Specialized Courses of Study

MSW students can choose to develop skills in different ways through the selection of elective courses. Course selection can be organized by choosing a curricular pathway or a certificate program.

Choosing a specialized course of study is not required. Students in certificate programs cannot additionally pursue one of the specialized courses of study listed below.

This specialized course of study educates students for careers in schools, child protection settings, hospitals, and community-based mental health centers that include, though are not limited to, residential services, out-reach, health and education services, and home-based therapy. Child and family social work practitioners endeavor to improve child and family well-being by seeking out protective factors that exist within individuals and in the social contexts (e.g., family, school, work, neighborhoods, and communities) where children and families live.

Through this process, child and family practitioners work with people in their communities to draw on protective factors as a means to build capacity. As a result, children and their families learn how to succeed in social environments challenged by stress, poverty, disorganization, and/or oppression. Students in this specialized course of study will learn skills in collaboration, assessment, child and family therapy, and multi-system interventions.

Sample Electives for Child and Family Specialized Course of Study:

  • SW-425 Family Approaches in Clinical Social Work
  • SW-595 Child and Adolescence Assessment and Diagnosis
  • SW-539 Social Work in Schools
  • SW-566 Play Therapy: Theory and Practice
  • SW-557 Clinical Social Work with Immigrants and Refugees

This specialized course of study prepares students for careers in mental health and/or addictions. This includes work with clients struggling with severe and persistent mental illness; those with addictions; and those with co-occurring mental illness and substance-abuse disorders who receive care in acute care settings such as inpatient units, detoxification settings, and partial or day hospitals. The specialized course of study is also designed for students who wish to work with clients with psychological and social problems of a less severe nature who receive help in mental health clinics and family agencies.

In conjunction with aligned field settings, electives provide students skills in rapid and thorough assessment, evaluation, and formulation. Students learn to use several treatment modalities such as psychodynamic therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and group therapy. They will become skilled at developing various treatments and will deepen their theoretical understanding of mental illness, neurobiology, addiction behavior, and the treatment processes.

Sample Electives for Mental Health and Addictions Specialized Course of Study:

  • SW-438 Alcohol, Drugs and Social Work Practice
  • SW-462 Advanced Group Work with Vulnerable Populations
  • SW-475 Narrative Approaches
  • SW-483 Cognitive-Behavioral Approaches and Treatments
  • SW-578 Practice with Severe and Persistent Mental Illness
  • SW-584 Psychodynamic Approaches to Work with Adults

Students in this specialized course of study may concentrate in health or aging, or can combine both areas for a dual focus. Students will be prepared for careers as clinicians, case managers, program directors, and administrators providing social work services in a range of health care settings, including neighborhood health centers, community and rehabilitation hospitals, large urban medical centers, AIDS service organizations, home and community-based programs, long-term care institutions, and hospice programs.


Students focusing on Health will develop skills and expertise in clinical work with individuals and families in health care settings, skills in larger systems interventions, and an understanding of the social work role in interdisciplinary collaboration. Course content for this specialized course of study reflects a diverse area of concerns, including experiences of illness, disabilities, and chronic conditions; spirituality; end-of-life care; and ethical and legal dilemmas. The psycho-social dimensions of care will be viewed in the context of current health care delivery systems.


This specialized course of study focuses on the full range of health and mental health services for older adults, including those who remain in their own homes and communities. Course content reflects the areas of concern found in the health concentration, but also emphasizes life span, long-term care, and specific aging-related issues. Psycho-social dimensions of care are viewed within the context of health and social care systems. Health and Aging students have access to a diverse array of field placements and will learn relevant clinical skills for work with individuals and families in sites such as acute care hospitals, mental health facilities, social care agencies, assisted-living facilities, nursing homes, substance-abuse clinics, and faith-based organizations.

Sample Electives for Health/Aging Specialized Course of Study:

  • SW-478 Social Work Practice in Health Care
  • SW-501 Social Work Practice with Older Adults
  • SW-583 Advocacy and Social Action in Gerontology
  • SW-463 Advocacy and Social Action with Disability and Chronic Illness
  • SW-554: Health Care Policy and Advocacy in Social Action