept of social work leadership is multifaceted and must be contextualized socially, politically, and culturally for it to have lasting meaning and significance for practice. Moreover, it requires that situations, opportunities, and corresponding rewards and challenges be viewed holistically. Students who choose this specialization will explore, enhance, and apply leadership theories and skills in group, organizational, and community settings, utilizing empirically sound models of clinical and macro practice methods within a social justice and equity framework. Upon completion of this specialization students will be prepared to exercise participatory leadership, facilitate various types of group modalities and apply management skills to achieve social change at multiple levels.

The Leadership in Groups, Organizations, and Communities specialization consists of three (3) areas of focus (groups, organizations, and communities) and students can select either one of these pathways or courses across these pathways depending upon their interests.

Requirements:

  • Three courses (9 credits), one of which is a required two-semester Integrative Seminar
  • An advanced field placement in the area of specialization

This specialization will provide students with a focused flexibility in fulfilling the requirements. In the seminar, a holistic approach will be employed to introduce students to varied theories of leadership, from transactional to transformational, across all of the three pathways (groups, organizations and communities). The intent of the seminar is to prepare students to think and practice from both clinical and macro lenses, and to integrate leadership theory into their practice. The seminar will be taken concurrently with the student’s advanced year of study and field placement; the seminar will include the completion of a capstone project. Two additional courses, in addition to the Integrative Seminar, can be selected from a list of advanced courses in the three focus areas. Students may also select courses from other schools with permission. Finally, the second-year placement must provide ample opportunities for a student to undertake projects related to the specialization.