Last week I was sitting among a fabulous group of new students posing the question…what brought you into the field of social work? A few days later, I was standing among an interdisciplinary group of students and was asked…what brought you to the field of maternal and child health? I have been asked both of these questions because I am a dual degree student in the Gillings School of Global Public Health, Maternal and Child Health Department. As I reflect upon these questions, they are a little hard to answer. I have taken a long and winding path to be where I am today but I can certainly say that it’s been lots of fun. Since I cannot yet provide a coherent answer to these questions, I will instead tell you about the dual degree (MSW/MPH) program.
The School of Social Work offers many opportunities for students to gain additional skills and credentials (above and beyond just getting an MSW). Students can earn certificates, work towards getting specialized licensures, and apply for dual degree programs. The dual degree program with public health allows students to earn either an MSPH (Master of Science in Public Health) or an MPH (Master of Public Health). Academically, the only difference between both degrees is that the MPH requires you to take more classes/credits. Most students who earn an MPH come back for an additional semester in fall; basically it takes about 2.5 years to do the entire program. People have different opinions as to what the difference is between an MSPH and an MPH. I was told by staff in the school of public health that there is not really a difference when it comes to applying for jobs. Employers (based on studies) consider both degrees equally. I chose to apply for an MPH because I wanted to have the opportunity to take additional classes that benefit my career aspirations. So what do you do if you are interested in the dual degree program?
1. I would suggest looking up both programs (SW and PH) to see what they offer – Remember that the dual degree in only in Maternal and Child Health (MCH). Don’t let this scare you, the Maternal and Child Health Department is really diverse and you don’t necessarily have to work with pregnant moms and babies. Some of my peers are interested in sex/human trafficking, women’s health issues, breastfeeding, nutrition, and reproductive rights to name a few.
2. Figure out if the dual degree is for you – Students that apply for the dual degree are those that are interested in macro-social work. Unfortunately, due to the program limitations, it is difficult for direct practice students to do this program. Also, the MCH department is very much macro and students interested in direct practice might not have the opportunity to develop all the skills they need or want.
3. Apply for the School of Social Work – What students are recommended to do is apply for the School of Social Work first and, within their first year, apply for the School of Public Health. This is really stressful but manageable. I think it also helps students who are considering the dual degree figure out if they really want to apply.
I obviously can think of a million more things to say but for the sake of keeping this posting short I will end there. If you are interested in knowing more about the ins and outs of the application process as well as information about the program itself, send me an email.