Master of Social Work program sees highest number of applicants for 2013-14

SIUE’s master of social work program had “record enrollment” for the 2013-2014 academic year, according to Kathleen Tunney, social work department chair.

The program received its largest number of applicants – a roughly 33 percent increase, according to Bryan Duckham, master of social work program director.

Duckham said there were more than 90 applicants to the program, of which roughly 65 were accepted. The amount of jobs available for social workers has contributed to the increase in applicants, according to Duckham.

“Of course, there are a number of variables regarding who gets hired or who doesn’t, but the outlook for employment is pretty good,” Duckham said. “[I’m] thinking [in] this economy, with changes in trends related to what kind of jobs area available, social work is looking more attractive for folks.”

Not only did the number of applicants increase, but the number of those accepted as well. The roughly 65 accepted students is an increase of roughly 15 percent, according to Duckham.

Despite the increase, Duckham said the social work department is “fully staffed” and can “certainly accommodate these numbers.” The department is held to certain standards by the Council on Social Work Education accrediting body. There cannot be more than 12 graduate students per faculty, according to Duckham.

The increase means social work is “a sought after and vibrant profession,” according to Duckham.

“I think it speaks to the need that’s there in our society as it relates to things like hospice or adoption, family services, family counseling, individual practice, community mental health agencies, all the possible roles that social workers could practice within,” Duckham said.

Social workers “train for very broad roles,” according to Tunney.

Britni Gladea, second year social work graduate student, hopes to help people who have been in situations similar to hers once she graduates. She had been working at Chestnut Health System, a mental health facility, when a co-worker told her about SIUE’s social work master’s program.

“I’m planning to move to Colorado to hopefully work with military populations out there, but if that doesn’t work out for some reason, then I’ll just get a full time job at Chestnut [Health System],” Gladea said. “…My dad’s retired Air Force and… I really want to work with families going through deployment issues because I’ve been there.”

Second year social work graduate student Sara Downey said she applied for the master’s program because of her father.

“My dad does work that is not social work but similar, and he helps people coming out of the prison system and I think seeing what a difference he’s made me think about this,” Downey said.

Students in the program must complete two practicums, according to Downey, which has been her favorite part so far. Practicums are a required course in the program that allow students to gain experience in the field, similar to an internship.

“Mine was at the Alton Mental Health Center,” Downey said, “and … I was able to take what I’ve been learning in classes and see it being applied and [it was a] very empowering experience.”

Downey said she would like to work with substance abuse after graduating, but said because of the variety in the master’s program, she feels prepared for any aspect of social work she could be involved with.

“When I started [the] program, I was just interested in mental health…,” Downey said. “[But] because we learn about all different aspects… I do feel like if I changed my mind I would be pretty prepared for that.”

For more information about the master of social work program, visit the social work department’s website.

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