New Master of Social Work Provides Professional Experience

Posted: March 10, 2003 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Tara Laskowski

With one semester under their belts, students in the new Master’s of Social Work Program at George Mason have already begun to build the foundation for their careers in leadership and administrative roles in social work. Studying in metropolitan Washington, D.C., students in the program are fortunate to be in a location where they can gain essential real-world experience through fieldwork with an abundance of federal and local agencies and nonprofit organizations.

The Master’s of Social Work Program was implemented last fall as a complement to the 25-year-old undergraduate degree program in social work. The master’s degree can be earned in a two- or four-year program that prepares students for advanced social work practice. Students focus on organizational management and social change, and build skills in administration, leadership, and research. Classes are held on the Arlington Campus and during the evening to accommodate working students’ schedules. Although students of any undergraduate background are welcome to apply, those holding an undergraduate degree in social work are eligible to apply for advanced standing.

“It’s the missing partner for other programs at the university, such as the developing strength of public policy and the undergraduate degree in social work,” says Director Sunny Harris Rome. “It is a natural step that’s been a long time coming.”

One of the components of the new program that distinguishes it from other master’s programs across the country is the block field placement in the last semester of study that places students in a professional working environment for four full days per week. Students in the two-year program spend their first year taking 15 credit hours of courses and work 16 hours per week in a field practicum. In the spring semester of their second year, they do not take classes. Instead, they are engaged in their fieldwork, generally working up to four days a week at their placement agency. This arrangement allows them to concentrate on learning in the professional world in job site projects.

The four-year program is similar, requiring students to complete 2 or 3 courses per semester. Four-year students complete a field practicum of two days per week in their second year, and a block placement in the last semester of their fourth year.

“The program is something we as a major university are proud to have,” says Rome. “With jobs in social work projected to continue to increase, there is a market for our graduates. We have had a great response from the community, and the agencies and organizations have been integral in getting this program started.”

Students in the program have the opportunity to be placed with expert social work professionals from more than 100 local agencies, such as the Children’s Defense Fund, the Northern Virginia Mental Health Institute, the Alexandria City United Way, and the Adolescent and Family Growth Center.

An information session will be held in late March for prospective students. For more information about the Master’s in Social Work Program, call Rome at (703) 993-4247 or e-mail

Write to at