Every day, veterans, active service members and their families must deal with challenges unique to military life. Military social workers play an integral role in helping them connect to the care and support they need. These specialized social workers support military personnel facing deployment and the anxiety of active duty and veterans coping with the physical and psychological effects upon returning to their communities. They also work with families who are stretched emotionally and financially as well as military-impacted schools and communities.

With the Military Populations and Settings track, the first program of its kind offered by a civilian research university, you will explore strategies for helping those who have dedicated their lives to protecting ours.

The Military Populations and Settings track will prepare you to:

  • Care for service members, veterans and their families who are dealing with a range of physical, mental and psychosocial issues.
  • Better understand military culture.
  • Learn about the systems of care in place for military personnel before and during deployments and the transition back home.
  • Assist returning service members with finding health and employment services.
  • Work with local agencies to identify and serve military populations in their communities.

Social workers trained in the Military Populations and Settings track work in a range of settings, offering services such as:

  • Mental health therapy, from physical illness and disease to family issues and traumatic experiences
  • Military to civilian life reintegration support
  • Crisis intervention
  • Individual and family counseling
  • Resource navigation, such as financial, housing and benefit assistance
  • Aging veteran support and advocacy

Social workers offer a particular skill set and knowledge base that is beneficial, if not indispensable, to service members, veterans and their loved ones. Our engagement in wars and conflict — past, present and future — will continue to create a need for a more robust workforce that is ready and able to tackle new challenges.

“As a military spouse and volunteer, I’ve seen how devastating the wounds of war and service in general can be to individuals and their families. I knew that the opportunity to receive education and training for the needs of this unique and underserved population would be very valuable to me as a clinician.”

Christine Halterman

USC Online MSW Student

Program Track Requirements

As a student in the Military Populations and Settings track you will complete the following courses:

  • Life in the U.S. Military: Foundations for Practice
    • Examines the experience of military service, including challenges and theoretical and empirical foundations of military social work clinical practice.
  • Practice with Service Members, Veterans and Families
    • Learn how to engage, assess and intervene in practice and policy with service members, veterans and their families.
  • Research & Critical Analysis for SW with Children & Families
    • Critical analysis and application of various data, information, and evidence to understand client problems and service needs, identify appropriate interventions, and evaluate practice decisions.


  • Assessment & Diagnosis of Mental Disorders
    • Assessment of mental disorders, and the rationale and organization of the system for diagnosis. Emphasis is on developing differential diagnostic skills.


  • Grant Writing & Program Evaluation
    • Grant writing and program development that are generalized to any settings and relevant to direct and macro social work practice expertise.

USC Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans & Military Families (CIR)

The USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work is committed to helping the millions of service members and their families struggling to cope with military life. CIR strives to enhance the visibility and impact of research, education and outreach to inform decision-makers on policy issues affecting veterans and their families. Learn more about CIR and its mission.