Our MSW curriculum prepares social workers for leadership in the profession and for advanced social work practice in one of two concentrations: Social Work Clinical Practice and Social Work Leadership Practice. Both concentrations allow students to develop advanced skills to work with families and communities and advocate for social change, and both concentrations are infused with social justice and other enduring understandings, throughout the curriculum.

In addition, students have many opportunities to develop expertise with specific populations through electives. Electives are organized into several fields of practice: Trauma and Resilience; Children and Families; Clinical Practice; Organizational Leadership; Aging, Longevity, and End-of-Life Care; and Higher Education and Research.

Detailed information about the fields of practice and corresponding electives are contained in the Graduate Handbook, under "Appendix A - Electives and Field of Practice" on the Graduate Advising page.

Planning for a Field of Practice

Students pursuing a specific credential, such as a certificate, should meet with their advisor prior to or during their first semester to determine whether and when they can complete the courses for a credential.

Regardless of whether you are pursuing a specific credential, it is important to understand:

  • Many electives are offered once a year or, sometimes, every other year.
  • An elective may not be offered at all School of Social Work centers.
  • An elective may be cancelled due to low enrollment.
  • Many electives are offered during summer session only.
  • Academic advisers do not know whether an elective course will be offered prior to its posting on MyUI. If you need information about a course to decide whether to pursue a field of practice, please contact Kate Kemp who may have information about whether and when a course will be offered in the future. 
A women rests her head on the shoulder of another person.

Trauma and Resilience

Social workers encounter individuals and communities who have long and complex histories of abuse and violence, combined with pressing physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual needs. Even when we are not serving the most vulnerable, we still may be working with people who have endured a traumatic event that has affected their lives and their well-being. Whether pursuing a Clinical Practice focus or Leadership Practice focus, understanding trauma and trauma-informed care prepares students to care for the needs of clients and communities from a deeply holistic perspective.

Three young children holding hands in a green field.

Children and Families

Child and family social workers serve important roles in their communities by connecting families in need with services and monitoring the well-being of at-risk children. Graduate students in Social Work can pursue specialization in Child Welfare, Juvenile Justice, or School Social Work.

Two women chatting on a couch.


Counseling focuses on the assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental illness and emotional or other behavioral disturbances. Individual, group and family therapy are common treatment modalities. Counselors perform services in a variety of settings including private practice, hospitals, community mental health, primary care, and agencies. We offer ways to specialize your MSW education to focus on Health and Mental Health Social Work, Resilience and Trauma-Informed Practice, Alcohol and Drug Counseling, or Couples and Family Therapy.

Two women writing on a glass panel.

Organizational Leadership Practice

Leadership is a primary focus for the Social Work profession. As leaders, we do advocacy work in many contexts, like leading or founding an organization, managing a social-services or government agency, or serving as an elected official.

Elderly man holding a stress ball, assisted by the hand of a younger person.

Aging, Longevity, and End-of-Life

The coursework prepares students for practice in hospice programs and in hospital social work in pediatric and adult oncology, palliative care units, long term care facilities and other social work settings focused on the needs of individuals at the end of life, their families and bereaved individuals.

Yolanda Spears leading a classroom full of college students.

Higher Education and Research

Whether an MSW degree is your goal or you have your sights set on a PhD in Social Work, you can specialize your education to equip you for a career in research and/or classroom instruction in social work.

Students walking by the rock brain statue on the T. Anne Cleary Walkway.

Combined Degree Programs

Students interested in Leadership Practice in an interdisciplinary field may pursue a credential in collaboration with another college, including the Tippie College of Business, College of Public Health, College of Law, or Urban and Regional Planning.