Campus: CSU Northridge -- November 10, 2004

CSUN to Launch New Master's in Social Work in Fall 2005

The pay isn't great once they get a job, but the knowledge that they will make a difference in someone's life can't even be measured.

And for that, Cal State Northridge students are already putting their names on a waiting list for the university's new master's degree in social work program, which is scheduled to start in fall 2005.

"There is a huge demand out there despite the fact that funding is down in the state of California for social service type programs," said Northridge sociology professor Jean Daniels, who is overseeing the establishment of the new program. "Professional social workers are needed to work with elderly people, people with Alzheimer's, and children in foster care, just to name a few of the areas.

"Right now the need for social workers in our community is much greater than there are social workers to fill the jobs," Daniels said. "We're hoping that our new program will help address that problem."

Daniels said community-based organizations are excited about the prospect of the new program and are already contacting the university to offer internships to students when the program starts next year. She pointed out that professional social workers are required to have a master's degree.

Daniels said the program is a natural for Cal State Northridge, given the need for social services in the San Fernando Valley, which has its share of mental health, drug abuse and alcoholism problems, as well as a growing homeless population and an increasing elderly population. And there is always a need for more social workers in the foster care arena.

"There's a stereotype of the Valley that everyone is middle class and everyone is doing well. That's just not the case," she said. "The San Fernando Valley is just like the rest of Los Angeles, and it needs a supply of trained professionals to help deal with its various social service issues."

The curriculum for the master's in social work program will be divided into two years, with the first year providing students with a generalist perspective of the field.

"Students will be assigned an individual caseload, whether working with a family or doing community work," Daniels said. "We're calling that the foundation year."

The second year will provide them with an "advanced prospective," focusing on the issues and complexity of problems faced by urban, multicultural families--from immigration and the homeless to mental health and the problems faced by the working poor.

Daniels expects the program's students to come from such majors as sociology, psychology, child development, Pan African studies, Chicano/a studies and other liberal arts departments.

She tells her students that social workers don't make a lot of money, unlike their friends with master's degrees in business or engineering who will probably find jobs with starting salaries at $50,000 or $70,000 a year. She said social workers usually start at about $30,000 a year.

"The students are a little disappointed, but you don't go into social work for the money. You go into it because you are interested in giving back to the community," Daniels said. "I tell them they can have a good middle-class lifestyle. And they will be able to look at themselves in the mirror each morning and know that they make a difference in someone's life. That's more valuable than any amount of money."

Contact: Carmen Ramos Chandler, (818) 677-2130, carmen.chandler@csun.edu


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