Curriculum and In-Person Experiences

The Master of Social Work (MSW) requires students to complete live, online classes, engaging coursework, and practicum placements at clinical sites in or near their communities. Students may earn their MSW in one of various program tracks. We offer advanced standing, accelerated, full-time, and extended (part-time) options.

Students in the traditional MSW program begin the program with generalist courses, covering topics such as racism and oppression, human behavior, and assessment and diagnosis. Once they have completed generalist courses, or if they are beginning the program as advanced standing students, they will start the specialized curriculum. In the specialized portion of the degree program, students have the option to either pursue a certificate program or explore an area of focus through various elective courses.

Learn more about each course on our Course Descriptions page.

Simmons’ Specialized Curriculum

The online MSW curriculum extends well beyond social work basics and into advanced clinical theories, methods, and topics. Our specialized curriculum is also unique in that it allows students control over their paths of study. Students can explore topics that interest them in one of two ways: through certificate programs or choosing classes within an area or areas of focus.

Certificate programs:

Students must apply to a certificate program at the time they apply to the MSW program. Students accepted into their certificate program of choice will complete a structured sequence of electives during the specialized curriculum. The certificate program will be featured on students’ diplomas, enabling them to showcase their specialized knowledge on their résumés.

Areas of focus:

Starting with the generalist coursework, students can explore topics that interest them by choosing to take courses in one or more areas of focus. This specialized curriculum path allows students to tailor their social work training and apply it to their career goals.

Certificate Programs

Simmons’ two certificate program options are unique paths of study offered within the online MSW program. Each certificate will allow students to begin to develop expertise in a specific area of social work through predetermined specialized courses.

Students pursuing a certificate will complete four certificate-specific elective courses in addition to all MSW requirements. By earning a certificate with their MSW, students graduate prepared to pursue careers in their area of interest.

Students can choose from the following certificate programs:

  • Mental Health Practice
  • Trauma Practice
  • Clinical Practice with Active Service Members, Veterans, and Families

Learn more about certificate programs.

Areas of Focus

Our elective courses cover a range of social work topics across various areas of focus. By providing students the ability to choose four electives from an area or areas of focus that appeal to them, the Simmons MSW allows them to steer their coursework in a direction that fits their career goals.

Our areas of focus include:

  • Child and Family Wellbeing
  • Adult Mental Health
  • Health and Aging Practice
  • Trauma and Interpersonal Violence
  • Substance Use and Misuse
  • Group Practice
  • Clinical Practice and Therapy Models

Learn more about the elective courses offered on the Course Descriptions page.

Practicum Education

Whether pursuing a certificate or area of focus, every student completes two immersive practicum experiences during the program. These experiences allow students to develop the advanced clinical skills and confidence to become professional social workers.

The first placement provides a foundation in generalist social work practice. Traditional MSW students will complete this requirement through one term in the Simulated Practicum Experience (SPX) and one term at a community site. Once in the specialized level, all students complete their practicum education requirement at the community site.

Please note the specialized placement will be completed at the same community site where students complete the second term of the generalist experience. In total, students have the opportunity to spend three terms, or about one year, within a community setting, allowing them to make deep connections within the organization and with the clients they serve.

When a student is ready to move into the community setting, our practicum placement team works closely with them to find a clinical placement in or near their community.

Learn more about practicum education.