MSW & MPA Dual Degree Programs

Jul 07, 2018

This article introduces the dual Master of Public Administration and Master of Social Work degree programs offered by a number of schools. Here, you'll find out about program structure, admissions and coursework.

A Master of Social Work (MSW) / Master of Public Administration (MPA) dual degree program pairs two of the most practical career-oriented degrees for students of the social sciences who have an interest in tending to the welfare of populations. An MPA graduate degree prepares students for management-level positions in public organizations, and a MSW prepares students for hands-on work at the management level of social service agencies that provide vital aid to those in need.

General Program Information

This dual master's program typically takes three years to complete. Some schools may offer an 'advanced standing' or similar option that allows students to complete it in two years by taking one condensed summer semester.

Students usually have to apply (and be accepted) to both the public administration and social work programs at each school. If students are not accepted to both programs they cannot pursue the dual degree. In that case, they will usually be allowed to pursue the master's degree in the program they were accepted to if they choose to.


Examples of required courses that dual degree MPA / MSW programs have include:

Social Welfare Policy

Students learn how to interpret and analyze policies aimed at supporting the public welfare. A broad range of perspectives are included (such as economic, political and historic concerns). Values, ethics and social consequences are also discussed.

Organizational Theory and Behavior

This course usually falls under the heading of public administration. It consists of an examination of the people who work in public organizations. Structure and management of public agencies is also discussed.

Public Budgeting

Students learn how budgets for public organizations are developed. With a greater understanding of how budgets are set and their common characteristics, students will learn how to better work within them for maximum efficiency.

Social Work With Individuals / Families

Students often take separate classes detailing the unique qualities of performing social work with both individuals and families. Among other things, these courses examine personality and behavior traits and ways to recognize the best therapeutic approach for the situation. Family interactions and causes of dysfunction are also covered.

Admissions Requirements

A bachelor's degree is often a prerequisite for entering these programs, though it often does not have to be in any particular subject. Programs also often do not have any specific prior coursework requirements, though they may ask that the student have a minimum GPA of 3.0 or better in their upper-division coursework.

A GRE score may be required, and international students may also be asked to do this with the TOEFL to demonstrate sufficient proficiency in English. Other requirements may include letters of recommendation, statements of purpose or personal essays (often one for each department), and a current resume.

A dual MPA/MSW program teaches students advanced concepts in both field-oriented social work and in the leadership of public organizations. Students who graduate from these programs have the capability of moving on to management roles in either field. These programs tend to run from two to three years, putting them among the more manageable of dual degree master's programs.

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