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The Advocates

EMU social work program offers flexibility, track record of success

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For most of her adult life, Nancy Berger (MSW13) has advocated for child welfare. Now, thanks to her master of social work degree from Eastern Michigan University, Berger is ready to take that dedication to a new level of service.

"Social work is all about the change we can affect. It's about giving a hand up, not a hand out. It's about providing a voice for those who have been silenced," says Berger, 49, who received her graduate degree from the College of Health and Human Services' School of Social Work this June.

"My graduate degree means I can now take my dedication to the next level. It enables me to develop and manage programs, to advocate at a legislative level for clients, supervise staff and to use my clinical skills in a therapeutic setting," adds Berger, who is currently pursuing career options. She resides in Jackson with husband Ken Berger. The couple have a blended family of five adult children.

While completing her master's degree, Berger worked part-time as a graduate assistant for the MSW program and as a co-instructor for EMU's child welfare social work elective. The flexibility of the MSW program, which offers evening and weekend courses, is one of the reasons she chose Eastern, she says. "Flexibility was an important consideration for me when choosing a graduate program, as I needed to be able to work while continuing my education."

Flexibility is, in fact, is one of calling cards of the graduate program, say administrators, adding that classes are specifically designed to accommodate the needs of full-time employees.

Other selling points for the nationally accredited program include mention in the US News and World Report listing of "Best Graduate Schools 2012"; a faculty comprised of experts in a wide range of professional activities; and a track record of promotion. Graduates of the MSW program are typically promoted to higher levels of responsibility at their current workplace or readily obtain master's level positions in community agencies, state or county human services and advocacy organizations, say administrators.

Professionals with a graduate degree also are better able to advocate for limited community resources and to manage multi-layered human service agencies, say administrators. This is a plus, especially since the complex needs of society's most vulnerable individuals, families and communities require an increasing level of specialized knowledge and practice skills. For all these reasons and more, a master's degree is becoming increasingly important, they add.

Employment statistics present another important draw for the program. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for social workers is expected to grow by 25 percent from 2010 to 2020. That's faster than the average for all occupations, due to an increase in demand for health care and social services. The median pay for social workers in 2010 was $42,480.

Eastern's graduate program prepares students for advance practice serving one of three populations: families and children; persons with serious mental illness and or chemical dependency; and the aging. It currently serves over 300 students who are primarily experienced social workers, bachelor of social work graduates, human service administrators, or persons embarking on a career change from the greater southeast Michigan region, northern Ohio, Ontario, and central Michigan areas. – Linda Hass