Social Work

Why Simmons’ Online MSW Has Clinical Social Work Covered

Why Simmons’ Online MSW Has Clinical Social Work Covered
Image from Unsplash
Nedda Gilbert profile
Nedda Gilbert July 30, 2019

High-quality video and weekly live sessions help distinguish Simmons from other top-50 social work programs.

Article continues here

Simmons University (in partnership with Harvard University) created the nation’s first clinical school of social work in 1904. In 2014 the school launched its online Master of Social Work (MSW) program, which shares the same faculty, curriculum, and rigorous standards as its on-campus program. Simmons is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

Program highlights

Simmons’ online MSW offers a clinically focused course of study. Clinical social work is one of the most commonly pursued areas of study in the social work field; also termed direct clinical practice work, clinical social work focuses on the mental health of clients.

Clinical social workers practice in hospitals, mental health facilities, hospice centers, family agencies, substance abuse recovery centers, and veteran’s affairs programs, among others.

Simmons offers five start dates year, meaning that students can usually start the program within three months of applying. Flexible scheduling options include full-time study (six terms), part-time extended study (eight terms), and accelerated study (four terms); students can complete the program in as little as 16 months or take up to 32 months to earn their master’s. Qualified students with a bachelor’s degree in social work may qualify for the advanced standing program and complete the program in as little as a year.

Content is delivered both synchronously and asynchronously. Asynchronous content, available 24/7, includes HD streaming videos, online forums, and quizzes. Students attend weekly live online classes that connect students and faculty face-to-face. The typical class size is 15 students, an experience that is enhanced by small-group breakout rooms, video and document sharing, live chat, and screen-sharing capabilities.

Simmons encourages online students to engage with one another during their weekly free block, when no classes are scheduled, and at other times through one-on-one and group meetings via the Zoom teleconferencing app. Students may also join two extracurricular clubs: the Student Leadership Council, or the First-Generation Mentoring Club.

A unique perk offered to Simmons students is a Global Access membership to WeWork, the popular coworking community. Simmons students with access to a WeWork location can reserve work stations and meet with classmates at WeWork offices.


“I Want to Be A Social Worker!”

University and Program Name Learn More

Simmons Online MSW Curriculum

Simmons offers four areas of specialization as well as a tailored individualized study program. Not all online MSWs are so customizable.

After completing a 24-credit foundation sequence, students progress to an advanced clinical study in one of four specialized practice areas.

Foundational courses include:

  • Social Policy, Communities, and Organizations
  • Dynamics of Racism and Oppression
  • Assessment and Diagnosis
  • Substance Use & Social Work
  • Social Work with Groups
  • Human Behavior in the Social Environment


Child and family

This specialization prepares MSW students for work with children and families in school settings, child protective services, hospitals, and community-based mental health centers. The school notes that in this specialization “students learn how to engage with children, adolescents, and family systems struggling with addiction, mental illness, attachment-related problems, and trauma.”

Clinical courses for the child and family specialized course of study include:

  • Alcohol, Drugs, and Social Work Practice
  • Child and Adolescent Trauma
  • Attachment, Neurobiology, and Social Work Practice
  • Human Sexuality and Social Work Practice
  • Advanced Group Work with Diverse, Vulnerable, and Resilient Populations

Trauma and interpersonal violence

Simmons notes that this specialization teaches “evidence-based approaches to trauma-informed care such as cognitive behavioral therapy.” Students learn how traumatic experiences and attachments impact interpersonal relationships, self-perception, and emotional regulation throughout one’s life cycle. They build clinical skills and expertise and become familiar with the problems that often accompany trauma and violence, such as addiction or mental illness.

Clinical courses for the trauma and interpersonal violence specialization include:

  • Child and Adolescent Trauma
  • Attachment, Neurobiology, and Social Work Practice
  • Advanced Group Work with Diverse, Vulnerable, and Resilient Populations

Mental health and addiction

This specialization, according to the school website, teaches “several treatment modalities and … treatment relationships that apply to a wide range of clients over time or in brief encounters.” MSWs in this specialization graduate with the specific skills needed to work in inpatient units, detox facilities, addiction centers, hospital treatment programs, and in mental health clinics and practices.

Clinical courses for specializations in mental health and addiction include:

  • Alcohol, Drugs, and Social Work Practice
  • Advanced Group Work With Diverse, Vulnerable, and Resilient Populations
  • Perspectives on Severe Mental Illness

Health and aging

The focus of this practice area is to work with the aged. Students who develop expertise with this population work in healthcare settings such as acute care hospitals, memory care centers, assisted living centers and programs offering services for those affected by dementia, Alzheimer’s and other neurological or psycho-social conditions of aging.

Clinical courses for the health and aging specialized course of study include:

  • Human Sexuality and Social Work Practice
  • Social Work Practice in Health Care
  • Advanced Group Work with Diverse, Vulnerable, and Resilient Populations
  • Attachment, Neurobiology, and Social Work Practice

Advanced practice certificates

Simmons offers advanced practice certificates in:

  • Mental health practice
  • Practice with groups and families
  • Trauma practice


Simmons students must complete approximately 1,100 hours of total fieldwork experience. Online MSWs will appreciate the help from dedicated field placement specialists who secure fieldwork assignments in sites across the United States.

Although the Simmons placement team makes an effort to locate a placement that meets each student’s needs, the school does have a disclaimer: students are required to commute up to 60 miles to their placement site.

Admissions requirements

According to the school, the GRE is not required, but a minimum of 3.0 (B) undergraduate GPA is, in addition to:

  • Proof of a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university
  • Official transcripts from all institutions attended—even if degree not completed—including study abroad programs
  • Résumé
  • Three professional or academic letters of recommendation
  • Personal statement
  • An interview (if requested)

Simmons weighs the personal statement heavily in considering candidates. Per the school, it should be formatted in three-to-five double-spaced pages and answer the following:

“How has your professional, volunteer, and academic experience prepared you for graduate social work education and contributed to your decision to be a professional social worker? Why does SocialWork@Simmons best suit your educational needs, and what contribution will you make to the school community? Describe how you will manage the rigorous demands of graduate coursework and field education.”

Students interested in a certificate program must complete an additional essay describing their interest in the desired area and apply at the time of admission.

Start dates and application deadlines

With several start dates for each of the three program options, it’s best to visit the school’s website for deadlines, which are subject to change.

Cohort start times are as follows:

  • Full-time: The degree is earned at a more traditional pace over 23 months. Start dates are offered in January, March, May, September, and November.
  • Part-time extended: This option allows students to take the time they need to complete their degree in a part-time 32-month program. Start dates are offered in January, March, May, September, and November.
  • Accelerated: The MSW can be earned in as little as 16 months with an intensive course of study. Three start dates are offered per year: January, May, and September.

Applications for all programs are considered on a rolling basis.

Faculty Spotlight

Gary Bailey

Professor of Practice of Social Work and Director of Urban Leadership Program (MSW, ACSW)

Professor Bailey was named Social Worker of the Year by both the national and Massachusetts chapter of NASW in 1998. That’s just one of the many awards and honors he has received; others include:

President of the Massachusetts Chapter of NASW from 1993-1995
President of National NASW 2003 until 2005; president-elect of National NASW from 2002-2003
Named Social Work Pioneer by NASW in 2005; he is the youngest individual to ever receive this title
Appointed by the Governor of Massachusetts in 2009 to serve on the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority (MEFA); reappointed by Governor Patrick to a term ending in 2019
Appointed to the Council of Social Work Education (CSWE) Global Commission in 2010

Bailey currently fulfills many roles at Simmons: chair of the School of Social Work Awards Committee and chair of the Simmons College Black Administrators, Faculty and Staff Council (BAFAS); member of the Simmons Faculty Senate; vice-chair of the Simmons President’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council (PDIAC); and co-chair of the Simmons College Initiative on Human Rights and Social Justice. And, as a member of the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) Board of Ambassadors and the AIDS Action Advisory Council, Bailey is a fierce advocate for human rights and equity.

__Dr. Cheryl A. Parks

Director, Simmons School of Social Work (MSW, PhD)

An esteemed faculty member and director with more than 30 years’ experience in clinical social work and administration prior to joining Simmons, Parks became a dean of the Simmons School of Social Work in July 2015. Among her pioneering accomplishments, she was a founding board member of BerksTALKLINE, a more than 20-year-old hotline for Pennsylvania youth.

Parks is considered an expert in clinical social work practice and specializes in sexual minority identity development. Much of her focus has been on understanding the impact and intersection of gender, sexual, and racial identities. Park’s expertise in this area has made her a leader in guiding learning and practice methods around identity issues.

Outside of Simmons, Parks is an in-demand speaker and a powerhouse in helping to secure and fund million-dollar initiatives. She obtained more than $3.2 million in funding between 2000 and 2013 from organizations such as the National Institutes of Health; Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; Office of Adolescent Health/Administration on Children, Youth and Families; and the Gay and the Lesbian Medical Association’s Lesbian Health Fund.

Tuition and financial aid

Online students are required to complete 65 credits for graduation. For students commencing the MSW program in the 2019-20 academic year, Simons charges $1080 a credit ($1080 x 65 credits) for an estimated tuition of $70,200.

The school offers two scholarships, the Simmons Futures Leaders Scholarship and the Dean’s Scholarship. All applicants are considered for the Future Leaders Scholarship. All candidates with standout academic credentials are evaluated for the Dean’s Scholarship. The Simmons tuition and financial aid web page provides more information on these and other financial awards and loans.

Alumni network and job placement

Although the Simmons online MSW program is only five years old, online grads are considered part of the network of the more than 50,000 Simmons alumni who have graduated from the traditional program. The school’s dedicated alumni page references all the activities that keep everyone connected.

The Simons website hosts a job board with dedicated social work listings; the school also provide guidance on obtaining licensure. The school’s general Career Education Center utilizes Handshake, an online portal listing internship, and full-time jobs.

Questions or feedback? Email

About the Author

Ms. Nedda Gilbert is a seasoned clinical social worker, author, and educational consultant with 25 years of experience helping college-bound and graduate students find their ideal schools. She is a prolific author, including The Princeton Review Guide to the Best Business Schools and Essays that Made a Difference. Ms. Gilbert has been a guest writer for Forbes and a sought-after keynote speaker on college admissions. Previously, she played a crucial role at the Princeton Review Test Preparation Company and was Chairman of the Board of Graduate Philadelphia. Ms. Gilbert holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University and is a certified interdisciplinary collaborative family law professional in New Jersey.

About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

To learn more about our editorial standards, you can click here.


You May Also Like To Read

Categorized as: Social WorkSocial Work & Counseling & Psychology