Skip to main content

Method Specializations, Fields of Practice

Put your unique strengths into practice by choosing a method specialization and field of practice.

  • A method specialization relates to the particular skill set you want to develop related to the groups you want to serve.
  • A field of practice is the professional domain you would like to work in after completing your degree.

Options for Online Campus students:

Method Specializations

Fields of Practice

Each MSW student, regardless of pathway, chooses one method specialization and one field of practice. For most students, this choice takes place after their first year. (Advanced Standing and Transfer students pick their specializations before their fall term.)

CSSW faculty and staff are readily available to help with this decision. Students also have the opportunity to participate in webinars and forums, as well as talk to current second-year students, in order to learn more about the different options.

While these choices help to personalize your degree, they are not meant to be limiting. Students are welcome to take advantage of Columbia’s cross-disciplinary environment and explore courses, projects, and other activities outside their fields of specialization.


Method Specializations

↑ Back to top

Advanced Clinical Practice (ACP)

ACP students develop clinical skills by teaching state-of-the-art approaches to promote resilience and well-being, with a focus on families, individuals, and groups. Their courses draw on what they have learned about power, race, oppression, and privilege (PROP), trauma-informed care, and systems thinking. This method specialization builds specialized skills in areas such as assessment, suicide assessment, psychoeducational evaluation, emotional regulation and mindfulness, and coping among stress.

Example Job Functions

  • Counseling and therapy
  • Supportive services/case management
  • Motivational/narrative interviewing
  • Hospital/medical social work
  • Child welfare
  • Administration
  • Community outreach
  • Community health work
  • Community organizing/development/advocacy
  • Community social work

Potential Employment Areas

  • Hospitals
  • Inpatient treatment facilities
  • HMOs
  • Nursing homes
  • Hospice and palliative care facilities
  • Senior centers
  • Community health clinics
  • Inpatient and outpatient treatment facilities
  • Methadone maintenance clinics
  • Community development agencies
  • Religious institutions
  • Family service agencies
  • Schools
  • Special education placement offices
  • Head Start centers
  • College/university counseling services
  • Victim services agencies/programs
  • Domestic violence centers
  • Correctional facilities
  • Community mental health centers
  • Community crisis centers
  • Private practice
  • Agencies on aging
  • State mental health departments
  • Employee assistance programs
  • Probation departments
  • Hospitals
  • Public welfare agencies
  • Adoption agencies
  • Day care centers
  • Foster care agencies
  • Foundations (private or charitable)

↑ Back to top

Advanced Generalist Practice and Programming (AGPP)

AGPP students develop skills that span social work practice at individual and community levels, including program planning, advocacy, and evidence-based interventions. Courses take an integrated practice approach, with an emphasis on advocacy and social justice. Students learn to develop clinical practice programs, build teams, and write grants (with students occasionally securing actual funding for programs or agencies).

Example Job Functions

  • Counseling and therapy
  • Community outreach
  • Motivational/narrative interviewing
  • Supportive services/case management
  • Program development
  • Community engagement
  • Community organizing/development/advocacy
  • Child welfare
  • Defense‐based social work
  • Data analysis

Potential Employment Areas

  • Community development agencies
  • Community coalitions
  • Community action programs
  • Neighborhood coalition programs
  • Social justice organizations
  • Human rights organizations
  • Advocacy programs
  • Minority and religious representation groups
  • Family service agencies
  • Child welfare agencies (public and private)
  • Agencies on aging
  • State mental health departments
  • Employee assistance programs
  • Probation departments
  • Hospitals
  • Public welfare agencies
  • Adoption agencies
  • Day care centers
  • Foster care agencies
  • Foundations (private or charitable)

↑ Back to top

Policy Practice (POL)

POL students learn how to effectively conduct policy analysis, policy advocacy, and research on behalf of a just society. Students learn how to identify a policy problem or social issue, then use the tools of policy analysis to devise a solution. Courses include microeconomics and macroeconomics, which show how to apply economic concepts to social issues. Students also add valuable data skills that allow them to draw actionable insights from data and then communicate those findings to audiences.

Example Professional Areas

  • Data analysis
  • Program evaluation
  • Community outreach
  • Administration
  • Organizational development
  • Program development
  • Program/project management
  • Coalition building
  • Community engagement
  • Motivational/narrative interviewing

Potential Employment Areas

  • Social service agencies
  • Community organizations
  • Public interest groups
  • Local, state, and federal government
  • Voluntary health and welfare councils
  • Advocacy groups and organizations
  • Development corporations
  • Think tanks
  • Trade associations
  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Professional associations
  • International nongovernmental organizations
  • Schools of social work
  • Government agencies
  • Consulting firms
  • Foundations (private or charitable)
  • Political parties and campaigns
  • School boards

↑ Back to top

Social Enterprise Administration (SEA)

SEA students develop the skills they need to manage organizations and create new ventures that address compelling social problems. They prepare to become managers, entrepreneurs, and changemakers. Students learn to evaluate a program in order to answer the questions “How are we doing — and how can we do it better?” They also gain an understanding of power structures, who is included and excluded, and how to break down those barriers. Courses teach theories of organizational structure, how to train and advance people, financial management, budgets, marketing, and grant writing.

Example Professional Areas

  • Administration
  • Program development
  • Data analysis
  • Fundraising/grant writing/development
  • Capacity‐building/consulting
  • Marketing/communications
  • Program evaluation
  • Program/project management
  • Supportive services/case management
  • Research

Potential Employment Areas

  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Social enterprise businesses
  • Social service agencies
  • Community organizations
  • Hospitals
  • Corporations
  • Mid-sized businesses
  • Schools
  • Government agencies
  • Employee assistance programs
  • Marketing and communications

Field of Practice Options

↑ Back to top

Family, Youth, and Children’s Services

Connect children, youth, and families with a broad range of preventive, protective, and other social services.

Employment Areas

  • Adoption agencies
  • Day care centers
  • Foster care agencies
  • Public and private child welfare agencies
  • Family service agencies
  • Youth development programs
  • Schools

↑ Back to top

Health, Mental Health, and Disabilities

Respond to the needs of individuals, families, and groups coping with acute chronic illness or mental health disorders in diverse healthcare settings.

Employment Areas

  • Adoption agencies
  • Day care centers
  • Foster care agencies
  • Public and private child welfare agencies
  • Family service agencies
  • Youth development programs
  • Hospitals
  • Mental health agencies

Request information

To learn more about the Master of Science in Social Work from the Columbia School of Social Work, please fill out the fields below to download a brochure. You can also contact an admissions counselor directly at (212) 488-1784.

* All Fields are Required. Your Privacy is Protected.