October 18, 2008

The Quest for the MSW

After some extensive research into schools across Canada, I have narrowed down my search for a Masters of Social Work program down to four schools. Acceptance into any one of them would mean moving away from where I am living now. It's exciting, and quite scary.

As I've stated before, I don't really have a focus in my studies. I have many interests, but there's nothing that grabs me and makes me say "Aha!". When applying for MSW programs, this can be a problem. With the application, as many of you might know, they want a declaration of what your interests are and what you plan to study/research. What? I'm supposed to narrow it down? Well crap! Anyways, I will probably focus it down to mental health and addictions, but where I go to further narrow it from there, no one knows.

I write about this today because my second academic reference was confirmed today. This is from an instructor that was very influential to me and was the one to encourage me to get my MSW in the first place. She hadn't gotten back to me about whether she'd provide a reference or not and I was getting worried. Now that she has gotten back to me, I'm a bit freaked out. It's become very real.

I'll be alright. If the worst thing that I have going on in my life is my fear of graduate school, then I'm ahead of the game. Now I just have to get all my ducks in order, get everything together and get those applications out.

To all you MSWs out there, I have a question. Upon entering your studies, did you know what your focus would be? Did you have an idea of what your thesis would be, or if you didn't do a thesis, what your research topic would be? Or did your school have some other option that I don't know about. I'd appreciate any offerings along these lines.


prin said...

yeah, me too...to all the above :)

cb said...

I'm pretty sure that our Masters programmes are structured very differently to how they are with you so I'm not sure my input would be very helpful! We didn't need to make a decision on our research thesis until we had finished our first year and been on a placement and so had an idea of the kind of area that we wanted to work in and also had had some experience working under supervision in a social work setting.
As I've possibly alluded to before, I failed my first attempt at my dissertation (by 3% - yes- I'm still bitter!). I resat later and passed and the difference between my first subject and my second was my level of interest actually. Anyway, good luck with the planning!

antiSWer said...

Your program was two years? Did you enter with a BSW? The programs I'm applying for are one year, due to my having a BSW.

And yes, you did tell that story. It adds to my desire to want to solidify my focus before entrance!

pwcaulfield said...

i studied in the US at a two year program, and we had to pick a "focus" when we applied to our program. i ended up choosing the clinical route, which is the biggest program. the other options were group work, community organizing, and administration. we had some wiggle room to take classes in other "focuses", but once you were on your track, your curriculum and internship were intricately tied to it.
didn't come up with my thesis until the semester i did it, though! :)

antiSWer said...

Yeah, we have focuses up here, too. One of them is either clinical or leadership. Then you get to narrow it down further in some to a specialization.

However, some want a proposed, specific area of research. It's a bit intimidating. Good to hear that there's some leeway on thesis picking, though. I assume you got guidance and help with picking the topic? Mind if I ask what it was, in a general sense if that would be better for you.

Oh, and welcome to the community. ;) I'll throw you on my blogroll.

pwcaulfield said...

well, i worked full time while i was doing my degree (courses, internship, work... crazy). i work as a social worker at an infertility clinic, and have been there for three years now (in an evolving social service role), and chose to use my thesis to create a therapeutic practice model for some of my patients who i perceived as having functional difficulty with coping.
i also had an intensely awesome professor and seminar group, who really helped me by asking great questions and showing me how to continue to think differently and critically.

thanks for the shout out! i'm slowly learning how this all works - am SO glad to find other approachable professionals in the blog space - please feel free to throw some recommendations at me!

Maia said...

I just got an MSW in June in the US. My program wanted us to know what we wanted to focus on ahead of time, but once we were admitted we could change our minds as many times as we wanted. We could choose between clinical, community, administrative, and policy. Clinical was by far the biggest. I don't think it matters that much what you say you are going to focus on because you can always change it later. Also, I focused in clinical and now have an administrative job, so focusing on one thing doesn't mean you can't do something different once you graduate.

cb said...

We have two year Masters programmes because you go in with a 'social science/humanities/vaguely related' degree which can be in any discipline and the programme is both academic and vocational (hence the placements) so when you finish you are qualified to practice as a social worker. I passed the practical bits so I could practice when I finished but had to retake the dissertation (I'll stop going on about it now!).
And no, I didn't have a BSW - there weren't many around at the time and I didn't even consider Social Work as an option when I left school! (there are more of them around now.. ) I am the proud owner of an incredibly useful BA in Philosophy and Politics ;)

Reas Kroicowl said...

Our focus was either clinical or administration and we had to choose the route after our first year. I, like you, was able to bypass year one on account of my BSW. (But I had to pass a test first) I went clinical, obviously.

lcsw mom said...

I think sometimes that a clinical track offers you more options on the job front. If you go admin then that really limits your options if you get bored with staff meetings and want to work with people (nothing against admin people). If your concentration is policy or admin then you are kind of limited to those two practice areas whereas with clinical you could learn admin eventually but have the versatility of clinical. Not sure about licensing up in your neck of the woods but it sure helps if you wanted to hang your own shingle someday. Just my two cents.

antiSWer said...

I'm not sure about clinical. I know I could do it, but I'm less sure I'd be good at it. Sigh...I dunno. I'll get some experience with it in my next practicum, so I'll see then.

I'm leaning towards going the policy analysis route with an eye towards mental health and addictions. I just wonder if that's feasible and what it would look like from a program perspective. What's my year going to be like if I do that.

I appreciate all the feedback from you all. It's been very helpful.

socialworkemergency said...

I did policy and admin and although my first job was in that area, I am now a hospital social worker. Originally, I planned to do clinical. Then I got very interested in policy analysis and advocacy...so I thought about doing a dual track. My supervisor talked me out of that and into a policy concentration. While that was fine, now that I am out in the world, I would do the dual track. But honestly, you use the same skills in both areas; you just need to make potential employers see how it all fits together.

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