MSW Dual Degree Programs

Jul 23, 2018

This article examines the options available to social work undergrads who are interested in pursuing a dual degree at the master's level. Dual-degree options covered include public health, public administration, law and divinity.

So, you've completed your undergraduate studies in social work. Now what? Graduate education in a dual degree program could be a good option, especially if you're interested in moving directly into a management position and would like to add on some extra skills by pursing a second field of study.

Overview of MSW Dual Degree Programs

MSW programs prepare students for management-level and leadership roles in the social work field. When not paired with a second degree, these programs usually take about two years to complete. However, dual degree options allow students to earn their MSW and complete another program one year sooner than if they had pursued the two degrees separately. In the MSW portion, students often complete courses covering such topics as clinical social work practice, social welfare policy and research practices. They also complete several field experiences and practicums.

The following programs are among the options for pairing another master's degree with a Master of Social Work (MSW).

MSW/Master of Public Administration (MPA)

Public administration programs can be thought of as the government and non-profit version of the Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree. Students learn the principles of management used in government agencies and NGOs. Students who complete this program alongside an MSW can gain a deeper understanding of program structure, the bureaucratic process and budgeting concerns in social work organizations. Students can also opt to move into public administration with a deep understanding of the needs of the populations that these organizations serve.

Course Outline

Students can expect an even mix of classes that are standard to both the MSW and MPA programs. Core MPA courses might cover the foundations of public service, public management, organizational theory and budgeting for public and non-profit organizations.

MSW/Master of Public Health (MPH)

An MPH degree program prepares students to work in positions addressing public health needs through the study of such topics as the spread of disease or government healthcare policy. The fields of social work and public health overlap in a number of areas, such as health-based interventions and measures to improve quality of life for populations in need of assistance. Each field can contribute to a deeper understanding of the other.

Course Outline

In addition to standard social work graduate courses, students take fundamental public health classes like epidemiology, biostatistics and environmental health. Graduate public health programs can also conclude with a research-based capstone presentation.

MSW/Juris Doctorate (JD)

The JD is awarded to lawyers after completing graduate legal training. The MSW/JD dual degree can be pursued by students who want to work in areas of the law that involve representing vulnerable populations. This degree program might also be a suitable option for individuals who want bring an understanding of relevant legal requirements to their social work practice.

Course Outline

Students in these programs might focus on one subject - law or social work - per year for at least part of the program. The first year of law school contains classes that are fairly standard across different programs - fundamentals of the field like civil procedure, contract law, criminal law and torts. Students have more flexibility in elective courses and can specialize their studies the later years of law school.

MSW / Master of Divinity (MDiv)

A Master of Divinity is the graduate degree most commonly obtained as a prerequisite to becoming a priest or pastor. This combination of degrees pairs theological study with hands-on work with the types of vulnerable and marginalized groups that organized church relief efforts are often centered on.

Course Outline

In addition to the MSW coursework, students complete a theology curriculum that can include courses on Christian history, the study of scriptures and preaching. A research project and capstone course might also be required in addition to several field placements or internships with faith-based agencies.

MSW Dual Degree Program Admission Requirements

Students seeking dual degrees usually have to be accepted to each program separately, though some schools do handle admissions with one application and one set of standards. Students are usually required to have a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. In addition, schools often ask that applicants meet minimum undergraduate GPA and standardized test score requirements. GRE or GMAT scores are among the tests commonly used for admission. Students pursuing an MSW/JD will need to take the LSAT to get into law school. Additional requirements include references and a personal statement.

Students interested in paring another degree with an MSW have a lot of options to choose from. Public health, public administration, law and theology are all viable choices.

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