UNCW to offer part-time master’s in social work

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UNCW logoSocial work is a demanding career.

It’s also in high demand.

To meet the state’s growing need for highly trained and educated people in the field, UNC-Wilmington is offering a part-time master’s degree program next semester. The three-year track–geared toward working professionals –will begin Aug. 25 at both the main campus and at the New River Air Station in Jacksonville.

The latter site is actually where Lori Messinger, director of the UNCW School of Social Work, said she began to see the need for an alternative to the traditional master’s degree in social work. That existing master of social work program is ranked fourth in the state, and the additional, part-time one will carry the same content and rigor.

“We started the program in Jacksonville focused on undergraduate students. But then they started asking us, ‘When are you going to have a master’s? When are you going to have a master’s?'” Messinger said.

But she was also getting calls at her office in Wilmington with the same question.

“You can get out with an undergraduate degree and get a job but eventually you hit a stopping point,” Messinger noted.

“We also have people who are not in the field currently but want to change careers,” Stacey Kolomer, program coordinator for UNCW’s master of social work program, added.

Students who wanted to continue on with their education or make a career change while still working were having to go to East Carolina University, the closest college with a part-time master of social work offering. Those classes meet on weekends.

In August, they will be able to sign up for a hybrid approach–part online, part onsite classes that meet in the evenings. Students enrolled in the program will take two courses a semester, year-round, to complete their master’s degrees in three years.

“We will have a cohort of students in Jacksonville and a cohort of students here but they will function as one class,” Kolomer said.

The degree is in clinical social work, which allows graduates to go on to become a licensed clinical social worker.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for social workers is expected 19 percent over the next eight years, a faster growth than predicted for most professions.

Messinger said one reason is due to a “move toward accountability” in medical facilities.

“Healthcare is seeing more a need. We keep up with [patients] after they leave the hospital,” she said.

Another factor is what Kolomer calls the “silver tsunami”–the aging baby boomer generation. She said, nationwide, about 70,000 social workers are needed specifically to work with the elderly.

The list of possibilities doesn’t stop there. Social workers are hired at schools, drug and alcohol treatment facilities, homeless and domestic violence shelters, even in human resources departments, Messinger said. A growing number of social workers decide to counsel members of the military, veterans and family members.

And that kind of job availability is part of the appeal, Messinger said.

“You know, in Jacksonville for example, it’s a great degree for people who are spouses of someone in the military because it is movable. There is always a need somewhere for social workers not matter where you are,” she said.

Kolomer agreed.

“The nice thing about a master of social work is it’s so versatile because it really is about a skill set that can be used almost anywhere,” she said.

The deadline to apply is April 15. Kolomer said UNCW plans to accept 20 students–10 in Jacksonville and 10 in Wilmington–for the fall semester.

More information is available here.

Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at (910) 772-6341 or hilary.s@hometownwilmington.com