Areas of Specialization

  • Child and Family
  • Health and Aging
  • Mental Health and Substance Abuse
  • Trauma and Interpersonal Violence

A formal presentation for first year field students will take place during the fall semester and the Request Form and other important information will be available at that time.

To specialize, students will need to complete three electives from the specialization in total and at least two MUST be from the required list. Students will also need to complete an advanced year field placement in an area related to the specialization.

Having a specialization will mean that students will have less flexibility in their schedule, as they will need to register for specific classes that are only scheduled on certain days or evenings. Students should take this into consideration as they make their decision.

Students are encouraged to speak with their field advisor or the Academic Services Center advisors ( regarding any questions they have about selecting a specialization.

Specialization Descriptions

Child and family social work practitioners endeavor to improve child and family well-being by seeking out protective factors that exist within individuals and in the social contexts (e.g., family, school, work, neighborhoods and communities) where children and families live. Through this process child and family practitioners work with people in their communities to draw on these protective factors as a means to build capacity. As a result children and their families

Health and Aging: Students in this specialization may concentrate in health or aging or can combine both ares for a dual focus on health and aging.

  • Health: Students focusing on Health will develop skills and expertise in clinical work with individuals and families in health care settings, skills in larger systems interventions and an understanding of the social work role in interdisciplinary collaboration.
  • Aging: This specialization focuses on the full range of health, illness and mental health services for older adults, caretakers, and their multigenerational family constellations.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse: This specialization prepares students for careers in mental health and/or addictions. This includes work with clients struggling with severe and persistent mental illness; those with addictions and those with co-occurring mental illness and substance use disorders who receive care in acute care settings such as inpatient units, detoxification settings and partial or day hospitals. The specialization is also designed for students who wish to work with clients with psychological and social problems of a less severe nature who receive help in mental health clinics and family agencies.

Trauma and Interpersonal Violence: This concentration in trauma violence and criminal justice builds on your Foundation Year required courses and Field Placement. We view early attachment disruptions, neglect, trauma, family, community and global violence as a spectrum. Some social workers practice primarily with victims and survivors and their families and communities. Others work in "extreme settings" such as courts, jails or prisons.

Choosing a Specialization

What is a specialization?
Each specialization has a list of required courses from which you must choose your advanced year electives. Your choice of specialization will also guide the selection of your advanced year (Year II ) placement. Specializations will help you to learn one area of social work practice in more depth. However, selecting a specialization will limit flexibility in your schedule.

Must I choose a specialization?
No, specializations are optional; it is not required. Students who decide not to specialize will choose advanced year electives from the full list of elective offerings and will be eligible for placements that fit their learning needs. Generally speaking, students will have equal access to all placements for which they are qualified.

How will choosing a specialization impact my advanced year field placement?
Your choice of specialization will help guide you, your advisor, and the placement team in your selection of placement possibilities. The placement team will work with you to help identify placements that will provide opportunities to advance your knowledge and skills related to your specialization. Many types of placements will offer opportunities to work within a specialization. In considering placement options, students will be
encouraged to think broadly.

If I choose a specialization, am I guaranteed a specific type of placement?
There are many types of placements that will meet the learning needs for each specialization. Your specialization choice does not dictate a specific placement. For example, while some students in the Health and Aging specialization may be in a hospital, other examples of placements might include hospice, health centers, AIDS programs, nursing homes and schools working with children with health issues.