MSW Program

The mission of the Master of Social Work Program at The University of Alabama School of Social Work is to prepare advanced scholar practitioners to improve the lives of individuals and families, enhance community well-being, and advocate for policies that support systemic change.  

Graduates of the MSW Program will be able to:

  • Deliver evidence-based social work practice to diverse client systems including children, adolescents and their families or adults and their families.
  • Advocate for vulnerable populations to include children, adolescents and their families or adults and their families. 
  • Engage in culturally competent advanced social work practice with children, adolescents and their families or adults and their families.
  • Analyze, formulate, and influence organizational and government policies that influence children, adolescents and their families or adults and their families. 
  • Apply social work values and ethics to practice with children, adolescents and their families or adults and their families.


The MSW Program is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. The curriculum follows the curriculum policy requirements of the Council on Social Work Education and provides a balanced, integrated approach that includes a professional foundation and a choice of concentrations. The professional foundation curriculum taken the first year consists of coursework in the following: 

  • Social work practice. This area of the curriculum is designed to provide practice knowledge and competencies in working with individuals, groups, families, communities, and organizations.
  • Human behavior and the social environment. This area of the curriculum helps the student to understand the whole person and the process of growth, change, adaptation, social functioning, and dysfunction of the environmental context, including family, groups, formal organizations, and communities. Courses in this area cover prenatal stages through the process of aging. 
  • Social welfare policy and services. This area of the curriculum is designed to help the student identify, appraise, analyze, and understand social change in its dynamic perspectives; the role and responsibility of social work as a profession in influencing social policy; and the delivery of service to individuals and society.
  • Research methods. This area of the curriculum is designed to help the student understand social work and related research and the use of research for the improvement of services to individuals, groups, organizations, and communities. 
  • Field education. This area of the curriculum provides opportunities for students to integrate and apply knowledge, skills, and values in social work practice context. 

MSW Curriculum Themes

The MSW Program emphasizes the following five themes underpinning the foundation and the concentration year objectives:

  • Life Course Perspective: Social workers understand that the growth and development of individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities are influenced by a range of psychological, social, historical, political, and economic factors. The interaction of these factors with life events and life transitions contribute to the subsequent outcomes. This theme also serves as the conceptual framework for the entire MSW curriculum.
  • Valuing Diversity: Social workers value and work respectfully with people who are different from themselves.
  • Critical and Reflective Thinking: Critical and reflective thinking that challenges assumptions, and that is based on evidence to arrive at creative solutions, is the basis for competent social work practice.
  • Evidence-Based Practice: Social workers favor interventions with demonstrated effectiveness. They are prepared to carefully evaluate practice and program outcomes.
  • Services to the Poor and Underserved: Alabama’s poor and underserved receive social services primarily from public and non-profit social service agencies. Social workers must be prepared to practice in these contexts and to challenge social injustice.

MSW Program Foundation Objectives

Foundation Year MSW students will demonstrate the ability to:

  • Apply critical thinking skills within the context of professional social work practice.
  • Understand the value base of the profession and its ethical standards and principles, and practice accordingly.
  • Practice without discrimination and with respect, knowledge, and skills related to clients’ age, class, color, culture, disability, ethnicity, family structure, gender, marital status, national origin, race, religion, sex, and sexual orientation.
  • Understand the forms and mechanisms of oppression and discrimination and apply strategies of advocacy and social change that advance social and economic justice.
  • Understand and interpret the history of the social work profession and its contemporary structures and issues.
  • Apply the knowledge and skills of generalist social work perspective to practice with systems of all sizes.
  • Use theoretical frameworks supported by empirical evidence to understand individual development and behavior across the life span and the interactions among individuals and between individuals and families, groups, organizations, and communities.
  • Analyze, formulate, and influence social policies.
  • Evaluate research studies, apply research findings to practice, and evaluate their own practice interventions.
  • Use communications skills differentially across client populations, colleagues, and communities.
  • Use supervision and consultation appropriate to social work practice.
  • Function within the structure of organizations and service delivery systems and seek necessary organizational change.

Concentration Objectives

In professional social work intervention with children, youth, and their families, or adults and their families, students will demonstrate: 

  • The ability to effectively apply selected models and methods of advanced social work practice, consistent with social work values and ethics, with an emphasis in public and non-profit social services.
  • The ability to use reflectively the theoretical approaches and knowledge bases underlying their practice with particular attention to the life course perspective.
  • The ability to evaluate their own practice.
  • The ability to analyze the impact of social welfare policies on clients and practice situations.
  • The ability to practice in ways that are culturally and gender appropriate with low-income persons and with those who have experienced social and economic injustice.