Earning a Master of Social Administration… or Mastering Social Service Administration
What’s in a name? In the case of social work degree programs, it’s not necessarily a lot– as Case Western Reserve, one of the nation’s top ten social work schools, notes. The school has taken a departure from the typical and titled its social work master’s program a Master of Science in Social Administration, or MSSA.
The program is unique in the sense that top programs do tend to offer their students unique opportunities. However, it’s not necessarily more unique than other programs that lead to an MSW. The school itself doesn’t want people to think that it’s so unique that it’s off their radar if they’re in need of an MSW.
Case Western Reserve states that its MSSA meets social work licensing requirements in all 50 states. It further states that its MSSA program is available online “so working professionals across the country who are interested in earning their MSW can pursue graduate education and work to create a more just world”(https://case.edu/socialwork/academics/master-social-work/online-social-work-masters-degree). This line lets people know more than just that the MSSA is available online; it lets them know that the degree program is essentially an MSW. Case Western Reserve also explicitly states that its on-campus MSSA is the equivalent of an MSW.
Case Western Reserve students have three choices for their online MSSA; these encompass both clinical and community roles. Students can focus on Children, Youth, and Families; Adult Mental Health; or Community Practice for Social Change. The last one is considered a macro role. Students who opt to attend on-campus in Ohio have these same options and several more.
A student who opts for Community Practice for Social Change may well be interested in administration. Case Western Reserve lists the City of Cleveland Department of Community Development and the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland among the possible field placements for its Community Practice for Social Change track.
There are additional options for those who want to tailor their program toward particular types of administration. A student can pursue a certificate in nonprofit management. There’s considerable depth of knowledge here. The chair of the Nonprofit Organizations Program also co-directs the Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development. Among his recent publications were “Ministries of Catholic Sisters in the Diocese of Cleveland: Assessing Capacity and Opportunity in a Period of Transition” and “Using Data to Build Community: Exploring One Model of Geographically Specific Data Use in the Non-Profit Sector”.
Some students will benefit from the level of administrative social work opportunity at Case Western Reserve. A student who enrolls in the mental health MSSA program, though, will typically be seeking out a very different set of opportunities.
In short, a student who opts for the MSSA may be interested in administering social programs or organizations – but he or she may have many other primary interests.
And, while the Case Western Reserve degree is a strong choice for those seeking skills in social work administration, it is far from the only one. Those who want to administer social programs and organizations have many choices.
Seeking Out Social Work Administration Degree Programs
If the desire is for a program that emphasizes administration, one can search the CSWE directory by concentration. Management or administration would be a natural choice. Search terms will depend what one wants to administer – and how. A student could choose to focus on a particular type of service or role (for example, program evaluation).
Certificate programs also provide the opportunity to get in some extra coursework in administration. Abilene Christian University, for example, offers a certificate in social services administration. Organizational management, policy making, and grant writing are among the topics covered.
One can also look to dual degree options. There are many, among them, pubic administration and business administration.
Actual options are fluid. The social work school may offer a variety of elective courses and special opportunities, some of which may be available only to a select group of students. Schools often describe their opportunities in ways a search directory doesn’t neatly capture.
The CSWE directory is a potential starting point. Among the others are listings of top schools.
A Look at Some Top CSWE-Accredited Social Administration Programs
The University of Michigan, rated as the #1 social work school in the nation by US News and World Report, counts among its pathways Management and Leadership, Program Evaluation and Applied Research, and Community Change. Among the special opportunities is the National Community Scholars Program.
The University of Chicago social work program is located in the School of Social Service Administration. The school, ranked #3, has a social work master’s program with two concentrations: clinical or social administration. The social administration program is designed to prepare social workers for employment in a wide variety of settings, macro and mezzo. The school also has a non-social work degree option, Master’s Degree in Social Sector Leadership and Nonprofit Management (SSL); this is for professionals with considerable past experience. There is an option to pursue dual SW and SSL degrees.
Related Content: Master’s in Social Work Program Directory