About the Program

Social Work

The University of Tennessee at Martin's (UT Martin) undergraduate Social Work Program offers a curriculum for study in social work at the baccalaureate level. Graduates of our Program receive a Bachelor of Science in Social Work (BSSW).


The Social Work Program began in 1970 (and at first was called "Social Welfare") within the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Social Work, and Criminal Justice. The Social Work Program is now located in the newly formed Department of Behavioral Sciences.


The Social Work Program has professional identity. It is accredited by The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Students graduating with a BSSW Degree are prepared for entry into employment and are considered to be at the first professional level in social work practice. Graduates from an accredited social work program are eligible for regular membership and full benefits in the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and, in many states, can become licensed as social workers, including Tennessee. Students who graduate from an accredited baccalaureate program in social work may be considered for advanced standing when applying for entry into a CSWE accredited master's program in social work. If accepted, students may receive credit for their foundation work toward a master's degree, thus reducing the time necessary for earning a Master's of Science in Social Work (MSSW) or Master's of Social Work (MSW).


It is the mission of the UT Martin Social Work Program to prepare students to use social work knowledge, skills, and values to demonstrate competent, ethical, evidence based practice to diverse populations across all social systems. Emphasis is placed on promoting social justice and service to all persons, particularly underserved populations, including rural areas such as those found in Northwest Tennessee.


The goals for the UT Martin Social Work Program are:

  • students are prepared to begin generalist professional practice with individuals, families, small groups, organizations, and communities.
  • students are prepared to develop an identity which will incorporate the values and ethics of the social work profession.
  • students are prepared for practice with diverse, oppressed and at-risk populations and to link social research and social service practice.
  • students are prepared for lifelong learning and critical thinking through an educational process combining a liberal arts foundation with professional social work education.
  • students are prepared for graduate education in social work.
  • students are prepared for service and leadership within the community and the social work profession.


At program entry and concurrent with classroom instruction, social work majors begin to come in contact with both providers and consumers of social services. This enables the student to integrate classroom learning and field experience through meaningful interaction with human/social services professionals and with clients, patients, consumers, and others.


The student is able to make an early assessment of feelings, reactions, impressions, and beginning abilities to function as a helping agent with the profession. This enables the student to make alternate career selections before too great an investment is made if social work is not a satisfactory choice.


Course offerings are designed to carry the student through various levels of learning. Each level of learning in the social work curriculum requires a related field activity, which enhances the student's ability to relate what is taught in the classroom with actual practice in the work setting.


Core Competencies

Competency-based education is an outcome performance approach to curriculum design. Competencies are measurable practice behaviors that are comprised of knowledge, values, and skills. The goal of the outcome approach is to demonstrate the integration and application of the competencies in practice with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. The ten core competencies are listed below:

1. Identify as a professional social worker and conduct oneself accordingly.

Social workers serve as representatives of the professions, its mission, and its core values. They know the profession's history. Social workers commit themselves to the profession's enhancement and to their own professional conduct and growth. Social workers

  • advocate for client access to the services of social work;
  • practice personal reflection and self-correction to assure continual professional development;
  • attend to professional roles and boundaries;
  • demonstrate professional demeanor in behavior, appearance, and communication;
  • engage in career-long learning; and
  • use supervision and consultation.

2. Apply social work ethical principles to guide professional practice.

Social workers have an obligation to conduct themselves ethically and to engage in ethical decision making. Social workers are knowledgeable about the value base of the profession, its ethical standards, and relevant law. Social workers

  • recognize and manage personal values in a way that allows professional values to guide practice;
  • make ethical decisions by applying standards of the NASW Code of Ethics and, as applicable, of the International Federation of Social Workers/International Association of Schools of Social Work Ethics in Social Work, Statement of Principles;
  • tolerate ambiguity in resolving ethical conflicts; and
  • apply strategies of ethical reasoning to arrive at principled decisions.

3. Apply critical thinking to inform and communicate professional judgments.

Social workers are knowledgeable about the principles of logic, scientific inquiry, and reasoned discernment. They use critical thinking augmented by creativity and curiosity. Critical thinking also requires the synthesis and communication of relevant information.

Social workers:

  • distinguish, appraise, and integrate multiple sources of knowledge, including research-based knowledge, and practice wisdom;
  • analyze models of assessment, prevention, intervention, and evaluation; and
  • demonstrate effective oral and written communication in working with individuals, families, groups, organizations, communities, and colleagues.

4. Engage diversity and difference in practice.

Social workers understand how diversity characterizes and shapes the human experience and is critical to the formation of identity. The dimensions of diversity are understood as the intersectionality of multiple factors including age, class, color, culture, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity and expression, immigration status, political ideology, race, religion, sex, and sexual orientation. Social workers appreciate that, as a consequence of difference, a person's life experiences may include oppression, poverty, marginalization, and alienation as well as privilege, power, and acclaim.

Social workers:

  • recognize the extent to which a culture's structures and values may oppress, marginalize, alienate, or create or enhance privilege and power,
  • gain sufficient self-awareness to eliminate the influence of personal biases and values in working with diverse groups;
  • recognize and communicate their understanding of the importance of difference in shaping life experiences; and
  • view themselves as learners and engage those with whom they work as informants.

5. Advance human rights and social and economic justice.

Each person, regardless of position in society, has basic human rights, such as freedom, safety, privacy, an adequate standard of living, health care, and education. Social workers recognize the global interconnections of oppression and are knowledgeable about theories of justice and strategies to promote human and civil rights. Social work incorporates social justice practices in organizations, institutions, and society to ensure that these basic human rights are distributed equitably and without prejudice.

Social workers:

  • understand the forms and mechanisms of oppression and discrimination;
  • advocate for human rights and social and economic justice; and
  • engage in practices that advance social and economic justice.

6. Engage in research-informed practice and practice-informed research.

Social workers use practice experience to inform research, employ evidence-based interventions, evaluate their own practice, and use research findings to improve practice, policy, and social service delivery. Social workers comprehend quantitative and qualitative research and understand scientific and ethical approaches to building knowledge.

Social workers:

  • use practice experience to inform scientific inquiry and
  • use research evidence to inform practice.

7. Apply knowledge of human behavior and the social environment.

Social workers are knowledgeable about human behavior across the life course; the range of social systems in which people live; and the ways social systems promote or deter people in maintaining or achieving health and well-being. Social workers apply theories and knowledge from the liberal arts to understand biological, social, cultural, psychological, and spiritual development.

Social workers:

  • utilize conceptual frameworks to guide the processes of assessment, intervention, and evaluation; and
  • critique and apply knowledge to understand person and environment.

8. Engage in policy practice to advance social and economic well-being and to deliver effective social work services.

Social work practitioners understand that policy affects service delivery, and they actively engage in policy practice. Social workers know the history and current structures of social policies and services; the role of policy in service delivery; and the role of practice in policy development.

Social workers:

  • analyze, formulate, and advocate for policies that advance social well-being; and
  • collaborate with colleagues and clients for effective policy action.

9. Respond to contexts that shape practice.

Social workers are informed, resourceful, and proactive in responding to evolving organizational, community, and societal contexts at all levels of practice. Social workers recognize that the context of practice is dynamic, and use knowledge and skill to respond proactively.

Social workers:

  • continuously discover, appraise, and attend to changing locales, populations, scientific and technological developments, and emerging societal trends to provide relevant services; and
  • provide leadership in promoting sustainable changes in service delivery and practice to improve the quality of social services.

10. Engage, assess, intervene, and evaluate with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities.

Professional practice involves the dynamic and interactive processes of engagement, assessment, intervention, and evaluation at multiple levels. Social workers have the knowledge and skills to practic3 with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. Practice knowledge includes identifying, analyzing, and implementing evidence-based interventions designed to achieve client goals; using researchand technological advances; evaluating program outcomes and practice effectiveness; developing, analyzing, advocating, and providing leadership for policies and services; and promoting social and economic justice.


Educational Policy 10(a) - Engagement

Social workers

  • substantively and affectively prepare for action with individuals, families groups, organizations, and communities;
  • use empathy and other interpersonal skills; and
  • develop a mutually agreed-on focus of work and desired outcomes.


Educational Policy 10(b) - Assessment

Social workers

  • collect, organize, and interpret client data;
  • assess client strengths and limitations;
  • develop mutually agreed-on intervention goals and objectives; and
  • select appropriate intervention strategies.


Educational Policy 10 (c) - Intervention

Social workers

  • initiate actions to achieve organizational goals;
  • implement prevention interventions that enhance client capacities;
  • help clients resolve problems;
  • negotiate, mediate, and advocate for clients; and
  • facilitate transitions and endings.


Educational Policy 10 (d) - Evaluation

Social workers critically analyze, monitor, and evaluate interventions.


Taken from the CSWE 2008 Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (Appendix B)

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