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Academics & Curriculum FAQ

  1. What is a Practice Area and how do I choose one?

    The five Practice Area concentrations are:

    • Aging in Families and Society
    • Children and Youth in Families and Society
    • Community and Social Systems
    • Health
    • Mental Health

    Each MSW student selects a practice area in which to apply their chosen practice method. The practice area focuses on selected contexts and domains of practice with particular attention given to specific policies, procedures, and practices.

    Your practice method concentration and practice area should relate to your career ambitions as a social worker. As the field of social work is quite expansive, the practice method concentration and practice area enable you to narrow your area of interest. For example, if your interest is in social policies affecting the elderly population you should probably choose the Social Policy and Evaluation practice method concentration, and Aging in Families and Society as your practice area. This can be a difficult decision; if you need assistance in making this decision contact the Office of Student Services (734.936.0961) to schedule an appointment with an admissions counselor.

  2. What is a Practice Method Concentration and how do I choose one?

    The four Practice Method concentrations are:

    • Interpersonal Practice
    • Community Organization
    • Management of Human Services
    • Social Policy and Evaluation

    All students in the MSW program select a Practice Method Concentration. The Practice Method Concentration focuses on theories and interventions related to practice with individuals, families, groups, organizations, communities and/or society.

  3. What is the difference between the 16 and 20 month programs? How do I decide which one to choose?

    Both tracks or curriculum schedules are four semesters in length; however 16 month students attend courses and complete fieldwork over the spring/summer semester whereas 20 month students do not.

    16 Month Track 20 Month Track
    • 1 field placement for 3 semesters
    • Field work starts in January (of 1st year) and ends in December (of 2nd year)
    • Graduate in December
    • 2 field placements over 4 semesters
    • Field work starts in September
    • Summer semester off (typical college schedule)
    • Graduate in April

    You should also keep in mind that some field placement options require a specific track. For example, most public school field placement sites only accept 20 month students. The decision between the two different tracks is a personal one that should be weighed carefully for your own educational needs and preferences. Please contact the Office of Student Services (734.936.0961) to speak with an admissions counselor if you have further questions regarding the selection of a curriculum schedule.

  4. What is the typical class size?

    About half of the MSW course sections have 25 - 30 students and about half have fewer than 25 students. Occasionally, but infrequently, sections are combined into a larger sections (approximately 40-50 students) to provide students with a more rich academic experience.

  5. What's an exemption and how do I get one?

    Exemptions from foundation courses will be granted when students have extensive prior comparable courses (minimum of two), covering essentially all of the content of a foundation course in either an undergraduate or graduate program, completed within the last six years PRIOR to enrollment in the MSW program with a grade of "B" or better. Prior work experience is NOT a basis for exemptions. An exemption does not reduce the total number of hours required for graduation. Exemptions provide an opportunity to take additional electives.

    Advanced Standing Students

    Advanced standing students typically only pursue an exemption from SW 560. Advanced standing students do not need to pursue exemption approval for the following courses SW 511 or SW 512, SW 515/531, SW 521 and SW 530.

    Students Renouncing Advanced Standing Status

    Advanced standing-eligible students who renounce advanced standing status are automatically exempted from the foundation courses which are not required for advanced standing students (SW 511 or SW 512, SW 515/531, SW 521, SW 522 and SW 530).

    Incoming MSW students are informed by the School of Social Work when they can submit an Exemption Request Form to be evaluated for possible exemptions from foundation courses.

  6. Where can I find information about U of M faculty?

    Visit our faculty profile directory.

  7. Will I have an advisor? How are they assigned?

    Yes, you will be assigned a faculty advisor whom you will meet at Fall Orientation. Students are paired with faculty advisors based on their practice method concentration; practice area is also taken into consideration. Your faculty advisor will assist you in making any changes in your curriculum, curriculum schedule or field placements; your advisor can also provide career guidance and support as you prepare to graduate. You will also have the opportunity to work with an Academic Planning Coordinator over the summer prior to registering for courses.

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