Careers in Social Work: Dual-Degree Options for Social Work Students
Those interested in pursuing a social work education will likely become aware of a variety of dual-degree options offered by many universities and colleges, combining social work training with studies in another discipline.
These programs allow students to earn two advanced degrees simultaneously, one of which is the MSW. Dual-degree programs allow students to gain increased training, diverse skill sets and broadened perspectives by complementing social work training with related areas of practice, preparing students for careers in social work and leadership positions in a wide variety of settings.
Those considering a dual-degree program in social work and another field should reflect upon the types of positions they hope to attain post-graduation and the skill-sets and bodies of knowledge that would most benefit them in reaching their goals.
Students interested in obtaining specific positions or working in particular settings should be aware of the career paths dual-degree programs open. The following are some of the most popular dual-degree programs and their respective advantages to the social work practitioner.
Social Work and Public Health
Public health is often a natural fit with social work, as both academic areas seek to address health problems multi-systemically.
These dual-degree programs deepen practitioners’ skills in the interface of the two fields, training students in an integrative approach to “preventing, addressing, and solving global health and behavioral health problems, which includes individuals’ physical health conditions and the behavioral and social-ecological determinants of health1”.
This dual-degree option prepares students for careers in social work involving:
- Health education and promotion
- Disease prevention
- Health and social services delivery
- Health policy analysis and advocacy
- Hospital administration
- Health program planning and evaluation, among others
Social Work and Law
Having knowledge of legal systems and processes and key advocacy skills is crucial to any social worker’s practice, and dual-degree programs for Social Work and Law further prepares students for “professional practice in areas where law and social work intersect and complement each other2”.
These programs recognize the significant impact that legal systems have on individual lives, and prepare graduates to holistically and responsibly address the biopsychosocial functioning of clients embedded within legal processes.
Career options for graduates of these programs include:
- Public interest law
- Human services administration
- Human rights work
- Community organizing
- Juvenile advocacy
- Policy development among others
Social Work and Public Policy
Most social work programs include some public policy courses in their training curriculum, but a dual-degree program in Public Policy allows students to deepen their knowledge of policy issues and gain critical skills in policy analysis.
For students interested in macro-level practice, these programs combine knowledge about the complexities of social service delivery with strong policy research, analysis, and methodological skills, equipping students to become leaders in shaping policy and practice through an evidence-based approach.
These programs are suited to those interested in:
- Government positions
- Social service research
- Philanthropic foundation work
- Advocacy, among other settings
Social Work and Non-Profit Management/Business Administration
For those social work students interested in leadership and development in the social services, or working in the mezzo or macro areas of practice, a dual-degree in non-profit management or business administration is a great asset.
Issues of limited funding and mismanagement of resources remain of paramount concern in social service delivery. Thus, social work practitioners with business acumen are needed in the field to ensure the continuance of services and sustainable futures for social service agencies.
These programs teach students “how to apply managerial and economic principles to social work practice to lead more effective service agencies and to create new programs and policies3”. The diverse skill sets supplied by these programs make graduates attractive candidates for leadership roles in organizational development and management.
These programs prepare students to take on positions such as:
- Development Director
- Human Resources Manager
- Clinical Director
- Executive Director, and
- Including other Executive-Level positions within a variety of institutions and organizations
Social Work and Gender Studies
Dual degree programs for social work and Gender Studies (or Women’s Studies) recognize the value of feminist methodologies and theories in social work practice. These programs orient students to feminist epistemologies and research methods and equip students to work more effectively with women and LGBTQ populations, offering specialized tools to address the unique challenges these groups face in a patriarchal society.
These programs are particularly beneficial to those interested in addressing gender inequality and injustice, and prepare students for careers in social work involving:
- Domestic violence work
- Women’s rights
- Clinical practice with women and LGBTQ populations
- Sexual education, among others
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- Colorado State University School of Social Work. Dual social work and public health degree program [Internet]. Fort Collins (CO): College of Health and Human Sciences; 2015 [cited 2016 May 11]
- University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. Dual degree programs [Internet]. Houston (TX): University of Houston; 2016 [cited 2016 May 11]
- University of Buffalo School of Social Work. MBA/MSW dual degree program [Internet]. Buffalo (NY): University of Buffalo; 2016 [cited 2016 May 11]