MSW degree options

The Master of Social Work (MSW) degree program prepares world-class practitioners committed to achieving social and economic justice, assisting vulnerable or oppressed individuals, and to improving the lives of individuals, families, groups and communities. The School of Social Work at Wayne State University offers full-time and planned part-time study programs leading to the Master of Social Work.

The first year of graduate study is called the "Core Year" and, as mandated by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), provides a foundation of basic social work knowledge and skills for all students. The core curriculum stresses fundamentals of social work practice as they relate to individuals, families, small groups, organizations and communities. In field education, theory is translated into practice and includes experiences for students in interpersonal practice and practice in organizations and communities.

The second year of graduate study is designated the "Advanced Year." Students select their concentration area toward the end of the Core Year or as they enter the Advanced Year. The advanced curriculum builds on the knowledge, values and skills gained in the core curriculum, with the objective of increasing students' competence to deal with greater complexities of social work practice through a focus on areas of social concern. This advanced portion of the M.S.W. degree program is designed to provide specific knowledge and practice skills in the concentrations of Interpersonal Practice or Innovation in Community, Policy, and Leadership


OPTION I: Innovation in Community, Policy and Leadership (I-CPL)

This concentration prepares students for three broad, overlapping career paths: 1) developing and sustaining effective communities, analyzing and advocating for social justice policies, and taking leadership in organizations and the profession. Students must select at least one of the three courses that signal their career path - 1) SW8065 Advanced Systems Theory & Practice (Leadership); 2) SW8075 Advanced Community Building & Development (Community); or 3) SW8085 Theories & Practice of Social Policy & Social Action (Policy). Students take a 3 credit Advanced Advocacy and Social Justice course (e.g., SW8770) and 10 credits field (SW 8998). Students must also take 3 credits of research. For the 8-11 credits electives we encourage students to take courses that support their career path inside and outside of social work.

OPTION II: Interpersonal Practice (IP)

This concentration offers students broad exposure to contemporary practice theories; assessment of psychosocial
disorders, risk and resilience; developmental issues; and in- depth clinical assessment skills. Building on these
foundational interpersonal practice theories and skills, students have opportunities to deepen their clinical
intervention skills with individuals and families by choosing an intervention course including but not limited to
Cognitive-Behavioral Interventions in Interpersonal Practice, Family Systems Interventions, Contemporary
Psychodynamic Interventions, and Client-Centered Interventions. Students may then choose from a range of electives
across the curriculum, either within the Interpersonal Practice track, or from other areas of the Social Work
curriculum such as Policy, Research, or ICPL. These electives are offered to supplement the required courses and to
deepen and enrich students' knowledge of additional areas of Social Work Practice.

MSW Core Program Course List
Advanced Standing Course List
Elective Course List

Focal Areas

Each focus area consists of a course cluster that students can choose from to develop knowledge and skill in working in a practice area or population of clients. Focus areas offer opportunities for development of skills and expertise in a practice or social problem area.  Each of the advanced policy options (students will be required to take one) will be affiliated with one or more focal areas. Most courses in the focus areas will cross levels of practice. Note: It is not required that students have a focus area in order to graduate.

  • Integrated Health, Behavioral Health, and Substance Use
  • Trauma, Stress, and Violence
  • Social Work in Criminal Legal Settings
  • Social Work with Older Adults
  • Children and Families
  • Research and Evaluation
  • Community Change, Social Entrepreneurship, and Social Justice

Dual-title and Joint-degree MSW Options

The Wayne State University School of Social Work offers a dual-title and joint degree at the masters level. These programs build on the natural overlap between social work and our allied professions, provide students with the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of multiple fields of study and gain the necessary skills to operate in the growing interprofessional environment. 

  • Master of Social Work and Infant Mental Health: The Infant Mental Health dual-title degree (MSW-IMH) helps students to gain a thorough understanding of research and clinical work with infants and families. It prepares students as research-informed clinicians to work in cross-disciplinary teams or clinically-informed researchers who have a deeper understanding of applied research and the needs of agencies and practitioners.  

  • Master of Social Work and Master of Public Health: The Public Health joint degree (MSW-MPH) provides students with a deeper understanding of complex determinants of health and the scientific methods necessary to operate in an interprofessional environment. It provides the knowledge base necessary to address health disparities, urban health challenges, and equips students with the skills to qualify for employment that demands the integration of prevention, research, and social epidemiological methods.

Course Series

Holistic Defense: Holistic Defense employs an interdisciplinary team of social workers and lawyers who consider both individual and community needs when working with a person charged with a criminal offense. The attorney and social worker team engage with clients who are often indigent, creating a model of legal representation that may reduce incarceration as well as the unintended consequences of legal involvement. 


AGRADE is Wayne State University's Accelerated Graduate Enrollment program. The School of Social Work has partnered with the College of Liberal Arts and Science (CLAS) to provide ambitious undergraduate CLAS students with the opportunity to obtain their MSW degrees in less time for less money via AGRADE. 

Senior Rule

Senior Rule is an admissions status for select Wayne State undergraduate seniors that allows them to take a limited number of graduate courses that can be applied to their MSW degree, saving them time and money.

Graduate Certificates

MSW students may select to pursue a graduate certificate in conjunction with their MSW degree. Certificates include the Certificate in Alcohol and Drug Abuse Studies (CADAS), Developmental Disabilities Certificate and Gerontology Certificate