Friday, September 14, 2012

Social Work Graduate School: Selecting Your Area of Concentration

An important question to ask of schools is at what point in the program will you be required to declare your selection of area of concentration (i.e., clinical with an emphasis on children and family treatment, or administrative with an emphasis on community organization).

    The selection of an area of concentration is important because it will determine the emphasis of your graduate education. It should be noted, however, that it will not necessarily limit your job opportunities beyond graduation. As mentioned earlier in this book, all schools have a common core of foundation courses as required by the Council on Social Work Education or CASSW-ACESS. Therefore, all MSW holders, regardless of their school of graduation, have a core set of social work skills. The concentration adds a specialty to that core. For example, I was a clinical concentration student, yet I have held policy and administration positions, as well as clinical ones.

    Some schools do not expect students to declare a concentration until shortly before completing the program’s general requirements. The strength of that approach is that students are better prepared at that point than at the start of the program to make an informed selection. By that point, the general requirements will have given students a good background and foundation in both the clinical and administrative/policy aspects of social welfare.

    Other schools, on the other hand, require students to declare their concentration as early as the time of making application for admission. Inquire of those schools if it would be difficult for you to alter your selection if you should change your mind as a result of what you learn from the general requirement courses.

    Whether a school asks you to declare your concentration in the application for admission or not, it should not be difficult to change your selection if you do it before your concentration phase begins or even soon after beginning work on your concentration. Most schools either ask explicitly in the application what your intended area of concentration will be or infer it from your biographical statement. The reason the information is important to the school during the application phase is that it allows the school to balance the numbers of students who expect to be in the various concentrations the school offers.


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