Social workers endeavor to create a better world by promoting the well-being of individuals, families, groups and the community. Due to increased demand for social services because of health care reform, rising student enrollments in schools and an aging population, the social work field is expected to grow 12 percent nationally from 2014 to 2024 and create 74,800 jobs. These industry trends present a remarkable opportunity for highly educated, passionate professionals to serve the most vulnerable.
As a result of the need for more social workers, many colleges and universities have developed online degrees that offer specialized expertise to handle emerging issues in social work, like the University of Nevada, Reno’s Master of Social Work program. If you wish to learn an innovative approach to social work, consider the following ways the University of Nevada, Reno’s online MSW program can prepare you for tomorrow’s challenges.
Identify modern social work needs — and prepare to fill them.
U.S. rural areas are home to nearly 50 million Americans, yet 80 percent of social work practitioners work in metropolitan areas. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also estimates that there are approximately 2,157 health shortage areas in rural communities.
This shortage has encouraged social service organizations in small communities to hire social workers to fill major care gaps. These communities face challenges that Jennifer McClendon, assistant professor of social work at the University of Nevada, Reno, describes as unique due to regional differences and state law.
“Changes in state government around child welfare, juvenile justice or the prison system are localized,” McClendon said. “I also see a boost in the attention being paid to trauma.”
To solve these challenges, the University of Nevada, Reno’s online Master of Social Work offers the advanced generalist practice (AGP), a focus that can prepare graduates to serve rural communities that lack adequate resources.
“If you live in a rural community, the chances are high that you’ll see your clients at church, in the grocery store and when your kids play together,” McClendon said. “By throwing a focus on rural settings into the mix, we can talk about how social work practice can look different depending on where you work.”
Take a multidisciplinary approach to social work.
Social workers are the nation’s largest group of mental health service providers, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Additionally, the Red Cross estimates that more than 40 percent of its mental health volunteers are social workers. This means there is a special emphasis on multidisciplined social workers to create effective change.
Linda Anngela-Cole, assistant professor of social work at the University of Nevada, Reno, says that the online MSW program graduates enter the workforce equipped to approach social work with rigorous analysis and best practices with empirical data.
“The online program uses empirical information in every course,” Anngela-Cole said. “Whether it’s research-based or a practice course, it’s required that students refer to the literature and use official sources. Every course requires that best practices are being utilized or researched.”
In addition to an education supported by data analysis, the online MSW can also expose students to treatment modalities for specific populations, as well as how to:
- Develop leadership abilities
- Engage with others in ways that motivate and empower
- Analyze data and develop research-focused strategies
- Navigate diverse practice contexts
- Promote social and economic justice
Learn under the guidance of expert faculty.
The online MSW program faculty leverage their expertise in the classroom, which can provide a diverse, real-world education at the forefront of the social work field.
“We specifically hire people who have diverse backgrounds and it has significantly enriched what we are able to offer,” said Anngela-Cole.
This high level of interaction can serve as a leadership development tool, and also prepare you for emerging areas of social work, such as the elderly.
“We have an aging population and increased opportunities for working in health care,” said Mary Hylton, University of Nevada, Reno social work professor. “These opportunities put social work in an interdisciplinary position. We need to be prepared to work with interdisciplinary teams and think outside the box more than in the past.”
Prepare for the future of social work. Apply to the University of Nevada, Reno.
Meeting social work’s challenges requires educated professionals who can not only leverage data-driven research to create positive outcomes in the present, but who are also prepared for the future.