Aurora University

Social Work (MSW)

Why an MSW program?

Do you want to serve populations in need and contribute to improving lives? A Master of Social Work (MSW) program will prepare you for the important work of empowering individuals, families, and communities. Social workers help people solve and cope with problems. They have a unique combination of intelligence and emotional strength. They care about human dignity and social justice, and work to make the world a better place.

Social work is a challenging, dynamic, high-growth profession. It encompasses a wide range of practices, including child welfare, addiction treatment, mental health, advocacy, aging, family services, education, community organizing, and public policy. A master’s degree can help social workers advance in their career pathway. It can lead to a job as a case worker for homeless shelters, disability resource centers, domestic violence shelter services, immigration and refugee resettlement services, senior citizen support agencies, and more.

Why a Master of Social Work at AU?

At Aurora University, our social work programs are recognized among the best in the region. AU has been training social workers since the 1970s. Our social work roots stretch back to a small human services college in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood founded during the Great Depression.

In AU’s Master of Social Work program, you will receive a strong academic foundation based in clinical social work practice, as well as specialized study. Our program is flexible and includes daytime, evening, and weekend course offerings.

There is no greater joy nor greater reward than to make a fundamental difference in someone’s life. Mary Rose McGeady

Our faculty are dedicated to helping you find your place within the social work profession, and we offer a variety of tracks that strengthen your knowledge in the areas of the field that interest you. In AU’s MSW program, you have the option to participate in the following curriculum tracks:

Tracks leading to External Certifications or Licenses

  • Addictions prepares you to work with individuals and families impacted by substance use within a primary substance use disorder treatment setting. The coursework focuses on various aspects of substance use, challenging your biases regarding impacted populations, and learning specific clinical skills to help the sub-populations encountering substance use disorders. Within the clinical concentration, you will complete an internship at an approved substance use disorder treatment site. Upon successful completion of this track, you will be eligible to take the Certified Alcohol and Other Drug Counselor (CADC) examination offered through the Illinois Certification Board. Further opportunity exists to earn additional credentials such as the Co-Occurring Substance Use and Mental Health Disorder Professional (CODP I).

    This track is available on the main AU campus and at AU Woodstock Center.

  • Child Welfare focuses on addressing the issues surrounding families facing turmoil, protecting children from abuse and neglect, working with biological parents
    to reunite families, and finding permanent placements for those who cannot safely return to their homes. Internship experiences include positions in case management, shelter care services, intact family services, foster care, adoption, and therapeutic foster care services. Students will complete three electives and a child welfare specific internship. After successful completion of this track, you will be eligible to take the tests required, such as the Illinois Child Welfare Licensing Exam, to work in the child welfare field in Illinois.

    This track is available on the main AU campus, at AU Woodstock Center, and through AU Online.

  • School Social Work prepares you to address the social, emotional, and behavioral concerns of students, provide resources to families, assist with student academic performance, and collaborate with school staff to improve the well-being of students and their families within the school setting. As a school social worker, you will have the knowledge and skills to provide preventive and interventional services for students from pre-K through the age of 21. The program is approved by the Illinois State Board of Education, and upon successful completion of the track, you will be eligible to apply for an Illinois Professional Educator License (PEL) with School Social Worker Endorsement. This track includes coursework on children with exceptionalities, reading strategies for students, and school social work policy. It also requires participation in a school field placement.

    This track is available on the main AU campus and through AU Online.

Additional Tracks Offered

  • Faith-based Social Work gives students an understanding of spiritually grounded practice, and the complexities and ethical and cultural considerations associated with building and maintaining effective faith-based relationships. Through critical reflection on spirituality and faith, students learn evidence-based clinical and spiritual approaches in order to promote healing of individuals and families. Additionally, students develop awareness on bridging faith-based practices with social justice and advocacy that advance the well-being of populations served. Students also reflect on their role in supporting the empowerment, resiliency, and transformation of those they serve. This track consists of one required course and a faith-based field placement.

    This track is available on the main AU campus and through AU Online.

  • Forensics prepares students to use legal expertise to work in the social work field. Simply defined, forensic social work means integration of social work and legal fields. The coursework focuses on educating students in forensic social work practice and theory. Students can utilize their specialized knowledge of this field to work in a variety of settings. Some examples include: correctional settings (jails, prisons, reentry programs, community supervision such as probation and parole), police departments and other law enforcement agencies, FBI, court systems (legal advocates, clinicians, treatment providers, policy development), child advocacy centers, domestic violence programs, survivor assistance programs (human trafficking, crime victims), etc. Opportunities are broad and available at micro, mezzo, and macro levels.

    This track is available on the main AU campus and through AU Online.

  • Gerontology focuses on the rapidly growing and ever-changing field of gerontology, and the myriad of roles for social workers in this field. In this track, you will learn to assess and treat older adults in a variety of service agencies including assisted-living facilities, nursing homes, hospice care settings, hospitals, and senior living homes.

    This track is available on the main AU campus and through AU Online.

  • Health Care exposes you to the field of healthcare in the United States and the various roles available for social workers. The track provides a basic understanding of the medical field and its terminology, the complexities of brief and chronic illness and respective treatments, ethical considerations, insurance issues, and public policy. Upon completion, you will be able to recognize health disparities and work toward the equitable and fair provision of services to all populations.

    This track is available on the main AU campus and through AU Online.

  • Leadership Administration exposes students to the macro level social work perspectives as well as an administrative perspective through MSW and MBA courses. The Leadership Administration track will prepare you for administrative roles in social work and human services.

    This track is available on the main AU campus and through AU Online.
Many students further their studies by getting a Doctor in Social Work (DSW) degree from AU.

2020 annual median salary for social workers


2019-2029 projected job growth rate

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

The Master of Social Work program at Aurora University is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). This accreditation enables students to sit for the state licensure exam in Illinois or Wisconsin.

Program Options

Traditional MSW Program: 60 semester hours

  • Open to all students with an undergraduate degree, even if they have had no prior social work coursework
  • Two-year and three-year options

Advanced Standing MSW Program: 30 semester hours

  • Open to students who have an undergraduate degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited institution within the past five years
  • One-year and two-year options
Curriculum highlights
  • Human behavior
  • Research
  • Social welfare policy
  • Social work practice
In Our Own Words

In Our Own Words: School of Social Work Dean Brenda Barnwell on why demand for social workers is soaring

Corporations, school districts, and other organizations are finding ways to help alleviate higher levels of stress and anxiety by hiring social workers to make a difference. At AU, your professors will help you choose the track that is right for you so you are ready to start work when you graduate.

Career possibilities

  • Executive director of a social service agency
  • Forensic social worker
  • Hospice social worker
  • International social worker
  • Mental health social worker
  • Occupational social worker
  • Policy analyst
  • Private practice therapist
  • Program manager
  • School social worker
  • Substance abuse counselor

Where our students intern and graduates work

  • Adolescent Growth
  • Association for Individual Development
  • Breaking Free
  • Communities In Schools
  • Family Shelter Service
  • Gateway Foundation
  • Hesed House
  • Jennings Terrace
  • Joliet Area Community Hospice
  • Little Friends Inc.
  • Lutheran Social Services
  • Miller Rehabilitation Center
  • Mooseheart
  • Northern Illinois Academy
  • Northwestern Medicine
  • Parker Nursing and Rehab
  • Phoenix Health Program
  • Pioneer Center for Human Services
  • Senior Services Association
  • State Representative’s office
  • Stepping Stone Treatment Center
  • West Aurora High School
  • World Relief
  • YMCA