UAB to Launch New Master of Social Work Program With Focus on Health and Behavioral Health

The University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Social Work has announced the formation of a Master of Social Work (MSW) program commencing in the fall of 2017.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Social Work has announced the formation of a Master of Social Work (MSW) program commencing in the fall of 2017.

The focus of the new program will be on specialized practice in health and behavioral health, and courses will be offered both in traditional classrooms and online. Applications will be accepted starting in September 2016, and will be available on the department’s website starting in August.

UAB skyline viewDr. David Pollio, Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Social Work, said the combination of a focus on health and behavioral health, innovative educational methods, a resource-rich University environment, and an exciting urban location make the MSW program one of very few programs of this sort regionally and nationally.

Students will receive advanced training using an innovative model of evidence-based education in the resource-rich environment provided by the UAB, including world-class Schools of Medicine and Public Health. The MSW program will prepare students for clinical and community practice, including specific focus on interventions demonstrated to be effective for specific populations.

“The new MSW is unique to the state in its specialized focus on health and mental health,” Pollio said. “It takes advantage of our having nationally-respected schools of public health and medicine on campus, who have provided valuable support in our efforts. I believe we will provide a special educational experience to our graduate students, one that will be hard to duplicate anywhere.”

Combining extensive internships in health and mental health settings with coordinated classroom learning, students will train in clinical and community practice.

Health and behavioral health jobs constitute approximately half of all jobs in the field of social work. Nationally, social workers provide more mental health services than psychiatrists, nurses and psychologists combined. Recent national and local data suggests that there are plentiful professional positions in health and behavioral health.

“We did an analysis of the employment potential as part of the development of the program, and found that there are likely to be more jobs in health and mental health each year in Birmingham itself than graduates from our MSW,” Pollio said. “This says nothing about the number of positions across the state, the region and nationally.”

The Department of Social Work is a vibrant program, with a 40-year history of excellence in education. Pollio said the department prides itself on cutting-edge educational practices, including providing extensive opportunities for simulation and service-based learning.

All practice classes will be taught by instructors with many years of real-world experience. Faculty members are national and international experts in a variety of practice areas, including disaster and disaster preparedness, HIV/HCV, addiction, mental illness, homelessness, criminal justice, and child welfare.

“The most frequent community response to the news that we were developing an MSW was ‘What took you so long?’” Pollio said.

For more information about UAB’s MSW program, please visit the department website. The department welcomes inquiries via email at or telephone at (205) 975-4938), or would be pleased to answer questions in person at the twice-monthly “chat with the chair” walk-in hours or by appointment.


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