Social workers engage clients, organizations, and society to promote social justice, well-being, and respect for humankind. If this is the change you would like to see in the world, join the School of Social Work at Syracuse and its network of over 6,600 alumni. The School of Social Work’s academically rigorous bachelor of social work (BSSW) program, accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, prepares undergraduates to work at a generalist level across the scope of the professional social work field, or to pursue a master’s of social work (M.S.W.) degree and obtain professional licensure credentials. The curriculum incorporates instruction in five professional foundation areas: social welfare policy and services, human behavior in the social environment, research, social work practice, and field practicum. Instruction in these areas builds upon liberal arts preparation in the humanities, the social and behavioral sciences, and the natural sciences. The program requires significant field placement experiences working in social work agencies, culminating in a year-long internship in which seniors work 16 hours per week at a social service agency. The experience is supported by dedicated staff in the Social Work Office of Field Instruction.
Why this degree makes a difference in society today…tomorrow…
The School of Social Work embraces the profession’s commitment to the values of human diversity and the dignity and worth of all people, with particular attention to those who are oppressed, vulnerable, or living in poverty. We view social and personal problems as resulting from complex interactions between people and the structures of society itself, and we work to address those problems at the level of public policy, community organizations, families, groups, and individuals.
Because this is a Bachelor of Science degree, half of the 120 credits are taken in the Liberal Arts. Core coursework includes biology, psychology, and human behavior. In addition, students are required to take courses in humanities, writing and mathematics, as well as social sciences, such as economics, policy studies, anthropology, sociology, and psychology, and natural sciences, such as biology, and physiology. Sample courses include:
- General Biology I & II
- Introduction to Cognitive Neuroscience
- Drugs & Human Behavior
- Nutrition in Health
- Abnormal Psychology
- Introduction to Biological Anthropology
- Social Work Practice Skills Laboratory I & II
- Foundations of Social Work Practice
- Social Welfare Policy and Services I & II
- Persons in Social Context
- Human Diversity in Social Contexts
- Foundations of Social Work Research
- Strategies of Social Work Intervention I & II
What Our Students Are Saying
As the greatest distance runner in Syracuse University cross country and track and field program history, Justyn Knight realizes the enormous hard work, dedication, training, and tactical skills required to compete and win. That work ethic held true for Knight in the classroom, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in social work from the Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics. On choosing his major, Knight says, “Social work is one of those majors where various options are open to you—guidance counselor was one of them for me; you could also use those skills to become a teacher or a coach. It opens various windows and I am considering all those options when my athletic career is over.”
Mission & Goals
The School of Social Work has a core mission that drives the BSSW. “We embrace the social work profession’s commitment to the dignity and worth of humankind. Acknowledging that all individuals, families and communities face challenges, the mission of the Syracuse University School of Social Work is to address human need and promote social and economic justice in a diverse and rapidly changing world through the strengthening of services, interventions and policies.” Our educational programs, research/scholarship and service reflect our mission and are grounded in:
- Social work values
- Persons in environment, systems and strength perspectives
- Practice in and with community need and building on the strength of individuals, groups and communities at greatest social, economic and political risk
- Support for and promotion of individual and social change using social work methods including therapeutic interventions, case management, administrative, community and policy practice
The goals of the undergraduate program are:
- Prepare undergraduate students for competent, effective and evidence-based generalist practice that builds on and recognizes strengths and vulnerabilities of individuals, families, groups and communities;
- Prepare undergraduate students to work effectively in increasingly complex culturally, linguistically, racially, socially, ability, and gender diverse communities;
- Prepare undergraduate students to be life-long learners, including those who go on to further graduate education;
- Enhance the well-being of individuals, families and communities through a vibrant and innovative generalist field education program;
- Advance social work knowledge through research, scholarship and evaluation of interventions and policies that strengthen social work practice, address human need and promote social and economic justice;
- Enrich the intellectual climate of the School, College and University;
- Strengthen agencies and advance social and economic justice through membership on the boards of directors, engagement in policy advocacy, involvement and leadership in professional organizations and other forms of faculty service.
The School of Social Work’s dedicated Office of Field Instruction has established relationships with nearly 200 human service agencies across 14 New York counties, offering a wide range of opportunities for students to train alongside experienced practitioners in real-world settings. Many of the school’s current field placement sites represent longstanding relationships with community organizations, where social work students have been placed for internships and field placements since the 1950s and 60s. For undergraduate students, field learning occurs in the fourth year of study, with the 500 hour social work practicum and related field seminar courses. Students prepare for this through the prerequisite courses, Social Work Practice Skills Laboratory I & II, Foundations of Social Work Practice, which includes 60 hours of community experience, and Human Diversity in Social Contexts. The practicum occurs across 2 semester of one academic year. Students are placed in social work settings for a minimum of sixteen hours a week, which meets the requirements for earning five credits per semester. Concurrently, students attend a campus-based field seminar, for which they earn one additional credit per semester. The BSSW placement emphasizes generalist social work practice at the micro, mezzo and macro levels. This internship is intended to broadly expose students to a range of social work responsibilities and functions. Examples of field placement sites. Hear from students about their field placements.
Immersion Trips and Signature Programs
Each spring, faculty, students, and staff from the School of Social Work spend three days in the New York City area for the Barbara Richman Mirken New York City Social Work Immersion Trip, sponsored by the Barbara Richman Mirken Seminar Endowed Fund. The trip offers BSSW students the opportunity to experience both historical and contemporary sites that bring to life the role of social work in the urban environment of Manhattan. The James L. Stone Legislative Policy Symposium is an annual, day-long event held at the Onondaga County Legislative Chambers that connects students with faculty, community leaders, government officials, and subject matter experts to interact, problem solve, and explore policies surrounding a particular theme. Recent themes have included gun violence, mental health systems, foster care, the opioid crisis, and homelessness. The event is made possible by School of Social Work alumnus James Stone G’64.
Syracuse University students have access to one of the nation’s best-ranked study abroad programs with opportunities in England, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Spain, Chile, Australia, and Hong Kong. For social work students, time abroad is usually used for humanities courses (e.g. English, history, fine arts, or other site-specific opportunities) or electives. With careful planning, students can satisfy other degree requirements while developing sensitivity to cultural differences through these programs. For more information about study abroad opportunities at Syracuse, visit suabroad.syr.edu.
What's next after this degree
BSSW graduates are prepared to start their careers in social work entry-level positions; however, some graduates choose to continue their higher education in law, health care, social sciences, and other related fields. Most commonly, graduates continue on to a master of social work (M.S.W.) degree and professional licensure. Others may branch out into higher education in law or public health. Students who earn a bachelor’s degree in social work are eligible to apply for the M.S.W. Advanced Standing program at Syracuse University or other similar programs to help expedite the completion time for the masters-level degree. Syracuse’s innovative M.S.W. program offers two license-eligible tracks of graduate study: Advanced Clinical Practice, for those who wish to specialize in the direct provision of services to individuals, families, and groups; and Advanced Integrated Practice, for those whose interests also encompass practice in interdisciplinary organizations, human service administration, community organizing, and public policy.
Job opportunities for social workers are expected to increase much faster than the national average, making a social work education more valuable than ever. Social work education prepares graduates to work in a wide range of professional settings, including mental health care, hospitals, schools, child welfare, substance abuse treatment, services for older adults, supportive housing, and federal, state and local government. Social workers lead not-for-profit organizations, guide service users through complex health care systems, lead labor and other community organizations, assess the strengths and needs of communities and individuals, engage in social research, serve in public office, facilitate adoption, and provide psychotherapy to individuals, families, and groups. While advanced positions in the field generally require a master’s degree in social work with state licensure or certification, entry-level positions are readily available in both urban and rural settings for graduates with bachelor’s degrees in social work.
Social Work Alumni Stories
- Social work alumnus named Rescue Mission CEO
- Social work alumna follows family legacy in helping professions as director of behavioral health at Mohawk Valley Health System
- Social work alumna realizes passion for mentorship at the Syracuse City Schools
Military Culture & Mental Health Practice
The Syracuse University School of Social Work offers undergraduate students the opportunity to participate in the Military Culture & Mental Health Practice focus area. Students will take SWK 427/627: Introduction to Military Culture and Mental Health Practice (3 credits), attend two speaking engagements, and have a culminating project with poster presentation. Students interested in working with military service members, veterans, or their families during field placements are encouraged to contact Tracy Walker, Director of Field Instructor. Students interested in the Military Culture & Mental Health Practice focus area, please contact Dr. Ken Marfilius. View news related to this focus
Social Work and the Human-Animal Bond
Students can choose to specialize in Social Work and the Human/Animal Bond. Elective courses in this specialization address the varied and important roles of animals as social subjects, rather than biological objects, in the lives of people. Elective courses in this specialization introduce theory and research on the complex relationships between humans and non-human animals in the contemporary U.S., focusing on the roles of animals in biopsychosocial problems and their treatment. Students learn best practices for service and emotional support animals and are introduced to a range of animal-assisted interventions, including hands-on opportunities to practice equine-assisted therapies.
Professional Licensure Disclosure
All 50 US states and the District of Columbia require that a social worker sitting for a licensing exam be a graduate of a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)-accredited program. The BSSW program is fully accredited by the CSWE. Please view our Professional Licensure Disclosure Statement regarding the program’s ability to meet specific state licensure or certification requirements.
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