By ASHLEIGH LIVINGSTON
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Clinton Community College has made it easier for students to pursue careers in social work.
The school recently developed two courses on the subject, Introduction to Social Work and Introduction to Social Welfare, to give students an opportunity to explore the topic.
“I think it’s good for a lot of students who are interested in social work but aren’t really sure if it’s for them,” said Ryan Gray, a student in Robert Luckett’s Introduction to Social Work class.
In addition, said Denise Coughlin, Ph.D. and chairperson of the college’s Social and Behavioral Sciences Department, the classes aim to prepare students who already know they want to work in the field.
Though Luckett is one of several CCC employees tagged for layoff in 2013-14 as a result of the school’s anticipated $600,000 budget gap, the social-work classes remain on the course schedule for next school year.
Credits from the courses are transferable to other SUNY schools, including SUNY Plattsburgh, which offers a bachelor’s degree in social work and has guided CCC in developing the classes, according to Coughlin.
Before the creation of the courses, she noted, students who wished to pursue a social-work degree had to major in sociology, psychology or human services at Clinton Community.
The college’s Associate in Applied Science degree in human services, Coughlin said, prepares students to go straight to work rather than continue their education, and about 15 credits of the degree do not transfer anywhere.
Now, however, students may choose to take the new credits as part of a general humanities or social-sciences degree or may opt to do individual study, which consists of the two social-work courses and other classes selected by Coughlin’s department.
Students who complete the individual study are able to transfer into a SUNY social-work program with no credit loss, assuming they are accepted to one of the four-year schools.
“Those two classes created a bridge,” Coughlin said.
Still, the individual-study option is a temporary measure the college has in place while it moves to create an Associate in Arts degree in pre-social work.
The degree would be the first of its kind within the SUNY system and would simply formalize Clinton Community’s current individual-study option.
CCC will submit an application to SUNY in the coming months, asking for implementation of the program; however, Coughlin said, even if the request were to be denied, the college would continue to offer the two courses.
The idea, she noted, is that students could obtain a pre-social work degree at Clinton Community over two years and then transfer to SUNY Plattsburgh, where they could earn a bachelor’s degree in another two years.
While a bachelor’s degree in psychology does not qualify the recipient as a psychologist, Coughlin said, a person with a four-year degree in social work is considered a social worker.
And social workers with six-year degrees have even more functionality and mobility in their careers, she noted, so students are encouraged to pursue a master’s in the field.
Though SUNY Plattsburgh does not offer a master’s degree in social work, a few accredited online master’s programs exist. So students who wish to stay in the area could enroll, Coughlin said.
In fact, she anticipates more jobs will be available for social workers in the North Country in the future, as the National Association of Social Workers is predicting an increased need for the professionals in rural areas.
“The field of social work is expected to grow faster than the average of all other occupations through 2018,” Coughlin said.
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