Five Great Concentrations for an MSW Degree

Five Great Concentrations for an MSW Degree

  • Clinical
  • Leadership and Macro-Practice
  • Child and Family Services
  • Healthcare
  • School Social Work

Graduate students seeking an MSW will be considering which concentration would be the best fit for them professionally. Although much depends upon your interests, all areas of social work deal with some of the issues of poverty, illness, addiction and criminal behavior. Some, such as clinical social work, allow you to work with individuals in a counseling relationship, while others focus on group dynamics. Here are five concentrations you can use to tailor your MSW program.

Clinical Social Work

This concentration trains social workers in the ÔÇťassessment, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental illness. The degree program includes courses in assessment, diagnosis and intervention as well as in research methodology and other subjects. Working practitioners provide direct services to people suffering with emotional problems or with behavioral disturbances. These professionals work in hospitals, group homes, community mental health centers, industry, and even in private practice. To provide this level of counseling services, these practitioners must be licensed or certified in the state where they work. They may further specialize their practice to addictions or working with populations such as prisoners. According to the U.S. News and World Report, the median pay for clinical social workers is $53,760.

Leadership and Macro-Practice

The goal of this concentration is to prepare social workers to work in administration on the local, state, national and even international level. The program may include courses in organizational behavior, policy analysis and development, poverty and community and other courses. Graduates with this concentration might work for agencies such as the World Health Organization, or for local entities op addressing the needs of Native American populations, for instance. They might also help develop organizational or governmental policies affecting social issues. Some people with this concentration earn a joint degree in social work and in public health.

Child and Family Services

Students within this concentration study behavioral issues related to children and at-risk populations. They may work in private practice, but more commonly are found in social service agencies and in group homes or hospitals. Some of the subjects included in this concentration are domestic violence issues, addictions, child maltreatment, child permanency and others. Professionals graduating with this concentration often work with foster children or adoption, and with entire families seeking to establish economic and emotional stability.


An MSW program with a concentration in healthcare may include Medical Social Work, Diversity, Gerontology, Psychopathology and others. People who complete these programs are often found in hospitals and nursing homes, but may work in many arenas. They help families cope with illness, arrange for post-release care, help with end-of-life decisions and assist families to find resources to pay for their treatment. They also may educate patients and families about health issues they face.

School Social Work

This program concentration prepares students to become school counselors. They study child development including the needs of children who are delayed or who have autism or other challenges, mental health issues, educational issues and other courses. Professionals in this area often work as school counselors, guidance counselors and may even teach in post-secondary schools. They function as special education specialists, meet with parents to resolve attendance and behavioral issues, help families identify financial and medical resources, facilitate educational groups in social skills and serve in other capacities.

Related Resource: Top 10 Affordable Master of Social Work Online (MSW) Degrees

Although there is sometimes an overlap between MSW and psychology programs, the focus of a social work program always views issues through the lens of social interaction and programs. Both disciplines enable you to become a “helping” professional. The concentration you choose for your MSW degree will determine the path your helping will follow.