Why did you become a social worker? Social work is a steady and respected career but not traditionally as lucrative as business or engineering or any number of other higher-paying fields. Chances are, if you’ve dedicated your working life to social work, you did it to make a difference. Social work is not an easy job. It requires advanced education, training, state licensure, and — above all — compassion, empathy and commitment to your community. The National Association of Social Workers describes social workers as “highly trained professionals who care about people, who want to make things better, and who want to relieve suffering.” That may sound broad and lofty. But if you work in the field, it may resonate with the core of why you do what you do.
The common perception of social work is that of the clinical social worker, whether as a one-on-one psychotherapist or counselor or as a health organization employee. Yet social work can go much further, having the potential to drive change on a greater scale. Social work organizational administrators, community organizers, social justice advocates, social researchers and social policy makers are just a few examples of specialized positions that those with advanced degrees and experience can pursue, applying the principles of social work at the macro level. Degree programs like the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s (UTRGV) Master of Science in Social Work (MSW) Online — Administration and Community Practice aim to prepare degree candidates for these advanced positions in the social work field.
Can a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work Prepare Me for an Administrative Position?
The answer: Not really. While a bachelor’s degree is a good start (and a prerequisite for graduate study), today’s administrative positions in social work generally require more advanced, specialized degrees.
A bachelor’s program in social work typically covers the general knowledge of human behavior, development, cognitive psychology, communication skills, and human relations necessary for entering the field, along with a substantial amount of clinical study and experience. This provides an adequate foundation for the aspiring social worker. Graduate study and an advanced degree tailored to meet specific state licensure requirements help augment a bachelor’s degree.
In the past, experienced social workers from within an organization typically filled administrative positions. Social workers mainly worked in schools, private practice, hospitals, public health centers and the like. Yet, in recent years, the field has grown increasingly complex. The societal role and concept of “social work” has expanded to represent a wider array of social justice work, wide-ranging mental or emotional health programs, community organizing, and other such programs with local, regional, national, and international humanitarian organizations. The skills and experience required for effective administration have become more complex to match; this explains the need for the depth of administrative knowledge one can gain through an MSW administration program.
What Are the Important Aspects of an MSW Administration Program?
An MSW administration program reinforces the foundational aspects of social work while adding to them a thorough education in the myriad organizational duties of administrators in the field, from leadership and budgeting to community relations, networking and even marketing. Administrators are responsible for keeping their organization running at the macro level, maintaining the quality of services offered, and enforcing standards for a variety of considerations including staff performance, efficiency, and program sustainability.
Moreover, the administrator maintains all of these aspects of the social work organization while ensuring all functions of that organization support and uphold its organizational mission. This may sound somewhat overwhelming, but there’s hope. For those interested in pursuing a more challenging, far-reaching position in the social work field as well as bettering their organization’s effectiveness and impact on the community, earning an MSW degree focused on administration can be a logical first step.
What Is Unique About UTRGV’s MSW Program?
When it comes to the role that organizational management plays in social work, UTRGV’s online MSW degree program focuses on both aspects: administration and community. Along with the complexities and responsibilities of the administrator’s role, UTRGV’s MSW coursework emphasizes the importance of sociocultural understanding as well as community organization and networking. It also highlights contemporary issues of social justice and effective methods to address them.
Social workers who want to effect change in their communities and desire the skills to do so effectively can benefit from the program. Developing these skills takes a deep understanding of the roots of social problems and a knowledge of helping disadvantaged populations and rebuilding broken communities at the personal and systemic level. The effective community organizer strives to build a network of support and a sustainable, healthy environment from within the community. As former president Barack Obama said: “I decided to become a community organizer... Change won’t come from the top, I would say. Change will come from a mobilized grass roots.”
If you entered the social work field to change things for the better, you probably care a great deal for your community. In an administrative role, you can exponentially increase the positive impact of your work on your community. Earning an online master’s degree in social work administration and community organizing can help prepare you for the difficult responsibilities of being an administrator who seeks to make a difference in today’s complex world.
Learn more about the UTRGV online MS in Social Work — Administration an Community Practice program.
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