MSW: Master of Social Work

West Chester University

West Chester Campus

Reynolds Hall
West Chester University
West Chester, PA 19383
Phone: 610-436-2664

PASSHE Center City

701 Market Street, Concourse Level
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Phone: 267-386-3015

Curriculum Requirements




Students take three electives to round out their knowledge with courses that offer in-depth training in emerging practice areas. Electives are offered throughout the year in both semesters and condensed, week-long formats. Advanced electives are available for matriculated, concentration students only. Several electives are available to pre-matriculation students who may seek permission from the instructor under special circumstances.

The MSW Program typically offers these electives, pending sufficient enrollment:

  • SWG 570: Substance Use Disorders
  • SWG 571: Older Adults
  • SWG 576: Child Welfare
  • SWG 577: Social Work in Disasters
  • SWG 578: Social Work with Veterans and Military Families
  • SWG 590: Special Topic - Grief and Loss Across the Lifespan
  • SWG 590: Special Topic - Human Rights and Social Work
  • SWG 590: Special Topic - The Human-Animal Dynamic
  • SWG 590: Special Topic - Motivational Interviewing
  • SWG 590: Special Topic - Social Work in Health Care
  • SWG 590: Special Topic - Social Work Practice at the End of Life


SWG 570: Substance Use Disorders

This course reviews the major theoretical approaches to understanding substance use disorders (SUD) and for assessment, treatment, and recovery path(s) with individuals, families, groups and communities. The neuropsychological impact of the use of alcohol and other drugs and the multi-faceted nature of addiction are included, as are the influence of culture, ethnicity, gender, peer group, and community capacity to meet the needs of those challenged with SUD. The principles of recovery, risk/resiliency, self-help, mutual aid groups, and therapeutic communities are examined in-depth.

SWG 571: Older Adults

This course reviews the status and position of older adults in society, the community, and the social service delivery system. There is a focus on social work assessment and intervention with elderly clients regarding issues of health, chronic illness, intellectual and emotional status, depression and dementia, relations with the family, care-giving, social networks, poverty, retirement, death, and bereavement.

SWG 576: Child Welfare

This course introduces students to the core concepts (theory, knowledge, and skills) informing evidence-based, trauma-specific assessment, intervention and referral services for children, adolescents and families receiving services through the child welfare system. Trauma is broadly defined and includes exposure to traumatic events such as abuse, neglect and witnessing interpersonal crime (e.g. domestic violence), and/or community violence. The course will address the level of functioning of primary care-giving environments and assess the capacity of the community and the child welfare system to facilitate restorative processes.

SWG 577: Social Work in Disasters

This course is a joint offering by the WCU MSW Program and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster/American Red Cross, Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter on the many roles that social workers can play in disasters from mental health services to recovery for individuals, families, and communities through rebuilding. Upon successful completion of this course, students will become certified volunteers in Southeastern Pennsylvania Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (SEPA VOAD), a part of a national collaborative of diverse organizations and citizens trained to meet community needs in the wake of a large-scale disaster. Once the student graduates and becomes a licensed social worker in good standing with their state licensing board, the student may qualify for the American Red Cross Disaster Mental Health Services Team.

SWG 578: Social Work with Veterans and Military Families

This course explores the latest innovations in behavioral health and social services to veterans and military family members including building resilience, trauma-informed assessment and intervention with individuals and families, prolonged exposure therapy, psychological first aid for military families, suicide risk assessment and prevention, assessment and treatment of military sexual trauma, assessment of family violence and child maltreatment in military families and other research informed assessment and intervention tools. Services for military family members including children, during and post-deployment will also be explored. The wide array of services available within the Veterans Health Administration and in the community will be discussed.

SWG 590: Special Topic - Grief and Loss Across the Lifespan

Loss is a formative aspect of human existence. From the moment of birth until the time of death, all humans experience a wide range of powerful, and often painful, losses. Where there is loss, grief frequently follows. Social workers, in diverse practice settings, are regularly asked to support individuals and families navigate the complexities of grieving. In this highly interactive class, students will develop an expert knowledge of contemporary models of grief theory, an understanding of the powerful intersection between professional and personal loss experiences, confidence in assessing the impact of loss on diverse individuals and families, and a toolbox full of creative clinical interventions to support clients grieving all kinds of losses. 

SWG 590: Special Topic - Human Rights and Social Work

This course will provide the theoretical, conceptual, and practical foundation for social workers to engage in a human rights-based approach to social work. Students will gain an understanding of how the international human rights principles can be applied to social work practice in domestic and international settings. A number of historical and current cases from a variety of countries will be used to examine how social workers can both advocate for and respect human rights in a manner that promotes recovery, resiliency, and capacity building.

SWG 590: Special Topic - The Human-Animal Dynamic

This course focuses on the role of domestic animals in the lives of individuals and families. It will examine four primary dimensions of human-animal interaction, including animal-assisted interventions, pet loss, animal hoarding, and animal cruelty. Social workers have recognized the importance of the human-animal dynamic for many years. A strong bond can support resiliency and recovery; while a lack of empathy towards animals can predict anti-social behaviors. In many cases, people make important decisions based on their relationship with pets, including their willingness to get inpatient care or seek out-of-home support. This course will provide students with a strong understanding of how the human-animal dynamic can enhance social work practice. **A portion of class time will be spent “on site” at different locations. Students must be willing to physically interact with a variety of animals, including dogs and horses. Students must also have access to a car or be willing to carpool and share gas money. Students without the financial resources to participate may contact Dr. Buck for suggestions.

SWG 590: Special Topic - Motivational Interviewing

This course provides the theoretical underpinnings and practical techniques of Motivational Interviewing, an evidence-based and client-centered approach intensifying motivation and commitment to increase health-promoting behaviors. Developed by William R. Miller and Stephen Rollnick, Motivational Interviewing is highly compatible with social work values and operationalizes strategies for collaborating with people toward facilitating lasting and self-driven change. The approach has been linked to improved outcomes for individuals who live with co-occurring mental health, substance use, and medical disorders. 

SWG 590: Special Topic - Social Work in Health Care

This course focuses on the role of social workers and the social work profession in varied health care settings. Particular attention is given to examining social determinants of health, working within an interdisciplinary team, health policy/payer sources, ethical concerns, and ethno-cultural awareness and competency. This course also provides students with a framework to understand and apply appropriate theoretical models to individuals, families, and groups within the health care setting. The importance of evidence-based practice and self-care will also be explored

SWG 590: Special Topic - Social Work Practice at the End of Life

Issues of illness, dying and the end of life are central to the human experience.  Yet our society struggles to openly address the emotional impact of this complex process. Social workers, in every kind of agency, will work directly with clients struggling to make sense of the end of life. The purpose of this course is to familiarize students with the complex issues that confront individuals and families as they face life-threatening illness, dying, and death. We will explore current scholarly research, examine relevant historical perspectives, discuss the impact of culture on dying, and examine effective ways to clinically support families navigating an end-of-life journey. Students will leave this “hands-on” class with a broader understanding of the psychosocial impact of dying on families and the confidence to openly support these clients in a wide range of practice settings.


Interdisciplinary Offerings

Students can also take electives in other graduate programs within the College of Health Sciences, the College of Education, and the College of Business & Public Affairs. Electives taken outside the department must be at the graduate level and must be related to social work practice. Students also need to secure permission from the MSW Program director and theother department before enrolling in courses outside the MSW Program.

Possible electives, pending available space and requisite permissions include:

  • Advanced Educational Psychology - EDP 550
  • AIDS and Public Health - HEA 512
  • Cognitive and Behavior Therapy - PSY 527
  • Diversity within the Context of Disability - EDA 507
  • Eating Disorders - PSY 581
  • Environmental Modeling with GIS - GEO 538
  • Family Systems in Special Education - EDA 503
  • Foundations in Nonprofit Administration - PPA 531
  • Grant Writing - PPA 532
  • Human Sexual Behavior - PSY 530
  • Integrative Health - HEA 501
  • Issues in Autism: Diagnosis and Behavioral Treatments - PSY 521
  • Mind/Body Medicine - HEA 545
  • Nonprofit Evaluation and Assessment - PPA 534
  • Nonprofit Fundraising Essentials - PPA 533
  • Psychology of Women - PSY 565
  • Psychopharmacology - PSY 568
  • Special Topics: Concepts in Caring - HEA 517
  • Stress Management Techniques - HEA 511
  • Transcultural Health Practice - HEA 543
  • Women in Leadership: Critical Issues - PSY 530