Accelerated Graduate Programs in Social Work

Accelerated graduate degree programs in social work are available at a number of universities around the country. Here, you can find information on how you can apply to these programs as well as what courses you may encounter during your studies.

Students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree in social work may want to consider an accelerated program, which would allow them to complete the requirements of a Master of Social Work degree at a faster pace. Below, we will learn more about accelerated programs in particular by covering admissions requirements, common curriculum components, and other general information that may be useful to prospective students.

Information About Accelerated Graduate Programs in Social Work

Accelerated graduate degree programs in social work are commonly offered as 16-month Master of Social Work (M.S.W.) programs, shorter than the two-year timeline of traditional M.S.W. programs. In these programs, students will enroll in four consecutive semesters with limited breaks during which they will take advanced coursework and participate in field experiences each semester to gain practical knowledge. Below, we will look at five courses that are commonly found in the required curriculum of these programs.

Social Work Practice

One of the first courses that students will be required to take in an accelerated M.S.W. program is a course in social work practice. This course focuses on providing students with a broad look at the social work field in general, paying particular attention to the theories of the practice of social work itself. Students will learn about various aspects of social work practice from intervention to social justice and the relationships that social workers must establish with their clients as well as organizations and people within their communities. Additionally, the course may encourage students to begin developing the skills necessary to be successful in their own future practice.

Human Behavior and Social Environment

These programs also require students to take one or multiple courses that focus on the relationship between human behavior in the social environment in which a person develops. This type of course will focus on how social systems and structures can have significant influence on how a person behaves, highlighting specifically the roles that gender, race, social standing and class, culture, and ethnicity can have in influencing behavior. In addition, the course may cover biological development and how various social and environmental factors continuously play a role in a person's development throughout their lifetime.

Social Work Research

A course in social work research will provide students with a foundational understanding of the history, methods, and aims of research as it specifically applies to the field of social work. Students will learn about different research methodologies, their various strengths and weaknesses, and will learn how to become critical consumers of research by identifying flaws in research designs and unaddressed assumptions of research. Additionally, this course may address various ethical issues that may arise in social work research, as well as present students with contemporary research being done in this field.

Topics in Diversity, Racism, and Oppression

Students will also take some type of course that covers the topics of diversity, racism, and oppression, as having an in-depth understanding of these topics is essential to being effective as a social worker. In such a course, students will be asked to examine diversity and identity and some of the inherent biases that are often encountered when interacting with people who are perceived as different in some way, due to their race, culture, or class, among others. This course will also provide students with an understanding of the way racism is perpetuated from a variety of perspectives, including structural and psychological. In addition, students will study the dynamics of oppression, marginalization, and power dynamics.

Social Welfare Programs and Policies

A course in social welfare programs and policies is also typically required in these programs. In this course, students will gain an understanding of the history of social welfare programs and the development of social welfare policies over time. The course will cover some of the many factors that played a role in the development of these programs, as well as how the social welfare system is currently structured today along with the examination of its various strengths and weaknesses.

Admission Standards for Accelerated Graduate Programs in Social Work

Students who are interested in applying to accelerated graduate programs in social work will need to submit an application file in order to be considered. In this file, they must include undergraduate transcripts, a completed application form, letters of recommendation, a resume or CV, and a personal statement. Some 16-month accelerated programs do not require that students have previously obtained a Bachelor of Social Work degree, though it is necessary that students have completed a bachelor's degree in some field by the time of enrollment. However, due to the accelerated nature and advanced coursework of the program, most programs do recommend that students have some past experience in social work, which may have been obtained through undergraduate coursework, professional work, or volunteer experience.

In review, 16-month accelerated M.S.W. degree programs allow students to earn a graduate degree in social work through coursework and field experience more quickly than traditional programs, enabling them to enter the workforce sooner and begin their careers.


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