Master’s Program

Through the UBC School of Social Work’s Master’s program, gain the professional knowledge and skills needed to work with service recipients in order to satisfy their needs, reinstate their wellbeing, tackle unjust conditions, and influence policy changes.

Advanced Master of Social Work

The Advanced Master of Social Work (MSW) program at UBC Vancouver offers an accessible, advanced professional degree focused on social work practice in the fields of child and family welfare, health and social care, and international and social development.

Our Advanced MSW program will prepare you to become a competent social work professional equipped with state-of-the-art knowledge and skills, a critical analytic lens, and a social justice orientation.

The program takes a minimum of eight months to complete (i.e., September through April), but typically takes 10-12 months to complete. Most courses are offered on-campus and during the day, but the program offers some courses online and during the Spring and Summer terms to help with accessibility.

While a thesis option is available for some students, contingent on faculty availability, corresponding research interests, and funding, this option typically adds a year or more to the student’s program. Most students elect a one-year course-based program integrated with an advanced practicum experience.

Although an MSW thesis is encouraged, it is not required for the Master of Social Work degree at UBC Vancouver.

The Master’s thesis demonstrates a student’s mastery of the field they present, including a thorough knowledge of the relevant literature.

The thesis is based on independent study and scholarly research of a theoretical, empirical, or historical focus, which builds or tests theory through disciplined and focused study.

In addition, the thesis demonstrates the candidate’s competence in completing a research project.

  • A thesis requires the completion of a 6-credit dissertation in addition to the completion of the regular (30 credit) course requirements
  • The student is required to arrange their own supervisor within the School; it is up to individual faculty members to make their own decision to supervise a student’s thesis, based on the research topic and the student’s academic preparedness for writing a thesis
  • The student’s work for the thesis is guided by a committee of two faculty members whose research areas are relevant to the student’s thesis topic
  • The student has a role in selection of the committee which normally is established in the Fall term

Fields of Practice

Adopting social justice as the organizing principle, the Advanced MSW program focuses on three major fields of practice which reflect not only the current trend of social work professional services, but also the expertise of the faculty members who have actively been engaging in scholarly activities to advance social work knowledge.

The Child and Family field of practice of the MSW program is intended to prepare students to work with children, youth, and families in a variety of community based settings — ranging from voluntary family services to mandated protective services.

Students may shape their program around a more clinical foundation or around statutory services including court-based services, transitional services, and developmental services.

Core courses emphasize the consideration of common needs across the family life course and social policy approaches, to family development and social integration from a justice perspective.

The Health and Social Care field of practice includes areas of social work practice usually subsumed into the concept of ‘health’, such as physical and mental health, addictions, and trauma.

Its extension to ‘social care’ also includes areas that may be unrelated or only tangentially related to health, such as disabilities, age, and aging.

Courses belonging to this field of practice prepare students for direct social work practice in institutional and community settings, as well as in policy development.

The Social and International Development field of practice focuses on the social, cultural, environmental, and economic conditions and developments that affect the well-being of people internationally and in Canada.

In addition to problem analysis, we focus on interventions at the community, national and international levels: the work of social planning departments, community agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and international interventions at the level of the United Nations and NGOs working internationally.

The curriculum is built around the concept of social justice, reflected in national and international texts, with particular attention to contemporary issues of interest to social work practitioners, including, but not limited to:

  • immigration and refugees
  • the struggle for human rights and community development
  • the struggles of Indigenous people
  • the social implications of climate change, poverty and globalization
  • the work of truth and reconciliation commissions

Degree Requirements

MSW students must achieve the minimum academic standing required by UBC Graduate Studies in a combination of courses from the areas below, totalling a minimum of 30 credits of academic study:

  • 9 credits of core courses
  • 6 credits of core practice electives
  • 6 credits of other electives (courses from any part of the social work curriculum or from another UBC department may, upon approval, be taken for the elective credits)
  • 6 credits of practicum
  • 3 credits of advanced integrative seminar

Although a thesis is not required, students are encouraged to pursue an MSW thesis. They will be required to undertake an additional 6 credits, as well as find themselves a suitable supervisor from within the UBC School of Social Work.

Advanced MSW Curriculum

Theory (3 credits)

  • SOWK 550 Social Work and Social Justice

Research Course (6 credits)

  • SOWK 553C Quantitative Methods in SW Research, or
  • SOWK 554C Qualitative Methods in SW Research, or
  • SOWK 554C Qualitative Methods in Social Work Research:
    Research and Evaluation in Child, Youth and Family Services

Field Practice (9 credits)

  • SOWK 559 Advanced Integrative Seminar (3 credits)
  • SOWK 560C Practicum (6 credits)

Students are required to take at least two electives from their chosen field of practice.

Note: Not all courses will be offered each year; it depends upon the availability of the instructor.

Family & Children Praxis:

  • SOWK 522 Family Mediation & Conflict Resolution (online)
  • SOWK 526 SW Practice with Individuals and Couples
  • SOWK 532 SW Practice with the Family
  • SOWK 572A Child and Family Policy and Practice

Health & Social Care Praxis:

  • SOWK 453 Disability and Justice
  • SOWK 521 Addictions
  • SOWK 525 Advanced Mental Health Practice
  • SOWK 531 Aging
  • SOWK 551 Social Work in Health Settings

Social & International Development Praxis:

  • SOWK 529 SW Practice in the Community
  • SOWK 571 International Social Development

Students are required to take two 3-credit elective courses from any of the above courses or from the following list:

  • SOWK 524A Social Services Management


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