Interview with Jennifer Malone – Academic Advisor for the Online MSW Program at the Univ. of Texas at Arlington
About Jennifer Malone, LCSW: Ms. Malone is an Academic Advisor for the University of Texas at Arlington’s School of Social Work MSW program. Specifically, she advises the graduate MSW students who are enrolled in their distance education programs. Advisor Malone earned her Master’s in Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin and worked in mental health settings as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker for several years prior to transitioning to higher education. One of her passions is helping Social Work graduate students reach their educational and professional goals. As part of UT Arlington’s MSW program, her mission is to advise distance education students in completing their MSW successfully in order to achieve their social work career aspirations.
Note: In January 2014, Jennifer Malone became the Coordinator for the Office of Advising & Student Success in the School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Arlington.
[OnlineMSWPrograms.com] Currently, there are approximately 20 universities offering fully online MSW programs. How long has the program at the University of Texas at Arlington been offered and how is it structured?
[Jennifer Malone, LCSW] The UT Arlington School of Social Work began offering two accredited online MSW cohort programs in the Fall of 2012. Both of these programs are part-time, meaning students are enrolled in two courses each semester. These programs start each Fall semester and the degree concentration is Direct Practice with Children and Families. One of the online programs is for students who do not have a Bachelor’s in Social Work. In this “traditional” 61-credit program, students take social work foundation courses, and then advanced courses to complete their MSW degree in three years.
The other online program is offered for students who have earned a Bachelor’s in Social Work. In this “advanced standing” 38-credit program, students complete their MSW degree in two years. Students receive the same high quality education as those who attend our on-campus MSW program. Our online program requires the same number of hours to complete a MSW and our professors teach both on-campus and online. The instruction in our online programs is asynchronous, as this provides flexibility and convenience for students. The UT Arlington MSW online program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.
[OnlineMSWPrograms.com] UT Arlington’s online MSW program has a focus on Direct Practice with Children and Families. For students who are just starting to research online MSW programs, can you briefly describe the focus of this program? Does the program prepare students for a career in direct-service social work, clinical social work or both?
[Jennifer Malone, LCSW] Students entering the program without a BSW degree will take foundation level courses during the first year of the cohort program. These courses focus on generalist social work practice. After these courses are completed, the advanced coursework begins with a focus on Direct Practice with Children and Families. Direct Practice with Children and Families is a broad concentration that includes two main components: child welfare service training and providing direct interventions, or therapy, in community agencies and schools for families and children.
[OnlineMSWPrograms.com] For students who want to become licensed clinical social workers, licensing requirements vary by state. What advice do you have for students in terms of researching the requirements in their state of residence and how does UT Arlington help with the process?
[Jennifer Malone, LCSW] After completing a MSW at the UT Arlington School of Social Work, graduates are eligible to take the Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) exam or its equivalent depending on the state. After obtaining a LMSW license, students who complete a certain number of supervised clinical hours then become eligible to take the Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) exam.
I recommend that students review the clinical social work requirements by going to their state’s Social Work licensing board website. (For a list of licensing boards, see here.)
UT Arlington’s School of Social Work MSW students can request a letter to have the opportunity to take the LMSW exam during their last semester of graduate school. Our school offers LMSW exam preparation courses and our advisors are available to provide guidance regarding communicating with licensing boards.
[OnlineMSWPrograms.com] Field Education is a major component of MSW programs and requires a significant time commitment from students. Many online programs are geared towards working professionals, how do you recommend students balance field education with other responsibilities?
[Jennifer Malone, LCSW] My first recommendation is to plan ahead, plan ahead, plan ahead. When online students begin the program, they will be aware of the semesters in which they will be doing their field placements and the hours required. This provides time to create a plan to balance life responsibilities with field hours. Good time management and enlisting support of family and friends will help students to complete these semesters successfully. In addition, communicating with our Field Placement office is extremely important as they are an excellent resource in providing assistance with internship arrangements.
For online traditional MSW students, we require two field placements. The first field placement is 400 hours over one semester. The second field placement is 500 hours which is completed over two semesters (250 hours each semester at the same agency).
For online Advanced Standing MSW students, we require one 500 hour field placement which is completed over two semesters (250 hours each semester at the same agency).
[OnlineMSWPrograms.com] What advice do you have for professionals who are considering earning a MSW and possibly entering the field of social work for the first time?
[Jennifer Malone, LCSW] Earning a MSW can provide a multitude of opportunities in various fields of social work. I recommend interviewing social workers who are currently working in a social work fields that are of interest to you. I also recommend volunteering at a social services agency to get an idea of what a social worker does on a daily basis. In addition, if you have access to career counseling services, I recommend taking career assessments to determine if a social work career would be a good fit.
[OnlineMSWPrograms.com] For students who have already decided they want to pursue a MSW, but are unsure about online education, can you briefly explain the pros and cons to pursuing a MSW online?
[Jennifer Malone, LCSW] Advantages of online education include convenience and flexibility. Students can access their online courses anywhere from their computers and complete their coursework in a manner that accommodates their schedules. Also, our online students have plenty of opportunities to dialogue with each other on the course platform so students can build relationships with individuals from various locations.
Students must have access to the needed technology to participate and be successful in online courses. Some students miss the in-person contact with other students and their instructors, but with modern course platforms, video conferencing and social media, this is becoming less of a concern.
[OnlineMSWPrograms.com] Online education requires discipline from students to stay on track and keep up with coursework and assignments. What systems are in place to ensure that online students do not fall behind? Do you have any recommendations for online students in terms of staying on track with coursework?
[Jennifer Malone, LCSW] Online courses are taught in a course platform called Blackboard which provides a number of tools to promote class structure and to help students stay on track with their coursework.
I recommend that students start their coursework early and communicate directly with their professors when they have questions about the class. In addition, forming study groups with peers who live nearby or with peers technologically (such as using Skype) can be beneficial as well. I also recommend utilizing your school’s resources remotely. For example, the UT Arlington School of Social Work has a Social Work Librarian and a Social Work Writing Resource Coordinator, both of whom are easily accessible through e-mail and phone. In addition, online students have access to an Academic Advisor who is specifically there to assist them with any questions or needs regarding the program.
If a student’s grade point average falls below a 3.0, we have a system in place where the advisor is notified. Once notified, the advisor contacts the student to schedule a meeting over the phone, over Skype or in person, and they work together to devise a success plan.
As with any educational program, students who utilize good time management skills and have self-discipline can thrive by staying on track with their coursework.
[OnlineMSWPrograms.com] Online programs have really helped to open the door to higher education for more individuals, especially those who do not have access to a local university. Currently, UT Arlington only accept students from Texas, are there plans to expand the program to more states in the future?
[Jennifer Malone, LCSW] Currently, UT Arlington School of Social Work accepts students who are Texas state residents or those in the process of becoming Texas state residents. Expectations are that our online program will continue to grow and may be offered to perspective students in other regions in the future.
[OnlineMSWPrograms.com] For students who are ready to apply to an Online MSW Program at UT Arlington, what advice do you have in terms of preparing their application? I know the program requires a writing sample / personal statement.
[Jennifer Malone, LCSW] I recommend reviewing the MSW Admissions information on ourwebsite. This will provide detailed information about the application process. Students should also contact our distance education Admissions Counselor, Ashley Warren firstname.lastname@example.org to speak with her about our programs and the steps for applying.
The personal statement is an important part of your application both for you and for the admissions team. This statement helps you identify what inspires you to be a master’s level social worker. I recommend having others read over your personal statement to check for possible editing needs prior to sending it to the admissions department.
[OnlineMSWPrograms.com] Finally, with more universities starting to offer online MSW programs, why should students consider UT Arlington?
[Jennifer Malone, LCSW] The UT Arlington non-traditional education programs including the online program represent an excellent value in affordable, accredited, and high quality Social Work Education provided through a recognized state university. The School of Social Work has a renowned research faculty, accredited by CSWE, one of the nation’s top programs, offers resources specific for the MSW students, and is less expensive than many programs that partner with national online distance education providers. In addition, we offer cohort programs in affiliation with the UT Arlington’s Fort Worth Center, Lubbock Christian University and Angelo State University.
If you have any questions, please contact our Admissions team below or visit our website:
Darlene Santee, MSSW
Once admitted, students will be contacted by their Academic Advisor to get them started on their path to obtaining their MSW degree.
Thank you Advisor Malone for your time and insight!