Candace Bortolin Discusses the Versatility of the Online Master of Social Work

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A social worker’s path often starts with a compelling question: How can you help others? The online Master of Social Work provides more than an answer — it showcases a range of opportunity.

Candace Bortolin’s 11 years working at the university have served to help students widen the scope of their service by illuminating this degree’s versatility. Find out how she makes an impact on students’ lives in the short question-and-answer session below.

What do you think are the key motivators for online Master of Social Work students?
It starts as a basic desire to understand why people do the things they do. A little bit deeper is that desire to want to help somebody. I see a lot of people who are exploring the degree because of that basic desire to help. They just might not know how or what that looks like. That’s usually the impetus. Then later, the variety of practice settings social workers can enter into is a huge attraction and what may draw people to social work. Social workers are everywhere in society; the opportunities to practice are incredibly varied.

Do online Master of Social Work students know which type of practice setting they want to work in?
There are people I see who come in and they absolutely know a population that they want to work with. Then there are others who come in and it’s just, “I want to serve my community, and I don’t know how I’m going to do that.” A lot of them are still exploring the profession and the degree. They’re not yet aware of all the practice arenas in which they’re going to find social work. It’s exciting seeing those lightbulbs go off once they discover the opportunities that are available. Certainly with an online MSW, they’re immense.

Which courses during the online Master of Social Work do you think most inspire students?
What I see as the best part of the program is the field internship. It’s the part that students live for. You’re taking the knowledge and skills that you’ve learned in a classroom setting, and then you get to actualize those through an internship. You get to take it further, because our students get to actually have an impact on a client. You’re connecting those dots — knowledge, values, skills — into a practice setting.

If there’s one thing you would want a potential student to know about the Master of Social Work online program, what would it be?
Take advantage of the opportunities that are being presented. Be an engaged and aggressive learner. People have busy lives. They’re out there as a working professional and may have family obligations. There’s no other time in your life that you get to be this type of learner. It’s going to make you a much better practitioner once you earn that degree and you’re out in the field. It’s going to make you more effective if you’re an engaged and aggressive learner.

What goals do graduates have after they earn their Master of Social Work online?
Because there are so many areas in which social workers practice, it’s going to be different for each student. We have students who are definitely micro-minded, and we have those who are macro. The macros — they want to be engaged in communities politically, and they want to make a difference at a policy level. They want to have an impact on what’s happening at maybe a county, a city or a state level. Then there are others who want to be a licensed clinical social worker or a clinician, and they are behavioral or mental health-focused. It seems a world apart, those who want to pursue policy and those who want to be clinicians. To me, it’s exciting that within one degree in the same profession we have such opposite ends of the spectrum as available outcomes.

Do you have questions? Learn more about your role in social work’s future with the University of Nevada, Reno’s online Master of Social Work program today. The School of Social Work at the University of Nevada, Reno has a long history of educating Nevada’s social workers and professionals in the United States. Its focus is to educate, advocate, and empower.