Master of Social Work (MSW) vs Master of Public Health (MPH)

As a social worker, you may reach a point in your career where you are ready to step into a position of leadership and take on more responsibilities. You may hit a crossroads where you are unsure which type of master’s degree will best advance your professional goals. A Master of Social Work (MSW) may prepare you up to work directly with vulnerable and disadvantaged individuals, families and groups and/or state recognized licensure. A Master of Public Health (MPH) may prepare you for macro level work with communities – making large-scale changes that focus on the prevention and alleviation of widespread issues. Both degrees may students advance careers that make a difference in the lives of others.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

An MSW accelerates your career course, opening up opportunities for leadership, greater responsibility and a broader scope of work, while still focusing on the individual, family and group level. An MSW is often required to obtain a social work license in many states. A master’s degree is often required for clinical social work and may also be required for opening a private practice and working in health care.

MSW Concentrations:

  • Mental Health: Train to support and offer services to those suffering from mental health disorders or substance abuse issues, and advocate for some of the most vulnerable and misunderstood individuals in our society.TBI is the leading cause of death and disability among children and adults between the ages of 1 to 44.
  • Families and Children: Learn to prevent family crises through counseling, resource coordination, advocacy and support.
  • Community Organization, Planning and Administration (COPA): Develop the skills necessary for becoming a community leader who can bring people together to advocate for a common cause.
  • Health: Learn to help individuals in the healthcare system meet their financial, emotional and social needs by connecting them with services that can help them get better and stay better.
  • Social Work and Business in a Global Society: Corporate social workers help businesses solve social problems and create best practices in terms of diversity, healthy work-life balance and corporate social responsibility.

MSW Careers:

  • Medical/Public Health
  • Substance Abuse
  • Mental Health
  • Child Welfare
  • School Social Work

Master of Public Health (MPH)

An MPH could help prepare you to understand the intersection of social, behavioral, economic, biological, environmental and political factors that affect public health. Earning a graduate degree in public health may also assist in gaining employment within government agencies, nonprofits and public health agencies.

MPH Concentrations:

  • Biostatistics: Learn to study risk factors for disease and assess the efficacy and outcomes of new therapies. These studies can affect policy and public health.
  • Environmental Health: Gain the skills to address environmental challenges that affect public health.
  • Epidemiology: Train in the principles and methodology of epidemiological research in order to design, run, analyze and interpret studies.
  • Global Health: Learn the interconnection of economics, policy analysis, financial management and infectious disease and how to study and improve health internationally.
  • Health Law, Bioethics and Human Rights: Prepare for the legal facets of public health and for a career in law, advocacy, academia or public policy.
  • Health Policy and Management: Learn to develop creative solutions to challenges in the healthcare system, including health policy, financial analysis and delivery of care.
  • Maternal and Child Health: Focus on the unique needs of women, children and families in a sociopolitical context.
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences: Identify and analyze determinants and risk factors associated with public health problems and learn how to use this knowledge to promote healthy behavior in communities.

MPH Careers:

  • Epidemiologist
  • Disaster and Emergency Specialist
  • Water Quality Planner
  • Public Health Educator
  • Environmental Health Scientist
  • Biostatistician
  • Infectious Disease Specialist
  • Nutritionist
  • International Health Care Worker
  • Clinical Research Coordinator
  • Nonprofit Executive Director

Master’s degrees in social work and in public health may both prepare you for a career in improving the lives of others and creating positive change, but the areas of focus are different. Those who pursue an online MSW program may prefer work with individuals, families and/or groups while connecting them with services. MPH graduates may prefer to effect policy change at the community or international level. Both are worthy pursuits, and choosing your path depends on which careers most interest you and where you feel you can be the most effective.