Online MSW Programs with Community Organization, Planning, and Administration Concentrations

Social workers who specialize in Community Organization, Planning, and Administration/Leadership typically work to create large scale improvements in social conditions within their community through a combination of education, advocacy, and program development. This type of social work is categorized as macro social work practice, which differs from micro social work practice in that it does not focus on providing one-on-one counseling and guidance to individuals.

Social workers who work in community planning and administrative leadership can work in such settings as community service agencies, government departments, public interest groups, research organizations, and advocacy associations. They can also work in schools and the human resource departments of corporations to help develop educational initiatives and programming to improve student services and employee conditions.


University of Southern California (USC) Community Organization, Planning and Administration (COPA)
FT and PT Options, Traditional and Advanced Standing Tracks

Sponsored MSW Programs

Individuals interested in becoming social workers who focus on community organization, planning, and administration/leadership should seek out MSW programs that provide strong course offerings in these areas of macro social work. Some accredited MSW programs not only have classes in community organization and administrative leadership, but also have entire degree concentrations in this field. This article provides detailed insight into macro social work and the types of degree programs and coursework individuals might wish to consider if they are interested in community planning and administrative leadership.

Careers for Social Workers in Community Organization and Administrative Leadership

Social workers who focus on macro social work hold the philosophy that many of the mental, social, and emotional challenges that people face individually are in fact symptoms of larger societal problems. Unlike micro and clinical social workers, who address individuals’ or family challenges with such issues as relationships, substance abuse, and unemployment, macro social workers focus on researching and addressing social problems on a larger scale. Thus, while a micro social worker might help one client develop an action plan to find a job, a macro social worker might collaborate with a non-profit organization to host career development workshops for members of the community. Similarly, while a clinical social worker may counsel clients who have experienced domestic abuse, macro-level social workers may contribute to the research on this issue and subsequently develop a victim support program.

Community organization and administrative leadership is a broad field that encompasses many different roles. Examples of the roles that social workers can take on within the field of community planning and administrative leadership include but are not limited to:

  • Community organizer
  • Policy advocate
  • Researcher or research director
  • Grassroots program developer
  • Consumer advocate

Social workers in this field typically must collaborate with other individuals and larger organizations in order to bring resources together around a common cause. For example, a social worker who wishes to initiate the development of an afterschool program for struggling students will need to work with school administrators, school district leaders, and teachers in order to create such a program. In this way, macro social workers differ from licensed clinical social workers, who may operate individually or in a group setting with other health care providers.

The Skills Required for Macro Social Work

Social workers who engage in administrative leadership and community planning and organization may need to be skilled in the following areas:

  • Information Collection and Analysis
  • Program Development and Implementation
  • Program Evaluation
  • Grant Writing
  • Budget Analysis
  • Group Coaching and Training
  • Community Mobilizing

Accredited Online MSW Programs in Community Organization and Administrative Leadership

Unlike licensed clinical social workers, who must have a license in order to practice independently, social workers who focus exclusively on community planning and administrative leadership may not need a license, because they do not need to make clinical diagnoses or provide individual therapy. As a result, social workers in this field do not strictly need an MSW, as the minimum degree level required for social workers without a license is generally a bachelor’s degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited program. However, social workers who want to engage in this area of work may nevertheless benefit from earning an MSW from an accredited institution, as administrative leadership and community organization may require advanced skills such as writing grant proposals, researching social issues, and training others.


Case Western Reserve University Community Practice for Social Change
Columbia University Social Enterprise Administration
Portland State University Community and Organizational Practice
Texas State University - San Marcos Administrative Leadership
University of New England (UNE) Community Practice: Organizational and Community Practice (OCP)
University of Southern California (USC) Community Organization, Planning and Administration (COPA)
University of Tennessee at Knoxville Management, Leadership and Community Practice (Macro)

The schools listed in this table may offer additional concentrations in their online MSW programs as well.

(A master’s degree in a related field, such as public health, social and community services, or public administration, may also help social workers who wish to work in community planning and administration to strengthen their qualifications and relevant skills.)

Some MSW programs have concentrations specifically in community organization and/or administrative leadership. Students interested in this field should research different program offerings to find graduate programs that match their specific career goals and interests. Students who wish to become licensed clinical social workers should note that, depending on their program, they may still be able to take classes in community planning, mobilization, and organization, as well as project management and administrative leadership as electives if they wish to also engage in macro social work. However, as MSW programs with specific concentrations in community organization and planning may not adequately prepare students for clinical social work, individuals working towards a clinical social work license may want to consider advanced generalist MSW programs that allow them to pursue a career as a clinical social worker while also gaining a solid foundation in macro social work.

We recommend speaking with an admission advisor at prospective schools to determine if their community organization and planning programs include sufficient coursework in clinical social work to help students qualify for licensure as an LCSW after graduation.

Please note: Licensing requirements for both micro and macro social workers vary by state. Students should always check with their state government’s department of health services to determine the exact requirements they must fulfill to receive licensure as a social worker in their area.

Curriculum Details for Online MSW Programs in Macro Social Work

Accredited online MSW programs for traditional standing students (those who have not earned a Bachelor’s in Social Work from a CSWE accredited undergraduate program) generally involve the completion of about 54 to 66 academic credits. Such programs typically require students to divide their coursework between a set of core social work classes and a set of classes in their desired concentration. Core social work courses, which often comprise about half of an MSW program’s curriculum (i.e. 30 credits), may cover such topics as Human Behavior in Social Environments, Social Justice in Social Work, and Research Methods for Social Workers. Once students have completed all of their core social work classes, they progress to classes in their concentration (which is often referred to as the advanced standing portion of an MSW program).

Sample Courses for Community and Administrative Leadership MSW Programs

Specific course titles and content vary across schools, but topics covered in MSW programs with a concentration in community planning and administrative leadership generally include (but are not limited to):

  • Research for Social Work Administrators and Community Leaders: Qualitative and quantitative research methods for investigating social issues, their origins and effects (ex. conducting surveys of different populations, assessing the needs of a certain demographic group, etc.). Presenting study or research findings to others, and discussing ways to address problems in the community. Understanding statistical and other forms of data, and using such information to educate the public and/or promote policy improvements.
  • Policy for Community Organizers and Planners: How local, state, and national policies affect the well-being of individuals within a community, and how social workers can promote changes in policy to create lasting social improvements.
  • Program Planning, Development, and Maintenance: How to develop effective programs for organizations (ex. schools, corporations) and local communities. How to obtain and allocate resources for projects, manage a team of people, and gather public support for a program. Obtaining funding for projects and initiatives through such measures as grant proposals and fundraisers.
  • Program Evaluation: How to evaluate the effectiveness of existing programs and structures within a community or organization (ex. assessing the performance of an afterschool education program, or the quality of the human resources department at a company).
  • Budget Analysis and Financial Management in Social Services: Determining and maintaining a budget when working within community service organization or implementing a project plan.
  • Community Organization and Mobilization: How to mobilize a community around a common cause through a combination of education, public relations, incentivizing, etc. How to coach, train, and/or educate individuals one-on-one and in groups.



“Careers in Social Work, Part 2,”, National Association of Social Workers,
“Community and Administrative Leadership,”, The University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work,
“Community Organization Concentration,”, UConn School of Social Work,
“Community Organization, Planning, and Administration,”, USC Social Work,
“Community Organization Planning and Administration,”,
“Macro Practice Skills,”, USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, Fall 2007, Stephanie Carter Williams,
“Macro Social Work,”, Boston University School of Social Work,
“MSW Administration and Community Development Concentration,”, San Diego State University, 23 June 2011,
“Who are Social Workers? We Help,”, National Association of Social Workers,