MSW Questions
September 10, 2012 2:30 PM   Subscribe

Interested in finding a good fit MSW program. Don't know what to look for, ask, inquire about while in the search. MeFe please enlighten me!

I am looking to focus my MSW on outdoor education/wilderness therapy (applying for next fall). My hangup is in seeking a program. I'm not sure what is good, what I should be looking for, or what is new/current practices that employers would look for. My alma matter has an amazing dual degree program pairing an MSW with Outdoor Education. This seems the best fit, but just in case I'd like to search around at some other programs that might come close.

More specific questions I have are:
-What's the overall take on the GRE? I haven't taken it, but plan to. Some programs want it, others don't. I've been out of school 2 years and have some related work experience, but not direct.
-Did you find that many schools offered TA positions or research opportunities? I'm looking to reduce tuition cost.

Any insight and suggestions MeFe could provide would be helpful from those in MSW field or with knowledge pertaining to.

posted by melizabeth to Education (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: pardon my spelling errors!
posted by melizabeth at 2:30 PM on September 10, 2012

I can't comment specifically on which program will have options for integrating outdoor education/wilderness therapy, but I can say that it's important to consider the area where you plan on working after receiving your MSW. I went to SW school in NC, then moved to NYC. I was not prepared for the licensing exam here (LMSW vs LCSW. NC doesn't really have state LMSW so they teach to the LCSW). More importantly, the networks that I gained during my internships were worthless in NYC. People who went to school in the city and continued to work in the city were able to take advantage of the professional connections that their schools and internships provided.

I will say this though, my program (at UNC-Chapel Hill) encouraged a kind of independent initiative focused on individual interests. Some people opted to create independent concentrations, with guidance from a faculty member and with clear educational goals, etc. If you have a clear idea of what you want to pursue, call up the schools you are interested in (in places you want to eventually work!!!) and ask them what kinds of options they would have for a potential student like you with your particular goals. Schools like that kind of diversity of interests--it looks good for them if you are successful later.

Oh, and take the GRE. It's not really that important in the overall scheme of things, but I think that my strong GRE score helped to mitigate my lack of experience and somewhat less-than-stellar undergraduate record (3.0ish). Some schools don't require the GRE, but if you find a school that seems to be a good fit for you, it would be best to go ahead and have your scores in the bag.

I started looking at schools about a year before I applied, determined which schools I wanted to apply to and why, tapped into their admissions offices and asked relevant questions, started studying for the GRE about 2 months before I took it (which was about three months before applying for schools, in case I wanted to retake the test to improve my score), then sent all my applications on their merry way.

Though I didn't think I was the strongest candidate (again, middling grades, middling experience, middling recommendations) I got into the best program at the time (this was in 2007) though I chose a more affordable school for me. BUT THEN I MOVED TO NYC after getting my degree and am still struggling with building the professional network needed to get a full-time position in my field.

TL;DR: Do your research, be clear on your goals, ask questions to admissions/relevant faculty, take time to decide, take the GRE (study), and stay close to home after school.

Good luck!
posted by greta simone at 6:37 PM on September 10, 2012

Oh also, all accredited Social Work schools require internships (practicum) each year, which take up more time during the week than classes themselves. I knew of no one that had teaching positions or research positions, as there was simply none available and even if there had been, no one would have had the time. There were a lucky few who had internships that paid them a nominal fee, but these were like literally 2 or 3 students of the 70-odd in my class. Most people lived off their loans, had spouses supporting them, or maybe, just maybe fit in maybe 10-15 hours of part-time service jobs (but those people barely were able to sleep or get school work done). Again, I would just talk to the schools you hope to apply to and ask about possibility for paid employment within the school or how realistic it would be in whichever community the school resides.

Also most schools have alumni that are available to answer these questions from a student perspective. So, for like the 234897th time, call the school(s) and inquire about your concerns. Most SW programs aren't super-huge and have time to answer your questions.
posted by greta simone at 6:43 PM on September 10, 2012

Excuse, the plural of practicum, if I remember correctly, is practicæ. or something
posted by greta simone at 6:46 PM on September 10, 2012

Oh and I swear this is the last thing I'll say, I think pursuing grants/scholarships is a better bet than finding paid work.
posted by greta simone at 6:47 PM on September 10, 2012

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