Mapping Dual-Degree Programs in Social Work and Public Health: Results From a National Survey

  • Dory Ziperstein Research Associate Boston University School of Social Work
  • Betty J. Ruth Boston University School of Social Work
  • Ashley Clement
  • Jamie Wyatt Marshall
  • Madeline Wachman
  • Esther E. Velasquez
Keywords: MSW/MPH Programs, interprofessional practice, public health social work, trans-disciplinary practice, health-related social work education


Dramatic changes in the health system due to national health reform are raising important questions regarding the educational preparation of social workers for the new health arena. While dual-degree programs in public health and social work can be an important response to what is needed educationally, little is known about them. The National MSW/MPH Programs Study surveyed MSW/MPH program administrators to better understand the prevalence, models, structure, and challenges of these dual-degree programs. Forty-two programs were identified, and 97.6% of those contacted participated (n=41). Findings indicate that MSW/MPH programs are popular, increasing, geographically dispersed, and drawing talented students interested in trans-disciplinary public health social work practice. Challenges for these programs include the need for greater institutional support, particularly funding, and a general lack of best practices for MSW/MPH education. While findings from this study suggest graduates appear especially well-prepared for leadership and practice in the new health environment, additional research is needed to assess their particular contributions and career trajectories.

Author Biography

Betty J. Ruth, Boston University School of Social Work
Betty J Ruth is Clinical Professor at Boston University School of Social Work, where she directs the MSW/MPH Program and coordinates the Ethics Department. Her areas of research include public health social work, suicide prevention, and professional development. She the cofounder of the Group for Public Health Social Work Initiatives, and sserves in a number of leadership roles related to public health social work leadership nationally.