This covers all of the aspects of obtaining a dual degree with both a master’s of social work and a master’s of business administration.
Both an MSW and an MBA are versatile degrees that complement each other quite well – the former focuses on high-level social work concepts and practices and is often pursued as a stepping stone to clinical licensure, while the latter emphasizes business administration and provides the degree holder with effective leadership and management skills. With a dual degree like this, individuals will be well-equipped to lead and administrate a variety of organizations, ranging from corporations to nonprofits.
In general, MSW/MBA dual degrees require between 80 and 90 credits split between the programs and are offered in one-year, two-year, and three-year time frames depending on the university offering them. The MBA part of the degree may also include multiple opportunities for internships, while the MSW will require some clinical practice hours in conjunction with academic study.
How to get an MSW/MBA degree
1. Do heavy research before signing up for a degree program. MSW/MBA dual degree programs can vary dramatically in terms of their coursework and specific requirements, although total credit requirements will usually not go below 80 credits or so. Kennesaw State University, for example, requires 84 credit hours.
Certain programs may emphasize either the MSW or MBA depending on the strength of their home departments. Most MSW/MBA dual degrees, however, focus more on business administration by default as it is the more versatile of the two degrees.
2. Contact MSW/MBA programs at colleges and universities. Colleges and universities are well-equipped to answer specific questions about the requirements for their dual degree programs. It’s a good idea to ask specific questions regarding scholarships, tuition costs, and scheduling flexibility. In particular, make sure that any MSW program is CSWE-accredited, which means it’s vetted by the Council on Social Work Education and will be accepted if you decide to acquire social work licensure for clinical practice.
3. Check all degree requirements. Again, MSW/MBA dual degree requirements usually hover around 90 credits in total, with the majority of the credits going to the MBA. But this is not universal, and some schools may only offer in person or online programs.
4. Prepare for the admissions process. Many MSW/MBA dual degree programs are quite competitive and may require high GPA averages or other requirements, like business experience or social work experience hours.
5. Once you’ve made your decision, apply to the program of your choice. Remember that narrow or limited application windows are incredibly common, especially for dual degree programs. Be sure to apply before any deadlines that might apply to your case. Application fees are also usually required and can range from as low as $30 to as high as $100.
6. Make sure you can pay for the program in question. Some MSW/MBA dual degree programs are more affordable than others – in general, programs from larger colleges are usually more expensive while the reverse is true for smaller programs. Check for internship opportunities or scholarships as well, as these can help to lower or eliminate your tuition costs.
7. When in the program, remember to take advantage of professional connections. This is especially true for the MBA part of a dual degree program. Such programs usually incorporate social connections and networking opportunities – these can help you get a job out of college or lead to further career development later down the road.
Career outlook for MSW/MBA degree holders
An MSW/MBA dual degree holder will have a huge variety of career options open to them. The MBA can open a lot of doors in many industries and business arenas while the MSW will qualify the individual to administrate or lead certain nonprofit organizations or social work teams.
After acquiring an MSW, an individual may progress to clinical licensure by acquiring a certain number of clinical practice hours. The number of hours and other requirements needed for clinical licensure varies by state. But after acquiring a license, an individual can open their own social work practice and work as a therapist or counselor, for example.
Here’s a brief breakdown of some of the careers an MSW/MBA dual degree can lead to:
- Social workers make a little over $50,000 per year on average according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, more specialized social workers can become marriage and family therapists or social and community service managers, who can potentially earn up to $67,000 per year on average. Such individuals need nonprofits in social work organizations and often have important roles in local communities. They can help to come up with and implement social work practices to affect wide-scale change.
- The MBA half of this dual degree can lead to a wide variety of managerial positions in multiple industries. For instance, degree holders may become administrative service managers, who earn average salaries nearing $100,000 per year.
- Or they could become human resources managers, who earn average salaries of over $116,000 per year.
- Still others might decide to become top executives, leading their own companies or rising to high management positions in existing companies. Salaries are typically well over $100,000 per year but can easily skyrocket into the millions of dollars given the right strategy and experience.
All told, an MSW/MBA dual degree is a versatile and worthwhile credential that has the potential to seriously boost an individual’s career opportunities.
MSW/MBA dual degree admission requirements
Because these degrees are so valuable, their programs are also quite rigorous and have strict admissions requirements regardless of the university in question. While the exact requirements can vary, expect to see requirements similar to the following when progressing through a program’s application process:
- All of these programs will likely require a bachelor’s degree in either business, social work, or at least a tangentially related field. That’s because both degrees require applicants to have some background or foundational knowledge. The University of Buffalo offers two choices: a three-year program for those with an unrelated bachelor’s degree or a two-year program for those with a bachelor’s degree in social work
- Applicants may be required to take foundational classes in either social work or business if their degree focuses on one or the other subject
- A high GPA is desirable – many programs will not accept applicants with a GPA lower than 3.0 or so.
- Most programs require between one and three letters of recommendation from former faculty or business managers
- Work experience is also usually necessary for MBA acceptance. However, some MSW/MBA dual degree programs will accept applicants with a bare minimum of real work experience if they have a strong internship record from their prior college years
What you will learn in an MSW/MBA degree program
MSW/MBA dual degree programs emphasize business administration and social work concepts in roughly equal measure. Both degree focuses influence one another – in this way, many of the business concepts a student will learn will relate back to social work goals or objectives and vice versa. Social work concepts may emphasize leadership or business management as opposed to interpersonal emphases.
Here are a few examples of things you can expect to learn with an MSW/MBA dual degree program.
- Many programs will teach proficiency in the management functions of finance, marketing, human resource management, and accounting. All of these will be necessary to run any large organization, and especially a nonprofit or social work organization.
- These programs will usually emphasize the development of skills and abilities to help individuals strategically lead an organization, especially through their team members and subordinates. The University of Pittsburgh in particular emphasizes cooperation and teamwork concepts in their MBA part of the program.
- The MSW side of the program will incorporate many classes about social work ethics and practices. This will help the student learn which social work practices and concepts are worth applying in a given management situation.
- Many MSW/MBA dual degree programs teach students how to better understand complex organizations, incorporating classes about administration principles, decision-making, and how to be a competent manager.
- Most programs also include a practicum component. The MSW in particular requires at least a few dozen hours of clinical practice experience, which can either be completed at the hosting university or a local clinic if the student in question is taking a program online.
- Some dual-degree programs will also require internships or business hours logged for MBA completion.
By the end of one of these programs, a student should expect to have a mastery of MBA and administrative social work concepts and practices.
Note that some programs provide students with individually designed course schedules to better suit their unique needs and career goals. The University of Pennsylvania offers one such program, though it also requires students to submit separate applications to both their social work and business administration schools, so it’s very difficult to get into.
Online MSW/MBA dual degree programs
Online MSW/MBA dual degree programs are becoming more commonplace due to the widespread adoption of online learning. These programs will contain the same amount of rigor and academic variety as the on-campus or in-person programs, but they’ll allow students to complete the program at a more relaxed pace in many cases.
Such programs are often offered in part-time formats. This allows students to attend to other duties or hold down a job while completing their education.
However, some MSW/MBA dual degree programs are “cohort” style, meaning that students are assigned to a cohort and complete a program in lockstep with their fellow students. This affords the students multiple networking and professional socialization opportunities.
All MSW online programs will require students to complete their practical hours at a nearby clinic that can be decided on during the admissions process.
How much is tuition for an MSW/MBA dual degree program?
Many MSW/MBA dual degree programs can be quite expensive due to the number of credits required. In general, smaller universities offer more affordable programs, while larger universities offer more expensive programs. The larger universities also usually have more scholarship and internship opportunities. Many programs’ total costs hover between $40,000 and $100,000 for between two and three years of education.
Tuition costs per credit can vary dramatically. In general, students should consider the following factors when estimating tuition for a given program:
1. Credit costs. The cost per credit will have the biggest impact on total tuition. Most of the tuition will, therefore, come from the MBA part of the dual degree.
2. School location. Schools located in popular metropolitan areas are usually more expensive. However, students attending a school from out-of-state will often enjoy reduced tuition or a serious discount.
3. School size. Larger schools are usually more expensive than smaller ones.
4. Online or on-campus? Online programs are often a little cheaper due to the aforementioned discount that out-of-state students can often expect. However, on-campus programs are often easier to attend for the MSW portion of the dual degree program due to the clinical hour requirements.
5. Full or part-time? Full-time programs may be more expensive upfront but might also become more affordable in the long run since they allow a student to acquire a degree faster. Part-time programs are often a better option for students who have to pay per semester, however.
Internships and scholarships
All MSW/MBA dual degree students should look into internship and scholarship opportunities wherever possible. Internships are particularly common with MBA programs, and they give students both valuable professional business experience and sometimes come with tuition discounts or waivers. In general, internships do not award students a stipend or salary but instead directly take off tuition costs from their education.
Scholarships are common with MSW departments, though they are also very common with MBA programs as well. Scholarships can provide students with discounts or waivers for some or all of their tuition and should always be investigated. Many college websites have department pages where program-specific scholarships can be located, though states and other nonprofits also have more generalized scholarship opportunities available regularly.
Here are some scholarship examples:
- The Alice M. Yarnold and Samuel Yarnold Scholarship Trust is available to residents of New Hampshire interested in acquiring an MSW. It’s open to students of other disciplines as well, however, so it’s quite competitive.
- The Verne LaMarr Lyons Memorial Scholarship is a unique scholarship opportunity for MSW candidates who want to work with African-American communities after obtaining their degree.
- The Society for Human Resource Management offers a graduate degree scholarship for students looking to get into human resources after obtaining their MBA.
- The Association of Insurance Compliance Professionals Scholarship Program is a great choice for MBA candidates since it’s open to anyone enrolled in an insurance or business-related field.
FOR MORE INFO ON MSW-RELATED SCHOLARSHIPS, CHECK OUT OUR COMPLETE SCHOLARSHIP GUIDE.