Frequently Asked Questions

JMU’s BSW program has maintained continuous accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), celebrating our 60th year in Fall 2022. The program was fully reaffirmed in 2016. The program anticipates CSWE reaffirmation and the self-study visit during the 2023-20024 academic year. 

JMU is an engaged campus with over 100 student organizations, and opportunities for service experiences through the Community Engagement and Volunteer Center (CEVC) or with the Institute for Innovation Health and Human Services (IIHHS). There are two student organizations within the department: Social Work Organization (SWO), open to all social work majors, and Phi Alpha, the social work honors society open through an admission process. Social work students regularly complete over 45,000 hours yearly of service through community-service learning activities associated with courses or program efforts and through their field practicum experience. Still, other students seek out experiences to enhance their preparation for careers working with children, older adults, or in specific areas of practice such as working with immigrants or refugees.

The BSW degree is established through the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) as an entry-level program for the profession of social work as supported by the National Council on Social Work (NASW) Code of Ethics. All students from accredited programs complete similar required courses and the field practicum to ensure their preparation for working with often vulnerable populations and addressing a variety of community concerns that may impact them. The BSW is a foundational degree for generalist social work practice. Students may pursue graduate education for specialization in a particular field. 

Social work differs from disciplines like psychology and sociology in that these programs may take a greater focus on increasing students’ research abilities rather than working with persons. Social work programs also teach research and interpersonal skill-building with theory application classes for developing and evaluating interventions to address concerns. 

The social work program has had up to 250 students, but generally has 200 students who move through the program in cohorts allowing students to develop learning partners and friendships. There are eight faculty members who support the students. Entry 200-level courses are often larger with about 40 students, while other core courses enroll about 25 students. Field seminars are around 10-12 students, each with an assigned faculty member. The department’s faculty prides itself on being engaged with students and supporting student development of interpersonal relationships with their peers.

The social work department values diversity in many forms and seeks to promote the inclusion of all students with their uniqueness. Each course includes content on and from diverse perspectives. This is further accomplished through having diverse faculty and faculty-convened Affinity Groups designed to provide support and brave spaces where students may discuss issues of concern. Affinity group participants self-identify and select into the group forming collective support experiences. These are not spaces for others to learn about specific identity groups.  Affinity Groups meet at least once a term.

Undergraduate social work education prepares students as generalists able to work in a wide variety of careers and at varying levels (individuals, families, groups, and communities). Social work elective courses provide entry-level knowledge on many professional areas where students may want to develop specialties at the graduate level or in their future careers, such as mental/behavioral health, substance use/addiction, child welfare, working with families, or working with older adults.

In social work, specialization occurs at the graduate school level. Generalist education prepares students to work in a variety of practice areas (e.g. child welfare, health) and populations (e.g., persons with disabilities, mental illness, experiencing violence). It is believed that this wide exposure helps students to see and understand a wider perspective of professional opportunities. In courses, students write papers, do projects, or engage in service projects, often in areas of their interest. About two-thirds of BSW graduates attend graduate school, most seeking their MSW, while others may seek graduate programs in law, child life specialists, student personnel management, counseling, public health, or public administration. Students may also seek career paths in community organizing for social, economic, or environmental justice.  

BSW graduates with a 2.8+ GPA (typically 3.0 GPA) may apply at a CSWE-accredited MSW program for advanced standing. Students who qualify for advance standing may complete graduate education in a shorter course of study based on education acquired at an accredited BSW program. Graduates report being well-prepared for graduate education often leading study groups with their peers.

While options are being explored, JMU does not have an MSW program. Social work BSW graduates are routinely accepted to graduate programs near and far. In the last few years, this has included Columbia University, George Mason University, New York University, Rutgers University, Tulane University, University of Buffalo, University of Georgia, University of Missouri, University of Southern California, University of South Carolina, University of Tennessee, University of Texas, University of Washington (Seattle), Virginia Commonwealth. Wherever social work graduates go they are successful and launch terrific careers.

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