Pitt State to offer new Master’s in Social Work degree option 

There is now a huge demand for social workers with advanced degrees in Southeast Kansas, and a new degree option to be offered by Pittsburg State University will help fill that gap. 

“Bringing a Master’s degree in Social Work program to Pitt State will benefit students, our community, and our region,” said Kristen Humphrey, professor of Social Work and director of the program. “There is a demand for social work professionals here and a growing demand for services addressing social problems." 

Those problems include poverty, homelessness, mental health, and substance abuse. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of social workers will grow 11 percent in coming years — faster than average for most occupations — leading to more than 81,000 new job opportunities in the field. 

Careers including mental health and counseling centers; addiction treatment; hospitals, hospice, and home health; K-12 schools; colleges and universities; child welfare; corrections; probation and parole; nursing homes and assisted living centers; crisis centers; governmental agencies; and non-profit social service agencies. 

Area agencies and students themselves have asked for an MSW program, Humphrey said. Eighty-five percent of current Social Work students have said they plan to pursue an advanced degree.  

But the closest universities offering such a degree are the University of Kansas – Edwards Campus (111 miles away), the University of Arkansas (114 miles away), and (the University of Missouri at Kansas City (124 miles away). The Pitt State program will keep students in the SEK region and will be the least expensive of the closest options.  

In 2020, Pitt State and KU partnered to develop a cooperative program on the Pitt State campus in which those seeking an advanced degree could attend KU classes locally to prevent having to move and/or end their local employment.  

Enrollment over the past four years provides compelling evidence of the demand for an MSW program at Pitt State: in total nearly 100 students were admitted and will graduate from the outside program.    

"Starting our own advanced degree option will keep more of these professionals in Pittsburg and the Southeast Kansas region,” said Chris Childers, director of the School of History, Philosophy, and Social Sciences. “We’re proud to be able to eliminate the two greatest hurdles students face — distance and cost — while at the same time finding a way to help directly address a critical workforce shortage.” 

According to the Kansas Health Institute, Southeast Kansas has the lowest ratio of clinical social workers per resident in the state, with just 35 licensed and credentialed social workers in a 16-county area. 

The program will have two courses of study: a one-year program for students who have a Bachelor’s in Social Work (“Advanced Standing”), and a two-year program for students who have a degree in something else (“Traditional Plan of Study”). For students in the two-year program, the first will be considered their generalist year and the second their clinical year. Students in the one-year program will proceed directly to their clinical year. 

Students will complete practicum placements during the generalist and clinical years thanks to partnerships with agencies such as Crawford County Mental Health Center, Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas, the Kansas Department for Children and Families, Guest Home Estates,  Addiction Treatment Center of Southeast Kansas, Choices Early Childhood Center, Mosaic, Children's Advocacy Center, Safehouse Crisis Center, and Ascension Via Christi Hospital all in Pittsburg; Labette Health in Parsons; Four County Mental Health Center in Independence; and Rapha House, Ronald McDonald House, Head Start, and Refugee and Immigrant Service Education in Joplin, Missouri.  

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