All-MSW program addresses Canada’s need for highly trained social workers
As Director of the School of Social Work at UBC’s Okanagan campus, Ed Taylor had a tough call to make in establishing an enhanced Master of Social Work Program (MSW). The higher qualification was quickly becoming the new post-secondary standard in the social- and mental health-care communities.
So, difficult though it was, UBC announced last year that it would no longer offer the Bachelor of Social Work program at the Okanagan campus. Instead, for 2013-14, the master’s program was revamped, adding a Foundational Two-Year Master of Social Work (MSW) stream for those with a related bachelor’s degree. That allowed the School of Social Work to develop a highly specialized clinical program with a focus on direct practice, policy, organizational and community development.
“By offering one program – the master’s, with a clinical perspective – we knew we could offer our students a highly diverse program,” says Taylor.
As predicted, the new MSW has proven popular – first-year enrollment of 50 students was quickly filled from more than 100 applicants.
Taylor says the MSW is the preferred credential for many professionals and is required to become a Registered Clinical Social Worker, essential in many career paths. And to broaden their knowledge and increase their employment possibilities, Taylor encourages potential students with undergraduate degrees in psychology, sociology, women’s studies, interdisciplinary studies, or other related disciplines to apply to the Foundational Two-Year MSW.
“We are moving to an all-MSW program because both British Columbia and Canada have a growing need for highly trained, specialized, graduate-level social workers,” he says.
The program has a heavy focus on family and child well-being and mental health. Students have access to UBC’s newly-opened Interprofessional Clinic – a teaching and research clinic, which is a collaborative venture between the Schools of Social Work and Nursing, and UBC’s Psychology department – that will give students hands-on, practical clinic time.
The School of Social Work also houses the Centre for the Study of the Services to Children and Families and is in partnership with the Centre for Inclusion and Citizenship, which officially opens on Friday, September 20. Both centres give students numerous opportunities for clinical practice – another highlight that differentiates UBC’s Master of Social Work program from many other social work programs across Canada.
“Very few schools can provide their students access to working centres like ours, or allow their students to provide direct service in the school’s clinic, let alone associate with the management team of that clinic,” Taylor says. “Our students will be on that management team itself.”
MSW student Johnathan Ikebuchi, who currently works part time for Interior Health, says the practical component to the degree is vital. While he knows a master’s degree will open up different career and educational opportunities, leaving school with a solid practical background is important in today’s job market.
“Attending the School of Social Work has been an exceptional learning experience,” says Ikebuchi. “The size of the school has definitely been an advantage in my studies.”