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Concentrations & Focus Areas

The MSW Program prepares students for advanced social work practice and research in public and private agencies and organizations.

Choose from two primary concentrations:

Leadership and Social Change

The Leadership and Social Change (LSC) concentration prepares social work students to further  their careers by developing advanced skills in macro practice.  Since the social work profession has a long tradition of working towards improving conditions of disadvantaged populations through advocacy efforts with political officials and others, this concentration will prepare students for macro-level advanced practice. These skills can lead to positions, such as, policy advocate, program director, executive director, political strategist, supervisor, administrator, public service leader, strategic planner, or consultant.

Advanced Clinical

The Advanced Clinical concentration has four focus areas from which to choose; mental health, schools, healthcare, and children, youth and family services.  The Advanced Clinical concentration prepares social work students to further their careers by developing  advanced skills  in direct practice.   These skills can lead to careers in counseling, community mental health agencies, advocacy programs, children and youth services, community action agencies, criminal justice organizations, developmental disability services, disability support agencies, domestic violence and sexual assault programs, elderly programs, higher education, hospitals and hospices, income assistance programs, international relief, public health agencies, schools, or substance abuse programs.

  • Within the Advanced Clinical concentration, you will choose a focus area:
    • Children, Youth and Family Services
    • Health Care
    • Mental Health
    • Schools

Every student must choose a concentration and complete an internship within that concentration.

Students must contact the Director of Graduate Enrollment Management if they want to change concentrations (Leadership & Social Change or Advanced Clinical) and/or their focus area (Mental Health, Health Care, School Social Work, or Children, Youth, and Family Services), and must complete a petition through the Graduate College.  The deadline to change your concentration/focus area is October 1st. Changes in concentrations will be accommodated on the space available.

Focus Areas:

Learn more about each area below.

This focus area is designed to help students develop the knowledge and skills they need for effectively identify and address the critical needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged children, youth, and families. Students in this focus area will be prepared to pursue careers in direct practice, administration, research, or policy related positions with agencies focused on serving children, youth, and families. Such agencies are included but not limited to public and private child welfare agencies, juvenile and family courts, private foundations, and policy and research related institutions.

Social workers in health care collaborate with other health professionals in providing patient care and serve to mobilize family, friendships and other supportive networks on the patient’s behalf. They act as a link between health agencies and community services. Social workers in the health field are most likely to work in hospitals or clinics as well as in federal, state and local public health centers, with physicians in private or group medical practices, on home health care teams and/or with nursing home health planning agencies.

Students in this focus area may also center their interests on health and social services for the elderly/aging. Social workers in health care are also on the faculties of various medical schools across the country.

Social workers in the focus area of mental health work with individuals, families, and groups in dealing with internal, interpersonal, and environmental problems that affect mental health and social functioning. The emphasis in the curriculum prepares students to provide, coordinate, and administer community-based services for individuals/families who encounter emotional stress.  Evidence-based interventions are highlighted. Also included are services for individuals with addictions.

The Social Work profession provides more than half of mental health services in the country.

School Social Work is one of the most dynamic practice specialties in the field of social work.  Your day is filled with unique challenges that require specialized skills, knowledge, flexibility, persistence, and creativity.  School Social Workers have the opportunity to work with students, families, school professionals, and the community.

The School Social Work focus area prepares students to:

  1. Provide evidence-based academic, behavior and mental health services
  2. Promote a positive school climate and culture conducive to student learning and teaching excellence
  3. Maximize access to school-based and community-based resources

Students must take and pass the School Social Work Content Exam prior to completing a school internship. The ISBE also requires a “C” grade or above in all graduate coursework and content-area courses.

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