Dual Master's Degrees in Social Work & Public Policy

For students looking to make a difference in the lives of people in need on a wide scale, dual master's degrees in social work and public policy may just be the perfect program. Find out about the coursework required, the time needed to earn these degrees, and more. Schools offering Public Administration degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Master of Social Work and Public Policy Overview

A dual degree in social work and public policy at the master's level is intended to combine the knowledge and expertise needed to handle difficult social issues in a professional manner with an in-depth understanding of governmental policy making. Both degrees can have further specializations, with social work concentrations generally focusing on specific vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, minorities, or individuals with mental illnesses, while public policy specializations tend to deal with particular areas of society, like education policy, social policy, or non-profit management. Dual degree programs in social work and public policy typically take between two and three years to complete, with shorter programs typically using summer courses to reduce the overall completion time.

Students applying to these programs do not necessarily need a related bachelor's degree, although a bachelor's degree in social work can be advantageous in fulfilling some basic course requirements. Whether students need to take an admissions exam will vary from institution to institution. Other commonly requested admissions documents include a resume detailing related work experience, such as volunteer work, letters of recommendation, brief essays of intent, and undergraduate transcripts.

Common Courses in Dual Master of Social Work/Public Policy Programs

  • Social welfare and policy is a social work course examining the intersection of social policies and the effects they have on social workers. It looks at the history of social policy in the US and how it evolved into its current state, as well as how social workers can influence the development of policy.
  • Clinical social work classes teach the basic skills of interacting with clients as individuals or small groups. Students learn engagement techniques, differential assessments of a client's state, and other critical-thinking and problem-solving methods useful in social work.
  • Human behavior and socialization examines how people behave and interact with one another, as viewed through the lens of social workers. Students can learn about the effects of culture and upbringing on individuals, how individuals and family units function, and many other influences on behavior.
  • Public management is a policy course, which looks at the structure of organizations, how they operate, and how to develop strategies to lead them to desired goals. Issues of budgeting and other major factors affecting how organizations run are also touched upon, so as to provide students with the well-rounded set of skills needed to lead.
  • Quantitative analysis teaches students about statistics and data analysis, so as to allow them to be able to understand data presented to them and use it properly for decision making. This course deals with a variety of mathematical concepts that play a role in data analysis, which students should master by the end.
  • Economics teaches the theory behind economic systems; students may take either microeconomics, focused on smaller economies, or macroeconomics, focused on large-scale economic systems. In addition to theory, students may learn how economics affect social work and public policy in such areas as welfare and entitlements.

Careers for Dual Master of Social Work/Public Policy Graduates

Individuals who earn these dual degrees are well-suited for roles in all levels of government, as well as positions with non-profit advocacy groups and leadership roles in other organizations that perform social work.

Social and Community Service Manager

Social and community service managers work in governmental organizations and non-profit organizations providing services to those in need. Depending on the size of the organization, they may be responsible for a single program, a department, or the entire organization. Community service managers often advocate publicly for their organization as well as deal with stakeholders, such as government officials, a task for which public policy expertise may be beneficial. While not all positions as social and community service managers require master's degrees, candidates with graduate-level education may find more job opportunities.

The median annual salary for social and community service managers was $65,320 as of 2018, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS also indicates that social and community service managers could see a 13% growth in employment over the decade between 2018 and 2028, with this growth attributed to the increasing needs of the elderly population.

Top Executive Roles

Individuals with social work and public policy graduate degrees could pursue elected positions, such as mayor or senator, as well as top-level leadership of non-profit or governmental organizations dedicated to policy and advocacy. In these leadership roles, holders of public policy and social work degrees could exercise their expertise by planning organizational goals and programs, developing governmental policies relating to social justice, and understanding the effects of wide-reaching policy on the individual and family level.

The median annual salary for top executives overall was $104,980 as of 2018, according to the BLS, although the pay for any particular role can vary. Growth among top executive jobs is expected to be 6% over the ten-year period from 2018 to 2028, on par with the national average.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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