Question: What is an advanced generalist online MSW program?

Answer: Advanced generalist programs are designed for students who wish to engage in both micro and macro social work, and who want to learn about and gain training in a number of different social work fields.

Advanced generalist MSW programs are the second most common type of MSW program, behind direct practice/clinical programs, according to the Council on Social Work Education’s (CSWE) 2013 Annual Statistics on Social Work Education in the United States. In general, this type of program prepares students to implement interventions at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels, and to work with both individual clients and larger communities. In this way, advanced generalist programs may be considered an intermediate between direct practice/clinical social work programs, which typically focus on individual work with clients, and community planning and organization programs, which focus mainly on larger communities and macro-level change.

Due to the broad nature of advanced generalist MSW programs, the curricula used in these types of programs can vary widely across different schools of social work. In general, advanced generalist MSW programs require students to complete a combination of clinical social work classes and courses on community planning and administrative leadership. However, some advanced generalist programs do emphasize micro social work over macro social work and vice versa.

Finally, some advanced generalist MSW programs offer distinct sub-concentrations or specializations so that students can focus their education and training on a particular area of social work. This allows students to gain some level of specialization while completing coursework in both micro and macro social work. Advanced generalist programs that do not offer distinct concentrations may still allow students to gain some level of specialized training through offering a variety of electives in different areas or topics of social work.

Prospective students who wish to enroll in an advanced generalist online MSW program should research the exact curricula and course offerings of the programs that interest them in order to choose a program that meets their academic and professional goals.

Curriculum Details for Advanced Generalist Online MSW Programs

Accredited online advanced generalist MSW programs have the same curriculum structure, courses, and field education requirements as on-campus programs. As with other types of MSW programs, advanced generalist online MSW programs are generally comprised of a core set of foundational courses, and a set of concentration or elective courses (also known as advanced standing courses). While course titles and content vary across programs, sample classes may include:

Foundational Courses:

  • Human Behavior in the Social Environment: Human psychological, emotional, and social development across the lifespan. How humans interact with different social environments (ex. family, school and work settings, friends), and how these environments in turn affect human thought, behavior, and development.
  • Social Welfare Policy: The history of social services and social welfare policy in the United States. Current social work and welfare policies are analyzed from historical, political, and economic perspectives. How current policies affect social workers’ practice.
  • Foundations of Advanced Generalist Practice: The fundamental concepts, principles, and methods of working with individuals, groups, and larger communities to address a variety of common social, psychological, emotional, and cultural issues. Professional ethics, communications skills, and therapeutic methods are discussed and applied to different client scenarios.

Concentration/Elective Courses:

  • Social Work Practice in School Environments: The principles and methods of social work practice in a school setting. The different federal and state laws that impact school settings and school social work practice. Understanding school communities as a whole, and how to work with students and school personnel to address different issues on and off campus that affect student learning. How to counsel students at different grade levels and help them with such challenges as learning disabilities, bullying, poverty, truancy, and family conflict.
  • Advanced Clinical Practice with Families: Family development and dysfunction in multiple contexts, and how the social worker can help address common emotional, psychological, and social issues that family members face individually and as a unit. Topics covered include spousal, parental, and sibling relationships, marital conflicts, different emotional disorders (ex. depression, anxiety) and how they affect the family unit, domestic abuse, and child neglect.
  • Advanced Clinical Practice with Older Adults: The common physical, mental, and emotional challenges that older adults face, and how social workers can assist elderly individuals from multiple economic, social, and cultural backgrounds. Topics covered include helping elderly clients navigate the process of applying for government benefits, addressing elderly abuse, and helping the families of elderly individuals manage long-term elderly care.
  • Community Planning and Administrative Leadership: The essential concepts and theories of effective community planning and organization. How to use structure, leadership, education, and program development to create positive change at the community level.

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