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Regarding quality, concentration and electives of MSW programs


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Hi folks, I'm a career changer interested in the field. I've been volunteering for a crisis hotline and at a psychiatric ward for the past year and am interested in doing something in the mental health field.

Unfortunately, my local state school only offers a generalist degree and has next to no electives that relate to mental health. Additionally, I am interested in research and the school I'm looking at doesn't seem to have too much going on from a research perspective.

With these goals in mind, should I look at other schools? The nice thing about the state school is that a) it's cheap and B) I wouldn't have to move. But again, it doesn't really seem to align with my goals. With that said, I'm continually seeing the argument being made that your classroom time is much less important that your field placements, as that's where the real learning is done. While I'm sure that's the case, I really like the classroom/theory/academia and would greatly enjoy classes that are relevant to my career goals. Is this enough to look take on additional debt?

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I think it's worth your time to research other programs offered, perhaps starting in neighboring states, to see if their course offerings and research opportunities would be better fits. 

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There are definitely programs with a strong academic focus on mental health practice. While it is true that your field placements will be the source of a great deal of practical experience, some universities offer individual classes in group practice, motivational interviewing, CBT, assessments, differential diagnosis, etc. If you are sure that mental health work is your career focus, I would suggest that the more training you can get during your graduate work, the better prepared you will be for the job market. Good luck.

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