Leadership in social work over the next decade will depend on the level of professional skill and practice experience brought into the field by new graduates. The Master of Social Service program is a carefully balanced curriculum, in accordance with Bryn Mawr’s mission to explore the variety of roles open to social workers, in the depth required for professional practice, and with the flexibility needed for continual growth in a changing world.
Specifically, our MSS program prepares our graduates to:
Course of MSS Study
Bryn Mawr offers both full-time and part-time plans of study to meet the individual’s life circumstances. Students in the full- time and the part-time programs may begin their course of study in either the summer session or the fall semester. It is also possible to complete the degree through taking courses scheduled solely in the afternoon and evening. The admissions requirements and procedures are the same for full-time and part-time students.
The full-time plan requires that five courses per semester, including field instruction, be taken in the first year and that four courses per semester, including field instruction, be taken in the second year.
The part-time plan is an option for students whose employment, family responsibilities or other commitments may not make full-time study feasible. Students enrolled in the program on a part-time basis usually complete the course over a three-year period. Foundation courses are taken during the first year of part-time study. The practice courses and field instruction are taken during the second and third years. Practice seminars and concurrent field instruction must be taken in consecutive years. Students may not take fewer than two courses per semester.
Each seminar meets once a week. Classes are scheduled from 8:10 a.m. until 6:10 p.m., ending at 8 p.m. Each practice class session is two hours and 50 minutes, and all other seminars run one hour and 50 minutes. Normally, classes in the Master’s programs are held on Tuesday and Wednesday. Some courses require time in the computer laboratory. Students should plan to be at the School at least two days per week.
Areas of Concentration—Clinical Social Work and Community Practice, Policy and Advocacy. Building on a foundation of knowledge, analysis and critical reflection, the Bryn Mawr program requires concentrated study in one of two specialized fields. Each concentration consists of a practice seminar and concurrent field instruction taken in the three consecutive semesters following the foundation practice course and field instruction. In addition, students must take three electives, two from among the courses in the “Intervention Skills” category and one from among the “Populations, Systems and Policy” category. The Course Guide designates the category to which each elective is assigned. This degree of specialization provides the necessary depth for students to begin professional careers at the Master’s level. It also offers students the opportunity to explore a variety of roles now held by social workers, encouraging flexibility and growth in one’s career.
Clinical Social Work
Clinical social workers provide direct help to families, individuals and groups. The services offered include intervening in crises, finding available community resources, short- and long-term counseling, and coordinating the efforts of other professions providing medical, psychiatric, legal or rehabilitative services. The individuals, families and groups served in this way come from all social and economic classes, from historically under-served minority groups, and from groups with special needs, such as elderly people, disabled people and abused children. Clinical social workers may be employed in public or nonprofit agencies, in private industry, in large voluntary or public institutions such as hospitals or nursing homes, and in individual or group practice. Clinical social workers must have broad awareness of social, cultural and environmental conditions affecting clients. They must be able to understand the complex causes of personality development and behavior, the effects of cultural and social forces on families and small groups, and the impact of institutions on the individual. Among the personal skills developed in this concentration are clear communication, including careful listening and interviewing, psycho-social assessment, formulation of treatment plans, and self-evaluation and other research methods.
Community Practice, Policy and Advocacy
Community Practice, Policy and Advocacy explores the ways social programs and institutions have a direct impact on communities and their residents. Social workers in this field are prepared for practice in the macro environment. Specialized content focuses on such distinct macro practice areas as community development, advocacy, social policy and program organization. Social workers in this field represent the needs of individuals, groups and communities within the social policy and program planning arena. They also seek to empower these same constituencies to articulate their needs and to find resources to meet those needs. Students learn the distinct functions of the program planner and administrator, the community organizer, the policy analyst and the group advocate. Specialization in the skills needed for these roles is achieved in the context of understanding how the social system works, and how it can be changed. Some areas of special attention include the dynamics of working with individuals and with task-oriented groups; research as an advocacy tool; the nature of community power structures and coalitions; the problems of service coordination; and the processes by which programs and organizations change through social planning and organizational development. Specific skills include working with individuals and groups, interdisciplinary collaboration, community assessment and organizing, problem solving, strategic decision-making, performing needs assessments, budgeting and personnel administration, legislative and administrative lobbying, program and policy analysis, marketing, grants development, and program evaluation. Typical settings include grassroots organizations, service agencies, advocacy organizations, community planning councils, government at all levels, public-interest lobbying groups and dispute-settlement programs.