St. Thomas University may soon have a master’s of social work program. If it’s approved, it would be the only English language master of social work program in New Brunswick and STU’s only master’s degree program.
STU’s associate vice-president communications Jeffrey Carleton said having the only English language master’s program in the province is essential for individuals who want to continue with a career in social work.
“Social workers who wish to diagnose as part of their work have to have a masters of social work degree from an accredited social work program,” Carleton said.
“So, to advance in the field, you need a higher level of education above a bachelor of social work.”
STU submitted a proposal last year to the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission to potentially have the program.
Université de Moncton offers a master’s in social work in French. In the Maritime provinces, master’s of social work programs are offered at Dalhousie University in Halifax and Memorial University in St. John’s.
Carleton said the master’s degree would be a one-year full-time program for students who already have a bachelor of social work.
According to Carleton, the current bachelor of social work program would change to be completed in four years instead of five. Students would spend two years taking general liberal arts programs, then focus on social work in the last two years of the program.
He said this improves accessibility to the program.
Carleton said it would provide students with advanced skills in theory and policy, practice, professional leadership and supervision and research.
Students can choose to do either a thesis or a field placement as part of the program. The degree’s curriculum would meet standards set by the Canadian Association of Social Work Education, a charitable association made up by institutions that offer social work education in the country.
The program would accept 16 students per year.
According to the New Brunswick Association of Social Workers, there are about 1,900 registered social workers in the province and approximately 300 of those registered have a master’s degree in social work.
Carleton said the provincial government’s child and youth programming, which offers addiction treatment and mental health services, requires a master’s of social work. Employers in the province, such as Horizon Health Network and Vitalité Health Network, also require an M.Sw for employment.
As part of the school’s affiliation with UNB, STU focuses on undergraduate degrees. However, the master’s case is different because STU started offering B.Sw courses decades ago due to the need in the province, said Carleton.
STU’s School of Social Work conducted a survey of 250 social workers in the province within the last three years and 87 per cent say they were interested in pursuing an M.Sw degree at STU.
Carleton said STU has the resources available to provide the program.
“We feel that with eight full-time faculty and part-time faculty members plus the admin support, we have the appropriate human resources,” he said.
Currently, STU has seven full-time staff members with a PhD in their social work program.
In addition, STU brought an expert from Carleton University to review the program proposal. The expert deemed the library resources, graduate student support, faculty, staff and physical resources were adequate.
Carleton said this is the only graduate degree program STU would offer.
At the moment, the university hasn’t made any final decisions on when the program would start or when applications would open, as they are waiting for approval from the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission.
With files from Caitlin Dutt