Joint, or dual degree programs, for masters in social work and masters of public health can be valuable and versatile in today’s competitive professional environment. An MSW is an advanced type of social work degree often used as a stepping stone to a clinical social work license. Meanwhile, an MPH is an advanced public health administration degree that holders can use to develop and enact public health policies or administrative practices.
Both degrees will allow holders to enter many managerial or higher positions in the social work in public health fields, and MSW holders can also pursue professional social work licensing to open their own practice and treat patients clinically.
Most of these degrees require around 90 credits split between both degrees and can be completed within two to three years instead of four to five, as would be required if you pursued both degrees separately.
Choosing the right MSW/MPH dual degree program
- First, do a lot of research. This is the first step for a reason. You’ll want to do a lot of research on any program you’re considering since each program offers different bonuses or specializations. While all MSW/MPH dual degree programs will include both degrees by default, some are better choices for emphasizing one degree over the other. For instance, if you want an MSW/MPH dual degree but want to focus on social work, be sure to choose a school with a rich social work department.
- Make sure to contact and visit different colleges and universities. There’s no one better to answer your questions about specific university requirements or admissions stuff than the school itself. We recommend talking to people at the university or college and asking specific questions about things like tuition, classes, scholarships, and more. One thing you’ll likely want to check is whether the MSW program included is CSWE-accredited, which means that it’s a program rigorous enough to help you qualify for social work licensure should you desire it after graduation.
- Grasp program or degree requirements before making a decision. Be sure to check out the degree or program requirements before signing up. That’s because MSW/MPH dual degree programs can vary dramatically in terms of their credit requirements, clinical hour requirements, and much more. They may also differ in terms of whether they allow advanced start or part-time degrees.
- Prepare for the admission process. You’ll need to prepare for admissions before sending in your application. Check the test scores or other prerequisites that might be required for you to get accepted. This can help you to eliminate certain schools that you don’t qualify for or where you might be overqualified.
- Apply to the program or college of your choice. After double-checking your choice and making sure you qualify for the program, go ahead and apply. Keep in mind that most universities have specific timelines for their programs, especially for dual degree programs like these, so you may need to apply within a certain window to be accepted. Be prepared for an application fee as well.
- Think about your budget beforehand and make sure you have a plan to pay for school. Speaking of fees, plan out your budget or decide how you’ll pay for the program before signing up. Thankfully, graduate programs for MSW/MPH dual degrees often come with multiple scholarships or internship opportunities that can help to reduce or eliminate your tuition costs. You might also be able to find a part-time program, allowing you to work a job while you finish your education. CHECK OUT OUR SCHOLARSHIP GUIDE FOR MORE DETAILS
- Take advantage of the professional network you’re sure to find at your dual degree program. Any MSW/MPH dual degree program is at the graduate level, meaning you’ll meet other professionals that could be of significant value to you once you leave school. Be sure to cultivate this professional network to secure a job opportunity after graduation.
Master’s in social work and master’s of public health dual degree career outlook
MSW/MPH dual degree holders will enjoy a wide variety of employment opportunities in the future. We can look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics for information about common employment options for holders of these degrees to estimate things like salary.
- MSW/MPH dual degrees can easily lead one to become a social or community service manager. These professionals earn close to $70,000 per year on average. Think of these professionals as social work managers and administrators who helped to develop and implement social work policies across communities
- Of course, MSW/MPH dual degrees can also lead one to become a regular social worker. Average salaries can fluctuate dramatically but seem to hover at over $50,000 per year. Remember that to become a licensed clinical social worker (and to practice social work on your own), you must also acquire a social work license and obtain many thousands of clinical practice hours. CHECK OUT OUR STATE GUIDE FOR MORE SPECIFIC SOCIAL WORK LICENSING REQUIREMENTS.
- MSW/MPH dual degrees can lead one to become a medical or health service manager. These professionals can administer or oversee hospitals, clinics, or public-health nonprofit organizations. They earn competitive salaries at over $100,000 a year on average
As you can see, MSW/MPH dual degrees can lead to lucrative career opportunities and lifestyles with the right focus and professional development.
MSW/MPH dual degree admission requirements
MSW/MPH dual degrees are advanced and complex graduate-level degrees that have multiple admission requirements due to their rigor and difficulty. These programs combine two graduate-level degrees — masters in social work and masters of public health — that are related but still specialized enough to require specific educational courses.
Both degrees will likely require:
- High GPA or grades in prior classes. Most of these dual degree programs, due to their higher difficulty compared to focusing on one degree at a time, will not accept anyone under a 3.5 GPA for their bachelor’s.
- A bachelor’s degree in either social work or public health. This, of course, also means you need a good high school degree, GED or another equivalent.
- Some programs may require you to take certain prerequisite classes for either discipline. For instance, if you have a bachelor’s degree in social work, you may need to take a few foundational classes for public health to apply to an MSW/MPH dual degree program.
- Some work experience may also be required depending on the university.
What to expect to learn during an MSW/MPH dual degree
MSW/MPH dual degrees blend the concepts of advanced social work and public health practices together to offer a well-rounded education. Individuals who complete these degrees will be well-positioned to offer their expertise in a variety of careers and services.
Because these degrees are advanced, you can expect to learn in-depth and advanced social work and public health concepts. Furthermore, both degrees will likely be completed simultaneously rather than one after the other. This means that you may take classes that alternate in focus again and again (i.e. a social work class, then a public health class, then social work, and so on).
Some specific subjects or topics you can expect to cover include:
- Social work and public health theories and practices: The advanced social work topics you’ll cover include social work practices and policies – these will help you know how to treat individuals for social work concerns and what practices are allowed by social work agencies like the Council on Social Work Education or CSWE. Public health classes will include advanced theories about how to treat the public’s health, plus practical ways to enact policy or plans to bolster the health of communities.
- Reasons or causes for social and physical health issues: These programs will also likely include classes that will teach you the reasons for social work issues and public health problems. Understanding the root causes of the ills and maladies that public health and social workers tackle will help you put real solutions in the practice.
- Management practice: Many people pursue MSW/MPH dual degrees in order to obtain managerial or administrative positions in both respective fields. Thus, some programs will also include management classes or administrative classes to help you dictate or create policy or lead other social workers or public health workers.
- Social work in public health ethics: since both social work in public health are fields concerned with the well-being of the public, ethics classes are a requirement. Furthermore, be advised that licensed social workers must often take repeated ethics classes every few years if they want to maintain a social work license.
- Clinical practice: Most important are the clinical practice classes or hours that MSW candidates must complete. Most MSW programs include some clinical practice hour requirements. Students must assist licensed social workers with social work problems or cases in-person before graduating.
Online MSW/MPH dual degree programs
Thankfully, there are more and more online MSW/MPH dual degrees programs every day. These can be excellent choices if you don’t want to leave your hometown but still want to complete your education soon. Furthermore, many of these online programs are offered with part-time schedules. These can allow you to complete your education while holding down a job or juggling family responsibilities.
But keep in mind that these programs are just as rigorous as their in-person counterparts. Furthermore, students of these programs will likely still need to complete the clinical practice hours required for MSW graduation.
To complete these, students will be given lists of available clinics in their areas that they can reach to fulfill their clinical hour requirements. Online programs may forgo theses or final projects in lieu of capstone courses in the last semester, as well.
How much is tuition for an MSW/MPH dual degree program?
Tuition for MSW/MPH dual degree programs can vary wildly based on per credit costs and ancillary fees or costs due to factors like location, experience level, and more. In general, students should expect to pay anywhere between $30,000 and $80,000 in total for two to three full years of study.
As you evaluate the tuition costs for a given MSW/MPH dual degree program, be sure to consider these major factors:
- The cost per credit. You’ll want to think about this since the cost per credit usually relates to the overall cost of a program. While most programs will have a minimum of 90 credits split between the MSW and MPH degrees, respectively, there is sometimes a little wiggle room, especially if you already have a few credits under your belt. For instance, UC Berkeley’s program requires you to complete 54 units for the MSW degree and 48 units for the MPH degree
- The location of the school. It’s typically cheaper to go to an out-of-state university since you’ll get a slight tuition decrease and can possibly take advantage of certain scholarships that prioritize out-of-state students. But you might also consider things like the cost of living. Metropolitan universities are usually more expensive since you have to either pay for a pricier room and board or live in the expensive city surrounding the school.
- The school’s size. In general, larger schools field larger programs, which can also make the cost of the program overall skyrocket. Smaller schools offer fewer resources and sometimes fewer opportunities, but they may be cheaper.
- Is the program online or on campus? Online programs are often a little cheaper even though they come with the same amount of rigor. On-campus programs are often more expensive. But keep gas costs and the costs for social work clinical hours in mind, too, as you’ll still have to complete those hours even by traveling to a clinic or medical center if you attend an online program.
- Is the program full-time or part-time? Part-time programs can be a little more affordable if it allows you to maintain a job at the same time as you complete your schooling.
A good idea for everyone is to consider community college social work or public health programs to get an associate’s degree under your belt before proceeding to a four-year university for a bachelor’s degree. This can help you save some money for the first two years of your college.
As with many advanced degrees, it may be possible for you to take advantage of certain scholarships that can reduce or eliminate much of the tuition or other costs for an MSW/MPH dual degree program. Many of these scholarships are supported by social work or public health organizations or nonprofits. Others might be attached to the school you attend, and most universities these days have pages where you can look for scholarships specifically. CHECK OUT OUR SOCIAL WORK SCHOLARSHIP GUIDE FOR MORE DETAILS.
Washington University in St. Louis, for example, offers an honors program scholarship that takes students through an MSW/MPH dual degree program with a small cohort of fellow students. All students proceed through the program at the same pace and heavy collaboration is required. This allows the students to get to know each other over the course of the curriculum and ensures excellent professional development and networking.
Other scholarships may be awarded for one or the other degrees and so can apply to the tuition costs for that half of the program. Johns Hopkins, for example, offers a variety of MPH scholarships for students of its program.
Expert advice for aspiring MPH/MSW Graduates
- Why are students interested in getting a dual MSW/MPH degree?
- What are some jobs or career options for students with an MSW/MPH degree?
- Is interest in the MSW/MPH program increasing? Is so, why do you think that is?
- Is the admissions process different for the dual degree program? If so, how?
Why are students interested in getting a dual MSW/MPH degree?
There are opportunities for social workers to work in public health settings. Students would like to learn multiple methods from both disciplines and integrate them while addressing and solving social problems or public health concerns. I believe that public health social work is a transdisciplinary approach that is a combination of intervention/treatment and prevention such as preventive interventions.
What are some jobs or career options for students with an MSW/MPH degree?
Students with a MSW/MPH dual-degree are usually found at many places, including hospitals, governments, and community organizations. In particular, they are well-positioned as a health policy advocate, health agency administrator, a community health worker, or in an integrated behavioral health setting as a care manager, health coach, or patient advocate.
What attributes are important to be successful in the MSW/MPH program?
While in the dual program, it is important for students to develop dual profession integration in their own way. This can be done via various methods, including class assignments, field education, and discussions with faculty. I recommend that students explicitly explain their unique skills from their integration of social work and public health, and highlight how these unique skills relate to the job requirements.
Is the admissions process different for the dual degree program? If so, how?
The admissions process for a dual-degree is similar, but there are some differences in admission criteria. Both degree programs assess academic performance, reference letters, and understanding of the importance of diversity and inclusion. For the MPH application, experiences in public health, health or medicine are assessed, whereas social work experiences and their definition of social work are assessed.
Can students take electives, or customize their MSW/MPH dual degree experience?
There is not much flexibility to take electives as the dual program is designed to complete both degrees within three years.