Deciding on which MSW program to go to was a daunting task back when I began applying to graduate schools. I didn’t know anyone who had been to graduate school, and I wasn’t sure what I should be looking for in a school. The purpose of this post is to explain what went into my decision-making process in hopes that it might assist someone else who is trying to figure out what school to go to.
After receiving my Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, I went on to work for the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) as an AmeriCorps VISTA. I knew that I wanted to make a difference, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to do that yet. As the Volunteer Program Coordinator, I was able to work with so many amazing volunteers and residents of LIHI. I realized that working directly with people was what made me happy, and I was often jealous of the work that the social workers were doing because it seemed so powerful. After about 6 months of working there I knew that I wanted to work towards an MSW, but I wasn’t sure where to go. I knew that I wanted to stay in the Seattle area and that there were two main options for MSW programs, the University of Washington or Seattle University.
When making this decision I factored in quite a few things: cost, location, class size, focus on social justice, accreditation, and classes. I thought the cost of tuition was going to have the largest influence on my decision, but after looking at a couple different schools it appeared that the cost of attendance was about the same. Thus, I looked at different aspects that I found important like class size. I love smaller class sizes because I enjoy being able to ask a lot of questions, get to know everyone in the class, and get to know my professors. In addition to this, after going to smaller schools during my undergraduate education I knew I was used to smaller class sizes. So, I was primarily looking for a class size that was at or under 20 students because I knew that suited my learning style best.
Once I started looking at schools it became more apparent that I would want to go to a clinical MSW program because it would be most directly related to the work I was hoping to do. Clinical MSW programs focus heavily on the mental health aspect of social work education in an effort to prepare students for careers as mental health professionals (MHP). Social work is a very diverse profession which means there are some different options when it comes to education focus depending on the program; the different focuses can include things like clinical, policy-focused, and community-centered. Clinical became my preferred focus for my social work education because I wanted to focus heavily on micro-level practice, which is practice with individuals.
Lastly, I knew that I would want to attend a school that was accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). This accreditation can be important because it verifies that you went to a school that meets the highest standards of social work education. It also allows me to pursue licensure once I finish school, with the main goal of becoming a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW).
Navigating the realm of social work education and finding the best program for you can be difficult. I hope that some of this information is helpful on where to start when looking at programs and deciding on what type of specialization you will pursue.