What to Expect as a Dual-Degree Student | Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis
MSW/MPH Student Emma Swinford
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What to Expect as a Dual-Degree Student

A few clicks around the Brown School’s website will show you the breadth of options that are available through dual and joint degrees.

As an MSW/MPH student, I’m learning first-hand about what it means to straddle programs and find cohesion between disciplines.

Like most students who enroll in the MSW/MPH dual degree, I spent my first year at the Brown School in the Social Work program. I took foundational level social work classes, completed a social work practicum, and made friends with my social worker classmates. This year, I’m primarily enrolled in public health courses--which means I’m dusting off my calculator and connecting with the newest cohort of Brown School students!

So, what can you anticipate if you’re considering the MSW/MPH dual degree?

First, you can expect to have the latitude to customize your academic experience in a way that supports your academic and professional goals. After completing foundation and required courses, your curriculum will be comprised of classes that fit in with your particular course of study. No two dual-degree students have the same experience and your time at the Brown school will be shaped by the courses, concentrations and specializations that you choose.

You can also expect to build up both your quantitative and direct practice skills. For example, in Biostats, a required foundation public health class, you may learn to code and analyze datasets in R. In Social Work Practice I, you’ll learn the basics of providing counseling to individuals, groups, and families. Be prepared to use your full range of skills!

In that same vein, the dual degree consistently provides interesting opportunities to bridge the gaps between two complementary, but distinct fields. Bringing a public health lens to a social work class can start interesting, nuanced conversations. Likewise, applying public health frameworks to address social work issues can provide useful structure and direction. I always love hearing from classmates who are from other programs or who are pivoting from careers unrelated to social work and public health. Interprofessional collaboration in the classroom is one stop towards interdisciplinary practice.

Finally, as a dual degree student, be prepared to get organized! Because the program you are enrolled in changes semester to semester, and you won’t be on the same curricular plan as many of your peers, it’s extra important to be on top of your education agenda. Schedule meetings with you academic advisor, plan ahead for your classes, and connect regularly with Financial Aid, Career Services, and your Faculty Advisor to make sure you’re on track!

Regardless of where you land in terms of a dual degree, I highly recommend taking a class that doesn’t fall exclusively under your degree program. Now that the Brown School also offers a Master in Social Policy dual-degree, there are even more opportunities to learn skills and ideas from other fields. Taking classes in another program is a great way to broaden your perspective, gain new skills, and learn about working between disciplines.