Increasing Social Work Students’ Participation in Macro Specializations

The Impossible Dream?


  • Dawn Apgar Seton Hall University



Macro practice, social work education, pedagogy, specialization


Much effort has been made to increase the number of social work students in macro practice specializations in graduate school. Despite the development of pedagogical techniques which have shown to increase interest in and appreciation for macro practice, the proportion of macro students has stayed low and stable over time. Using survey data collected from 474 Master of Social Work students and graduates, this exploratory study identified both structural and attitudinal barriers which impede specialization in macro practice. Data reveals that despite exposure to these methods, those whose original motivation to enter the profession was based on a desire to do clinical work are unlikely to concentrate on macro practice. Structural barriers such as the lack of availability of macro programs also prevented increased specialization in macro practice. Social workers who are Black/African American are more likely to concentrate in macro practice, perhaps due to a recognition of the need for systems change in the United States to promote equal opportunities and rights for those who have historically been marginalized. Findings indicate that current efforts to increase the number of graduates with macro specializations may not be effective. Treatment of macro methods as a specialization, rather than integral to social work education, should be revisited if the profession wants to ensure enough graduates are able to make system-level changes to rectify current societal inequities.


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