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Loyola University Chicago

School of Social Work

MSW Specializations Summaries

Loyola University School of Social Work at the Water Tower Campus (WTC), offers five primary specializations for the advanced course work of the MSW Program, while the Loyola MSW program at Carthage offeres four primary specilizations. Please review our table for more information on what each campus has to offer. 


Primary Specializations



Children and Families






Mental Health










Children and Families


Mental Health

Forensic Mental Health Sub-specialization (within Mental Health Specialization)

Interprofessional Practice with At-Risk Youth (IPRY) Mental Health Program (within Mental Health Specialization)


Leadership and Development in Social Services (LDSS)



Children and Families Specialization

The Children and Families specialization prepares students for advanced practice with children and families coping with developmental needs at different stages of the life cycle, that is, in the children, families, and social institutional domains (child welfare, schools, and community services). Using family as the organizing concept of this cluster, goals include differential clinical intervention with a broad range of family forms and structure in varying organizational arrangements, as well as development of and consistent application of a practice philosophy regarding families and children including use of self.

Advanced practice in the child domain reflects mastery of the central concepts of child development, direct social work treatment of children, research and law related to child issues, service delivery, and social work macro roles in child and family oriented settings. Designation of an advanced practice cluster focusing on families and children reflects the clinical significance of these two major client groups without limiting the particular theoretical practice framework. The curriculum of the Families and Children cluster is as follows:


Schools Specialization

School social work is defined as a specialty by a number of national and local organizations. Illinois, along with several other states, requires individuals to be licensed to practice as a school social worker. In order to qualify for licensure, individuals must receive their training through accredited institutions of higher learning. Loyola University Chicago and its School of Social Work in collaboration with the School of Education provide the required training.

State of Illinois Professional Educator License (PEL) –School Social Worker Endorsement- Requirements

Students interested in pursuing the PEL, which enable them to be a social worker in a public school in Illinois, must meet the requirements of the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and Loyola School of Social Work (SSW).

ISBE Requirements

ISBE requires that students pass all four sections of the Test of Academic Proficiency (TAP-400)* exam before being officially accepted into the PEL program within the respective university program. The scores for the Test of Academic Proficiency (TAP-400) or the previous Basic Skills test (300 or 096) will be honored for up to ten years.

*Please note exception - The ITLS Basic Skills Test (#096) (administered prior to September 11, 2010) cannot be applied to fulfill passing requirements for the test of Test of Academic Proficiency

A candidate for the PEL must also pass the content-area test specific to school social work. The test (ISBE #184) must be passed prior to beginning the last semester of the student’s school-based, second level internship. The SSW requires verification of test passage by January 1(approximately 2 weeks prior to the start of the spring-final semester). Please see Loyola Requirements for alternatives in the event of a no-pass of the content –area test.

A study guide is available for the content area tests for social work at the following link http://www.icts.nesinc.com/PDFs/IL_field184_SG.pdf

Effective April 2014, all content-area tests will be administered only in Computer-Based Testing(CBT) format.

ISBE rules require that a student earn a grade of “C” or better in all program classes. The internship grade of “P” (Pass) meets the ISBE requirement.

Please follow the directions on the Illinois Certification Testing System (ICTS) website for information on test registration and test dates and location.

ISBE Test of Academic Proficiency (TAP) Substitution Options

Students may substitute the following tests for the TAP test:

1. ACT: a minimum composite ACT score of 22 & a minimum combined English/writing score of 19

2. SAT: a minimum composite (mathematics and critical reading) score of 1030 and a minimum score on the writing of 450.

*Students may substitute a composite ACT plus writing score of at least 22; or a composite (mathematics and critical reading) SAT score of 1030 for the TAP test.

The official score report from either an ACT or SAT cannot be more than 10 years old (month/year) at the time of the application to be a PEL candidate/school specialization. Please also note that the ACT with the required plus writing component was initiated in March 2005. ACT scores prior to that year and month even if within the 10 year window are not acceptable.

Please review the substitution rules as outlined in the section entitled Applying for Full Admission to an Illinois Educator Preparation Program from ISBE at:


Please note that effective June 12, 2014, students have the option of re-taking the TAP,  ACT or SAT test in lieu of the TAP as many times as necessary to achieve passing scores.

Beginning January 1, 2014 Students who wish to substitute an applicable ACT or SAT test must first create an ELIS account and then request that an ACT Plus Writing or SAT score report be sent to ISBE.


Please note that students have the option of re-taking the ACT or SAT test in lieu of the TAP and seeking a substitution per the above ISBE rules.

Loyola School of Social Work Requirements

Loyola’s School of Social Work (SSW) has four clinical specializations and one administrative domain from which students may choose for their second or advanced level of study. Loyola’s School of Social Work (SSW) has five specializations from which students may choose for their second or advanced level of study. Specializations are declared by December 1st of their first year when the application for the second internship is due. Students who wish to specialize in schools will meet with program faculty and the internship coordinator in September to plan strategies for meeting ISBE requirements and program deadlines.

In addition to passing the TAP exam or receiving the applicable substitution prior to acceptance into the SSW schools program, students will also interview for an internship in an Illinois Public school. Students must complete an internship (which is the entire academic year of the school they are placed in). This will generally be in excess of the 720 hour minimum requirement for a 2nd level internship. They will also take six required courses and four electives. Please click here for the advising template that indicates how the required courses are integrated into the MSW program: Full-time MSW-Schools Specialization‌ ‌‌

Required Courses for the Schools Specializations

Recommended Elective Courses for the Schools Specializations
*The following courses are recommended for the schools specialization, but students can choose from any of the offered elective courses in the MSW program.

Students who do not meet the January 1st content-area test deadline will be unable to proceed in a schools specialization. They will change to a “Child & Family” specialization with various internship options. Specialization change may result in extension of the student program and delay in graduation.

Eligibility for PEL Program by MSW Start Term

●MSW Fall Start

Students who enter the MSW program full time in the fall term submit their application for a schools specialization by December 1 of their first semester. In addition they must pass all sections of TAP or its eligible substitution by March 15 of the following spring semester. Students will be formally accepted into the Schools specialization before they begin interviewing for a school internship. The referral process for the schools internship begins in the spring of their first year, (e.g. Spring 2015 in preparation for the 2015-2016 internship which will begin in Fall 2015).

Part time students wishing to select a schools specialization are limited to entering the MSW Program only in the fall semester and must remain a part time student for the duration of their program. This will result in a 4-year program. Individual circumstances may allow for a change from part-time to full time program status, but will require a review of the student’s progress by the Academic Advisor Coordinator prior to approval. Part time students must apply for the Schools specialization by December 1 of their 3rd year.

MSW Spring Start

MSW students beginning in the Spring are not eligible for the Schools Specialization, PEL preparation program. In some individual instances, a program planning meeting with an academic advisor upon admission may allow for the completion of a schools specialization, PEL program.

●Advanced Standing Summer Start

New Advanced Standing students wishing to complete the Schools Specialization, PEL preparation program must pass all sections of TAP or its eligible substitution and submit the Advanced Standing Field Work Application indicating the Schools specialization no later than May 1 before starting the program. Students are encouraged to submit these materials as soon as Advanced Standing admission is offered due to field placement availability. After submitting their application for the schools specialization, students will receive a formal acceptance into the schools specialization-PEL preparation program before they begin interviewing for a school internship.

A school internship is dependent upon internship site availability. Because of the Chicago Public Schools Internship processing calendar, internships are not available to Advanced Standing applicants in Chicago Public Schools.

Part time advanced standing students wishing to complete the Schools Specialization, PEL preparation program must pass all sections of TAP and submit the schools specialization application no later than March 15th of their first year.

●Post-MSW Applicants

Applicants to the post-MSW PEL Program must pass the TAP or its eligible substitution by March 15 of the year in which they plan to begin a school social work internship as a condition of admission to the Licensure Program. Details can be found at: http://www.luc.edu/socialwork/academics/academics_certificates.shtml

●BSW Five-Year Students

Students will make application for schools specialization by December 1 of their senior year. They will follow the deadlines applicable to the MSW fall applicants above, passing all sections of TAP or its eligible substitution by March 15 of the following spring semester. Students will be formally accepted into the Schools specialization before they are eligible for a school internship.

●Applying for Licensure

Once students have completed the required ISBE tests, course work and internship and degree conferral has been completed, candidates may proceed to the following link for next steps to receive the Professional Educator License- School Social Worker Endorsement which includes filling out the School Entitlement Form.



Mental Health Specialization

The mental health specialization focuses is on persons of all ages who are coping with stressful situations related to a physical and/or mental illness or disability, as well as on the support systems that are significant for those persons (families, residential care staff, etc.). While there is a particular focus on illness and disability, both functional and physical, the content of this cluster is also concerned with all who seek growth in bio psychosocial functioning through dealing with personal and environmental obstacles to fulfilling life choices and aspirations, and who desire to cope more adequately with stressful situations in their life context. There is an emphasis also on health and mental health services which adequately responds to the needs of the physically and mentally ill as well as those with ongoing physical challenges or disabilities. Students are prepared to work in inpatient and outpatient health and mental health agency settings. This advanced clinical practice content prepares social workers for multiple roles, including conducting and /or participating in the bio-psycho-social diagnostic process as well as planning, implementation, and evaluation of practice. Social workers often function as a part of a team with professionals from other disciplines. The social worker’s functions include:

Mental Health advanced practice presupposes a similar knowledge base and related competencies as they apply to the domain of mental health. This practice can include additional fields of study as: long term treatment of individuals with personality disorder, outpatient treatment of individuals, families, and groups, psychosocial treatment of severe mental illness, mental retardation, substance abuse, family violence, as well as psychosocial aspects of medication manage- met, care and needs of the elderly, and psychosocial rehabilitation.

 The curriculum is as follows:

Interprofessional Practice with At-Risk Youth (IPRY) Mental Health Program

The School of Social Work is the recipient of a training grant funded by the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA). The aim of the grant is to increase the number of social work professionals entering the workforce and pursuing employment as part of a multi-disciplinary team using a collaborative model of care. These interprofessional teams will involve mental health and substance abuse professionals, as well as practitioners who serve a medical role, e.g., a nurse or physician.

The grant provides stipends for 2nd level MSW students who are admitted to this Program. Students will perform an internship as part of an interprofessional team working with children, adolescents, and young adults (ages 16-25) who are at risk of or have developed a behavioral health disorder (e.g., mental health, substance abuse).

The School of Social Work will admit students for the next cohort in fall of 2015.  The program consists of 60 hours and meets the accreditation requirements for an MSW degree.  Specially approved second year field placements immerse students in the work of interprofessional practice with at-risk youth.  For more information about specific courses and the program, please refer to the advising template at:


Application Eligibility and Process:

Students should be advised that this Program is only compatible with the Mental Health specialization.  No additional specializations can be added or substituted as a result. In certain scenarios this program may be compatible with a migration sub-specialization or CADC Certificate Preparation.

Students who are interested in the program must plan for a full time, 2-semester 2nd level internship and submit an application for admission. 

Interested applicants must complete the application and submit it to Project Director, Dr. Christie Mason at SSW-IPRY@luc.edu

The application process is competitive with limited stipend availability. Therefore, not all students will be eligible to pursue this Program.



Note: all additional courses that are required for the Mental Health and MSW program for this specific program can be found on the academic advising template for the IPRY program.


Health Specialization

This Health specialization is designed to train students to practice in a wide variety of health settings. Through course work in methods and policy, as well as field placements in a health setting, students develop an integrated knowledge base. They learn how policy affects practice and become acquainted with the changing health care environment. The design of the courses places emphasis and delivery of health services to diverse populations, including vulnerable and oppressed groups as well as those populations considered at risk for biological, psychological, social and environmental difficulties. Students are educated to participate in an array of clinical roles. These include:

  • the changing and expanding roles of social workers in health settings
  • case management
  • discharge planning
  • utilization reviews
  • program development
  • roles related to crisis intervention
  • counseling
  • education
  • networking

Student trainees participate in preventative care, palliative care and rehabilitation. They develop competency in providing services in acute area settings as well as in long term care. The completion of the specialty entails mastery of the specialized course work and field placements in health settings. In summary, advanced practice in the health field includes a knowledge base in such areas as health care systems, the epidemiology of the disease, the health care policy, the impact of illness on the patient and family functioning, transference and counter- transference issues, and the various competencies that relate to these knowledge areas.

The curriculum for this program is as follows:

Students are advised by their field supervisor as the health requirements (inoculations, medical exam and insurance) of the particular setting.


Leadership and Development in Social Services (LDSS) Domain

The Leadership and Development in Social Services (LDSS) domain prepares students to perform supervisory, managerial, and/or administrative practice within a variety of agency/organizational* settings.

Increasingly social workers are called upon to assume leadership and development roles and responsibilities for personnel development, program management, and agency/organizational administration. These roles and responsibilities can be lodged in supervisory, managerial and administrative positions. Students who would benefit most from the LDSS domain are those that have some direct service experience in their background and are interested in assuming a leadership position upon graduation.

Whether rooted in a generalist or clinical model of professional education, when promoted to leadership levels social workers must have the requisite knowledge, skills, and values to perform tasks and responsibilities including but not limited to the following: guide and support the work of others, assist the professional development of others, facilitate program development, manage people, programs, processes (political and non-political), services, administer agencies/organizations, engage financial planning, develop, implement, monitor and evaluate budgets, work with advisory and/or policy boards, support evaluation and research endeavors to assess effective and efficiency, and perform development activities, e.g., formerly known as fund-raising and grant writing. Social work supervisors, program managers, and administrators must also know how to work with diverse and multicultural personnel and clients as well as ensure quality services to all clients including vulnerable, oppressed, and disenfranchised populations.

The advanced concentration practice area of leadership and development in social services is critical to enabling social work as a profession to maintain control/mastery in the operation of social/human services agencies and organizations.


In the Advanced Practice second year, LDSS students are required to take three core  courses specific to LDSS, complete two policy electives, and complete their fieldwork practicum and integrative practice seminar. The required courses are: SOWK650 Staff Management and Development, SOWK 652 Organizational Leadership and SOWK 653 Program Management and Development Practice.


The two policy electives are designed to complement the material they receive in these three core courses. They may choose from the following policy electives: the SOWK 610H, SOWK 610F, SOWK 602 or SOWK 609, as well as among the courses in the Philanthropy Certificate program or offerings in other departments that complement their interests and knowledge goals.


Field Placements:

Students interested in LDSS state their intention through the Fieldwork application that is turned into the Fieldwork Office in January of the student’s first year.  The staff in the fieldwork office then gives referrals to the students that fit their interest.  The fieldwork office does all placements and then assigns a fieldwork liaison once the placement is confirmed.

The second year LDSS field work placements are specifically developed to allow the students to put into supervised practice the theory they have been learning in class.  All LDSS field supervisors are social workers in upper level management at the field work organization.  Many of the organizations are the same ones that are available for our clinical practice students but the LDSS students are involved in management issues. Students are expected to work solely on administrative tasks and are not allowed to do direct service in LDSS placements. Agencies currently being used for LDSS students include: Lutheran Child and Family Services, Catholic Charities, Children’s Memorial Hospital, Department of Children and Family Services, Gads Hill Center, BUILD, Inc., JEWISH Federation and the Council on Jewish Elderly.  Students are expected to get experience in five areas of organizational leadership: finance, resource development, human resources, program evaluation and quality assurance, and board development.

Forensic Mental Health Sub-specialization (within the Mental Health Specialization)

The School of Social Work, in partnership with the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, will admit students beginning fall of 2014 in a new sub-specialization of Forensic Mental Health.  Students who pursue this sub-specialization of Mental Health will be poised to enter jobs that allow them to work with justice involved clients and systems.  Social workers play a role in all phases related to the justice system.  Students may be involved in assessment, case management and direct service provision in service systems such as domestic violence, child advocacy, juvenile justice, and human trafficking, and justice systems including pre-sentencing, corrections, probation and parole.

The proposed program consists of 60 hours and meets the accreditation requirements for an MSW degree.  The program integrates courses in the School of Social Work and the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice.  Second year field placements immerse students in the work of forensic mental health.  For more information about specific courses and the program, please click on the following link for the advising template:  http://www.luc.edu/socialwork/academics/mswadvisingtemplates.shtml

Students who are interested in the program must be full time, fall admissions in their first semester of the program.  Unlike other specializations in the program, forensic mental health requires an application for admission.  Applications for the fall 2014 term must be received by April 10, 2014.  To apply, please click on the application link below and email the completed form to Admissions Director; Dr. Michael Kelly, mkell17@luc.edu.

‌‌Forensic Mental Health Application


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