MPH vs MSW Degree Differences

handsAs you try to make a choice between earning a master’s in public health (MPH) and a master’s of social work (MSW), you should think about what exactly you want to do in your career. It can be a difficult decision, but with proper information in front of you, the choice is easier. Below are some things to remember as you think through this decison making process.

The credential of master’s degree in public health is highly regarded in the world of public health and administration. Someone who holds this degree has a high chance of getting a good-paying job with a lot of responsibility for public health matters. You will be well positioned to get a job in many public health agencies, government agencies and possibly nonprofits as well. Generally, you will spend your career working to keep local communities healthy and not prone to sickness and disease, rather than working with them after they are sick to make them well again.

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The topics you will focus on in your MPH training include:

  • Environmental health sciences
  • Epidemiology
  • Healthcare systems and financing
  • Social and behavioral aspect of health
  • Biostatistics
  • Program evaluation
  • Quantitative and qualitative research methods
  • Law and ethical issues in public health

A master’s in social work is designed to prepare you for leadership roles in social work, and to develop and provide services to individuals, families and groups. Your master’s program will typically consist of courses in human growth and development, social programs and policies, practice methods and social research. Your MSW can vary a great deal in its emphasis. For example, you might focus on methodology, public policy, immigrant populations, and much more. Some MSW programs will prepare you for working in public or nonprofit agencies, while others will focus on social planning and change.

Be aware that online MSW programs require you to have at least 900 hours of supervised work in the field at established social service agencies. After you do the basic coursework for your MSW in year one, you will decide if you want to focus on social work with families, groups and individuals, or on the organization, management and planning work that social service agencies do.

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Both the MPH and MSW are good graduate degrees for professionals who want to improve the lives of others. The focus of the two degrees, of course, is different. An MPH focuses on improving human health conditions to prevent illness and disease, while an MSW is more concerned with the personal problems, crises and other issues that cause people to struggle in their lives.

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