Monday, August 20, 2012

Joint Degree Programs--Getting an MSW and Another Degree At the Same Time

A good number of accredited graduate programs of social work offer joint degree opportunities. Most common offerings include joint programs with schools of law, schools of divinity, schools of business, schools of public or health policy, schools of gerontology, schools of urban and regional planning, and schools of education. There are also a few programs available in less traditional areas, such as dual degrees in social work and dance therapy, for instance. If you are interested in these possibilities, you have your job cut out for you. You should undertake a thorough investigation of the other program in whichever discipline you choose as carefully as you are exploring the social work program. Appendix B, In Their Own Words, contains information on joint degree programs from participating schools.

Applicants for admission to joint degree programs are normally required to apply to each school independently. A crucial factor in the admissions decision will be the extent to which the applicant makes a case for seeking the two degrees. How have the applicant’s background and experiences in both fields tested and shaped her interests? How will the applicant’s future professional plans benefit from dual training? Normally, an applicant must meet the individual entrance requirements of both programs.

There are a number of factors to consider about joint degree programs. Foremost is the fit between the two programs of study. Chances are that a number of one program’s required courses will be counted as electives by the other program and vice versa. That means that you will not have as many electives in either program as non-dual degree students. You need to consider what you will be missing. If the two programs are highly complementary, the loss is minimal versus the time you save.

Joint degree programs normally save time for the student versus pursuing each program separately. For example, an MBA/MSW joint program might take three academic years of full-time study to complete. Were the two programs to be taken separately, each would take two years for a combined total of four years. Having some courses count for both programs is how the compressed time period is achieved.

Another factor to consider is whether splitting your time between two programs of study will allow you enough exposure outside of the classroom to the faculties of the two schools. A very important part of a graduate education rests on the mentoring relationships you will develop with faculty. If the two programs share some of the faculty, these relationships may be enhanced.

The source of your financial aid will vary depending on how much time you are enrolled in each program. For example, if two thirds of your classes are in program A and the other third in program B, your financial aid will probably be prorated accordingly. How will this affect your financial aid packet? If the two programs have fairly similar financial aid policies, there may not be much of an impact. If one has a much lower level of financial aid, you may need to consider additional employment or other sources of funds during the periods of time the majority of your coursework is in the program with the lower level of aid.

The best source of information is current students. Ask to be put in contact with students who are currently in the joint degree program you are considering.


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