Working with Latino populations

The U.S. Census Bureau projects that by 2060 Latinos will comprise more than one quarter of the country’s population. In Texas, where the Latino share of the population is 36 percent, there is a growing demand from employers for Spanish-speaking social workers that are culturally able to work with Latinos.

At UT Austin, the School of Social Work is accelerating the recruitment and education of bilingual master’s students for careers in the health and mental health workforce of Central Texas.

Through the St. David’s Foundation Bilingual Social Work Scholars program, every year the school funds up to ten Spanish-speaking students who commit to stay in the area for a time after graduating.

The school offers a Spanish for social workers course that helps students develop ethical and effective communication with diverse Spanish-speaking populations and their corresponding environments.

During the master’s program, students have the opportunity to sharpen their bilingual skills with internships in the numerous Texas agencies that serve the needs of Spanish-speaking clients.

Students can also opt for a summer program in Oaxaca, Mexico, that focuses on global health. Because migration from Oaxaca to the United States has been significant, the area is an excellent context in which to learn about the impact of migration on health. This summer program provides students with cultural and Spanish-language competency skills and introduces them to global health topics.

Many faculty members at the School of Social Work are experts in Latino populations and conduct exciting research in areas such as childhood education, health behavior, mental health, and immigration.

Bilingual students not only benefit from this expertise but also have the opportunity to develop research skills by participating in ongoing projects.

For students who want to go deeper, the School of Social Work offers a dual degree with the nationally recognized Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies (LLILAS). This dual degree prepares students to fill human service positions that demand clinical knowledge and skills as well as the cultural humility and linguistic competency to work with Latinos and Latin American immigrant populations in the United States. The dual degree is designed so that students can earn an MSSW and MA degree with major in Latin American studies in three years rather than the four years required to complete the two degrees independently.