Micro Social Work Students Should Take Macro Social Work Courses



The Council on Social Work Education sets the standards for undergraduate and graduate education. The Association of Social Work Boards develops and administers nationwide licensing exams. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is the largest membership organization of professional social workers in the world which works to enhance the professional growth and development of its members, to create and maintain professional standards, and to advance sound social policies.


The social work profession is often divided into three practice categories: macro, mezzo and micro. Macro social work focuses on large scale interventions such as whole communities and systems. Mezzo social work focuses on neighborhoods, institutions or other smaller groups. Micro social work, better known as clinical social work, focuses on an individual or family.


In 1915, Dr. Abraham Flexner, education reformist and Founding Director of the Institute for Advanced Study contended that social work was not a profession because it lacked specific application of theoretical knowledge to solving human issues. It is believed that his declaration sparked the professionalization of social work. Social Workers began concentrating on casework and the scientific method and the American Association of Hospital Social Workers was established in 1918 to increase formal education opportunities in social work. Fast forward to 2016.


I propose that graduate social work education require every student to take macro and micro courses regardless of their academic specialization or concentration.
(1) Social justice is central to the social work profession. In order to achieve true social justice in society we must combine micro and macro interventions.
(2) We are a profession that traditionally promotes from within an organization


Let me elaborate on the latter point.


Unfortunately many social workers “work their way up” from entry level positions to management positions simply by remaining with a company over time and they struggle to make a significant impact in their newfound leadership role. Clinical skills are important in working with diverse groups of stakeholders and critical to the supervision of staff performing micro interventions. A great manager/supervisor also must master budget analysis, program development and evaluation, strategic planning, and capacity building. Many community disputes, policy losses, staff and board resignations, funding losses or misappropriations, or even misdiagnoses can be eliminated or reduced if a manager has a solid foundation in both practice areas.


We can set our graduates/professionals up for success with forward thinking. Requiring macro students take at least one micro course like Psychopathology or Family Therapy and micro students take at least one macro course like Human Resources Management or Resource Development would provide a career development advantage.  This combination of courses will benefit the private practice therapist as much as the community organizer.  I also believe that this change will offer a more well-rounded social work education, decrease the division within the profession, and strengthen the professional image of social workers.

macro students take macro courses











Nicki Sanders, The Packaged For Success Coach, is an experienced trainer, group facilitator, and program manager. She has packaged her Masters of Social Work degree and over 15 years of work experience into Packaged For Success, a training and professional development company. Packaged For Success provides career coaching to college students, entry-level job hunters, and experienced employees seeking a promotion. Packaged For Success also offers communication and productivity improvement training for employees and supervisors and provides consultation on building sustainable, impactful, socially responsible community programs.

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