The impact of social work plays out particularly strongly on the global stage. Increasingly, Master of Social Work (MSW) professionals who are practicing in such diverse fields as child welfare, medical social work, and clinical mental health, are finding a demand for their skills all over the world. In response, many of these professionals are focusing their talents on global social work.

Now more than ever, societal problems are globally connected. Whether they are addressing the needs of refugees amid devastation in war-torn countries, finding homes for displaced individuals, or helping villagers in remote areas fight poverty, social workers who specialize in global and social welfare have become vitally important. As a result, a number of MSW programs now recognize the value of providing social workers with a global and cross-cultural context for their studies.

In many MSW programs, specializations are available in Global Social Development Practice and Global Social Work. As an adjunct to international study, these programs now offer study-abroad and internship placements for students in Asia, Central Latin-America, China, India, Africa, Italy and many other countries. There may also be opportunities to volunteer with the Peace Corps as part of this global fieldwork experience. In some cases, MSW students must qualify for a global field placement and pass a language proficiency test to be able to intern in a host country.

Preparing to Study and Practice Global Social Work

Global social work doesn’t have to mean jet-setting all over the world. The practice area does involve international work in many cases, but it might also consist of helping multicultural populations here in the United States.

The University of Utah offers a Global Social Work program that prepares students for a variety of social work roles, both internationally and at home. According to their program website, graduates will be able to:

  • Define globalization as it relates to social work theory and practice.

  • Define global social work issues faced by individuals, families, and communities around the world.

  • Understand the roles that key United Nations programs, international social work federations, and non-governmental organizations play in contributing to human rights and social development.

  • Illustrate the application of social work values, ethics and practice to the development of strategies for global change related to key social issues including poverty, gender inequality, health, mental health, ethnic conflict, violence, migration/immigration, and child welfare.

  • Demonstrate skills in implementing evidence informed interventions, aimed at creating sustainable social development and conflict resolution.

  • Utilize intercultural communication skills and culturally informed practices with vulnerable populations.

  • Articulate how social work values, skills and knowledge about social work practices abroad are applicable to local, regional, and international social development goals and programs.

  • Understand global systemic oppression and how to promote social justice.

  • Demonstrate skills in working with interdisciplinary teams and developing community partnerships to address global issues.

Many other MSW programs also offer some form of global social work specialization. Some areas for certification or specialization might include:

  • International Community Development

  • International Economic Development

  • International Social Welfare Sequence

  • International Social Welfare and Service to Immigrants

  • Global Disaster Mental Health

  • Global Social Work for International Well-Being

  • Social Work in the Borders Region – Bicultural, U.S.-based

  • Sustainable Development and Global Practice

Many MSW degree holders initially entered the profession because they hoped to make a difference and to make the world a better place. With the ability to practice international social work, MSWs have the opportunity to impact others far-and-wide.

Nedda
Nedda Gilbert

Ms. Gilbert is a certified social worker and 30 year educational consultant with an interest in helping college-bound and graduate school students manage the process and stress of admissions effectively. She is one of the senior founding managers of the Princeton Review Test Preparation Company, and the author of The Princeton Review Guide to the Best Business Schools and another book, Business School Essays that Made a Difference (Random House). She is a guest contributor to Forbes Magazine on college and college life. Ms. Gilbert is also certified as a collaborative family law professional in New Jersey. She received her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and MS from Columbia University.