Resources for Social Workers Working with Racial, Ethnic and Minority Populations

In any type of social work environment, social workers will work with different racial, ethnic and minority populations. Race is defined by physical characteristics, like skin tone, which relate to certain global regions. Ethnicity describes shared culture. Minority groups are groups that lack power in society, regardless of country of origin or race.

If you become a social worker, you must be prepared to work with diverse populations. Regarding race, non-white minorities are the fastest-growing population in the United States. By 2045, the U.S. Census predicts the country will be minority white.

Role of Social Workers in Minority Community

Today and throughout history, racial and ethnic minorities have experienced disparate socioeconomic status in the United States. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), there is a relationship between socioeconomic status, race and ethnicity. Discrimination and marginalization based on race and ethnicity hinder upward mobility for racial and ethnic minorities trying to escape poverty. Disadvantaged communities tend to have:

  • Low economic development
  • Poor health conditions
  • Low levels of educational attainment

Social workers help minority groups get the tools and resources they need to thrive. They work with at-risk individuals, groups and families. They may provide clinical counseling support for mental and behavioral issues. They also might participate in advocacy for minority populations, providing recommendations to drive social change.

If you’re studying for a Master of Social Work program because you’re interested in working with minority and disadvantaged populations, or you’re already in the midst of your social work career, the following minority social work organizations, books and academic articles are helpful resources for social work with minority groups.

Sponsored Online Social Work Programs

University of Southern California

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Master of Social Work (MSW)

The MSW@USC is the online Master of Social Work from top-ranked USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. USC offers virtual and in-person field education, and students focus on adults, youth or social change.

  •  Minimum completion time: 16 months
  • Online classes taught by USC faculty 
  • Virtual field training to build skills and confidence

University of Denver

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Master of Social Work (MSW)

The University of Denver’s Online MSW Program is delivered by its top-ranked school of social work and offers two programs. Students can earn their degree in as few as 12 months for the Online Advanced-Standing MSW or 27 months for the Online MSW.

  • Complete the Online Advanced-Standing MSW in as few as 12 months if you have a BSW; if you do not have a BSW, the Online MSW Program may be completed in as few as 27 months.
  • No GRE Required
  • Mental Health and Trauma or Health, Equity and Wellness concentrations

Fordham University

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Master of Social Work (MSW)

Fordham’s skills-based, online MSW program integrates advanced relevant social work competencies, preparing students to serve individuals and communities while moving the profession forward. This program includes advanced standing and traditional MSW options.

  •  Traditional and advanced standing online MSW options are available.
  • There are four areas of focus: Individuals and Families, Organizations and Community, Evaluation, and Policy Practice and Advocacy.
  • Pursue the degree on a full-time or part-time track.

Simmons University

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Master of Social Work (MSW)

Aspiring direct practitioners can earn their MSW online from Simmons University in as few as 12 months. GRE scores are not required, and the program offers full-time, part-time, accelerated, and advanced standing tracks.

  • Prepares students to pursue licensure, including LCSW 
  • Full-time, part-time, and accelerated tracks 
  • Minimum completion time: 12 months

Syracuse University

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Master of Social Work (MSW)

Syracuse University’s online Master of Social Work program does not require GRE scores to apply and is focused on preparing social workers who embrace technology as an important part of the future of the profession. Traditional and Advanced Standing tracks are available. 

  • Traditional and Advanced Standing tracks
  • No GRE required
  • Concentrate your degree in integrated practice or clinical practice

Baylor University

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Master of Social Work (MSW)

Complete the Master of Social Work online program at Baylor University in as few as 12 months. Serve populations in Texas and around the world while ethically integrating faith and social work practice. No GRE required.

  • Address injustice from a strengths-based perspective
  • Ethically integrates faith and social work practice
  • Serve as a trusted resource for clients, no matter their personal background
  • Complete the MSW online program in as few as 12 months

Howard University

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Master of Social Work (MSW)

The online Master of Social Work program from Howard University School of Social Work prepares students for advanced direct or macro practice in culturally diverse communities. Two concentrations available: Direct Practice and Community, Administration, and Policy Practice. No GRE. Complete in as few as 12 months.

  • Concentrations: Direct Practice and Community, Administration, and Policy Practice
  • Complete at least 777-1,000 hours of agency-based field education
  • Earn your degree in as few as 12 months

Case Western Reserve University

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Master of Social Work (MSW)

In as few as a year and a half, you can prepare for social work leadership by earning your Master of Social Work online from Case Western Reserve University’s school of social work.

  • CSWE-accredited
  • No GRE requirement
  • Complete in as few as one and a half years

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Racial, Ethnic and Minority Social Work Organizations

  • American Association for Access, Equity and Diversity: The American Association for Access, Equity and Diversity was founded as the American Association for Affirmative Action (AAAA) in 1974. The organization promotes an understanding of affirmative action, policies and action steps to ensure access, equality and equity.
  • The Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights: The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition of more than 200 national organizations focused on advancing and protecting human and civil rights through outreach and advocacy.
  • Local and Regional Government Alliance on Race and Equity: The Local and Regional Government Alliance on Race and Equity is a national network of government working to achieve racial equity. The group covers 80 jurisdictions and provides racial equity and communication tools.
  • MediaJustice: MediaJustice focuses on advancing communication rights and access for disadvantaged communities. The organization works to achieve equal digital rights for all races.
  • National Action Network: The National Action Network is a civil rights organization founded in 1991 by Reverend Al Sharpton. The organization promotes a modern civil rights agenda fighting for justice and equal opportunities regardless of race, ethnicity or minority status.
  • National Association of Social Workers: This is the largest national professional association of social workers. The organization focuses on ethnicity and racial social justice and provides equality practice tools and professional development opportunities in this area.
  • National Association of Black Social Workers: The National Association of Black Social Workers is comprised of social worker members of African ancestry. The group is dedicated to empowering and enhancing the quality of life for people of African ancestry through research, advocacy and social work practice.
  • Racial Equity Institute: The Racial Equity Institute is an alliance of organizers, trainers and institutional leaders dedicated to achieving racial equality in systems and organizations. The organization presents a blog, podcast, research, studies, services and trainings to promote racial equity.
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health: The Office of Minority Health is dedicated to eliminating health disparities by improving the health of ethnic and racial minority populations. The organization supports data collection and research, policy development and promotion, and program funding.

Racial, Ethnic and Minority Social Work Books

  • “Heavy: An American Memoir”: This 2018 memoir by Kiese Laymon uses essays and personal stories to describe growing up in a Black family in America, identifying national failures in the process.
  • “How to Be an Antiracist”: In this memoir, author Ibram X. Kendi uses lessons in ethics, history, science and law to detail what an antiracist society would look like and how individuals can build it.
  • “The New Jim Crow”: This book by Michelle Alexander details the racial bias in mass incarceration and how the criminal justice system has become a new racial caste in America, as Black men and communities of color are disproportionately found in the prison system.
  • “The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century”: Authors Grace Lee Boggs and Scott Kurashige examine racism from political, environmental and economical angles to address how to create radical social change.
  • “Social Justice and Social Work: Rediscovering a Core Value of the Profession”: This book, edited by Michael J. Austin, uses historical and philosophical arguments to illustrate social justice as a core social work value. It explains how social justice can drive social work education and practice.
  • “Social Work and Social Justice: Concepts, Challenges and Strategies: Authors Michael Reisch and Charles D. Garvin explain how social justice concepts and goals can guide socially just social work practices. The book touches on topics including welfare reform, mental health and social work ethics related to social justice topics.
  • “So You Want to Talk About Race”: Author Ijeoma Oluo examines race in America, reporting on issues like white supremacy, police brutality and mass incarceration. Oluo guides readers on subjects including affirmative action and intersectionality and provides guidance for how to have honest conversations about how race and racism impact American life.
  • “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism”: Author and antiracism educator Robin DiAngelo, Ph.D., examines how racial insulation hinders the ability to respond to racial inequalities in constructive ways. The book proposes ways to engage more constructively in racial dialogues and promote racial equality.

Racial, Ethnic and Minority Social Work Academic Articles

Become Educated to Advance Social Justice in Social Work

Racial, ethnic and minority injustice continues to be a prevalent issue affecting all of American society. To achieve equality and improve services for minority clients, social workers and social work students can educate themselves on minority issues and best practices for working with disadvantaged populations. 

Information on this page was last updated in June 2021.