MPA & MSW Dual Degree

Jul 06, 2018

This article introduces the dual Master of Public Administration (MPA) and Master of Social Work (MSW) degree offered by a number of universities. Admissions, coursework and general program information are discussed.

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The Master of Public Administration (MPA) and Master of Social Work (MSW) dual degree combines the administrative and 'field work' elements of social services work. These programs provide students with managerial-level training in both elements, opening a broad range of career options.

General Program Information

Holders of a dual MPA/MSW degree will be qualified for a number of higher-level positions in social work and public administration including program director, policy analyst or public health researcher.

A reasonable estimate for completion time is about three years. In most cases, this will save students at least a year of time in taking the two degrees separately. Some schools offer an 'advanced standing' option in which the dual degree can be completed in two years plus one summer semester.


Students in an MPA/MSW dual degree program cover the general curriculum of both schools. The social work program usually requires more credit hours than the public administration program, but both degrees are usually conferred simultaneously upon completion of all coursework.

Some core courses that students may encounter include:

Public Financial Management

Public financial management courses cover budgeting and use of funds for various public programs. Key concepts include funds management, revenue analysis and public expenditure. In addition to learning concepts and work skills, students may also learn how to use a spreadsheet program (such as Excel) to track spending.

Economics/Economy and Public Policy

These courses examine the relationship between public policy and the distribution of resources and income in economies. Microeconomics concepts are applied here along with an analysis of public policy, usually with a focus on existing United States policies such as Social Security and Medicare. Students learn how to evaluate policy and form a conception of when government interventions are needed.

Social Welfare Policy

Social welfare policy classes usually cover the development and purpose of various social welfare programs. The needs of at-risk groups are considered in relation to policy terms. As with public policy classes, current high-profile programs in the United States are often used as examples for analysis.

Social Work Practice

These courses generally introduce students to fieldwork in social services. Concepts covered include the structure of social services systems, ethical considerations and diversity in practice. The individual needs of particular at-risk groups are also considered.

Human Behavior in the Social Environment

This is a fundamental course in many Master of Social Work curricula, usually taught early in the program. It introduces students to a variety of theoretical frameworks in the field that are used to understand the connections between the social environment and individual behavior.

Admissions Information

There is certain documentation that students can expect to submit regardless of which school they choose. These include a personal statement, letters of reference, GRE scores and a resume and/or CV. Not all programs will ask for all of these items, but it is reasonable to expect that any given program will want most of them.

Students will need to apply to each school, and each school may have its own particular admission requirements. For example, one may require a bachelor's degree while the other does not, or one may require particular previous coursework. Both MSW and MPA programs tend to be flexible about requiring a bachelor's degree or particular prior coursework, and it is usually only a hard requirement for advanced standing programs.

Dual MPA/MSW degree holders will have a very strong educational base from which to apply for jobs throughout the various branches of social work, from making and evaluating policy to managing hands-on social services programs.

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