Social Work

Is Double Better? Exploring Dual Degree Options for the MSW

Is Double Better? Exploring Dual Degree Options for the MSW
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Nedda Gilbert profile
Nedda Gilbert May 8, 2018

Are you an aspiring social worker who wants to make a positive difference in the lives of those you serve, but are also drawn to multi-disciplinary study?

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Maybe the legal field interests you, and you hope to become a legal advocate in the child welfare system. Or you want to combine your training in social work with theological studies. Perhaps you want to pursue a leadership role in education to transform our nation’s schools.

One way to do this is to — and have that greater impact — is to pursue a Masters in Social Work (MSW) and a master’s degree from another profession. This is known as a dual MSW degree program. The unique pairing of an MSW with another graduate degree allows students to pursue higher level positions in a variety of settings and fields. And because of the interdisciplinary nature of the practice of social work, the MSW naturally syncs up with many other degrees.

There are many personal and professional benefits to earning a dual MSW degree. Cross-disciplinary study not only broadens one’s thinking and expertise, it often leads to greater opportunities and higher earnings. A dual MSW degree will differentiate you from your social work peers, position you for major leadership roles, and offer you greater career options.

The MSW Dual Degree: A Worthwhile, But Challenging Option

Whatever your aspirations, the decision to pursue a dual MSW degree is an aspirational one. That’s because there are unique challenges in pursuing a cross-disciplinary degree. It requires a significant commitment, and an investment of time and finances.
To begin with, you’ll likely have to apply and be admitted to each graduate school independently. You’ll also find that while there may be coursework savings and overlap between the two schools, you’ll still be taking on a lot of work.

Furthermore, you may find yourself bouncing back-and-forth between your two programs. This might challenge your budding professional identity, or feel unsettling. Program specifics vary by school, but you may find yourself alternating semesters or years in one school, and then returning back to the other.

Finally, the logistics of completing the dual degree could add stress. You may find yourself navigating tight coursework restrictions and requirements. Although the specifics of any MSW dual degree program will vary by school, here are some basic advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages to pursuing the dual MSW degree:

  1. You will obtain two grad degrees in less time than it would take to pursue each program individually (saving valuable tuition dollars and time)
  2. You will stand out in your job search
  3. You will stand out as a professional
  4. You will be able to pursue diverse, creative, and innovative jobs
  5. You will advance to leadership roles more easily
  6. You will likely earn more with an MSW dual degree

Disadvantages to pursuing the dual MSW degree:

  1. It will take more time and money to pursue two degrees
  2. You will need to be admitted to both programs
  3. You will be taking on a lot of work, which may cause more stress
  4. You may feel disconnected from each school and from your peers
  5. You may be overwhelmed by coursework requirements and restrictions

Do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages? If so, then you may be ready to take on the demands of pursuing two advanced degrees at the same time. A joint MSW degree may be just right for you.

The decision to pursue a dual MSW degree is a personal and financial one. Importantly, it should reflect your career goals and ambitions. Although you will have to consider the extra tuition costs involved in obtaining a dual degree, overall there are significant cost savings in completing both degrees in a condensed time period.


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MSW Dual Degree Options

MSW Dual degree programs offer exciting opportunities for study. But one size does not fit all. Some programs admit large cohorts of students. Others programs are quite small, and admit just a few students per year. Additionally, depending on the program, some students pursue an individualized course of study, and work closely with academic advisors in each program to create their appropriate paths.

Some of the more common dual MSW’s you can pursue are:

  • MSW/Master of Divinity (MDiv)
  • MSW/Juris Doctor (Law)
  • MSW/Master of Business Administration (MBA)
  • MSW/Master of Education (M.Ed.)
  • MSW/Master of Public Administration (MPA)
  • MSW/Master of Public Health (MPH)

Some of the more unique dual MSW degree options are:

  • MSW/Master of Service in Nonprofit Leadership
  • MSW/Master of Bioethics
  • MSW/Master of Science in Criminology
  • MSW/Master of Science in City Planning
  • MSW/Master of Arts in Jewish Nonprofit Management
  • MSW/Master of Urban and Regional Planning
  • MSW/MA in Women’s Studies
  • MSW/Master of Science Program in Adventure Therapy

As you can see, dual degree MSW programs come in many different flavors and sizes. You will need to do your homework to find the dual degree program that best suits your needs and career goals.

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About the Author

Ms. Nedda Gilbert is a seasoned clinical social worker, author, and educational consultant with 25 years of experience helping college-bound and graduate students find their ideal schools. She is a prolific author, including The Princeton Review Guide to the Best Business Schools and Essays that Made a Difference. Ms. Gilbert has been a guest writer for Forbes and a sought-after keynote speaker on college admissions. Previously, she played a crucial role at the Princeton Review Test Preparation Company and was Chairman of the Board of Graduate Philadelphia. Ms. Gilbert holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University and is a certified interdisciplinary collaborative family law professional in New Jersey.

About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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