The primary mission of the social work profession is to enhance human well-being and help meet the basic needs of all people. Social work is rooted in the core values of service, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, and the importance of human relationships.
The master of social work (MSW) at Fairfield University focuses on the promotion of social justice and social change on behalf of individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. Fairfield’s MSW is a clinical specialist program. Clinical social workers have specialized knowledge and skills in the prevention, assessment, diagnosis, treatment and evaluation of emotional, mental, and behavioral health problems. Clinical social workers provide services in a variety of settings including private practice, hospitals, community mental health, primary care, and agencies.
Fairfield offers two tracks of study including a two-year, full-time program, and for graduates of a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited bachelor of social work (BSW) program, the advanced standing three-semester, full-time program. Graduates of any accredited CSWE BSW program may apply for advanced standing. Fairfield’s MSW curriculum is offered in a low residency format with hybrid and online courses. The MSW is a widely recognized degree offering students the opportunity, once licensed, to work in a range of social service settings including gerontology, social and human services, veterans services, private practice, hospitals, advocacy and coalition groups, addiction support services, social policy and community organization, and more.
Fairfield's MSW is currently in initial phases of accreditation with the CSWE. All students admitted to the MSW program will graduate from an accredited social work program. All faculty members are licensed clinical social workers in the state of Connecticut and maintain national and international recognition in the field through published works, research presentations, and service on numerous professional, state, and national committees.
The application priority deadline to start in the Fall 2019 is June 15, 2019. Applications submitted after that date will be considered on a case-by-case basis. The advanced standing track will begin in the summer of 2020.
The MSW program does not offer the option of non-matriculated student status.
Join us for an upcoming Graduate Information Session where we can answer your questions one-on-one, give you an opportunity to meet our faculty, and introduce you to the Fairfield University community and experience.
Dear Prospective Students,
Clinical social work is a distinct mental health discipline that is regulated by licensure in the state of Connecticut. The MSW clinical specialist program builds on core social work values and professional ethics. The focus of clinical social work practice is the professional use of self from a person-in-environment perspective to initiate change, and aid in the amelioration of the complex problems of individuals, couples, families, and groups, using critical assessment and intervention to accomplish mutually agreed-on goals and objectives that advance in practice, personal, social, economic, and environmental justice.
Social work education strives to educate and train future practitioners in the fundamental dimensions of the practice — to think, perform, and act ethically with integrity. The purpose of field education is to integrate the theoretical and conceptual classroom education with the practical skills necessary for effective practice. MSW students are therefore engaged in fieldwork throughout the program. The program has contractual relationships with numerous and diverse placement sites in the greater Fairfield and New Haven counties as well as other neighboring communities.
The MSW program offers a unique interprofessional curriculum that provides opportunities to learn, serve, and practice with students in social work and inter-professionally, and with students in marriage and family therapy, professional counseling and school psychology. The interprofessional curriculum provides students with intentional opportunities to learn together and conduct research on important clinical and social issues. Students across the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions will have the experience of working in teams using innovative approaches to addressing real life problems.
MSW students will graduate from a program accredited by the Commission on Social Work Education (CSWE). The coursework and fieldwork therefore prepares the graduate to pursue Connecticut State licensure, as a licensed master of social work (LMSW) and subsequently, the license in clinical social work (LCSW).
If you are passionate and highly committed to working with a diverse clientele and advancing respect for diversity, human rights, and social, economic, and environmental justice, the MSW program will enable you to obtain the credentials essential to establishing a rewarding career as a clinical social worker. As you explore our website further, please contact me by e-mail if you have any questions or would like to schedule a meeting.
Dawn DeBiase, LCSW
MSW Program Director
MSW Program Director Dawn DeBiase and Clinical Director Jay Taylor
Employment opportunities for social workers are on the rise in the state of Connecticut and nationally. Licensed social workers may be employed in a wide variety of settings, including:
Learn more about how the University's Office of Career Planning can support your post-graduate goals, and how Fairfield's tight-knit alumni network can build career and mentoring opportunities that last a lifetime.
The master of social work clinical specialist is a two-year, full-time 60-credit program that requires students to complete 900 hours of field experience. Graduates of accredited bachelor of social work (BSW) programs are eligible for advanced standing, which enables them to complete a 45-credit curriculum and field experience on a full-time basis in three semesters including 650 hours of field experience. Students in both the two-year and advanced standing programs move through the program as a cohort.
All students in the foundational first year of the MSW program are required to take the same ten courses. Eight of the ten foundational courses are academic courses and two are supervised field internships. The ten required foundational courses are distributed as follows:
In the advanced standing program all students must complete 10 courses, two of which are advanced clinical supervised field internships. The second-year courses are distributed as follows:
Two-Year Program Courses
|Fall Year 1||Spring Year 1|
|Lifespan Human Development||Human Behavior and the Social Environment|
|Social Policy and Practice||Elective|
|Social Justice and Diversity in Professional Practice||Research Methods in Social Work I|
|Generalist Social Work Practice with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations and Communities I||Generalist Social Work Practice with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations and Communities II|
|Social Work Fieldwork I||Social Work Fieldwork II|
|Fall Year 2||Spring Year 2|
|Narrative and Solution Focused Therapy||Advanced Social Justice, Diversity and Ethical Professional Practice in Clinical Social Work|
|Assessment Techniques and Psychopathology||Organizational and Business Management|
|Advanced Clinical Skills and Practice I||Advanced Clinical Skills and Practice II|
|Elective||Advanced Social Work Research and Program Evaluation|
|Advanced Clinical Fieldwork I||Advanced Clinical Fieldwork II|
Graduates of a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited undergraduate social work program, who have graduated within the past six years, may apply and be admitted into the specialized practice year (second year) of the two-year program. Students who enter with advanced standing will complete 45 credits to receive the MSW clinical specialist rather than the 60-hour two-year program. The period of study for this option is three semesters: summer, fall, and spring; this includes 650 hours of field instruction.
Students admitted for advanced standing will begin in the summer, are enrolled on a full-time basis, and move through the program as a cohort. BSW degree must be conferred prior to the beginning of the advanced standing summer session. Applicants for advanced standing will apply in their senior year. The advanced standing curriculum does not duplicate any courses or content areas already mastered in the accredited BSW program.
|Social Justice and Diversity in Professional Practice||Narrative and Solution Focused Therapy||Advanced Social Justice, Diversity and Ethical Professional Practice in Clinical Social Work|
|Research Methods in Social Work I||Assessment Techniques and Psychopathology||Organizational and Business Management|
|Lifespan Human Development||Advanced Clinical Skills and Practice I
Motivational Interviewing I
|Advanced Clinical Skills and Practice II
Motivational Interviewing II
|Elective||Elective||Advanced Social Work Research and Program Evaluation|
|Social Work Fieldwork II||Advanced Clinical Fieldwork I||Advanced Clinical Fieldwork II|
Fall 2019 Class Schedule
During the fall 2019 semester only, students will be required to attend class on campus every Thursday evening from 7:15 – 9:15 p.m. for the Social Justice and Diversity in Professional Practice class.
Students are also required to attend the following six Friday and Saturday classes on campus from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. All other classes are online.
September 6 and 7
October 18 and 19
December 6 and 7
Field learning is an integral component of social work education and is central to the program’s mission, goals, and curriculum. Field learning takes place in agency settings, selected by the department, that reinforce students’ identification with the purposes, values, and ethics of the social work profession.
The purpose of field placement is to facilitate the development of the professional social worker who can enter the practice equipped to apply the profession’s knowledge base, perform direct social work practice skills, and act according to social work ethics and values in any setting.
Dawn has served Fairfield University for 15 years as a dean, academic advisor, and mentor. A licensed clinical social worker since 1998, she worked as a clinician and account manager in the employee assistance field in the Boston area for nearly a decade before joining Fairfield in 2004 as assistant dean of freshmen.
Most recently, she directed the Dolan School of Business’ undergraduate program for nearly five years, during a time of unprecedented growth in student enrollment. Dawn is the academic coordinator of Fairfield’s Collegiate Recovery Program, which offers a nurturing, affirming, substance free environment (including housing) for students in recovery. Through her support and guidance, students learn how to balance their education with their recovery, helping her students set and achieve academic, personal, and professional goals. She also has a small private practice in Milford, CT.
A dedicated wife, stepmother, foster mother, and godmother, Dawn cherishes her family, including her two puppies, Bacci and Aria. She enjoys running, working out at Orange Theory Fitness, and doing Bikram yoga. She spends time with family in Boston, at Humarock Beach (south of Boston) in the summer, and in Foxboro cheering on the New England Patriots each fall as a season ticket holder. She got even closer to the action on the field from the sidelines as a New England Patriots Cheerleader from 1998-2003. Dawn proudly wears her Superbowl Ring from the 2001 season…but she’ll only wear it during the NFL Playoffs!
Jay is a social worker, activist, and teacher. He has an LCSW and works at a private practice in Milford, CT in addition to working as a community organizer for A Call To Men, a national non-violence and gender equality organization. For the past five years, Jay has taught courses in Narrative and Solution-Focused therapy and substance abuse treatment in the Marriage and Family Therapy program at Fairfield University. His students say that they appreciate his incredible level of energy and his passion for social justice.
Jay is deeply devoted to intersectional social justice initiatives. His purpose in life is to create a more liberated world where safety and equity are a reality for everyone. In his work with A Call to Men, Jay engages men to promote healthy masculinity that allows them to be their authentic selves. This process has been proven to reduce domestic violence, sexual assault, homophobia, and bullying. He travels the country to work with professional sports organizations, the U.S. military, colleges, high schools, and government agencies on behalf of A Call to Men.
When Jay is not working he can be found at CrossFit competitions, comic book stores, movie theaters, or at live music concerts. He also loves travelling the world in pursuit of delicious food and new cultural experiences.
The admission process is rigorous and enables the MSW faculty to assess candidates based on established criteria, which are indicative of success in the program and suitability for entry into fieldwork prior to acceptance.
Applicants for the master of social work clinical specialist must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college or university (or the international equivalent) and give promise of meeting the standards set by the School. Students are admitted to the MSW program annually.
Applications for the MSW program will be accepted on a rolling basis.
Formal Admission Process
Students seeking admission must submit:
Applicants are assessed on the strength of their submitted materials, based on established program criteria. Those who are deemed to meet or exceed the standard requirements for admission in the program are invited to participate in a group interview. The group interview is an integral component of the application process and is mandatory. Any applicant who cannot attend the scheduled interview may request that their application be held and re-reviewed during the next admission cycle.
Students from Non-English Speaking Countries
Students from non-English speaking countries are required to submit a TOEFL score report. The following TOEFL scores are strongly recommended: a composite score of 550 for the paper test, a score of 213 for the computer-based test, or a score of 84 on the internet-based test (iBT) with a minimum score of 21 in reading and 23 in writing. Fairfield University’s Educational Testing Services (ETS) code is 3390.
A translation of all transcripts indicating equivalency with United States degrees is also required. BSW applicants with an international degree must verify that their social work credentials are comparable to those of accredited BSW programs in the United States. Candidates are required to obtain verification from the International Social Work Degree Recognition and Evaluation Service. For further information, please contact Graduate Admission.
All application materials for formal admission should be sent to:
Office of Graduate Admission
1073 North Benson Road
Fairfield, CT 06824-5195
Phone: (203) 254-4184
Fax: (203) 254-4073
How to Apply
For detailed admission requirements, please refer to the resources below. The MSW program does not offer the option of non-matriculated student status.
What type of employment is possible with an MSW?
Employment opportunities for social workers are on the rise in the state of Connecticut and nationally. A master of social work (MSW) from an accredited Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) is mandatory to become licensed. Once licensed, both the employment settings and job opportunities expand exponentially. Licensed social workers—in contrast to those with only a BSW—are employed in all of the following settings:
How does an MSW differ from a degree in Counseling, Marriage and Family Therapy (MFW), or Psychology?
Professional social work is a distinct mental health discipline with a body of research, values, principles, and techniques that are focused on enhancing human well-being, ameliorating discrimination, injustice, oppression, poverty, and promoting social justice and social change. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is the professional organization, whose mission is to enhance the professional growth and development of its members, create and maintain professional standards and code of ethics, and advance sound social policies. The MSW degree from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) is a requirement for licensure.
The MSW program at Fairfield University is a clinical specialty program. As defined by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), clinical social work is:
A specialty practice area of social work, which focuses on the assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental illness, and emotional and other behavioral disturbances. (https://www.socialworkers.org)
The state of Connecticut (Chapter 383b; Section 20-195m) specifies in the Connecticut General Statutes, that "clinical social work" is:
The application, by persons trained in social work, of established principles of psychosocial development, behavior, psychopathology, unconscious motivation, interpersonal relationships and environmental stress to the evaluation, assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of biopsychosocial dysfunction, disability and impairment, including mental, emotional, behavioral, developmental and addictive disorders, of individuals, couples, families, or groups. Clinical social work includes, but is not limited to, counseling, psychotherapy, behavior modification, and mental health consultation.
Social work is among several mental health disciplines where practitioners are licensed for independent clinical practice at the master’s level. Marriage and family therapy, and professional counseling are among those disciplines. Each profession has a distinct professional organization, code of ethics, methods, conceptual approaches and practice techniques, and parameters or scope of practice that define their professional discipline.
Connecticut has several MSW programs, how do I choose?
The Connecticut programs that are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), are comparable in their rigor and quality. Each program, though, has its unique emphasis or area(s) of specialization. The MSW at Fairfield University is a clinical specialist program. Students have advanced education, training, and supervision, and develop competence in the provision of therapy to individuals, couples, families, and groups. Students receive in-depth exposure to the models of Motivational Interviewing and Narrative and Solution-Focused Therapy. The MSW program is a low residency program. The academic coursework is offered in a hybrid format (online component coupled with campus-based seminars) that does not require students to be on campus during the traditional workday.
What is accreditation, and is the MSW program at Fairfield University accredited?
Students in the MSW program will graduate from an accredited program. Fairfield University is in candidacy with the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), and all students admitted to the two-year or advanced standing program will graduate from a fully vested CSWE accredited program.
Founded in 1952, the CSWE is the national association representing social work education in the United States. Its members include over 800 accredited baccalaureate and master’s degree social work programs, as well as individual social work educators, practitioners, and agencies dedicated to advancing quality social work education. Through its many initiatives, activities, and centers, CSWE supports quality social work education and provides opportunities for leadership and professional development, so that social workers play a central role in achieving the profession’s goals of social and economic justice. CSWE’s Commission on Accreditation is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation as the sole accrediting agency for social work education in the United States and its territories.
How long is the MSW clinical specialist program?
The MSW program is completed in two years. Students move through the program as a cohort and take five courses (15 credits) each semester for four semesters.
Students who graduate from a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited bachelor of social work program are admitted as advanced standing. The period of study for the advanced standing option is three semesters: summer, fall, and spring, including 650 hours of field instruction. Students admitted for advanced standing will begin in the summer, are enrolled on a full-time basis, and will move through the program as a cohort.
Can the program be completed on a part-time basis?
The program must be completed on a full-time basis. There are no part-time options for the MSW program.
Do social workers need to be licensed in order to practice?
Licensing of social work practitioners is under the authority of a designated office in each individual state. All 50 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.
There are two types or levels of licensed social workers in Connecticut. The licensed master social worker (LMSW) is the entry-level licensure, and the licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) is the independent practice license.
Master Level Social Worker (LMSW)
According to the Practice Act in Connecticut state law, the LMSW may practice clinical social work only under the supervision of a licensed individual, such as a clinical social worker. The person with an LMSW may also provide a mental health diagnosis only if this diagnosis is provided in consultation with a physician, or other licensed professional designated by state law. A person with an LMSW may not be in private practice. To receive this social work license, the individual must have at least a master of social work (MSW) degree and pass the national examination.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
To practice social work at the clinical level, an individual must have an MSW or a doctorate, and experience in social work as well as supervised clinical experience.
To apply for the LCSW, the candidate needs to acquire experience in social work. A minimum of 3,000 hours of documented, post-master’s experience in social work is required by the Department of Public Health. A minimum of 100 hours of documented, supervised experience by a licensed clinical or certified independent social worker is also required.
What is advanced standing and how does one qualify for advanced standing?
Graduates of a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited undergraduate social work program, who graduated within the past six years, may apply to be admitted into the specialized practice year (second year) of the two-year program. Students who enter with advanced standing will complete 45 credits to receive the master of social work (MSW) clinical specialist degree rather than the 60-hour, two-year program.
The period of study for advanced standing is three semesters: summer, fall, and spring, including 650 hours of field instruction. Students admitted for advanced standing will begin in the summer, are enrolled on a full-time basis, and move through the program as a cohort. The bachelor of social work (BSW) degree must be conferred prior to the beginning of the advanced standing summer session. Applicants for advanced standing will apply in their senior year. The advanced standing curriculum does not duplicate any courses or content areas already mastered in the accredited BSW program.
BSW applicants that hold an international degree must verify that their social work credentials are comparable to those of accredited BSW programs in the United States. Candidates are required to obtain verification from the International Social Work Degree Recognition and Evaluation Service.
The minimum qualifications for advanced standing include:
What are the fieldwork requirements?
Students are placed in agency or institutional settings that have contractual arrangements with the Department of Family Therapy and Social Work. Each student is placed with a field instructor who provides on-site supervision. The student also participates in bi-monthly professional supervisory seminars on campus with the faculty supervisor. The bi-monthly field professional supervisory seminars combine readings, discussions, ethical consultations, process recordings, and personal reflection, as a means for students to critically analyze and evaluate practice theories and concepts. Students may not be placed in field sites in which they are employed.
Students are in the field placement 16 hours per week and accrue 450 hours of field experience in the first year and 450 hours of specialized clinical practice experience in the second year, totaling 900 field experience hours.
First year placements begin in mid-September, following orientation conducted by the master of social work (MSW) clinical director, and end in May.
In the second year, students are placed in clinical settings where they provide therapy to individuals, couples, families, and groups. Students apply clinical models and interventions in their work with clients of all ages.
Advanced standing students will complete 650 hours of field experience over the course of three semesters. Advanced standing students begin their advanced clinical field placements in May for one year.
Can I continue working full-time while going through the program?
The master of social work (MSW) is a low residency program. Courses are offered partially or fully online with some face-to-face seminar requirements. On-site fieldwork is required 16 hours per week. Students in the MSW program may be able to work, if their jobs offer sufficient flexibility to participate in the required seminars, and are able to complete their field placements. Employment is not an excuse for absence from required seminars or fieldwork.
Is financial aid available?
Professional staff from the Office of Financial Aid is available to work individually with students to help explore options of financing their education. Some of the financial options that may be available are detailed below.
Under the federal program, graduate students may apply for up to $20,500 per academic year in federal student loans, depending on their educational costs and eligibility. In addition, there are several alternative, credit-based loans to help with financing.
A limited number of part and full-time graduate assistantships are available across campus. Graduate assistantships typically provide a minimum of 10 hours a week of employment at Fairfield University to offset tuition costs. Graduate assistants provide services such as administrative support, research, and faculty support. In return, selected students may be eligible to receive a tuition waiver, and in some cases, a stipend.
Many graduate departments and programs at Fairfield University offer assistantships to their graduate students. Students should contact the Office of the Dean in the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions for current information and opportunities concerning assistantships. The availability of graduate assistantships varies by department, semester, and academic year.
Are master of social work (MSW) courses available online?
Several MSW courses are offered online. As this is an advanced clinical degree, to ensure high quality, intensive clinical training, several courses are hybrid (online and in-person seminars) and therefore have a low residency component. Students are required to participate in 10 seminar hours which take place over several long weekends. All fieldwork requires students be present on-site and be engaged in clinical social work practice. Fieldwork is fundamental to social work education and training, and provides the opportunity for students to integrate the theoretical and conceptual learning in the classroom with clinical practice. Field experiences enable students to gain clinical competency, while providing clinical services to clients and communities in need.
What is the specialty focus of the MSW?
The advanced practice clinical specialist is a particularly desirable area of specialization. Many social workers will seek to engage in private clinical practice; therefore a bachelor of social work (BSW) generalist degree provides little opportunity to develop clinical skills and expertise as a therapist. Private practice is a growing field and clinicians in private practice are earning substantially more than those in agencies and social service settings. The focused training and supervision of this program enables the graduate to have competency as a therapist.
Clinical social workers have specialized knowledge and skills in the prevention, assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and evaluation of emotional, mental, and behavioral health problems. Clinical social work builds on professional values, ethics, principles, practice methods, and the person-in-environment perspective of the profession. It reflects the profession’s mission to promote social and economic justice on behalf of clients who experience oppression or vulnerability. Clinical social work requires the professional use of self to restore, maintain, and enhance the biological, psychological, social, and spiritual functioning of individuals, families, and groups. The practice of clinical social work requires the application of advanced clinical knowledge and clinical skills in multidimensional assessment, diagnosis, and treatment.